I heard a great quote recently ‘Going to Church does not make you a Christian, anymore than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger!’
This is particularly fitting as we soon move into the reflective season of Lent a time when we are invited to take stock of our lives, our faith, our footprint on the world. On the 3rd February we celebrate ‘The Presentation of Christ’ where Mary and Joseph take their son to the temple to present him to the Lord. This shows us how important ritual is, how important being faithful to one’s faith is. It is not just Mary, Joseph and Jesus who are touched on this occasion but also the older prayerful Simeon and prophet Anna who for years have prayerfully waited for a glimpse of the Messiah. And immediately they know it, they see it in this child Jesus and their hearts are filled with joy and they are at peace. That meeting with the Christ is enough for them to know that in this world and the next ‘All will be well’.
Yes going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, but meeting and receiving Christ does, and Church is a great place to do this (but don’t rule out in McDonalds either!). God can be found anywhere and everywhere, we just need to be open to the encounter.
May you encounter the joy and peace of God this month,
The Magi’s journey could not have been easy. The journey to Christ for all of us very often isn’t easy. They no doubt had to give up a great deal to find him, but nothing was more important to them than their spiritual quest. Moreover, they grasped the truth that, while they were searching, God had been leading them. It was God who lit the star, and God who encouraged them to set out on their journey, God (in Christ) who wanted to be found by them. One of the things that the wise men’s journey gave them was time. They reflected, they thought, perhaps they prayed. This is one of the great blessings of a spiritual journey or pilgrimage. Whatever our faith, we all need time to think about our lives, our purpose and our search for God. And from experience God never disappoints.
Have a blessed New Year,
It struck me as funny that many of us spend so much time ‘preparing’ to be as ready as possible for a ‘perfect Christmas’ but that first Christmas when Jesus was born was actually so far from being perfect and prepared! We have the unmarried heavily pregnant teenager Mary carrying a baby which is not Joseph’s, travelling miles from home to be counted for the Roman census. There is no Trivago or Booking.Com, all the places to stay are full and as we know baby Jesus the King of the world is born not in luxury but in dirt and straw. The first Christmas was raw not perfect. It may be that circumstances this year mean that ‘raw’ is closer to how you feel, God meets you there. It maybe that circumstances mean this is a particularly special Christmas filled with the joy of angels , God meets you there.
God was incarnate in Jesus (That is, God came to us in bodily form in Jesus) to meet us, whatever our circumstances however prepared or unprepared we are, however raw or joyous we are. The Christmas message is one of love, God loves us and came to us, and comes to us still.
Christmas blessings of love to you all,
A Time of Remembrance
November always strikes me as a pensive month as we remember both those we have loved at All Souls Memorial Services and those who gave and continue to give their lives for our freedoms at Remembrance Services.
This is of course a particularly special year marking 100 years of Remembrance and the ending of WW1. A number of our churches have a Tommies Silhouette in them, the image of the ‘unforgotten soldier’ is always a poignant one. My great grandfather a private in the Sussex Regiment died on the battlefields in November 2016 aged 27 just one of millions of casualties, husbands, sons, fathers…. It must all have looked so bleak and helpless.
On 4 August 1918 King George V called a National Day of Prayer. One hundred days later the war ended. On 23 May 1940 with allied armies trapped on beaches King George V1 called for a National Day of Prayer and apparently congregations overflowed, the same day 800 vessels answered the call to evacuate Dunkirk.
When things look and feel helpless we need more than ourselves, we need the Divine and we need each other. Let us never be afraid to ask of either.
They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them…
Peace be with you,
On our website I found a lovely message celebrating my being with you for a year! How lovely it was to read, to receive flowers and touching words from the group of churches. Thank-you all. We love it here! The year has flown by, it has been wonderful getting to know so many of you, to share in the ups and downs, the sorrows, the joys and the everyday of our lives.
Encouragement is such a lovely thing, words are so meaningful. With them we can build each other up, give love, comfort and support or we can use them to hurt, to tear another down. To lighten a sermon about ‘the tongue’ recently I googled in ‘the world’s most ridiculous quotes’ and Donald Trump appeared in the first 8. Need I say more!! I’m not giving space to his but here are a few of my own favourite ‘being kind’ quotes:
My grandfather’s ‘If you can’t say something positive about someone don’t say anything at all’.
A Native American plaque ‘ Never judge a man until you walk two moons in his moccasins’
Social Media post ‘In a world where you can choose to be anything, choose to be kind’
As Jesus said ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (this also implies you should love yourself too, God does 😊)
Blessings of Kindness,
These are some words from my recent sermon:
It is at pivotal moments in our lives and our decisions to act with or without integrity, to choose to say or do the right thing, to not misuse our power that can display our character.
What power? It is sometimes easier to see the power we do have in comparison to those who have little or none.
Do you have a home? Be a voice for the homeless. Do you have money in the bank? Be a voice for those living in poverty.
Do you have food in your cupboards? Be a voice for the hungry. Do you have family? Be a voice for the orphan, the lonely, the refugee.
Can you walk down the street without being abused? Be a voice for the trans community, the woman in the hijab… and so on and so forth.
Just a few short weeks later Boris Johnson made his comment about women in hijab’s, following which attacks on those wearing them increased. Regular reported tweets from the Whitehouse are personal and offensive. Distant bullying on social media is invasive causing harm and distress.
Our words matter. They can cause pain and hurt or they can build up and transform. Proverbs 12 says ‘A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit’. In other words, kindness and respect in how we talk to and speak of each other doth indeed maketh the man, woman and child.
The church has now entered the long season of ‘ordinary time’ with its liturgical colour of green. This season will see us through the summer and well into the autumn. After the wonder of Christmas, the solemnity of Lent, the sadness of Good Friday, the joy of Easter, and the flames of Pentecost, it’s now, just... well ordinary! It does seem a little strange to have a dedicated period of ordinariness in the church calendar, a kind of default season with no particular theme. A kind of ‘space’ gap.
Life can be like this too, with its highs and lows, but mostly with things just ticking along. For many living through difficult times, the ‘ordinary’ can be yearned for. Ordinary can be restorative and balancing. It can open up time for contemplation, and if you are a person of faith give space to see God in the small, the everyday of our lives, in the beauty of the colours of summer and autumn...
Here’s to the ordinary.
A Summer Smile...
With apologies to those who have heard this joke before or have recently lost a duck...
A woman takes her duck to the vet, which upon examination the vet sadly declares to be dead. Outraged, the woman tells the vet he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and challenges him to prove that her duck is, indeed, dead. The vet sighs but then opens the door of the surgery and ushers in a black Labrador who puts his paws on the table and sniffs the duck from head to toe. The Labrador looks dolefully at the vet and slowly shakes its head and leaves the surgery. The vet then brings in a large tabby cat, which he places on the table beside the duck. The cat also sniffs the duck from head to toe and also looks up to the vet and shakes its head. The vet removes the cat and then says to the woman, “There you are, I told you it was dead”. He taps a few keys on his computer and says, “That will be £150 please”. The woman, clearly shocked, says “£150 to tell me that my duck is dead, that’s outrageous”. “Well” said the vet, “if you’d taken my word for it, it would have only been £20 but with the lab test and the cat scan it’s £150”!!
Summer Smiles and Blessings to you,
I love chocolate! So describing the mystery of the Trinity (the three aspects of God) as like plain, white and milk chocolate, all being chocolate (God) but all still individual in appearance and taste, works really well for me, but apparently using this analogy might be heretical! But somehow I don’t think God minds, I am sure God smiles at our human attempts to describe the indescribable nature of God!
Traditionally the Trinity is described as ‘God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit’. I like how the Inclusive Language Lord’s Prayer from New Zealand speaks to the wider nature of God and our relationship response to it:
Earth-Maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver
Source of all that is and all that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God who is in heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by people of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and forever.
May it be so. Amen.
We have sun! Or at least we did when I wrote this! May is a lovely month as the flowers continue to bloom, the days get longer and we carry with us the joy of Easter. God’s amazing love for us has been clearly demonstrated and we wait for the celebration of Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit came after Jesus ascended, believers began praising God in many languages, languages that they had not learnt. I am sure this symbolically emphasises the unity God desires for us to have with one another. As St Paul writes “There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
All are one in Christ. There are no outsiders, none that are lesser than ourselves. In Christ there are no excluding boundaries, let us not be the ones to create them.
May the Holy Spirit empower us with love for our neighbour, and with neighbour being the whole circumference of the globe. Amen
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Mother Teresa
Have you been Confirmed?
If you would like to be or are not sure if you have been or not (I wasn’t until a few years ago!) Do contact me. Bishop Stephen is coming to Dullingham in September so you can be confirmed locally.
The Easter Story
I grew up in a Christian tradition that took every word of the bible literally (pretty hard to do as parts are contradictory!) and to question God was deemed disrespectful. I now hold a rather difference stance seeing literal truths (the love of God for all and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus) and relative truths (to the era, to the situation) within the bible. I also think God positively likes being questioned: "He can handle it"! Just look to Jesus’ Parables; they positively encourage thought and challenge. And then we have Jesus’ questioning words on the cross to God ‘ Why have you forsaken me?’ as he carries the sins and hurts of the world distancing him from God and it is painful literally and emotionally.
During the Lent course questions arose about Jesus’ death one being ‘If Jesus knew he was going to die and let it happen when he could have stopped it was this in fact a form of suicide?’
To my mind Jesus foresaw his rejection and crucifixion but also the final outcome of the hope and reality of his resurrection. Death and sin are overcome, there is hope earthly and eternal for us all. So rather like a soldier on a battlefield, or a parent who pushes a pram out of the way of a car, death might be probable, but life is given in self sacrifice. Out of purpose, out of love for others. Jesus dies so all might live.
The taking of one’s own life can come from impossible pain of self and for hurts of the world which become too much to bear. An eleven year old once asked me ‘What happens when those who take their own life die?’ I said I believe Jesus has felt their pain, knowing that life had been hard for them and welcomes them with open arms. More simply I could have said ‘I believe Jesus runs to meet them’.
It is in the vulnerable that we meet Jesus and Jesus meets us, right there at the foot of the cross. Not in power and strength but in gentle, amazing, everlasting love.
That to me is the Easter story.
Easter Blessings to you all,
If you have been affected by anything I have said please do speak with me, a friend, or the Samaritans who are available 24 hours a day on 116 123 or https://www.samaritans.org
Revd Nikki Mann
Nikki is the Priest in Charge of the Raddesley Benefice (which consists of 6 churches) in Cambridgeshire