Under the tree

Are you convinced of what the Bible says about Jesus? Or indeed of what the Church says about Jesus? If you are, then when did you become convinced? If not, then what would it take to convince you?

This Sunday our Gospel reading is from John 1 in which a young man (Nathanael) goes from rejecting even the idea of Jesus to calling him God’s Son in a matter of moments. The thing that convinces him seems trivial – Jesus mentions seeing him sitting under a tree.

Meeting Jesus for the first time is truly life-changing and transformational. If you have never really considered fully the claims of Christianity then I would encourage you to talk to a friend who believes or to a member of our team. If you are convinced about who Jesus is then may I encourage you to share that with others. It need not be loud and wacky and you probably shouldn’t start with strangers on the street. But the truth and beauty of Jesus is relevant to all walks and seasons of life. Ask him for the opportunity to share truth in the every day and you will find that it is much easier and less scary than you realise.

Sunday Worship
8am – Holy Communion at All Saints’
9:30am – Combined contemporary service with Baptism
at St Peter’s
11am – Sung Eucharist at St Peter’s
3pm Tea and Hymns at the Parish Church Hall
4pm – Evensong at St Paul’s

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Happy New Year!

I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas and a lovely new year.

This Sunday marks the end of the Christmas season with the celebration of Epiphany (technically on 6th January) and our readings will be focussing on the wise men (however many there were of them) and their gifts brought before Jesus. In our 9:30 family service we will be exploring the worship of the wise men and thinking about their gifts. There will be gold crowns, burnt incense, and Myrrh.

As well as the Gospel reading from the traditional Matthew passage (2:1-12) our lectionary readings (Isaiah 60, Psalm 72, and Ephesians 3) all mention non-Jews (Gentiles) coming to worship God/

What is strange is that in many ways the celebration of that worship doesn’t resonate with me. I am, roughly speaking, a gentile, I have some jewish heritage, but it is 2 generations back and Judaism has not been observed in my recent family history. I am someone who according the Old Testament was outside of the people of God, not part of the community of faith. I am excluded from God’s grace by the law of Moses. I cannot go into the presence of God or into the inner courts of the place of worship. I cannot be taught what the scripture means. Even if I converted there is the risk that I would still be considere an outsider, a second class citizen.

The notion of being an outsider doesn’t ring true for me. It can’t for a white, middle-class man, living in the UK. I am haven’t experienced being on the outside so I can’t imagine what it’s like. In our community we are, to varying degrees, highly priveleged. Yet according to Sunday’s readings I am an outsider and heaven rejoices that I have been brought into the fold.

God has a history of drawing in the outsider. He chooses the barren woman (Sarah), the second son (Jacob rather than Esau), the youngest brother (Joseph), the fugitive (Moses), the widow (Ruth), the child (Samuel, David, Jeremiah, and Josiah). He takes the weak and poor and makes them strong, he includes the outsider in his plans. In fact neither Ruth, nor Obed, nor Jesse, nor David, nor Solomon should have even been allowed to be part of the people of God  because of their Moabite heritage (Deuteronomy 23:3). Yet David becomes king.

God draws all people to himself, regardless of position or background and we should celebrate when he does. We were all the outsiders but he has welcomed us in. Epiphany celebrates those who were on the outside (despite their privilege) and who have sought after God. Let us be like them, that we might be drawn into the centre and welcome others in with us.

Sunday Worship
8am – Holy Communion at All Saints’
9:30am – Contemporary Family Service at St Peter’s
11am – Sung Eucharist at St Peter’s
4pm – Evensong at St Paul’s

Am I Good Enough?

Jesus got into a lot of arguments. He frequently got very angry. Mostly he got angry with those who thought that they were good. He very rarely got angry with those who saw that they weren’t that good.

It was easy for many people to look at the rules and say “I’m not that bad.” They hadn’t killed or stolen, they hadn’t been unfaithful or lied. But Jesus told them that he wasn’t looking for good people. He didn’t want rule followers or ‘church goers’. He wanted people who wanted to know him.

So often the same is said today. When talking about religion people often say “I’m a good person” but Christianity isn’t a set of rules to follow or a way of being good. The way of Jesus is a way to have a relationship with God. To be close to him and understand him. When that happens there is often a transformation that leads to being good, but it has to be that way round. Being good isn’t the same as knowing God, knowing God often results in knowing that we aren’t that good but God loves us anyway.

God doesn’t take church attendance and he’s not Santa with a ‘naughty’ and ‘nice’ list. He’s waiting to spend time with you and show that he loves you.


Harvest Time

The days are shortening and the colours are changing. A beautiful spray of orange, red, brown, and yellow is spilling across a sea of green trees and bushes.

It’s also harvest time and farmers across the country are busily working away to bring in crops before the end of the season.

As we remember harvest this week we also remember Moses and the appeals of the Israelites asking for water. They grumbed and wrestled with God after losing faith in him and his ability to provide. This Sunday offers us a chance to say ‘thank you’ to God, perhaps it also offers us a chance to grumble and wrestle too.

We may feel that we need to grumble and wrestle on our own behalf as the Israelites did, but hopefully as well we will find an opportunity and the faith to wrestle on behalf of those around the world who do not have enough. To approach God and look to him to provide.

There will be an offering taken up in all of our services on Sunday for the work of the London and Slough Run, a charity which works with homeless people in Slough and London. Please bring tinned and dried food, toiletries, or clothes (in good condition) with you to church if you would like to make a gift.

A Light Shines in the Darkness

Miscarriage, still birth and sudden infant death syndrome.

Losing a baby is painful and many who carry that pain have no support or anyone to talk to.

A Light Shines in the Darkness is a service for anyone who has lost a little one through miscarriage, still birth or sudden infant death syndrome. There will be resources and information about further support. This is for mums and dads, grandparents, family, friends, everyone whose life has been touched by the loss of a child however long ago.

The service takes place on Saturday, 14th October at 6.30pm at St Peter’s Church, Chalfont St Peter SL9 9RJ. Please contact us  with any questions. The service coincides with baby loss awareness week: see http://babyloss-awareness.org, http://whbsands.org.uk and http://www.oxfordshiresands.org.uk

See Also:

The Miscarriage Association – Helpline 01924 200 799 Mon-Fri 9am – 4pm miscarriageassociation.org.uk

Saying Goodbye – 0845 293 8027 sayinggoodbye.org – info, support, advice, remembrance services.

Association of Christian Counsellors – acc-uk.org – find a professional accredited counsellor.

Aching Arms – achingarms.co.uk – a baby loss charity run by a group of bereaved mothers.

I will trust in You.

I found myself struggling to read the passage for this Sunday.
Exodus 14v19-31 tells of the moment Moses stretches out his arm over the sea and the Lord drives back the waters to turn it to dry land for the Israelites to walk upon.

The stark mirror image is easily found as Hurricane Irma devastates Florida. There is a photo on the BBC website where Tampa residents stand on the drained Hillsborough bay ahead of Hurricane Irma’s arrival.

The destruction in our world at the moment from natural disasters is so prominent that I found it uncomfortable to read the Exodus passage. Not just the verses about the waters being displaced but the verses of the Egyptians being taken away by the returning sea and ending up on the shores reminded me of the horrific images of the refugee crisis.

In the face of disaster and pain we so often get angry. I can list multiple times I’ve screamed at God for the injustices I’ve seen. Cried out in frustration at a situation I can see unfold before my eyes. Questioned God as I watch horrors occur only to be met with silence.

This week for me has been full of heartache. From personal things happening with close friends to the sorrow found in the news from around the world.
I think we often forget that God joins us when we cry for his world. His heart aches along with ours. He questions too but turns and faces us asking “what are you doing?”

Some good friends of mine are currently going through an extremely hard situation of loss and yet the other day this song was posted by one of them.
Lauren Daigle – Trust In You

When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You

Reading back over the passage and putting myself in the Israelites position,  I think we take for granted that God’s people just walk across the sea. There was an enormous amount of trust they put in God.
Trusting the waters would remain in place as they walked through. Trusting that God was protecting them and guiding them.
Every time we face a horrendous situation it comes back to trust. Trusting God is who he says he is. Trusting in our knowledge that God is good. Trusting that God is in the mess somehow.

Read the passage for yourself.
Call out to God and intercede for the world.
Then listen to the song and ask God to speak to you.

Who is he?

A reflection from Easter Sunday

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.“

C.S. Lewis famously wrote this in Mere Christianity to argue in favour of the Christian faith. Based on Jesus’ own words, Lewis argues, Jesus is either a liar, a madman, or truly the Son of God.

It’s unfortunate that ‘nice’ isn’t a category that either Lewis or the Bible allows Jesus to fall into—’nice’ or ’moral’ would perhaps be a lot more comfortable for us. It is hugely challenging, but this Easter may be the time to really wrestle with who Jesus is and whether or not all these stories about him are true.

Jesus once asked his disciples who they thought he was. What would you say if he asked you the same question?