Monthly Archives: March 2016

March 2016 Rector’s Letter

March 2016

“Aaaawoooaaah!” And with that, the body fell back!  My years (1974-79) on the Isle of Man ended with two years working as an Assistant Nurse at a Psychiatric Hospital, the final year on night duty.  One of my tasks was to convey any patients who died during the night to the mortuary.  Most of those who died were the very elderly patients, and once they had been prepared I and a colleague would be taken off other duties to push a hospital trolley from the Ward to the Mortuary set on the outskirts of the hospital site, the route taking us along dark paths.  The Mortuary was very small with spaces for only two bodies.

On this occasion, my colleague and I had collected the deceased patient from the furthest Ward and on the way, he revealed that he found the job very scary.  We arrived at the Mortuary with our patient, unlocked the door, and manoeuvred the trolley into the confined space, ready to lift the patient onto the wooden pallet.  There was already another shrouded patient lying on the second pallet.  The trolley banged the corner of this pallet, and suddenly the patient lifted about 30 degrees off the pallet, and gave a loud wailing sigh “Aaaawoooaaah!” and with that, the body fell back!

I freely admit that I jumped.  Was it someone playing a trick?  No, it was clearly a dead patient.  I then realised that we had dislodged the build-up of internal gases by knocking the pallet with the trolley, sufficient to raise the body and expel the gases with the wail until the body re-settled.  I turned to my colleague with the words, “Well, that was pretty scary…” but the words died on my lips as I realised I had no colleague!  It later transpired he had fled, running 5 miles across the fields until he reached home and not returning until the following night.  I had to lock the trolley in the Mortuary and get another colleague to help lift the patient onto the pallet.  You can imagine the laughter from the other staff, especially when my colleague returned the following evening.

This month we celebrate Easter.  The basics are well known.  Jesus knows his end is imminent and says his goodbyes at his last supper on Maundy Thursday, giving us Communion and the abiding command to you love one another as I have loved you (The Bible, John 15.12) in the process.  Betrayed and arrested later that night, he is tried illegally overnight, found guilty on trumped up charges, flogged and crucified on Good Friday, dying that afternoon and being buried just before sundown.  The ladies wanted to dress the body properly – it was done in a rush – and as they were forbidden to work on the Sabbath (Saturday) and unable to see in the darkness of Saturday night, they approached the tomb at first light Sunday morning.  What they are expecting would bear more resemblance to my experience than to what they actually experienced.  They are expecting to open a tomb and find a battered body, the worse for 36 hours heat and decay.  Firstly they are disturbed to find the tomb open and the body gone, an angel providing commentary “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”  (Luke 24.5-6).  Secondly, they are even more disturbed to meet with Jesus, very clearly alive.  Nothing had prepared them for this: with a gas-driven corpse they could have coped, but a living talking friend who was comprehensively dead 3 days earlier?  At least two of the gospels record that their joy was mixed with fear.

Jesus’ resurrection is a game-changer.  Welded to him by faith, he identifies with us in our death and raises us with him in his resurrection.  The resurrection body he will give to us is as far removed from the aching shell we currently inhabit as real life is from the self-raising corpse.  None of the disciples believed at first; all were convinced by Jesus’ repeated appearances over the next forty days.  At Jesus’ arrest the disciples had fled to safety, like my colleague above.  After seeing his resurrection, they were unstoppable – stoned, executed, beaten, imprisoned, persecuted, exiled – nothing could prevent them from declaring new life in Christ.  These were not men and women who had seen an animated cadaver or who wished themselves into belief, but those persuaded by the evidence that Jesus was alive; by his resurrection had beaten death, paid our sin debt and raised us to new life, now and forever.  Here is the joy of Easter!

As Jesus had said earlier “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11.25-26)

Praying that you may find in Christ Jesus life eternal with peace and joy today and the courage to face every passing trial in his strength.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

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

2016-03-03T22:26:34+00:00March 3rd, 2016|

February 2016 Rector’s Letter

February 2016

“Ninjago! Oh wow! I love Ninjago.” “Angry birds! Angry birds! I love it!”  “No, I don’t want to take off my furry ‘Frozen’ coat!  I love it!”  Zach, Aedan and Maayana respectively were responding to some of their Christmas gifts.  Diane smiled at me; she had just opened her token gift of chocolate bars in a Cadburys’ marked bag, “You know I love chocolate.” And leaning over, gave me a little kiss with the words’ “I love you – and I love the tapestry.”

Before we go any further, perhaps I should interpret.  Ninjago, the chosen gift of at least 3 grandchildren, is a themed Lego line with stories around some Lego characters who are Ninjas fighting evil.  Angry Birds turns out to be an improbable computer game of a battle between the said birds and some pigs, but in Aedan’s form was further complicated by being “Angry Birds Go! Jenga Pirate Pig Attack Game”, involving a pirate ship made of Jenga blocks in plastic, staffed by pirate pigs and attacked by angry birds in karts with a kart launcher… well, you did ask!  Maayana’s gifts included a furry white coat based on the Disney film ‘Frozen’ (every small girl knows every word of ‘Frozen’) which she wore proudly, despite her clearly rising temperature and the suggestion she could take it off.  Diane had fallen in love with some tapestry cushions in Brugge while we were on holiday and agreed to let me buy them for Christmas; by Christmas, she had enjoyed completing the first cushion.

February is probably best remembered for St Valentine’s Day, a day synonymous with romantic love, although this year it falls on the first Sunday of Lent, not at first sight an auspicious linking.  It is a day of romantic meals (at inflated prices), roses and cards declaring an undying love (although I was always intrigued by a card shop offering a ‘3 for 2’ offer on Valentine’s Cards…).  As the song goes, ‘Love is in the air..’ but what do we mean by love – just look at the variety of the use of the word love above and in daily use.  I fervently hope that Diane’s love for chocolate is different to her love for me.  I know we can use the language ‘utterly consumed by love’, but I hope I’m right that it doesn’t mean ‘like a piece of chocolate’.

‘Love’ has four words in the New Testament Greek rather than our one with meanings that are essentially ‘desiring’ (sexual), ‘sharing’ (brotherly/sisterly) and ‘giving’ (self-sacrificing), the last being the love God and Jesus have for His world and His people.  Clearly the different overlapping meanings of love are related, but it helps to clarify what ‘love’ means.  Even the deepest and all-consuming love expressed on St Valentine’s Day has little value unless it results in some action, some commitment.  Feelings alone are fleeting; love demands a longer term involvement.  Sexual desire without loving commitment is simply lust.

Popularly, we say ‘I do’ in the Service of Holy Matrimony; in fact, we say ‘I will’: “…will you love her/him…?”  “I will.”  ‘I will’ rather than ‘I do’ immediately moves love away from just now to all our future, a commitment to love.  Simultaneously, it moves love from how I feel about you at the moment to how I will act in the future:  I cannot declare how I will feel even tomorrow but I can commit to acting in a consistently caring way, and if I carry out this commitment to act, the feelings will follow.  This is the heart of the marriage covenant, a commitment to put each other’s interests first under God, and to act on that commitment.  As we consider St Valentine’s Day, it turns out that the most romantic thing we can do for someone we love is to commit to their well-being and care, to bind ourselves in a series of self-sacrificing actions until death us do part, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health…

Jesus makes (to our ears) an astonishing demand:  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (The Bible, John 15.12).  He develops and repeats this theme in the following verses, an interplay with, and a defining of love in terms of commandment:  “I command that you love” – ‘Command?’ ‘Love?’  How can you put these two together?  Jesus even links his loving self-sacrifice to our response in terms of command:  “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15.13-14).  Love is more about action and deed than feelings and so is under our control and in our gift.

Praying that you may find in Christ Jesus the true love of self-sacrifice and in that love may learn to truly love one another in deed and in commitment.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

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

2016-03-03T22:20:52+00:00March 3rd, 2016|

January 2016 Rector’s Letter

January 2016

“Grandma, Granddad, I love you.” Aedan gave us both a big hug, rapidly followed by Maayana.  Up to Summer 2014, we saw Aedan and Maayana almost every Sunday and knew their every mood, observed their development and were a clear part of their support framework.  Then Tim and Natalie moved to Preston, closer to Tim’s work and Natalie’s studies.  We still saw the grandchildren, but a couple of months could pass before we saw them again.  Each time they arrived, they had changed and we had to re-learn our relationship and discover what had been happening in their lives.

This time, they were staying with us for part of half-term; they arrived on Sunday with their parents but stayed until Tuesday night.  We spent time doing homework together (Maayana was more enthusiastic), went shopping and did many other routine things together.  Maayana made some jam with Granddad and Grandma – a first in itself – while Aedan spent some time with the Lego.  We watched TV together and the children snuggled down for a bedtime story.  On the Monday, we went to Brockholes with Ben and Rachel (and James), enjoyed extensive exploration of the various adventure playgrounds there and a meal at the Restaurant, returning quite tired with slightly muddy, happy and tired children.

Old understandings were rekindled, a deeper bond forged, new insights into each other gained.  In short, we had fun but also learnt to appreciate each other more.  The time together was a time of mutual growth. In the years to come, it is times like this that will form the foundations for a relationship where our grandchildren will feel that they can turn to us in need, perhaps raising things of concern to them that they do not yet feel able to share with their parents.  It helps us as well to feel we are needed and have a role to play as a part of the family.

The church family has a similar function – being a part of the church, engaging in the meetings and worship is much more than just attending.  There more we share each other’s company, the more we are learning from each other, the more we are able to support each other.  Most of the learning, support and growth is not during the formal teaching, but during the informal times over tea or common tasks together.  Much of the best fellowship is experienced in task orientated groups – the Holy Dusters, the Maintenance Team, the Bellringers, Music Group and Choir, to name a few – it is the being together that leads to the bridges of support and growth.

Sometimes our busy lives can get in the way of being at, being part of, our church.  We don’t notice it at first, but in some ways it seems to get harder and harder to get back into the pattern we once enjoyed the longer we stay apart.  Nor do we notice how our spiritual temperature is cooling.  In a story called ‘the unspoken sermon’, the Vicar calls on Joshua who has been absent from church for some time.  He is sitting in front of his fire and bids the Vicar to sit down.  There is silence, and the Vicar eventually simply lifts a bright glowing coal with the tongs from the heart of the fire and sets it on the hearth.  Both men watched in silence as the coal lost its bright glow, and then began to darken until almost no glow was visible.  The Vicar lifted the coal back into the heart of the fire and almost instantly it was glowing as brightly as before.  Joshua clasped the Vicar’s hand, nodded, and said ‘I’ll be back in Church on Sunday!”

It’s not a new problem – the writer of ‘Hebrews’ tells his readers, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (The Bible, Hebrews 10.24-25) and he tells us to ‘stir up one another’, a mutual rekindling of our spiritual fire.  Sometimes, it might not be that I need to attend church so much as the church needs me, but in every case, it is that time spent together that is so beneficial to our growth in love and mutual support.  How can we learn to love one another if we’re not there?!

As we begin a new calendar year, if you have been away from your church fellowship, make every effort to return so you can begin again to glow with spiritual fervour and share your unique contribution with your church family, resuming a productive life under the one whom Hebrews goes on to declare as Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.” (The Bible, Hebrews 13.8). What better banner under which to enter the New Year?  Praying that you may find strength in Christ Jesus and fellowship in His church this New Year.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

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

2016-03-03T22:15:40+00:00March 3rd, 2016|

December 2015 Rector’s Letter

December 2015

“…and God doesn’t like it!” Maayana and Aedan spent part of the October half term with us.  We bought some ‘witch’s hat’ cakes for them, but they could only be eaten if we described them as black & green cakes as, we were told in unison, ‘We don’t do Halloween; Mummy and Daddy don’t like it.’ ‘We don’t do Halloween either’, we told them, ‘we just thought you’d like ‘scary cakes’.’  When Natalie came to collect them, we discovered Maayana (5) was completely on message: her teacher was encouraging the class to celebrate Halloween (in a church school). “We don’t celebrate it.” announced Maayana.  “What a shame.” “It’s not a shame because it’s about celebrating all the bad things in the world and God doesn’t like it!”  As the teacher recounted the incident to Natalie with a smile and Maayana’s most urgent task on holiday was to complete her homework, they obviously have a good relationship.

Aedan and Maayana may have been on message about Halloween, but talk of Christmas immediately triggered present wish lists. They are children!  Aedan & Maayana rejoined us with all their family, overnighting Saturday.  On Sunday, James was welcomed following his baptism, so Ben and his family joined us.  The three of them were playing a game which involved a lot of laughing and shrieking, followed gamely by Callum, while James added his own contribution.  It was what might be labelled a lively moment.  Nathanael surveyed the children and turned to Diane.  “I thought your plan was a bit odd, but now I can see the point; I like your plan; can I come?”

We had been discussing our plans for Christmas. Each year we have had the privilege of all our children returning for a Christmas Celebration.  Seeing all the family and sharing in the Christmas ‘feast’ is one of the highlights of Christmas for me.  We now have 8 grandchildren; James is moving towards needing a high chair – all the rest need a seat now, giving a basic 17 round the table.  We have found ways to meet this growing target, but the sleeping arrangements have also become challenging.

Last year, we solved it by booking a family room at nearby Premier Inn and putting one family of 4 plus a baby there overnight for 2 nights.  It worked in part but meant the parents had to go to the Hotel early for the children’s sake or keep the children up past their bedtime, so this year, we have booked a room for 3 nights over Christmas – and we’re the ones planning to stay there!  Upstairs, every room will house families, including our bedroom, and the two oldest grandsons, Euan and Zach, are looking forward to camping in Granddad’s study, enjoying both the experience (they love camping) and the trust put in them.  Meanwhile, Diane and I will be sleeping in a quiet room in a large bed, returning for breakfast.  Nathanael surveyed the grandchildren and made his comments.  Then we realised his was the one family, living locally, not staying at the Rectory.  ‘Still’, he added, ‘I could enjoy the peace – though I would miss that Christmas morning moment when the children find their stockings.’

So what would ‘being on message’ about Christmas look like?  It has been seconded to support variously the homeless, care for the family, a commercial bonanza, a gourmets’ extravaganza and an alcoholic indulgence.  Meanwhile Vicars up and down the country address ‘the real meaning of Christmas’.  Truth is, they’re all a bit right.  Jesus’ birth is a matter of celebration – if the gift of the birth God’s Son isn’t sufficient for feasting and celebration, then what is?  The gifting of Jesus – and the teaching he will bring – should inspire us to care for those in need and be willing to gift time and resources to those needs, including the homeless (although contrary to popular myth, the Holy Family were not homeless).  The problem is not that we celebrate, but that we celebrate to excess and selfishly (Why does Father Christmas always give more to the rich ‘have-it-all’s than to the poor and needy?).  The irony is that it is this selfishness that Jesus came to deal with decisively!

The real meaning of Christmas can only be found in the life and teaching and death of Jesus rather than sentimentalism about babies.  In one of Jesus’ revolutionary declarations, he says  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (The Bible, Mark 10.45)  The Babe of Bethlehem came to die, serving his people by freeing them from the grip of their selfish sins through his self-sacrificing death.  It is from here that Christmas draws its heart and soul

Praying that you may find Christmas joy and peace in the one born to die as God’s gift to you.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

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

2016-03-03T22:06:04+00:00March 3rd, 2016|