Sunday, 5 November 2017

Captain's Blog 2017

October was another very busy month that began with an ‘Open PCC Meeting’ at my home church, St John the Baptist, Littleworth. In particular we explored ‘Celebration’ and ‘Challenges’ and ‘The Way Forward.’ We took Colossians 3.1-17 as a base guide. I always find focusing on ‘celebration’ as well as ‘challenges’ is very important, especially as we are in a Vacancy at the moment. Negativity can soon set in, as can personal or group ‘kingdom building.’

My ‘rural ministry’ continues to flourish and it is a delight to get to know and be known around the rural community of Staffordshire.  In this I am riding on the coat tails of Bishop Geoff Annas who was the President of the Staffordshire & Birmingham Agricultural Society. 

I have also followed our retired Rural Officer in being appointed as Honorary Chaplain to the Society.

Added to this is my role as Chair of the Staffordshire Farming Community Network. FCN works closely and is supported by YFC (Young Farmers Clubs) and this month I attended both their Harvest Service and then a wonderful occasion of a Presentation of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services.

During the day of this ‘Presentation’ I spent the morning with an FCN colleague at a Ploughing Match.

Also keeping with ‘rural’ I joined a small group of Rural Officers from the ‘Midlands’ for a very pleasant lunch at The Farmers Fayre, Stoneleigh.

And I had a very informative day with Rural Ministries exploring - ‘Pastoral Care as Mission.’

Three Preachment's this month (the transcript of my sermons are on my Blog - Gordon's Blog Spot)  My ‘usual’ monthly visit to St Anne’s, Brown Edge. With numbers below double figures it is a real challenge to think about the future of this church.  In a similar vein, a visit to St Werburgh in Kingsley.  This is part of the Mid-Churnet Benefice of five rural churches, some of them very small, but for the most part, well appointed with kitchens, loos and in some cases, chairs and carpet!  Their Vicar is retiring at the end of October and I am going to walk alongside them during their Vacancy. I had a very good meeting with the Church Wardens and the Ministry Team following a whistle stop tour of all five churches.

My other preachment was at St Paul’s, Forebridge, Stafford.  Their Vicar has asked if I can help them reflect on how this church of mainly elderly folk, yet with a thriving Messy Church, can grow and serve the local community.  It sits on a very busy road with no car parking, yet does have people regularly walking past.

At the end of the month I had a fascinating week of lunches in five different places! 

On Monday (23rd) I was at Selly Oak as Trustee for Rural Mission Solutions.

On Tuesday I was in Knebworth for the Farming Community Network AGM and Harvest Service.

On Wednesday in Stoke and a lunch time meeting with Revd Sister Janet Arnold, new into the Diocese and our County Ecumenical Officer,  Robert Mountford.  In the evening, we also had the Wash-Up meal for the Staffordshire County Show Church Tent Core Team.

Thursday I was in Kingsley – as above. On Thursday afternoon we travelled down to Cornwall for our son’s birthday. Our two grandchildren also tried on their Flower Girl dresses for Auntie Tabitha’s Wedding.

Some items from the Captain's Log for November 2017

Wednesday 1st
Annual Dinner for the Staffordshire& Birmingham Agricultural Society. (Both Jane and I are attending this black tie event)

Thursday 2nd
FCN Staffordshire Group Meeting
Speaking to the Mothers’ Union (Trentham) about my own faith journey and helping them think about how they can both know and share their own faith stories.

Monday 6th
Review Meeting with Bishop Geoff and Archdeacon Matthew. An extended time as we plan for my retirement (2019) and succession on certain projects, like the County Show.

Wednesday 8th
Meeting with Martin, Vicar at St Paul’s. (See above) In the evening a Rural Mission Solutions Webinar at 8pm. This is a repeat of the one we did on the 21st October as we experienced a few technical glitches. You can register at

Thursday 9th
Mothers’ Union Autumn Council Meeting. Over lunch time, Stafford Church Leaders Prayer Meeting and exploring how we engage with Hope18 following a presentation by Roy Crowne at last months Leaders Prayer Meeting.

Friday 10th
In the evening representing FCN at the Young Farmers Club AGM.

Monday 13th
Spiritual Companion to JC. In the evening, Littleworth, Tixall and Ingestre Benefice Vacancy Prayer Gathering

Tuesday 14th
Stafford Clergy Chapter (in attendance)

Wednesday 15th
Rural Officers Conference (only going for the one day of this two day gathering of National RO’s)

Thursday 16th
Review meeting in the evening for ‘Connect2’ a Fresh Expression of Church that meets at St Anne’s Primary School, Brown Edge.


THE WEDDING!  Tabitha & Peter 
at St John the Baptist, 
Littleworth 11.30am.

Monday 20th
FCN Three Counties Training Day.

Tuesday 21st
Personal Quiet Day

Thursday 23rd
Church Army AGM and Community Day in Sheffield

Friday 24th
The conclusion of the CPAS Thrive Community Gathering.

Monday 27th
Prison Fellowship Prayer Meeting.

Wednesday 29th
Spiritual Companion to JM. 

Thursday 30th
Day Conference (Woodstock) - the ‘Association of Festival Churches’

From the 28th November until the 3rd December I will also be looking after an FCN Christmass Tree during  the Christmass Tree Festival at St Mary’s, Stafford. 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

'Your Kingdom Come & Your Will Be Done' - sermon transcript Bible Sunday 2017

St Paul’s, Stafford 29th October 2017Bible Sunday

‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’

I am currently reading ‘Soldiers of Rome & the Rebellion of Judea’ by James Mace.  This is set around 66 AD and is a historical novel based around the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

If you want to read about the climax of the destruction and devastation of this cataclysmic event then I can recommend David Kossof’s ‘Voices of Masada.’  In the year AD 70, at the close of a long and bloody battle that ended with the Roman conquest of Jerusalem, one thousand Jewish men, women and children stood atop a small mountain fortress located near the Dead Sea. Against such overwhelming odds they chose suicide to slavery or slaughter at the hands of the Romans.

For a contemporary account you could read 'The Jewish Wars' by the Jewish Historian, Josephus.

Why might this be important?

Because without an understanding and an appreciation of what happened in 70 AD passages of Scripture, such as our Gospel reading, will be difficult to understand.

And today being Bible Sunday when we are considering the Scriptures we need first of all to understand that, for the most part,  the language of the Bible is from a Hebraic mind set.  This language is largely conceptual; it is the language of the poet and the artist. It is full of hyperbole where trees clap their hands and fields shout for joy and mountains skip like rams. It is metaphor piled upon metaphor.

Without such an understanding today’s Gospel passage will sound very strange.

There is a great deal to explore here and we have not got the time to really do justice to this passage that I commend to you for further and deeper study.

However if we link up this Gospel passage from Matthew with the short extract from Colossians here is a short precis of what is happening.

One – in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 24 (from where our passage is situated) the reference is to the Signs of the End of the Age.

The Jews thought of life in two ages – the ‘Present Age’ and the ‘Age to Come.’ This was spoken of by prophets and poets alike. It would be a glorious time when all wrongs would be made right.

A time when the lion and lamb would live together and the whole of the created order would live in peace and harmony. Remembering what I said earlier about the Hebraic mind set and language.

And the coming of the Messiah would presage this new age, the age to come.

Two – Jesus is saying and demonstrating that the ‘Age to Come’ is now rushing forward into ‘The Present Age’.  Jesus is saying that a New Covenant, a New Testament is being drawn up that fulfills and draws together all of the Old Covenant.  And that he, Jesus, the Son of Man, is the long expected Messiah who would usher in the ‘Age to Come’ into the present moment.

We will return to this but let me move onto the short extract from Colossians and point Three.

Because it is here that the People of God, the People justified by Faith, inheritors of the promises made to Abraham by Faith (as Paul strongly argues particular in his Letter to the Romans) It is here that we are offered insights into how we should conduct ourselves as the People of God before a watching world.

Let’s look again at just a couple of those verses from Colossians 3…

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Imagine having that on the table at each and every meeting, each and every PCC or strategy meeting or whenever you gather to discuss something about your life together as the People of God in the place.  

What difference do you think it would make?   

I hope you would say it would serve as a salutary reminder of what it is we are about and how we are to conduct ourselves as the People of God.  

And this is the joy of Scriptures and why it is important to have them always before us – as we read further on in verse 16…

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

Before we seek to share Good News we must be Good News. Would you say that the Faith Community here at St Paul’s is known in the wider community by some of the hallmarks from Colossians 3?

…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other;

You see the society around us has enough arguing and bickering, and people wanting their own way, people full of their own self-importance, people building their own little empires.

And in many ways it was ever thus – and it against this way of conducting our affairs that the People of God are called to offer a life affirming alternative way of being in community, of living together. 

The People of the First Covenant, the Jews, were called to be a light to the Gentiles and the hope of all the nations.

Jesus argues that they have failed and the he is ushering in the Age to Come and will raise up a People of God under a New Covenant who will demonstrate to a watching world what it means to live as authentic human beings in God’s, good created order.

This is in large part what Jesus is speaking about in this Gospel passage.

How will it be demonstrated - that the 'Age to Come' has rushed into the present – what will be the signs of the Son of Man coming on the clouds with power and bringing judgment and justice?

Principally it will be seen as a sign when the Temple is destroyed and the Jewish nation scattered to the four winds. With a new elect people of faith and promise will be drawn from all nations and become the New People of God.

How do we know this?

Because Jesus says…

Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

And so it was that within a generation of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension the Temple was razed to the ground with not one stone standing on another.

And if that sounds familiar so it should, because that was also something Jesus said which we read in verse 2 of chapter 24…

"Do you see all these things?" he asked. "Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."

I really don’t know what you think you are doing here at St Paul’s. What you think your role and purpose is.  Perhaps you think it is to maintain this building or maybe to preserve a certain form of worship.

ABC Justin Welby has said the Church has only two purposes, to worship and to make disciples.

Bishop Michael has challenged us to deepen our discipleship, discover our vocation and engage in evangelism.

Our Gospel passage, whilst primarily speaking about the events surrounding the fall of the temple in 70 AD also carries overtones of Christ’s return.

This is something which we affirm in our Creeds at during the Eucharist, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Note the pattern and flow - HAS IS WILL

And we as the People of God are called to live in anticipation of that great and glorious day when all will be finally and fully revealed.

When the great cries of prophets like Isaiah and Hosea and many more will come to pass. When justice and peace flow like rivers. When wars, disease and death are no more, no more crying for the former things have passed away.

You and I are called to be heralds of the time when the whole of the cosmos is redeemed and there will be no need for a temple because God will dwell with His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ as we consider the Scriptures on this Bible Sunday let me close by inviting you to heed the word of James who wrote…

But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

Let us not simply say the Lord’s Prayer but work with every fibre of our being and as much as lies within us to work, labour and toil to make it a present reality.

Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done…

  in Stafford
  in my family
  in St Paul's
  in my heart and life

Let us pray…

O Saviour Christ, in whose way of love lays the secret of all life, and the hope of all people, we pray for quiet courage to match this hour. We did not choose to be born or to live in such an age; but let its problems challenge us, its discoveries exhilarate us, its injustices anger us, its possibilities inspire us, and its vigour renew us. Pour out upon us a fresh indwelling of the Holy Spirit; make us bold and courageous in sharing faith in both word and deed for your Kingdom’s we ask sake. Amen       

Sunday, 22 October 2017

'Image and Impressions' - transcript of sermon 22/10/2017 St Werburgh Kingsley

Mid Churnet Benefice - St Werburgh Kingsley

The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

Isaiah 45.1-7  1 Thessalonians 1.1-10  Matthew 22.15-22

Who have you noticed being talked about this week, perhaps in the news or on social media?

What kinds of things are being said about people?

For the most part, if they are in the news, it will be because they have been up to no good and been caught out.

Or maybe they have made some policy announcement that we either agree with or even disagree with.

Or fired off another tweet!

Are people talking about you?

Maybe not in the public sphere, but around and about, where you live, or work or perhaps play golf, running club, WI or whatever.

What do you think people are saying about you?

What do you hope they are saying about you?

Last week a great Christian man called Paul Griffiths died after a very short illness.

Having being diagnosed with gall stones they turned out to be cancer and he sadly died in a matter of days.

Paul set up the ‘Ugly Duckling Company’ that produced some fantastic resources for sharing the Christian Faith.  Table Talk was perhaps the best known, but also Puzzling Question for those who are asking about the Christian faith.

On Facebook knowing he had only days his friends and colleagues were asked if they would put up ‘tributes’ to Paul – to encourage him (and his family) in his last days.

Some of them were deeply moving tributes to an amazing man of God who had a passion to make Jesus known and at least twenty good ideas before breakfast.

What would people say about you?

Have you ever thought about your epithet?

In the story we heard from the Gospel there is one person who is mentioned who most certainly wanted people to remember him, talk about him and indeed worship him – Caesar.

Which put the People of Israel in a tight spot as their commandments stated very clearly that there was only one God and only Yahweh should be worshiped.

The other person being talked about in this story is of course Jesus.

Here it is the Pharisee’s and the Herodian’s who are talking about Jesus.

It is not hard to imagine the type of conversation they had either.

And they think they have come up with an answer to Jesus and his increasing popularity and influence.

Then as now if you wanted to catch someone out you might frame a question that would put them on the horns of a dilemma. Whichever way they answer would make them declare their hand or say something controversial.  The actual answer isn’t what is being looked for – it is a mere ploy to try and entrap someone.

The Pharisee and Herodian’s think they have such a question. 

And of course it is also good to begin with a bit of flattery, to entice the victim into the trap.

‘Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God with truth. You are not swayed by men because you do not pay them any attention.’

If only that were true, that they really believed this theatrical flattery and flourish used to help set the trap.

Then the question – hurled like a spear with the intent of causing as much damage as possible.

Whichever way he answered they have him – he will either be dragged off to face Roman justice, perhaps why the Herodian’s are involved. Or he will capitulate to the Roman occupation and then his popularity would quickly wane and his following diminish – job done. 

But they should have known they needed to get up a lot earlier to catch Jesus out.

The key to Jesus’ answer is in his asking for a coin with which to pay the tax to Caesar.

And they produced one – not knowing that they have just scored one of the biggest home goals in history.

On that coin was an image of Caesar. On that coin were the words, Tiberius, High Priest, Son of God.

One of the ways a conquering nation demonstrated its rule was by introducing their own coinage.

That was one of the reasons why the UK did not want to accept the Euro – we wanted to retain a sovereign UK currency.

By carrying the Roman coin they are in effect demonstrating that they have accepted the Roman rule and authority.  Therefore, logic demands that if they have accepted Roman rule and benefits, that they should pay for them through taxes.

So, Jesus’ answer is, yes, if this stuff belongs to Caesar, then give it back to him.

And give to God what belongs to God.

They were amazed at his answer – and we know people kept talking about Jesus, even more.

Are people talking about you – and if so what do you think they might be saying?

Might they be saying that you are known as a man or woman of God? 

Might they be saying that you are known for demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit – even if they didn’t use that language?

Might they be saying that you are a person who is kind, long suffering, forgiving, and full of joy, peace and self-control?

I was talking to someone recently and mentioned that people are a bit like radiators or drains – once you have been around them you are either warmed up or worn out.

What do you think people might say about you?

And what about this Community of Faith, the People of God at St Werburgh?

What might people be saying about you, collectively?

Paul tells us something about the Church in Thessaloniki and what was being said about them.

 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.  For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.

If I was to go out into this community and ask people what they thought about St Werburgh’s, what do you think their answers might be?

Are people talking about you as a Church?

One Bishop famously quipped, ‘when Paul turned up there were riots, when I turn up they give me a cup of tea.’

Today celebratory cult prevails. On average 17 million selfies are posted on social media every week across the world.

There is an unhealthy narcissistic cult of wanting to be known and noticed.  

What are people saying about you as an individual and what are people saying about you as a Community of Faith?

Because it is into this self-obsessed culture that we can speak and demonstrate that our true selves find their fullest and richest expression when they are found in Christ.

What are people saying about us as those who seek to reflect Christ in and through our lives?

A few weeks ago I attended a presentation of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services to Staffordshire Young Farmers Club.

The presentation was made by the Lord Lieutenant for Staffordshire.

He was the Queen’s representative and therefore was given all the honour and dignity that Her Majesty would also receive.

You and I are Christ’s Ambassadors – representatives of the King of Kings.

Do people know that and do we demonstrate that each and every day and in each and every moment?

The coin to pay the Roman tax had an image of Caesar on it.

What image do we carry and what image do people have of us, both as 
individual Christians and as the People of God, the Church.

Because there is only one image we should seek to portray and only one image we should carry.

Paul speaks about this writing to the Corinthians…

‘And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.’

If the image of God you carry has become dull I would like to pray with you and for you. Catch me at the end of the Service.

If you do not know the Christ whose image we are charged to carry, I would like to pray with you and for you so that you may accept Jesus into your life and be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. Catch me at the end of the service.

Let us pray...

Finish then Thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
perfectly restored in Thee.
Changed from glory into glory,
till in heav'n we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before Thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.