VINE CUTTINGS

Words from the Rector & thoughts of the month

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Words from the Rector

Dear friends

The Crucifixion of Jesus

Of what conceivable significance, for us today, is the death of a Jew in Palestine two thousand years ago?

As we journey now towards Holy Week and the events of Good Friday and Easter Day, we all need to address the above question as we again look at the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

On the cross Jesus dealt with the problem of our sin. Peter writes, ‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed’ (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus died in our place, bore our sins and took our guilt, to pay the full penalty for our sin and to set us free from addiction, fear and ultimately death.

On 31st July 1941 a prisoner escaped from Auschwitz. As a reprisal the Gestapo arbitrarily selected ten men to die in the starvation bunker, including a man called Francis Gajinisdek. He cried out, ‘My poor wife and my children. They'll never see me again.’ In response an unimpressive looking Polish man stepped forward and said, ‘I'm a Catholic priest. I don't have a wife and children and I am willing to die instead of this man.’

Maximilian Kolbe was the name of this priest and he went with the others into the bunker. Remarkably he got the prisoners praying and singing hymns and transformed the atmosphere in the bunker. He was the last person to die and after two weeks he was given a lethal injection and died at the age of 47.

Jesus death was even more amazing than this, because He didn’t simply die for one man, but for every individual in the world. If you or I had been the only person in the world, Jesus Christ would still have died in our place.

But Jesus' death wasn't the end – He rose again coming back from the grave to prove beyond any doubt that He is Lord and that everything He said and claimed to be was true.

Jesus said that He is “the Way the Truth and the Life” - note that He said “the way” rather than “a way.”

He is literally the only way for any of us to be saved. He turns no one away who comes to him.

If you haven't already come to Him– do so now in a prayer.

If you have already accepted Him as your Saviour -ask for a fresh infilling of His Holy Spirit in your life and thank him again for His extravagant love.

Reverend Canon Keith Hale

All Together

Why, do you think, did Jesus choose 12 men to be His disciples?’ What was the point, as Jesus was a miracle worker and a very eloquent speaker. He could walk on water; change water into wine; multiply food for thousands of people; heal the sick and forecast future events. So why did Jesus choose some fishermen, a tax collector and a few lesser known guys to be with Him everywhere?

Doesn’t it appear odd that Jesus wanted disciples who, as time passed, were slow to learn; argumentative; frightened; amazed and puzzled? Right from the start of His ministry Jesus must have known He was bringing together a motley group of characters who would not understand Him; doubt Him; and let Him down. Surely, Jesus would have been better off going it alone without having the hassle and frustration!

Well, what is amazing, is that Jesus decided to limit Himself. He wanted the fellowship of close friends to share their good and bad times. He wanted to be involved with them no matter what happened. He enjoyed meal-times, discussions and, no doubt, a joke or two! Jesus came from Heaven to show that in God’s Kingdom there is togetherness.

This world can get messy, troubled and nasty, and it is into this cauldron that Jesus came to be involved with its problems. He wanted to share His mission of love and compassion, participating with others, to change places of darkness into God’s healing light. He chose ordinary people, with their weaknesses, anxieties, hang-ups and faults to fill them with His Spirit and transform them into workers for God. Today, Jesus works with us, despite our frailty and stubbornness. He patiently draws alongside us to change our attitudes and behaviour so that we show God’s love wherever we are.

Jesus came to build His church: a community of believers who would work and serve together to change society for good. So let’s be aware of the Holy Spirit’s direction and be encouraged that we are all partners together. Help to carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Repentance - a hopeful word!

Much churchy language we use in worship is hard to understand for those who are unfamiliar with it. What, someone may ask in the C of E, is a ‘gradual hymn’? Why not ‘the next hymn’? Or what is a ‘collect’? Why not a ‘prayer’? True, but there are some words we should explain rather than stop using.

Meaning is important and we should not dumb down a profound word with a trivial one, like using the word ‘sorry’ instead of the Bible’s word ‘repent’. Sorry is a weak word, best used to apologise for trivial transgressions, like stepping on someone’s toes, or arriving late, or getting the wrong end of the stick. When we confess our sins we need a stronger word than sorry, which we can almost say without thinking.

Repentance includes being sorry, but goes deeper; it is not just about what we say but about what we do. The word literally means ‘to turn around’, to go in a new direction, to resolve to put things right. That is why in our liturgy we say, ‘I repent of my sins’ rather than ‘I am sorry’. Our sincerity is proved not just by what we say we regret but our resolve to change it.

In years gone by it was common to see black-suited men with grim faces on street corners holding placards with a mortal warning to passers-by, ‘Repent – Flee from the Wrath to come’. It was unhelpful to put such menace into the word ‘repent’. Jesus certainly warned of the dire consequences of failing to repent, but his attitude to repentance was far more positive than that. When Jesus was scolded for keeping company with sinners, he replied, in St. Luke’s Gospel: ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’

Repentance opens us to the forgiving love of God. When we admit our sins, to God and to one another, we repent, we don’t just say sorry. Repentance leads to reconciliation and a new beginning. That’s why Jesus also said, ‘…there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who have no need to repent.’

God’s answer for you

For all the negative things we have to say to ourselves, God has a positive answer for it.

You say: It's impossible. God says: All things are possible. (Luke 18:27)

You say: Nobody really loves me.God says: I love you. (John 3:16 & John 13:34)

You say: I can't go on. God says: My grace is sufficient. (II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)

You say: I can't figure things out.God says: I will direct your steps. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

You say: I can't do it. God says: You can do all things. (Philippians 4:13)

You say: I'm not able. God says: I am able. (II Corinthians 9:8)

You say: It's not worth it. God says: It will be worth it. (Roman 8:28)

You say: I can't forgive myself. God says: I FORGIVE YOU. (I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)

You say: I can't manage. God says: I will supply all your needs. (Philippians 4:19)

You say: I'm afraid. God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear (II Timothy 1:7)

You say: I'm always worried and frustrated. God says: Cast all your cares on ME. (I Peter 5:7)

You say: I don't have enough faith. God says: I've given everyone a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)

You say: I'm not smart enough. God says: I give you wisdom. (I Corinthians 1:30)

You say: I feel all alone. God says: I will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

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