February Pastoral Letter from the Rectory
What is your motivation?
People often ask me what made me ‘go into the church’. I am not sure this is actually the right phraseology for what they mean, as I became a full member of the church through my baptism just like all other members. I do understand that what they are really asking me about is how I felt the call by God to become a priest.
I suspect that many of us are looking for affirmation in our lives. We want to be affirmed for the people we are. It makes us happy when people say good things about us - the danger is that we do things for the wrong motivation, only so as to receive the affirmation of others. When I was exploring the possibility that God may be asking me to be a priest in the Church, I was asked questions about motive. And, as an outsider then, it was the ‘nice things’ in the lives of my parish priest that one saw. The inspiration that they brought to people, the ‘up-front’ things in church, the fun and laughter at a youth club. What one didn’t see was the being with people at difficult times in their lives, the feelings of inadequacy as people looked for support and help. The preparation that goes into an act of worship as you lay your own soul on the line. Don’t get me wrong I am certainly not complaining, far from it - I can’t think of anything more rewarding - and I come in the belief that this is what God called me to and in the knowledge that others have affirmed that belief.
For all of us there will be things that happen, circumstances we find our selves in, when it would be easy to either do them for the wrong motive, or to shy away from them altogether, even if we know we shouldn’t.
The following motivational poem was used by the England Cricket team when they won the Ashes in 2005, the first time in 18 years. It is called ‘The guy in the Glass’ and is by Dale Wimbrow (c.1934)
When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you king for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what the guy has to say.
For it isn’t your Father, or mother, or wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feeler whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.
He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed the most difficult and dangerous test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.
You may be like Jack Horner and ‘chisel’ a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.
You can fool the whole world down the pathways of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.
It strikes me, that as we enter in to the season of Lent, as Christians, we just need to alter this poem slightly and remember that the glass into which we look is the cross of our Lord, the cross of God's overwhelming love. What is our motivation? As Christians it is our fulfilment of what God has called us to through our Baptism as we join with Jesus Christ in his mission to the world. Our motivation in life is the loving grace God has bestowed upon us and which through us he wants to bestow upon his world.
With every blessing for a holy Lent.
Your friend and priest
Fr. Martin's Back Op: I am writing this whilst recovering at home following the surgery on my spine. Each day things seem to be improving - though not quite as quickly as I would have liked! Can I just say a huge 'thank you' to everyone who has sent cards and good wishes and sent up their prayers for me. It has been wonderful to know all the support that is going on - can I also thank those who have shouldered a little more during this time - it is good to have people one can trust. Hopefuly I will be back to full fitness very soon.
ASH WEDNESDAY IS 18th February 2015
11.00 a.m. BCP Holy Communion
7.30 p.m. Sung Eucharist with the imposition of Ashes
REMEMBER YOU ARE DUST AND TO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN
An introduction to Lent
Lent has a long history. It began in the early church as a time for those who were going to be baptized (baptism happened only once a yearat Easter) to prepare themselves for baptism and full incorporation into the church. It was a time for fasting and prayer as well as a time for them to study and learn about Christ and the doctrines (or mysteries) of the church. They were to prepare for the new life and new birth that would come with their baptism at Easter. Eventually the rest of the church joined in this and by the Council of Nicaea (325ad) it had become an official season of the church calendar and was established as a 40 day fast of repentance and preparation. It was a time to remember Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness, a time to remember the suffering Christ endured on the cross, and it was a time to remember the sin that put Christ on the cross and the sin in our own lives and world. A time for preparing to receive the risen Lord at Easter.
At its heart Lent is a journey to wholeness, a journey of joining God in his redemptive and redeeming work in the world. But, that journey begins with a journey through brokenness – we join God in his redemptive work of wholeness by first confronting the brokenness in our own lives and in the world around us. We confront the barriers that keep us from God, the barriers that keep us from each other and the barriers that keep us from God’s creation. This is not a onetime act. We do not overcome these barriers in a day or in 40 days, but the idea is that each year we go through this Lenten process and that at the end of it each time we find ourselves closer to the goal of wholeness and of joining God in His loving work in the world.
Lent is not just about giving something up for a few weeks and it’s not just about focusing on our sin and repenting for a few weeks – it’s really about growth. The very word Lent means “Spring” or “springtime” and indeed just as spring is a time when we plant seeds and bury them in darkness it is a time when we plant ourselves in God and focus on and repent of the darkness in ourselves and in our world. It is a time when through repentance we grow and become a thing of beauty and restoration to the world around us. Lent is really about going through a process that should change us, that should bring us closer to being fully the people God has called us and created us to be.
The church has traditionally made this journey through an emphasis on fasting, almsgiving and prayer.
Fasting has a way of making us more aware of what’s really important in life, when we give up that which is not important we realize what is important. Traditionally in the church there was a lot of discrepancy as to how people should Fast and practice avoidance during Lent. Eventually the Western church declared lent to be 40 days long not counting Sundays. It was to include two days of fasting (ash Wednesday and good Friday) which meant that people were only able to eat one meal on those days (usually in the evening) . For the Western church Lent also included days of “abstinence” on each Friday during Lent, this meant that every Friday during lent the church community was not suppose to eat meat at all or drink alcohol. Wherever or however fasting is practiced the purpose is the same – to join in Christ’s suffering and in the suffering of the world.
But, fasting was never just for the sake of denial and self-discipline (though those things were part of it). There was a broader purpose to the fasting, a purpose to the denial that went beyond the spiritual development that this practice created and touched on a very practical purpose. The money saved during the fast was to be spent in almsgiving – in giving to the poor. This fast was a way to join with the suffering of the world and to play a part in diminishing that suffering. There was an emphasis during lent on giving to and suffering on behalf of the poor and needy in the world. This was the part of lent that I had known nothing of before and this is the part of lent that struck me most.
The third practice of lent is that of prayer. Christ came. He joined us in our suffering – so much so that he joined us in our death. And so at lent when we remember and dwell on the suffering of our Christ it seems only right that we would in thankful penitence turn our hearts and lives back to Him through prayer. It seems right that during this time of remembrance we would talk with him about our own sin remembering that he came and died not just for some distant purpose or person, He came and died for us each as unique individuals that he wanted to be near and connected to. It seems right that during this time of remembrance we would talk with him about the brokenness in our lives and in the world around us. It seems right that during this time of remembrance we would talk to him about the wrong being done in our world and cry out on behalf of ourselves, our neighbours, our nation and society and on behalf of all those around the world. Through Lenten prayer we confess our failure, confess the ways we fall short, confess and recognize our need for a saviour. Through Lenten prayer we recommit ourselves to Christ, the His church and to the redeeming work He is doing and desires to do in the world around us. Through Lenten prayer we silence ourselves and listen to Christ’s heart for us and for the world.
Lent is not a means and end in itself… it is a beginning. During Lent we dwell on the suffering and hardships of Christ, the suffering and sin in our own life and the suffering and brokenness in our world and we do this in ways that change us. So that when Easter comes we have a real sense of the great glory that is found in Christ’s resurrection – yes our world is broken, yes our own lives are broken but Christ didn’t just suffer he rose and with his resurrection he brought new life for all of us. So after a time of penitence and brokenness we can come to Easter knowing fully the importance and necessity of Christ’s resurrection and rejoicing fully in the complete and eternal fullness of life that He brings. And we can move on from there more fully in tune with Christ, with ourselves and with the world around us.
LENT GROUPS 2015
Experiencing God's Love is the short study guide we are using this Lent that aims to deepen our understanding and first- hand experience of living the life of faith. It explores five biblical images of the ways in which our lives are changed by:
- Walking with Christ:
- Being securely rooted in prayer and the scriptures,
- Cleansed through baptism, confession and forgiveness,
- Enlightened through worship, mission and growth in holiness,
- Tended through care for one another and the world,
- Welcomed in the Eucharist and in the fellowship of the Church.
Each chapter explores one of these images in the Psalms and the Gospels, and in popular culture, supported by YouTube clips. Opening and closing worship, discussion starters, questions, and a leader's guide are all included making this ideal for Lent groups or as a Christian nurture course at any time of the year.
Which group are you joining? Sign up list are i Holy Cross now.
‘An Impossible God’
Frank Topping may be a familiar name to some, now a retired Methodist minister, Frank worked in the theatre and television, both as a producer and a performer. He has written several books, one of which is a devotional guide through Lent called ‘An Impossible God’. This has been adapted into a one man play, which is performed by Mark Topping, a professional actor, who also happens to be Frank’s son. The production is coming to Uckfield URC on Friday 27th February at 7:30pm. All tickets are £5 and can be obtained from Jeremy Hallet or Rev Amanda Roper (01892 664771).
The Installation of the new Dean of Chichester cathedral, The Venerable Stephen Waine, takes place in the cathedral on Saturday 14th February.