Blogs for November 2016

I'm a bit slow off the mark this month. It's already the third day in November and I've not yet got off the starting grid with the first blog of the month. So, here we go.....

Jesus forgives. Have you read that somewhere? Well I'm not surprised - Jesus forgave many. Forgiveness is central to Gods gospel message. What about Matthew 9v2 where some men brought a paralysed man to him, obviously to relieve him of his paralysis, but the first thing Jesus did was to forgive him: "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven". What's that all about?

A lot of people would not be impressed by the offer of forgiveness. Thats not the kind of "bling" to impress your modern man in the street. Money! money! money! materialistic things, cars, holidays and the shiny objects of technology all come much higher up their list of priorities. Most would not be that bothered about being forgiven and in truth wouldn't even feel the need or see the need for forgiveness. Forgiveness is a foreign language to godless men and women.

So you have to feel the need for forgiveness. We call those feelings "conviction". You will never feel the need for forgiveness if you don't first feel or recognize your wrongness (thats sin). The Holy Spirit can illuminate these things in our lives so that we become aware of them. So having these feelings makes us suddenly receptive to any free offer of redemption or forgiveness. Well, "take heart" (be encouraged) - when you come to Jesus, you've come to the right place. 

The Chris Rice song "Come To Jesus" goes like this...

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Read more: Chris Rice - Untitled Hymn (come To Jesus ) Lyrics | MetroLyrics        3 November 2016 StanH


By choice some people won't have a TV in their homes. Did you know that? ​I know at least a couple of homes where they don't have a TV on religious grounds. I think thats a bit extreme personally, but each to his own I suppose. Ok -their lives are not polluted by a load of shallow day'time rubbish but there's a lot of great TV and, more importantly, its a window on the world that we would not otherwise have and which words can never fully portray.

Without a TV you might walk away with the idea that Aleppo is a pleasent "garden city" where people spend their afternoons and evenings in leafy avenues eating, drinking and socialising outside cafes and restaurants on spacious boulevards with friends and family. We (with "tellies") now know its not like that. Neither is it like that for thousands of refugees and asylum seekers scattered across France and the rest of Europe, including our own town of Doncaster.

Jesus knew this to be the case in his day but he wanted his disciples to understand it as well. In Matth.9v35 we are taken on a journey with Him and his disciples. It happened like this: "Jesus went through all the towns amd villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and illness...". All very good so far but then; "....When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd". Jesus wanted his disciples to, as it were, watch the "telly" of life - to see life in the raw as it was for many who suffered hardship, sickness and disease, mental illness and distress. The hymn writer John Greenleaf Whittier wrote about Jesus taking from our souls "the strain and stress" of human life. Jesus wanted his disciples and he wants us to see life as he saw life, to see people in every shade and hue of their suffering and to feel compassion for those who come across our paths in the "parish of our life" as he felt for those he encountered. There is so much need out there, arguably overwhelmingly too much, which is why he tells them: "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field".  5 Nov 2016 StanH

These are the days of Elijah. What does that line from the well-known song by Robin mark actually mean ?  There is more to this song than just Elijah of course. The first clue, I believe, is in taking all Robin Mark's song characters together as a group for a bigger picture - Elijah, Moses, Ezekial, King David and, by implication, John the Baptist, culminating of course with the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. I read an interview with Robin Mark where he attempts to explain what he was trying to say. But there's a parallel set of clues in the chorus - "And these are the days of great trial, of famine and darkness and sword" and "These are the days of the harvest, the fields are as white in the world [now]"; arguably more white than they were when Jesus first coined those well known words. The chorus speaks of a need in these days in which we live now, easily exceeding in scale to the needs in Old Testament times that gave rise to the calling of those heroes of old. When he writes about these days he is highlighting a set of modern needs that are no less important, no less profound than those that gave rise to the raising of a Moses or an Elijah or a David. Elijah seems to have been a servant of God who came out of obscurity (afterall who ever heard of Tishbe in Gilead?) just like Moses who spent 40 years in the back-of-beyond or David who spent the first 28 years of his life as a no-body and hated by his brothers. John the Baptist emerged suddenly after some 30 years of obscurity as did his second cousin, Jesus of Nazareth; his critics even queried whether anything good could come out of Nazareth. Who is God calling in these days? How did Elijah know when his time had come, or John the Baptist? Could you be the next Elijah, the next John? Moses was called from a burning bush, David was annointed from the end of a long line of more capable brothers. How will you respond to your calling when it comes? 8 Nov 2016 StanH


"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them".

Our male voice choir (WRMVP), which performed at St.James Church on Yorkshire Day 2016, has been singing these poignant words from Laurence Binyon's poem For the Fallen, over their last few engagements. They are well known, oft quoted words. Less well known, indeed not known by most, are the names of the fallen from the Parish of St.James Doncaster, some belonging to St.James church congregation itself. We have a War Memorial inside the church to the 146 men who gave their lives in World War 1 (1914-19) for us and our children, grand-children and great grand-children. So, we will be laying two wreaths in church this Remembrance Sunday; one from the boys and girls of St.James who may not even be aware of their heritage and a wreath from the Congregation at St.James - lest we forget.

It is fitting therefore to pay tribute to those men this morning by name in the Parish Blog - for they were real people who walked the streets of Balby and Hexthorpe and some were part of our congregation. I am told that they were almost certainly all territorial soldiers from the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) but then I discovered that conscription only started in Doncaster well into the war (after January 1916). Their names, then, are:

J.Ansbro, E.Andrews, W.Atack, P.Atack, W.Avill, A.F.Baker, W.H.Bassendale, J.Bates, F.Bath, R.Beatty (MM), E.H.Bennett, F.Bell, H.Bell, H.Y.Bell, C.Bills, A.Bothamley, H.Bowers, J.Bradley, J.Bristow, H.Brooke, C.F.Brookes, A.Brooks, A.R.Burley, F.Burley, J.H.Byers, H.Capell, F.Cardwell, S.W.Chapmen, F.Clarkson, J.E.Clarkson, H.V.Close, F.Cooper, L.Cooper and W.Coulson.

H.Day, R.Day, C.J.Delahoy, P.F.Douthwaite, C.W.Durant, W.E.Elsom, T.Fevre, E.Fletcher, A.Frith, J.Gabbitas (see note), M.Glennon, E.Golledge, F.J.Goodwill, J.Graham, H.Graham, W.H.Graham, W.A.Green, H.Gregson, G.Gyles, S.G.Hedger, F.H.Hefford, H.S.Hemingway, H.S.Hibbard, W.H.Hickson, H.Hilton, H.W.O.Hirst, W.Hobson, H.Holland, J.C.Holdroyd, A.S.Hooper, A.Horstead, H.T.Houghton, F.Howsham, C.A.Hoyle, C.H.Hudson, H.Hudson, S.B.Jackson, W.R.Jackson, C.Jepson and H.F.Johnson.

S.C.Kimber, T.C.Lane, E.Lambert, S.H.Lawson, W.E.Lawson, C.H.Ledger, W.Lerigo, J.Long, W.Major, C.H.Mallinson, W.H.Marshall, C.E.Martin, J.Mole, H.F.Mountain, F.Mullins, H.Naylor, J.W.Neale, J.H.Pagdin, T.A.Pagdin, E.Pallister, H.Panks, C.Parkin, W.H.Parkin, W.Paton, S.Pepper, W.Piddock, W.H.C.Pyatt, J.Quinn, J.A.Ramsbottom, A.Reynolds, H.Reynolds, C.Richardson, R.Richardson, J.C.C.Ripley, A.M.Roberts and J.H.Ronbinson.

J.Sagar, A.Sampson, C.W.Saxton, E.H.Schofield, A.Scott, H.Selby, J.W.Sharp (MM), J.H.Sharper, J.Shaw, J.W.Shaw, C.Shillito, S.Shillito, H.Scissons, A.Slough, S.Stace, A.Stocks, A.Stokes, J.Stott, E.G.Taylor, F.C.Taylor, C.R.Tindall, J.K.Walker, F.J.Watson, L.E.Watson, F.Webb, J.Whitfield, H.Wigglesworth, J.H.Wilkinson, T.Wilks, F.Woodwiss, J.Woodwiss, G.E.Woolsey, C.W.Wyatt and A.E.W.Young.

Yes, we will remember them.        13 November 2016 StanH.

Note: J.Gabbitas is buried in Hyde Park Cemetery, Doncaster - he died in 1917 - probably as a consequence of his injuries sustained in battle.


​"Horses for courses!" Have you ever heard that expression used ? ​It seems quite an appropriate turn of phrase for the town of Doncaster with its own racecourse. I suppose it means some horses run better on certain courses than others or rather the condition of the course on the day of the race. Some respond better to "soft going", others to a harder drier surface - not that I know a single thing about horse racing you understand. King David and King Solomon - father and son - were very different. David learned his craft as a shepherd boy. He quite unashamedly thought he was qualified to fight the giant Philistine, Goliath, so he told King Saul, as you do: "Your servant has been keeping his fathers sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from it's mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the Living God", (1 Sam 17v34-36). David was to become a great warrior king at a time in the history of the nation when it needed a strong leader; horses for courses. It was said of David by his many adoring female fans that - "Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands". I don't think we should necessarily take those numbers literally but you get the picture - his reputation preceded him. David was a brilliant musician who could sooth and enthrall King Saul when he had the black dog on him. He wrote many of the Psalms from which we can clearly see that he had a great faith in his God (greater even, I suggest, than Solomon). He saw the hand of God on his life and in creation. Davids life was a very hard life - but thats another blog for another time. I mention it only at this point because we, the people of today, walk on the shoulders of our parents who had it a lot tougher than we have it.

Solomon was, as I've already said, altogether different than his father. Have you heard expressions like, "He's just like his father.." or "He's his fathers son" ? Well Solomon wasn't! Our parents had it hard so, comparatively speaking ,we could have it easy and in the same way Solomon benefitted from the sacrifices his fathers life represents. David had had many enemies in his time and warfare dominated his life but if Solomon had any enemies it does not appear to have been what the Bible record remembers of him - so I think not. Solomon is remembered for his great wisdom.This comes out in his letter to King Hiram of Tyre: "You know that because of the wars waged against my father David from all sides, he could not build a temple for the Name of the Lord his God until the Lord put his enemies under his feet. But now, [yes I do understand the sacrifices my father made], the Lord has given me rest on every side....". He understood that God had created the circumstances of his life for a purpose just as he has created ours for a purpose​; that is why we should pay attention to Solomon. It may sound an odd comparison but children, and grandchildren, now go to school, now play sport and have fun in their lives, have a better life, because they no longer have to work down a coal mine, or clean chimneys or work amongst the dangerous moving parts of mill looms or work in East End sweatshops, because former generations have already made those sacrifices.

Whether Soloman was educated or self-taught is not clear. He was cerebral - that is certain; today we would call him a polymath - science and engineering fascinated him as well as the humanities. He was a great engineer and designer. Great craftsmen, like Huram from Tyre in Sidon may have worked in bronze with a phenominal degree of skill but it was Solomon who gave him the designs. Solomon knew what he wanted (he had the vision - he was a visionary) and sought out people who could produce the finished product. Solomon had obviously travelled and seen the work of this great craftsman elsewhere.  This study of Solomon continues in the next blog.....  16 November 2016 StanH

Solomon was a complex man of many parts. ​He is known for his wisdom, for invention, for grandeur. The Queen of Sheba was fascinated by him. 1 Kings 10v4-5 says this: "When the Queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed". She had to say to him: "...I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes.Indeed [she famously said] not even the half has been told....".

But as to contrasts with his father and his own personal complexity let me mention what happened when this wise and scholarly young man first inherited the throne of David - what his first priority was. He saw to it that Adonijah his brother, who had attempted to userp his throne, was put to death for it - indeed the last straw for Solomon was when Adonijah had come by the back door, through Bathsheba, to persuade Solomon to give him Abishag the Shunammite for his wife. Strangely this seems to have appalled Solomon, even though Abishag had not technically been his father's wife [Leviticus 18v8] , just a rather beautiful and exotic "hot-water bottle" for his chilled and ailing father, David [1 Kings 1v2-4] . Also, following a final private conversation with his father David before he died, Solomon saw to it that Joab was executed - that he got his comeuppance; Joab in times past, you may remember, had been Davids henchman and right-hand-man and, amongst other distasteful deeds that such men are sometimes required to perform, had ensured Bathsheba's husband, Uriah, was killed in the heat of battle to get him out of the way and Solomon also "saw to it" that Shimei the Benjaminite, who had made Davids life such a misery at a bad time in his life, was executed even in his very old age. It reminds me that occasionally, we still hear don't we of aged Nazi's who, when tracked down and brought to book, get their comeuppance for crimes against humanity. Listen! We cannot escape justice. Were Solomons actions revenge (that favourite ancient and modern middle eastern pass-time) or godly justice? Was God in and party to, the meting out of justice to these men? It's a very difficult philiosophical and theological conundrum given that Solomon goes on to be so evidently blessed by God - unlike his father who had been so very quickly taken to task by Nathan the prophet. We may never know. Maybe our lot in life is never to fully know the mind of God and what true justice really is. This is quite a daunting thought given that each one of us is to be on the receiving end of the meting out of God's justice in that coming day. So I hope you will agree that these are not idle thoughts and pass-times this morning.          23 November 2016 StanH

We had a mass baptism service this morning at St.James Doncaster. Twenty-two (possibly twenty-one in the end) men, women, boys and girls got baptised by full-immersion. Nothing on this scale has ever happened at St.James before as far as we know and it was as much a blessing for the onlookers that cheered each soul who went under the waters of baptism (especially when they came up again!), as it was for the candidates themselves; not that the title "candidate" really does justice to those blessed souls. There was something on the faces of these that spoke of such an amazing transformation in lives changed. We are reminded of and can now better understand those words in Acts 2v41: "Those who accepted his message were baptised and about three thousand were added to their number that day". Again there's a category of men and women described in Luke's verse that is as wholly inadequate as was the category "candidate" that we used in our Baptism Service on Sunday - its that anonymous word "those"; those who accepted. Luke of course wasn't there in Jerusalem at Pentecost - he had to back-track and research the events of that day in order to tell Theophilus the story of Acts - so he couldn't put a name to a face or tell individual "changed-life" stories. Wouldn't it be good though, if we could go back and share in some of those changed lives. Thankfully, we can do that with "those" that got baptised at St.James because we can put a name to a face.  27 November 2016  StanH.

In my last blog I wrote about those anonymous three thousand that got baptised after Pentecost. On this last day of November my thoughts are on another anonymous group of "those". I didn't realise my last blog would lead me in the direction this has but here we go.... Today we finished our Operation Christmas Child 2016 shoeboxes, processed in Doncaster thanks once again to Doncaster Deaf Trust for yet another year - probably our best result since we started doing shoeboxes here in Doncaster. We've been very thankful of course in our daily prayers for our dedicated team of box checkers who've worked tirelessly alongside us - many of whom have been faithfully coming to us for years. They've worked so hard this year and so its a big thankyou to them once again for yet another year. But my thoughts today are for the hundreds of "anonymous those" - those that assembled and anonymously gave the vast majority of our six thousand plus boxes. We know of course that some come via specific churches that we know and some by specific schools but we've no idea who the individuals are. A good number of shoeboxes, for example, just turn up in Main Reception at the Deaf School because its a Drop-Off Centre, but in all honesty we haven't a clue where they came from, who brought them as they never meet us but just trust us to ensure that their precious gifts get to a needy child somewhere in the world. In the end that's what it's always been a about - "those children". Thats why we are Operation Christmas Child.  30 November 2016 StanH.

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