Monthly Archives: October 2015

November 2015 Rector’s Letter

November 2015

“Kryptonite? In the water? Wow!”  Euan and Zach were down from Cryptosporidium-free Ulverston and were being given the strange rules about water use, now familiar to most of Lancashire.  They, however, were not at all fazed by needing to use boiled water to brush their teeth or make up their squash; of much greater interest was the impact of the water on Superman.  When you are 9 or 7, the line between fiction and fact is a little more blurry than perhaps later in life, so they were pleased to have Superman’s existence confirmed in passing – if there is Kryptonite in the water, then Kryptonite is real and so is Superman.

The boys are very much into their Superheroes, particularly Spiderman, Batman and Superman, although Lego versions are often the currency and medium of Superheroes for them.  I think there was a little disappointment when they realised that Cryptosporidium was a bacterium rather than fragments of the planet Krypton.  However, you can’t keep a good imagination down.  Before long, we had a series of vignettes acted out: Superman soared through the sky in pursuit of a villain, paused for a drink of water on a hot and dusty day, then leapt into the sky, only to fall flat on his face – deadly cryptosporidium having taken away his superpower.  His super breath froze the moisture in the air to rescue some children about to fall in the water, took a swig of water, and blew – a small icicle!  He scanned the world with his X-ray vision coupled with his ability to see minute details at incredible distances, paused for a refreshing glass of water – and had to put on Zach’s glasses to read the paper.

It provided a very welcome distraction as we learnt to re-value the gift of clean safe water, so often taken for granted.  All around the world, a supply of water that is safe to drink is one of the fundamentals to good health and longevity.  A small amount of Cryptosporidium has us all scrabbling for the kettle, an array of jugs – and compensation.  Some folk here were even boiling the water for their cats and dogs, although watching Sweep drink the bird’s water with a nice dusting of algae meant that I didn’t think he was that bothered by the water quality.  In the meantime, children in some parts of the world are drinking water from the equivalent of puddles.

In a hot and dusty country, water was always going to be a potent symbol of life and refreshment, and as a symbol of God’s refreshing Spirit.  Isaiah opens Chapter 55 with the words “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (The Bible, Isaiah 55.1)  After a time of judgement and a ‘desert’ period, the love of God floods over his people like freely available refreshing water.  Jesus reflects this in his encounter with the Samaritan woman (The Bible, John 4.1-42).  Jesus was tired, and sat by a well; he asked a Samaritan woman to draw him some water, and when she was surprised at his request (Jews did not associate with Samaritans), Jesus responded “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4.10)  She sticks with a literal interpretation, so Jesus adds “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

According to Euan, Blackpool water could take away Superman’s powers; according to Jesus, drinking from him will yield eternal life.  Drink from him deeply and safely!

Praying that you may find refreshment in the deepest parts as you drink on Jesus.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

You can find the full text of the November Herald Magazine here

Postscript: Our Christmas Card 2015 appeal is themed with clean safe water – we are raising money for water tanks in the Middle East for refugees through TEAR Fund, water tubs in Nepal and water tricycles in Bangladesh, both through Practical Action under the heading ‘Tanks, Tubs and Tricycles’

 

2015-10-31T22:00:03+00:00October 31st, 2015|

October 2015 Rector’s Letter

October 2015

“Thank you Granddad, Grandma!”  Euan’s eyes shone.  He has a mobile phone.  When Tom & Jen joined us recently, they were in a discussion about Euan needing a phone – preferably not too expensive – to give him more freedom and responsibility now that he’s 9.  We had an old mobile phone, the robust Nokia, but still working fine, so we offered it – and it was accepted with joy.  All weekend, Euan was checking on its charging, loading numbers, playing ‘snakes’ – the only game it has – and even caressing it.  As he left to go home, he rushed back and thanked us, clearly very happy.

As we tidied up after everyone had gone, we found a small piece of paper, covered in writing.  Neatly written out were all the rules for Euan to observe in the use of his phone; the piece of paper was a crib, an aide-memoire, for the talk Euan had evidently had with his parents.  All the rules were very sensible, but seeing them all written out – there were at least 13 – gave us a set of giggles, as we wondered if Euan had felt the weight of responsibility in taking on his phone.

As I said, they were all very sensible rules – he was warned not to give out his number and to ask before adding others to his phone; his phone would be checked for abuse & use and only he was to use it; restrictions were imposed on calls, text and time spent on games, a ban imposed on use in bed or at the table; expectations about being kept informed of his location, the addition of the ICE number, warnings about the responsibility and consequences of 999 calls, of losing and replacing the phone – and the chilling “it will be used as a punishment.”  After we had read the list, we wondered that Euan still saw the phone as a gift.

It is a perennial problem, the tension between gift and rules, or grace and law.  St Paul wrestles with this issue, especially in his letter to the Galatians.  God gives us as an act of grace life itself and a world in which to live; we mess up; He shows through Abraham that He is willing to accept messed-up humans through faith as an act of grace.  Some 400 years later, Moses issues guidelines to live a life of grace, the 10 commandments or ‘The Law’ – a bit like 13 sensible rules to use your mobile.  The trouble is how we tend to work with rules or law.  The rules are there to guide us, but we treat them as fixed points, to be navigated around or to sail as close to the wind as we dare.

Take a couple of simple everyday rules or laws:  firstly, 30mph zones.  What they are intended to say is – ‘this is the maximum speed deemed safe for all road users in this zone.’  How do we respond?  “You can go at 30+10%+1=34, so if I drive at 34, I won’t get prosecuted.”  “This is a 30mph zone so why is this idiot doing 20mph?”  “I have a right to drive at 30mph here, so pedestrians ought to take more care.”… We treat the law as an absolute, rather than a marker to considerate driving.  Secondly, dog-dirt rules.  Rules for clearing up after your pet are trying to say ‘leaving dog-dirt is unhygienic and unpleasant for other walkers – bag it and bin it.’  The highly responsible owners are disheartened by those who’s line is “The bin’s full.” “It doesn’t say this area is covered.”  “I’ve already scooped one on this walk.”  “What’s the point? – Look at the other piles of dirt.”… Again, the law is treated with precision rather than a guide to considerate behaviour.

If you think about it, we have a tendency to treat all laws like this, and they have to be refined and clarified to remove wriggle room.  St Paul goes on to show that the Law is good in itself, but can only convict us when we break it; it can’t actually help us to keep it.  Jesus sharpened the challenge: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions.” (The Bible, Mark 7.9), and in his greatest sermon (Matthew 5-7) re-points the law – murder starts with anger in your heart, adultery with lust, so it is your heart that needs to be changed, not the law.  Changing hearts and our status before God’s Law was the purpose of Jesus’ mission.  Jesus said …the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10.45) and St Paul promised “You are all sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3.26) – right before God by the letter of the law, able to follow the spirit of the law by grace, by gift.

Praying that you may hear the loving will of God in Christ and walk confidently in his path, enjoying his blessing and bringing glory to his name.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

You can find the full October 2015 Herald Magazine here

2015-10-17T14:45:26+00:00October 17th, 2015|

September 2015 Rector’s Letter – by the Curate

September 2015

 “Achew!” . . . “Bless you”

Is that what you say when someone near you sneezes? I sneeze a lot. With annoying allergies to dust, pollen and mould spores, I’m often sneezing away during the day. Just occasionally, a voice can be heard nearby to say “bless you.” The trouble is, once I start sneezing, I can’t stop. So after the first sneeze, “bless you” is fine. But after the second, and then the third, the person giving the blessing becomes more hesitant to respond, we both feel a little embarrassed, and by now it seems a little silly to keep saying it.

I must admit, that when a complete stranger says “bless you” after a random sneeze, a little bit of care and love is being shown by the person giving the blessing. For some it has simply become a habit and a sneeze triggers the brain to produce the blessing. But often it is said with care and concern. In this day and age when building community and friendships is quite difficult, and so much relies on cyber friendships rather face to face contact, it is perhaps something to treasure rather than despise. After all, you’re more likely to hear someone say “bless you” on a bus in Bispham than on a Tube train in London. Us ‘northerners’ really can be very friendly people!

At the end of every church service, the minister pronounces the ‘blessing’ upon the congregation. There are various forms that can be used. Perhaps one of the loveliest and best known ones is this: “the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord  make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord  lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” This ancient blessing comes from the Bible, in a book called Numbers, in the Old Testament. In the book of Numbers, God commanded the priests to pronounce a blessing on his people—a people wandering in the wilderness. God wanted this blessing pronounced on the people again and again, as a reminder of what God is like, who he is, and how he loves us.

We don’t have to beg for God’s blessing, or catch his attention via a sneeze. He blesses us in the everyday parts of life and into eternity. There are several parts to this ancient blessing found in the Bible:
The Lord bless you
The Lord keep you
The Lord make his face shine upon you
The Lord be gracious to you
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you
The Lord give you his peace

 

Wow! The all powerful God of eternity, who has created all life and sustains all of creation, desires that you and I be blessed by him in all these ways. Like a shepherd keeping safe the sheep, God is our keeper. The face of God represents his presence which shines on us and shows we are accepted by him—accepted because God is gracious in forgiving our sins through his son Jesus. The countenance of God represents him turning his face towards us. At the time of the ancient blessing, the message to the Israelites is they were God’s special chosen people. And now since the death and resurrection of Jesus, all those who trust in him are counted as his chosen people, who now have peace with God through Jesus and know life eternal. If you know these things to be true, you are truly blessed!

Just in case you haven’t noticed the heading at the top of the previous page, the person writing this article is not the Rector. It is I, Revd Damian Platt, Assistant Curate at All Hallows, who is soon to move on to pastures new. After three brilliant years at All Hallows, I have been offered the post of Vicar at Christ Church in Thornton (or Thornton-le-Fylde to give its posh title!). I’m grateful to Simon for the opportunity to write a little something in the Herald before I head off in October. I’m very grateful to all God’s people at All Hallows, for the welcome, blessing, support and friendliness everyone has shown during my time here.

My family and I have come to know All Hallows as a very loving community of ordinary people, whose lives have been transformed by God, who is full of blessing for his people. Like at All Hallows, Christians throughout the world know God in a personal, renewing and special way, through Jesus, God’s Son, who is our friend, brother, Saviour and Lord.  God has blessed the world through his death defeating and life giving Son.

So my departing prayer as I move on to pastures new, is for the Lord God to bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

God bless you!

 Damian Platt

You can find the September Herald Magazine here

 

 

2015-10-17T14:41:23+00:00October 17th, 2015|

August 2015 Rector’s Letter

August 2015

“Fish, Grandma!”  Ben has been a visitor a little more frequently since his brother James was born.  He plays quietly and with great concentration on elaborate Lego stories, using the Lego from the days his father was a child – indeed, he plays much like Nathanael did.  Having slipped away from the dinner table, he rushed back in clutching a Lego boat with a man holding a rod-like structure.  “Look, Grandma, I’ve made a man going fishing!” The words tumbled out, “He’s got a lifejacket and oars and a rod and he’s going fishing…”  Grandma leant forward and asked enthusiastically in best ‘teacher-drawing–out-further-detail voice, “And what is he going to catch?”  Ben looked at Diane with a slightly pitying look, and declared in an ‘I-thought-it was-obvious’ voice “Fish, Grandma!”  There were no more questions!

I was reminded of when I was struggling to find inspiration for a magazine article with my then three year old daughter playing happily on the floor.  “What shall I write the magazine article on?” I asked in desperation.  Without looking up, Emma replied “God, Daddy.”  Sometimes the answer is simple and obvious – and sometimes it takes a child to articulate it.  Knowing what God wants us to do can sometimes feel like that – He makes the answer abundantly clear, simple and obvious, while we struggle, looking for the complicated answer, making it harder for ourselves.  Diane recounts how, when she was at Teacher Training College, she and her two friends had a choice of two flats.  One was near the university, had 3 rooms, and seemed perfect; the other had 5 rooms so they would need to find 2 more to share, and was an inconvenient bus ride away.  Diane felt they were being led to the more difficult flat but her Christian companions over rode her with the simple and obvious answer – go for the flat the right price and size near the university.  Diane added – ‘and it was of course the right decision.’  Diane had a common misconception that somehow God required her to not have the best or easiest options.

Discerning God’s will has always been an essential task, sometimes easier, sometimes harder: I always think that Gideon is a good example of someone who needed constant reassurance in discerning God’s will.  He was a ‘Judge’ in Israel about 100 years before King David, and was called to lead Israel as it was oppressed by roaming Midianites.  God sends him an angel while he’s threshing (hidden in a wine press) As he’s called, overly self-conscious of his inadequacies, to lead Israel, he first believes he’s going to die because he has seen the angel of God.  He undertakes the first task, destroying the pagan altar, at the dead of night.  When he realises this is just the first step to defeating the Midianites, he needs two ‘proofs’ – the wet fleece on a dry night followed by a dry fleece on a wet night.  On the eve of battle, he overhears the enemy interpretation of a dream which shows he will win, yet another reassurance that he has made the right decision.

Maybe because he thus doubts both himself and God that every defence is stripped away by God, whittling down his army of 32,000 to 10,000 and finally leaving just 300 men to face an army of 135,000 – the resounding victory that follows can only occur because God was in the driving seat all along.   Gideon couldn’t quite bring himself to believe that God wanted him to have the best.  In contrast, Jesus tells us, What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (The Bible, Luke 11.11-13)  God wants to bless us with the best, even more than we want to bless our children with the best.

Damian, our curate and his wife Lauren have been wrestling with a big decision and seeking God’s will for their next step, and it has just been announced that they are moving to Thornton-le-Fylde Christchurch in the Autumn, where Damian will be Vicar.  The future is never transparent, but they can go forward, confident that God has a plan for them, a plan for good, and that above all, He will walk with them through every situation.  Perhaps, though, in Damian’s case, the answer to Grandma’s question is not fish, but “Men – and women.”

Praying that you may hear the loving will of God in Christ and walk confidently in his path, enjoying his blessing and bringing glory to his name.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

You can find the full text of the August Herald Magazine here

2015-10-17T14:35:49+00:00October 17th, 2015|

July 2015 Rector’s Letter

July 2015

“Yeeowl! Yeeowl!”  We’ve been to Ulverston to see Euan and Zach, hosted Aedan, Maayana and Callum and separately Ben;  all have been well behaved, played constructively and quietly – and yielded no little stories for a magazine article! “Yeeowl! Yeeowl!” We also visited Jake in Dundee, and he also was well behaved – and started to crawl, cruise and tried to walk while we were there. “Yeeowl! Yeeowl!” In Jake’s case, I may have a possible article theme: I’m mulling it over… “Yeeowl! Yeeowl!” Oh for goodness sake Sweep!  Give over with that Yeowlling!  Somewhere in Sweep’s ancestry is Siamese and over the last year, he has developed a very piercing “Yeeowl!”  which he repeats five or six times.  Sometimes he wants to be fed; sometimes he wants stroking; sometimes he just wants attention; sometimes it seems to be him announcing he’s arrived  – and sometimes we can’t see why he’s making the noise at all.

Sweep is just short of 16.  Depending on how you do the calculation, he’s between 74 and 112 in human terms.  One visitor suggested he’s simply become a grumpy old man, and the “Yeeowl!” is a cross between ‘Oh my aching joints.’, ‘In my day…’ and ‘Doesn’t anyone around here care…’ What is certain is that the “Yeeowl!” is really penetrating: human babies have a cry which is designed to get your attention, a cry you just can’t ignore, a cry which demands action.  You will have experienced that kind of cry and know you can’t concentrate or do anything until the child has had the required attention.  When you’re responsible for the child, you must leave whatever you’re doing and go to them; if you’re not responsible for the child, you sit there thinking ‘Can’t someone do something with that child?’

Actually, while we were up with Jake, we experienced a little of that demanding cry – Jake was teething and so waking in the middle of the night with a cry that expected and received attention, leaving both poor Emma and Carl sleep deprived.  The night after we left, they steeled themselves and left Jake to cry, monitoring him but not running to him; after 35 minutes he let go and descended into a deep sleep, waking at 7am the next day in a happy mood – Oh the joys of parenting!  Anyway, Sweep’s “Yeeowl!” is as penetrating as any baby’s cry and elicits the same range of responses.

And what of God?  Does he sit there like a distracted parent, immune to our pleas?  Has he developed selective hearing?  Do we need to develop a persistent and penetrating “Yeeowl! Yeeowl!” for him to hear us?  Jesus addressed the question with a parabolic question: “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves,  for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;  and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? (The Bible, Luke 11.5-7)  After painting the picture of an otherwise sympathetic friend unwilling to respond because it was too much trouble, Jesus goes on to show that the persistent crying of the man in need dragged the friend from his bed to attend to the need, a kind of “Yeeowl! Yeeowl!” response:  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.” (Luke 11.8)  But our heavenly Father is not like this.  He does not need “Yeeowl! Yeeowl!” to draw his attention to our need; instead: “ And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11.9-10)

Like a parent whose caring response may not necessarily be the one the child demanded but none the less had heard their child in love, so God hears us in love and delights to respond, giving us what we need – which may not be the same as that for which we asked!  The problem with the baby’s cry or the cat’s “Yeeowl! Yeeowl!” is that neither pauses to listen.  They are so busy trying to get the attention and response they have predetermined that they miss the warm and loving response that even preceded their cry for help and attention – the parent was already monitoring the child, the cat was already fed – and we are so busy telling God he’s not listening, that we fail to hear and receive his prior loving response.

Praying that you may hear the loving response of God in Christ before you have even framed the question and know that in all your tribulations, you are held in his arms of love.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

You can find the full text of the July Herald Magazine here

2015-10-17T14:31:43+00:00October 17th, 2015|