From our Vicar

Last edited by webmaster on 26 February 2018 - 2:55pm

     If you missed an earlier letter from our Vicar Paul in 2017, you can read them here

From our Vicar, the Revd Paul Mason

Letter for March 2018:

Dear friends

I’m writing this month’s letter on Ash Wednesday and have just realised that the first day of April this year is Easter Sunday. So I am writing at the very beginning of the journey to Good Friday and with the month ending with the glory of the resurrection. Those forty days of Lent (which exclude Sunday’s) are a long journey. You may or may not do the traditional thing of ‘giving up’ things for Lent but I hope that all of us will treat it as the penitential season that it is. The liturgical colour of Lent is purple which is the penitential colour.

We are surely right to affirm and hold dear to the notion that God loves us unconditionally but that is not an excuse to do what we want because ‘God will forgive me’. That idea was rightly challenged back in 1937 by a German theologian and pastor called Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He challenged the Nazi’s during the war and was eventually put to death for that opposition. Himmler ordered Bonhoeffer to be hanged in April 1945. In 1937 he wrote a book called ‘The cost of Discipleship’ in which he came up with the phrase ‘cheap grace’ and defined it as:

‘The preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, and grace without Jesus Christ’.

The journey through Lent is a journey that follows Christ all the way to a hill called Calvary. A journey that shows that God’s forgiveness came at an amazing cost – hence the term ‘cheap grace’ when we don’t want a cost. Yes it can be a hard journey. It is a journey that calls for an honest look at ourselves. Lent is a time for repentance and amendment of life. Lent is a time to recommit ourselves to be Disciples of Christ. Let me quote another great Christian man from history. This one is Spanish and lived many centuries before Bonhoeffer. I refer to St. Ignatius of Loyola (born 1491) who wrote a very famous prayer that sums up what it means to be a Disciple of Christ. You may wish to use this prayer through this month leading up to Easter.

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

This has been a bit heavy for a Vicar’s letter, but my prayer is that it will stimulate you to pray, to take up your cross and to follow Christ – first to the cross but then to the joy of the empty tomb. The services for Holy Week and Easter are on the Diary page. Please make your attendance part of your Lenten discipline. I am sure it will be a blessing to you.

Wishing you a blessed Lent and a joyous Easter.

Your friend and vicar


Letter for February 2018:

Dear friends

I write this in the middle of January, right in the depths of winter with its cold and its damp and its short days. Ugh! Many people get down and feel the mid winter blues. As I write we have just had what is referred to as ‘Blue Monday’ It has seemed so long since summer and spring still feels so far away. But of course it isn’t. Already there are signs that the days are lengthening and I’ve already seen the blue tits eyeing up the nesting boxes near my kitchen window. The cycle of the seasons has spiritual counter parts. Just as winter leads to spring and spring to summer etc, so Advent leads to Christmas, Christmas to Epiphany, Epiphany to Lent, Lent to Easter and Easter to Pentecost – a journey through the Church year, as the seasons are a journey through the calendar year. As in nature there is the cycle of death followed by new life (baptism, marriage and funeral) so in the Christian faith there is the cycle of death and resurrection, new life! But as the cycle is a journey through the year so faith is a journey through life.

For many, baptism is the start of that faith journey. That milestone is then followed by another milestone on that journey – confirmation but confirmation is not the end of the journey. Confirmation is just another milestone in the Faith that is a lifelong journey. The journey is a constant development; it is a constant exploration of God, my relationship with God and Jesus. It is an acknowledgment that I only know such a small amount and yet I am eager to know more. It is an acknowledgement that there is much to learn from other traditions as well as my own or St. Luke’s! Please don’t stay happy with where you are. Give your faith an MOT by exploring more and more what the apostle Paul calls the unsearchable riches of Christ. Find out what you might learn from other traditions because none of us have got it all right! Why do you believe what you believe? Is it your conviction or have you just accepted what has been handed down to you? Do you have doubts sometimes? I do (!)-and I think that is good and healthy. Are there questions you have but don’t know how to express them? Come along to Midweek or the Home Group (details in the Diary) where you can ask those questions. In Midweek we are exploring the Resurrection and what it means for us here and now. Do join us or the House Group and give it a go.

Don’t be a static Christian - get journeying.

Faith is a journey. Life itself is also a journey. It does have an end here – death. Over the past few weeks there have been more funerals than I have ever experienced here in Holmes Chapel. As you can see on ‘From the Registers’ page the majority have been elderly and come to the end of their journey after long lives. This month is the second anniversary of Sue’s death which was at much younger age – 63 years. However for all of us the journey does end at some time. The Christian hope is that the end of the journey here on earth is not the end of us. Rather the Christian faith has the hope that nothing- not even death itself – can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. So in the meantime.....

Keep journeying in life and in faith.

PS It's spring next month!

Your friend and Vicar


Letter for January 2018 by our then Curate, the Revd Gail Miller: 

I write this in December, thinking about January, and wondering (yet again!) quite how another year went by so quickly. As we enter January and begin a new year, some of us may be anticipating new beginnings, and -
New beginnings are always delightful; the threshold is the place to pause.” 
I wonder whether or not you agree with this quote from Robert Louis Stevenson?
This January, some people will be pleased to ‘turn the page’ (for those of us who still use printed calendars or diaries!) on a year that has had more than its share of difficulties; while others will be looking back on a year of good times and memories. Whatever our experiences have been during any particular year, the beginning of January often tends to bring with it a sense of newness, promise and hope.  It’s a time of year when approximately half of the population will make New Year resolutions – but, by the time February rolls around, only around 15% of those people will still be keeping them!  So, as we pause at the threshold of a new year, how can we decide what we will take forward with us, not just for a few weeks but for the whole year and beyond?
In the church calendar we are still very much in the season of Christmas until January 6th when we celebrate ‘epiphany’ (meaning “to show, to make known, or to reveal”). Epiphany is a time when we focus on the visit of the magi (or wise men) to the baby Jesus.  Their visit and their gifts publicly recognised and revealed that the baby Jesus was in fact God made man.
The wise men lived far away from the child, Jesus; yet they came to him because they recognised that he had been born not just for the people of Bethlehem or Nazareth, but for them too. Even when we feel far away from the child Jesus, we can come to him because he was born, lived and died for us too. We are shown in that first Christmas how God, in the giving of himself, extends his sacrificial love to all of mankind.
The wise men responded by bringing precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. How will we respond to the amazing generosity of God in giving himself to us? Each of us is precious in God’s eyes, and so the most precious thing we have to give to God is ourselves – and that’s what God longs for.
As we pause at the threshold of a new year, we don’t know what 2018 will bring. Some of us will enter January full of hope and excitement, while others may be filled with sadness and worry. Whatever your situation, I pray that Christmas is not over for you; that the giving of the Christ child has touched your heart; that your response to God’s amazing gift of love will bring an ‘epiphany’ in which you truly know the depth of his love for you; and may you be filled with a sense of peace and hope that lasts throughout the year and beyond.
God bless