Vicar's Thoughts

Christmas 2018

December 2018

This time of year we often hear the expression: "the magic of Christmas". And Christmas is indeed magical; especially for the young and the young-at-heart.

But when we think of the Christian roots of Christmas – Jesus Christ being the reason we have Christmas at all – then as well as the magic of Christmas we should perhaps also think of its mystery and wonder.

The words magician and magic come from the same word as Magi - the Three Kings, the Three Wise Men as they are also known. Magi were people who began to explore and practise such things that we now know as physics, chemistry, astronomy and biology. Delving deep into the natural world and how it worked meant ordinary people like you or me would have looked on them with both awe but also suspicion.

Magic and magicians grew out of this. Magic became a way of pretending to reveal great secrets of the universe, as if they could control and change the natural order of things. A practice which grew into the wonderful entertainment that we know and thoroughly enjoy today. Though working out how the tricks are done is part of magic's great appeal. We know we are being deceived, but that's the fun of it.

The trouble is, we might often – even though we might not know we are doing it – think that the birth of Christ was just another magic trick. Whereas it was in fact something mysterious and wonderful. The Creator of the universe chose to enter into our world and share our experiences with us – good and bad, happy and sad. Above all, our Creator chose to come with a pure, unconditional love that humankind still experiences today; and which makes Christmas so special. That is the greatest gift of all. So, when we think of the magic of Christmas, let's also recall its mystery and wonder.

May you and those you love be greatly blessed this Christmas and in the year to come. Amen

The Book of Revelation

24 November 2018

Someone wrote to me the other day having found The Book of Revelation challenging and confusing (as so many - if not all - of us do). The Book has many facets. Importantly, it cannot always be taken literally. There are, certainly, many parts of it that might or might not have substantial, identifiable meaning. However, the frequent use of things being 'like' in the original Greek script makes it clear that this is primarily poetry; metaphor. It's like looking at a modernistic, impressionistic work of art, or a piece of music that we don't necessarily understand. Often the artist or composer will tell you: I can't explain what I mean by this myself, I can only put down on canvas or a music stave how I feel, or what I have experienced, or what I want to say - but don't have the words to say it.

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Pentecost 2018

20 May 2018

I am constantly fascinated by the use of language in scripture: meaning and the interpretation of meaning. I confess, therefore, I find it really hard to understand why people seem to think you can take scripture absolutely literally. Just take the words off the page as it has been written – and, more importantly in the case of English – translated.

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The Resurrection

15 April 2018

The resurrection - unbelievable? True? Let’s look at a few books, briefly.

First: The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable? By FF Bruce. In this book we learn that there are literally thousands of virtually contemporary manuscripts of the Gospels and the other New Testament documents extant; many of them dating way back to almost the moment that the original was composed. The Gospel according to Mark going back to about 30 years after the Passion, while St Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians dating back to just 18 years after it. Bruce compares this fact with other great works of classical antiquity written around the same time – and taken as authentic and reliable by scholars. For example Caesar’s Gallic Wars, of which only around ten are considered to be ‘good’ and the oldest example dates back only to around 900 years after it was originally composed. Then there’s Livy’s Roman History; 35 examples - only one of which goes back as far as the fourth century.

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Easter 2018

25 March 2018

Jesus on the cross asks his Father to forgive us. Forgive what? Our inability, as humankind, to understand that the things we choose to do might hurt others. And hurt ourselves. Our inability to understand that, when others are hurt, we are damaged ourselves. Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls it Ubuntu. What diminishes you diminishes me. Humankind is unable to understand that to a greater or lesser extent... we are all victims. Victims of the world we inhabit; the society and communities and peer groups to which we belong.

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The Wedding at Cana

21 January 2018

Most people will have heard of the Wedding at Cana, even if they aren't religious. It's the event recorded in the Gospels of when Jesus turns water into wine.

As it happens, the Wedding at Cana has traditionally been read aloud in churches at this time of year, in the Epiphany season, since the early days of the Christian Church. It was the Medieval Church that changed the emphasis to focus almost exclusively on the Magi/Wise Men/Kings. They being important to the history of the world as the first non-Hebrew people to be shown (i.e. the rest of humankind), and to understand, the truth of God's coming to dwell among us.

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Christmas Message 2017

December 2017

One thing perhaps we miss in the busyness of Christmas is something that happened in Bethlehem all those years ago: two people in need; weary, anxious, alone among strangers found a safe place. It wasn't much. Just a stable. But it was a roof, a shelter from the elements, and a place of welcome and rest.

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Comedy and Christianity

8 October 2017

(Written by Revd Martin Booth, this article first appeared in the Rochester Link Newspaper, October 2017, and is their copyright.)

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Prayer 2017

1 June 2017

We are currently in the Novena, those nine days of prayer to which the Archbishops have called us to from Ascension to Pentecost. And, we are engaged at St Mary’s on a number of initiatives related to this.

Prayer is very much a time where we talk to God and say sorry... seek to change... Ask for things... worry about things... tell God we’re frightened... lonely…

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Mary Magdalen - Easter 2017

2 April 2017

Mary Magdalene has a crucial role as witness to us about the Easter Miracle. She has been called 'The Apostle to the Apostles'. For it was she who first encountered the empty tomb. It was she who ran to find Peter and John to tell them. It was she who had the first encounter with the risen Christ. It is she we can use as a model for our own journey of faith and our own encounter with the living Christ.

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