The Great Commission

This mornings reading is The Great Commission:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

Yesterday Lesley and some members of the congregations went to a Transforming Church, Transforming Lives training day on Fresh Expressions.  There was little there that Lesley had not heard before, but, it was new to those she went with, and if we are going to fulfil the Great Commission it is going to take more than the vicar to do it.  Indeed, one of the challenges facing the Church is not just to make disciples, but to make disciples who make disciples.

There is an old story which explains why this is better than the vicar having to do all the disciple making!

(When I looked for pictures of Great Commission I found nothing, looking for Commission, nearly everything was of the EU!  This picture comes from the Leaf Blight Commission, but I thought that it looked like a dried up leaf  pointing towards a new future).

 

 

Faith and Politics

Given that we now have a government supported by a party which was formed from a faith background, how do faith and politics mix?

There are those who say that faith should have no part in politics, but surely this cannot be right, unless you believe that the sole concern about faith is what happens after you die.

My take on it is that as Christians we pray “thy Kingdom come” (interesting that during the election campaign the church was running a prayer campaign with just that title), and as in John’s Gospel Jesus says:

And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

These imply to me that we are called to live in God’s Kingdom now (and to work to bring it about).  However, the question is, do we bring it about by law, or by love?

In other posts I have discussed “free will”, and God’s will that we should have the freedom to choose or reject Him.  Making laws to ensure that everyone follows our interpretation of faith hardly allows free will, and that is before we have to deal with the differences in interpretation of faith.  It is perhaps those differences which lie at the heart of this.  If we acknowledge that others, both those who share our faith and those who share another faith, may have a hold on truth that eludes us, then enforcing our views on everybody else is a recipe for disaster.  It is perhaps necessary to distinguish between essentials of the faith, and secondary issues – interestingly very few people of faith would insist on legislating on the essentials – perhaps the last lot to do so were the Spanish Inquisition (see here for a lighter take on it).

What I am not saying is that people of faith should not take part in party politics, just that they should be careful what they attribute to faith.  It is here that I have great respect for Tim Farron.  I have only seen that he refuses to share his beliefs on gay sex, although the implication is that he personally disagrees with it, but he has voted to allow it.

Can we prove the existence of God?

At the moment we have a book group reading Unapologetic, by Francis Spufford.  We met last night, and one of the points which inspired discussion was the statement that:

…I’m only ever going to get faith by some process quite separate from proof and disproof…

Over the years there have been lots of attempts to prove or disprove the existence of God; some people have found them convincing (in either direction), some haven’t.

Personally I don’t find any of them convincing (actually this is not true – I find some of the arguments against the existence of God completely unconvincing!); so why do I believe?

I believe because the demands that God makes on me make more sense of my life than any other alternative.  Now of course, this sometimes means that I don’t believe in the God that most of the New Atheists don’t believe in either!

If faith/belief is about holding a number of truth statements, as the New Atheists believe (note the use of “believe” – I am not aware that any of them have proven that this is faith) then perhaps it is possible to disprove.  However, if it is about how one lives ones life…

Sundays Gospel Reading is:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Note that we are called to make disciples, baptize and teach.  Most churches teach, baptize and make disciples.  The order in which we do this does matter.  If we teach first there is no experience of God on which to hang the teachings; if we first make disciples then there is an experience of God which, when we teach, can interpret the teachings and recognise the attempt to explain God in words (not an easy task).

Introducing our LLM-in-training

 Hello from Wendy Edwards

A very big thank you, to all of you at St. John’s, for your warm welcome to me since I started worshipping with you on February 19th, 2017.  I look forward to worshipping at St. George’s and St. Mark’s over the summer and to gradually meeting you all.

I am approaching my final year of 4 years of training to be a Licensed Lay Minister and hope to be licensed in June 2018, God willing. I feel excited and grateful to Lesley and Alan that I am now joining the Ministry Team in the Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale.

I was born in Lincolnshire but we moved to Upper Weybourne Lane with my family in 1962 when I was 5 and we moved to Roman Way when I was 9. I attended primary and secondary schools in Farnham. I left home to live in Wimbledon when I was 18, worked in the law and taught Keep Fit classes and returned to Farnham recently, after 41 years away, to live in Oast House Crescent with my husband, Steve.  We have 2 grown up children and a young grandson. We are very grateful to live in such a beautiful, peaceful location.

Sadly, my mum, Jean Parratt, died on my 59th birthday last October. She was known to many of you for her Museum on a Shoestring talks, her work on the Farnham Diary and at Farnham Museum and her 10 books about Farnham.

Through my grief, I have found it heart-warming to benefit from the high regard in which she was held by so many Farnham people. The unique legacy she has left the people of Farnham has buoyed us up immensely and it has helped me to feel seamlessly included in the Farnham community which she loved so much.

I was a bridesmaid twice at St. John’s for my late Uncle Francis when he married Auntie Sally in April 1966 and for my Auntie Margaret and Uncle Geoff. Here is a photo of me at their wedding (I am the dark haired 11-year-old bridesmaid) with my late sister, Debbie (the younger, blonde, bridesmaid) on 25th January 1969.  I look a bit different now and don’t wear turquoise velvet much nowadays! I do look forward to chatting to you over coffee after a service in the coming months.

Best wishes, Wendy Edwards

Parish Fete

It was very exciting bringing the fete to Badshot Lea this year – everything needed planning from scratch.    We started planning, a small team, people from all four of our congregations.   We set a date, 10th June, making sure we did not clash with the schools or Farnham Carnival – the raffle tickets went to the printers and the applications for the necessary licences were made and our entertainers were invited -but then panic set in as we realised that St. George’s hall had been booked for that date!   (Note to self, the hall is booked a lot now!)   We were truly blessed – everything was able to be changed, with no extra cost, and our new date was set for 3rd June.   I’m sure the Lord as with us, because we couldn’t have asked for a better day.

Friday evening, thunder storms were forecast, but it was fine and warm.  Tombola prizes were ticketed, tables collected from the school,  brave people climbed up the ladder and strung bunting from the flag pole and with a lot of help, the grounds became festive.    No one could have missed that there was something going on at the Church.

Saturday started early, the sun shone, it was warm but not too hot.  Perfect fete weather.  The bouncy castle arrived and the beer was delivered.    Mentioning beer, a huge ‘Thank You’ to the Shepherd and Flock, who donated a barrel of beer and 30 single bottles of Prosecco, an incredible gift.  We must also thank all those businesses who donated prizes for the raffle and the auction – and those trusty people who sent out letters and visited with smiles and pleas for ‘just a little something for the Parish Fete’.

By 9.45 it was really busy, tables were set up, goods brought out and our DJ got us in the mood.  The hall was turned into the ‘cool café, the maypole took centre stage. The BBQ started to smell enticing and we gave a cry of ‘Help, who knows how to tap a barrel?’.  Cups of tea and coffee kept everyone  going – the kitchen was busy and then suddenly it was 12.00.

A group of children opened the fete and the fun began.    Fingersmith and the Rocking Thumbs, an amazingly good band of young rock stars began our entertainment and performed later in the day before rushing off to a gig in Farnham.    The children from Badshot Lea School were delightful as they wound the Maypole.    Some of the grown ups wanted a go…. Not quite as successfully!   Children’s faces were painted and they loved the games and activities.    Prizes were being won and stalls sold lots of delectable items.   The afternoon progressed and became a real village affair.  Passers-by popped in and stayed.   The beer tent was busy and there was a lovely relaxed atmosphere with people having teas, eating burgers and enjoying the sun.    The Carillon Singers came along to entertain, performing in the Church and were, as always, excellent.  Olivia Jasper sang and played beautifully entertaining those in the café and sitting by the bar.

The afternoon was rounded off with the auction and the Grand Raffle.  The crowds went home, happy and slightly sun burned.  Lots of people lent a hand and before long everything was cleared away and we were putting the Church back together.  We were all exhausted but very happy.

The final total is about £2,500 – which is about £500 more than last year.   An incredible effort by everyone concerned.  There are too many people to thank individually and you know who you are.    It was a real team effort and a great bit of outreach, fun and fellowship.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Maxine Everitt

 

 

Thy Kingdom come – praying with psalms

Do you ever wake up to find your partner’s put the radio on in the small hours of the morning? In our case, it’s a sure sign that Lesley’s got something on her mind and is having deep and profound thoughts about it at 3 o’clock in the morning. It could be sermon writing or holiday booking, but in this case it was the exhibition recently held at St John’s.

“Thy Kingdom Come” is an annual international Christian initiative supported by the Church of England. The idea is to have a “wave of prayer” between Ascension and Pentecost (25th May – 4th June). Last year, the emphasis was on the Lord’s Prayer and our parish held an art exhibition illustrating and focussing attention on this. This year, we didn’t have such definite guidelines, so it was decided within the parish to use the psalms as our basis.

Lesley spent a lot of time perusing the psalms and finding ones that would be suitable for illustration. The artists of the parish, and Farnham in general, were then sidled up to and it was suggested they might like to produce works to be displayed in St John’s. To our delight (and slight surprise), thumbscrews were not necessary and most artists were thoroughly enthused by the idea.

So, works were commissioned, checks made occasionally to see that the artists hadn’t forgotten, but despite the smooth running, such events always generate a certain amount of stress – hence the 3am panics. Do we have enough easels? (No, we purchased and borrowed some more.) We haven’t got enough small tables! (Hooray for “The Range” in Aldershot. Four tables purchased for £9.99 each.)

So the afternoon before Ascension several of us assembled in St John’s to put the exhibition up. The contributors ranged in age from seven to seventy and the art works showed a fascinating range of imagination that does credit to all involved. I did a slight double take as I stood on a precariously propped up stepladder to mount Alison’s picture high up on a column (I’m H&S officer – should I be doing this?). However the end result was one we were very pleased with. The comments book indicated we were justified in this.

The event finished with a Pentecost party on the afternoon of Sunday 4th June, in which tea and scones, music and singing featured prominently. Thanks to all involved.

Altogether a nice parish event. Not earth-shattering in its impact, but:-
“The least you do for Jesus will be precious in his sight”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bob Shatwell

Vote

Today is the last day before a General Election, and there is probably the biggest difference between the policies of the major parties there has been for a generation.  I have already written about how to decide who to vote for, today I am encouraging people to vote tomorrow.

St Paul wrote:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God

and Jesus

Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

so you may think that it is out of your hands – except St Teresa wrote:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

and one may add, Christ has no vote but yours!

Truth

and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free

Why is it that politicians avoid the truth?  This isn’t a party political point, they all do it.

As far as I can see there appears to be one main reason: they are afraid what someone else will think if they tell the truth.  Either allies (for example Theresa May refusing to comment on Trump’s tweet about Sadiq Khan), or the electorate (Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to answer Jeremy Paxman’s question about his republican views).

Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”

Why do we, the electorate, want our politicians to never change their mind?  Theresa May initially denied that she had changed her mind over the “dementia tax”, only later saying that in light of feedback she had changed her mind – and that this was a strength.

Does it matter what our politicians believe, or what they do and say they will do (Tim Farron refusing to answer questions on whether gay sex is a sin, but pointing to his voting record in the commons).  Sometimes it does – when the belief is so strong that it will dictate actions.

Which leads us round to the question: do we want politicians who act from conscience, or ones who will do what they think the people want?  How many MPs who voted for Article 50 believed that it was in the best interests of the country?  Many were no doubt worried about losing their seats, and it is true that if you aren’t in power you can’t effect any changes, however, equally if the only aim is to remain in power doing whatever the public demand why risk your conscience?

Hope

After yesterdays post looking at the lack for deferred gratification today I want to look at hope.

Several years ago I wrote a short post on Hope as Heaven, and thinking about the lack of deferred gratification I was reminded of it, as for people to choose to defer they must have hope in the future.  It then struck me that I think that over the years hope has become less common.  It might be that this is related to a fall off in religion, however, for the majority of the population I believe that things are no longer getting better for most of the population.  If your “religion” is consumerism then with the loss of hope comes the despair of live now pay later.

This short termism not only affects individuals, but also business and politics, with businesses under pressure to deliver profits this quarter, even at the cost of profits next quarter, let alone next year or next decade.  In politics, if the electorate aren’t worried about 10 years time then why should you be?  Do what gets you elected today.

I believe that it is this which affects decisions on climate change (among other things) – it is tomorrows problem, and if you have no hope for tomorrow why not eat drink and be merry?  (This is how the Bible answers that).

Delayed Gratification

In the Bible Jacob worked 7 years to earn the hand of Rachel, and was tricked into accepting Leah; he then worked another seven years to earn the hand of Rachel as well (this isn’t a post about sexual morality).  Can we imagine anyone desiring something so much that they would work 7 years for it these days?  Actually, I can.  It takes around 7 years of training to become Vicar of a parish; some scientific discoveries take that kind of time; few managing directors work for fewer than seven years before achieving the top job.  However, in all of those cases there is the need to build up experience, and the time spent is part of the journey, rather than an “unnecessary” wait.

But perhaps waiting is necessary, for it is in waiting that we develop character.  Earlier generations saved for things they wanted; the current generation borrow.  During the time of saving there is time to understand how much we want that thing versus something else.

Jesus told of the Pearl of great value:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

When we can acquire what we want when we want it will we ever have time to discern what is of “great value” to us, and work towards that?