The May pastoral letter from the Rector
Continued from last month - Is Christianity made up? The claim made for Jesus’ Resurrection.
My dear friends,
In John’s gospel we are told with great simplicity how Peter and the beloved disciple raced to the tomb to see for themselves that the tomb was empty, after receiving the incredible word from Mary Magdalene that Jesus had risen. When they got to the tomb they stooped down to look in and saw the linen bandages that had been wound round the body of Jesus mixed with the spices of burial, lying there but with no one inside them. They saw the turban cloth, from his head, not lying with the other bandages but rolled up in a place by itself. At that point John tells us, ‘they saw and they believed.’ Why? Because it was apparent that the body of Jesus had emerged from those grave clothes, just like a butterfly from its chrysalis and the turban lay apart, just like the cap of the chrysalis case after the butterfly has flown free.
Incidentally this has something to say about the modern suggestions that the resurrection of Jesus was a spiritual thing not a physical thing. Certainly Christians have never simply said that the resurrection was the resuscitation of the corpse. The New Testament proclaims that Jesus was raised from the dead to a life of new quality. Just like the butterfly, Jesus did not emerge unchanged. No, like the butterfly, Jesus is somehow transformed to a new dimension of living. No, longer a caterpillar that crawls slowly wherever it wants to go. Now it can sail through the air with delicacy and poise. It is transformed into new life. But it is unquestionably the same insect. So it is with Jesus. His tomb was empty not in order to let him out but to let people see that he had indeed risen. The empty tomb and the empty grave cloths are symbols, pointers to the fact that Jesus, the man, has become Christ, the risen Lord. The prophet in Revelation describes it this way ‘He holds the keys of death and the afterlife.’ Jesus was dead, the Romans saw to that - but the tomb was found empty because death could not hold him. And that, as Peter said on the first day of Pentecost was a remarkable fulfilment of a prophecy made a thousand years before.
“David says concerning Jesus, ‘Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy holy one see corruption, thou has made known to me the ways of life’ Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet he foresaw the resurrection of Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses.” Acts 2
Charlie Moule in his book, The Phenomenon of the New Testament, points out a remarkable thing about Christianity. It had absolutely nothing to add to Judaism, nothing, except the conviction that the Rabbi, Jesus, had been raised from the dead. All the early Christians were loyal Jews. They all went to the Synagogue to worship. They read and believed the Jewish scriptures. Their ethics were based on the Old Testament - albeit refined by Jesus into the two great commandments, love God and love your neighbour as yourself. Only one thing caused this new religion as it emerged to erupt. It was the conviction that Jesus had been raised from the dead, that Jesus must be the long awaited deliverer, the messiah from God, foretold in their scriptures and hinted at in their sacrificial rituals. He must be the coming one - his resurrecting from the dead proved it. Nobody else had done that, Jesus was unique. No wonder that they gave him the title Lord, which was only ever applied to the almighty God, Yahweh.
Those followers, that church, armed with such an improbable claim, swept across the whole Roman Empire, inside three hundred years. It is a perfectly amazing story of peaceful revolution, with out parallel in history. It came about because believers, Christians, were able to say to unbelievers ‘Jesus did not only die for you, but he is also alive for you. You can meet him and discover for yourself the reality we are talking about. And people did discover for themselves, and the church was born out of the Easter grave. The church had three special characteristics and you found them wherever you went. The Christians had a special day, Sunday. A special rite of initiation, Baptism. And a special meal, The Eucharist. Each one of these three is rooted in the resurrection of Jesus.
And what are we to make of the appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection? Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians gives us a list of witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus in chapter 15; it’s interesting to note that he doesn’t mention Mary Magdalene at all, though she is clearly the first witness as recorded in the gospels. Perhaps that is because the witness of a woman wasn’t recognised in Jewish or Gentile law at that time. If the Followers of Jesus had dreamed up the story of his resurrection it begs the question of why they put Mary as the first witness when her testimony was legally worthless.
In chapter 15 of his letter to the Corinthians Paul is passing on duly authorised facts. Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day and he appeared. Paul mentions firstly Peter, the Peter who had denied him, then the twelve, presumably excluding Judas who is dead and Thomas who was absent. Then he appeared to more than 500 Christians at once, probably in Galilee where the majority of his followers lived. Paul says, most of them are still alive - as much as to say, you can go and check up. Jesus then appeared to James, his brother, he appeared to all the apostles, presumably including Thomas this time, and he appeared also to Paul. Now add to that group the women, the fishermen, a sceptical brother, a fanatical opponent, and five hundred ordinary folk. Can any theory of hallucination cover those appearances? And how come the hallucinations stopped after forty days?
And what of these people, their lives were changed. Those who claim to have had contact with Jesus resurrection, then and now have had their lives transformed. Peter was changed from a coward to the rock of the church. The twelve from defeatists into a task force. The 500 from a rabble into a church. All of them came from unbelief like Thomas, to ardent faith. James, Jesus sceptical brother, becomes the leader of the Jerusalem church. Perhaps the most amazing of all is the Saul of Tarsus, the violent, bigoted persecutor of the Christians, who became arguably the greatest follower Jesus ever had. The reason, because last of all, Paul says, he, Jesus, appeared to me.
Jesus displayed himself openly to his followers, allowed them to feel his wounds, ate meals with them and yet passed through doors without opening them, disappeared while talking with them and eventually parted from them for the last time on the Mount of Olives. From then on he would not appear to their physical eyes. But his spirit, no longer restricted by a physical body, would indwell the lives of his people. And that is what he has been doing ever since. And although we cannot say with those first witnesses I have seen the Lord, every Christian can say, ‘I know him. He has come into my life.’ Every believer is in that sense a witness to the resurrection. The life changing work of the risen Jesus goes on today and is powerful testimony to the truth that he is indeed risen.
Has Jesus shown what lies on the other side of death? Is death the end or can it be the gateway into a new quality of life. And so Jesus says to us: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you. Surely these are the words we can trust, they come from the one person who has broken the barrier of death.
Your friend and Priest.
Two quotes from Fr. Martin's address at the APCM HOLY CROSS Tuesday 14th April
Martin Luther said: Be the monks and priests never so holy and arduous, they have not one whit more of a calling than the rustic in the field, or the housewife going about her household tasks in the home.
Ruth Etchells, has written this:
To be called to lay service is to be called to live fully in the secular world, to be at ease in it, to know its idioms and assumptions, to engage in its arguments and affairs, because its real centre is there. It is not to sally out from one's 'real' centre, the parish church and its affairs, or the diocesan structures, for sorties into industry and trade or education or politics or whatever. It is to live in industry or trade or education or politics, to earn one's income from them (or be unemployed by them); to be committed to them; and there, in that place where one's energies are committed, to engage quite consciously in mission and ministry.'
I agree that we are 'short of clergy' - if we are to go on understanding and performing that role in ways that we always have done. But I bet that the 'shortage of clergy', crucial problem though it is, is nowhere near as crucial as that of the nature of Christian vocation. Indeed, it might even be that we need to get this right in order to be able to address the other.
I was asking the question: Have you got a vocation? and suggesting that we all have.
"It may be a hazardous undertaking; it may present us with difficult theological - as well as practical - questions (and the fact that they are theological neither rules out nor excuses lay people from addressing them); it may require of us new commitments; it may threaten our security and our existence. But to respond to it is the only way to be and to make sense of our life together:
I wonder then, as we seek to move forward in faith together, to continue to build the kingdom here, will you think again about the risk of ‘Putting out into deep water, and letting down your nets for a catch’? So as the challenges of developing ministry, of developing our social outreach, developing our role within the community of Uckfield makes demands upon us as a church - and therefore as individual members of the body of Christ - I hope that you will not shy away from responding, knowing that God has given to you particular gifts and skills for the building up of the Kingdom here in this place."
Full text can be found on our church website:
LED Lighting in Holy Cross Church
Due to a generous donation the chandeliers in the centre aisle and in the choir now all have LED light bulbs in them, each bulb just a few watts compared to the ones they replaced - saving the church some £170 each year. WE would like to change to LED bulbs in all of the church's light fittings and thus further reduce our electricity bill and be a little 'greener' for the environment. The cost of each LED bulb is a little under £10 if you would like to make a donation towards these costs then please could you make it in a clearly marked envelope - LED BULBS - and if you pay tax and are part of the giving scheme could you also write your number on the envelope so that the gift aided tax can be reclaimed.
THINGS COMING UP IN MAY
Friday 1st May Day Dinner 7.30 p.m. in the Belmont (with Green Fig caterers) - 3 courses + coffee £25 per person - menus available from Dee Johnson
Saturday 9th Men's Breakfast 8.30 a.m. Fr. Martin will be talking about the Holy Land; 7.30 p.m. Sussex Police Choir in Hoy Cross with children from Little Horsted School raising funds for the restoration appeal.
Sunday 10th Little Horsted Fun Run;VE Day commemoration will form part of the 9.30 Parish Eucharist at Holy Cross; 3.00 p.m. Baptism party for all baptised by us in the past year
Thursday 14th 7.,30 p.m. Ascension day Eucharist in Holy Cross
Sunday 17th May 6.00 p.m. in St. Margaret's Isfield, Concert including favourite anthems and music from the shows. Tickets are £7.50 to include refreshments.
TUESDAY 19th MAY 7.30 p.m. Bishop Richard Jackson visits the deanery to share the new vision for the diocese and to answer questions - ALL are welcome -venue to be confirmed -see the weekly sheet.
Tuesday 2nd June in Holy Cross at 7.30 p.m. The ordination to the priesthood of The Rev'd Christian Mitchell
Thursday 4th June 7.30 p.m. in Holy Cross Fr. Mitch will preside at the Eucharist for the first time.
Help2kids is a non-profit organisation. They support children in need, and supports them to strive to enable them to pursue a sustainable future. They believe that small actions have big effects on children and young adults.
John Barns and Heidi Greenwood, teachers from Little Horsted Church of England School are going to Lifuwu, a small village in Malawiwith Help2Kids. They are going with the aims of developing teaching practise, to establish a two way Christian partnership between Little Horsted School and Kazembe School and to actively promote Christian Education.
Kazembe primary school teaches children from 7-17years. There can be up to 170 pupils in each class as the school offers education for approximately 745 children; and they only have one qualified teacher!John is going out for three and a half weeks and is planning on teaching in the primary school and will deliver vital training to the teacher and to the other teaching volunteers from the village. An excellent use of his skills!There is a Health Centre next to the school that offers medical assistance to up to 16,000 villagers, as well as offering outreach clinics. It has only three medically trained staff members. The rest are volunteers. Heidi will be working here for one of her weeks and will also be going on an outreach project to advise teenage girls and young women on the use of contraception. Teaching children and empowering girls… two things she is very passionate about!Fundraising: John and Heidi have requested a “wish list” from the school and have set themselves the challenge of fundraising £1000 to support four projects.
* To purchase a wheelchair for a paralysed four year old boy to enable him to go to school.
* To purchase a shed that will be used as a kitchen/storeroom for the school.
* To install basic electricity to the primary school to enable working children an opportunity to receive an education in the evenings.
* To sponsor/financially support a child’s education.
If you could make a donation please could you send your cheque to Little Horsted School or pass it to one of the clergy - Cheques should be made payable to:
Two Uckfield Deanery Events at PENTECOST
I very much hope that you will book both of these exciting events into your diary and will come and have a wonderful time a we celebrate the launch of the new diocese of Chichester strategy and come together to Celebrate Pentecost with Uckfield Concert Brass
Bishop Martin's Easter Sermon
Easter with a song!
In his Easter Day sermon delivered at Chichester Cathedral Dr Warner explains that “Alleluia” is not used in most churches throughout the season of Lent which leads up to Easter.
The sudden use of it, the Bishop says, often sung with great joy by worshippers across in churches throughout Sussex “asserts that music illuminates in us the capacity for releasing from within this material body, something more, something that exemplifies the reality of the resurrection, the echo of heaven.”
Dr Warner also celebrates the way in which Glyndebourne (http://www.glyndebourne.com/education/) has used music to change people’s lives especially those in prison. He says: “Right back in the 1950s, Glyndebourne took into Lewes Prison a production of Fidelio, a love story set in a prison, played out to prisoners to engage something that is not confined by prison bars; the imagination that is captivated by beauty, joy and hope.”
The Bishop adds: “Human persons can no longer be defined by death and mortality; the capacity for something eternal is now revealed.”
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed, alleluia!
The full text can be found on the Chichester Diocesan website.