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Articles from our March 2018 Magazine
Vicar Margaret Caunt writes The other day I decided to have a little look around the garden, to assess the damage which the long winter and hard frosts had done. Most things, if I am honest looked a bit bare and bleak and then out of the corner of my eye I saw a splash of fresh colour. I went to investigate and found that out of the dark hard earth, a bright clump of beautiful snowdrops had emerged. The sight warmed my heart and encouraged me. In a way the beauty of the snowdrops seemed like a little glimpse of heaven on earth and I felt a real sense of renewed hope and joy.
I was reminded again of that first Easter day. St Johns Gospel Chapter 20 verse 9, tells that very early on Easter Day while it was still dark, Mary and her companions made their way to the dark tomb. They were sad and their hearts greatly troubled, grieving for Jesus whose body was laid in the cold darkness of the earth in a tomb, along with all their hopes and dreams. We are told by eye witnesses that when they arrived, that Jesus was not in the cold dark earth. He had burst forth. Death could not hold Him prisoner. Up from the grave He arose full of life! The sight of the risen Christ and the joy of love and hope renewed in their hearts and minds we can only imagine.
Jesus and His friends had travelled through sacrifice suffering and death and through it they were all transformed with joy! It was a hard path to walk in anyone’s book but Christians especially are called to walk that walk of love. Archbishop Anthony Bloom once wrote: ‘The joy of the resurrection is something we ….must learn to experience, but we can experience it only if we first learn the tragedy of the cross. To rise again we must die. Die to our hampering selfishness, die to our fears, die to everything which makes the world so narrow, so cold, so poor, so cruel. Die so that our souls may live, may rejoice, may discover the spring and freshness of life. If we do this then the resurrection of Christ will have come down to us also…..the resurrection which is joy! The joy of life recovered, the joy of the life that no-one can take away any more! The joy of a life which is superabundant, which, like a stream runs down the hills, carrying with it heaven itself reflected in its fresh sparkling waters…It is not only with our hearts but with the totality of our experience that we know the risen Christ. We can know Him day after day as the Apostles His friends, knew Him. Not the Christ of the flesh …but the ever living Christ …. Christ, once risen, is ever alive, and each of us can know Him personally. Unless we know Him personally we have not yet learnt what it means to be a Christian’
The risen Christ Jesus is alive today! And He continues to bring life out of death and hope out of despair, transforming our world one life at a time, bringing His life and light, hope and love into the hearts of those who will grasp it see it and grasp it. Why don’t you come to get to know this Christ in a personal way for yourself? Why not come and explore and ask questions? Starting this April we are running an Alpha Course at St Mary’s Church Arnold. Why not give me a ring and book at place?
0115 9673805 With Blessings and Grace Vicar Margaret
Refresh in Lent 2018 with Bishop Paul
I am increasingly aware that sustaining momentum in ‘Growing Disciples wider, younger and deeper’ is dependent on the spiritual vitality of those who serve and lead across our churches. Some have borne the heat through intense and uncertain seasons of ministry, others have carried the burden of leadership in some area of church life or in their day to day working world. That is why I am going to be hosting a series called Refresh in Lent, open to all but especially for anyone who exercises some aspect of leadership in their church, workplace, or wider community. Refresh will take place over two consecutive weeks in six locations around the diocese.
I will be joined by some of the younger leaders we are nurturing who will contribute in different ways to the evenings, all you need to do is come along open to receive and be refreshed. Further publicity will be coming out to parishes in the New Year, though it may help to have the dates now if you would like to integrate these evenings into other plans during Lent. Each evening will start at 7.30pm with refreshments and finish by 9.30pm, doors open from 7.15pm. This is a mini-series so it is hoped that people attend both weeks, though it would be possible to attend a ‘second’ evening in another venue.
The nearest venue to St Mary’s is: St Mark’s Woodthorpe; for Thursday 1st March and Thursday 8th March
29th March - Maundy Thursday – time to wash feet
Maundy Thursday is famous for two things. The first is one of the final acts that Jesus did before His death: the washing of His own disciples’ feet. (see John 13)
Jesus washed His disciples’ feet for a purpose: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” His disciples were to love through service, not domination, of one another. In Latin, the opening phrase of this sentence is ‘mandatum novum do vobis’. The word ‘mundy’ is thus a corruption of the Latin ‘mandatum’ (or command). The ceremony of the ‘washing of the feet’ of members of the congregation came to be an important part of the liturgy (regular worship) of the medieval church, symbolising the humility of the clergy, in obedience to the example of Christ.
But Thursday was also important because it was on that night that Jesus first introduced the Lord’s Supper, or what we nowadays call Holy Communion. Jesus and His close friends had met in a secret upper room to share the Passover meal together - for the last time. And there Jesus transformed the Passover into the Lord’s Supper, saying, ‘this is my body’ and ‘this is my blood’ as He, the Lamb of God, prepared to die for the sins of the whole world. John’s gospel makes it clear that the Last Supper took place the evening BEFORE the regular Passover meal, and that later Jesus died at the same time that the Passover lambs were killed.
At St Mary’s we will be having foot washing on Maundy Thursday, if you would like to see this act of humility at first hand!
The Beveridge Report – 75 years on
We take it for granted that all children will receive secondary education, people who are ill will be treated under a national health service and we will all be paid a State pension when we retire. Indeed, we regard these benefits as routine, perhaps not realising this has not always been the case. Turn the clock back to World War 2. The British people accepted their wartime deprivation with a strong sense of unity and purpose in the face of a common enemy. At the same time, it was recognised that long-standing inequalities should be rectified when times improved. The British Government, which was then a coalition of political parties, commissioned Sir William Beveridge to investigate the best way of helping people on low incomes.
The resultant Beveridge Report identified five ‘Giant Evils’ of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. It proposed that in return for all people of working age paying a weekly contribution, benefits should be available to those who were sick, unemployed, retired or widowed. The Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, said “this is the first time anybody has set out to embody the whole spirit of the Christian ethic in an Act of Parliament”, for at the war’s end the Beveridge Report began to be implemented.
The 1944 Education Act was followed in 1948 by the founding of the NHS. Social security benefits meant people in need could be cared for from the cradle to the grave. Temple had himself published a vision for post-war Britain, called “Christianity and the Social Order”. Temple, Beveridge and the economic historian R H Tawney had been at university together and shared both Christian idealism and the urge to make it work.
This month is the 75th anniversary of Beveridge’s Report. The Welfare State is now woven into the fabric of British Society. Like all reforms, it needs regular attention to ensure the original vision hasn’t been obscured over time. Today’s Universal Credit is a step in the right direction, though its clumsy roll-out needs rapid modification if the intended recipients are to be paid on time. Christians may want to reflect on the Welfare State. Is it a right or a privilege to be beneficiaries? Do we take it for granted as our due, or are we grateful for what we receive?
Lent and Easter seem to come around really early this year. Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent is on the 14th of February. At 7.00pm on Ash Wednesday there will be a service of communion which will include the traditional ‘ashing’ liturgy. This is when the ash and dust from last years palm crosses are used to make the sign of a cross on our foreheads. The ash cross is a sign of our penitence and faith but also of our continuing commitment to turn away from sin and follow Christ.
Lent is traditionally a time of discipline and study, so as a church we are going to look at the subject of Discipleship and Giving. Copies of a short three session course will be placed at the back for people to pick up. This resource can be used individually at home or in any number of home- groups. Bishop Paul is also offering two sessions for Lent called ‘Refresh in Lent’. These sessions are open for anyone to go along to and there is no need to book. There are various dates and venues set, so we have produced a list of them all and put it on the notice board at the back of church for you to choose your own session dates and times that suit you.
On the fourth Sunday of Lent we will be having a joint church family service at 10.00am, to celebrate Mothering Sunday. This service is a good one to invite new people to, as it will be very accessible and relevant for church and non church members. Do try to come along, why not invite a friend and lets all work hard at welcoming newcomers. There will also be traditional services at 8.00 am and 6.00pm.
Anniversary of the Reformation
October 31st marks the
500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg
church door in 1517, signaling the start of the Protestant Reformation.
He was protesting against the practice
of indulgences, where the good deeds
of the saints could be purchased to reduce time spent in purgatory, before
arriving in heaven. For Luther, this cheapened grace, repentance and
forgiveness: ‘You can’t buy God’s friendship!’
Luther rediscovered the truths of God’s grace:
‘For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness
that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will
live by faith’.’(Romans 1:17). He recognised that righteousness
(being right with God) and forgiveness is not earned by good works, but faith.
The undeserved love of God and His acceptance is a matter of trust. This
challenge to the Church of Luther’s day remains so today! At the Diet (Council)
of Worms, he refused to recant his views: ‘Here I stand; I can do no other!’
stood for the free forgiveness of the gospel, by which God accepts us because
of the death of Jesus on our behalf to deal with our sin. Is this what we
believe? Only trusting Jesus can make us right with God. In what ways can we
slip into a mindset that seeks God’s approval for what we achieve in our
spiritual lives, rather than in how we can serve as a response to all He has
done for us? We will continue to get things wrong, but God never gives up on
‘Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your
trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin,
death, and the world.’ (Martin Luther).
hoping for a respite from food insecurity this year due to a marked upsurge in
both the area planted and the yields for maize, sorghum and wheat. The
Development Planning Ministry Principal Secretary, Majakathata Mokoena – Thakhisi,
said the expected good harvests were worth celebrating given the drought of
last year, “ the hunger that we had last year will be just a matter of history
this year.” He attributed the expected good harvest to the above normal
rainfall and the limited incidents of diseases and pests like the army worm.
note that the yield rates increased in the 2016/2017 agricultural year compared
with the previous one. The general increase is due mainly to the
good rains at the time of soil preparation and planting, especially in the
lowlands. The crops were also not affected by early frost and
diseases.” He said that the expected surplus has necessitated
the construction of storage facilities so that surplus grain may be kept for
future use when there is no such abundance.
malnutrition remains a fact of life in Lesotho. Officials at the
Berea District Hospital confirmed that they have seen 15 malnutrition cases
between April and June 2017; an indication that Lesotho is struggling to redress
this problem. The Lesotho Cost of Hunger Report states that between
2008 and 2014 there were up to 9,272 child deaths in Lesotho directly
associated with under-nutrition, representing 19.5% of all child deaths in this
It was the
El Nino induced drought which devastated Lesotho’s food security. UNICEF
intervened by procuring and distributing therapeutic foods to health-care
facilities to address acute malnutrition across the country. The World
Food Programme (WFP) has also provided assistance through its ongoing school
feeding programme catering for 380,000 children in the country, so helping to
cushion the children from malnutrition.
There was some other good news on healthcare, the
result of having a good linguist, Tseli. There has been a new partnership
between the Church and a charity which provides health-care information within
the developing world. The Thare Machi Education programme is funding Tseli to
translate into Sesotho health-care information about healthy eating, high blood
pressure, dangers of smoking, and of alcohol among other topics. The
translation includes voice-overs for DVDs as well as information
sheets. Not only does the LINK benefit through the income this generates,
but much more significantly the project should be of great benefit to the
Basotho. This ties in with the diabetes training programme
instituted earlier this year, and is a further development of the LINK’S
involvement in health-care matters.
Marion & John Broadley
Justice and peace - what do Christians believe?
Millions of people have kind hearts and want to help those who are poor or in distress. But when men and women start to follow Jesus earnestly, they discover that, deep within them, their view of the world is changing. Seeing the world through God’s eyes, they recognise that there is an urgent need to change the world, so that justice is done and peace is achieved in the way that God desires. It is central to the Christian faith that God desires a world in which justice is done. However, the past hundred years have revealed the scale of injustice in the world to be greater than anyone had previously imagined. Global forces that are deeply unfair determine the destiny of the world’s poorest people and cause damage to the planet’s environment. War and suffering follow.
Striving for justice and working for peace, particularly for the world’s poorest people, are at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The good news that Jesus came to announce was that suffering and oppression could be brought to an end. Christians believe that their faith should lead them to be the people who help bring that about. The challenge Christians face is to have a personal way of life that does not add to the world’s problems. This means adopting a simple lifestyle, in which the world’s resources are not wasted, buying goods that have been fairly traded, and changing habits that damage the environment. In the richer parts of the world, many of them support and give money to organisations that are seeking to improve the conditions of the world’s poorest people, to end conflicts, and to preserve the planet.
The word peace is used in the Bible in a very broad sense. It takes in the wellbeing and health of people, as well as the absence of violence. Christians pray for the end of conflict between nations and religions. But they are also called to promote harmony in their communities, families and anywhere that they can make a practical difference. Many followers of Jesus say that seeking justice and working for peace gives their lives a great sense of fulfilment. They know that their ways are becoming more like God’s ways. And they know that they are making the experience of being alive better for all the people God has lovingly placed on the earth.
You can find answers to questions about Christianity at www.christianity.org.uk. It is the website of the Christian Enquiry Agency, an agency of Churches Together in England.
There was once an old monastery that had fallen upon hard times. Centuries earlier it had been a thriving monastery where many dedicated monks lived and worked and had great influence, but now only five monks lived there and they were all over 70 years old. This was clearly a dying order. A few miles from the monastery lived an old hermit who many thought was a prophet. One day as the monks agonized over the impending demise of their order, they decided to visit the hermit to see if he might have some advice for them. Perhaps he would be able to see the future and show them what they could do to save the monastery.
The hermit welcomed the five monks to his hut, but when they explained the purpose of their visit he could only commiserate with them. "Yes I understand how it is," said the hermit, "the spirit has gone out of the people, hardly anyone cares much for the old things anymore."
"Is there anything you can tell us," the Abbot enquired of the hermit, "that could help us to save the monastery?" 'No I am sorry," said the hermit. "l don't know how your monastery can be saved, the only thing that I can tell you is that one of you is an Apostle of God."
The monks were both disappointed and confused by the hermit's cryptic statement. They returned to the monastery wondering what the hermit could have meant by the statement "one of you is an Apostle of God". For months after their visit, the monks pondered the significance of the hermit's words.
'One of us is an Apostle of God," they mused. "Did he actually mean, one of us monks here at the monastery? That is impossible. We are all too old, we are all too insignificant. On the other hand, what if it is true and if it is true, then which one of us is it?
'Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant the Abbot. He has been our leader for more than a generation. On the other hand he might have meant Brother Thomas. Certainly Brother Thomas is a holy man, a man of wisdom and light. He couldn't have meant Brother Elred. Elred gets crochety at times and is difficult to reason with. n the other hand, he is almost always right. Maybe the hermit did mean Brother Elred. But surely he could not have meant Brother Philip? Brother Philip is so passive, so shy, a real nobody. Still, he is always there when you need him. He is loyal and trustworthy. Yes, he could have meant Philip. Of course, the hermit didn't mean me, he couldn't possibly have meant me. I am just an ordinary person. Yet suppose he did. Suppose I am an Apostle of God. Oh God, not me. I couldn't be that much for you. Or could l?"
As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one of them might actually be an Apostle of God and on the off, off chance that each monk himself might be the apostle spoken of by the hermit, each monk began to treat himself with extraordinary respect.
Because the monastery was situated in a beautiful forest, many people came there to picnic on its lawn and to walk on its paths and now and then to go into the tiny chapel to meditate. As they did so, without even being conscious of it, they sensed the aura of
extraordinary respect that now began to surround the five old monks and seemed to radiate from them, permeating the atmosphere of the place. There was something strangely attractive, even compelling, about it. Hardly knowing why, people began to bring their friends to show them this special place, and their friends brought their friends.
As more and more visitors came, some of the younger men started to talk with the old monks. After a while one asked if he could join them, then another, then another. Within a few years, the monastery had once again become a thriving order and thanks to the hermit's wisdom a vibrant center of light and spirituality throughout the region.
In the middle of July, the Bishop of Natal, the Rt Revd Dino Gabriel, arrived in the diocese for a 10-day visit with his wife Elizabeth and the Link Officer in Natal, the Revd Dane Elsworth. They travelled extensively around the diocese, which included a visit to St. Mary’s, as we have close links with St. Michael and All Angels church in Himeville in Natal and a number of our congregation have visited them.
Alan Langton - British Empire Medal Award.
It is with great pleasure that we announce Alan’s recent prestigious awardfor his involvement with the community life of Arnold and Mapperley. This will be presented to him on 1st September at Nottingham Council House by the Lord-Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, Sir John Peace, and he will have an invitation to Buckingham Palace for one of the Garden Parties next year.
Alan says: “My professional career was always in teaching, and I taught at Eastwood Hall Park School and Carlton le Willows School, before being appointed to the Headship of South Wolds School at Keyworth in 1981. I retired from this post in 1994 after thirteen very happy years within this village community. At the same time as teaching during the week I was licenced as a Reader in the Diocese of Southwell in 1963, and have continued to serve the parish of Saint Mary’s Arnold for fifty four years, and worked with seven different vicars during that time.”
In 1986 he was one of a group of men who formed the original Rotary Club of Arnold and Mapperley, where he is still a member. This lively group seeks to address and respond to local issues and local people by helping with money and practical schemes which we feel require additional support. He has also been the local representative for the Leprosy Mission in the area, and helped to help raise large sums of money for this international cause over the last thirty years
“After my retirement from teaching I wished to continue making a contribution to society, especially in the area of Arnold and Mapperley, where I have always lived. I formed the ‘Arnold Golden Eagles’, a group especially for older citizens where they could find out more about the workings of health and council and social service organisations as they affected their lives. This was a sub-group of the Arnold Area Forum, which I have represented on the county-wide Older People’s Advisory Group (OPAG), the object of which is to try and ensure that local issues of older people are heard by the County Council for their consideration in future strategies.
“I have served as vice-chair of this Nottinghamshire group for several years until last year. I have also served on the Southwell Diocesan Older People’s Forum, which ties up well with the local parishes’ issues concerning the welfare of older parishioners.
The award came as a complete surprise, but is deeply appreciated.” Vicar of St. Mary’s, the Rev’d Margaret Caunt, says: “I think Alan is a worthy recipient of the award. I’ve not been here long but I know that he’s done a lot of good work in the Arnold community and here at St Mary’s over the past 40 years.
How do people encounter God?
Human beings from ancient days have looked to the skies in a state of wonder, and attributed the scope and beauty of what they see to a Creator. For those who believe in God, that sense of wonder has increased in recent years as science has made us increasingly aware of how very unlikely it has been that life of any kind happened. Like many people, Christians look at nature and marvel. In it they find powerful evidence for the existence of God. It speaks of the character of God – powerful, eternal and with a special place for humans in His purposes. However, it also poses unsettling questions about God, because nature is a place in which catastrophes can overtake men and women in a way that seems meaningless and entirely unfair.
Deep down in human nature is a curiosity that leads us again and again to speculate that there may be a God. These encounters take place in circumstances in which we confront something that money cannot buy. Sometimes it is a shock that leads to these questions – the loss of a job, a friend or health. Sometimes it is joy – such as the birth of children and the longing to give them a future full of hope. Sometimes it is disappointment that the activities of life do not make us feel fulfilled. Occasionally people encounter God through supernatural experiences that they cannot explain.
There are many circumstances in which people find their attention grabbed by the possibility that God might be making Himself known to them. However, Christians have always recognised that the most significant way that God has made Himself known is through a specific event in history. God has lived in a human body. At the start of the first century AD, God inhabited human flesh, and walked and talked on this planet - Jesus, the founder of the Christian faith.
When a child asks, ‘What is God like?’ a good answer would be, ‘He is like Jesus.’ Christians study Jesus’ life and teaching because they appear to answer some of the questions they have about God.
You can find answers to questions about Christianity at www.christianity.org.uk. Christianity.org.uk is the website of the Christian Enquiry Agency Ltd. This is an agency of Churches Together in England.
Trinity Sunday – celebrating our God who is Three Persons
Trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity has kept many a theologian busy down the centuries. One helpful picture is to imagine the sun shining in the sky. The sun itself – way out there in space – unapproachable in its fiery majesty – is the Father. The light that flows from it, and which illuminates all our lives, is the Son. The heat that flows from it, and which gives us all the energy to move and grow, is the Holy Spirit. You cannot have the sun without its light and its heat. The light and the heat are from the sun, are of the sun, and yet are also distinct in themselves, with their own roles to play.
The Bible makes clear that God is One God, who is disclosed in three persons:
Father, Son (Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit. For example:
Luke 24:49 actually manages to squeeze the whole Trinity into one sentence. Jesus tells His disciples: ‘I am going to send you what my Father has promised;
but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power (the Holy Spirit) from on high.’
In other words, the sun eternally gives off light and heat, and whenever we stand in its brilliant light, we find that the warmth soon follows.
Thy Kingdom Come
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are calling Christians of every denomination to join in with Thy Kingdom Come, a prayer initiative between Ascension and Pentecost (25th May to 4th June), to pray for the nation to know Jesus Christ. It is a time to seek the empowering of the Holy Spirit, that we may be effective witnesses to Jesus Christ.
Praying for others to know Jesus is one of the most powerful things we can do. Persistent prayer for others brings transformation to their lives. As Paul writes: ‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.’ (Colossians 4: 2-4).
The Archbishops are encouraging us to choose five people who we can pray for regularly. Why not ask God to guide you, as you settle on five names and commit to praying for them daily, perhaps by using the following prayer:
‘Loving Father, in the face of Jesus Christ your light and glory have blazed forth.
Send your Holy Spirit that I may share with my friends the life of your Son and your love for all.
Strengthen me as a witness to that love as I pledge to pray for them, for your name’s sake. Amen.’
St Mary’s church will be open for prayer on Wednesday 31st May.
Acts for Everyone
At the end of May comes Ascension Day (25th), a bit of a neglected festival in the Church. As Luke reminds us in Acts 1:1-11, it was the opportunity for Jesus to commission disciples as His witnesses in the world:
‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ (Acts 1:8).
What is a witness?
a witness knows Jesus:
A credible witness speaks of what they know personally. The disciples had spent 40 days with Jesus and now they were called to share that experience and relationship with others. What is my story of how Jesus is alive in my life?
a witness grows in Jesus:
Jesus told them to wait for the gift of the Spirit to empower them as witnesses. ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.’ (4). The Spirit equips us to display Jesus’ character (fruit) and enables us to witness (gifts). How does our life demonstrate the difference Jesus makes?
a witness goes for Jesus:
They were called to witness for Jesus in ever-increasing circles of influence. For us, this means family and friends, workplace and community, and the wider world. Where is God calling us to serve Him?
The story is told of Jesus arriving in heaven after the Ascension, being welcomed by the angels. Gabriel asked Jesus, ‘what is your plan for everyone to know your love?’ Jesus replied, ‘I have given my disciples the task of carrying the message into all the world.’ Gabriel’s face dropped, ‘These are unpredictable men, what if they fail? After a pause Jesus answered, ‘There is no other plan!’
Easter faith Three years after the Russian Revolution of 1917, a great anti-God rally was arranged in Kiev. The powerful orator Bukharin was sent from Moscow, and for an hour he demolished the Christian faith with argument, abuse and ridicule. At the end there was silence.
Then a man rose and asked to speak. He was a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church. He went and stood next to Bukharin. Facing the people, he raised his arms and spoke just three triumphant words: ‘Christ is risen!’
At once the entire assembly rose to their feet and gave the joyful response, “He is risen indeed!” It was a devastating moment for an atheist politician, who had no answer to give to this ancient Easter liturgy. He had not realised he was simply too late: how can you convince people who have already experienced God, that He does not exist?
The real message of Easter ‘When you die, that’s it. Nothing. Out like a light.’ That’s what the man in the pub said, and his mates all nodded, though the one whose mother had died the week before wasn’t really quite so certain. Still, it seemed to make sense. After all, we know what ‘dead’ means: dead leaves, dead batteries, dead fish, dead pets . . . and dead people, to be honest. While we recognise that it’s all too easy to go from alive to dead, we’ve got serious doubts about the possibility of any return journeys.
Which is why Christians have an uphill task at Easter. Jesus was a great man, and people want to remember how He died. Fair enough. But it starts getting complicated when Christians insist that Jesus died but didn’t stay dead - in fact, that He’s alive now. That ‘return journey’ has happened, they say. That’s the problem about Easter. Christians persisting in what sounds like a ridiculous belief. If they just dropped the resurrection bit, and concentrated on the wonderful teaching of Jesus and His example of generosity, compassion and love then everybody would find Christianity much more believable. Wouldn’t that make sense? And wouldn’t that fill the churches again?
Well it might (or, more likely, it might not). But in any case, the trouble is that it wouldn’t be Christianity at all. The faith of Christians actually depends on the resurrection of Jesus, and always has done, right from the earliest days. After the crucifixion the body of Jesus was taken down from the cross by some of His friends and put in a rock tomb with a heavy stone. But after His death, His followers claimed that they had met Him, seen Him, talked with Him. So certain was their belief that nothing could make them recant it. Not ridicule, not torture, not even death itself. They couldn’t do it because they were absolutely convinced that it had happened. Plenty of clever and powerful people at the time had a vested interest in proving them wrong. It shouldn’t have been difficult to prove that a dead man had stayed dead, especially when you have at your disposal the resources of the greatest empire in history. Yet they didn’t do it, because it couldn’t be done.
Still today millions of people all over the world believe that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. They include brilliant scientists and philosophers as well as plenty of ‘ordinary’ men and women of all ages. They believe it because they respect the witness of those first Christians, and because in many cases their own lives have been transformed by a relationship with Jesus - a relationship that wouldn’t make sense if He were dead!
Christians don’t put their faith in a dead hero from the past, but in Someone who is alive and active in their own lives and in the world. That, in a nutshell, is the real message of Easter.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall – how do you see yourself this Lent?
Somebody asked a Christian friend why he was eating doughnuts, when he had given them up for Lent! He answered, ‘At the bakers I told God, that if He wanted me to buy doughnuts, He should provide a parking space in front. On the eighth time around, there it was!’
Rather than seeing Lent simply as a time to give things up, let’s use it intentionally for self-examination, reading Scripture, penitence, fasting and prayer. At Jesus’ baptism, God’s voice says, ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ (Luke 3:22). The Holy Spirit then leads Jesus into the wilderness, where we find Him coming to terms with who He is. Satan’s temptations challenge Jesus in key three areas of His identity: social action, political power, and religious identity (Luke 4: 1-13). It is as though Jesus looked into the mirror at Himself to discern what kind of Saviour He would be.
We can also think of Lent as an opportunity to hold a mirror up to ourselves and ask the question, ‘who am I? It is a season of honest encounter with who we are, what we’ve done, and the world in which we live. How will you keep Lent period of 40 days running up to Easter? What will you see when you hold up the mirror to yourself? Alongside taking time to read Scripture, study a Christian book and pray with fasting, why not give up texting for Lent and simply talk on the phone; commit ourselves to just working 40 hours a week or spend five minutes each day in silence! Whatever we do, Lent is a season for self-reflection, as we put ourselves in a position to receive afresh the forgiveness and healing that God offers
Next time someone tells you that Jesus did not exist…
Recent research in England revealed that 40% of people do not realise Jesus was a real person. Among 18-34 year olds, 25% think Jesus was a mythical or fictional character. They probably have no doubts about other famous people from the past. Of course, it matters more when the authenticity of Jesus is questioned. If Jesus was as ‘real’ as the Christian creeds imply, then the whole purpose and destiny of humanity are changed. There’s a lot at stake.
How do we know that Jesus actually existed? For that matter, how do we know any historical figure existed? We need to look for corroborative evidence.
In any other historical investigation we would examine all literary sources. However, as sceptics often discount biblical material because they suspect the writers distorted the facts, we look outside the New Testament to non-Christian authors for clues.
First, to Roman historians.Tacitus (56-117 AD) wrote “Christus was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius”.Suetonius (69-130 AD) wrote of “Chrestus” and of his followers having been persecuted by Nero. In 112 AD a Roman Magistrate, Pliny the Younger, sought advice from the Emperor Trajan, having failed to force Christians to renounce Christ whom they “worshipped as a god”, when worship was due exclusively to the emperor. The Jewish historian Josephus (37-100 AD) referred to James as, “the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ.”None of these authors questioned Christ’s existence.
Even-handed enquirers would also want to know what the New Testament has to say. By comparison with texts of other ancient literature now available, we have infinitely better records. Over 5,000 separate manuscripts are now available. One complete New Testament in the British Library is over 1600 years old. A substantial collection of New Testament documents is dated mid-3rd Century and is split between Dublin, Michigan and other locations. Much of the Gospel of John is in a document dated 200 AD or earlier. Modern translations of the Bible result from studying all these manuscripts. It is false to suggest that they suffer from multiple translations.
Let historian Michael Grant have the last word, "...if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus' existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned…"
Priceless Find – by accident!
ago this month a couple of shepherds in the hills above Qumran near the Dead
Sea idly threw a stone into what they thought was an empty cave. When they
heard the sound of smashing pottery they searched inside, and found the most
important biblical discovery of the century.
had led them to what became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, manuscripts of the
entire Hebrew Bible except for the book of Esther, stored in clay vessels. The
scrolls were the work of a religious community called the Essenes, who lived
near that site before and during the life of Jesus.
slowly unraveled them – and that task took decades - they discovered that they
were handling manuscripts of the Bible which were hundreds of years older than
any we had previously possessed. Most of the biblical manuscripts on which our
translations had previously been based were copies of copies, carefully crafted
in monasteries over the centuries by people dedicated to preserving the sacred
text. But inevitably, in the process, there were occasional slips in the
copying, and at times it’s obvious that those who were doing it didn’t
understand the words they were copying.
February 1947, the world had access to a much older and therefore more accurate
record of the Jewish Scriptures – the Bible of Jesus and the first Christians.
The most remarkable thing is actually how few ‘mistakes’ there were, seeing the
centuries of copying – and not one that seriously affects our fundamental
understanding of the Bible.
shepherds 70 years ago ensured that we today have a Bible text which is as
close to the original as one could ever hope to get. I’m glad they threw the
stone into the right cave!
Understanding and living with depression Lady Gaga helps others with Anxiety and Depression by declaring an inborn tendency to such mental illness herself which is made worse in living such a public life. In times of Depression I am helped to endure by people I admire, such as Winston Churchill, depression he called ‘black dog’, and some Church leaders when depressed felt the Spirit of God deserted them. Depression impacts people of all ages. Parents may feel, often wrongly, that it can blight a child’s life. Many depressions are one off events. Depression can arise from our inherited make up, with or without some element of life’s stresses. For instance, it’s half of Bipolar Disorder. It can arise from a traumatic experience.
Every 2 people out of 10 are likely to feel it from their experience. The NHS Wales booklet on’ Depression in Young People’ states ‘It is normal to feel down and not enjoy things sometimes, but when these feelings are severe, long lasting or keep coming back, and begin to affect your day to day life, this may be a sign of Depression....it affects your moods, energy, thoughts and behaviours. Depression can be treated’. It can make us feel unable to concentrate and make decisions, lose confidence, no energy and see no hope. Treatments are available but the sooner accessed via your Dr., the shorter the illness. Talking Therapies are first line. The aim of CBT Cognitive Behavioural Therapy etc. is to help us manage what is happening to us by finding a changed way to think, behave and cope so as to break the cycle of feeling down. Family or friends can sometimes make us feel worse by saying ‘pull yourself together’ and make us feel more doomed. Listening and caring is what’s needed. For more severe forms, medication may help to lift over a few weeks but younger people are helped by different antidepressants to older people. Counselling, Art, Music help some and a recent introduction of Mindfulness training can help us relax, under pressure, our body and our mind. Those who suffer would not wish it on others but can value the learning for their life and empathy.
Dare to dream.
Imagine your home, your street, your place of work, the world living by biblical teaching out of which God is honoured, creation is cared for and strangers become friends. Imagine a world where truth and goodness prevail. Where people asking what the Lord requires of us, do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. Imagine fellowship being welcoming and deep, warm and challenging, supportive and transforming. Mini Kingdom communities that fulfil the promise of Jesus: ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples; if you have love for one another.’ Communities that counter the twenty first century epidemic of loneliness and build up the body of Christ. Holy communities that heal and make whole.
Imagine prayer becoming as natural as breathing. Imagine a prayerful way of life transforming your vision so that you see glimpses of God all around, the sacred in the secular – the potential for good. Imagine your staff room, your shop floor, boardroom or changing room being changed by the holiness of prayers as you pray. Imagine prayer transcending tribes and cultures, breaking down walls and barriers, paving the way to a just and peaceful world.
Imagine your home, your street, your place of work, the world being keener to give than to get. Where what is mine is yours if you need it. Imagine a church known more for giving than for asking, and imagine the queue at the door! Imagine the millennial goals being realised as richer nations remodel unjust systems. Imagine the day when poverty is over. Imagine a world, a church where gladness prevails and cynicism is banished! Imagine the sight of smiles and the sound of laughter, the warmth of hugs and tears of joy as people are generous with their compliments and thanks. Imagine communities of affirmation and real appreciation where gifts are honoured and celebrated, not envied.
Imagine younger people generously giving time to care for older people. And imagine older people generously saying to younger people: ‘you lead us into the future.’
Extracts from ‘Holy Habits’ author Andrew Roberts 2016
Some photos from the Installation of our new vicar: Rev. Margaret Caunt
Learn to ‘wait well’ for things
is in Your hands…’
helpful book, When, God, When? Joyce Meyer writes: “God has taught me to
keep living the life I now have, while I am waiting for the things that are in
my heart to come to pass. We can become
so intent on trying to birth the next things that we neither enjoy nor take
care of the things at hand. I had a
vision from God ten years before I began to see it fulfilled. During those years, I believe I missed a lot
of joy trying to give it birth outside of God’s timing.”
Learn to enjoy where you are, while you’re waiting to get to
where you want to be. After all, all
your life you will spend more time waiting that you will receiving. And when you receive what you’re waiting for
now – you’ll begin waiting for something else.
That’s life! If we don’t learn to
‘wait well’, we’ll live with endless frustration.
Waiting well is what will deliver our dream. Listen:
“in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). “Due season” is when God knows we’re ready,
not when we think we are. He has set
appointments to accomplish certain things in our life, so we might as well
settle down and wait patiently, because that’s when it will happen – and not
God knows what you need, He knows when you need it and He
knows how to get it to you. All He asks you to do is trust him.
‘Word for Today’
From Margaret Caunt
The book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 tells us that there is a time and a season for everything and as we prepare to put down our roots in Arnold it really does feel that we are entering a new time, a new season of life and ministry with God. Both my husband David and myself were born and bred in the east end of Sheffield and have lived in the Diocese of Sheffield all of our lives. So moving to Nottingham really is a new season and a big step as we continue to respond to the call of God on our lives.
David and I became Christians in the early eighties after discovering that God is real, that he cares about each one of us and that it is possible to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ his son. We committed ourselves to that relationship and so began our adventure with God. It has been one heck of a rollercoaster ride with many ups and downs along the way, many joys and lots of challenges. But in it all, in the good and in the bad, we have found that God is faithful, and full of loving kindness. Over the years we have served God together in a variety of parishes and contexts and are passionate about helping others to encounter God in their lives and grow in faith.
In June this year David and I celebrated 43 years of marriage and have three wonderful children, Cheryl, Ian and Paul. Over the years our family has grown to include Richard, Joanne and Stacey and we have been blessed with two beautiful grand daughters, Abigail and Madeleine. We are not all work, or all church and no play though. David is a fan of all kinds of sport and is a lifelong Sheffield Wednesday supporter. He loves nice wine, guinness and the sunshine. I am fan of all kinds of music, from rock to opera and most things in between. I am an avid reader, love cooking for family and friends and keep tortoises and finches. To de- stress I make jam and sing along to the Rolling Stones.
Together we love having holidays in the sunshine, walking our two dogs Sasha and Cookie, and spending time with family and friends. We are very open and honest people, we have lots of enthusiasm and we can’t wait to see what God has got in store for us and the people we will meet and come to know in this new season and next chapter in our adventure with God.
With every blessing Revd Margaret Caunt
UNDERSTANDING DEMENTIA and ALZHEIMERS
It is said that people over 50 years fear Dementia, and responding to others with Dementia, more than the big C (Cancer). Yet many sufferers live a fulfilling life and contribute to groups that benefit others. Dementia is a brain disease that causes us to lose some ability to think and reason as well as we have been used to. Basically there are 3 types:
ALZHEIMERS Disease – 3 out of 4 are this type;
VASCULAR Disease – often the after effect of multiple strokes;
LEWI BODY Disease which is Parkinson like.
We are more susceptible as we enter our 80ies though a few are affected in middle age. Memory of past and recent events are harder to recall, but not totally for most people. Sufferers can become frustrated with themselves in not organising and problem solving as they are used to doing. Family and close friends may experience unusual displays of emotion including anger and depression. Sufferers may offer less empathy to nearest and dearest, whereas understanding and love can help sufferers to help themselves. Keeping memories alive is helped by photos, events recalled and by ‘their music’. Seeing your doctor is key to learning how medication & diet may inhibit progress of the disease. Also therapy and information on what is best exercise for you. Each person has their own journey to holding in well.
Later stages of Dementia may be years ahead, when extra care help is needed.
Michael Allen & Sue Baxter, MHAGS for St. Mary’s (Info. Mainly from Alzheimer Society)
DO COME on SAT. 1 OCTOBER to ‘UNDERSTANDING and LIVING with DEMENTIA ‘ from 10.15 for coffee at St. Mary’s Family Centre and 10.45 Presentation on Understanding Dementia by Dr Richard Turner, Adults Psychiatrist- now retired -also Reader, followed by questions 11.20 Sharing on Living with Dementia and Alzheimer Friends by Rowland and Carole Harris, followed by sharing experiences. 12 noon close
Smartphones and the Death of Conversation
If a few decades ago you had turned on the television and found yourself watching some drama in which the entire human race walked around utterly engrossed in the little slabs of metal and glass they held in their hands, you would have assumed it was some sort of science-fiction nightmare in which aliens had taken over the world. You would have called it fantasy; we have come to recognise it as normality.
Psychologists and social scientists are beginning to realise that since the first iPhone in 2007 unleashed an unstoppable flood of smartphones, human culture has begun to change. For many of us, our smartphone is now a fundamental part of our existence. We check it immediately on waking and before closing our eyes at night. We use it to email, communicate by text, take photographs, read maps and engage in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and whatever the latest cult app is. From our smartphone comes our music, advice for living, directions for driving, appointments and, increasingly, much of our life. Smartphones have woven themselves inextricably into who we are and how we live. We cannot imagine life without one.
While the usefulness of smartphones is beyond question, you don’t have to look hard to start to suspect that there might be a price to pay. Reading books has clearly suffered: anyone with any time on their hands now simply engages with a smartphone. Equally, many people now struggle to handle silence: they are never alone with their thoughts, nor, it seems, do they want to be. Few people now seem able to sit quietly staring into space or gazing at nature without succumbing to an irresistible urge to check the phone or take a selfie.
One particular aspect of concern is the impact of smartphones on conversation. We’ve all seen the classic and sad manifestation of this: the young couple sitting in a restaurant deeply engrossed, not with each other but with their phones. But the problem occurs more widely. How many of us have tried to have a serious discussion with someone and failed because they seemed more interested in checking their phone? This erosion of conversation is important because it is surely one of the things that makes us human.
I want to suggest that while smartphones give us communication – and do so very well – they do not allow us to take part in conversation in any real sense. Think for a moment about what a traditional, old-fashioned, flesh-and-blood conversation involves. It’s not just words: there are silences, hesitant exploratory phrases, eye contact, facial expressions, laughter, hand gestures and possibly even physical touches of reassurance or encouragement. The fact that there is no technological intermediate means that such conversations are spontaneous. They can spread free and wide, bouncing one moment into a joke, sliding the next into some subtle expression of regret or even becoming one of those silences that says more than words. In an authentic conversation, unconstrained by technology, there can be a richness that gives rise to both empathy and intimacy. Indeed, real conversations can be dangerous: you can easily find yourself saying more than you meant to say. Is the fact that you stay in control one of the strongest attractions of smartphone communication? Smartphone communication promises us so much more yet, in reality, delivers so much less. We end up with a pale shadow of a real conversation; the equivalent of junk food for the mind.
There is, I think, a clear perspective on all this. I believe we were made by God to communicate in the deepest and richest possible way. Famously, John’s Gospel in the Bible begins ‘In the beginning was the word’. Yet the Greek word there, logos, can have a far richer meaning than simply word. Indeed, historically some renderings of that phrase have been ‘In the beginning was the conversation’. There is some truth in that. The Christian belief that God is a Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is that, from eternity, there was conversation within God. Before the universe was created, at the heart of the eternal God, there was conversation. To be made in God’s image is to be made for conversation.
The truly scary thing about the global smartphone epidemic is not merely that we are losing the richness of conversation but we may be losing the very ability to achieve it. In the beginning was indeed the word but unless we take care to guard our use of technology in general, and smartphones in particular, I fear that in the end we may no longer have the word but a wreck in our relationships.
The top ten weirdest Foodbank donations: You
might have seen a steadily increasing array of items appearing on
your Harvest table at church in the last few weeks. Heinz Baked Beans
stacked to the rafters alongside endless boxes of Kellogg's Corn Flakes -
these have become the expected signs of thanksgiving at this time of
year. Most churches will send these goods to a local Foodbank, who in
turn distribute it to those that need it most in the local community.
Our gratitude at Harvest transforms into generosity. And it makes an
Harvest this year, Stewardship asked Jolene at the Trussell Trust
Foodbank to tell us the top ten weirdest donations they've
ever received. Move aside, baked beans, these items take the biscuit: The top ten weirdest Foodbank donations: 1. A jar of pickled stags head 2. Beluga caviar 3. Half a bag of cold chips 4. A tin of curried haggis 5. A bag of chicken blood 6. A packet of dried empty snail shells 7. Pickled walnuts 8. Octopus pieces 9. Tinned cheese 10. A tin of crispy baby clams with anchovies
said that the Foodbank was incredibly grateful for
every donation...even the - well - slightly bizarre ones. "Surprisingly,
octopus came up three times!" she said. ‘We’re continually delighted by
the generosity of everyone who donates, even when they give stag’s
Please don't forget to bring your donations of food to the back of church!