Author Archives: Nigel Chapman

Live by the Spirit.

There are a number of different pictures used in the New Testament to help the emerging church of the first century get a handle on what it meant to follow Christ. The ‘Body of Christ’ in 1 Corinthians 12, ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ in Galatians 5. ‘Armour of God’ in Ephesians as well as instructions to ‘encourage one another’ and have ‘generous hearts’.

They were working it out as the Spirit of God revealed to them who they were, what to believe and how to conduct themselves. The majority of 1st Century followers were Jewish. They worshiped at the Temple of Jerusalem, and attended the Synagogue on the Sabbath. Yet, one defining constituent of this Jewish sect was that Christ was for all people. Jew, Gentile, Greek, men, women and children, free and slave. As challenging as it was, all were invited to come to Christ. They were learning together who could belong, what to believe and how to behave and it was so counter-cultural that it both appalled and appealed, even Roman rulers. Nero tried to obliterate the Christians and later Constantine became a Christian.

Today of course, we continue to work out what it means to be a follower of Christ in our own time. It is certainly different now to what it was then, but some things are as relevant today as they have ever been, only context has changed. For instance, all Christians are to ‘Live by the Spirit’. They are to work at and display the Fruit of the Spirit in their church life, home life, work life, social life and now social media life. Characteristics such as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Indeed all these are fruit singular not plural. In other words we are to work at these as a whole and not just pick which ones we like the best.

Paul is saying that those who belong to Christ are to be different from the norm; they should live by the Spirit and be guided by the Spirit.  Not conceited, competing against one another or envying one another”.  (Gal 5: 25f)

Part of this discipline is to share what we have and to give generously of our resources to God’s Kingdom work. As one parish, one church, one body we are not in a competition for those resources, but seeking to give generously to God. Thank you to everyone who, for instance, gives their time, abilities or finances to the ministry of our churches in whatever way. We have exciting times ahead. This month the PCC will be considering Stewardship with the diocesan Generous Giving Team and now that we have diocesan approval for the refurbishment of St John’s Centre, we are also going to be fully involved in growing the finances we need for the 2020Vision project. This is not simply about fund raising, it is about responding to God’s generosity to us.

We may have just entered ‘Ordinary Time’ (from now until the beginning of Advent), but with open generous hearts to what God has done for us, and what God is able to do in us and through us, we may also see extraordinary times ahead, as we endeavour to ‘Live by the Spirit’.

With every blessing

Revd Nigel Chapman

Vicar

It’s not my cup of tea

I’m not a great lover of some teas like Typhoo or Co-op99, and as far as Green Tea is concerned, don’t get me started! It might be a healthy option but it tastes like grass steeped in water to me! I do like Yorkshire Tea but Yorkshire Gold is even better. Then there’s loose tea in artisan tea shops for even better taste. Not that I’m a tea snob or even a connoisseur you understand. Coffee is another matter altogether. I have real coffee now and again but never instant! It’s just not my cup of tea!

 

At our recent parish away day led by Canon Erik Wilson, we explored where God may be leading us in a prayerful bid to renew our vision. Three clear areas emerged for us to continue praying and thinking about. These were:

  • Worship and Prayer – to “Seek First the Kingdom of God”
  • Gifts – discovering and using them
  • Outreach – to make Christ known beyond the walls of the church.

Clearly we are all different, have different tastes in worship, different gifts and different ideas about what to do. The challenge we face is to unite us in a coherent and cohesive vision. We may offer differing styles of worship and opportunities to serve Jesus which is good, but are we also a disparate group of churches doing too much? That said, we don’t want to become a homogenised bland church either.

 

No one has a monopoly on the right style of worship or type of service. St Oswald’s may be more traditional and St John’s less formal and St Thomas’ informally traditional. That’s fine, but are we relevant? Have we become too comfortable for our own good, or even stuck in our ways and therefore not actually reaching out to new people? One of the pictures shared was that we have a strong, loving and welcoming body, but the limbs don’t quite work together. It was said we have a lot happening and clear that the Holy Spirit is present, but we may be stuck and uncoordinated.  Do you recognise this?

 

The challenge is that while we have different qualities, abilities, talents and spiritual gifts, we are not all the same. (1 Corinthians 12). How then are we to embrace those gifts, build people up in those gifts and release them to serve God through the life of the church. This is not about trying to do more but about being clear what we should be doing and sharing together in that work.

 

The scriptural backdrop for our day was Nehemiah. His wholehearted worship to God was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and stay faithful. In Exodus God instructs Moses to  ‘Go to Pharaoh and say, “Thus says the Lord: Let my people go, so that they may worship me”. In Romans 12 Paul bids “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice which is your true worship”. What then, is our wholehearted and true worship to God? To stay and remain where we are, or to be built up and be released so that in all that we are and do, we will worship the Lord and remain faithful?

 

In the coming weeks I invite you to continue to explore these themes and how we might move forward to fulfil our vision for the Parish. (A fuller report of the day is available). I am particularly concerned that we realise our call to make Christ known beyond the walls of the church. To do this we should always seek God’s will and God’s ways first. Erik suggested that if you have thoughts on this, to make a note of them and share them with me. Furthermore, I have invited Erik to preach at the joint service on Sunday 30th June at St John’s and to stay with us for the parish picnic.

 

With every blessing

Nigel Chapman – Vicar

Saviour

I do not have a particularly disciplined approach to Lenten fasting. It’s too easy to get lost in trying to keep a fast at the expense of why we fast. So I’m challenged by the like of Isaiah 58

“Is not this the fast that I choose:[says the Lord]
    to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

This is more about ‘doing’ something positive for those who are oppressed by their situation than giving something up. It is to make a difference in community. Perhaps even to introduce people to the Saviour.

 

The Lent study group this year has been looking into the Letter to the Colossians. It is a letter of encouragement to give thanks for one another and get to know God better. It considers that through our relationship with Jesus we can develop a firm foundation for life. It encourages us to keep the momentum of faith going by calling us into the family likeness of Christ, and calls the reader into a life of compassion, action and grace, even when the going gets tough.

 

During the last few weeks we have had Comic Relief and also witnessed the devastation of Cyclone Idai which swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe with such overwhelming effects. We are becoming used to seeing these kinds of disasters and appeals. They may not be on our streets, but they are in our homes on TV. Whatever the causes, as Christians we endeavour not to hide ourselves from ‘your own kin’. In other words, not to stand by and do nothing. Perhaps one of our responses might be in making a donation using the Christian Aid envelopes available at the back of church. (Other aid agencies are available).

 

Suffering can make us reassess what faith really means to us. Can we approach such difficulties and disasters and stay faithful? Paul’s letter says that if we are to be Christ-like then not only do we need to be compassionate people, but also enduring people. Indeed, to stay faithful is to be Christ-like. He suffered bitter pain and loss of life for us on a cross. Are we ready to become that Christ-like?

 

As we draw close to Easter it’s that time when we journey with Christ into Jerusalem. The attention of the gospel heralds him as King and we read his final teachings. There’s the symbolism of washing the disciples feet, the Last Supper with his friends. BUT then there’s the crushing heartache in the garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal of Judas, the arrest and then the denial of his friend Peter.  These events culminate in a sham trial and finally – crucifixion. It is perhaps the most sombre period of the Church year. A time of bitter pain. An emotional roller coaster. Ultimately we know that just around the corner is the joy of resurrection, but for now it can feel like we’re in the doldrums of a spiritual melancholy. It can feel like the no hope of a Friday, and yet, (pause a moment) and yet Sunday’s coming!!!

 

There’s not a victory without a fight

There’s not a sunrise without a night

There’s not a purchase without a cost

There’s not a crown, without a cross

© G Davis/B Farrell *  (Listen to this song on line at: https://goo.gl/RwwQhP )

 

 

What a beautiful and powerful name is Jesus. – Christ my King.

May you know the joy of the Saviour, risen, ascended, glorified!