Author Archives: Nigel Chapman

Lent: Great, Holy and Joyful?

Rejoice in the Lord, always. I will say it again.  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all’.  (Philippians: 4:4)

 

Our hearts flutter and our stomachs rumble at the mention of a Great and Holy and Joyful Lent.  Ash Wednesday happens on St. Valentine’s Day this year, that’s why hearts flutter along with our feathered friends as they seek and find a mate.  The fast also begins and that’s where the stomachs come in!

 

Lent is time for a ‘making ready’, provisioning the vessel for the voyage through Holy Week and Easter.  Surplus cargo is jettisoned and only essential supplies taken on board; chart and compass to hand, the sails trimmed.

 

Lent begins as Great when on Ash Wednesday we are told, ‘From dust were you made and to dust you shall return’.  Dust reminds us of our God-Given morality for which we give great thanks. Dust is our essential mortal self, without which we would never have had any form.  Greatness lies in the dust for, as scientists tell us, at the point of the creation of the cosmos, a star exploded and dust scattered throughout the heavenly spheres.  All the essentials of life were in that dust; so remember, we are but star dust and are cosmically recycled.  Phoenix rises.

 

So it is that Lent is Great because the devotions of the forty days make us aware of our connectedness to all created beings, and our responsibilities to our planet.

 

Lent is Great as it calls forth a Holy response. A process of rejection and embrace begins.  Lent is Holy as it affirms the goodness of essential life and eschews the corruption, pollution and abuse of that life in all its forms; that kind of replacement therapy is the healing that comes from a Holy Lent.

 

Lent is Holy as it reminds us how all life is sacred, and how the world is a sacrament revealing the Love of God spilling over onto His Creation.  The essential fruits of that creation that we might taste are not forbidden, rather they are the accessible ‘Fruits of the Spirit’, ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control’ (Galations: 5:22).  These are the fruits which carry the seeds of the kingdom of God which we pray and plant for.

 

Holiness then turns Lent into being Joyful; our saints constantly tell how Joyful it is to fast from being ego-centric and feast on being Christo-centric, namely when Christ is at the centre of our being.  We read of our model, our Suffering Servant, in the Book of Hebrews, ‘For the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross’ (Heb.12:12).  Joy is serious and how else can we approach Holy Week and Easter unless we are joyfully prepared.

 

Should we fast, we do so privately; should we feast we share with others; we joust and jest; either way.

 

Rejoice in the Lord, always. I will say it again.  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all’.

 

Joyfully yours,

 

Revd. Paul Burkitt

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