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Happy Easter?

 

 

The Crucified Christ by Guido Rocha, a Brazilian sculptor is shocking, and for good reason. Anyone who thinks crucifixion is a walk in the park is deluded! Yet, it seems that society today does not have the stomach for the reality of what happened to Christ.  Are we too used to thinking of the cross as a trinket?

 

Take the new film ‘Mary’ for instance. I heard a film critic describe it as “bland” saying that the director has gone for the most innocuous and inoffensive lines Jesus could speak. By doing so, the critic added, he had no idea who this film was aimed at. “Even believers will find it dull”.

 

In Jesus’ day, not many Jews liked the death penalty, even though the Old Testament approved it. They preferred to say that God would carry out his own execution – if someone deserved death, they would die early. There were still some zealots who wanted death penalties and occasionally a mob killed a sinner, like the adulteress Jesus had to rescue, but generally they were happy to let God look after the death penalty.

 

Crucifixion was normally reserved for slaves, terrorists and the worst kind of criminals. Pilate found no evidence to support the religious leaders claim that Jesus was a criminal. His only crime it seems was that he upset them. So why go to so much trouble? They could have got a mob to do their dirty work. Instead they went for an ‘official’ route. Why?

 

Simply put, Jesus was a dangerous heretic and the only way to stop him and his followers was to have him killed in this way. Then his supporters, of which there were many, couldn’t respect his memory and they would melt away and forget him.

 

It was a cruel, painful slow suffocation that could take days. The only way to breathe was to push yourself up on the nails which caused even more pain. Rocha’s shocking sculpture of Christ has it exactly right in my opinion, it was hell. Then there is the shame of it. A criminal’s death, stripped naked for maximum humiliation and what crucifixion does to bodily fluids we’ll not even mention in polite society! Suffice to say it was graphic, messy and degrading. It was the most shameful death ever invented.

 

Christ crucified is God’s power and wisdom

Can it really be true that this was all part of God’s plan? God came into our world as a human baby. Immanuel, God with us. He lived in the dirt and grime of life. In the village where he grew up they would know he was illegitimate. So, when he preached in his home town they threw him out. The educated elite thought him reckless and his miracles fake. When he was crucified, they wanted everyone to know that God had cursed him. In some ancient graffiti, Jesus is depicted as a crucified ass being worshipped. The idea of God himself suffering in this way seems like madness. Who could worship a God like that, so weak and defeated?

It wasn’t until Constantine saw the cross in heaven just before victory, that Christians started using the cross as a symbol of triumph. Paul said long before that the Cross was where Jesus had his victory and John said the Cross showed Jesus at his most glorious but for normal Christians the cross was just too shameful as a symbol. Yet the point is that the cross is the very symbol of new life. God is not dead, because on the cross, though the sacrifice of Christ, the sin of a world that put him to death is redressed and through the resurrection we are made whole, healed, forgiven; saved! This for me, is what it means to say ‘Happy Easter’.

 

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

 

With every blessing

Nigel Chapman

Vicar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEADING OUR CHURCH INTO GROWTH

 

The 2018 growing season is just starting, buds are on the trees, snowdrops have given of their best, daffodils are at the ready and new growth is about to spurt into spring colour. Nature is coming alive again after the winter. [Apart from this week with the coldest weather conditions for years that is – Ed]. Many a gardener has already been preparing the soil, cutting back old dead wood and planting seeds in readiness for Spring. What of  our church though? Where are we preparing for and seeing new growth?

 

With our seemingly endless assortment of activities and events it would be easier not to redesign the garden of church life and to leave things as they are. Yet if we want lasting growth to happen, we need to develop positive growth strategies. Often our planning and church life is dominated by the 3 B’s of Budgets, Bureaucracy and Buildings rather than engaging us with taking us out of a ‘cycle of decline’. Research shows that to stay the same and do nothing may lead us to diminishing attendance, deteriorating finances and a spiral of decline that we have learned to manage but not reverse. However, actively and purposefully engaging with strategies for growth, means we could see significant NEW growth. Leaders in the church are being asked If you are not leading your church into growth, then where are you leading them?  It is a salutary question.

 

During February, five of us from our parish attended an intensive Diocesan Training Conference – Leading Your Church into Growth (LYCiG). It was a very challenging few days that explored how we as a group of churches might grow in numbers and depth of discipleship. It challenged us to think strategically and intentionally, instead of just letting things happen or carrying on with things we’ve always done. It challenged us to think about our purpose and mission and to measure everything against the yardstick of that purpose. It challenged us not only to be disciples, but to make new disciples within the context of our own situation.

 

So just what are we doing about growth?

 

The 2020 Vision is all about growth. If our mission is to reach beyond the walls of the church then we are not simply maintaining St Oswald’s and St Thomas’ or redeveloping the building of St John’s but growing a vision to reach out to our community with the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is about developing ourselves and our church life to reflect God’s love for his world. So, we will look more carefully at our worship and ask if it could be better and does it help us to grow? Are we intentional about discipleship? What will help us grow in confidence to tell our own faith stories? Are we taking opportunities to be invitational? What are we doing to help young people find faith? In other words, by developing LYCiG in our parish, it is going to help us deliver the 2020 Vision!

 

Prayer

Being intentional about prayer is the first step. Prayer absolutely sustains our journey of faith as individuals and as a church. It is specifically about engaging with God in the process of living out our faith in the real world, seeking his will, and being direct about praying for growth.

 

I am amazed by just how much we do in this parish. Let me assure you that LYCiG is not about doing more stuff, but about prayerful and planned pursuit of growth. It will lead us to ask difficult questions of what we are doing and why. It will help us develop a ‘Mission Statement’ [purpose] and to be strategic in using existing contacts and activities for evangelism. It may even lead us to do less but do it better, to change tack or even stop doing certain activities. It will help us to focus on what needs to be done as well as to engage us in deepening our own faith and discipleship. Growth starts with attentive prayer and to this end I would invite you to adopt the LYCiG prayer as a daily intentional prayer for our parish life.

 

God of Mission

Who alone brings growth to your Church,

Send the Holy Spirit to give

Vision to our planning,

Wisdom to our actions,

And power to our witness.

Help our churches to grow in numbers,

In spiritual commitment to you,

And in service to our local community,

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Every blessing

Nigel Chapman

Vicar of Filey

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