The July Pastoral Letter from the Rector
My Dear friends,
“The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27
The story is told of an old bishop who was teaching the children about the reserved Blessed Sacrament that is kept in church to take to the sick. “Every morning,” he said, “I come downstairs for my breakfast, but before my breakfast I go into the church. I walk up to the tabernacle (the place where the Blessed Sacrament is kept) and I knock on the door. I say, ‘Are you there, my little Jesus?’ and he replies, ‘Yes, my Lord Bishop.’”
It’s a ridiculous story. But it does illustrate a point. Jesus Christ, Son of God and son of Mary, didn’t abandon us when he ascended into heaven. Many centuries have gone by since the Gospel days. But the loving closeness of Our Lord to us is the same as it was to Peter, Andrew, James and John.
Many of you will be familiar with the story called ‘Footprints’. A traveller crossing the desert was lost, and tormented by thirst. He called out to Our Lord, but felt he was getting no response. Eventually, more dead than alive, he reached his destination. That night in his prayer he turned angrily on the Lord. “Where were you when I wanted you?” “I was with you, protecting you.” “No you weren’t – if you had been, there would be two sets of footprints, and I can only see one.” “Ah yes, my son, that is because I was carrying you.”
“The mystery is Christ among you.” When St Paul wrote this to the Colossians, by “mystery” he didn’t mean “puzzle”. He meant a deep truth, deeper than our brains can cope with all in one go. He meant a many-sided truth, which God reveals to us in stages. He meant something marvellous which only dawns on us progressively.
The mystery he’s talking about is this: the presence among us of the risen, living, powerful and responsive Jesus. Not miles away, not light years away, but here and now. So often we treat Jesus as a memory. We think of him on the hillsides of Galilee, in the streets of Jerusalem, on the cross. But the most important thing about Jesus is not our memories. It is the fact that he’s here. St Augustine used to say, “Closer to me than I am to myself”. At communion this is particularly true as we take into ourselves the consecrated bread and wine, his body and his blood – sacramental signs of his presence with us.. I receive him as a guest into my life. It’s for real. And it’s not only in church that he is close to me: it is all the time.
Sometimes you hear stories about lonely children who talk to imaginary friends. Well, in our case the friend isn’t imaginary. Ever since he rose from the dead and returned to his Father he has been accessible to all of us. He really is Our Lord, inviting us home with him. He really is our hope of glory.
If all this is true, we shall want nothing more than to live in union with him. It would be strange if I heard that the love of my life had moved in next door and I didn’t bother to make contact. Jesus presence among us is as real as that.
What we’re really talking about is prayer. The apostles once asked Jesus, “Teach us how to pray”, and he taught them the Our Father. There are in fact many varieties of prayer. Here’s just one: it’s the art of praying with scripture.
I establish a relationship with Our Lord simply by dwelling on the Gospels in the New Testament. Mentally I ring-fence the time: the next 15 minutes, the next half-hour is yours, Lord. I select a passage from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John which talks about Jesus. A parable, an event in his life, part of his passion, one of his teachings. It can be quite short – like the Sunday Gospel readings at the Eucharist. I read it through slowly, three or four times, and I allow it to run in my head, pausing on the parts that may have touched me, or stuck out for me. Then I apply it to myself and my situation, and let the word of God shine on my life, like a searchlight. And I let the spontaneous prayer well up. It may be a cry for help, repentance, thanks, bewilderment, or sheer love of Christ. Every day my reaction will be different because the inspired scriptures speak to me today in a way they didn’t yesterday. Whatever my reaction, the prayer is good.
Spending time with a friend is the thing that builds and sustains a relationship – our relationship with the Lord Jesus is no different!
Your friend and priest.
The History and Development of the Sacrament of Confirmation
On Wednesday 16th July at 7.30 p.m., Bishop Richard Jackson, the newly consecrated Bishop of Lewes will be at Holy Cross to preside at the Uckfield Deanery Confirmation service. But what is Confiramtion in the Church of England?
The Spirit is present in the Church, moving and breathing where he wills, but allowing historical events and cultures to shape our practice and understanding of the faith. A striking example of this is the history and the theology of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Through the centuries the way we have celebrated the sacrament and understood its meaning has undergone many changes. It is almost universally accepted as a celebration of the Spirit within us and a time for affirming our Baptism. Yet different schools of thought exist concerning its meaning, its purpose, and the age at which it is to be celebrated.Confirmation in the Early Church
In the early Church the three Sacraments of initiation—Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist—were celebrated in the same ceremony by adult catechumens at the Easter Vigil. The catechumens descended into a pool where they were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They ascended, were clothed with a white robe, and the bishop laid hands on them and anointed them with oil. They then proceeded to a place of honour among the community where they participated in the Eucharist for the first time. Initiation thus consisted of one event with several moments. The climax was the celebration of the Eucharist.The separation of the bishop's anointing from Baptism occurred for a number of reasons in the Western Church. Constantine's proclamation making Christianity the state religion in the fourth century meant that many more people were being baptized. Christianity also spread from the cities into the countryside. It became impossible for bishops, who were now also involved in governing, to preside at every Baptism. The bishops of the East solved the problem by delegating the Sacraments of Initiation to the presbyter, reserving for themselves only the blessing of the oil used in the rite. To this day the Eastern churches initiate with all three sacraments at once. The bishops of the West also delegated Baptism to priests, but retained the function of performing the initial anointing and laying on of hands. This they would do whenever they visited a particular locality. Thus, in the West the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation was done at a later time than the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism.The Theology of Confirmation
Baptism was the sacrament of the initial gift of the Spirit, while Confirmation was the sacrament of the fullness of the Spirit with his seven gifts. When in the Middle Ages it became the practice to confirm close to adolescence instead of infancy, theologians began to teach that Confirmation was the sacrament of maturity. Those who received it were regarded as old enough and ready to live active, responsible Christian lives. The Christian was sealed as a witness for Christ in Confirmation and fortified by an increase of the Spirit's gifts to fight, suffer, and die for the faith. The notion of the sacrament making a person a soldier of Christ prevailed. (The sign of peace in the rite was even replaced by a gentle slap on the face to indicate readiness for life's battles.)
Theology of Confirmation Today
Some people today still look on Confirmation as the sacrament of maturity. But this sacrament does not imply that the candidate is completely mature in the faith. Nor does the signing with chrism instantaneously produce maturity in the candidate. Conversion to Christ is a gradual process to which Confirmation gives added strength. Through it the confirmed person is strengthened for this lifelong journey.Current thinking of Confirmation has been given direction by recent Church documents that see Confirmation as integrally related to Baptism and Eucharist. Together these sacraments constitute a process by which the Spirit brings the believer to full union with the community. Confirmation does not complete Baptism in the sense that Baptism left something incomplete. Rather, the two sacraments are united in the initiation process.
Confirmation is also associated with the Eucharist, where the People of God unite to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. When Confirmation precedes the reception of Holy Communion, it is seen clearly as a preparation to full celebration with the community.
Confirmation celebrates the fullness of the Holy Spirit in the Church. The Spirit of Jesus, the same Spirit that transformed the apostles, comes upon the members of the Church. Through Confirmation Christians are more perfectly bound to the Church and are as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread the faith by word and deed. Confirmation seals believers in the Spirit, anointing them and empowering them to carry on the mission of Christ.
Please keep in your prayers all those from our denaery who are to be confirmed - perhaps you could come and support them?
Children from Holy Cross School along with mebers of Uckfield (Holy Cross) Choral Society will be leading a 'sing-a-long' Joseph and his amazing technicolour dreamcoat in Holy Cross church on Tuesday 8th July at 7.00 p.m. as part of the Uckfield Festival. (A retiring collection will be taken)
Church Army ~ An incredible vision
In 1882, a dynamic and unconventional Church of England curate called Wilson Carlile, had a passionate desire to encourage and enable ordinary people to live out the good news of Jesus Christ in such a way that others would be attracted to follow Him. This vision was thought of as "dragging the church into the gutter", but it inspired thousands of people to "turn the church inside out."
Within three years Church Army had over 6,000 voluntary workers, and its meetings attracted over 3,000,000 people. By 1910, Church Army's work with the homeless and unemployed was helping 350,000 people each year and the church began to realise the valuable impact of Carlile's work which had by now caught the interest of the Royal family and senior politicians. Mission and evangelism in the UK and Ireland had been transformed through the efforts of ordinary men and women who were inspired to participate in an incredible vision to share faith through words and action.
Our work today
Today Church Army remains an Anglican Society, yet works beyond church buildings with a focus on those with little knowledge of the Church and the gospel. Church Army Evangelists often work amongst the most broken, rejected and hurting of people in our society.
Our evangelists can be found reaching out to people in diverse and challenging situations across the UK and Ireland,and working in partnership with the local church and other organisations in rural, suburban and urban settings to develop appropriate and relevant forms of Christian community.
Church Army Evangelists can be found reaching out to people in diverse and challenging situations across the UK and Ireland including:
Working with women involved in prostitution, nightlife ministry, homeless projects, housing estates work, self harm prevention projects, engaging with children through a diverse range of activities, relating to younger people through music, drama and other creative projects, reaching out to older people through drops in centres and lunch clubs, helping those with drug & alcohol addictions, family breakdown prevention projects, ministering in supermarkets, prisons, schools, adventure centres, bus projects, cafe style churches, engaging with people via the internet and in so many other ways.