Author Archives: office

Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Dear Friends

As I write this the rain is streaming down and I can hear the sound of water pouring from a blocked gutter!  I have just made myself a second cup of tea in order to keep warm. To make things worse, I have just received a photograph from a friend living in southern France showing herself and her husband on their terrace in the sunshine, enjoying a glass of the local wine.

When Mick and I first moved here to Chard we couldn’t believe how much it seemed to rain.  We had lived for over thirty years in East Anglia, most of the time in Cambridge, which is apparently the driest city in England. 

But rain, even in the summer, is essential to our lives, and believe it or not, I have come to like the rain!  And of course, quite rightly, those living in drought hit areas of the world our moaning about the rain would seem to come from a place of privilege. 

In the Bible, rain is a sign of God’s abundance, “You sent abundant rain upon your land, O God” (Psalm 68:9)

In the story of Elijah rain plays an important part in his journey with God: “and it came to pass, after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, ‘Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send the rain upon the earth”.  Then Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the abundance of rain’.  (1Kings 18: 18 and 41).

When Elijah speaks these words to Ahab there has not been a sign of rain, in fact he sees drought, famine and barrenness.  Yet Elijah chooses to believe God’s promise.  He chooses to believe what he heard with his spirit in spite of what he sees with his eyes.

We have all lived, in many different ways, through a period of drought and barrenness in the last year and at times it has been hard to see how it will come to an end.  However, come to an end it will, and we have to believe in our hearts, as Elijah did, that our time of drought will be turned by God into a time of abundance of rain.  Rain that brings new growth, blossoming and flourishing.

In our gospel reading this week, Jesus experiences a moment of barrenness and drought as he is rejected by the people of his own town.  He is mocked as being ‘a carpenter, and the son of Mary’.  No mention of a father, and this might have been deliberate.  Because of this Mark tells us Jesus ‘could do no deed of power there’.  Even Jesus sometimes needed a response of faith from those around him, an affirmation from others.

So we too, need to be affirmed and listened to.  It has been hard over the past year to be together in ways which offer comfort and support to one another.  But as things return to normal we can begin to come together again, meeting over coffee after church, meeting in our groups and social events.  It is a time to look forward to and, although we can’t quite yet imagine it, it will come because we have God’s promise that he will always bring an ‘abundance of rain’ into the dry and barren places of our lives, so that we can begin to flourish and grow in faith together again.

Every blessing

Ann

The Third Sunday of Trinity – 20th June

Dear Friends

I hope you have all been able to enjoy something of the lovely weather we have been having.  Perhaps it makes up a little bit for the fact that we are to continue living with certain Covid restrictions for another four weeks. 

The weather in our gospel reading today is far from lovely as we read about Jesus stilling a storm while on a boat at night with his disciples.

Until now, Mark’s readers have been working through parable after parable about sowing and seeds, as Mark’s way of describing the mystery of the Kingdom of God. Ever since Mark 1:14-15, Jesus has been preaching the gospel of God and the coming of the Kingdom that brings with it repentance and belief in the good news. The seeds are just Mark’s way of describing a divine reign that is sure to be coming and will grow and spread like a mustard seed.

But now we are on a boat in a storm. But this is not just another miracle story, but a revelation of Jesus’ identity.

On the one hand, this boat ride means that the troubles the disciples are facing on the boat are not just physical but have a wider significance.  Mark’s Gospel sees the troubles Jesus faces as cosmic. As if to underline this fact, Jesus faces down the storm and rebukes it (verse 39). This is not just about the disciples’ fears of being capsized and drowned, but the storm stands for something greater within us all and within the world.

On the other hand, this stilling of the storm should tell us something more. The focus here, however, is not the mysterious Kingdom of God, but Jesus himself. The fact that Jesus stills the storm with a word of rebuke also tells us something about him.

 In the middle of the tossing waves of the storm, the disciples refer to Jesus as “Teacher” (Mark 4:38). After witnessing the stilling of the storm, all the disciples have is deep awe (feared a great fear, in the Greek) and deep questions. Who is this? Who is the one whom even wind and sea obey? 

Experienced readers of Mark know that the disciples are slow learners and that it is outsiders who are usually the ones to confess faith. Here, it is left up to the readers to decide who Jesus is when his own disciples fall short or fail. This Jesus, who was “just as he was” in the boat, was way more than ordinary. He was a revelation of the living God among us. Or as Mark puts it in the first verse of chapter one: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God.”

It is also worth considering when Mark’s gospel was written. It is thought to have been written about the time of the destruction of the Temple by the Romans around 70 CE. There are storms and there are storms. But this one was huge. The centre of Jewish worship and culture was completely destroyed.

And here is Mark writing, when the Jews have lost a precious part of their identity, the holiest of places, that it is Jesus who is now the revelation of God’s extraordinary purposes, this ordinary Jesus, “just as he was” (verse 36) and even someone who, like us, is partial to a nap! (verse 38).

This story of Jesus silencing and rebuking the storm points, I think, to deep questions that touch all our lives and the forces that threaten to upend us all.  It is particularly appropriate at this time, not just of pandemic, but of rising divisions in and between nations, and intolerance and ‘the blame culture’ in society.

However, the disciples were all in a boat, a beautiful symbol of the church that stands to this day. Even in churches emptied out by Covid, many of their ceilings look like the bottom of a boat. Churches often even call their main sections a nave.  So like the disciples, we in our boat as a church may be surrounded by difficulties and problems, but as Jesus told the disciples, we must have faith.  Faith that we have a Saviour who is able to silence all storms, of whatever type, and not only silence them but assert his authority, as the Lord of all creation, over them.

Someone sent me a card last year which read on the front:

‘Protect me Lord:  my boat is so little and your sea is so great’.

What I love about this is that the writer recognises that both the boat and the sea belong to Christ.  So whatever storms we may be facing in our lives at present, the sea is still Christ’s, and he can, and he will silence it.  All he asks is that we have faith.

Every blessing

Ann

Second Sunday of Trinity – 13th June

Dear Friends

Below is a picture of a mustard seed in my hand – and then a mustard plant (it isn’t actually a tree):

I used these pictures when I was doing an assembly for Manor Court on the parable of the Mustard Seed which is part of our gospel reading today.

The children were amazed at how small the seed was and we then talked about small things that can grow into something much larger.  The children came up with examples such as new-born babies that grow into adults, tiny pink new born pandas that grow into giant pandas, sunflower seeds that grow into giant sunflowers and tiny trickles of water that grow into rivers which then flow into the ocean.  Really clever examples you will agree.  I challenge you to come up with three examples of your own.

Mick and I have just spent a week staying on Dartmoor and we visited a couple of beautiful woods which were just lovely at this time of year.  The green of the leaves is fresh and vibrant, such a wonderful expression of new life and hope.  We saw some particularly magnificent oak trees that were over 200 years old.  Trees that had started off as small seeds themselves and grown, over many, many years into the mature giants they are now.  I was thinking about how impatient we so often are today, how we don’t want to wait, and I am struck by the many gardening programmes that are all about creating a new garden instantly. 

However, many of us will know that the real joy of being a gardener is watching over years as our gardens grow and mature.  It takes time, but watching plants and trees establishing themselves and growing into maturity is a great joy and very rewarding, if we are patient enough.

If we want things to grow into something worthwhile we have to be patient.  So it is with our faith.  Coming to faith does not give us an instant answer to anything, it is only over the years as we grow in faith that we mature and come to understand more of God and his longing for us to live out our faith and grow his kingdom.

We may consider that we have not done much to grow God’s kingdom, but sometimes it is the smallest thing, a kind word, a phone call, a letter, or sitting and listening that can plant a seed that will grow.  We will not often know how that seed is going to grow, and we may not see it ourselves, but we have to trust that God does not waste anything.

We also know that for a garden to grow successfully we must nurture it, feed it, water it and also cut it back in order to encourage new growth.

So it is also with our faith.  We need to nurture it, by reading scripture, worshipping and exploring our faith together, and, most importantly, praying.  But we also do need at times to do some pruning.  We need to question our assumptions and sometimes let go of old ways of thinking or being in order for God to work within us and help us to grow.

Sometimes the smallest change in our thinking or in the way we live can lead to an opening up and growing of our relationship with God and with one another.  It doesn’t always take much, and out of small changes great opportunities can arise.

Let us, therefore, be mindful of all the small ways in which we have contributed to the building of God’s kingdom here on earth, and if we add all those small things up, they become something much greater, and we will not always know how God is using them for his loving purposes. This is how the kingdom grows, so Jesus tells us, and this is how our faith grows too.

So, start small, and you never know what may happen…..

Every blessing

Ann

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday is a special time in the church year when we remember who God is, Father Son and Holy Spirit, The Holy Trinity. This is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian and yet it is very difficult to believe that God can be one and three. Of course, it is beyond human understanding, God is a mystery to us and it would be a remarkable thing if we were able to capture God within the measure of our human mind. Our Christian teaching about the Trinity is not meant to be an explanation of God, rather it is a way of describing what we know about God, even though we know that humanly speaking it is beyond our reason.

The Doctrine we follow is:

God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Each person is fully God.

There is one God.

Confusing? The Bible never uses the word Trinity, it is something that we have invented to explain the way in which we think of God.

So Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit who comes to Him from God? How can God be God the Father, and Jesus God the Son, and also God the Holy Spirit? The doctrine of the Trinity is one of those subjects which leaves everybody feeling confused but we use it simply to describe how awesome and amazing God is. God is so big, so wonderful that he is so far beyond our imaginations that to our minds he really doesn’t seem to make sense! So if somebody comes up to you and says, ‘go on then you’re a Christian, explain the Trinity’ – then you’re response could be simply to say ‘The Trinity is a way of us saying as Christians that God is much bigger and more complicated than we will ever know…. you can’t put him in your pocket’ That sounds a lot easier doesn’t it.

On Sunday’s we make during our worship a Declaration of Faith of which the Nicene Creed is a detailed summary telling us of what the whole Church believes about the great doctrines of the Christian faith. It begins with the statement: ‘We believe …’ The Nicene Creed uses the same threefold structure as the Apostles’ Creed but goes into more depth and detail. It was first adopted at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 by a gathering of bishops.

Despite the divisions within the Church that have happened over the centuries, all the major Christian traditions continue to acknowledge the words of the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed in their worship and teaching.

Every time we come to say the creeds it is vital to reflect and remember how it is that we come to believe them. It is by the grace and mercy of God that we have come to faith and are able to say and explore these words. It is not through human cleverness or ingenuity. God has revealed himself through the Scriptures. God has revealed himself most clearly through the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. God makes himself known personally to each believer through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostles’ Creed a summary of what the Church teaches, and of what Christians together believe, rather than a detailed statement of individual and personal belief. Saying the Creed binds Christians together as a believing community, across different traditions and practices.

As we say the Creed, we join Christian’s past and present, and from all over the world, in proclaiming our common faith.

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

I hope that you are all keeping well in this time of transition as always please ask if you need any help with anything.

Rev Georgina Vye

The Feast of Pentecost – 23rd May

Dear Friends

In my former employment I used to interview teachers who wanted to become Heads of Department.  Every one of them had a CV as long as your arm – captain of inter-house needlepoint, president of a local drama society, in their holidays they had taught English in Sao Luis.  To be impressive, it seems, you must have achievements.  So, it is odd, that there is one, strangely anonymous, member of the Trinity:

God the Father, we know, 

Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

God the Son, similarly, has history (it is, indeed, exactly what he has) 

born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead and buried…

The Spirit, however, can sound like the poor relation of the Trinity,  

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints…

In the Roman Catholic Catechism it suggests that the Spirit never speaks of itself.  It is very unusual never to speak of yourself, but it is what the Spirit does.  Like a thief in the night you cannot see the Spirit, but you can see where (s)he has been. Which is why Jesus said:

This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.   John 14:17  

I might suggest that the Holy Spirit is not for those who like their lives, and everyone else’s to be tidy, and want everything to be labelled and boxed in.  We tidy at our peril, because much of the work of the Spirit is done through the messiness of life.

When the thief in the night passes through (s)he leaves behind one thing – disorder.  Where the Spirit has been what you get is abundance and variety.  Read Genesis and you will find that the Spirit gives abundance.  Genesis starts with a formless deep and the Spirit which brings out of the deep this, which is different from that, and then something else.  It is the same Spirit that has the apostles speaking in all those different tongues at Pentecost.  

The point about life in the Spirit is that it is rich and abundant, and we should learn to enjoy that.  More importantly we should learn to trust it.  Because, in the Spirit everything holds together and does not fall apart.  The great challenge is not that we should all end up the same, the challenge is that we should be different and enjoy it.  The day of Pentecost is the day that we celebrate the fact that God gives us variety.  Gives us the gifts, the imagination and the language to love both.  

In the Spirit we can forgive, explain, argue and be reconciled, we can co-operate, sympathise and love.  The day of Pentecost is the day of variety and the opportunity to see that this is where the Spirit has been.

As we come further out of lockdown let us look back and see where the Spirit has been working in the past year and we may be surprised.  (S)he has not been idle but has been working in all of the most difficult and trying circumstances we have experienced.  So let us not waste that work by trying to forget or ignore what the last year has taught us about resilience, hope, community spirit, mutual care and care for the natural world.

Let us pray that the Spirit will guide us as we come back together and look to the future. 

Every blessing

Ann