Sunday, 4 December 2016

Captain's Log December 2016

CAPTAINS LOG

 
Another ‘training session’ as part of a diocesan initiative working with LICC in developing a suite of bespoke materials and resources to help people be better equipped to engage with their ‘Frontline.’ www.licc.org.uk.  Hopefully we will be piloting these in 2017.
 
Yet another diocesan initiative I am involved  with is from CPAS and this month we had our third gathering of the Thrive Community. This is an excellent course that brings together several multi-parish benefices over a two year period so that they might not just survive but thrive despite all the constraints and complexities of several parishes and church buildings. https://www.cpas.org.uk/
 
The Farming Community Network (www.fcn.org.uk) has also featured in this months diary as well as last months with the Harvest and AGM.  We had an excellent informal gathering ‘Chewing the Cud.’ The next one is on the 19th January with an open invitation to anyone involved or interested in agricultural matters. I spent a day at the NEC Birmingham at the Farm Business Innovation Exhibition helping out on the FCN display. I also looked after a display at the English Winter Fair held at the Stafford Showground. NFU kindly invited us to be part of their much larger exhibition. Our Staffordshire FCN Group enjoyed a lovely social evening when we went to Western Hall and had a nice meal together. Finally we have a Christmass Tree at the Christmass Tree Festival at St Mary’s Stafford. If you are around do take a look, there are around 60 beautifully decorated trees.
A ‘new’ ministry began this month as a Spiritual Companion and I am now walking alongside J. a man in his sixties and recently retired.
 
 
Also another ‘new’ ministry is a local interviewer for those exploring a call to Church Army. During the  month I had lunch with T, a man in his sixties and now exploring ministry.  I also attended the Church Army AGM in Sheffield. It was great to hear + Stephen Cottrell speaking about his sabbatical walking the Comino and in particular the idea of attentiveness when making the journey and not just simple getting from a to b.  (Read Brian Draper’s excellent book – ‘Soulfulness)

 


 Only one preachment this month, at my home church of St John’s, Littleworth. 
 
 
 
Samaritan’s Purse Shoebox Appeal. I discovered this month what an amazing amount of work is involved in sorting out shoeboxes before they are shipped out. Every box has to be sifted and sorted to ensure that nothing inappropriate is sent.  I joined the team of volunteers in a warehouse just outside Stafford for a day on the ‘production line.’
 
I have also had several challenging emails from my ministry as an e-responder with Search for Jesus. www.searchforjesus.org.uk
And I grew a moustache for Movember!
 
 
 
 





 
 
Some appointments and activities in December 2016
 
Some of my appointments and activities during December.
 
December is often a quitter month for ‘itinerants’ as most churches are focussed on their Christmass activities.  It is a time to catch up and make plans and preparations for the year ahead.
 
Thursday 1st – Sunday 4th
Christmass Tree Festival at St Mary’s. I will be popping in most days to check things out and chat to people who are visiting the Festival.
 (Thursday 1st – going to Manchester airport to pick up Tabitha and Jane who have been on a short break in Malta)
 Sunday 4th
Preaching and leading worship at St Thomas and St Andrews, Doxey.
The Christmass Tree Festival concludes with a Carol Service.
 Monday 5th
Midlands Missioners Gathering in Birmingham
Tuesday 6th
Lichfield Church Army Cluster gathering
(And Tabitha is off to The Hermitage for a few days. Pray that she may find peace and that God meets with her in a special way.) - http://www.reflectiongardens.org.uk/
Wednesday 7th
Stafford Deanery Chapter Christmass Lunch
Thursday 8th
Stafford Church Leaders meeting to pray and discuss young people coming off camp from Soul Survivor to bless Stafford next summer.
Saturday 10th
‘Love Stafford ~ Carol Crawl’ around the Town Centre.
Sunday 11th
Preaching and Leading Morning Worship at St Anne’s, Brown Edge
Monday 12th
National Missioners Christmass Gathering in London
Tuesday 13th
CA interview with M exploring her call to Church Army ministry and training.
Wednesday 14th
‘Chew & Chat’ – lunch time informal gathering and this time at Radford Bank, Stafford 12.30pm  - all welcome
Thursday 15th
A visit to my own Spiritual Companion
Sunday 18th
‘Connect 2’ – a new church initiative in Brown Edge running over the four weeks of Advent called ‘Unpacking Christmass.’
Tuesday 20th
Stafford Prison Carol Service (guest)

 
Thank you as ever for your love, prayers and support. May God richly bless you in the coming season when once more we remember God stepping out of the glory of heaven to embrace the mire of the world. 

Advent Two 2016 - St Thomas & St Andrew Doxey


                                      
Sermon – St Thomas and St Andrew’s Doxey Second Sunday in Advent 2016


Romans 15.4-13 Matthew 3.1-12

Question – ‘what on earth is the Church for, what is its function and purpose?’

The ABC Justin Welby said this of the Church in his 2015 Lambeth Lecture…
“First, the church exists to worship God in Jesus Christ.”

“Second, the Church exists to make new disciples of Jesus Christ.”

He went on to say…
“Everything else is decoration. Some of it may be very necessary, useful, or wonderful decoration – but it’s decoration.”


This morning, this Second Sunday in Advent, I would like us to consider the second of these – ‘making new disciples.’
We heard in our Gospel about John the Baptist as the one who seeks to make a clear path for Jesus and then points people to Jesus – ‘behold the Lamb of God.’


The Gospel we heard this morning comes near to the beginning of Matthews Gospel.
Let me remind you of some of the closing words of Matthews Gospel…


Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Therefore a second question – ‘how many of us think that this command only applies to those first disciples?’ 


Can I invite you to turn to your neighbour and tell them the best and most important decision you have made in your life?
(Anyone willing to share his or her best decision)

In his 2015 Lambeth Lecture Justin Welby went on to say…
“The best decision anyone can ever make, at any point in life, in any circumstances, whoever they are, wherever they are, whatever they are, is to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. There is no better decision for a human being in this life, any human being.”

Do you agree with that?
Turn again to your neighbour and tell them why you do or why you do not agree with that statement. 


(Anyone willing to tell us very briefly whether they agreed or disagreed and perhaps why)
Another three part question and I would invite you to put up your hand if;

a) You feel confident sharing your faith story.
b) You feel confident in being able to give an outline of the Gospel.

c) You feel confident that you could lead someone to Christ and help them to make a prayer confessing faith.

Now at the risk of making this all sound like a structured formula let me offer you one Gospel outline with verses all taken from the Letter to the Romans, sometimes called ‘The Roman Road to New Life.’

(If you have a Bible to hand, you might like to check out the verses)

All verses are from Paul’s letter to the Romans ~ seven steps to salvation.
3:10 As it is written, there is no one righteous, not even one. 

3:23 Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man and death spread to all because all have sinned
5:8 But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
10:13 For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’
10: 9-10 Because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.


Two final questions that we need to consider but which we cannot properly engage with this morning but something to be discussed at all levels of the Church’s life.
How are we as the people of God in Doxey going to make sure that there are no barriers in the way that hinder people coming to Faith in Jesus.


How are we as the people of God in Doxey going to point people to Jesus?
On the 1st January 1975 at the age of 24, I made the best and most important decision of my life.


I made a New Year’s resolution to become a Christian.
 
Therefore, here is my challenge to you.

We have 28 days of 2016 left. Will you amongst all that is going on within that period, set time aside to ponder, discuss and pray about how you can emulate John the Baptist in 2017.
(The bug eating and camel coat wearing is optional)
Look at each and everything you do as a Church, checking out what is essential, and what is decoration.

Then ask, is this helping or hindering people to come to a personal living faith in Jesus?
Is this helping or hindering people from truly worshiping the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
January 1st 2017 is on Sunday.
Can I challenge you to come as God’s people called to bear faithful witness to Christ in this place and at this moment in history, when you gather on that 1st January 2017 that you make a joint declared New Year’s Resolution?


That you might offer to those who like Thomas express doubts, a living experience of Jesus to the point where they fall on their knees and declare, my Lord and my God.
 
To follow the good example of Andrew who according to John’s Gospel was a disciple of John the Baptist. John pointed out Jesus to him as the ‘Lamb of God.’  Andrew became a disciple of Jesus and one of the first things Andrew did was to go and tell his brother, Peter. Therefore, if we are disciple of Jesus who are we going to tell?  

In short, in answer to my first question, ‘what on earth is the Church for’, it is worship God and make disciples, and everything else is decoration!
Let me begin to draw to a close with some words from Pope Benedict XV1.

And only where God is seen does life truly begin.
Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.
We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.
Each of us is the result of a thought of God.
Each of us is willed,

Each of us is loved,

Each of us is necessary.
There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel,
By the encounter with Christ.
There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.          

Would you like to see this congregation double by this time next year?  That could be achieved if everyone brought one other person to faith in 2017…
 ‘Everyone another one every year.’
 
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, 20 November 2016

Feast of Christ the King 2016


Sermon – St John the Baptist ‘Feast of Christ the King’ 20/11/16

Colossians 1.11-20 Luke 23.33-43






Let me begin by reading again some of those verses from Colossians...

Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that everything was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation. And now he is the head of the body, which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him, God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.
Laying my words against these is not unlike laying Cubic zirconia next to a high cut diamond.

However, I will prevail because of the importance of our subject matter this morning – Christ the King.

Today brings to a close our Lectionary Year C and next week we begin with Year A.
What could be more fitting as we begin the journey to the crib that we reflect once more on the journey to the cross as we have done in our Gospel reading.

A journey summed up perfectly in Philippians 2 as Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi to live as the people of God in that place by reflecting upon Jesus… 

 ‘Who always had the nature of God,
    but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God.
 Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant.
He became like a human being
    and appeared in human likeness.
 He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—
    his death on the cross.
 For this reason, God raised him to the highest place above, and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.
 And so, in honour of the name of Jesus
    all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below
    will fall on their knees,
 and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.’

There was a written notice above him, which read; THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.’

And we proclaim as the Scriptures we have considered so far attest, Jesus is not only the King of the Jews but King over all the earth.
As one Facebook post said, Trump may be President but Jesus is King – we do well to remember that.

Proclaiming Jesus as King is one of the reasons I like the Christus Rex.
For it is in this total self-giving that Jesus demonstrates…

That God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’
That is why when we sing a certain song I change the words from ‘the wrath of God was satisfied’ to ‘the love of God was glorified.’


The cross of shame became the crown of glory by the redeeming power of God’s love for the world.
That is the bit we often miss in John 3.16, ‘for God so loved the world...’

For, we are saved not from the world but for the world.
‘For God so loved the world…’

And if we are ‘in Christ’
If we have accepted His amazing gift of love and grace

Then each and every one of us has a God given task and a vocation as a disciple of Jesus.
‘Michael Quoist in his book ‘The Christian Response’ writes;

‘You are a unique and irreplaceable actor in the drama of human history, and Jesus Christ has need of you to make known his salvific work in this particular place and at this particular moment in history.’
We proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord of all creation.

As we heard from Colossians…
‘He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation.’

And it was St Augustine who said; ‘If Jesus is not Lord of all then he is not Lord at all.’
I hope by now you will have noticed the far reaching implications of this proclamation, Jesus is King, and the radical nature of the Lord’s Prayer   

Tom Wright in a recent book ‘God in Public’ argues that for the last two hundred God has been increasingly side lined during the age of enlightenment.

He has been like some peculiar old man who lives up in the attic visited by those who like that kind of thing.

Christian faith, indeed any faith belief, was considered an outdated notion that over time would wither and fall away in the bright light of reason and rationalism.

Science offered a hope of bright new future; science would be the saviour of all.
And we must accept that it has brought us enormous benefits.

However, it has also brought us as one of its first inventions the guillotine, an effective way of killing people. Then Nazi scientist and engineers who devised a way of killing vast numbers of people took this to a whole new level.
For Christians however, following Jesus is much more than paying the occasional visit or saying the odd prayer. We proclaim Jesus as King, Lord and Saviour over all creation and over every aspect of our lives – and this is but the first step.

Paul writing to the Corinthian church says…
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.’
That is what we are called to become – a letter from Christ to our family and friends, to our community, to our nation and to the world.

A letter that proclaims Christ Jesus as Lord and King.
A letter that demonstrates a better way of ordering our affairs

A letter that shows how to live an authentic beautiful life in pursuit of holiness.
A letter that speaks to those in authority reminding them that one day they will be judged and called to account.

A letter that commends anything that bears the hallmark of the Kingdom of God.
Today we hear a good deal about ‘make the switch’ from banks to utilities to phone companies.

Today you can make the most important switch you could ever make… Colossians1.13
‘For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son’

Let me ask you this morning – which kingdom are you living in?
The offer is there – but you have to make the switch and accept Jesus as King, Lord and Saviour.

And this is more, much more than a way of introducing a spiritual element into your life.
This is not some detox destress type thing.

This is the real deal that affects everything…
Paul writing to the Corinthians reminds them…

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies.’ 1 Cor.6.19-20
Therefore, if we are loyal and devoted disciples of King Jesus how are we going to live out that reality in the days, weeks, months and years ahead?

On the 23rd February, the Church remembers blessed Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna in the 2nd century. During a time of severe persecution by Rome Polycarp was arrested and brought before the Proconsul.
“Swear,” urged the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.” “86 years have I served him,” Polycarp declared, “and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”
Going back even further Joshua put this choice before the people of Israel…

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24.15
Part of our human make up is that we all live for somebody or something – we all in effect chose to serve someone or something.

Brothers and sisters in Christ may this be our song, our prayer and our pledge…
Lord for ourselves; in living power remake us-
self on the cross, and Christ upon the throne,
past put behind us, for the future take us:
Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.


Amen

Feast of Christ the King 2016


Sermon – St John the Baptist ‘Feast of Christ the King’ 20/11/16

Colossians 1.11-20 Luke 23.33-43






Let me begin by reading again some of those verses from Colossians...

Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that everything was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation. And now he is the head of the body, which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him, God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.
Laying my words against these is not unlike laying Cubic zirconia next to a high cut diamond.
However, I will prevail because of the importance of our subject matter this morning – Christ the King.

Today brings to a close our Lectionary Year C and next week we begin with Year A.
What could be more fitting as we begin the journey to the crib that we reflect once more on the journey to the cross as we have done in our Gospel reading.

A journey summed up perfectly in Philippians 2 as Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi to live as the people of God in that place by reflecting upon Jesus… 

 ‘Who always had the nature of God,
    but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God.
 Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant.
He became like a human being
    and appeared in human likeness.
 He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—
    his death on the cross.
 For this reason, God raised him to the highest place above, and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.
 And so, in honour of the name of Jesus
    all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below
    will fall on their knees,
 and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.’

There was a written notice above him, which read; THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.’

And we proclaim as the Scriptures we have considered so far attest, Jesus is not only the King of the Jews but King over all the earth.
As one Facebook post said, Trump may be President but Jesus is King – we do well to remember that.

Proclaiming Jesus as King is one of the reasons I like the Christus Rex.
For it is in this total self-giving that Jesus demonstrates…

That God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’
That is why when we sing a certain song I change the words from ‘the wrath of God was satisfied’ to ‘the love of God was glorified.’


The cross of shame became the crown of glory by the redeeming power of God’s love for the world.
That is the bit we often miss in John 3.16, ‘for God so loved the world...’

For, we are saved not from the world but for the world.
‘For God so loved the world…’

And if we are ‘in Christ’
If we have accepted His amazing gift of love and grace

Then each and every one of us has a God given task and a vocation as a disciple of Jesus.
‘Michael Quoist in his book ‘The Christian Response’ writes;

‘You are a unique and irreplaceable actor in the drama of human history, and Jesus Christ has need of you to make known his salvific work in this particular place and at this particular moment in history.’
We proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord of all creation.

As we heard from Colossians…
‘He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation.’

And it was St Augustine who said; ‘If Jesus is not Lord of all then he is not Lord at all.’
I hope by now you will have noticed the far reaching implications of this proclamation, Jesus is King, and the radical nature of the Lord’s Prayer   

Tom Wright in a recent book ‘God in Public’ argues that for the last two hundred God has been increasingly side lined during the age of enlightenment.

He has been like some peculiar old man who lives up in the attic visited by those who like that kind of thing.

Christian faith, indeed any faith belief, was considered an outdated notion that over time would wither and fall away in the bright light of reason and rationalism.

Science offered a hope of bright new future; science would be the saviour of all.
And we must accept that it has brought us enormous benefits.

However, it has also brought us as one of its first inventions the guillotine, an effective way of killing people. Then Nazi scientist and engineers who devised a way of killing vast numbers of people took this to a whole new level.
For Christians however, following Jesus is much more than paying the occasional visit or saying the odd prayer. We proclaim Jesus as King, Lord and Saviour over all creation and over every aspect of our lives – and this is but the first step.

Paul writing to the Corinthian church says…
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.’
That is what we are called to become – a letter from Christ to our family and friends, to our community, to our nation and to the world.

A letter that proclaims Christ Jesus as Lord and King.
A letter that demonstrates a better way of ordering our affairs

A letter that shows how to live an authentic beautiful life in pursuit of holiness.
A letter that speaks to those in authority reminding them that one day they will be judged and called to account.

A letter that commends anything that bears the hallmark of the Kingdom of God.
Today we hear a good deal about ‘make the switch’ from banks to utilities to phone companies.

Today you can make the most important switch you could ever make… Colossians1.13
‘For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son’

Let me ask you this morning – which kingdom are you living in?
The offer is there – but you have to make the switch and accept Jesus as King, Lord and Saviour.

And this is more, much more than a way of introducing a spiritual element into your life.
This is not some detox destress type thing.

This is the real deal that affects everything…
Paul writing to the Corinthians reminds them…

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies.’ 1 Cor.6.19-20
Therefore, if we are loyal and devoted disciples of King Jesus how are we going to live out that reality in the days, weeks, months and years ahead?

On the 23rd February, the Church remembers blessed Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna in the 2nd century. During a time of severe persecution by Rome Polycarp was arrested and brought before the Proconsul.
“Swear,” urged the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.” “86 years have I served him,” Polycarp declared, “and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”
 
Going back even further Joshua put this choice before the people of Israel…

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24.15
Part of our human make up is that we all live for somebody or something – we all in effect chose to serve someone or something.

Brothers and sisters in Christ may this be our song, our prayer and our pledge…
Lord for ourselves; in living power remake us-
self on the cross, and Christ upon the throne,
past put behind us, for the future take us:
Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.


Amen