News from Richard, our Vicar, December 2017

Journeying Together:  “God with Us”

Since July we have gathered as a church around the sermon theme of Journeying Together. Spending some time using this phrase and exploring the Exodus community behind it, has been a helpful way of describing a vision for our church at a time of transition. I hope in some small way that this has refocussed our expression of Christian life here in Scar-borough and in this article, I will conclude this bringing the series to its ultimate horizon. Quite naturally Journeying To-gether has concentrated on how we as a community might walk before God with integrity and with the eyes of faith. While we might expect that the Lord will both direct us and provide for our needs on the way, this approach starts with us, which is not nearly sufficient and certainly not the whole story. For instance, there are times when “life” throws too much at us and we can’t cope. Our work of supporting the Rainbow Centre is a testimony to the complexity of hardship for those foundering at the edges of our society. The depth of sadness felt recently in the town through untimely bereavements, or just the increasing significance of the Remembrance services each year are notable examples of the difficulty of life. At times like this we need help from beyond us and the confines of our Journeying Together.

The Christmas season introduces a really important phrase into the Christian vocabulary: “God with us.” Immanuel is the Hebrew counterpart and is first introduced in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This verse recurs enigmatically as part of a prophecy that the New Testament writers clearly identified with the birth of Jesus as it had been explained to Joseph in a dream (Matthew 1:23). They were making the bold statement that the birth of Jesus was a sign, or more than that, it was the embodiment of God-with-us. Our series on Journeying Together through Exodus has already taught us that God periodically intervened to save his people. The deliverance from Egypt at the shores of the Re(e)d Sea; the provision of manna in the wilderness, or water from the Rock, even the Word of God pronounced and recorded on the tablets of stone are all examples of this divine intervention. These are momentary. Instead, God-with-us describes a horizon of intervention that is wholly different and significantly greater than what we read in the Exodus narrative.

The significance of God-with-us is that in Jesus, God joined the journey that we are on. We are given further clues to this journey of God in the prologue to John’s Gospel. John says “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world, (John 1:9)” and “the Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14)” to show us that God has made a journey to us. They tell of how God dared to clothe his glory and infinitude with our frail flesh and tread our dusty journey of life. What a risk that represents! In Jesus, God entered into the deeply unfriendly territory of the difficulties, hardships and sadness of our lives. To every exclamation that “God doesn’t understand what I’m going through” there is the gentle reply: “God-with-us.” It is no surprise then that the writer of John’s gospel compares Jesus with Moses (John 1:17), because the journey that God made into our flesh fulfils the mandates of the ten commandments written on tablets of stone. God no longer commands us what to do or not to do. Instead, Jesus completed our journey for us and calls from our flesh to follow him “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).”

How does this help us? Traditionally, the Christmas message is about exchanging presents. This is rooted in the gift of God’s son Jesus Christ, in whom we recognise God-with-us This exchange has two sides, so “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God …” As we look to Jesus and receive the gift of God-with-us; it’s like God takes on our flesh anew. A famous Christmas carol points to this: “O holy child of Bethlehem descend to us, we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born to us today.” God-with-us is the promise that our circumstances can change, because God can change us from the inside out. It is the eternal promise that despite the darkest times of life when we simply can’t cope, we can draw on the strength of both God-with-us and in us. This is about allowing God to take the Initiative because he has already made the journey before us and for us and now in us. This is the ultimate horizon of Journeying Together and I pray that this Christmastide we all may find the faith to perceive its importance, receive his presence and be strengthened by the reality that is God-with-us.

With blessings from Richard

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News from Richard, our Vicar, October 2017

“The Way”

Recently, we watched a film called “The Way.” In it a father, Martin Sheen, ends up walking the pilgrimage road of “El camino de Santiago:” the way of St. James, in the footsteps of his son, who has died on The Way. The father is a self-made American dentist and a reluctant pilgrim. In his grief and bewilderment, he fights shy of the inevitable relationships made possible by journeying on this very long walk from the Pyrenees through to the Spanish Atlantic coast. However, there is something inev    itable about these relationships as they gather around him rather like snow to a rolling snowball. Each person is handling a difficult issue. Not all of these are resolved and yet in the sharing of food, accommodation, stories and a common footpath, each of the four central characters finds some sense of peace.

There is a famous story in Mark’s gospel (Mk 10:46-52) when a blind man named Bartimaeus has his sight restored by Jesus. After this stunning miracle, Mark makes a throw-away line: ‘Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.’ The Way is the ancient name for following Jesus, before the name “Christian” was given to believers in Acts 11:26. The notion of being on The Way connects with our sermon series of Journeying Together that I mentioned in the last Vicar’s letter. Much like the film that I described, gathering together in the same place, sharing common food, and the same footpath are all things that would describe our Christian lives on The Way. But before all of that there is an invitation to start the journey. It was clear for Bartimaeus. After begging on the roadside for years, he was now able to see again. For Martin Sheen the grief and unresolved relationship with his son prompted him to set out. It’s different for each one of us, but common to us all is the whisper that pull on our souls inviting us to take the first step on The Way. Perhaps this is a moment you could recall that whisper on your heart and regain your sense of what keeps you on The Way?

It is the Lord Jesus Christ who calls us to follow him on The Way. We may think it is too hard to get up and start walking, but our sermon series from Exodus has shown that God makes every provision for us both to get going and keep on our feet. Remember the Passover when Ancient Hebrews were about to be delivered from slavery in Egypt. As they ate the sacrificial lamb and trusted in the provision that God made they were protected by its blood on the doors of their houses. God set them free for their journey. We know this too. It is re-written on the cross of Jesus Christ. As we trust in the enormity and sufficiency of his death and resurrection, as the Lamb of God, so too we are set free to make our first footsteps. Of course, keeping going feels like an entirely different thing. The wonderful thing is that God does not leave us on our own, because others will want to join in too, as God calls them to their feet. We’ve seen this over the last few weeks at Morning Prayer it has been wonderful to share times of prayer and bible reading with as many as eleven people. The Lord gives us pilgrims to walk with and there is room for more at 8:30am on Monday to Thursday in the Chapel at Holy Apostles.

More than that, Jesus gives us himself. Why do we walk The Way. We walk to find God, to experience him at new and deeper depths in our lives. We walk that he might transform our hearts and lives in the rhythm of each step. Part of that rhythm is being still and allowing God to speak in our worship, in our prayer life and as we read the scriptures together. That’s not all! We have learned how the ancient Israelites were given manna from heaven in the desert part of their journey so they might survive by a daily miracle of God’s provision. As Christians, the Lord Jesus Christ gave us Holy Communion: bread and wine for the journey. Broken bread and shared wine that binds us to his sacrifice on the cross. In the words of one Eucharistic Prayer “as we eat and drink these holy gifts in the presence of your divine majesty, renew us by your Spirit,  inspire us with your love and unite us in the body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” As a community that is journeying together alongside our commitment to meet daily in prayer, we will consider how Holy Communion might better support us on this journey too. Here we are promised that we will encounter God in the renewing grace of his Holy Spirit. This draws us closer together in the life of our Christian Community of St Mary’s with Holy Apostles as we journey on The Way.

With Blessings from Richard.

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News from Richard, our Vicar

Journeying Together 

Tracing my family tree has been a fascinating if not distracting pastime. The earliest reference that I can find is to a John Major (no comment!) my 9-times great-grandfather from Flamborough born in 1635. I feel a sense of connection and identity by discovering the story of my family. The connection is to this coast through my forebears who were local fishermen and lifeboat men on the Humber. These ancestors came from Scandinavian stock, which is no surprise given most of my family have blond hair and blues eyes: all they are missing is pointy helmets with scary horns! Stories such as these make us human and help form our identity. It is unsurprising that scripture is largely a collection of stories, not a list of rules. People find different meanings in the same stories and perhaps that is why interpreting the bible is not straightforward. God doesn’t simply tell us what to do: that is far too unimaginative for the creator of the cosmos, rather he asks us to join in with his story. Diligent study is needed to learn how the stories in scripture convey meaning to our faith in God and our identity in Christ, because there is such a huge distance between the time of writing and our time here in Scarborough. But study on its own can end up like tracing our family trees: distracted by the endless detail. For scripture to yield its real meaning we need the Holy Spirit to help us apply those stories and bring life to our journey together with God. 

As I take up the post of the new Vicar here, I would like our church congregations to stand back and ask who we are and where God is leading us together in this new season. How do we do this? One way is to use our sermon readings from the Exodus journey of the ancient Israelites. I’ve called this sermon series “Journeying Together.” These readings pick up the story of the Patriarchs, Jacob and Joseph as they headed down into the land of Egypt and then much later, how God delivered the large Hebrew family into the Promised Land of Canaan. This wasn’t an easy journey and they made big mistakes. Through this journey God showed the Hebrews his loving-kindness and as they learned from God even wrestling with him, they were shaped into a people with a calling and a purpose. Why not take a look at the titles and readings that are printed further on in this magazine. These will help us form a vision for our church prompted by the way that God called and gave identity to his ancient people through their wilderness journey to the Promised Land.  

Sermons, however, are a conversation not a transfer of information. Both preacher and hearer bring more to this conversation on a Sunday morning than mere words. You can check this out by noting what goes through your mind when you hear a sermon. You may agree with most things and yet question others. This is how it should be, because God gives his gracious Spirit as a gift to the whole body of Christ not just the preacher. The Lord speaks to each of us through that same Spirit that we may hear his will and purpose for our church. We are all called to the task of discerning and wrestling with God till he yields the blessing of our identity in him (Gen 32:24-30). As you approach each Sunday reading, why not ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the way forward as a church. Share what God says to you with your friends, with the preacher and with me, because that is how we grow together in our faith. In turn, the PCC and leadership will commit to listening and acting upon what the Lord is saying to the church, the story of how he is calling and purposing our lives before him.  

It is in the incarnation, the life, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ that we see both the humanity of God and the divinity of Jesus our Messiah. This is God’s story and it isn’t finished, because he calls us to join in that story with him. If reading scripture is like tracing our family tree, then hearing God speak about our identity through what we read is like finding meaningful connections with our family tree for generations to come. My priority then is that we make space to hear God speak as the first step to making plans for his church in this wonderful place he has set us. Friends, this marks out our journey together as we lay down new stories of faith to pass onto the next generation.  With Blessings from Richard

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News from Tina, our Curate, June 2017

Dear friends,

As I write, we are still in shock over the recent terrorist attack on the concert-goers in Manchester. We are left to ponder what can drive someone born and bred in this country to visit such horrors on young people and their families. Be assured that this is not of God, not of any god but especially not the God who loves us so much he sent his Son to restore our relationship with Him.

This Son is Jesus Christ who ascended into heaven: on 4th June we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit on the disciples in Jerusalem at Pentecost- sometimes called the birthday of the Church.

Jesus called the Holy Spirit ‘another helper’ and I think this is important as we reflect on our lives in such troubled times. No matter what is happening in the world, we can be sure that God is with us, each and every day. As Jesus lived and taught his disciples all those years ago, today the Holy Spirit does the same for us. This Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth (John 16: 13), but we for our part have to be willing to be led and cooperate with him.

At the end of May we enjoyed the floral displays at the Friends’ annual Flower Festival, each one this year on the theme of ‘Sing to the Lord’. It was a wonderful marriage of hymns and flowers that together with human skill created a symphony of praise to our heavenly Father. It was also, I think, a much-needed reminder of the goodness and beauty life offers too.

When we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us through life he’s working much like a florist skilfully taking flowers and arranging them to show them at their very best. Some flowers seem so small and insignificant, yet when in the right place and in combination with other flowers together they are stunningly beautiful. As the Holy Spirit puts us in the all the right places in our church community we too are beautiful in God’s eyes.

But it can be difficult to know where God wants us or what he wants us to do. Remember that we have each been given gifts and talents with which to serve God and one another – so when the Holy Spirit prompts us to try something different we are to trust his judgement and step out in faith.

This summer as we enjoy the warmth of the sun and wait the last few weeks until our new Vicar Richard Walker arrives, pray with me that the Holy Spirit would lead us as individuals and as a church community into this next, new phase in the continuing life of the Parish.

Now it’s been my joy to write these letters to you through the vacancy, and as this will be my last one I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you all for your prayerful and practical support over the last year. Particular thanks must go the Wardens, Church Officers and PCC members for keeping us all on track; and to the readers and clergy who have enabled us to keep our pattern of services unchanged – which has been quite an achievement; but most of all my thanks and praise go to the God who continually guides and sustains us by his Holy Spirit.


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News from Tina, our Curate. April 2017

Have we lost hope in hope?

At our Lent Course this year we’ve been using the film ‘The King’s Speech’ as the basis of our discussions. We had an interesting time last week thinking about hope.

We hope about all sorts of things – for the sun to shine tomorrow, for our favourite sports team to win, for a healthy life for ourselves and our families.

The trouble is, hope is expected to convey a broad range of meanings, from ‘what I’d like to happen’, to ‘what might happen’ and even to what is nothing more than ‘wishful thinking’.

And none of these meanings has anything to do with the hope of eternal life through trusting in Jesus Christ. This kind of hope is described by the hymn-writer Wendy Churchill as “a hope that is steadfast and certain, gone through the curtain and touching the throne” in the hymn Jesus is King.

If all we ever understand of hope is a vague sense of ‘maybe’, then it’s really hard to see how hope can ever be steadfast or certain.

A hymn writer from an earlier era talks of Christian hope like this:

All my hope on God is founded; he doth still my trust renew.

Me through change and chance he guideth, only good and only true.

God unknown, he alone calls my heart to be his own.

(Joachim Neander)

Where does your hope lie?

Is it in a god who might love you if you’re good enough or follow the rules to the letter?

Or a God who become a man, lived a life showing us what it is to be fully human and then died on a cross because he loves us?

The hope of Holy Week

And that’s why Holy Week and Easter are so important. We take time to remember together again the grounds for the Christian hope: the death and resurrection of the man Jesus Christ who chose to die that we might live in loving relationship with God for eternity. These are a matter of both fact and faith.

The Bible tells us of the events of Holy Week

* the expectant joy of the crowd on Palm Sunday

* the strange meal together on Maundy Thursday

* despair in the garden of Gethsemane

* the agony of watching Jesus die so cruelly on Good Friday

* the anguish of the women when Jesus’ body wasn’t in the tomb on Easter Day

* the pure joy once his friends experienced Jesus among them in the days that followed

We can choose to believe that this is what happened, and down the years many have done so from a place of scepticism, convinced by the evidence of not only the stories themselves but by lives lived differently because of hope in what the Bible records.

Holy Week is intended to be emotionally draining as we travel along with Jesus and his followers into the exuberant arrival into Jerusalem; on to the depths of despair at Golgotha and the burial; on the third day we can be caught up in the pure joy of his friends in the upper room, and then on to the mountain top where Jesus ascends to heaven leaving them perplexed.

We have the opportunity to engage afresh with these events through special services – palm crosses for Palm Sunday, the celebration of Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday, the Walk of Witness and the Three Hours at the Cross, followed by the joy of celebrating our risen Lord on Easter Sunday.

Do take the time to journey with us at St. Mary’s with Holy Apostles this Holy Week and Easter. Come along to the meditative services to reflect on all Jesus has done for us, join us as we share bread and wine as he commanded us to. Spend time at the foot of the cross remembering the pain he endured for us, and rejoice on Easter Day that death could not hold him, that the victory was won.

May you and all you love have a blessed Holy Week and Easter


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News from Tina, our Curate. February 2017

Dear Friends

My piece this month is an edited extract from a sermon I preached on 8th January this year at the launch of our new motto verse from Isaiah. I do hope you’ve managed to pick a card up from church; if not there are still a few around.

We know that the prophet Isaiah lived at a key moment for the nation of Israel. God was calling his people back to their calling as bringers of justice to all the nations and Isaiah was looking forward to a time when God’s justice would be seen in all the earth.

We too live in important times: the end times, that is the time between Jesus’s first and second comings. We too await God’s justice to be seen in all the earth. And like the people of Israel, we have the Holy Spirit empowering us in our God-given vocation or calling, which is to bring God’s justice to the nations. Isaiah tells us that we are to be lights shining in this dark world. This means being, and living out, who we are: children of God with all the rights and responsibilities that status brings.

We have the right to call on God in prayer – the responsibility is to pray for our friends and families, for our nation and for the whole world. Our first prayer is that they too would recognise God for who he is and acknowledge his Kingship over their lives. We are then to pray that the worlds’ resources are used for the good of all and not just a few – that’s justice. Of course we also pray for things big and small in our lives – the need for a new job, the death of a loved one, the landlord to fix that leak in the bathroom quickly because God is interested in our whole lives.

Prayer is the foundation of all we do, but it’s not meant to be all we do unless we are called specifically by God as intercessors or contemplatives. Most of us should expect to be seen to be different by those we live and work with and amongst because we embody the values of the gospel in everything we say and do.

So we don’t gossip or bad-mouth others. We are kind and look for ways to help friends and colleagues that go beyond mere social expectations. We support with our time and our money charities and organisations that work for justice for all, like the Rainbow Centre, Citizen’s advice and many others.

We are involved in local groups like the Angels who serve the community because of their love for God. We serve as governors in our schools, bringing God’s perspective to bear on matters of education.

We are engaged in politics, praying for and seeking to influence lawmakers to uphold Christian values.

The bottom line is that if our faith is not affecting how we live our lives, then why should others be interested? We run the danger of being nothing more than a club that gathers each Sunday with a shared interest in sitting on uncomfortable pews in a cold building. But we know that’s not why we gather: we gather to build us up ready for serving God wherever we are.

As we approach the season of Lent it’s good to reflect on what God has in store for us. Lent gives us the opportunity to stand back and look prayerfully at where we are, and where God is calling us to be. A good place to start is with our daily time with God – whether you call it a Quiet Time, Bible Study or something else the key question is: are we spending quality time with our Heavenly Father every day? Then think about our involvement in serving others: are we doing too much or too little? Are we only serving in the church or do we serve the community as well? Remember too that there is no retirement in the Kingdom of God – we all can serve whatever our age or health, though perhaps in different ways than we have been able to in the past.

Do look out for the special activities and groups throughout Lent and Holy Week to help us reflect on ourselves and our church in these and other areas.

God declared through the prophet Isaiah

‘See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.’ Isaiah 42: 9

God is speaking: the question is, are we listening?

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News from Tina, our Curate December 2016

Advent is finally upon us: happy New Year! Our church calendar begins afresh looking ahead to the birth of Jesus.

It looks to me as if the whole country has stepped up a gear and is getting ready for the Big Day. These days it seems to be all about buying the right things – cards, presents, food and decorations – for that perfect family Christmas. The adverts with their huge budgets are out – are you a fan of the M&S one, or the John Lewis one? I have to say I like the Amazon one with the Vicar and the Imam (but no, I don’t need any knee pads thank you!).

Advent is a much overlooked season of the Church year. It’s a time to reflect on Jesus’ first coming and look forward to his second. But we can be so busy buying this and making that – so much so that when the day itself arrives, we’re often exhausted from all the effort and our careful plans dissolve into chaos.

Of course we all want to be ready for Christmas Day, and even Curates have to find the time to buy that perfect present for their other half! But this Advent, I’d like to encourage us to prepare better for Christmas by focusing less on ourselves and more on other people.

There are two initiatives I’d like to share with you that can help us do this.

Firstly, the Bible Society has launched its digital #AdventChallenge campaign. They say:

“Hope, love, joy and peace are the very heart of Advent. Yet they can be overlooked and lost in the mad dash towards Christmas.

#AdventChallenge helps you and your church connect with God in fresh and exciting ways – challenging you to do an act of kindness every day of Advent. It’s a simple way to reach out to your friends and neighbours.

Just think of the impact you could have on your community if everyone in your church got involved…

Throughout Advent, we’ll set you daily challenges to bring the Bible to life and show God’s love in very practical ways. We hope it will also help you and your church rediscover Advent as a precious time to draw close to God and celebrate Jesus’ birth.”

If you do use the internet, you can find the page and sign up for daily emails by searching for ‘advent challenge’ on a search engine.

But many people don’t use the internet: so here’s how you can get involved too – the challenge is the same: undertake a small, practical act of kindness every day. This could be as simple as smiling at someone on the bus, or buying your neighbour some flowers. It doesn’t have to cost anything except your time.

The second way we can focus on others is by supporting the Rainbow Centre. As I write it’s raining, windy and very cold. The cost of simply staying warm means that perfect family Christmas with presents and a large meal is out of reach for many in our community. But we can help. The weekly donation boxes at the back of church are always brimming over with gifts of food. This Advent, let’s help other families have a Christmas to remember by donating festive food, treats and presents. There are often buy-one-get-one-free offers on at this time of year: instead of keeping the free one, why not donate it? Like the rest of us, the Centre finds it hard to get suitable gifts for teenage boys, but gifts for all ages are welcome – you needn’t wrap them.

We all have family rituals around the Christmas season. Perhaps you were gathered as a family making Christmas puddings on Stir Up Sunday, or are looking forward to dressing the tree or putting out carrots for the reindeer on Christmas Eve, or coming to church as a family on Christmas Morning.

When I was teaching Christmas didn’t properly begin for me until Christmas Eve at 3pm when I’d be in the kitchen baking and listening to Carols from King’s. These days it’s a little different and not as relaxing, though I still love it. The brightness and colours of the lights and the joy of the music are such a fitting way to welcome anew our King into the world.

And then of course there are the New Year celebrations. I’m likely to be tucked up in bed well before midnight, though I do wonder why as the fireworks will no doubt let me know when 2017 arrives. New beginnings can be really exciting, and we know that 2017 will bring with it a new Vicar for the Parish, and new opportunities to serve our King as we minister his love through our worship, welcome and acts of kindness to each other throughout the year.

However you celebrate Christmas and the New Year, I extend every blessing to you and your family for the year ahead. None of us really knows what the New Year will bring, but we know we can trust the One who walks alongside us every step of the way.

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News from Martyn, our Vicar. June 2016

It’s the only way to be!

As part of my preparation for retirement I’ve re-read ‘Mr Rush’ by Roger Hargreaves.  You might remember the story.  ‘Mr Rush was the fastest thing on two legs!’  He tried job after job but his rushing around would always get him into trouble … until he found the perfect job: delivering express-rate letters!  ‘Mr Rush was so good at it he delivered twice as many letters in half the time any postman had ever done before.  Soon he had saved enough money for a holiday.’ I feel a bit like Mr Rush just at the moment, trying to squeeze a quart of activity into a pint pot of time.  (After the rush will be retirement which, just at the moment, sounds like one long holiday!)

Our final Service is at St Mary’s, at 10.30 am. on Sunday, 17th July.  Do join us if you would like to.  The Service will be followed by a farewell bring-and-share lunch at Parish House at 12.30 pm.  Again, do come if you can.

One popular misconception is that vicars work just one day a week.  I understand that but, interestingly, our terms of service assume we will work six!  And, those six days a week can include a lot of rushing: meetings, visits, lists, orders of service, rotas, talks to prepare.

With that busyness comes a very real danger.  For, if there’s too much rush, I can easily lose sight of what I’m in business to do.  In today’s fast-paced world each of us can be taken up with the immediate and lose sight of what really counts.  Jesus was very clear about his mission and ours, his ministry and ours.  Our motto verse for 2004 reminded us that Jesus said, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a person remains in me and I in them, they will bear much fruit.  Apart from me you can do nothing.’  (John 15:4)  This is what I need to remember today and tomorrow as I rush around.  And, this is what the Church needs to remember as the vacancy beckons.  Jesus is the vine; we are the branches, grafted into him.  Spiritual life, real spiritual life, comes from him and through him.

If we abide in Jesus and if he abides in us we will bear much fruit.  That’s Jesus’ promise!  If we want to be spiritually fruitful we must abide in him.  If we want to be spiritually effective Jesus must abide in us.  For the truth of the matter is that we cannot bear spiritual fruit without him.

I’ve become very interested in spiritual impact.  Some people and some churches seem to make a spiritual impact.  Why?  What’s their secret?

I’m convinced that those who make a spiritual difference are those who keep close to the Lord, those who know his indwelling, those who are full of him.

Just before he ascended, Jesus told his disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit had come, to wait for the gift the father had promised, to wait for the gift he himself had spoken to them about.  Don’t rush ahead.  Don’t charge in.  First make sure you’re co-working with God.  Make sure you’ve received spiritual power before you attempt spiritual work.

The great preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, once famously said, ‘A sermon without Christ is like a loaf of bread without any flour.  No Christ in your sermon, sir?  Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.’  Following Spurgeon we might say, ‘a church without Jesus is like a loaf of stale bread.  No Jesus in your church?  Then shut the doors and don’t open them until you’re sure you know that those who come in will meet with the one person who is the source of real spiritual life.’

I need to realise this just at the moment.  But this is also the key for the interregnum and the significant years ahead. Jesus meant it when he said, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches.’  He meant it when he said, ‘If a person remains in me and I in them, they will bear much fruit.’  He meant it when he said, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing.’  (John 15:4)

I know Joyce and I will look back on our time here with real affection.  We’re so grateful for your love, support and encouragement.  Time and again someone has said just the right thing at the right time.  Time and again we’ve known the Lord’s provision and witnessed his leading. So, thank you for the privilege of these almost fourteen years.  They’ve flown by!  St Mary’s with Holy Apostles has been our life – and we’re actually a bit unsure as to how things will be once the removal van has left North Cliff Gardens.

I will be working from the vicarage until about 4th August and we shall probably be moving on 15th or 16th August. One thing I’m sure of: We’ll never forget these years and we’ll never forget you.  It’s been a privilege to be here – and we believe the church’s future will be exciting.  After all, it is the Lord’s!

So, in the words of our motto verse for 2009, ‘to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we might dare to ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in St Mary’s with Holy Apostles and in Christ Jesus!’  [Ephesians 3:20–21]
Joyce joins me in sending love,


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News from Martyn, our Vicar. April 2016

The party has begun!

There’s always something more pressing to do: bills that need paying and meals that need preparing. There are so many jobs we never stop to ask, ‘What am I here for?’ The very busy-ness of our lives leaves no time for thinking about the meaning of life. So, we just get on with the business of living.

But, what exactly are we getting on with? If we were involved in a project it would be vital to know the project’s aim. If we don’t know that, there’s no chance of us being able to do the project well! Just for a moment, let’s think of life as a project. We’re far more likely to live it well if we know what its purpose is.

This is where some may disagree, for they think life has no purpose and no meaning. They think life is just a chance happening in a vast and meaningless universe. They tell us all we can do is make the most of it, hope for some happiness on the way – and leave the world a better place because we’ve been here. But that sounds too much like a recipe for hopelessness and despair, for there’s a hunger in our hearts for more, a yearning for the eternal.

Atheists would say this is just wishful thinking and that those with a religious belief are deluded. They’d say that those who believe in a supreme being are mistaken and that believing in an ultimate purpose in life is misguided. Atheists would say that religion is just a big comfort blanket for those who are not strong enough to face up to life’s realities. And if our faith is based on wishful thinking then we’re deluded. And, for our sake as well as everyone else’s, we should be shaken out of our stupor. Far better to face the reality that life is purposeless than cling to a lie just because it makes us feel more secure. That would be like jumping out of a plane believing the rucksack on our back is a parachute! It’s not a belief worth staking our life on. The Bible puts it differently of course, but that’s pretty much what it says!

One Corinthians fifteen is amazing. What it says in verses seventeen and eighteen is that, ‘if Christ wasn’t raised our faith is futile and we’re still dead in our sin. And those who died believing in Christ are lost. For if we hope in Christ for this life alone – and not also for the life to come – we’re to be pitied more than anyone else.’

If it’s a con Christians are in a worse state than anyone. If it’s all a big mistake our whole life-project is nothing more than a sham. Any sacrifice we make for the sake of our faith is simply a waste. It would be better for us to take on the values of the world around us, rather than trying to swim against the tide. And, as for any hope beyond death, well that’s just pie in the sky.

Paul said, “if Christ has not been raised” and “if we hope in Christ for this life alone”. Those “if’s” are important; now it’s time for the “but”! Paul continues, in verse twenty, “But Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruit of those who’ve died.” That ‘but’ makes all the difference!

Christian faith is not based on wishful thinking but on the resurrection of Jesus – and it stands or falls on this. The validity of Christian faith rests on it. The belief that Jesus rose from the dead is based on evidence. There’s the empty tomb and the eye-witness accounts. There’s the small details, such as the flow of blood and water from Jesus’ side and the empty grave clothes in the tomb.

There’s the transformation in the disciples, from timid hideaways to bold missionaries. And there’s the personal experience of Jesus’ risen presence attested to by millions of Christians the world over. It all points to the reality which is the foundation of our hope in Jesus.

If Jesus rose from the dead the implications are immense. It means that life is not hopeless or purposeless. It means that life will not end in death for those who are in Christ. It also means that our lives, here and now, today and tomorrow, are to be lived for Jesus.

His resurrection is at the very heart of it. This is why we mustn’t think that if we made Easter more congenial, and trimmed it of the awkwardness of the resurrection, it would speak with renewed power. It wouldn’t! Every part of the New Testament throbs with the conviction that Jesus was raised by God to life. That’s important.

The other two – and equally clear – New Testament convictions are that Jesus lives in those who commit themselves to him; and, that eternal life is a reality for those who put their faith in him. In verses twenty-one and twenty-two, Paul says that, ‘as by one man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead; as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.’

So, this Easter may we know, and live for Jesus, who was raised by God to life. And, may we know, and let others know, that Jesus lives in those who commit themselves to him. May we know – and then enjoy the wonderful reassurance – that eternal life is a reality for those who put their faith in Jesus.

Our conviction is that Jesus rose from the dead. This means he was who he claimed to be. His resurrection vindicated him and demonstrated that what he claimed about his death on the cross three days earlier was true. He had indeed dealt the decisive blow to the twin powers of sin and death.

Easter Day means things are now different. Easter Day means that, in Jesus, life has purpose and meaning. Easter Day means we have a hope and a future. Easter Day means that the party has begun – and that our task is to send out the invitations!

Yours ever,

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News from Martyn, our Vicar Feb 2016

Shining examples

We’re meant to shine! Christians are meant to shine, and churches are meant to shine; and, when we do people are drawn to the light of the world.

There are many reasons for shining.  One is that we’re forgiven!  Forgiveness is a massive reality.  Forgiveness is something people need to know about, for when we come to God and say sorry the slate is wiped clean.  We’re given a fresh start.  It’s as if we never actually did what we needed God’s forgiveness for! Churches are full of forgiven people, who should shine!

In ‘Going for Growth!, our Lent course, we’ll be thinking about spiritual and numerical growth.  By way of introduction, let’s think about the Day of Pentecost.  People listened to sermons preached in the temple area of Jerusalem, a bit like Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.  Peter is there, in the centre of Jerusalem, preaching, while thousands listen in.  His friends are supporting him, praying for him – and God is at work, speaking into people’s minds and hearts.

We think of this remarkable sermon, and the resultant conversions, as the beginning of the church, for this was when the good news started to spread like wildfire.  Pivotal to the sermon is that Jesus was raised to life.  [Acts 2:32]  Resurrection was the game-changer.  It meant that Calvary and crucifixion weren’t the end.  ‘Jesus was raised to life’, says Peter.  ‘We were there.  We’ve seen him since he died and returned to life.  We heard him teach, we’ve eaten with him.  We saw him more than once.’

Luke deliberately recorded those remarkable post-resurrection appearances in chapter twenty-four of his Gospel.  He wrote his two books, Luke and Acts, in the middle years of the first century and many of the people he mentioned, as eyewitnesses, were still around.

Like Luke, Peter knew the importance of eyewitness accounts.  Resurrection was more than unlikely.  Of course, it was!  But, says Peter, improbable as it sounds, we saw and met with – and spoke with and ate with – the risen Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus is no longer around, says Peter.  [Acts 2:33]  He’s ascended.  What you now hear – the fact that you can hear me in your own language – is the work of the Holy Spirit.  You are witnessing something very special, something of God.

Those there knew this was no ordinary sermon.  And their response wasn’t ordinary either.  [Acts 2:37]  The Holy Spirit used Peter’s words to speak into people’s lives.  They were cut to the heart.

Many in that crowd realised they were part of something very wonderful.  They asked, ‘What shall we do?’  Peter says there are three things.  [Acts 2:38]

First, repent.  What does that mean?  To repent means to stop going your own way, to turn round, to change direction.  The Greek word for repentance is metanoia.  It means to change your mind about something, to see things differently.  Give up your self-centredness, says Peter.  Change direction, start again, with Jesus as Lord.

Second, be baptised.  For, that’s the public sign of commitment to Jesus Christ.

Those being confirmed on 14th February will renew their baptismal vows.  They will take on for themselves the vows that were made on their behalf by their parents and godparents.  The candidates will publicly commit themselves to Jesus Christ.

That’s the second step, says Peter.  Don’t keep it to yourself.  Let others know, for your baptism is a witness to the reality of your new-found faith.

Then, third, said Peter, you will receive the Holy Spirit.  Open your hearts and let the Lord in.  Christian faith isn’t just intellectual assent, it’s knowing the Lord from the inside, knowing his life and power, knowing his enabling and equipping.

Don’t try to live the Christian life in your own strength; receive the Holy Spirit.  So, how much of the Lord’s power and equipping are we actually experiencing?  Should we ask to be filled again with the Holy Spirit?

First, says Peter, make a clean break with your past.  Let the old life go.  Then, second, be baptised.  That’s vital, too.  And, third, receive, the Holy Spirit.

This is for you, says Peter.  [Acts 2:39]  It’s also for your children.  It’s for Gentiles as well as Jews.  It’s for those living thousands of miles away.  It’s for those in generations to come.  In fact, says Peter, it’s for all those the Lord calls, wherever they are and whenever they come.

You’re in on this at the very beginning, says Peter, but it’s not just for you, it’s for those you’ll never know, those not yet born.  But, whatever you do, don’t miss out.  [Acts 2:40]  Peter warned the crowd of the danger of letting this opportunity go.  And three thousand came to faith.  The church was born.  There would be no stopping God’s kingdom, no stopping the spreading flame, no stopping the good news getting out.

A few years ago Archbishop Sentamu came for the Service of Confirmation.  Afterwards he wrote, saying, “the Holy Spirit is at work, and it is a joy to see the effects of that among the people.”  God is alive and active today, as he was two thousand years ago.

So, Peter didn’t just preach to that crowd; through the Holy Spirit he speaks to us today.  And the call is the same:  To repent.  To be baptised.  To receive the Holy Spirit. Pentecost was the most wonderful start to the story of renewal and new life in Jesus. This is for us.  It’s for us to receive, enjoy and live out.  It’s also for us to share.

This is for you, says Peter.  It’s for everyone the Lord calls.  And, within that vast crowd three thousand met with the living God – and began to shine!

With every good wish,


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