Sermon Sunday 22nd November

Dear Church Family

We trust you are well as we enter the second half of lockdown 2? It is great that we continue to get good news about various vaccines and this gives hope of a more normal 2021.  

I have been working hard on the content of our Christingle Pack and feel sure it will be well received by those who take it up.

We have also been in touch with Matt Garrard, and an idea he has had for brightening up the village with Christmas window displays. It fits in well with our strategy and we have suggested that we leave the church sanctuary lights on in the days before Christmas so that people can enjoy the stained glass windows from the outside.

It has also been an eventful week for us with the arrival of Chloe Rose, grandchild number six. For those who love new baby photos, I have attached one.

As last week, I attach a link to one of the bishop’s ‘start the day’ reflections. It is a very helpful look at Psalm 121 ‘I cast my eyes unto the hills’. He has drawn personal encouragement as he seeks to guide the diocese through a tough period.

Some of you have told me that you valued the worship songs that my daughter-in-law, Jenny, sings for her online church in Derby. They certainly bless me. The link below will take you to this week’s song.

This is the Sunday next before Advent, also called Christ the King. The prayer for the feast is : –

God the Father, help us to hear the call of Christ the King

and to follow in his service,

whose kingdom has no end;

for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, one glory. Now and forever, Amen

A few thoughts on one of today’s readings: –

(Matthew 25:31)  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.

(32)  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

(33)  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

(34)  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

(35)  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,

(36)  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

(37)  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?

(38)  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?

(39)  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

(40)  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

(41)  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

(42)  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,

(43)  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

(44)  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

(45)  “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

If ever there was a bible passage that speaks for itself it is this one. It is beautifully simple and yet profoundly disturbing.

It proclaims Christ as King.

Jesus, in seeking to show his followers who he truly was, took to himself the title of ‘Son of Man’ from the prophetic book of Daniel. We read that all authority was given to Jesus and verses 31 and 32 depict both His coronation and his action plan. It is the perfect passage to take us into Advent where Jesus takes up his rightful place in power and glory. It is an awesome but intimidating picture in some ways.

What the passage doesn’t say!

The passage says nothing about right belief and nothing about religious practice. It does not even point to ‘the sheep’ believing the right things. It is 100% about right actions. It is about how the sheep served Jesus by serving others. As good protestants we rightly believe in salvation by faith ‘not by any works that we have done’ (Ephesians 2 7-9). One reading of this passage seems to point to salvation by works. So what is going on?

What is it that the goats did wrong?

When a person is truly ‘born again’ and when they become that ‘new creation’ as spiritual beings, they have different eyes. They have eyes that look at a need and see Jesus in that need. One of the gifts of regeneration is the heart of compassion. Jesus was oriented, by his divine nature, to see deeply into people’s deepest and most heartfelt needs. He was a shepherd by nature. He actually embodied the sheepfold of safety and security. The goats could not see Jesus in the needy around them.

How do we put it into practice?

One of the challenges of living in 2020 is that we are surrounded by all the needs of the world and bombarded via the media with a million images that shake our ‘heart of compassion’ to the core. Yet we cannot respond to them all. We can become so overwhelmed that we find ourselves responding to almost none of them. Of course we help out and support our family and our neighbours and our friends but Jesus reminds us that ‘even the heathens do that’. Carol and I have been very encouraged by the way that churches across the country have birthed the ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ campaign that has seen tens of thousands of meals distributed to those who need them. For us it has reawakened our contact with Hope Nottingham (a charity that a colleague birthed in 2008). So many charities have found their traditional streams of funding dry up this year, yet people have been wonderfully creative in finding new different ways to fundraise and give. The needs of 2020 have begun to soften our hearts and point us back to Matthew 25.

What does the future hold?

The passage makes it clear that the Son of Man is coming to usher in ‘The Kingdom’. We often talk about now and not yet tensions. Jesus is King but will come in the future to establish his rule. As we approach our ‘different Christmas’ let us do so in a Matthew 25 frame of mind. As believers we have been blessed with a Christlike view of the world and the needs in it. May we find creative ways to be a blessing. May we go the extra mile to seek out those we know that are having a tough time and make Christmas 2020 extra special for them. Let us ask the Spirit of God to move in our hearts and show us what that means for us in practice.

May God bless you and keep you cause His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you and give you His peace.

Sermon Sunday 15th November

Dear Church Family

I trust you are all surviving lockdown 2?

We are thrilled that there is potential light at the end of the tunnel with progress toward effective vaccines.

Last week we were able to continue with our (small) Act of Remembrance at the memorial. It was even more moving knowing that we did so against the backdrop of the sacrificial service of so many front line workers. Our PCC met via Zoom this week and we gave thought to how we would approach a very different kind of Christmas.   It will not be a year for large services, but a year of helping us all celebrate the great Christian Festival at home. A document with more details will be included in the next parish newsletter and I include a copy as an attachment.

You may not realise that our bishop is still doing a biblical reflection twice a week with his wife Sarah. Carol and I love these. The latest one closes with a lovely worship song.

On the Second Sunday Before Advent we look at one of the great parables from Matthew’s gospel. As we approach it we take time to reflect on the prayer for this week.

SECOND SUNDAY BEFORE ADVENT COLLECT 


Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life: grant that we, having this hope, may purify ourselves even as he is pure; that when he shall appear in power and great glory.

(Mat 25:14)  “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.

(15)  To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.

(16)  The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.

(17)  So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.

(18)  But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

(19)  “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.

(20)  The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

(21)  “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

(22)  “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

(23)  “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

(24)  “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.

(25)  So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

(26)  “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?

(27)  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

(28)  “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.

(29)  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.

(30)  And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

You and I have one life. When it comes to our earthly existence we only get the one go.

We start with another important truth. Life is not a level playing field. There is much that can seem, from our point of view, to be arbitrary or at least beyond our control.

We have no control over when we are born. If we had been born in England in 1000 BC we would probably never travel more than a few days walk from home and we would be likely to live for 30 to 40 years. We would never read a book. We would never know that matter is made of atoms or that the world is round or what pineapples taste like.

We have no control over where we are born. We could be born in 2020 in some parts of the world and still all I have just said about 1000 B.C. would be true. We have had the good fortune to be born in a relatively wealthy country with lots of benefits flowing from it.

We have no control over our gender and many things like our height and our proneness to some disorders was hard wired into us from day 1. Our genes are a given.

Into the massive sweep of the history of the universe we can contribute to one tiny slice of earthly time.

It would be easy to become overwhelmed with our smallness. Yet the bible brings a very different picture of who we are and what is our destiny and of what effects we can have on the great scheme of things. If God made us and we are His and He has decreed that we are made in his image and live in his world then that changes the stakes.

Our God wants so much for us to become what he has created us to be and in this frail limited body he has put the essence of eternity and enormous things that cannot be weighed or measured on any physical scales;

Faith Love Hope

Love being the greatest of the three. We are able to do awesome things.

We are able to worship, able to give, able to serve and able to sacrifice. We are able to show courage. We are able to overcome incredible odds and when we are at our very, very best we are able to look like the God that made us and in fact at those moments we achieve the highest purpose for which we are created.


On Wednesday and at the memorial last Sunday (available to view of Facebook), we rightly took some time to think about people who, even though they were scared, overcame and went on which is a definition of courage. People who did some sums, and reckoned and decided for the sake of a ‘greater good’ they would take steps that risked their own lives and in the process paid the price which they knew might be required of them; ie. their own lives. People who for the freedom of their families and their homes and in order to maintain the good in a good but flawed world had come to believe that those things were worth dying for.

They laid down their lives for family friends and wider community and Jesus declares there is no greater love than that.

So let’s come on to that parable. Another of Jesus’s earthly stories with a heavenly purpose. It would be easy to underestimate this story. When we were at college we did a little fund raising project.

Each student that wanted to take part was given a pound and the idea was to see if we could multiply it. A pound went further in those days and my first wife and I used it to buy flour and yeast and make home-made bread. We sold the bread which looked, smelled and tasted fantastic and used the proceeds to buy more flour and began to add seeds and other fancy stuff. By the end of the month of the project the one pound had multiplied to well over £20. I can’t remember if we won but I know we were among the most productive.

That exercise was fun but it was a whole order of magnitude different from this story. The stakes were so much greater.

Doing the sums

5 talents was worth £200,000 in today’s terms

2 talents was worth £80,000

1 talent around £40,000

If we have learned anything from scripture it is that one part of the body is not more important than another part; it is just that each different part has a different function.

It is our human society that gives values to functions and apportions different rewards. Our society says that a person who cares for an elderly sick patient in a rest home should be rewarded with a minimum wage and another person who moves a hundred million notional pounds from a notional place in Switzerland to a different notional place in Grand Cayman should be rewarded with a seven figure salary.

That’s not how God’s economy works at all.

Please understand this. The different amounts of the returns from the three servants are not the issue here at all.

The five talent servant is not more valued by the master than the two talent servant. Each pleases the master to exactly the same extent and each is rewarded with exactly the same form of words

Look at verse 21 and then at verse 23.  The form of words is exactly the same.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Only one change needs to be made for the response to all three servants to be exactly the same.

All the holder of one talent needed to have done to get exactly the same affirmation was to use his one talent to produce one more. Again, hear this; that would not have made him half as fruitful as the two talent servant and 20% as fruitful as the ten talent servant, it would have made them all equally productive.

Notice that neither of the first servants has a bad word to say for the master. It is only in the mind of the unproductive servant that this master is hard. This is only a parable and I don’t want to push it too far but we can never be productive for God if we have a wrong picture of him.

The words used to the two productive servants are so different. They are invited to share their master’s happiness. The most literal translation is ‘the joy of your Lord’.  The root word is ‘chara’ from which we get all those words centred on gifts and blessing.

The amplified bible fills it out

21 His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honourable, [a]admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the [b]blessedness) which your master enjoys.

So who has the true picture of the master, the first two or the last one? 

Is God as a hard dishonest master?

Is this your picture of God? A God who leaps on your failures and hits you with a stick?

Is this the Bibles picture of God?

Two verses, one from each Testament.

(Psa 145:8)  The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

(Mat 11:29)  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

So, the unproductive servant has the wrong picture of the master and that led him to wrong actions based on fear.

In a number of the parables, Jesus contrasts pictures of angry and unjust masters with the true picture of a loving just and generous God. In those parables even the apparently unjust masters turn out right. The grumpy neighbour does give in and give the needy neighbour food. The unjust judge of Luke does yield in the end to the widow knocking on the door and gives justice.

In each of those stories Jesus says how much more will a God who loves you want the best for you. That’s the true picture of God.

So in this story even the hard master makes a very simple call on the life of the unproductive servant.

All you needed to do was invest your talent and then the reward would have come.

So, the question for us is ‘how can we best invest our one short life so that it might become the good thing that the master wants for us?’. What can we do that will enable us to share in his joy and delight. Make no mistake the joy he wants to delight in is our joy. No profit we can make for him will make him richer. He already owns everything. The profit that we make with the talent given to us generates blessing for us and for others and it is that which pleases our master.

Three brief things.

You are a potential servant of the Lord, so here are some key points

  1. Invest in eternity. Make sure that your first and foremost investment is offering your life in the service of the master.
  2. Make sure you have a true picture of who the master is. Please don’t be scared of God he really, really, only wants the best for you. He is the best parent you could ever imagine. Some of us did not have the best experience of being parented and out of that image we have a flawed view of God. He is gracious and compassionate and so full of accepting love. The Christian life is challenging and sometimes hard but God is a rock in the middle of any struggle.
  3. Don’t judge your worth of fruitfulness against what you believe to be the worth and fruitfulness of others. That is their business and God’s business with them. He wants the best for you and he knows the capacity and potential of your life. He can help you become the best you can be.  More than that, He wants to.

Thoughts on Remembrance Sunday

Dear Church Family

They say that what goes around comes around and that has proved true of 2020 lockdowns.

I include with this email a timely call to prayer from our Archbishops.

As I write, the world is once again in turmoil, not just because lockdown starts tomorrow, but also because America is waiting to see who her president will be, with no clear outcome as yet. Commentators are bemoaning a divided nation and seeing parallels with our own nation,

Europe is rocked by extremist terrorism and Turkey is digging people out of earthquake devastation.

A tough week.

With that as a backdrop we come once again to Remembrance Sunday. The plan for up to 30 of us to share a short service in church has become a victim of lockdown but a very small group of us will still be able to mark the occasion and lay wreathes at the memorial. It is more important than ever that we remember. Decent courageous human beings have always been ready to show the ultimate expression of love by putting their lives on the line in the face of evils that would have destroyed the things they (and we) hold dear. The classic bible passage that helps us reflect on this is John 15: –

(John 15:9)  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.

(10)  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

(11)  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

(12)  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

(13)  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

(14)  You are my friends if you do what I command.

(15)  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

(16)  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

(17)  This is my command: Love each other.

One challenge we all face over the next month. (or however long), is how to show love and support when we can have little physical contact with those we love most. There is no easy way to approach that challenge other than the age old ‘love always finds a way’. Modern ways include social media and ‘Zoom’. The traditional way for soldiers has been love letters. Maybe, like Carol and I, you saw a recent programme where a granddaughter found a leather pouch containing love letters written by her grandfather to her grandmother. The letters were full of gentle intimacy, powerful words that were read over and over again, words of hope and longing that looked forward to their marriage on the soldier’s return.

Our own village memorial contains the names of real people with real hopes and dreams, dreams that did not reach fulfilment because of ‘the greater love’ they showed. For their sake, and for the sake of all those we love, let us find creative ways to send messages of support to our loved ones (made distant by another season of lockdown).

I am currently working on my development review and role description as all clergy are required to do every two years. Amazingly it’s the third time I have done this at Tollerton. It is a good exercise and I always find it helpful. My role description, drawn up under diocesan guidelines extends to 780 words. Jesus is more economic; he gives all his followers a 17 word role description

I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—

The lasting fruit of the eight men we will remember at the memorial on Sunday is our current freedom. What will our fruit be as we seek to give our lives, our time and our energy for those we love?

May God help us to be a blessing and bear lasting fruit.

Amen

Remembrance Sunday – November 8th

Due to the COVID restrictions Remembrance Sunday will be different this year.

There will be no parade of Service personnel marching down Tollerton Lane, no church service and there will be a limited laying of wreaths.

The 3 minute silence will take at 11:00 am (as usual).

All Tollerton residents who wish to attend should observe strict social distancing.

Lunch Bunch (suspended)

Clare Franklin has retired after 12 years of running Lunch Bunch. St Peter’s has given Clare a John Lewis gift token and a plant to thank her for dedication and hard work. Lunch Bunch has been a big part of St Peter’s Church since it was started by the Rector’s wife, Chris Lumgair, more than 30 years ago as a place for mums and children to meet, share lunch and learn about Jesus and it has met on most Thursdays at the Church Centre since the early 1980s. More recently, as well as mums, it  has been child-minders, carers and grandparents who came along with the children.  Lunch Bunch has been suspended since March and unless a new volunteer  comes forward, it won’t re-open.