B-I-B-L-E, Yes that’s the book for me

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Yesterday at St. John’s was ‘You Asked For It’ session 5: The Bible. You can listen to the sermon and the Q&A here.

 

 

Here are a few links to resources that were mentioned:

There are a boat-load more brilliant resouces available. Either search for them or ask your church leaders for help – good chance they’ll have stuff for you to borrow!

One more of note is an online bible called Biblegateway – It has the bible available in dozens of versions and languages an all for FREE! There are even commentaries, bible reading plans and other resources (some free, some not). Really worth using!

 

Till next time!

 

P.s. Here’s some cheese:

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Make as much as you can

As part of the You Asked For It series at St. John’s, West Wickham we look at Money and Tithing. You can hear the sermon and Q&A here.

In it I spoke about John Wesley’s saying about money. To paraphrase:

Make all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can

It comes from his excellent sermon (50) ‘On the use of Money’. You can find text versions and an audio recording of it (for free) here.

The first clause can cause some concern amongst Christians, but the idea is not to be greedy or dishonest (see the sermons). Instead Christans are to be productive rather than lazy. Today I listened to a podcast on Proverbs where, amongst other things, they talked about the practical sayings which included this one:

Without oxen a stable stays clean,
    but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.

Proverbs 14:4

The point (although it uses a dated analogy) is that if you don’t put in the intial effort with something you may not enjoy that much, you won’t reap the reward (and possibly starve!). It speaks into the same thing that Westley’s first clause does – put in the effort to make the most of what you do. Perhaps today we might rewrite the proverb something like this:

Without studying your evenings will be freer,

but you need knowledge and experience to get a good wage.

Peter’s Idioms  14:4

Till next time.

A God Vacancy

The expression “Out of the mouths of babes” comes to mind, although I’d imagine the author might not like that expression much since she is in the 10-13 year old category. But her 500 word story, submitted to the BBc competitij really got me thinking. Here it is in full, but you can find the audio recording of it here.

A God Vacancy by Aoife Maddock

 

Dear Gods & Deities Inc,

It is with much regret that I have chosen to resign from my position as Lead Deity of Area 25541, specifically, Earth. I have learnt very much from my time at Gods & Deities Inc. and will cherish the relationships I have formed with the beings there forever. This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is in the best interests of my career advancement and development as a sentient being. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working for you.

Actually, you know what? That’s a lie. I have not enjoyed my time at Gods and Deities Inc. at all. Would you like to know why? Humans.

I understand it’s unprofessional of me to complain about my clients in such a personal manner, but they’re just so frustrating. I have done everything in my power to please them, you know. My creative team and I have worked as best we can with them- but I’ve never met a species that is quite so needy!

First of all, they’re the only species to fight among themselves so pettily. War after war, I can barely get a word in edgewise; all in my name, might I add. I don’t want war, why would I want war? That doesn’t even make sense! If they’d listen for just one moment, they’d realise it’s not in my best interests and it’s certainly not in theirs, it’s nothing but a waste of time and money.

Another thing, never have I worked a job where I’ve received so much abuse! Anything they mess up, they blame on me- which is hardly fair. Do they really think it’s my job to sit around and ruin their day? I’m tired of them overestimating my power, I can’t solve world hunger! They caused world hunger! It’s clear they’ve mistaken me for the universal caretaker, here to sweep up their messes. There’s no working with them, there’s no splitting the load. They expect everything of me and I get nothing in return.

One last thing, this one really irks me, but would it kill them just to listen? For once? I’ve considered going vengeful, multiple times. They complain about my standoffishness, my refusal to step in when the going gets tough, but when I try to give advice they won’t take it! I feel I have been very clear about my expectations of our partnership. They take one step forward, only to take another two back, do you have any idea how infuriating that is? The spark I once had has been replaced by a resentful disinterest, and whose fault is that?

I apologise, this letter has stretched out longer than anticipated, but I really needed to get that off my chest. I hope now my sudden resignation does not seem so irrational, and that Gods & Deities Inc. prospers in the future. Whomever you choose as my successor, I sincerely wish them the best of luck.

They’re going to need it.

If I was (a) god, that would be me entirely. I’m glad to say that I have little frustration at work currently but I’ve had my share in the past and am certain that I will in the future. It is the reason that I have great sympathy for James and John! Dealing with people as a person is hard work. We can be hard work, violent, angry, selfish, greedy, lazy, ungrateful (I could go on), even when we have the best in life. If I had a contact where the other party was repeatedly found in breach, and where their general disposition was that unhealthy I would walk away as fast as possible.

Fortunately God is not like that. The story of the bible (and we see it very starkly in the Old Testament) is the reapeated unfaithfulness of God’s people, but then God’s extravagent mercy and grace in return, calling people back to follow Him. Again and again we see the goodness of God calling everyone to turn back to Him to find forgivenss and the fullness of life. He sees the goodness that we are capable of, that we were created for. He sees His image in us, even if it is greatly marred. He calls us to be who were were created to be. Praise God!

Here are just a few (of many) examples you can look up:

1     –     2     –     3     –     4     –     5

So thank you Aoife! Your story is a reminder to me of the fallenness of people – myself included – but even more so of the amazing goodness and faithfulness of God, beyond any human understanding.

 

 

 

Why I Believe in Marriage

At St. John’s we are currently going through a series called ‘You asked for it’ where the sermons are on what the congregation voted for. This week was ‘Marraige’

or you can find the audio of the sermon here: http://www.stjohnsww.com/latest-sermons/2018/6/18/marriage

Here are a few resouces that I found helpful in planning, not only for the sermon, but also for my own marriage:

Secular:

(by which I mean sources that are not coming from a religious bias – it is not a comment on the author(s) personal beliefs.

  1. Why would-be parents should choose to get married
  2. Society-wide benefits of monogamous marriage
  3. Why Get Married? These Answers May Surprise You
  4. Marriage Isn’t For You

  5. Office for National Statistics – Great for finding statistics on all parts of life (in the UK), incl. marriage, divorce and cohabitation.

Christian:

  1. Book: The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Marriage with the Wisdom of God A must-read if you are married, on interested for whatever reason.
  2. Book: Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? – A fascinating read on the spirituality of marriage.
  3. ‘Focus on the Family’ Marriage series – I particularly used 2.Marriage is Good for Children
  4. Church of England Marriage Service – Especially the introduction (which I read from in the sermon)

 

Hope these resources help you too.

Macarius of Egypt

Here is the passage I read as part of my sermon this morning: HS advert

“It is written in the law that the priest should take two doves, and kill the one, and sprinkle the living one with its blood, and loose it and let it fly free. That which was done was a figure and shadow of the truth; for Christ was slain, and His blood sprinkling us has made us to grow wings, for He has given us the wings of the Holy Ghost, that we may fly without hindrance into the air of the Godhead.” 47.2

Its from Sermon 47 of the ‘Fifty Spiritual Homilies Of Saint Macarius The Egyptian’

(N.B. Most think that these were written not by Macarius himself, but by one of his followers, which is why often it will say ‘Pseudo-Macarius’)

Image result for macarius the egyptianHe was an interesting chap. Here is just one story from his life:

A certain young girl in the village became pregnant and accused Father Macarius of fathering her unborn child. The people without weighing the matter immediately sought him out and brought him back to the village. They beat and whipped Father Marcarius severely and hung huge black pots around his neck. He was forced to go before the village while they were mocking him and saying, “This monk seduced our daughter. Let him be hanged.” With the merciless behavior shown to him he continued in humility.

When allowed to return to his cell, he gave a young man all the mats that he had made from the work of his hands. Father Marcarius instructed the young man to “Sell these mats and give the money to MY WIFE that she may eat.” Father Macarius in thought had accepted this young woman as his wife without a single denial or bitter thought. He worked night and day making mats to send money to her. Humbleness was the mother of forgiveness in this saints soul.

At the time of the young girl’s delivery, she suffered many days in labor. The unbearable pain motivated the girl into telling the truth regarding Father Macarius. She related to all that she had falsely accused this priest and that he had never so much as touched her. Having not been able to deliver until she confessed, the entire village was remorseful at their judgmental actions. When Father Macarius heard that the village was on route to seek his forgiveness he fled to the place where he would live the remainder of his holy life. His humble and forgiving natures were the clothes in which he would wear throughout his life.

 

Can you really believe in the resurrection?

empty-tombChristianity hinges on one person: Jesus of Nazareth. Not only the idea of the man, but a real person who lived in history as you and I do. The Christian message is one that says that this same Jesus not only taught about God and His love for us, but demonstrated it by dying on a cross and then rising to life three days later. This is one thing that sets Christianity apart from most (if not all) other religions: if it can be proved that Jesus never rose from the dead (resurrection) then the Christian faith is worthless. As the Apostle Paul states,

 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:13-19

So the resurrection of Jesus is something that really must be explored buy all people. It is common in my experience for people to accept or reject the resurrection having never really look openly at the evidence. Don’t let yourself be one of them.

I’d like to suggest two resources for you to begin (or deepen) your search with this Easter weekend:

 

  • Hinge: a Ten-part podcast where an atheist and christian pastor look at who Jesus is and the evidence for His life. It’s a brilliant listen and, if you are open to it, one you will find both encouraging and challenging (for christians and non-christians alike!)

 

May you have a wonderful Easter, and know happiness  and joy beyond anything chocolates can bring.

Beyond the 100-Aker woods

The 100 Aker Wood is well known as the1f26c0fefe6f9e8bd8f79006dc780394 home of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends. It’s a place of magic and wonder and is certainly not to be missed out on. But have you ever wondered what lies beyond the 100-aker woods? Where does Christopher Robin go and the end of his wonderful adventures with Winnie-the-Pooh? Well wonder no more because I, your entripid curate, have gone adventuring to discover what does indeed lie beyond it and have discovered wonderful palces full of faith and beer. The names of the palces may sound fanciful to you, dear reader, but I assure you that it is true. They are known and Barcombe and Newick.

Before I visited the village of Barcombe, I had to pass through Piltdown. It has a beautiful pond but a strange bloke tried to sell me a skull with an Oragutan’s teeth, so I kept going. In the village of Barcombe I met a wonderful Vicar called James, who had a stange passion for church history and cup-a-soups. He showed1200px-barcombe_church me a little of what running a rural church looked like. From what I could tell on my visit it involved copious amounts of tea, bucket-loads of schools work and your body-weight in pancakes. Well, I mean there are worse things one has to endure for the gospel. Barcombe is a wonderful community with some fascinating characters. They even bought their own post office to stop it closing down. How’s that for community spirit!

After a few weeks I said my good-byes and moved on to Newick, the larger of the two villages with a whopping 2.5k people.Of course this was a village that had it’s priorties right, consisting of three pubs within eye-sight of each other, and all heaving. Even the church was grthe-bull-on-the-greenowing, having almost doubled in regular attenders in the last 2 years! Now, there are many reasons why this is so, most importantly the work of the Holy Spirit, but I think it also has a lot to do with its new(ish) vicar, Paul,  who has the most amazing gift of hospitality. If Winnie-the-pooh ever visited he would be greeted with at least a gallon of honey. On one visit which where he warned me that ‘he didn’t have much in, so lunch might not be up to much’ I was given wild boar sausage sandwiches, boiled eggs from the village farm and a side salad. Not sure what it would have been if he did have stuff in!

A highlight of the land beyond the 100-aker woods was a visit with Chris to the metropolis of Hailsham to visit a livestock market, and to chat to a farmer or two. I did not see any heffalumps but there were planty of cows and sheep. There were also a few pigs, one of which tried to eat my wellies and anther was trying for the piglympics gold in highjump, having jumped the gates half a dozen times.

Alas, my time in the land beyond the woods came to the end and I had to return, to St. Johns, but I leave knowing that God does indeed lie beyond the woods, and he has a plan and a love for those in rural areas, even if I didn’t see a pot of honey whilst I as there.

PC

Haven’t been to visit Winnie-the-Pooh yet? Make sure to visit the 100 Aker woods