Response to God

On 21st January just past, we welcomed the Bishop of Hertford to St. Mary's for our Confirmation Service. This was a wonderful celebration, something all our churches are rather good at whether we are hosting the 'big' occasions in people's lives or significant moments in the church year. A Confirmation Service is a public opportunity for a person to make their own faith response to God. For some, these promises were made for them by parents and godparents at their baptism as a child, but for many more these days a baptism has not taken place, so the Confirmation Service includes the opportunity to be baptised as well. It was a great joy to celebrate with our nine candidates, four of them being under the age of sixteen.

What about you and me, what response have we made to God? You may not believe in God and I respect your right to choose, but I wonder if an interesting discussion on week one of our newly started Alpha Course will help us all to reflect. We began with that question: do we need God? All the adults confirmed could give the reasons why they need God, and Jesus even said in Matthew Chapter 9: 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick', so knowing you need help seems vital to finding help, but some in our new Alpha group suggested their lives were fine so why do they need God? A very good question. In the Alpha talk we heard earlier in the evening, Nicky Gumbel remembered watching the World Cup Final in 1966 when England beat West Germany on an old black and white television. He described a crucial moment in the final when the television went into lines and the picture was too hard to make out. He said it often helped to improve the picture if someone stood on a certain part of the floor nearby, or by putting your hand round the TV in a certain way, but what they needed, he said, was an aerial like we have today. They had no idea how much better the picture could be. Could that be true for many of us, even though life seems fine in so many ways, could it be that we have not yet seen how good life can be? How inviting Jesus deep into our hearts can change us and our lives in good ways that we could never have imagined. This is the story that most Christians can tell you. We wish you all a very good 2018, and if you wonder what knowing Jesus could do for you, why not come and find out?

Alan Comfort, Rector

The importance of Christmas

May I start my Christmas piece by wishing you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas time from our church family. Yes, I do realise Christmas is still over three weeks away, and of course much must happen in that short space of time for us all to finally sit down and be ‘happy and peaceful’, but this is a special time of the year isn’t it? Our thoughts are clearly with those for whom this is a more difficult time, but for most of us this will be a celebration. Whether we are celebrating for the same reasons is another question altogether as Christmas means many different things to many different people, but Happy Christmas anyway.

Given all I have said, may I remind you why Christmas is important to me as a Christian. For me the purpose of Christmas is a celebration but the reason for this celebration is found in Luke Ch 2 v 10-11: "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” As the angels and shepherds sang or gazed in wonder, God had wonderful news that would cause them and us to rejoice and celebrate, and we will!

This celebration unravels the message of Christmas: God loves us. The most famous statement in the Bible is Jesus' explanation of why God sent him to earth: “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3 v 16) Can you hear that Christmas message: God loves us so much that he came to earth as a human, so we could get to know him and learn to trust him and love him back. Theologians call this the Incarnation. God became one of us, a human being, so we could understand what he is really like.

This is all lovely but what difference does the Christmas message make? The baby born in Bethlehem did not stay a baby. Jesus grew up and modelled for us the kind of life that pleases God, taught us the truth, paid for every sin we commit by dying on a cross, then proved that he was God and could save us by coming back to life. An American writer named Rick Warren said it like this in his little book ‘The Purpose of Christmas’: ‘When the Romans nailed Jesus to a cross, they stretched his arms as wide as they could. With his arms wide open, Jesus was physically demonstrating, "I love you this much! I love you so much it hurts! I'd rather die than live without you!" The next time you see a picture or statue of Jesus with outstretched arms on the cross, remember, he is saying, "I love you this much!”

Come and hear more. Come and celebrate. Come and worship this Christmas.

Alan Comfort, Rector

Courage

Courage is something you hope you have but don’t really know until the moment arrives. The horrific gun attack on thousands of people at the Route 61 Harvest Music Festival in Vegas senselessly took 59 lives injuring over 500 more. One of the injured was a man named William King who bravely lay on top of his wife Kimberley to protect her as bullets rained in on the crowd, taking a bullet to his back centimetres from taking his life. Such courage deserves to be remembered with the name of the killer forgotten forever.

The Battle of Passchendaele ended on the 6th November one hundred years ago. In his War Memoirs published in 1938, Prime Minister David Lloyd George wrote: "Passchendaele was indeed one of the greatest disasters of the war ... no soldier of any intelligence now defends this senseless campaign”. Around 500,000 men on all sides lost their lives with the greater number being British. A senseless part of the war perhaps, but so many brave men lost their lives following commands and fighting for our freedom. Swamped by the mud that literally swallowed up many of them, they fought for little, but they achieved so much for us. We remember them at this time.

The Welsh poet known as Hedd Wyn died on the very first day of the battle of Passchendaele, he wrote this poem;

Alas, this is an age so mean
That everyman is made a Lord,
For all authority's absurd
When God himself fades from the scene.

As quick as God is shown the door
Out come the cannons and the sword:
Hate on hate on brother poured
And scored the deepest on the poor.

The harps that once could help our pain
Hang silent, to the willows pinned.
The cry of battle fills the wind
And blood of lads - it falls like rain.

History records such senseless moments but to this we so often return. Years of peace can quickly be replaced by the folly of human stupidity, as we repeat the same mistakes once again ‘when God himself fades from the scene’ as Wyn describes it. The Christian faith reminds us why, because sin lives in us. The same sin that causes us to do the very thing we shouldn’t, the very thing that can destroy that most precious to us. That sin lives in us, just as it did it still does, and there remains only one answer as the Christian faith teaches: Jesus gave His life for ours. He died that our sin might be forgiven by God and our lives changed forever. Why not come and remember at St. Mary’s this coming Remembrance Sunday 10.45am. (12th November).

Alan Comfort, Rector

Pages