From our Vicar

Last edited by webmaster on 28 April 2018 - 9:00pm

     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 May 2018:


Dear friends

Whenever we have an election in this country there are three topics that usually dominate the agenda- The Economy, the NHS and Crime. We have an NHS that that is bursting at the seams with infinite demands for finite resources. New drugs, new advances in treatment suck on recourses and our expectations grow ever more demanding. Yes, the NHS does have massive problems but I would much rather live here, from a health point of view, that the richest country on the planet – the USA, where the system is geared for those who can afford to pay and the poor have no insurance cover.

Crime is another topic that is high on our agenda right now with the spate of horrendous murders in London. Many of the victims are innocent bystanders in gang warfare and many of the murderers are so young. As I have listened to the reasons why these young people are involved in such awful crime it is almost inevitably a result of their home life. How important it is to have a stable loving home life to bring up children to be well adjusted adults. Lack of unconditional love can lead to violence, lack of respect can lead to violence, and lack of boundaries can lead to violence. It is becoming a very real issue in our cities and some towns. Here in Holmes Chapel we almost live in a bubble – insulated from many of the social issues facing our country.

The Economy and money are a massive part of all our lives. When I went to college there were no such things as student loans or tuition fees. In fact I remember getting unemployment benefit during the college holidays!! Wow – the students of today are quite rightly green with envy. The materialism that my generation has lived through, I think, will be judged by history to be the time when we in the West have been the richest materially but the poorest spiritually. I am able to go to places, buy things and do things that I could only have dreamed about when I was a boy. I’m sure that is true for many of you too. The huge danger with materialism is that it dulls our spiritual appetites. We can become self-reliant and feel no need for God other than an occasional nodding acquaintance. Maybe the economic downturn of the past few years could have the silver lining of bringing back to our land a spiritual appetite.

I’m reminded of the words of Jesus when he spoke of drinking water from a well – or in our case the tap or bottle- not satisfying. We drink but then get thirsty again. We have money but want more. We buy but want to buy more. Speaking spiritually, Jesus said that whoever drinks of the water that He gives will never thirst again. Makes you think doesn’t it?

I am writing this the week before the Annual Meeting so I will not make the presumption of who will be elected to new posts within St Luke’s - however I would ask your prayers for all who have taken on responsibilities within our Church Family. Without them St Luke’s would not be able to function. There are too many to mention by name but to all of you – thank you. Your ministries, very often in very practical ways, are very much appreciated.

Your friend and Vicar

Paul


Letter for April 2018:


Dear friends

When you write a monthly letter for the magazine you realise how the months fly by. They seem to get shorter and shorter. It doesn’t seem two minutes from writing one letter than the next one is due! The same phenomenon seems to apply when you are working. There seems far more Monday mornings than Saturday mornings or in my case more Sunday mornings than Friday mornings (my day off!) That is a long winded way of saying that no sooner has Christmas been and gone, than Easter is upon us.
 
And so this month we celebrate the greatest of all our festivals -Easter. Well we just celebrate in April, Easter Day being the 1st but most of you will be reading this at the beginning of Holy Week. I love Easter. It is the reason for our faith. Take away Easter and there is no Christian faith. The death and resurrection of our Lord is why I and many millions more are Christians. Because our faith is so life transforming, Easter is that great opportunity to worship and to thank God for everything that we receive through Christ. I am aware that Easter is celebrated at least twice a week at St. Luke’s whenever we have a communion Service but what is special about Holy Week is taking that journey with Christ from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday through to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday before reaching the climax on Easter Sunday.

It is in taking that journey that makes Easter Sunday so special and so I would invite you to join with us at the various services during Holy Week in order to realise afresh that the gain of Easter day was only accomplished after the pain of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. 
 
This month also is when we will be having our Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM). You might remember it in the good old days as the AGM! It is the time when we elect the church officers for the coming year but its main agenda is to reflect on the year just past and to look to the year ahead through the reports from the various organisations that make up St. Luke’s. I would really encourage you to come along. It is on Sunday 22th April at 9.30am as part of our service of Holy Communion. That will be the only service that day and so is a wonderful opportunity for our two main congregations to meet together. Lots of people will be thanked at the APCM but I would like to take this opportunity to thank our magazine editor, Alan Rickards, for the wonderful job he is doing. The magazine you hold in your hand represents a lot of hard work. Most of that is done by our editor, so Alan - a very big thank you.

Your friend and Vicar
 
Paul

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

Paul


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

Paul


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 
 
Gail