It’s never too late for a new beginning in your life.

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of attending St John’s Church, Burscough for the Baptism of Ron Snape .

I first met Ron two years ago when he visited our Café Vista with his late wife Pauline. Ron was the main carer for Pauline who in 2013 fell down the stairs in their home and broke her neck.  Thanks to the swift action of the Air Ambulance, Pauline was taken to hospital and went on to live for five more years with her soul mate Ron until she sadly lost her battle on 4th August  last year.

At Ron’s baptism I was struck by the power of his testimony and how at the wise age of 82 he was embracing a new beginning in his life, he had found faith in Jesus. Ron described how after losing Pauline he had felt the pain and sense of loss at losing “the love of his life”, he admitted he had even prayed for God to take him too.  However, Ron didn’t’ give up he started attending the Tuesday shoppers service at St John’s, he also joined our luncheon club on a Wednesday. Ron described how through generous welcome, hospitality, conversation and people who were prepared to listening he has found faith, which in turn has helped him find contentment and peace.

I share Ron’s story, with permission, as my contemplation today because so often people are afraid to explore faith, to step inside church to take their pain, despair, doubts and fears and to ask God to show them a new beginning.  If we are honest we are all in search for contentment, peace and hope and I am so pleased that Ron has found this in Jesus. Ron is a true inspiration not just in his Christian witness but also in all he does in Pauline’s memory. To date Ron has raised over £6,000 for the Air Ambulance and Parkinson’s which I think you will agree is a huge achievement.

I hope reading Ron’s story today you too may be inspired to explore Faith. Here at Christ Church we are launching a new ‘Start’ course in the Ministry Centre on Tuesday 14th January 2020 7:30pm – 8:30pm for seven weeks.  There will be an opportunity in an informal setting to ask questions, watch a video and discover more about the Christian faith.  Why not make 2020 a time for a new beginning come and join us and discover the contentment that Ron has found. If you want to hear more about Ron’s story then join us on Sunday 24th November 10:45 am and meet him in person.

Making all things new: an invitation to join us

There has been a flurry of activity around the site of the Ministry Centre this week. After many years of planning a new pavement has been constructed on the area that we call the ‘sands’. This will now give safe access to all pedestrians accessing the Ministry Centre, Scout Headquarters, U3A groups, and our school.  Inside the Ministry Centre the main hall has changed colour and Vicky and Peter have moved offices. All in all it has been a week of significant changes.

Walking around the site has given me time to reflect on the importance of the Ministry Centre in our community. Each week over 70 volunteers serve through Café Vista, toddlers and luncheon club. Volunteers are valuable to us and we simply could not offer the invitation to join us without them.  As you go into Café Vista you soon become aware of another invitation. The words of Jesus found in Matthew’s Gospel offer a powerful invitation that can transform individual lives, relationships and even the most complicated of situations.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28-30

This verse of scripture in a nutshell is what makes Café Vista, toddlers and luncheon club distinctive. We hope that as people enter our ministry centre they are free to come as they are, to simply be themselves. To feel the warm embrace of a God who cares, who offers a sanctuary, a spacious place to be still and know that He can make all things new!

So if you have never been to the Ministry Centre why not come and see for yourselves. Accept our personal invitation to come and join us and to contemplate the invitation  that Jesus offers to each of us “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

You to me are everything

What a joy it was to welcome two young people from the Pearl of Africa Choir into home yesterday evening as they spend nine nights with us. Whilst many of the young people have their own families in Uganda, they are also adopted into the choir. As we welcomed them and shared food there was a sense of adopting them into our family for a short time. Incidentally the choir will be performing at our Ministry Centre this evening at 7pm. Make sure you don’t miss out on their amazing singing and dancing.

This week is ‘National Adoption week’. The focus for this year being on the ‘priority’ children who wait the longest for a loving home, those in a sibling group, children from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, older children and those with complex health needs or those that are disabled.

Over the years I have had the privilege of getting to know several families who have adopted children. Whilst their personal stories and circumstances are all different the one common thread, which they all seemed to share, was the blessing that adoption can be to parents as well as children. As I have spent time with these families it has always struck me that the glue that has kept them together has not been birth or blood, but a unique bond of love and the commitment that no matter what they would figure it out together.

As an only child the words of a Sunday school song “ Father God” has always given me great comfort in knowing that no matter what happened to my earthly parents I was already adopted into God’s family and that he would never leave me as an orphan.

If you look closely at the Bible you will see that adoption is at the heart of the story line. God’s heart for orphans and adoption is clearly displayed throughout the Old and New Testaments.

In 1 John 3:1-2 we read  “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us – He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. …. My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now.”

The Pearl of Africa sings a song about Jesus’ wonderful love for each of us. There is a powerful message behind this song one that reminds us that we are God’s favourite! That we shouldn’t accept to live as orphans but as adopted children of God. Or put another way by the 1970’s soul group “The real thing”, “You to me are everything”. You see when you are adopted into God’s family these words take on a whole new meaning.  I wonder what we will choose today? Are we happy living our lives as orphans or will we take the next step and explore what it means to be adopted into God’s family.

It’s good to talk

In the 1990s British Telecom launched a TV advertisement campaign  “It’s Good to talk”. The adverts featured the late actor Bob Hoskins observing a number of phone conversations between family, friends in which he encouraged people to pick up the phone to listen and be there for people because “it’s good to talk”.

Today is World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is suicide prevention. According, to statistics every 40 seconds someone loses his or her life to suicide. In the time it has taken me to write this contemplation that is roughly 90 people.

A big part of my role as priest is to spend time listening to people, spending time hearing their story. However, more recently I have realised how important it is to be able to ask the right questions. It is interesting to note that Jesus asks a lot of questions in Scripture. Jesus’ questions were sometimes rhetorical, or challenging, and at other times he was also seeking feedback.

The story of Blind Bartimaeus is a great example of Jesus asking a life-changing question. We read in Marks Gospel there was a blind beggar  sitting at the side of the road, he heard Jesus passing by and shouted out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47). The crowds told Bartimaeus to be quiet, but he kept calling out, even more loudly and persistently than before. Jesus responded to Bartimaeus’s cries by telling His disciples to call the blind man over. Blind Bartimaeus jumped up and went to Jesus, and Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51).

A life-changing question with a life changing answer as the blind beggar replies “Rabbi, I want to see”. The blind man had a desire, and he ran to Jesus with that desire. He did not preface his petition with a list of good works he had done or with any false humility; he simply expressed to Jesus his desire, trusting that Jesus was both willing and able to fulfill it. Jesus said to him, “Go . . . your faith has healed you,” and Blind Bartimaeus instantly recovered his sight and followed Jesus.

Some of us reading this contemplation may struggle with faith and have difficulty believing in this miraculous story. If you’re local to Christ Church Aughton and want to find out more about faith then there is an invitation to join us on Monday 14th October 7:30 pm for our new Christianity explored course. More details on our Facebook page.

Whether we have faith or not what is clear to see is the power asking the right questions can have in helping someone. So today may we take the time to ask someone we love the question that may enable them to see a bit more clearly.  Let’s remember, “It’s good to talk”.

‘WAIT’ is one good way to remember how you can support another person who may be suicidal. It stands for:

Watch out for signs of distress and uncharacteristic behaviour

 e.g. social withdrawal, excessive quietness, irritability, uncharacteristic outburst, talking about death or suicide

Ask: “Are you having suicidal thoughts?”

Asking about suicide does not encourage it, nor does it lead a person to start thinking about it; in fact it may help prevent it, and can start a potentially life-saving conversation

It will pass – assure your loved one that, with help, their suicidal feelings will pass with time

Talk to others – encourage your loved one to seek help from a GP or health professional

Discovering truth in an ever changing landscape

‘Discovering truth in an ever changing landscape’

 

Today is National Poetry day, a wonderful opportunity for me to reminisce about my time as an English Literature student and share with you one of my favourite English poets Gerard Manley Hopkins (1854–1863)

For many including myself poetry has always been a bit of a mystery. I have long been in awe of anyone who can write poetry and even more so of those who can help others understand the meaning and truth behind the stanzas. Interestingly enough the theme for this year’s poetry day is ‘Truth’.

I remember in the early 90s my English teacher Mr Kenny, passionately introducing me to Hopkins poetry and I have been hooked ever since. There was something in words of this Jesuit priest that struck a chord with me and I very much hope that as you read my chosen autumnal poem you too may feel it stirs something of the truth of life, God and nature in your inner being.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

                                        (Gerard Manley Hopkins Penguin Classics 1985)

Pied beauty is a rich poem that highlights the season of autumn and all its imperfections whilst praising God’s natural omnipotence. In the poem Hopkins is able to identify that the beauty of creation comes from a single source – God.  So often in life we strive for perfection in ourselves and in those around us and yet as this poem highlights in ‘dappled things’ we only have to look at the sky, animals, plants to see blemishes and flaws. Even looking at the beautiful carpet of conkers surrounding the vicarage garden this morning their deformities and discolorations are clear to see. Amazing!

And then we have the landscape, which often looks like a patchwork quilt intentionally stitched together recently ploughed, temporarily fallow ready for the next season of planting and constantly changing before our eyes.

And so why choose this poem above all the other thousands for my contemplation today. Well because I think it speaks the truth about who God is. ‘He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change’. Quite simply despite the constant chaos and political unrest we are facing as a country right now God remains the same. He is the constant; He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. So no matter the mystery of life or the human imperfections we encounter let us remember that there is one who is perfect, beyond all time, a constant presence in a changing landscape. Discovering the truth about God and all he offers is a personal quest and can be difficult. So in light of this we offer an open invitation to our ‘Christianity Explored’ course starting Monday 14th October 7:30pm in Christ Church Ministry Centre for seven weeks. Come and ask questions and discover more about the God that Gerard Manley Hopkins is praising in this poem!

Communion on the moon

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s lunar landing. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin stepped foot on the moon on July 20th 1969. Armstrong delivering the famous line, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as he stepped onto the moon’s surface. Landing on the moon is one of the most significant scientific achievements in history and yet despite the enormity of what Aldrin and his fellow astronauts had achieved he chose to pause for a moment and to take communion on the lunar module. Two hours before stepping onto the moon “Buzz” Aldrin pulled out his tiny pouch of personal items to retrieve a thimbleful of wine and some bread.

He had received special permission from NASA to take bread and wine with him to space and give himself communion. It was the first food and drink ever consumed on the moon. Aldrin is reported as having planned the moment “as an expression of gratitude and hope,” He later wrote in his book, Magnificent Desolation“I could think of no better way to acknowledge the enormity of the Apollo 11 experience than by giving thanks to God.” I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup,”

He then read from John’s Gospel and ate. On a small card, Aldrin had written the words of Jesus: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.”(John15:5 )

A special message was transmitted back to Earth: “I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way.”

For Aldrin, that meant there was no doubt he would be giving thanks to the Creator of the cosmos. In taking time to pause and remember in this simple act of communion Aldrin was able to celebrate in outer space what the God of the cosmos meant to him. I am sure there were many things Aldrin could have done to mark the occasion, but he chose in that moment to acknowledge and give thanks that through Jesus’ death on the cross a way had been made for humankind to have a relationship with the creator of time and space. As we look back on this significant moment in history perhaps we can take time to contemplate Aldrin’s humble act of acknowledging and thanking God. It is unlikely that any of us will travel to the moon, but maybe this weekend whether working, resting or even simply catching glimpse of the evening moonlight we too can acknowledge our need for the God of the universe, the one who enabled two men to make a giant leap for mankind! For with God anything is possible.

Today’s Jericho Road

Several times this week I have found myself contemplating the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan who stops to help the beaten man on the road to Jericho (Luke 10:25-37). The Jericho road, connecting Jerusalem and Jericho, is about 17 miles long and notoriously steep descending sharply 3,600 feet with lots of rocky valleys and passes. Until the fifth century it was called the red or bloody way.

This parable is often used as an example of how we are to show mercy and compassion to other people.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with being known as the  ‘Good Samaritan’ but part of me wonders what it would be like if we took on board the quote from Desmond Tutu. “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

 

In other words sometimes it would be more beneficial if alongside our ability to be compassionate we actually travelled further up the Jericho road looking at the root cause of the problem, asking the difficult questions and improving the safety of people travelling on the Jericho road.

Today’s contemporary Jericho road consists of Knife crime, loneliness, food poverty, racism and hate crime, people sleeping on the streets, human trafficking, debt, mental health, addiction, the list is endless. I wonder what it would like if we intentionally challenged some of the structures in our society?

Martin Luther King Jr said: ‘On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars, needs restructuring.’

Fighting for justice takes time, courage, commitment and the ability to challenge political structures yet so often we are reluctant to get involved. As English statesman Edmund Burke (1729-1797) – said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Surely given all the problems in our society today doing nothing is not an option. We need to see the Jericho road not purely as a parable of charity but of transformation. As a Christian leader I certainly want to devote more of my time asking the difficult and challenging questions helping to bring about transformation in people’s lives rather than waiting for the victims to come along and then sticking a plaster on the wounds. Getting involved will mean dealing with broken relationships in our homes and families, combating loneliness, being inclusive, it may even make our neat little communities messy, complicated and at times painful but surely it will be well worth the journey.

The Wonder of You

As a teenager one of the posters in my bedroom was a picture of a new born
baby being held in a parents hand, the words underneath read ‘ Fearfully and
Wonderfully made’ Psalm 139:14. For me this was an important message to be
reminded of everyday as I went to High School. This week I spent some time with
Year 6 children from Aughton C of E primary school helping them to think about
their imminent move to Secondary school. In one of the sessions I was encouraging the pupils to see themselves as God sees them, unique and precious.
I wonder how often we stop and look at ourselves in the mirror and contemplate
that there will never be anyone just like us.


St. Augustine is attributed as saying,“People travel to wonder at the height of
mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast
compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by
themselves without wondering.”

I wonder when you last stopped to consider your unique identity and
contemplate the fact that God formed you. He crafted, created and fashioned
every part of you.

As a society I wonder if the message we often hear is ‘who we are is not good
enough’, that the only way to be great is to be like everyone else. Social Media,
Television and Radio often tell us how things should be. It takes courage to
drown out the negative voices and accept and celebrate who we are and the
difference we can make to each other.

Celebrating that we are all different is a key message portrayed in the 2017 film
‘Wonder’ directed by Stephen Chbosky and based on the book by R.J. Palacio. The
film tells the heart warming story of August Pullman. Born with facial
differences, which have initially prevented him from going to a mainstream
school. In the film we follow Auggie in his first year at school and get to
understand things from his perspective and of those around him. As his family,
his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to find their own
compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extraordinary journey unites them all and
proves you can't blend in when you were born to stand out. What a powerful
and transformative message, worth repeating “ YOU WERE BORN TO STAND
OUT”.

Perhaps today we need to take time to look in the mirror and celebrate our
uniqueness remembering that each of us are born for a purpose, we were born to
stand out and not just fade away in the background. Be proud to be you today
and may you know the height and the breadth of God’s love for you a ‘Fearfully
and wonderfully made’!

A time for everything

In May 2018 I wrote my first contemplation, I never really planned it would be something I would do weekly, but fourteen months on and with over thirty-seven contemplations written, I am always amazed how God works through these little reflections. Occasionally, I get e-mails from people saying how much the contemplation has meant to them or inspired them. Yesterday it was nice to meet someone who has had connections with Christ Church since the 1970s and speak of how last week’s contemplation on being a good neighbour challenged them.  I must just add that following on from my cup of tea with my neighbour Carmen, she has now kindly offered to care for my parent’s fish – Nemo who needed to be re-homed into a bigger pond. Another sign that good neighbours are a blessing!

Which leads me on to today’s contemplation ‘A time for Everything’. This week, I have had the joy of celebrating with a family the birth of twin girls as well as sitting with two families who have lost their loved one. Just yesterday, I was introduced to a lady whose father had been the chaplain at the Royal Liverpool Hospital in the mid 1980s. The Chaplain Rev’d Sam Pratt, one evening had felt the need to go and see a patient who happened to be my dying grandfather and remind him of God’s unconditional love. How amazing after all these years that Rev’d Sam’s daughter should find her way to Christ Church and for us to share the memories of that special time. In all each of these situations I recalled words from the book of Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 ‘ A time for everything’.

The writer of Ecclesiastes recognises that our lives are full of a variety of experiences. There are times we find encouraging, exciting and positive – and times that cause us to struggle and search for meaning. There are times we can be active and engaged, and times when we might need to step back a little, to reflect or allow ourselves to be cared for. The fullness of life includes all of these times and seasons. We don’t know how much time we have in this life. We don’t get to choose when some of these seasons will come to us. And we don’t always understand why we have to face some of these things. But we do have choices we can make about our lives and how we use our time – however much of it we have. We can choose how to respond to life’s events. We can choose which activities and people we will devote our time and energy to. We can try and find God, and goodness and beauty, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

So today if your not familiar with the passage from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 why not take time to read it, meditate on the words and ask yourself the question ‘what season am I in?’ You never know today may just be the perfect timing to understand more about God’s and His unconditional love for you.

A good neighbour is a welcome blessing

There is an old saying you can pick your friends, but you can’t choose your family or your neighbours. This week is the first national Neighbours week following research undertaken in collaboration with One Poll which highlighted 52% of people don’t know their neighbours name. Furthermore only 5% felt close to their neighbours and over 87% said having a relationship with their neighbours would make them feel happier, increase their numbers of friends and feel more part of the community. The study also found, that once you get to know your neighbours, the biggest benefit are more friendships and a greater sense of community.

Having moved house less than a month ago I have been interested to read the statistics and contemplate what it means to be a good neighbour. Of course moving into a new house and community offers a perfect opportunity to get to know your neighbours. It was lovely to meet our new neighbour Carmen and invite her into the vicarage for coffee a few days after we moved. Taking a bit of time to invite a neighbour into our homes is a powerful way of connecting people and helps build stronger communities. Knowing there is someone next door who is looking out for you or is simply happy to lend a hand, offer you a cup of sugar prevents people feeling isolated and simply says ‘I care’.

Sadly, all too often time is something that many lack and consequently people can spend weeks, months, years without seeing their neighbours. Christian author John Otberg says “Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time and time is the one thing hurried people don’t have”. Being neighbourly is something that Jesus spoke about; of course he wasn’t just focusing directly on the people who live next door to us, but more about those people who we find it difficult to relate to, those people we would rather avoid.

When Jesus was asked by one of the Jewish theologians which was the greatest commandment of all, he began by quoting a crucial passage of the Jewish law, but then he added a second and equally important commandment. Jesus answered Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

(Luke 10:27)

For Jesus, to love your neighbour as yourself was to practice justice towards your fellow human beings. To go the extra mile and to walk with them.  I remember reading ‘Mere Christianity’ by C.S Lewis who reflecting on the commandment to ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ stated that when we act like we love our neighbour we discover one of the great secrets in life. He added, “When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” Perhaps in loving someone and accepting them just the way they are we actually discover unlikely friendships and create communities that respect and value each individuals worth.

So during this first national neighbours week perhaps we can make an extra effort to call on our neighbours or if like me your new to the community just simply call to say hello. This contemplation is entitled ‘A good neighbour is a welcome blessing’ that’s certainly what I hope I can be to my neighbours, so I’m off now to see if I can bless them with the offer of a cuppa.

It’s okay not to be okay

This week is mental health awareness week, an initiative started by the Mental Health Foundation in 2001 to raise public awareness of mental health and wellbeing. The slogan ‘It’s okay not to be okay’ aims to break down the stigma of mental health by talking openly about the difficulties that people face. This year’s theme is body image, an important issue whatever our age or gender, as research found that 1 in 3 people have felt ashamed of their bodies which in turn has had a direct impact on their mental health.

Two years ago, I went with a few of the ‘Girlie Night In’ team to watch the film ‘Embrace’ by body image activist Taryn Brumfitt. The Body Image movement (BIM) believes that everyone has the right to love and embrace their body, regardless of shape, size, ethnicity or ability. It was a very powerful film from a female perspective, but of course body image can also affect men, which is why it is important to have these awareness weeks. Only a few weeks ago I was thrilled to read of how a young person who had been receiving treatment for anorexia had reached a point of being able to accept that anorexia is an illness and was now beginning the long road to recovery. It’s good to know that with charities like ‘Mind’ there is help and support.

Ensuring that people know that it is okay not to be okay is an important message when we are dealing with people who are experiencing mental health issues. Accepting people for who they are and what they look like can be somewhat challenging in a society that is obsessed with a person’s image.

The Bible of course offers a different view. In Genesis 1:27 we read that we are made in the image of God. “So God createdmankind in his own image,in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

It is such a profound mystery that we are created in God’s image and likeness, whether we speak of the newly conceived child who is only a few microscopic cells in size or a frail person who is terminally ill. God creates each person out of love in accord with his desire that each would spend eternity in communion with him. In Psalm 139:14 we read,  I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. Furthermore in 1 Samuel 16:17 “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  Knowing that God loves us just the way we are no matter what our body shape is an important message to hold on to and to share.

 

And so as mental health awareness week draws to an end, it’s important to continue speaking about mental health in order to break down the stigma. Actively listening, reinforcing the message that it’s okay to say your not okay are all ways we can encourage people to BE themselves.

Perhaps the words of this poem simply entitled ‘ BE’ by anonymous will help us all simply BE who we are called to BE today.

BE confident enough to see who you are inside is more important than how you look outside. BE absolutely sure that, wherever you go, whatever you do, YOU ARE LOVED AND VALUED BY GOD.

Table Talk and Time Out

This week I am on retreat on Holy Island for some much needed time out. Knowing that within a few hours of my arrival I will be cut off from the mainland with space, time to think and pray is the reason I come every year to this Holy place. Unlike previous years, I have come on my own to spend time breathing in the fresh Northumberland air and taking long walks around the Island with Monty.

Whilst on retreat I like to read and this year I decided to bring ‘The table’ by our very own Bishop Paul Bayes. If you haven’t had a chance to read it I would highly recommend it.

‘The table’ an image of the Christian Church as an open table of friends, stretching down every street and into every home has provided me with much food for thought on this Holy Island, as I myself have sat at different tables during the week talking to a group of pilgrims and residents, sharing food and hospitality.

On Wednesday, I attended a special service at St Mary the Virgin Church to celebrate twenty-five years of women’s ordination. Kate, an Islander was one of the first women to be ordained Priest in the Church of England and it was a real privilege to meet a pioneer who with many others paved the way for my ministry today. For this special occasion I found myself meeting at two tables. The first table gathered pilgrims and residents together in church, around the Lord’s Table to share communion. Meeting together around the table on the site where St Aidan stood in 635 AD and where pilgrims across many centuries have come together to remember and receive has a way of deepening ones relationship with Christ.

We read in John’s Gospel 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ In a way knowing all that Jesus did on the cross, enables us to show love and kindness to others we may meet for the first time and treat them as friends.

It is also a helpful reminder that although we meet as strangers, we are actually friends in and through the mystery of all that Christ did for us on the cross.

The second table I encountered was in the vicarage sitting around a table sharing afternoon tea. Here I listened to the stories of faith of people who lived on the Island and over the course of an hour, I, a stranger was welcomed as a friend. Here on Holy Island, it’s in the DNA to take time to sit and welcome others at the table, watch in the moment and extend the hand of friendship. Perhaps this is easier to do in smaller communities with a slower pace of life, but it is certainly something I intend to keep pondering on as I return to Christ Church and to the busyness of Parish Ministry.

I wonder how many tables we will sit at today? Share a glance, smile, conversation or food? Perhaps we can all take a bit more time to extend our table to the stranger and offer the hand of friendship.

Sharing Life Together

In the 1990s I was fortunate to be part of an Easter production that my Mum wrote called ‘Paid on the Nail’.  The musical was well received in many churches including our local Emmanuel Methodist Church in Ormskirk, and many of the local prisons. The production was recorded and copies sent as far as Australia. Through drama and music those watching were taken from the dramatic moment when Pilate washed his hands of Jesus right the way through Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection. The production ended with the two people encountering Jesus on the road to Emmaus.  As a teenager I was always drawn to the Emmaus road part of the production, I loved the idea of two people journeying with each other, sharing life together and the hope they found when they finally realised the truth that Jesus was indeed alive and journeying with them.

How often in our own lives have we felt downcast like those two disciples? Or had our dreams and hopes shattered? On the road to Emmaus Cleopas and his companion experience the catastrophic loss of the one they believed to be the Redeemer of Israel. They head back to Galilee, no doubt to pick up the old rhythm of the lives they led before they met Jesus.

And yet, towards the end of this Chapter we read, as they walk and talk Jesus comes alongside them, he listens and starts to explain to them the true meaning of recent events. When the disciples reach their house they ask Jesus in, so that they can continue their discussion.

While they are having supper together around an ordinary table, Jesus breaks bread with them and reveals to them who He is.

Perhaps today we are own Emmaus road, looking at the world, especially in light of the recent terrorist attacks and wondering what hope there is? Perhaps we are walking on the Emmaus road full of fear and feeling overwhelmed with the pace of life. And yet what the Emmaus story shows us is Christ joining the disciples, walking beside them, breaking bread with them, and opening their hearts with his Word in a way that is so overwhelming, the world is no longer mad to them.

For those two disciples the world situation had not changed at all, but their hearts had encountered Jesus. Today whatever Emmaus road you are on, Christ is waiting to break into your life.

Here at Christ Church we are about to launch a new initiative, LYFE groups. LYFE groups will be small groups of people journeying together to sharing similar interests, praying and reading the Bible together.  If you are reading this contemplation and are local to Christ Church why not find out more about our new LYFE groups and experience your own special Emmaus Road journey!— 

Linger Longer at the Cross

Linger Longer at the Cross’

As a church we have been spending each Sunday during Lent thinking about the people who witnessed the crucifixion. Real people with thoughts, experiences and responses like ours. The criminal on the cross who asked Jesus for forgiveness, Mary the mother of Jesus, who watched her son die the most cruel death and the Centurion who declared as Jesus died Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39) As each of these people saw Jesus on the cross, they were aware of someone who was more powerful than the authorities ordering his crucifixion. Those who chose to linger longer at the foot of the cross became aware of the awesome power of the cross.  On the cross God showed His love for all of us by sending his son Jesus to take upon himself every bitter thought, every evil deed, such was His extravagant love for humankind. Those who lingered at the foot of the Cross discovered a hidden power, the power of God’s love.

Today, on this Good Friday, each of us has the opportunity to linger longer at the cross, to contemplate what that might mean for us. The power of the cross is that no-one is excluded from Jesus’ love; each of us only need to accept it for ourselves.

Let’s take time today to Linger Longer as we read these words of Jesus in a poem by Heather Harder. We need to linger there to discover the more profound meaning of Easter.

“In My presence is fullness of joy :: You are welcome :: come and stay :: Drink deep of My love :: It flows for you day after day :: Linger longer :: stay with Me :: Linger longer :: it’s here you’re free :: Rest at My feet :: it’s here our hearts meet :: Linger longer :: Linger longer :: Come to Me and know My rest :: Let My peace fill every part :: Press in deeper still :: Dwell in the depths of My heart :: You’re My love :: You’re My bride :: You’re My joy :: and My pride :: Won’t you come :: won’t you stay :: Let My face light the way :: Won’t you come :: won’t you stay :: Won’t you come :: won’t you stay :: Linger longer :: stay with me”

The summons – following the call

Sitting in my RE lesson at St Andrew’s C of E Primary School, Maghull, I remember my teacher, Deaconess Margaret asking my 10 year old self a question ‘Sarah what would like to do when we were older?” I replied ‘ A missionary’.

That was the start of the ‘Summons’, a call to follow Jesus and serve others.  It’s amazing to look back at that moment over 30 years ago and think it would lead to this Sunday when I will be instituted as the next Vicar Of Christ Church Aughton. With this in mind I hope you will allow this contemplation to be more of a personal reflection as I mark this special occasion and write my last curate’s contemplation.

When I was younger I always thought I would be a missionary in Africa, but God had another plan, it would seem that my mission field would be the community of Aughton.  The service on Sunday will mark the beginning of my new ministry as I transition from curate to Vicar. As well as the legal ceremony the service will also be an Act of Worship as we come together and offer our parish and community to God.  Contemplating this wonderful occasion and the shared responsibility that I will be given to proclaim the Gospel and serve people in the community fills me joy.

Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus call people to ‘follow him’, whether it was the Galilean fishermen who left their nets to become ‘fishers of people’, or his disciples who were encouraged to ‘take up their cross’. We read in Matthew 16:24-25

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Through the centuries, as today, Christ continues to call people to a life of faith, prayer and service.  For me it is summed up beautifully in the hymn written by John Bell and Graham Maule from the Iona community entitled “Will you come and follow me’ – The Summons.  For me following a call is a way of living that involves taking up the cross and to ‘risk the hostile stare’. It is a call to love in action which liberates the captive and blind and which dares to ‘kiss the leper clean’. It is a summons, too, to self-discovery and to the faith that can conquer our inner fears. The hymn ends with a prayer for strength to follow and ‘never be the same’. For in responding to Christ’s call to love in action we move and live and grow in him and he in us.

So that’s my prayer for this coming Sunday as I close the chapter of being a curate and start a new beginning as vicar. The service will be mark a very special day in my own personal faith journey, but it will also be a visible sign of what happened inwardly a long time ago when I first answered that call.

I know many people will be coming to celebrate with us on Sunday, but I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all those who haven the time to invest in me, to inspire and nurture my faith. The ones who have laughed, cried, challenged, mentored and encouraged me over the years, to each of those people I am extremely grateful.  I also want this contemplation to be an encouragement to anyone who is unsure about what God might be calling you to. As you read the words below, answer the call, step out one footstep at a time, trust in God and enjoy the journey!

Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.

Happy Nowruz

‘Happy Nowruz’

When the working party gathers in the vicarage this morning, one of the greetings to our Iranian friend will be ‘Happy Nowruz’. In recent months we have had the privilege of getting to know two Iranian men who have come to help in Café Vista and prepare the vicarage for our family to move in.

Yesterday over 300 million people in regions close to the Caspian Sea celebrated ‘Nowruz’ – the Persian New Year. This is one of the world’s greatest festivals, with a full month of activities celebrating the arrival of spring and the rebirth of nature.  Families share in preparing a special meal, decorating the house and welcoming in the New Year. The UN have praised the celebrations for promoting peace and solidarity in troubled areas.

As we approach Friday 29th March solidarity is certainly something we want for our own country. This week The Church of England has called for communities to join together in conversation and prayer as discussions over the UK’s departure from the European Union reach a pivotal point. At Christ Church we will be hosting an “informal café-style meeting” in Café Vista on Saturday 30th March at 12 noon to 1pm to enable people to bring together people of all standpoints and encourage open discussion. We will be asking Remainers and Brexiteers to come together to pray for our country and future. Archbishop Justin Welby said  “As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to demonstrate that love for God and for each other, along with compassion, solidarity and care for the poorest, are our defining values. These values have been the bedrock of our national life for many centuries. They are not simply our history: they are also our best hope for the future.”

In the Bible we read how Paul urges Timothy to ‘offer petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for everyone, for sovereigns, and for all in high office so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life, free to practice our religion with dignity.’ (1 Timothy 2:2 ff).

So today as we celebrate with our Iranian friends the start of their new year with all it’s hopes and opportunities for rebirth and new life, may we also pray “without ceasing” for fresh hope and the promise of unity in our communities and nation.

Tell Serve Give

“Tell Serve Give”

 

Today we will welcome Bishop Beverley Mason to Christ Church to meet members of our FACT (Feeling Alone Come Together) group and join us for our community afternoon tea dance. This is one of many events happening across the Liverpool Diocese this weekend as we join the mission to ‘Tell Serve and Give’.

What are we telling, serving and giving you might ask? Well we are Telling people an important message that love, and in particular God’s love is the ‘antidote to loneliness’ (Rick Warren). Unfortunately, one of the biggest issues in our community and in many others is loneliness.  According to various reports, it isn’t only elderly people who feel alone but young people who sadly often turn to digital devices for companionship and support. It would seem therefore there is certainly a need to look at the bigger picture and to address the “loneliness epidemic.”

Serving people with a warm welcome, hospitality and demonstrating that it only takes one person to show love, compassion and concern is a message that Jesus endorsed throughout the Gospels. In fact Jesus knew what it felt to feel alone. When he was going through the worst hours of his life and about to be crucified on the cross he shouted in a loud voice, “Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?” which translated is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) In this moment we see Jesus demonstrate the greatest act of compassion and love for humankind by dying on the cross so that we never have to be alone. In his death and resurrection Jesus offers us a relationship with the living God who is LOVE.  

Today we will be Giving people an opportunity to come together, a chance to make new friends and to experience love in community. Many people will be Giving their time and talents today and for this  I am very grateful. Telling others about God’s love, Serving with love, compassion and Giving our time and talents to demonstrate God’s love is surely the one thing that can combat loneliness. Today let’s ‘Tell, Serve and Give’ the greatest gift LOVE.

Do the little things in life’

Today is St David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales. When you read through the legends about saint David you find a pioneer, a determined man of God to change the nation. Saint David, of course is still remembered by the people of Wales 1500 years later. David’s last sermon to the monks is recorded “ Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.’”

The phrase ‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd’ – ‘Do the little things in life’ – is still a well-known maxim in Wales.

What a great phrase to focus on today, ‘doing the little things in life’. So often we can be focusing on big things, dreaming the next big dream and of course there is nothing wrong with that. However, doing the small things can often have a greater impact and in some cases help us achieve those big dreams and visions. Taking time to appreciate the little things in life can also really help with our emotional and spiritual well-being. Maybe today we can take time to appreciate creation, how about admiring the beautiful daffodil on St David’s day.

In the Bible we see many examples of God using small things to make a big difference. A baby in a manger, a star. No one illustrates this better than the boy who gave his lunch to Jesus and ended up feeding five thousand (John 6:9) or the widow who dropped her two coins into the offering and went on her way (Mark 12:42)

Of course this is good news for each of us, it means that no matter how small we might feel or insignificant God can use us to. We could begin by supporting our work colleagues, telling a family member we love them, doing a random act of kindness, stopping to chat to someone, looking in on a neighbour, or catching up with an old friend. It is easy to think that those sorts of acts of kindness are insignificant, but don’t underestimate the importance of Small Acts of Loving Kindness. They really do have an impact on our relationships and our communities and could make a big difference to somebody today.

So join me today and make your maxim ‘Do the little things in life’

Tomorrow needs you

“Tomorrow needs you”

 

In 2017 Molly Russell aged 14 took her own life. Reporting on the BBC news on Tuesday evening her Father, Ian Russell gave an emotional interview saying“I have no doubt that Instagram helped kill my daughter. She had so much to offer and that’s gone.” I apologise for not easing you into this contemplation on this Friday morning, but there is no easy way of talking about the stark reality of suicide. I have to admit after watching Molly’s father’s emotional interview on Tuesday evening I had difficulty sleeping, as a parent you worry about your children, indeed young people in general. The emotional impact of that interview caused me to question what are the church doing to talk about suicide, about the messages that a whole generation of people read and believe on social media. My answer to my own question starts with this contemplation today.

 

I started with trying to find out some statistics. An article in the Guardian highlighted the increasing number of teenage deaths sparking fresh concern about the deepening crisis in young people’s mental health. The Office of National Statistics data shows there were 177 suicides among 15- to 19-year-olds in 2017, compared with 110 in 2010 and more than in every year since then except 2015, when the toll was 186. More recent statistics show that it’s not just the teenagers but since the tuition fees have increased there has been an increase in suicide in students at University. Sadly, just last year in our own town, Ormskirk, two people committed suicide within two miles of our own Church.

 

And so I am left with the question what can we do as a church to get the message out that ‘Tomorrow needs you?”

 

We know from Jesus’ own example He was always for those on the margins, the people who struggled with the pressure of life. Jesus had time for people and encouraged them to see that they were loved and valued. In Luke’s Gospel we read “Are not five sparrows sold for two 2copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7

 

I pray that by reading this contemplation you might be prepared to highlight the issues. Listening to people who are suffering from depression, anxiety is a start. Working to destigmatise mental illness is another way forward.

 

So why not join me in the conversation, highlight the issues and more importantly tell people they are valued, loved and precious in God’s sight, take time to tell someone today that ‘Tomorrow needs you!”

Open the ‘Gates’ to Grace this New Year

“Open the ‘Gates’ to Grace this New Year”

Have you made a New Year resolution?  What are you planning to do differently this year? At this time of year many people attempt to start their new year by making a resolution to give up something, or to make a change. Sadly by mid February many people have given up and the New Year’s resolution are a thing of the past.

According to American Business news channel CNBC, Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates and his wife Melinda don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Whilst Bill enjoys taking stock of the past year, assessing what he’s excited about and what he could have done better. Melinda on the other hand likes to choose a word that “encapsulates her aspirations for the year ahead.” Past words have included “gentle,” helping her fight perfectionism, and “spacious,” prompting her to make room for the things in life that truly matter.

In 2018, and again this year,  her chosen word is  ‘grace’ a word that alludes to a transcendent or beautiful moment that shows we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Speaking about ‘grace’ Melinda commented “It’s a word that has served me well. I’ve called on it during difficult conversations, long days at the office, busy trips with our foundation—and especially during a jam-packed. It even helped me find a beam of peace through the sadness of a friend’s funeral. When I was upset or distressed, I whispered it to myself: ‘Grace.’

 

Grace is a constant theme in the Bible, and one that culminates in the New Testament with the coming of Jesus. So how does God show grace to us?  God shows grace to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  When He was on the cross, Jesus took all the punishment that we deserved and placed it on Himself. On the cross, Jesus gave us the gift of a relationship with God, something that we cannot earn by ourselves nor do we deserve.

In his book, One-Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World, Tullian Tchividjian comments

“Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you”.

 

This is grace in a nutshell and is exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross. We have an opportunity here at Christ Church to explore God’s gift of grace for ourselves, starting on Thursday 10th January 7;30pm in the Ministry Centre, we are hosting a seven week course called ‘Life explored’. Why not come along or bring a friend to find out more about the many promises and gifts God wants to give .I’m off now to choose a word that encapsulates my hopes for 2019, perhaps you will join me as we open the door to God’s grace this year.

You’re Hired

You’re Hired

Friends I have wonderful news to share with you I have been appointed as the next Vicar Of Christ Church Aughton. I look forward to the next chapter and for God’s vision for this wonderful community. My institution service will be on Sunday 7th April 3pm 2019. In light of my news, it seemed quite apt to share with you this contemplation which has been copied with permission from Katherine Ladd of LICC (The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity)

 ‘I’m after workers, not shirkers.’ So warns Lord Alan Sugar in the latest series of The Apprentice on BBC 1. Pitting 16 ambitious entrepreneurs against one another over weeks of business tasks, the series sees candidates compete to prove themselves, hoping Lord Sugar will choose to make his £250,000 investment in their business proposal.

It’s a show I find entertaining and depressing in equal measure, as self-confident candidates use Lord Sugar’s contacts and resources to market inedible doughnuts, advertise an airline with an explosion on the logo, and wreck a rooftop garden. One candidate despairs of another: ‘He has the business acumen of a frozen pea.’

But it’s also a programme that reminds us about the responsibilities of working well under someone else and stewarding their resources wisely.

In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus uses the metaphor of business investment to highlight God’s reckless generosity in giving us Christ, and the responsibility we all have to be generous with his good news.

Here, a master leaves on a long journey, delegating the running of his estate to three servants by giving them ‘talents’ to steward. A talent referred to the largest unit of currency in Jesus’ time; an estimated 20 years’ worth of wages and a sum far exceeding the £250,000 investment from The Apprentice. The first two servants understand the value of what they have been given and immediately put their talents to work. They repay the master’s trust by multiplying the investment. So when he returns, to these two servants the master speaks the most beautiful accolade:

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:21)

But the master accuses the third servant of being idle and penny-pinching. His talent has been hidden out of fear, buried in the ground. For this servant, the master has only frustration and reproach. Where is the return on his generous investment?

In The Apprentice final this Sunday, the two remaining candidates will fight it out in the boardroom to prove themselves worthy. As Christians, we work to please a master far more generous and patient, who has hired us, knowing we are not worthy at all. Yet to each of us he has entrusted good news to share for his glory. What will we do with it?

O2 have to talk to people

“O2 have to talk to people”

 

Millions of O2 customers yesterday were left without mobile Internet. As parts of network were restored on Thursday evening people reported how difficult their morning commute into work had proved without the use of technology. Many commented on social media how they had struggled to make eye contact with people; others reported feeling paralysed by fear at the prospect of talking to someone else. Albert Einstein, spoke almost prophetically about the danger of becoming reliant on technology It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” 

 

As human beings we are made to be in relationship with others, to communicate to share information and knowledge. Of course we have become very sophisticated at communicating through the use of technology, but for me there is nothing better than writing a letter or speaking to someone face to face. How many of us have visited a restaurant recently and sat looking at our mobile phone rather than speaking to the person or people we have chosen to eat with. Or walked down the road looking at our messages rather than being aware of what’s happening around us.

 

Life has become quite complicated and sometimes the simple messages can pass us by. Take the Christmas story for example.

 

In this familiar story we read that the first people to hear the good news of Jesus’ birth were the shepherds. We read in Luke 2:10-12:

 

“But the angel said to them, ’Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’

 

God in his infinite wisdom entrusted the most important message to the lowly, uneducated, simple shepherds. On seeing the angel the shepherds were humbled and amazed, they simply couldn’t keep the news to themselves and immediately went to tell others the good news of Jesus’ birth. 2,000 years on God chooses to communicate his message of love through ordinary everyday people – His church. As people explore the birth and life of Jesus they discover it is an incredible story of love, intrigue, betrayal, and of the ultimate sacrifice.

 

With only a few weeks to go until Christmas perhaps we can take time to discover or rediscover how God through His son Jesus wants to have a personal relationship with us. He longs for more days when O2 networks are down so that we may take time to talk to Him and in the words of Psalm 121 “ lift our eyes to the mountains and discover that our help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today

 

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

 Benjamin Franklin

 

Last night I went to see the film ‘A star is born’, starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. Having watched the 1976 version of the film last month starring Barbara Streisand andKris Kristofferson, I was keen to see how producer Bradley Cooper had adapted the story line for today’s audience. For those who are not familiar with the film it is essentially about a songwriter who has given up on her dream to make it big as a singer until she is coaxed into the spotlight.  

 

I loved the songs from the 1976 version so much, we included one of them ‘Evergreen’ on our wedding video, this version of the film didn’t disappoint. One song ‘Shallow’ has already been added to my favourites list on my iPod.  The reason I think this song struck me is how it voices the questions many people may be afraid of asking of themselves.

 

“Tell me somethin’, girl
Are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more?
Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?

I’m falling
In all the good times I find myself
Longin’ for change
And in the bad times I fear myself

Tell me something, boy
Aren’t you tired tryin’ to fill that void?”

 

At this time of year maybe these questions are easily avoided as we busy ourselves with the endless to do lists in readiness for Christmas. Putting our own emotions, hurts, fears aside until after the hype of Christmas and promising to revisit them at the start 2019 with a fresh positive outlook on life. I love the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”  Perhaps one of the best gifts we can receive for ourselves this Christmas is to have that honest conversation, “Am I happy with my life?”, “What am I searching for?”

 

At Christmas we remember that God sent his only son Jesus to be the Saviour of the world, to be “Emmanuel – God with us”. This means that He came to fill the void in our lives, to give us hope, to journey with us in the good and bad times. Throughout the New Testament we see Jesus speaking to people who were asking the same questions as we do today. Jesus knew what it was to be fully human to feel abandoned, to experience pain, loss and fear. And yet He was willing to face death, giving up His life and dying on the cross so that those who believe in Him can have everlasting life. This message is at the heart of the Christian faith.

So if you find yourself searching for something else, trying to fill a void in your life, why not turn to Jesus who promises us, “life—life in all its fullness.” John 10:10

May the words of this song by Kristin Chenoweth be our anthem today,

 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives”

Shh It’s oh so quiet

“Shh It’s oh so quiet”

 

There have been a number of versions of the song “It’s Oh So Quiet“. Originally performed by Horst Winter in 1948 entitled, “Und jetzt ist es still” and then in 1951 by American singer Betty Hutton. I personally only remember the version by the Icelandic musician Björk in 1995.

 

“It’s oh so quiet
Shh shh
It’s oh so still”

 

At this time of year more than any other we may find it hard to experience any quiet or stillness in our lives. Christmas is only four weeks away and there are lots of things to do. Making arrangements to see family and friends, attending school plays and parties, buying, wrapping, delivering gifts not to mention the shopping, cooking and cleaning. You might be dreading the rush before Christmas. You might be feeling overwhelmed. You may even be quickly running through a to-do / to-get list as you read this. Or you might be finding it hard to find any reason to be jolly. Feeling isolated, mourning the loss of a loved one or facing illness can make the approach to the Christmas season bittersweet.

 

At times we all need a place of sanctuary, a place to be silent, a peaceful place were we gather our thoughts before facing the world again. There are many passages in the Bible about being still and quiet, my personal favourite is from the Old Testament book of Isaiah “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”(Isaiah 40:31)

 

Many of us dread waiting, but through the words of the prophet Isaiah, we can learn that waiting can actually be a good thing. I love the imagery of soaring on the wings of an eagle above the busyness of life or away from my troubles. From this height I get a different perspective on life. As I soar, I can rest, waiting, gaining strength so I can face what lies ahead. What a special image to hold on to in our minds.

 

So whatever you are waiting for, whatever situation, difficulty you may be facing why not take time to: 

“Shh shh
Be all alone
Shh shh
And be peaceful”

 

To enable you do this, from today until Monday 26th November from 9am -9pm, Christ Church Aughton will be open offering a place of peace and tranquility. ‘Hush before the rush’ offers a space and six reflection areas to enjoy some Shh and peace!

Give hope a chance

Yesterday marked 80 years since a 6 man Jewish delegation team went to meet Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and plea for his help in rescuing Jewish children from the Nazis. This was the start of Kinder-transport when Britain saved 10,000 Jewish children. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said, “the message of embrace the stranger is such a strong and powerful message and it is right to give thanks and remember all those who rescued the children”. Sadly today there are many children who still need rescuing from difficult situations; children needing asylum, children who need to be given hope and support through illness, disability, those in the middle of family bereavement or financial hardship.

 

Today is BBC Children in Need, since 1980 this BBC charity has raised over 950 million for disadvantaged children and young people in the UK. This morning I will be joining the children at Aughton Christ Church as they model our school value ‘compassion’ donating money in exchange for wearing their own clothes and displaying their mad and wild hair styles. A day like today enables us to see the best of humanity as people give their spare time and money to help strangers in need. Being aware of others needs and showing compassion is something we are all capable of no matter what our background or religion.

 

At a recent ‘Girlie Night In’ event, a representative from CAP (Christians Against Poverty) spoke about their vision to bring freedom and good news to the poor in every community. Hearing one of the debt free clients describe the moment the CAP worker came to their home, as ‘hope walking through their front door’ was a humbling experience.

 

As we approach the season of Advent we are reminded that the birth of Jesus brought HOPE to a world in despair. In Jesus we can have hope in our future that he will accept us and redeem us. We can have hope in the present knowing that we are not alone and hope in our past, knowing that our failures are not greater than God’s power to transform. Throughout his ministry, Jesus listened to people who were on the margins of society. He made visible those who were overlooked, and gave them hope.

 

Today many of us no doubt will ‘Do our thing’ to support BBC Children in Need, but perhaps we should also be willing to give Hope (Jesus) a chance to make a difference in our own lives. If you are finding it difficult to find hope why not come along to Christ Church Aughton from Friday 23rd November – Monday 26th November 9am – 9pm. Here you will find church open and six reflections that might help you to discover God’s love and the treasure of hope that He is longing to give to you.

Pause to Remember

‘Pause to Remember’

 

This weekend we will be commemorating the centenary of the end of WWI. Pausing for two minutes at 11am on Sunday to remember with gratitude the sacrifice made by so many in war. In Abercromby Square, Liverpool, there is a memorial to Noel Chavasse, a soldier in WWI and one of only three people to be awarded a Victoria Cross twice.

 

In 1916, as a surgeon-Captain Chavasse rescued wounded men from no-man’s land under heavy fire, sometimes just 25 yards from enemy lines. He saved the lives of more than 20 men and was honoured with his first Victoria Cross. He was awarded the second posthumously after he continued to rescue and treat men during conflict at Wieltje, Belgium, though mortally wounded himself. Captain Chavasse died on 4 August 1917, at the age of 32, and is buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery in Belgium. The inscription on his memorial contains the words from John 15:13, “Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends.”

 

In the mud and gore of trench warfare many soldiers longed to be home and were comforted by knowing God’s love for them. Each solider in WWI received a pocket sized John’s Gospel, some find faith in reading John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

 

These words from John’s Gospel were true 100 years ago and remain true for us today. The hope that WWI soldiers found in the promise of Jesus who would bring peace and reconciliation can also be our hope for we read in Hebrews 13:8, “ Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

 

On Sunday, 4 August 1918, the fourth anniversary of the declaration of war, King George V and Queen Mary joined members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords for a special service at the Church of Saint Margaret, Westminster. They asked that 4 August 1918 be observed as a National Day of prayer, 100 days later the war ended. As we approach Sunday may we be committed to pray for peace. Being able to let go of the things that prevent us from finding peace in our own lives is a good place to start.  Working through difficult issues of conflict within our family, being willing to forgive and let go of hurts caused by friends, neighbours, and work colleagues can help us have more peace in our everyday lives.

 

And so this special remembrance weekend as we pause to remember let’s take time to reflect on the lyrics from the 1955 Jackson-Miller song ‘Let there be peace’

 

“Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me”

God’s telephone number J33-3

“God’s telephone number J33-3”

 

This time last week Cian and I were getting very excited to go to our very first U2 concert “Experience + Innocence” in the MEN Arena. It was an unforgettable evening, with songs from their 14th album ‘Songs of Experience’ focusing on the need for faith, hope and love to be brought into dark places.

 

Listening to the lyrics of so many of the bands songs it is clear that they are inspired by Scripture, their 80s song for example ‘40’ is clearly based on the words from Psalm 40.

 

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the mire and clay

I will sing, sing a new song”

 

In 2002 lead singer Bono actually recorded a thank you message to the American Pastor and the writer of Bible translation ‘The Message’, Eugene H Peterson, who sadly died on Monday this week.

 

Hi, Mr. Peterson, Eugene. My name is Bono. I’m a singer with the group U2. I wanted to sort of video message you my thanks, and our thanks in the band, for this remarkable work you’ve done. There’s been some great translations … but no translation that I’ve read that speaks to me in my own language.”

 

For Bono and the band the honesty that they found in The Message translation of the Bible has inspired them to write songs that are heard by millions of people across the world.

 

God uses a whole host of ways to communicate His message of love for the world, be it in a contemporary translation of the Bible or a U2 concert. I wonder is God trying to communicate something to you today through the people you meet, a situation you encounter, a song, creation? However the message is communicated we need to ensure that we are alert and ready to respond to His timeless message of truth, hope and love. We read in Jeremiah 33:3

 

“This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it liveable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvellous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’ (The Message translation)

(Reference to J33-3 – Can be found on the front cover of the U2 album “All that you can’t leave behind”, see if you can spot it)

Above all, trust in the slow work of God

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.”

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.”

These opening sentences are part of a prayer by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit, Palaeontologist, Philosopher, and Visionary (1881-1955). I was given a copy of this prayer in 2015 when I was on a silent retreat at Storrington Priory, it is now fixed on my office wall as a constant reminder to me to trust in God and to be PATIENT.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

For seven months I’ve been waiting for something. You probably know what it’s like. You’ve waited, too, a final diagnosis, a yes or no, a call back, an offer, word on that promotion or potential adoption. Waiting to become pregnant. Waiting for your children to grow up. Waiting for retirement. Waiting.

It seems like the waiting never ends. There’s always something just beyond our grasp. Maybe this is what it means to be fully alive, always in search of something.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
will make of you tomorrow.

So for what it’s worth, I want to share with you this morning what this prayer has taught me, and in turn what I hope it will teach us all. It’s simple really; the journey of waiting is actually more powerful and meaningful than the final destination. I find that in the waiting I discover more about myself and about God’s unconditional love for me as an individual. In the waiting I learn to “accept the anxiety of feeling in suspense and incomplete” which actually enables “a new spirit to gradually form within”. Of course the feeling of being incomplete and in suspense is countercultural today, we strive to have everything in our lives orderly and all sown up. But here’s the challenge maybe we are not meant to be this way.  How about embracing the waiting and allowing God to help us discover the amazing riches that are often hidden in the depths of our soul. Today why not try “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.”

(Italicized words Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)

You need to plant a seed to reap a harvest

“You need to plant a seed to reap a harvest”

 

This weekend we are celebrating Harvest Festival at Christ Church. In 2018 gathering in the Harvest is very different compared to 1772 when the traditional Harvest hymn “We plough the fields and scatter” was written by German poet Matthias Claudius. Instead of whole villagers having to work hard for several weeks to harvest all the crops, today we often see lone farmers working their efficient machinery to produce the harvest. However, despite all the advances in modern technology one thing that hasn’t changed about the Harvest is the need to intentionally plant the seeds. In other words to have a harvest there has to be a seed. 

The scripture on our A59 billboard this month is taken from the book of Hosea 10:12

 

“If you plant goodness, you will harvest faithful love. Plow your ground, and you will harvest with the Lord. He will come, and he will make goodness fall on you like rain.”

 

This passage speaks of how God calls us to sow–to sow broadly, generously, diligently. When looking at a tiny seed, it is impossible to see what will bloom from this minute speck of nothing, the colour it will produce, the bloom or fruit, or how large the plant will be. There is vast potential locked within, that under the right circumstances planted in good soil, watered and covered in sunshine, a miracle will happen. The seed transforms into something more than itself, it gives birth to a plant that blooms and brings beauty, life, colour and a fruit and this is a miracle-almost something out of nothing.

 

This Harvest we have the opportunity to be intentional with what we do with our lives, talents and skills. Maybe giving food, time or money to support our local foodbank, intentionally stepping out to do something new or perhaps taking time out to contemplate the potential harvest in our own lives or those around us.

 

A quote from Lea R. Caguinguin sums up this contemplation perfectly.

 

“If you plant honesty, you will reap trust
If you plant goodness, you will reap friends
If you plant humility, you will reap greatness
If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment
If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective
If you plant hard work, you will reap success
If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation
If you plant faith in God, you will reap a harvest
So, be careful what you plant now; it will determine what you will reap later.”

Saint Patrick’s “Breastplate” Prayer

Saint Patrick’s “Breastplate” Prayer

Being married to an Irish man and having an interest in Celtic spirituality, the familiar words of St. Patrick’s “Breastplate” prayer have popped into my head on numerous occasions this week.

Legend has it that a local chieftain was out to get a particular Celt named Patrick. The chieftain sent his men to kill Patrick as he travelled along a lonely wooded road. As they closed in on Patrick, his pursuers discovered that he had disappeared into thin air. All they saw was a deer bounding across the road. From that adventure, legend has it that the Prayer of St. Patrick (the “Lorica” or “Breastplate”) emerged. More recent scholarship however, suggests its author was anonymous. In any case, this prayer certainly reflects the spirit with which St. Patrick brought faith to Ireland!

 

Today, we live in a perfect storm of challenges, many of which are beyond our control. We are anxious about the future of our planet as we consider the reality of global climate change and humankind’s feeble responses. We are economically and professionally uncertain. We need courage, inspiration, and perseverance.

One verse of the prayer speaks of Christ being in every situation we encounter. We read:

 

“Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

 

As you recite these words you get an insight into the height, depth and breadth of God’s love for each of us. The famous words of John 3:16 speak of a “God who loved the world so much that He sent His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not die but have everlasting life”.

 

This promise of eternal life is for everyone who acknowledges their need for forgiveness and chooses to put their trust in Jesus, the one who “binds up the broken-hearted and sets the captives free” (Isaiah 61:1)

 

Whatever challenges or situations we may be facing personally, in our communities, or in the world we would be wise to remember and have these words ringing in our ears to give us courage to keep going and never to give up!

 

“Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me “

Pat feels he’s a really happy man.

“Pat feels he’s a really happy man.”

 

It was reported yesterday that the author of Postman Pat, John Cunliffe has passed away. I remember as a child in the 1980s watching with fondness the adventures of Pat Clifton, a postman in the fictional village of Greendale (inspired by the real valley of Longsleddale near Kendal)

The theme tune of the series speaks of Pat’s happiness as he drives around in his little red van delivering letters through people’s doors.

 

Now you may think I have gone ‘ snooker, loopy nuts’ ( to quote a line from the famous Chas and Dave duo, sadly Chas also passed away this week) writing a contemplation about Postman Pat, but bear with me!

 

This week has been unusual, as I have spent a lot of time outside the parish. On Monday I had the privilege of going to a workplace and asking for God’s blessing on a new business venture and office space. On Thursday I spent the day with clergy from the Liverpool Diocese on a study day at Liverpool Hope University. On both days I was struck by how happy people were in their jobs or what I like to call vocations. Being happy in our everyday lives, I am sure you will agree, is so important and yet I wonder if we were asked the question “Are you happy, content in your life/job?” How many of us could honestly answer, “I am”.

 

Over the last month the Church of England has launched a new initiative asking the question, Where is God during our daily lives?”

To help explore this question personal stories are being shared on social media and the C of E website .Click below to take a look https://www.churchofengland.org/everydayfaith  

 

The Bible tells us that God is interested in every area of our lives, however big or small. all things were created. … And in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).  It also means we can bring even the smallest concern to Him in prayer, knowing that He cares about us and watches over us.  We read in Jeremiah 29:11 that God has a plan for our lives, “ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Choosing to believe in the promises of God can lead to a different kind of happiness, a different state of mind, one of peace and contentment. If today you want to ask God to be part of your everyday life and know His promises for you why not get in touch with us?  As you begin to understand a different perspective maybe you will be able to say this sentence “Insert your name –  feels he/she is a really happy man/woman”.

More justice in the world

More justice in the world.”

 

The TUC Congress met in Manchester this week. For 150 years the TUC has served as a model for other trade unions around the world in their fight for the rights of workers and the defense of their dignity. One of the key note speakers was the Archbishop of Canterbury. I encourage you to read his speech in full by following this link below https://www.tuc.org.uk/speeches/archbishop-canterbury-justin-welby-speech-tuc-congress-2018

 

As part of his speech Archbishop Welby spoke about creating a society where everyone matters – and the most vulnerable are cared for. “I dream to see governments, now and in the future, put church-run food banks out of business and empty night shelters”

Here at Christ Church we say Amen to this as we join with the Bishop of Liverpool and his Diocesan rule of life:

bigger church to make a bigger difference; more people knowing Jesus, more justice in the world.”

 

It’s important that we speak up against injustice and support those who do not have a voice. Throughout the Gospels you hear Jesus speaking of Justice in society. In Luke 4: 18-19 Jesus tells the crowds that he has come to fulfill the vision in the book of Isaiah, releasing the prisoners, giving sight to the blind, and releasing the oppressed.

 

As I write this contemplation today I am only to aware of how many people this week alone will have accessed the food bank in Ormksirk and spoken to one of our debt advice counsellors. As a Christian I feel I have a responsibility to speak out against injustice and to ensure that people are treated fairly. As Edmund Burke once wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

 

In 2018 it seems outrageous that we have people who are in systems that fail to support them. As a church and as a community it would be amazing to see how we can enable the Archbishops dream of “no need for food banks or debt advice services” to become a reality. One way to do this is join us for our Harvest Festival on Sunday 14th October 10:45 so we can support our local foodbank and get the message of injustice highlighted in our community.

Sarah

Oh that you would bless me indeed

“Oh that you would bless me indeed”

1 Chronicles 4:10

 

Today is the start of our long awaited ‘Bless Fest’ weekend.  The planning of Bless Fest took place over nine months ago when a team got together to think about how, as a church, we could be more outward looking and ask for God’s blessing on our local community. And so the idea of “Bless Fest’ was born.

A variety of events have been planned so that many people will know God’s blessing. We start this afternoon with a cream tea for the over 60s, this is followed by sports activities, free BBQ and a concert in Coronation Park for young people. On Saturday we aim to bless our community with breakfast in the wonderful Café Vista and then celebrate the blessing of animals with a pet and dog show.  The talent show on Saturday afternoon promises to entertain, as young and old amaze us with their talents. 

On Saturday evening we want to raise money and bless the work of the Samaritans, to help us do this Ashton Lane a popular country band from Glasgow will be joining us. Finally, on Sunday morning in our 10:45am Parade service, we will come together as a community to share stories from the ‘Bless Fest’ weekend.

Words like “bless” and “blessing” occur over 400 times in the Bible. From the moment God created the universe He has wanted everyone to enjoy all his blessings: “life in all its fullness” (John10:10). These blessings are material, emotional and spiritual. But we only begin to enjoy them as God intended when we choose to accept him in our lives, which means asking for forgiveness and putting our trust in Him. Sounds too simple and it is, but it’s a choice each of us has to make for ourselves. Do we want to accept that we have a God shaped hole in our lives or do we chose to turn our backs and go our own way.

There are many people who can testify that following Jesus and experiencing his blessing is the best way to live life in all it’s fullness. This weekend we would love to see lives transformed and for people to come to know God’s unconditional love for them. Make sure you don’t miss out on the blessing that God wants to give to you.

 

‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’  Numbers 6:24-26

 

Carpe Diem: Seize the Day

I always remember Keith Wells, who married Cian and I at Maghull Chapel twenty years ago focusing on the Latin phrase ‘Carpe Diem’ in his address.

Carpe Diem: Seize the Day is an exhortation to live life to the fullest, getting the most out of each individual day. If we were honest most of us would agree that we want our lives to be full, no one wants their life to be mediocre. Quite often we get so caught up with the details of day to day living that we just don’t have time to seize the day. As the summer draws to an end and we start to pick up the pace again it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by deadlines, commitments, problems and for those long summer days of relaxation to feel like a distant memory.

The Apostle Paul believed in this philosophy of life–Carpe Diem in Philippians 3:7-9

 But all these things that I once thought very worthwhile—now I’ve thrown them all away so that I can put my trust and hope in Christ alone. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ, and become one with him, no longer counting on being saved by being good enough or by obeying God’s laws, but by trusting Christ to save me; for God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith—counting on Christ alone.”

 

Here he describes his own philosophy of life in three simple steps to living a more fulfilling life. Firstly, find your purpose, secondly, forget the past and thirdly, face the present.  If you follow his example, you can learn to “seize the day” and live life to the fullest, no matter how hectic your life may be. As a Christian I know that putting my faith in Jesus Christ has been the best decision I have ever made. It has given me a secure identity, knowing that I am loved unconditionally for exactly who I am. It has also enabled me to find out my true purpose in life. Living facing the present means I have chosen not to live in the past, not in the future, but in the here and now.

I firmly believe that God does not want us to waste our lives. He wants us to “seize the day” and live every day of our lives as if it were our last. He’s given us a reason for living: to be like Jesus. It’s not going to happen yesterday, so we must forget the past. We can’t put it off till tomorrow, because tomorrow never comes. It has to happen right now. No matter what the next week throws at you choose an attitude of ‘Carpe Diem’ for none of us know what tomorrow will bring.

 

“To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time – Robert Herrick

 

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,

Old Time is still a-flying;

And this same flower that smiles today

To-morrow will be dying.”

Soul Survivor – Soul Provider!

Soul Survivor – Soul Provider!

 

This week I spent two nights camping in Staffordshire Show ground at an event called ‘Soul Survivor’. Over the summer Soul Survivor run holiday camps across the country and welcome over 5,000 young people to each event.

 

This was the first time our youth had ever been to Soul, five days of camping in glorious sunshine, with the freedom to roam about safely, activities such as: silent disco, bonfire, water fight, fun run, film evenings, worship events, talks in the big top. It really was an experience I don’t think any of them will forget.

 

2019 will be the last ever Soul Survivor so we are encouraging all our teenagers to bring a friend next year 3rd – 7th August 2019.

 

Contemplating the title of the camp ‘Soul Survivor ‘ got me thinking about our souls or inner life. Whilst our soul is invisible to the outside world, it is nonetheless very real and of utmost importance. It is a living thing that needs nurturing, care and attention.

 

I wonder do we pay as much attention to our soul, to ensuring that our inner life is cared for as much as our outward appearance.

 

Christian writer John Ortberg, in his book ‘Soul Keeping: Caring for the most important part of you’ writes “For the soul to be well, it needs to be with God.”  These words are echoed in Psalm 62:1 as the psalmist says “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.” 

 

Whilst I, who by the way is not a fan of camping, may have survived my first Soul Survivor experience, actually the real test of soul survivor is whether I and the young people choose to find rest in God or instead choose to ignore him. Being a follower of Jesus is all about relationships not religion. Jesus ensured that I have all I will ever need when he died on the cross; he took upon himself all my sins, feelings of guilt and shame so that I can be free. Living a life knowing that you are loved unconditionally and loved exactly just the way you are is amazing. Giving your life to Jesus is the best thing you can do to experience rest in your soul.

 

And so I end today’s contemplation referring to the lyrics of one of my favourite 1980s singer Michael Bolton, who had a hit with the song ‘Soul Provider’ (please allow me a little poetic license here). Perhaps mull over these words today and know that your Soul Provider is waiting for you to respond to Him.

 

“You don’t understand, no
The full intent of my plan

I want to be your soul provider
I want to stay that way
For the longest time
I want to be, your soul provider
Just say you’ll let me

And I will”

Remembrance 100

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not hive to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”

John 14:27

Tomorrow marks the start of ‘Remembrance 100’. Across the country churches from all denominations will start 100 days of prayer for peace and reconciliation ending on Armistice day. This is to remember the events on Sunday 4thAugust 1918, when King George V, four years after the declaration of the First World War, asked for this day to be observed as a National Day of Prayer: 100 days later the war ended.

Some 65 million men were mobilised across Europe during World War 1. Nearly a third of them – some 21 million – were wounded. Another 8.5 million were killed and some 7.7 million were taken prisoners of war. All of them had family and friends whose lives were changed forever by the events of 1914-1918.

The words of Jesus that we read from John’s Gospel were spoken just hours before Jesus was crucified. Even in the final moments Jesus was concerned for the peace and the joy and the faith of his followers. Despite the fact that He was about to be tortured to death with one of the most horrific means of torture ever devised, Jesus concern is that all his followers would know peace.

Sadly, today, there are still many countries experiencing conflicts, Yemen and Syria to name two, many people including Christians facing terrible persecution and fear. However, the peace that Jesus promised in John’s Gospel is not dependent on circumstances and transcends even the horrors of trench warfare and modern day conflicts. This peace is available to each of us today. The peace that God offers is the most amazing peace, the Bible says in Philippians 4:7  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Today wherever we are and whatever we may be facing in our lives may we know God’s peace.  Over the next one hundred days we will be praying for reconciliation and peace in the world. If you wish to join us you would be most welcome weekday mornings from 9am – 9:15am in the vestry. If you want to know more about the ‘Remembrance 100’ then go to www.rememberance100.co.uk

Prayer of St Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

Holy Island “a thin place”

I have a great affinity with the name Aidan.  Aidan is the name of my Irish Godson; it was the name of the Theological college in Birkenhead that trained Anglican clergy from 1846-1970. Incidentally, the college is now continuing under the name St Mellitus and is based at Liverpool Cathedral. It is the place I trained for ordination from 2013-2015. The St Aidan cross on my stole is also a reminder of Aidan the Irish monk who travelled from Iona to Lindisfarne. King Oswald of Northumbria requested that Aidan be made bishop of the newly converted Northumbrians. Consecrated in 635, Aidan settled on Lindisfarne, where he established his church, monastery, and see near the royal stronghold of Bamburgh. St Bede wrote of Aidan:

 

Wherever on his way he saw any, either rich or poor, he invited them, if pagans, to embrace the mystery of the faith; or if they were believers, he sought to strengthen them in their faith and stir them up by words and actions to alms and good work”

 

This week I am on retreat on Lindisfarne, Holy Island, as I fondly call it. I have been retreating here for the last three years. I find it a great place to rest and unwind, being cut off from the main land for up to twelve hours every day, getting up early to catch the sunrise and being close to the sea, it brings me closer to God. I often refer to Holy Island as a ‘thin place’, a term used by the Celts to describe a place where heaven and earth meet, a place we’re you are able to catch glimpses of the mystery of God. They can also be places were you discover things about yourself and God’s plan for your life. This is what happened to Cuthbert as he saw a dazzling shaft of light, or as the Celts beautifully describe it “fuinneog sa spear”  “window in the sky”. As Cuthbert, saw the clouds momentarily part like a window in the sky, he caught a glimpse; a shaft of light, God’s plan was revealed to him and he new he had to train as a monk. Cuthbert eventually became the 6th Bishop of Lindisfarne after Aidan’s death.

 

So I encourage you today to discover your ‘Thin place or space’. To look out for  “Funinneog sa spear” which might reveal God’s plans. Perhaps as you discover this place or space you may also take the opportunity to join us and the Bishop of Liverpool in reading Mark’s Gospel. This short but profound Gospel speaks with urgency about our need to discover God’s unconditional love and challenges us to respond.  I end today’s contemplation with the prayer of St Aidan.             Suaimhneas, (peace tranquillity to you) Sarah

 

Leave me alone with God as much as may be.
As the tide draws the waters close in upon the shore,
Make me an island, set apart,
alone with you, God, holy to you.

Then with the turning of the tide
prepare me to carry your presence to the busy world beyond,
the world that rushes in on me
till the waters come again and fold me back to you.

“Life is too short not to celebrate nice moments!” Jurgen Klopp

As a red supporter, I thought I would begin this contemplation with a quote from Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp. Whether you are a true red, blue or not even interested in football it is good for us all to start our Friday with a reminder to celebrate life.

Celebration is an important part of life. The people of God in the Old Testament celebrated with regular festivals. One of Jesus’ greatest stories (Luke 15:11–31) was about a huge celebration, when the prodigal son returned and the father said, ‘Let’s have a feast and celebrate’ (v.23).

When we think of the word celebration we tend to think about a party or specific event, but how about celebrating YOU, yes YOU the one whom God created!

Christian author and writer Max Lucado writes:

“You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass-produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the earth by the Master Craftsman.”

The Psalmist writes:
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14
The Message translation sums it up brilliantly
“ Body and soul, I am marvelously made!”
Whether we choose to celebrate it or not God made each one of us wonderful and marvelous . . . one of a kind. Perfect for His plans and purposes. Out of all the possible DNA combinations, God chose 46 chromosomes specifically for you.

This afternoon I will be celebrating with all the pupils and staff at our school in our end of year service. Our theme is Celebration and there is certainly much to celebrate as we thank God for all the amazing talents and skills of all our children and staff. As you will see below I will also be sharing with our year 6 some important BE attitudes that they can take with them as they journey to High School. May each one of us today CELEBRATE who we are valued and loved by God!

“BE confident enough to see who you are inside is more important than how you look outside.

BE proud enough to take care of your body, mind and spirit

BE absolutely sure that, wherever you go, whatever you do, YOU ARE LOVED AND VALUED BY GOD”

“The NHS a little piece of Christianity” (Nye Bevan)

Yesterday the National Health Service turned seventy. It’s founder Aneurin Bevan, often known as “Nye” was appointed Minister of Health following Labour’s landslide victory in the 1945 General Election after the war. Bevan has been described by many as a revolutionary as he fought hard for funding. Shortly after his appointment, he resigned from the government in protest over the introduction of prescription charges for dental care and glasses, but continued to challenge authority fighting for his beliefs.
The NHS was founded on an idea that anyone should be able to access medical care regardless of his or her financial situation. Over the last seventy years Nye’s legacy has eradicated polio and diphtheria, pioneered liver, heart and lung transplants and made a society that cares for its most vulnerable.

Jesus was a revolutionary and challenged the beliefs of the time; His commandment to ‘love one another’ John 13:34, is at the heart of the Christian faith. Serving others, saving lives, offering a listening ear and walking alongside people in their suffering is the DNA of the NHS and beautifully mirrors the heart of Jesus’ message that everyone should be treated with respect and dignity.
The Church continues to play a vital part in the NHS today through the work of hospital chaplains who have an important role in caring for the whole person.
I am sure we have all benefited from the NHS in some way. I am personally grateful for the NHS for all that they have done for me and my family and thank God for the extraordinary NHS staff – the everyday heroes – who are there to guide, support and care for us, day in, day out.

Venite

Having said goodbye to the Year 6 on their residential in the Lakes and travelling to York Minster (to witness the consecration of Rev’d Dr Jill Duff as Bishop of Lancaster), we stopped at St Mary’s Church in Kirby Lonsdale.
On the entrance to the church was a sign,
“Venite
The age-old word of welcome. There is room here for you.”

It was lovely to be welcomed from the heat of the midday sun into a peaceful and cool church with a message, ‘there is room in this place for you!’

The last 48 hours have been all about entering into spacious places. Our Year 6 pupils have experienced the beauty and spaciousness of ‘Tower Wood’ Bowness on Windermere. Practicing the discipline of being still and taking in the sounds, smells and sights of the Lake District landscape. Each child has been given the time and space to learn more about themselves and each other. No doubt the precious memories they have been given the space to create will stay with them for a very long time.

There is a particular lovely verse in Psalm 31:8. “You have set my feet in a spacious place.” Our lives are full of clutter and busyness and so it is nice to be able to create some space and take time to breathe, to contemplate “What is important in our lives?”

Do we give enough quality time to our family and friends? Do we make room in our lives for God? Do we know that God welcomes us and loves us if only we would make room, space in our hearts and lives for Him.

At Christ Church we like to ensure that everyone is welcome and there is room for everybody. So, today let’s all continue to enjoy the warm weather and find those spacious places knowing we are loved and welcomed by God.

Running late

Every weekday morning church is open from 9am for prayer, everyone is welcome to join us by coming in through the vestry door at the side of church.
On Wednesday morning I was running late for morning prayer, I had overslept as I had stayed up until 3am waiting for news that my daughter Lydia had landed safely in Uganda.

As I drove up the A59 I could see a man lying in the road. Thankfully all the traffic had stopped and two men Barry and Josh from Rawsthorne landscapes had stopped to help the man, who had tripped off the curb.

As I got nearer I realised that the man was one of our luncheon club folk and so I drove into The Acorns to assist Barry and Josh. We called for an ambulance and I sent word to Vicky and Peter in the Ministry Centre, who within a few minutes came to wait with us until the ambulance arrived. It was amazing to see how many people from The Acorns came to check we were ok, an off duty police officer who happened to be walking her baby and dog along the A59 also came to check the man’s injuries before the ambulance arrived. Thankfully what potentially could have been a very nasty accident resulted in the man having a few cuts and bruises and I am pleased to say he has now recovered.

As I have contemplated this incident over the last few days I have been aware of just how often God places people in the right places just at the right time, often without us realising it. My unusual oversleeping was certainly for a reason. It also reminded me of the well-known parable that Jesus told of the Good Samaritan. We read in Luke’s Gospel of a Good Samaritan who tends the wounds of a man that other people have passed by. A Good Samaritan is described as the one who shows unselfish compassion to a stranger in need. Barry and Josh were Good Samaritans on Wednesday and thankfully unlike the parable this priest didn’t pass by.

What was demonstrated on Wednesday was compassion and love in action; it shows there are people who do care.

Café Vista a place of welcome

As curate of Christ Church I have a lot of my meetings in Café Vista. Great views as far reaching as Blackpool, being served by a wonderful team of friendly volunteers, sampling delicious food and drinking good coffee sums it up perfectly!

I am sure eight years ago no one would envisaged just how successful the Café would be, it really is the best place to be in Aughton. This week alone we have shared Sunday breakfast with families from our uniformed organisations, welcomed our new reception parents for a coffee afternoon and the staff team from St Gabriel’s Church Huyton for an away day.

There is something special about spending time chatting over lunch or simply having a cup of coffee. I find conversations seem to flow more easily around a table and even allow people to share difficulties or troubles more freely. Meals are a powerful expression of hospitality and welcome. This week I received a lovely e-mail from a lady who said,“ what a wonderful and welcoming environment you have all created at the Ministry Centre, it is such a welcoming and friendly place. I had never been before and I felt at home straight away”.

In the Gospels we read of many occasions when Jesus had a meal with people. For Jesus the sharing of meals was intended to go beyond family and friends, it was, the beginning of community.

And so this Tuesday as we celebrate eight years of Café Vista we thank God for the wonderful community of volunteers who willingly serve and for our customers who we consider to be part of the extended Christ Church family.

As a church our key value is to share Jesus with everyone beginning in our community and one of the best ways to do this is by making ourselves available to listen to understand and to offer hospitality to everyone. If you have never visited Café Vista why not come along this week and experience the warm hospitality and delightful food. Take time to have a conversation and to know that there are people who care.

All you need is love

Since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding there has been a lot of discussion on ‘love’. Thousands of comments have been shared on Social Media about Bishop Michael Currie’s powerful wedding address on how the power of love has the potential to make a difference in people’s lives and transform communities, indeed the world.

As a true Scouser, I am all too familiar with the 1976 song by the Beatles “ All you need is love”, but at the end of the day the words “I love you” or “All you need is love” are just words with no meaning. To fully experience the power of love requires us to put the needs of others before our own, for some it may involve a big sacrifice of time, energy, and commitment.

I had the privilege of attending a wedding anniversary party last weekend of Ronny and Kathryn Owe, a wonderful couple whose love for each other is evident for all to see. It was a beautiful to witness the power of love between husband and wife.

At the heart of Christianity is the message of love. We read in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He sent his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not die but have everlasting life”.

You see when God says He loves us; He means it in every way. The Bible tells us that God is love and that there is nothing that we can do that would make Him love us anymore. He longs to have a relationship with us and to embrace us.
Saint Augustine speaks of God’s incomprehensible and unchangeable love for us “ God loves each of us as if there were only one of us”. How amazing!

Receive God’s unconditional love today and know a thousand times over GOD LOVES YOU!

Alexa, ‘Who is Jesus?’

I have often considered buying an Alexa device for our home but never quite got around to it. This week I was visiting the home of a lady whose mobility is very restricted and I noticed in the corner she had one of these devices. After we chatted the lady wanted me to hear her favourite piece of music and sitting in the comfort of her armchair she was able to shout over to Alexa to play the song.

Unlike Ross and Bill Evans, I’ve never really been a gadget person, but I have to say I was impressed with this. It’s my birthday next week so you never know!

It was reported in the Telegraph yesterday that the Church of England have launched an Amazon Echo ‘skill’ app which allows people to ask questions about God, Jesus and prayer.

According to the article the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu has designed the app so that agnostics and those who are interested in spiritual matters can ask questions about faith.

Those who have the device will be able to access this particular app by asking Alexa, ‘open the Church of England’. Prayers for different occasions as well as information about local churches and questions of faith will all be available from the app.

Now, I’m not on commission for Amazon, but I am keen for more people to ask those Big questions in life. Sometimes it’s hard to step into a church and join a service especially when nothing feels familiar. And yet, at different points in our lives we may have questions about faith or need to say a prayer.

Jesus came for everyone, there is a wonderful passage in the Bible John 10:10 were Jesus says ‘I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.”

One of the ways we can know more about this life full of potential and blessings is if we ask questions, if we seek it for ourselves.
And so my hope is that if you do have unanswered questions or if you are in search of the answers to Big questions, like who is God? , that you will be able to find someone from your local church who you can ask. You may even access this new app.

Party Time

This coming Sunday Christians around the world will be celebrating Pentecost, the time when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples. It is regarded as the birthday of the church, as the disciples and many others had the confidence to go to tell others about the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. So like any other birthday party we plan to celebrate with balloons and cake in church and YOU are invited to!

It’s not only an exciting weekend for the church, but for the Royal Family as they celebrate the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Thousands of people will be lining the streets of Windsor and of course those of us watching at home will all be waiting to see the dress!

However, as someone who has the responsibility and great privilege of marrying couples, my thoughts are with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. In an interview with the Telegraph last week, the Archbishop said: “I’m always nervous at weddings because it is such an important day for the couple – whoever they are. I’ve made a couple of cack-handed mistakes over the last couple of weddings I’ve been involved in and I’m thinking this is probably not a good moment to make it a hat-trick.”

As a curate my question is “How do you prepare yourself for the biggest wedding of the year?” Well when asked by presenter Lorna Bailey, the Archbishop said a line from grime artist Stormzy’s song, Blinded By Your Grace, was helping him in the run up to the nuptials.
Welby is quoted as saying: “There’s a line in that – ‘I stay prayed up and get the job done’ – I think that sort of sums it up.”

Of course praying is something we been encouraging everyone in our community to do during May. Having Christ Church open every day has enabled many people to come in and pray. We may never know how many people have already had a go at praying but what we do know is that it makes a difference.
In the New Testament, 1 Thessalonians 5:7 the apostle Paul commands’ Pray without ceasing’. This does not necessarily mean praying all the time, but developing an attitude of having God present in our lives so that whatever we face we can lift that situation, anxiety or problem to Him.

Whatever your worries, fears or concerns might be bring them to God in prayer. In Philippians 4:6, the apostle Paul commands us to stop being anxious and instead, “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”

So as the weekend approaches may we have the confidence to bring our requests, big or small to God. Talk to God, tell him what’s on our heart and then Be Still and wait for him to speak!
(Church remains open 9am – 9pm until this Sunday 20th May.)

New Chapter

Today is a new chapter in the life of Christ Church. Normally the notices would be accompanied by Ross’ blog. Incidentally, you can still read Ross’ blog by going to www.moughtin.com.

As part of this new chapter, I am considering what will be attached to the weekly notices. I have decided not to write a blog, instead I will be offering a contemplation on a verse of scripture, issue or news story. It may be once a month or more frequently. It is a work in progress!

New chapters and beginnings have been a big part of my work during this week. Last Saturday, I married Niki and John and prayed for God to be part of their new beginning as husband and wife. This week I spent time with families who are bringing their children to be baptised at Christ Church later this month, again a new beginning. Some people in our congregation have also started a new chapter leading, preaching or reading for the very first time in church.

New beginnings can happen any time in our lives; sometimes they may not be of our choosing. When we lose a loved one we experience a great sense of loss and hopelessness. Yet it’s comforting to remember that the seemingly greatest loss of all, Jesus’ death, resulted in the best new beginning ever —Jesus’ resurrection.

The Christian faith teaches that a new start is always possible. It is provided by a personal encounter with the risen and living Jesus Christ. He offers the opportunity and the resources to make a new start, despite all circumstances or failings.

The Bible records many encouraging examples of people who were able to start again after encountering Jesus. These include a woman caught in adultery who was facing execution by an outraged community, a hated tax collector named Zacchaeus who had been collaborating with the enemy, and Peter, the close friend of Jesus who publicly disowned him.

As Christ Church starts a new chapter, may I encourage us all to take stock of our own lives and ask the question “ What areas in my life would benefit from a new start?”

The Bible describes God’s promises of mercy as ‘new every morning’. We read in Lamentations 3:22-23
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
So on this brand new Friday morning what new start can you make? Why not take this opportunity to go and sit quietly in church which is open 9am – 9pm every day until 20th May. Ask God to help you make a new start.