Author Archives: Nigel Chapman

Christmas – You can’t always get what you want.

When I was 12, my parents gave me a ‘Matchbox Superfast Track’ for Christmas. I was gutted! I’d grown out of toy cars, I wanted a bicycle!! “You can’t always get what you want” goes the song, (and my mother). Very true. If we get everything that we want or worse demand, we could potentially become very selfish even narcissistic sort of people.

 

Christmas is a time of giving and receiving and of course the greatest gift of all came from God; the gift of His Son. Yet this gift comes at a cost both to God and us. The cost to God was the giving of himself, an incarnate Lord, upon the cross for our salvation. The cost to us, is to let go of self and our demands and to accept and receive God’s love. The Gospel teaches that salvation comes not from our own efforts, but in the acceptance of Jesus. It’s all about grace and most definitely not about virtue.

 

Grace in Greek means “to stoop in kindness – as a superior to an inferior”. In a biblical context, it is literally about an undeserved favour. When God looked “with favour” upon Mary, he entered her life powerfully with love and grace. In response, she became his servant and bore Jesus – the Christ. She was no Princess, just an ordinary girl asked to do an extra ordinary thing. It was sheer joy for her to do what God asked of her, but she also had to endure bitter pain and loss.  That is something of the paradox of the incarnation.

 

The prophet Micah (Ch 5) proclaims the promise of a restored relationship with God, who comes right into the heart of Israel (the people not the place). In doing so God calls for a response, not in burnt offerings or empty sacrifices or haughty words, but with hearts opened to receive Him and ready to act on God’s behalf. To act with justice, mercy and humility, as they walk with God. How might we do that in 2018?

 

In a year from now I want to see that our churches are growing both numerically and spiritually. I want our children and youth work to be re-established and on a great foundation with leaders grounded and established in the faith. I want our work of outreach into the community to be active and the churches alive, vibrant and joyful. I want our buildings to be well maintained and our finances in great shape, I want to see God doing…  I want, I want I want….

 

The list of what we want could go on forever, but what does God want?  Yes, it’s right that we consider our part in the church and I am grateful for all that people are doing for the life of the church, but there is also the ‘being’ to consider. If God is to do something here then it starts with the being, not necessarily the doing, as Micah so clearly states and as we sing each Christmas in the poem by Christina Rossetti

 

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

 

May God Bless you this Christmas and New Year, and may we continue to walk together, humbly with our God in 2018 in an endeavour to do his will and not our own.

 

Every Blessing

Nigel Chapman

Vicar of Filey

“I cannot tell – but this I know”  

“I cannot tell – but this I know”  

  

The vicarage doorbell rang.  On answering it I found a student from our local sixth form college.  We’d not met before, but it transpired he wanted to discuss a problem that was puzzling him.  When he was sitting comfortably he put his question:  “What’s the story then?”  Being translated, he wanted to know what Christianity was all about.

 

When Nigel, our vicar, asked me to write about Advent, the same question came back to me:  what’s the story?  We know about Advent calendars, Advent candles and Advent wreaths, but what about Advent itself?  We take so much for granted and assume we know the answers.  But when pressed to explain the things we sing and talk about on Sunday mornings it’s not always that simple.

 

Yet at one level Advent is simple.  The word itself literally means “coming towards” and can be used in both a secular and religious sense.  As we are using it here, it covers the four Sundays before Christmas and it’s a story in three parts, with a beginning, middle and end.  Together they tell how Jesus came once in the past, how he comes now in the present, and how he will come again in the future.

 

The first part of the story tells how Jesus came to us as a baby in Bethlehem. There’s a hymn in which each verse begins with the words, “I cannot tell” – i.e. it’s okay to be agnostic about some things.  Then halfway through each verse the tone changes to one of certainty.  Hence the first verse, referring to that first advent, says this: “But this I know, that he was born of Mary, when Bethlehem’s manger was his only home, and that he lived at Nazareth and laboured, and so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come”.

 

That only happened once and can’t be repeated.  The second part of the story tells how Jesus comes now in the present, not once but again and again.  And there are people round the world, from Filey to the farthest shores of the widest ocean, who know that’s true.  They may not always be able to explain it, but this hymn again comes to their rescue.  After confronting the unanswerable questions raised by Jesus’ suffering, it offers words of certainty:  “But this I know, he heals the broken-hearted, and stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear, and lifts the burden from the heavy-laden, for yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is here”.

 

The hymn then points us to the end of the story, Jesus’ final advent in the future.  One day, it says, he will come in glory and draw the world and all its people to himself.  It’s way above my pay grade to explain when he will come, and I haven’t the faintest idea how it will happen.  For the same reasons the hymn writer turns to poetry to describe it, because poetry can often point to truth that cannot be contained within the limits of logic or scientific statements.

 

Therefore the writer says this:  “But this I know, all flesh shall see his glory, and he shall reap the harvest he has sown, and some glad day his sun shall shine in splendour, when he the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known”.

What a day it’s going to be!  Until then may this Advent be a time of blessing for us all.

Edward Roberts

To listen to the Hymn from an edition of Songs of Praise click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62wk5KvI7-w

 

Remember Remember!

 

November is the month of remembering. After ‘All Souls’ when we remember departed loved ones, we begin the month with ‘All Saints’ Day (1st Nov, Holy Communion 9 am St Oswald’s), thanking God for those people in history who have inspired our walk with Jesus Christ. Then just for fun we “Remember Remember the 5th of November” (challenging our political systems seem to be just as radical at times), before the nation also remembers with gratitude the many men, women and children whose lives were sacrificed in the pursuit of justice, peace and freedom in two world wars and many campaigns since.

 

The Royal British Legion among other organisations provide practical, emotional and financial support to all members of the British Armed Forces both past and present. Through a variety of projects, they offer a range of welfare services to veterans and their families as well as helping the nation come together in acts of remembrance that are as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago.

 

In Filey we will come together to remember with a sense of pride for all that has been achieved in the pursuit of peace and freedom on our behalf. On 10th November at 7pm there is a Remembrance Concert in the Methodist Church. On Saturday 11th at 11am, we gather at the Memorial Gardens for an act of Remembrance and then on Sunday 12th at 9:30am we come together in St Oswald’s for the Annual Service of Remembrance before making our way to Memorial Gardens for 11am.

 

There are countless stories of ordinary people who gave their lives for freedom through the armed forces, as well as civilians. I recently watched former marine Monty Hall present a TV series in which he retraced routes taken by escaping prisoners of war during World War II. He meets survivors and in some cases, reunites former soldiers with people who at great cost to their own safety, helped them escape. Many lost their lives for helping the Allies. Whole families were shot in some cases. For someone like me who has never been in a war or indeed in any of our armed forces, it is difficult to imagine such bravery and selfless action. The bigger picture was of course not for self, but freedom for all and as Hall says, we must never forget.

 

When St Paul wrote “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1) he was not writing about the abolition of slavery but a different kind of freedom. It was based on the will and not the body. ‘Freedom in Christ’ is about the transformation of our minds; to become Christ-like. It is not about ownership of a person through slavery or as the spoils of war, (as can be witnessed in recent reports about so called I.S.), but a celebration of love that is found in Christ. His love for us was to go to the cross in our place. He came that we might have life abundant, which is another way of saying a life in relationship with God the Father.

 

To love God and neighbour calls upon the followers of Christ to be the change we want to see in the world. It even calls us to stand up and I dare say, to fight against the powers of darkness wherever and however it manifests itself. For love beats hate every time, and as Jesus once said; ’If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’

 

Nigel Chapman

Vicar