Newsletter for May 2020
During the quietness of the last few weeks I’ve been re-reading ‘The Crucified God’ by Jurgen Moltmann. I obviously bought the book way back in 1977 when I was a much thinner, beardless undergrad. Later I discovered that he had been a prisoner of war in a camp just over the hill from my first incumbency.
The book is exciting, challenging and at times deeply uncomfortable not least because the theology of the cross, (the theology of a crucified, and therefore cursed and excommunicated God) challenges the values and the respectability of the church.
But this is not an angry or rebellious book. Moltmann may challenge us but he is neither angry nor cynical. His questions are energising, they spark off all sorts of relevant and tangential thoughts. For example, on page 115 he writes… “The central question about the origin of Christology is this: How did the Jesus who preached become the Christ who was preached?” It is such an appropriate question for these days between Easter and Pentecost!
It is staggering that within the space of 50 days the disciples change from being broken, fearful mourners to being bold proclaimers of a radical message.
How many days have you been in lock-down? Has it been 50 days yet? Have you altered for the better during that time? Could you imagine yourself changing in a radical and exciting way?
There are only 50 days from Easter to Pentecost and yet during that time something so profound happened that it quickly and completely transformed the disciples’ view of life and reality.
Three things give us a profound insight into our untameable God. The first is Christ’s rejection of our polite expectations. Think about his choice of parents, his growing up in a town with a bad reputation, his associating with undesirable people his being cursed and excommunicated from organised religion by virtue of crucifixion.
The second is the resurrection, not just a sign that God is unstoppable or that the source of life cannot be quenched by the negativity of death. This is something deep and personal, something shared with us. The God who identified himself with us so completely now stands before us in a body that is transformed because it has passed through death. It is both a sign and a promise. A promise that includes both you and me.
Then of course comes Pentecost. Jesus has not done any of this on his own. The same quiet, humble, gracious one who empowered Jesus now, in turn, steps down to do the same for us as was done for him.
Pentecost is an arrival worth waiting for.
Pray for Boris
Talking of arrivals, this morning it was announced that Boris and Carrie Symonds have had a baby boy. It must be a relief for them that Boris is still around to see the birth of their son. It is also heart breaking that just at the point when most fathers would take paternity leave, Boris must return to work. The sad truth is that he would never be forgiven if he absented himself during a crisis.
St. Paul reminds us to pray for those in authority. (I Tim.2.2) Back then it was a brave and controversial thing to write. These days there is more chance of us moaning than praying. Why should you pray for a politician you didn’t vote for? Or perhaps you did vote for him. Either way, when was the last time you actually prayed for our prime minister and for our government. It is easy to be an armchair critic. We are facing an unprecedented situation. Everyone is trying to second guess a virus that is new and unpredictable and yet, woe betide our leaders and their advisors if they get something wrong!
There is no doubt that Boris is just as broken and fallible as any of us, but to be faced with such a crisis only weeks after taking the reins must take its toll. So, pray for him, his family and all his ministers and advisors. They need it.
Have I developed a soft spot for Boris? Perhaps. In 2016, the year before I left Uxbridge he asked if he could come and record his Christmas message in my church, so he can’t be all bad!
You won’t see our nave altar and nave sanctuary and furnishing, which we kindly moved out of the way, but if you’d like both a cringe and a smile then google
We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when.
At the present there is no way of knowing how soon it will be safe for the government to allow an easing of social restrictions. I think it fair to say that it will be quite some time before any large group will be allowed to resume meeting. In the meantime, we must carry on being our Lord’s disciples supported only be each other’s prayers. Let the light of Christ shine out from you and if you can, please join with me as I pray for you at 10am and 6pm each day.
Please pray especially for the plight of the ‘developing world’s ‘paid by the day workers’ and their families who now face starvation because they are not allowed to work.
Jesus Bless you and watch over you.
It will be very strange this Easter. I am used to the drama of Easter Eve when in the darkness of the night we gather outside round the Easter fire – the symbol of the Holy Spirit and of the power put forth at the resurrection. Then the big paschal candle (the Jesus candle) is blessed and lit from the fire before being slowly processed into church. To begin with the whole church is in darkness lit only by flame on the paschal candle but then the flame from it is passed around and each person’s individual candle is touched by it and set alight. The resurrection light spreads out and fills the church. We share in the resurrection light just as one day we will share in our Lord’s resurrection in the most literal of ways.
This year we will follow the services on line. The important thing is what happens in your hearts. watching on your own means that you don’t have to worry about what other people are doing around you, you can stand, kneel, bow or let tears of thanksgiving roll down your cheeks. Simply open your hearts and let yourself become aware of our Lord’s love reaching out to you.
Death has not won. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Jesus bless you and keep you,
Newsletter for April 2020
These really are extraordinary times. Who would have thought that we would miss wall to wall coverage of Brexit!? All the ups and downs of political intrigue now seem so distant and so petty in comparison with the death toll being announced every evening.
At the time of writing North Yorkshire is still fairly buffered from what is happening down south. For that to remain the case we need to ensure that we play our part by following the governments advice to stay at home except for exercise and essential shopping. This isn’t easy. We have already ‘missed’ Mothering Sunday and in a few days’ time it will be Easter. It will feel oddly barren to celebrate Easter without gathering together as church and as families. And yet, this year, Easter will be a sign of hope, a promise of something yet to come. At present we may feel as if we are stuck in Lent or in Good Friday. We may be experiencing something of the confusion of the first disciples whose daily lives were turned inside out when God appeared to abandon his messiah and allow him to be killed. At that time they could not begin to imagine how life could ever be the same again. And yet, to their great surprise, in the midst of all that mourning, something emerged that was new and even better.
This year ‘Lent’ may continue for a few months longer… but there will be a resurrection- both His and ours!
I have received both a formal and a personal letter from James Grieg the N.E. Regional manager of the Leprosy Mission thanking us for the amazing sum of £246 that the congregation of the Chapel raised on World Leprosy Sunday. Thank you for caring for others.
Martin Luther – A voice for our Times?
Those of you who know me will be surprised to find me quoting Luther – I’m not a Luther fan (having said that I’m convinced both sides would have burned me if I’d lived through the reformation!) however, he did have some interesting things to say when he wrote back to the Revd Doctor Johann Hess, who had asked ‘whether it proper for a Christian to run away from a deadly plague?’
Luther points out that some of the great figures of the Old and New Testaments did flee or were helped to escape from peril and danger. On the other hand, he also reminds us that every Christian has a duty of care for his neighbour. Then he goes on to make some very pointed remarks against irresponsible behaviour…
“Others sin on the ‘right hand’. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but light-heartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are. They say that it is God’s punishment; if he wants to protect them he can do so without medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health….
No, my dear friends, that is no good… You ought to think this way…“I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.”
Luther goes on to say a great many other things, some of which seem archaic and others troubling for modern readers especially his view on what should happen to those who deliberately endanger others. It is, however, good to remind ourselves that we are not the first generation that has had to navigate our way through outbreaks of deadly illness.
[Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II, ed. Pelikan, Oswald, and Lehmann, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 119–38.]
One of the strange sounding terms that you will hear quite a lot in the coming months is the phrase ‘Quinquennial inspection.’ Every five years (hence quinquennial) we are required, in law, to arrange for the architect to come and inspect the fabric of the church, to point out any work that needs to be done and to write it up in a quinquennial survey that itemises things in order of priority.
I met up with our architect, David Sherriff, and took him round the chapel and grounds when he came to do his inspection on the 17th. We now have to wait a while for the report to be written up and sent over to us.
Annual General Meeting
As you might expect the Annual meeting of the chapel has been put on hold during the present outbreak of the corona virus.
The Revd Cliff Bowman
Chaplain St MM. Ripon