Herald

November 2011 Magazine Article

November 2011

“Crabs don’t talk!” The logic was irrefutable. Zach was being interrogated by a doctor.He remained resolutely silent, his hands making opening and closing motions – like a crab’s claws, it transpired – while the doctor asked him questions. Finally, the doctor asked in exasperation “Can’t you talk?” to which the response was “Crabs don’t talk!” I take it that by now, you realise that Zach was in fact, in his imagination, a crab, and as crabs don’t talk, unable to respond to any of the doctor’s questions.His logic was undeniable, although the astute will notice that the crab was able to speak in order to tell the doctor that crabs don’t talk!

His world is essentially simple and obvious – at least to him and other small children.Their individual worlds have their own internal logic, but a logic that does not have to connect very closely to the world that adults share.They live in their own bubble, occasionally burst by the outside pricks of the grown-up world.I am sure that’s why so often when children have done something incomprehensible to adults, and they are challenged with “Why did you do that?” they respond with “I don’t know.” or “I didn’t think.”What they mean – but haven’t the framework to explain – is that it seemed logical in their bubble at the time, but now it’s been burst by the cold reason of the outside world, the explanation seems to have fled.You’ve probably experienced the same in dreams – what seems perfectly sensible and possible in your dream appears ridiculous, even idiotic, in the cold light of day.

However, even in our waking moments, we are inclined to live in our bubble, with only passing reference to the realities outside. You may recall ‘The Truman Show’, a film (1998) starring Jim Carrey as a man who grows and lives on a set from birth, believing it to be the real world; his parents, family, friends and colleagues are all actors, and he is the unwitting star of a reality show.So many of us believe we are the centre of our world; in his case, he really was!The crunch came at the end of the film, where he is driven to test his world, and finds it is not real; he finds that there is a deeper, wider, greater reality, in which he is but a bit player, and it blows his world apart..

In one sense, the Truman story is our story; if our only reference point is ourselves, then we have no way of testing how real is our world, and it will not seem incongruous to declare that ‘Crabs don’t talk!’We need an external reference point to help us see reality, a deeper, wider, greater reality, in which we are but a bit player.Moses described in Psalm 90 the contrast between the everlasting creator God, and his transient creation, the man of dust, whose life span seems to be like a passing day.This fleeting existence, in which we fondly imagine ourselves to be the centre of the action, is contrasted with the living God for whom a thousand years are like a day or a watch in the night: “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (The Bible, Psalm 90.2).

If the immoveable and everlasting God is our touchstone and reference, we can begin to re-evaluate our place in the universe and space-time continuum.Yet far from declaring our part in history and geography pointless or insignificant, the Bible declares consistently that we find our true selves in the undying love of our heavenly Father; in Him, we have purpose, significance and importance, and so in Him we have peace, joy, hope and love.Those who open to God find in Him a sober reality full of endless and everlasting possibilities; those who close Him out of their bubble have a locally coherent world which is set to burst sooner or later as their little world touches the eternal reality of the Creator.They might as well go around declaring “Crabs don’t talk!”

Jesus declared that he came from and was returning to this deeper reality, and asks the Father to glorify him with the glory he had before the beginning of the world (John 17.5); Pilate is faced with the Truth that bursts his bubble, as Jesus challenges him: “I came into the world to testify to the truth.” Pilate takes refuge in relative truth – his bubble – as he responds with “What is truth?” (John 18.37-38).Faced with the opportunity to test the reality of his world, he baulks and passes into an ignominious history.We are faced with the same stark choice: to live in our own bubble of self-deception, or to open to the challenging reality of the living Creator and His Son.

Praying that you may have the courage to reassess your ‘bubble’ and to test it against the everlasting reality of the living God, and to find in Him and His Son Jesus peace, purpose, hope and joy in his eternal future.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ, Simon Cox.

2011-11-01T00:00:38+00:00November 1st, 2011|

October 2011 Magazine Article

October 2011

Nathanael flashed his lights . The car in the inner lane was pulling up fast behind a lorry, and indicated he was pulling out, edging towards the overtaking line.Nathanael flashed his lights to indicate that he had seen the driver and was holding back to let him in.The driver pulled in, and drew closer to the slower lorry, indicating all the while that he wanted to pull out, so Nathanael flashed his lights again to let him out.Again the car pulled into the inner lane, still indicating and fast approaching the rear of the lorry.Nathanael flashed his lights again as he could see that the car needed to pull out.Suddenly, the car pulled out into the overtaking lane, and to Nathanael’s surprise, flashed all his lights in what was clearly irritation, pulling away from Nathanael at speed.Nathanael had been the model of British courtesy, indicating as we all do that he was willing to give way and yield his right of way to help the needy motorist.Unfortunately, this was not Britain but France, where flashing your lights might well be translated as “Mind out, I’m coming through and exercising my right of way!”Each time Nathanael tried to say, “There you go, take the right of way.” he was in fact saying “Pull back and give way – I’m coming through!”

You probably realised that France speaks a different language but it may come as some surprise that even non-verbal communication needs translating as there is a significant possibility that a simple action in one culture may have a very different meaning in another, even that an apparently harmless sign may be actually quite rude.For example, in Britain, if you’re invited to dinner, taking a bottle of wine is a pleasant way to say thankyou, and you don’t normally expect the bottle to be opened.In France, if you take a bottle of wine, you are making a statement about your superior taste in wine, and convention demands that the bottle be used, even though your host has a bottle opened and aired ready for you . It’s a quick way to lose a friend!

Communication requires both parties to use the same language, for the transmitted message to be read in the same way by the receiver as the transmitter intended.God used a number of means of communication to His people; we’re in that time of year when two especially come to mind.On October 9th we celebrate(d) the Harvest Festival, a celebration which reminds us of God’s general providence in creation.God’s abundant providence declares His glory and generosity; we see the beauty all around us, we eat from laden tables, we breathe the oxygen of life without a second thought.Yet we so often mishear what God is saying to us: instead of stewarding the good things given to us, we feel it is our right to use and abuse His creation however we like; we discard piles of food while others hunger; we take for granted what is a gracious gift without giving thanks.

In the light of our ungracious use of His loving gift, God spoke by his prophets, defining this abuse as ‘sin’ which separates us from the loving hand of God; finally God spoke by sending his own Son, Jesus, the focus of our Christmas celebrations.In Jesus, God not only told us how to live as His loved creation, how to enjoy the meaning and purpose God is pleased to invest in our lives, but also to give us the route back to this full mutual relationship.Jesus lived and taught the life God wants to be ours, and then gave himself in a sacrificial death so that, no longer separated by the gulf of sin, we may be fully restored to life with God.“In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” (The Bible, Hebrews 1.1-2)

In Jesus, God came into our very nature, community and culture.He spoke the same language, lived the same life, felt the same fears and temptations, endured the same deprivations.God in Christ is the ultimate communication, with the communicator taking every step to ensure his communication is heard and understood.What more can he do?Through creation and redemption in Christ, God speaks His words of love; if you cannot hear His gentle call, if you cannot understand His small still voice, if you misunderstand His clarion call, pause and consider and ask yourself, ‘Who is at fault?’God has not stopped speaking, and he speaks today – give Him the time so that you can listen, hear, understand.In His constant melody, he speaks with the harmony of creation and redemption in Christ Jesus, a song He calls you to join, a song of eternity, a chorus of peace and purpose.

Praying that you may pause to listen, hear and understand the voice of God in his creation and His only Son Jesus Christ, and in hearing, you may receive, and in receiving you may believe, and so know his peace and purpose in your life .

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ, Simon Cox.

2011-10-01T00:00:15+00:00October 1st, 2011|

September 2011 Magazine Article

September 2011

“Bbbbrraaappff” – Approximately the sound made by Nat on Ben’s tummy, to which Ben responded with a squeal of laughter and a broad smile.Ben is our youngest grandchild, now 6 months old, and a most enjoyable part of our holiday in France this summer.We stayed in a gite at La Mayet, near Ambert, and for two weeks, Ben had the mostly undivided attention of any one of four adults.Nat and Rachel are proving loving and diligent parents, and even after a broken night’s sleep, Ben, now refreshed and bouncing, was greeted by a warm ‘hello Ben’.Not surprisingly, Ben thrived on the attention he was receiving.During the week, his wide range of sounds began to be attached to specific ‘locations’ – mama/dada seemed to be used more in Nat & Rachel’s arms, and there seemed to be the beginning of a ‘Ben’ sound.He learned to do a back to front roll and a front to back roll while we were there, and began moving his legs in a concerted attempt to crawl.Humans are unique in the world in the amount of time they invest in their offspring, and in the length of time before the infant is self-sufficient.(30 odd years, I hear some parents groan!).Children are a time-costly investment; you can give them all sorts of ‘things’, but children really thrive when they are given time, and if their natural parents don’t give them enough, they tend to find a surrogate who has the time for them that they need and crave.

Communities are not that different.The little place we stayed consisted of about 6-7 households, linked to half a dozen or so other hamlets of varying sizes.Dispersed over a considerable area of land, the communities had every opportunity to disintegrate into isolated pockets.However, there was in evidence a vibrant and strong community, open to the guests who regularly stayed among them, despite the language barriers.This community, obviously available to each other a ‘good neighbours’, had not come about by chance.While we were there, they were holding a ‘scarecrow’ competition with households making their own imaginative ‘scarecrows’, from a doctor to an angler, a dancer to a very realistic apple picker.I learnt that this was one of several community events throughout the year – a committee arranged the events and competitions, including barbeques, dances, bonfires, and so forth.When an event became stale, they varied the programme.There was a special emphasis on children being able to join in the events.Even the prizes – and there were prizes for all – were selected to be the things that the recipients would find helpful.There was a very considerable investment of time in the community, and it was paying dividends.

It was a poignant paradox that while we were seeing a community grow in mutual inter-dependence and support, the headlines from ‘home’ were all about riots, community disintegration, criminal destruction and a self-centred attitude that spells the death of our community.It is one of the tragedies of our time and place that household after household has become an apparently self-sufficient island.We take for granted the time and energy others put into community cohesion, and lament when some facility closes, but we invest little of our own time, and wonder why our communities are community only in name.It is the constant cry of every voluntary organisation that people are not willing to take on the responsibility and time commitment of investing in their community and young people, and quite often the time commitment of young people and others as members is also lacking.Considerable amounts of time are invested in fantasy communities on-line and on-screen, while starving the real communities of the oxygen of personal participation.It is in these real communities that values and morals and standards are shared and upheld in a natural day to day communication, and it is the absence of the sharing of these values that leads ultimately to the self-harming scenes of community disintegration that we have witnessed.Without shared morals, we are amoral, and a people can be amoral only for so long before they are immoral.

Jesus taught us to call God ‘Our Father’ and founded by his life laid down a community of love “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (The Bible, John 13.34) God in Christ invested everything he had in this community, a community where he invites each of us to grow in love and knowledge of him and to become more like him.It is a community which often makes mistakes, but is a nursery for new life and growth in Christ.It is a vibrant and strong community, open to guests and newcomers.A community with a place for you – but only reaching its and your full potential with the investment of your time.Join us on September 25th for ‘Back to Church Sunday’ and on 9th October for the Harvest Thanksgiving to the Lord who has given so much and asks for so little.

Praying that you may invest time and energy in your community, and find a warm welcome in the community of Christ’s church, the first fruit of the harvest to eternal life in community with God.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ, Simon Cox.

2011-09-01T00:00:55+00:00September 1st, 2011|

August 2011 Magazine Article

August 2011

“I like bread!” Joshua is only 2½, but he speaks with a clarity to which many children twice his age could only aspire.Not only does he have a clear ringing voice, he has a considered opinion on many issues, and is happy to share his views.As he left crèche this morning, he announced ‘We’re going home now.’ to anyone who was listening . As he realised it was Communion, he declared ‘Ooh, there’s the bread; I like bread.’After joining his parents at the rail, he informed the adults in the queue behind ‘I had some bread.’ just in case there was any doubt.Joshua and his family are one of the many delightful members of All Hallows Church.The 9.30am service has a number of lively and lovely small children, and has become very friendly to young families – a crèche runs throughout the service, we start by looking for the now famous ‘Bispham Bear’, the service words are projected onto a screen, and coupled with ‘Youth Praise’ (5-11) and Pathfinders (11+) provides something for all the family.Our growing little people are an enthusiastic and joyful part of the service.

The 11am and 8am services provide a complete contrast.At the 8am service, we have a quiet but friendly said Communion service in traditional language, whilst at the 11am service a larger congregation celebrate with traditional Church of England worship.In other words, there is something for everyone, whether you love having little ones with you or not.All the services have carefully prepared sermons designed to open the bible, but the 6.30pm service has an even stronger teaching ethos, coupled with bimonthly ‘Songs of Praise’, a monthly Bible & Questions sermon, where the congregation vote for the sermon topic, and some other varied formats.

However, there is no such place as a perfect church, save in heaven.The very fact we are made up of a wide variety of redeemed sinners means that we always have the capacity for getting relationships wrong.I suppose it all depends on the reasons that we go to church.Worship is the obvious first reason, but also to learn more of God from his Word.Fellowship with other Christians is another really important part.Fellowship encourages us to know we are not alone in our struggles against doing the wrong things, helps us to learn other’s solutions and drives us to accommodate other people’s personalities by developing our own.We are a family meeting together to grow together in love and service – like all family meetings, we are sometimes highly entertaining, but that’s not our reason for meeting.

I was an atheist until I was 19 and became a Christian at 19½ (sadly now a long time ago!).One of the very first things I did was join a local church.Even when I did shift work, which meant working 1 in 4 Sundays, I made sure I was there the other Sundays.Often I would have liked to just stay at home and rest, to let inertia take its toll, but I had learnt that it mattered that I was there – and not just to me; whether they admitted it or not, whether they realised it or not, it mattered to the other church members that I was there, and it mattered to me that they were there.Not surprisingly, a wise Christian wrote “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.” (The Bible, Hebrews 10.25)

St Paul revealed that the church is the very body of Christ, and encourages us to grow from infants to mature Christians, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ . From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (The Bible, Ephesians 4.15-16) from which it is obvious that we all need each other, and we need to meet with each other to play our part.

On September 25th, we are joining with churches across the nation in ‘Back to Church Sunday’.You are always welcome at your local church, but perhaps this would be a good day to make a special effort to overcome the inertia, to re-prioritise the Lord’s day, to be part of the delightful people of Christ at Bispham All Hallows, to play your part, and to grow in love and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.If we are a family meeting together to grow in love and service, we are Christ’s family, and we don’t want to miss out on any of the exciting contributions that you can bring by being you!

Praying that you might celebrate with joy and gladness with us in the Saviour’s presence, becoming a true part of the family that has an eternal future in Christ Jesus the Lord.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

2011-08-01T00:00:15+00:00August 1st, 2011|

July 2011 Magazine Article

July 2011

“Turn away from the church” Perhaps the oddest line of the day – our daughter Emma was marrying Carl, and as we drove out of the Rectory gate, I reminded our driver that we were driving away from the church – so that Emma could arrive in the car as she wanted, photographs and all, having travelled more than 50 yards.In February 2010, she announced their engagement, and the months to May 28 this year have been filled with planning.Everything was planned and executed at best price (Carl has a businessman’s mind – even the table lighthouse centre pieces from a charitable lighthouse shop came with a discount), and almost everything went to plan.You can’t plan for the guest minister to drive 102 miles for the rehearsal, then return that evening to collect the forgotten flower-girl dresses for his daughters, but what a star!Carefully ordered matching bears for the smallest children, left out of the photographs.And the weather! Normally reliably sunshine turned dull and very blustery – the carefully cultivated Rectory garden was hardly needed, the hastily provided drinks in the shelter of the hall much appreciated…And yes! – I couldn’t have been prouder as I walked Emma up the aisle

All four of our children’s weddings have been wonderful and joyful family celebrations, enhanced and given deeper meaning and purpose by the presence and blessing of our heavenly Father. But then, that’s how we try to care for all the weddings at All Hallows.The wedding is planned with you in the run up to the wedding, we help you to think about being married as well as getting married, and there is a full rehearsal the day before, so that on the day, the celebration begins in the ceremony, not after it, as if it were just a dry legal ceremony.The hour long celebration often involves over 20 church members and is normally the culmination of at least 10 hours spent together with the couple.Weddings are part of the celebration of life, a life which is the gift of God, and should be celebrated in his presence.Anyone living in, or has lived in, the parish has a right to hold their marriage in the church – it is even sometimes possible to celebrate a second marriage in church.We are happy to discuss your wedding plans and to see how we can help you celebrate life. As Jesus said “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (The Bible, John 10.10)

In the same way, we are privileged to hold the funeral service of your loved one in church, giving the time and space to hold a dignified and personal service of celebration of their life, without rushing out to make space for the next group of mourners.It’s even possible to hold the whole service in church (a service of committal in church) where the prayers of committal are said during the service, the deceased then being taken for the cremation, but the family staying for prayers, able to meet all those celebrating their loved one’s life, and meeting later at the interment of their cremated remains, the final resting place.Again, anyone living in the parish or dying in the parish has a right to have their funeral in church, and in practice we’ve never turned any request down from beyond the parish.Weddings and Funerals don’t even include a creed, a statement of faith, as it is not a requirement to receive the service.In contrast, Baptisms, are based around the profession of faith by the parents and godparents as they present their child and promise to bring him/her up in the light of their publically declared faith.

It is our joy to be with you at these key moments in life, as we celebrate the life God gave us in birth, marriage and at death in retrospect.Jesus himself was baptised, attended a wedding and a funeral, and invests these moments with a deeper significance, pointing us on to the re-birth by faith (“I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” [Jesus, The Bible, John 3.3]), the eternal relationship God desires with His people (“The bride (the church) belongs to the bridegroom (Christ)” [John, The Bible, John 3.29), and the life beyond death in the resurrection won by Jesus (“I am going there to prepare a place for you” [Jesus, The Bible, John 14.2]).That is why we are pleased to share these key moments with you, to help give them both dignity and celebration, to bring them into the presence of our life-giving and loving Father, and to point on to the still greater life and joy he wants us to share in his Son, Jesus Christ.You only have to ask!

Praying that you might celebrate with joy and gladness all that the good Father has given us, and in his Son, Jesus Christ, may find truly the abundance of life in all its fullness.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

.

 

2011-07-01T00:00:44+00:00July 1st, 2011|

June 2011 Magazine Article

June 2011

“Engage Smug Mode” Kryten is a mechanoid servant with very human characteristics in the comedy ‘Red Dwarf’When he was proved right – invariably – he would walk off with a huge smirk after ‘engaging smug mode’.I felt like joining him.We have some roll-up banners at church and one of them separated from the cartridge into which it was supposed to roll.I phoned the suppliers only to be told that ‘no one at the company had ever managed to resurrect the cartridge’ so if I sent back the banner, they would supply a new cartridge at £60 plus postage; our cartridge was to be binned!

‘No one…ever’ – it’s just too much of a challenge!As a small boy, I took my father’s stapler apart, hid the pieces while I tried to work out how to reassemble it, ignored my brothers’ grins as they waited for me to ‘cop it’, and successfully reassembled the stapler.My father was an engineer, and so is one of my sons. Curiosity runs in the blood.I disassembled the cartridge, and found that the banner had parted from the mechanism because some sticky tape had failed.Reattaching it with carpet tape was easy -until I discovered it needed to be the opposite way round!

Starting again, I successfully wound the banner the right way home, but the banner now had to be pulled into the case by a roller blind mechanism.My first attempt simply unrolled in the case – wound the wrong way!The second attempt had me rolling the banner by thumb pressure against the roller spring through a small gap – I could only tension it sufficiently to draw half the banner into the case.I took a long time to think through the problem, and in the end, I had to release the hard earned tension, open the case and start all over again.Only the carpet tape was right.I disengaged the banner, attached some cord to the roller blind mechanism, wound 3m of cord around it, reassembled the case, and gently pulled the cord out until the mechanism was tensioned, attached the banner – and success!“Engage Smug Mode!”Who said no one ever resurrected!Curiosity triumphed.

We conducted a doorstep survey during our ‘Going Further’ event, and 106 people kindly helped with the survey.The results were very interesting. 40% believed God was personal, only 13% that he didn’t exist.Only 17% thought death was the end with nothing following, the rest believing in some form of afterlife or not sure.40% believed that Jesus was the Son of God, and a further 22% that he was a prophet or messenger from God.The ‘one question you would want to put to God or a believer’ – 15% wanted to know why God made them or the world (purpose), and 57% wanted to know why there was so much suffering.Finally, ‘if you could know God personally, have a relationship with him, would you be interested?’ 50% ‘yes’, and 25% not sure, only 11% would say ‘no’!

We’re very grateful to all those who answered the questions; no doubt the 132 who declined to take part would have changed some of the responses, but it was very encouraging.Still, I am left wondering… if I was prepared to spend 5-6 hours dismantling and reassembling a roll-up banner until I understood it and was able to make it work again out of sheer curiosity and persistence… wouldn’t you want to invest some time in discovering the truth about God, life after death, Jesus, and a personal relationship with him?If you’ve come to a settled conclusion that he doesn’t exist or isn’t interested, so be it, but if you share with our respondents a sneaking feeling that God is personal, that he has a post-death future waiting for us, that Jesus in some way speaks uniquely for him, and that he’s waiting to relate to you, personally, then – well, wouldn’t you want to invest a few hours in answering these questions?

If there’s even a slim chance that you might be missing out on peace and hope, a certain future beyond death and a purpose before death, then wouldn’t natural curiosity drive you in persistence until you knew one way or another?Can there be any question more important in life?Ponder carefully – for a small investment of time, you may be on the brink of finding better and more lasting treasure than anyone with a metal detector.Because we believe we’ve found some answers.You might even answer the favourite question about suffering on the way.As a church, we’d be delighted to help you find some answers for yourself – just bring your questions and curiosity!For Jesus said “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (The Bible, Luke 11.9)

Praying that you might bring your questions to him, and seeking, might find hope, purpose, peace and joy in Christ Jesus.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

.

2011-05-24T23:02:25+00:00May 24th, 2011|

May 2011 Magazine Article

May 2011

‘I need a wee!’ A week spent in Scotland with Tom, Jen, Euan and Zach; great fun, but punctuated by Zach’s cry – he was in the midst of being potty trained, and although he could have frequently used it, he has not yet mastered the past tense – let the reader understand.We spent the week hunting – the boys hunted Legomen at Culzean Castle, Bugs at Castle Kennedy, and Beasties in the rock pools of Ballantrae, the girls hunted bargains in Ayre, and Tom hunted for peace and quiet!

Culzean Castle – with delightful gardens and a Swan Pond, hides a Legoman in each room of the Castle, so while the girls took the tour, Tom and I took the boys hunting.  Zach was surprisingly good at finding them, although sometimes you needed to lift him to eyeline height to see the hidden men.  As soon as he spotted one, he shouted “There’s a man, I see him.” And danced with excitement – a little awkward if you were holding him.  The men were located in all sorts of places, but the light fittings seemed to be one of the favourite places.   At the end, they had to say which room they couldn’t find one in, and so win the Legoman Hunt sticker, which both boys proudly wore.

Euan and Zach share a deep interest in bugs – so much so, that when we saw some ‘bug motif’ coats, we couldn’t resist buying them one each – admired for their accuracy by the ‘bug’ lady, who demonstrated many bugs and how to build a ‘bug hotel’.  By the time we got to the rock pools, Zach only wanted to jump in, but Euan was entertained by the array of hermit crabs, shrimps, and fish that Tom in particular was very good at finding.  As for bargain hunting – you’ll just have to ask the girls!

We returned in time for Holy Week, and many home Communions.  At each communion, we read the resurrection stories.  The women make their way to the Tomb, only to find it opened and empty.  In Matthew, Mark and Luke, they see an angel or two, who tells them (in the shorter version in Luke), “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” (The Bible, Luke 24.5-6) Unlike the boys, who looked for their Legomen, bugs & rock pool beasts in the right places, Mary and the women were looking in the wrong place.  The last time they had seen Jesus, he was dead and being buried by Joseph and Nicodemus – no wonder they looked for him in the tomb, as they went to tenderly do the last decent thing for him by re-wrapping the body.  But even after they saw the tomb and heard the angel, they continued to look in the tomb for a dead Jesus. John records that Mary lingers after the others have left puzzled; Mary yet again peers into the tomb and again the angels say, “Woman, why are you crying?” (The Bible, John 20.13) Mary is still looking for the wrong thing – a body – in the wrong place – the tomb.  Jesus is not dead, and the tomb is not full.

All of us look for meaning and purpose in our life, look for contentment and fulfilment, and dream of a life which will stretch beyond the grave, for death seems to make a mockery of all that we hold dear and question the very value of our lives.  But the joyful Easter news is that God has given us a path back to Him and eternal life, and His “Yes!” to Jesus’ death in our place is celebrated by Jesus’ resurrection.  When we would find peace and joy and hope, it is all too easy to look in the wrong place.

Mary and the women found only perplexity in the empty tomb; they looked in the wrong place, and found a mystery – when they looked in the right place, they found Jesus – and hope, joy, peace, meaning and purpose.

Praying that you look in the right place, find Jesus, and in him and his resurrection, hope, joy, peace, meaning and purpose.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

2011-05-01T12:00:33+00:00May 1st, 2011|

April 2011 Magazine Article

April 2011

Aedan has been poorly – for just over the last week, he has been suffering from the ravages of chicken pox. For over a week, he has been cut off from all that he loves – outside contact with the world, his playgroup, his “mums & toddlers” groups, his grandparents, even just going out. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Mummy went off for the weekend with Grandma, leaving Daddy to look after poorly Aedan and Maayana, who at least was enjoying Mummy’s immunity to chicken pox. Further north, Tom was left to look after his two boys as Jenny also joined Natalie & Diane at a weekend for women at Capernwray Bible School. I am proud of my sons, and a bit amazed: following the birth of Ben, Nat rose brilliantly to the occasion looking after his wife and new born son, Tom looked after his two boys without Jenny as they recovered from gyppy tummies, and Tim took on Aedan and Maayana. In contrast, when I looked after our four children for a weekend, I had widespread sympathy from the parish, and dined out on the ‘egg flop’ story for months, my feeble attempt at cooking scrambled eggs in a microwave.

It would have been much easier for Tim if Aedan had not had chicken pox – at least Tim could have had visitors, could have fed the children at The Squirrel carvery, could have taken them out to visit the park, but instead, the time was spent in isolation.

I saw Aedan on Tuesday evening. His face was scabby, but his smile was broad. He flung his arms around me and gave me a big hug, “Granddad!”, as he snuggled his running nose into my shoulder. No longer in isolation, he was enjoying life in all its fullness, running up and down the slope and steps outside Bispham Endowed School for sheer exuberance of being alive – well, almost, until exasperated parents made it clear they wanted to leave. What a contrast – from the isolation to enjoying fellowship, from darkness to light, from poorly to well; from grumpiness to joy. As I watched him running around, I was reminded of Easter joy after the dark night of Good Friday.

Despite what some people try to make out, God made the universe with a moral DNA; there is clear right and wrong, and we instinctively know it even when we pretend otherwise. When (not if!) we go against that moral imperative woven deep into God’s creation, we offend the righteousness of our holy God and send ripples throughout His universe. This deviation is universal (‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’, Romans 3.23), and lethal (‘for the wages of sin is death’ Romans 6.23); cut off from the source of all life , we are dead in our sins, like Aedan in his isolation – unable to enjoy fellowship, light and life, destined instead for eternal destruction. This is the state of Jesus, lying in the tomb. He has become the object of God’s wrath, dying on the cross for our sin. We identify with him on the cross, and join him there by faith, and lie where we deserve, in the eternal isolation of the tomb of death. Paul wrote ‘for the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 6.23) The Bible.

Easter is about God’s great reversal – in raising Christ from the dead, God raises all who are identified with him by faith, or as Paul puts it ‘if we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.’ (Romans 6.5), or to finish Romans 6.23, ‘for the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life inChrist Jesus our Lord’. Jesus’s death on the cross is God’s judgement against all the moral perturbations of His universe, including ours; Jesus’ resurrection is his triumph of love over law, of life over death, of hope over despair, of future over past, including ours. The only question that remains is whether we will, by faith, identify with Jesus in both death and resurrection. When the answer is ‘Yes’, we are ready to have the wonderful celebration Easter Day is meant to signify, a breaking free from isolation to full fellowship, light and life.

Praying that you may find in identifying with Christ Jesus in his death and resurrection true life and light and peace with our heavenly Holy Father.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

2011-04-01T12:00:26+00:00April 1st, 2011|

March 2011 Magazine Article

March 2011

“Grandma! … Grandma!” Euan and Zach arrived and wheeled right and left. Euan ran to Diane, and with the cry “Grandma”, wrapped his arms around Diane. He and his family were down for his 5th birthday; Diane had been feeling very pressured by work demands, and wasn’t sure she wanted a family weekend, but with one hug and squeeze, her oldest grandson melted it all away. It really was lovely to see him. Zach meanwhile had wheeled in the opposite direction and with the cry “Grandma” – gave me a big hug and a smile! Although it is really great being Grandad, I’ve not quite got a separate identity with 2¾ Zach, being variously ‘Grandma’, and occasionally ‘Grandma-grandad’. Later that weekend, Zach made some progress: he wanted some chocolate which was deemed to be Grandad’s, so he managed a creditable “Please can I have some chocolate, Grandad?’ followed by ‘Thank you, Grandma.’ It’s just possible that by the end of the weekend, he has mastered this permanently. Euan, meanwhile, has developed to the point where he can see the funny side of his brother calling me Grandma.

Euan is quite sensitive to others around him – asked what he would like to do for his birthday, and knowing that Emma and Carl were going to collect a few small beach stones for their wedding table plan, he opted to ‘go to the beach’, so we would all be together. Diane and Jenny went for a stroll, and the rest of us collected stones and did a little digging on the beach. Euan and I built a dam across a small stream – and Zach jumped in the water, fully clothed. Sunday, we were joined by the rest of the family for lunch, Tim and Natalie with Aedan (2) and Maayana (5 months), and Nat and Rachel with Ben – 2 weeks! Maayana was already sitting up to the table, having solids, and brightly gurgling at everyone while little Ben slept until being breastfed. I looked at the 15 around the table and the amazing progress each child was making in their development, physically, intellectually, and socially. Ben called round last night, a week later, and even in one week was showing his development in alertness and awareness of others. It is amazing fun, being a Granddad!

The boys are also showing spiritual development. Euan and Zach expect to have grace before a meal, and enthusiastically sing “Thank you for the world so sweet”. Euan can manage the ‘Amen’ involving rotating the hands and a ‘thumbs-up’, while Zach, focussed on his food, manages most of the words and a cursory attempt at ‘thumbs-up’ – Aedan expects to hold hands and smiles, and the youngest two are oblivious. All are developing and it is a great joy watching their development. Although each has made progress, we expect and anticipate further progress; if for some reason their progress was arrested, and there was no prospect of them going further, we would be saddened – going further is a normal expectation.

This is why we have a long weekend (31st March – 3rd April) with a national missioner, Roger Murphy, entitled ‘Going Further’. Roger will be helping us all in our development, our ‘Going Further’. There will be a ladies event ‘Puddings R us’ on Thursday evening 31st March, a family/young people event on the Friday evening, a men’s breakfast Saturday morning, followed by afternoon tea with the Tarnbank Quartet, together with the main services on Sunday at 9.30am, 11.00am and 6.30pm when Roger will be speaking, helping us in our ‘Going Further’ with God. It is for those who have questions and also for those who having made progress, realise it is time for going further. Full details will be available from the Rectory, and you are warmly invited to join us for these social and fun events to help you – and us – as we seek to progress in our walk with God.

As a biologist, I learnt nothing living is static; it either grows or it dies. Jesus uses this picture when he describes himself as the vines and us as his branches; we are to grow, going further, and bear fruit as his branches, or be cut off as dead wood. (John 15.1-6) This is a wonderful opportunity to explore our most important relationship and growth – come and join us.

Praying that you may find in Christ Jesus life in union with him, and in that life , growth, fullness and his fruit.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

2011-03-01T12:00:50+00:00March 1st, 2011|

February 2011 Magazine Article

February 2011

“Cake?” … “Cake?” … “Cake?”As I waited downstairs to collect Aedan, Natalie and Mayaana for lunch and church, I could hear this plaintive, querulous cry, almost as Aedan descended each step. A firm invisible voice replied, “No cake!” Cake is one of his latest clear words – like all words at nearly two, it is flexible in meaning and use; for Aedan, ‘cake’ translates into anything broadly cake-like, sweet and nice to eat. Most desserts seem to be ‘cake’ as well. On this occasion, he simply accepted that there was “no cake”, and set about collecting his chosen toys to clutch and ferry to the Rectory. However, on Friday 21st January, he will reach the grand age of 2, and in reply to the question ‘What does he want for his birthday?’, Natalie responded with some options, and ended with ‘… and cake on Sunday’, so he will no doubt be excitedly seeking ‘Cake?’ again. He has, of course, effectively communicated his interest and desire, however few the words.

Another significant anniversary occurs in 2011; 400 years ago in 1611, King James caused and commanded his definitive translation to be released, authorised and appointed for reading in church. For 200 years, it would simply be called ‘The Bible’; with the advent of a new translation, it became known as the AV, the authorised version, and then internationally, as the KJV, the King James’ version. Of course, King James didn’t actually translate any of the Bible from the original Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek; he left that to a coterie of translators working together. The translators were not starting from scratch, either; men like Tyndale and Wycliffe had laboured in the first translations a century earlier, paying for their vision with their lives, but leaving a legacy incorporated into the Authorised Version.

Like Aedan, the issue was one of communication. God had a plan from the beginning of time to rescue us from our isolation and save us from our sin, to live with him forever. The plan was progressively revealed, until it found its fullness in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The New Testament was written in the language of its day. The Greek in which it was written was not the ‘posh, classical’ Greek, but the everyday Greek used in shopping lists and carpenter’s shops, a Greek written to communicate. The Old Testament was translated into Greek as well. With time, the common language of international communication became Latin, the everyday language of the Roman Empire, so the Bible was translated into Latin.

By the time Wycliffe and Tyndale and the rest were on the scene, Latin was restricted to the educated elite, and Wycliffe longed for God’s word to be communicated in all its freshness, directly to the people. For many people, going to church was a mystery – the priest led all the service in Latin, and read from the Latin Bible; pious people who could read would take an English text of inspirational writing to read while the priest rattled on, only pausing to ring a bell when significant moments had been reached in the service. Even many of the priests didn’t really know Latin; a survey by a Bishop found very few knew where the Lord’s Prayer or the Ten Commandments were to be found in the Bible. Wycliffe’s famous line was that he wanted the ploughboy to be able to sing the Psalms in English as he ploughed his furrow. His vision was of God communicating to his people, directly, vibrantly, vividly, just as he had in the originals. King James brought a variety of translations together into one authoritative and authorised version.

Today, we are blessed with a variety of versions, seeking to make the Bible easily accessible. The King James’ Version has played a major part in the development of the English language, and was directly responsible for improved literacy as well, people learning to read because they could read the Bible in their own language.“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3.16) The KJV Bible

This is “The year of the Bible”, a celebration of the gift of the KJV bible, and of our God who longs to communicate in our own language. As a church, we are accepting a national challenge to read the 100 most essential passages of the Bible over this year; if you would like to join us, contact the Rectory and ask for the E100 leaflet. Unlike Aedan, when you ask him for “Cake?” the answer will not come back “No cake!” – He longs to communicate and to give.

Praying that you may find in God’s lively Word all that you need to bring you to peace and righteousness in Christ our Lord.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

2011-02-12T20:34:20+00:00February 12th, 2011|