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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!

 

 

Lent 2019 Letter

Lenten Listen

How do you approach Lent? A season of gloomy music? No flowers? A long face and melancholic haul to Easter? A time to give up everything (or at least chocolate and biscuits)? Or do you use it as a time to step back and re

flect on your walk of faith and live life differently as we prepare for the great mystery of Easter?

 

How will you make this Lent different from the normality of your week?  Are you positive in your use of the traditional Lenten disciplines of fasting, praying and giving? Do you use it as a time to slow down and refocus?

How about introducing a ‘Lenten Listen’ to your daily or weekly routine? We may all be familiar with the notion of having a ‘Quiet Time’ spending time in a structured daily Bible reading, with a thought for the day and a prayer at the beginning of the day. This is great discipline for our lives as disciples, but how about taking this a stage further by spending a few minutes or maybe a half hour each day (or whenever you can) to be quiet? To stop and simply listen. To stop altogether and come to rest in the direction of God. A time to be with. In the Psalms there is a lot of ‘delight’ in the Lord and ‘meditation’ upon the Law of the Lord. This is about spending quality time with God. It is about being together.

 

Meditation starts with an attempt to slow the mind and heart rate. Sit in a comfortable yet alert position, in a chair with feet on the ground, eyes cl

osed, hands (and heart) open and simply become aware of our breathing; slowing down and slowly breathing in and out aware of each breath that we take in and exhale. Try breathing in for 5 seconds and then breathe out slowly. Do this for a few minutes and relax. In this rhythmic breathing it is a time to clear the mind of the incessant clatter and clutter of our minds. To stop, to look within and listen. This in itself is a discipline or art of stopping. Our minds will wander, that’s guaranteed, but when we recognise this, we simply come back and refocus. Instead of saying prayers to Jesus, we focus our thoughts upon Jesus, simply asking him to show himself in our life. It means to be aware of his presence and by the Holy Spirit to experience God close by.

 

From this stillness one could to meditate upon an image, like a photograph or an Icon. Looking deeply into the picture and allowing it to catch our imagination. Or maybe focus upon just a few words of scripture or a hymn or worship song. It could be to meditate on anything that would help us to focus on Jesus for that matter. It could be to close our eyes and imagine ourselves in an event from the Bible, perhaps as one of Jesus’ disciples watching on.

 

Going a stage further, we listen. What might God be saying to you? The outcomes of this discipline could take us through different stages, su

ch as becoming aware and convicted about wrongs in our lives that Christ wants to heal or deal with, be that relational, physical, emotional or spiritual. It could be recognising areas in our lives where God may already be working by helping us to hear him calling and directing us. It may lead us to be thankful and it could be a time to be lost in ‘wonder, love and praise’. Maybe you feel God prompting you into action in the life of the church or community. Explore these thoughts and feelings and pray to discern God’s call.

 

Ok this is not going to be for everyone, but find whatever works for you in connecting with God. Throughout Lent there will be the midweek Lent course at St Mary’s, a Lent lunchtime devotional at the Methodist church and a frugal lunch each Sunday at St John’s w

hich will all encourage us.

 

However, if you would like to spend some time to simply be with as outlined above, you can do this in the comfort of your own home, or perhaps you would like to join me in St Oswald’s Church throughout Lent on Monday mornings at 9am, to spend 30 minutes in quiet meditation. A time of listening and coming to rest in the direction of our Lord Jesus. The stilling atmosphere and quietness in church is a real blessing when it comes to spending time with God in this way. It would be a blessing to me too, if you would join me.

 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in his wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of his glory and grace.

 

May God enrich you this Lent.

 

Nigel Chapman

Vicar

The power of seduction

Christmas and New Year Letter

Psalm 1

Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.

 

It is so easy to be seduced by the world. Easy to over-indulge in whatever takes our fancy. Easy to ignore the signs until it’s too late and all too easy to become a hardened cynic who finds the very idea of God coming to humanity in Jesus all a bit too difficult to swallow.

 

Psalm 1 is the doorway into all the Psalms and the beauty of the language, the pictures, the metaphors the depth of the lyrics, as well as the beating heart of the writer. Here he starts by saying there is so much that is wrong in the world. So many who refuse to acknowledge God and mock. It is an all too familiar picture of humanity living out of step with The Lord.

 

The “law” is scripture, “meditating” is to think out the implications of God’s word for all life and “delight in the law” means not merely to comply out of a sense of duty. It means to love what God commands and seek to live life somehow in rhythm with God. As a Christian it means for me, a change in my attitude from one of self-seeking to one of self-giving.

 

His gift to us is his Son Jesus Christ; born in a stable, died on a cross, who rose again for us. My gift to God as unworthy, faulty and broken as it might very well be, is to meditate on his word and delight in him, because that is the secret to a good relationship with God and to life itself. It looks back upon God’s word (lower case = scripture) but it also looks forward in God’s Word (Upper case = Jesus).

 

Unlike a Christmas tree cut down and decorated as a representation of the coming of Christ, a tree that loses its needles and is unable to drink water, there is a much more resilient tree. This tree is planted by the river, soaking up living water that will never dry up. It is a picture of a living relationship with God. So the Psalm and indeed Christmas goes on calling each one of us into new, living relationship with God.

 

Immanuel, God with us. Mysterious, spiritual, loving and yet challenging. No wonder we prefer to be seduced by the world, it’s so much easier. The birth of Jesus may draw us to wonder at heaven touching earth, but will we also, like the star drew the Magi to seek out Christ and bow down and worship him, journey to Christ and allow God’s word to draw us, guide us and sustain us until our journey’s end?

 

I wish you a very blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Nigel Chapman

Vicar of Filey

 

(Adapted from a reflection by Timothy Keller in ‘My Rock my Refuge’)