With the imminent return of our parish priest, Nick, from his sabbatical leave, this will be my last letter with the silly title.

During Nick’s absence we have been greatly supported by other Team clergy and I have been happy and privileged to have been able to play some part in that. As well as some Sunday services and many Wednesdays I was particularly pleased that I was well enough to carry out the ‘occasional offices’ which I had said I would - a Baptism, a wedding, a funeral and memorial service, the interment of ashes and a Thursday evening ‘Be Still’ service and a Eucharist at Netherthong. All that until on the first of August I became quite suddenly very ill and spent four days in hospital and have since then been gradually recovering day-by-day with occasional set backs.
I think we sometimes tend to try to impose on others the things we do ourselves – because something works for us we think it would be good for them. My own daily practice of prayer follows a modified version of the Daily Office along with Bible Reading Fellowship notes, but while I’ve been ill my mind has just not been capable of that kind of concentration. And so my prayers have followed a very different and variable pattern – and in many ways that seems to me to have been a very positive experience. What I’m recommending in mentioning that is that we should not become too fixed in the way we carry out our spiritual exercises. The ‘Be Still’ services have been, for example, a revelation to many. Be ready to let circumstances direct the way you should go.
And one morning when I was feeling somewhat better the words of the hymn ‘New every morning is the love’ came to my mind and I sang it quietly to myself – words I presumably I had learned by frequent repetition many years ago during Sunday Mattins. I found it a surprisingly good experience. If you know the hymn I recommend your bringing it back to mind – it can be re-assuring and refreshing. And if, brought up since the days of Mattins, you don’t know the hymn may I suggest you look it up on line (where it may even be sung for you!) or, failing that, get a copy from church. It’s number 2 in the church hymn book. Its author, John Keble, knew what he was writing about. And it’s as relevant today as on the day it was written.
Finally thank you for all the prayers and support over the past month. Much appreciated.
Geoff Bamford

 

I was recently speaking to a few fellow church leaders
about days off. One said she hardly ever got a day off as there was just so
much to do. Another colleague quickly responded – ‘So, you’re placing yourself
above God are you?’

That got everyone’s attention!

He had a very good point. The Bible tells us that God
worked for 6 days and rested on the seventh – so giving us a pattern for a
healthy rhythm of life. If God rested one day in seven, isn’t it a bit arrogant
not to do so? It’s certainly unhealthy in all sorts of ways. That conversation
was a wakeup call to all of us involved: It’s all too easy to be doing so much
that we forget that the Sabbath principle isn’t just good advice it’s a command
of God – for our own good.

By Sabbath principle I mean the evident truth that we all
need rest from our everyday work. For Christians it means remembering what
Jesus said; ‘People weren’t made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for
people.’ (Mark 2:27)

The idea is rest for the body and for the soul. It’s about
coming away from the pace of everyday life and seeking God. It is about doing
good as Jesus reminded us. It’s about reflection and it’s about listening to
God.

The longer I’m a Christian the more I realise that
everything depends on developing ways of listening to God in the midst of a
busy and demanding world.

There’s a story about a man was having difficulty
communicating with his wife and concluded that she was becoming hard of
hearing.

So he decided to conduct a test..... without her knowing
about it. One evening he sat in a chair on the far side of the room. Her back
was to him and she couldn’t see him.

Very quietly he whispered, "Can you hear me?"

There was no response.

Moving a little closer, he asked again, "Can you hear
me now?"

Still no reply; quietly he edged closer and whispered the
same words, but still no answer.

Finally, he moved right in behind her chair and said,
"Can you hear me now?"

To his surprise and chagrin, she responded with irritation
in her voice,

"For the
fourth time, yes!" (Pause)

The hearing problem is not with God. .....It’s with us!

The Sabbath principle is really all about listening to God
and it’s something we should apply more often than 1 day in 7. In a busy world
I myself find the need to establish a rhythm of work, rest, listening and
reflection each day. The reality is that there are days when this doesn’t
happen as I’d like it to. But I’m working at it!

Most of you will know that my Sabbatical begins on 12th
May for 3 months. The heart of this is about doing something other than my
normal job; it’s about a journey of discovery, reflection and rest. I think
above all it’s about taking time to really listen to God, about my own life,
about the life of my family and my churches. Specifically I’ll be looking at
patterns of discipleship in the early church and what patterns may work in the
very different world of the 21st century? How can we follow Jesus
with everything we’ve got in such a busy and sometimes confusing world?

I am very fortunate to be able to take this extended
period of time to do these things and I hope to return at the end of the summer
with renewed strength and vision for our churches as we enter the next stage of
journey together.

But, here’s a challenge for you all while I’m away…

Can you find a way of applying the Sabbath principle to
your life a little more? Can you find more time to come away from the everyday?
Time to rest from it? To seek God and reflect on your life?

One thing I know for sure is that if we don’t, then life
will tend to pass us by. Jesus said he came to bring us life to the full… how
can we hope to experience it if we don’t listen to Him?

With love in Christ and blessings to you all for the
summer

Nick

What does Jesus
Resurrection mean for us?

As you read
this it will be very close to Easter day, maybe just after, but the
resurrection is something which should make a difference to us whatever day it
is. Let’s look back to the early days after Jesus rose from the dead, an event
which turned a frightened group of His followers into a force which would
change the world……

The first
Christians believed that Jesus’ resurrection had implications for the entire
universe. Their tradition had taught
them that the world was broken and desperately in need of repair and that at
some point in the future, God was going to put it all back together. For them, this future restoration had nothing
to do with leaving this world; it was
all about the renewing and the reclaiming of this world. This isn’t to deny of
course that when our life on earth is over, we will go to be with God, just to
say that that won’t be the end of the story (read Revelation 21 to find out
more!)

As the
author and speaker Rob Bell puts it: “They
saw in Jesus’ resurrection the beginning of this universe-wide movement to put it all back together.”

The first
Christians believed that the world would not be improved through military
power. This gospel they were living had
nothing to do with using political force to make people live a certain way. For them, this gospel was about serving the
world, being God’s agents for transformation and for hope in the world.

Now this is
both deeply personal and also world changing.

Rob Bell
again: ‘Jesus is saving me, he’s saving
me from my sins, from my mistakes, from
my pride, from my indifference to the suffering of the world around me. From my cynicism and despair, the brokenness I
see in the world around me is true of my own soul.’

We all fall
short and that’s the beautiful part.

Imperfect,
vulnerable people like you and me, are invited to be the hands and feet of a
Jesus who loves us exactly as we are and yet, loves us way too much to let us
stay that way. It’s OK if we sometimes mess up, God will forgive and restore us
and it’s OK if we’ve got scars – even the risen Jesus still bore the scars of
his crucifixion……

But Jesus
invites us into new life, into a new world, God’s new world. A world which is
rich with possibilities because death and evil have been overcome – all because
of Easter.

And so, we
are saved from sin, from despair, from hopelessness and as Christians we are
set free to serve God in the world, to
work with him as he calls all human beings into relationship with him through
Jesus; free to work with him as he seeks to challenge suffering and all that is
unjust; free to be the people he works through to put this world back together again, to
bring signs of this new world of hope into existence, right here and right now.

All this is
the call on the church and all this stems from and only from the resurrection
of Jesus.

Alleluia
Christ is risen

He is risen
indeed, Alleluia!

With love in
Christ

Nick