Rectors Letter – November 2014

Dear friends

‘As God’s fellow-workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. … I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.’ (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).

The Mission is about to start! Roger Carswell will be here from 10th to 16th November. I’m really excited about this week of events, and I am so grateful to the army of committed fellow-workers who took hold of a mad idea and are about to turn it into reality. God’s word is powerful – the gospel is the best news in the world, and I am waiting expectantly to see the Holy Spirit at work, drawing people to Jesus Christ. Please come yourself to as many mission week events as you possibly can. Please invite friends and others to come. Please make the most of the opportunity. NOW IS THE TIME!

Changes to Sunday Services are also afoot. The PCC has decided to make the following changes, starting from January 2015: that the St. John’s 8:00 a.m. service will cease, and its attenders will be invited to other services instead. In consequence the St. Andrew’s morning service will begin at 9:30 a.m., and the St. John’s morning service will begin at 11:00 a.m. Many different options were discussed, but the advantages of a scheme like this are many, and I have to say that the PCC were concerned for my own wellbeing since Tim Lewis’s departure. The decision will be reviewed in the Summer of 2015; please try to see opportunities in it, and in due course we’ll be interested in how you find it.

God’s grace knows no bounds, and he showers it out on his people with such generosity. When did you last stop to list for yourself the good things you receive through being a follower of Jesus? Make that list now, and turn it into a prayer of thanksgiving for the many and great blessings of the gospel. And then rise from your knees, and hear afresh the command ‘not to receive God’s grace in vain’. Like Abraham, we are blessed, so that we might bless others. Don’t hoard God’s blessings, but be one of those who gives them away. Every non-Christian person is lost without Christ, and they need our time, energy, courage, and help. God has done so much for us all; what will we do for him?

Yours in Christ – James.

Rectors Letter – October

Dear friends

SCOTLAND SAID NO. And therefore we can keep the Union Jack, the British Lions, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, and we can still cheer for Andy Murray. (And they can keep the bagpipes, the haggis and the Loch Ness Monster).

After the time of King Solomon, the Jewish nation ceased to be a United Kingdom as the northern part (Israel) split off from the southern part (Judah). God caused this division as a judgement against Solomon’s fickleness and idolatry. Years of rivalry and fighting followed, and neither part remained stable or faithful to God. The biblical books of 1 and 2 Kings tell the history of all this.

I am not saying that our United Kingdom is a chosen nation as ancient Israel was, nor that Scottish independence would have been such a disaster necessarily. But we should note the blessing that comes from political stability, and as an ‘interesting’ General Election looms in the early months of next year, we should pray for fairness, integrity, and wisdom for our political leaders, and for God to guide our Government and people in the ways of peace.

The Bible tells us to pray for this in 1 Timothy 2: ‘I urge that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for Kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.’ And the next verse tells us why: ‘This is good and pleases God our Saviour who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’ We should pray for a peaceful national life which enables the preaching of the Gospel for the spiritual good of all.

Remembrance Sunday on November 9th will be poignant in this 100th year since the start of World War I. As we remember the shockwaves of war around the globe in those days, we should give thanks that we have been able to live peaceful and quiet lives in these recent decades here in Britain.

And we should make best use of the stability and freedoms that we have to preach the gospel – as I trust we shall be doing during this next month as we prepare for our Mission with Roger Carswell – 10th to 16th November. All need to hear the gospel, otherwise they will not be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth of God’s merciful love and power. Let’s keep praying, and start inviting!

With best wishes – James.

Rectors Letter – September

Dear friends

We have been looking forward to the Autumn of 2014 for a long time. There will be some fairly usual things (Harvest, Remembrance, preparations for Christmas). There are some less usual things – the big tower project at St. John’s, the 80th birthday celebrations at St. Andrew’s, a new manager for our CAP Centre. But I hope that we have our sights set above all on our JY-14 Mission in November. I hope you have been praying for this, and praying for friends to bring along to hear Roger Carswell and the other guests who will be with us from November 10th to 16th. We begin this momentous term with a Weekend Away for fellowship, learning and prayer, and again, please pray for this weekend, even if you are not able to come yourself.

Luke 9:51 marks a new phase in life and ministry for Jesus. It says: ‘As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.’ Let us, each one, seek to have that same attitude of determination and faith, as we look ahead resolutely to the November mission. A few verses later, Jesus sends out 72 followers on a mission to the local towns, and says: ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few … Go! I am sending you out …’ (Luke 10:2-3). Can you hear the voice of Jesus calling us in this parish, commanding us, and calling you yourself to engage in this mission and to be bold in inviting others to come and hear the gospel? What a shame it would be, and how disappointed you would be, to wake up in December and realize that you have missed a really excellent opportunity to help your friends hear the good news.

You may fear what your friends will say. Will they refuse to come? Will they tell you not to be so pushy? Will they make it embarrassing or awkward for you? Jesus says (also in Luke 10): ‘He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me’. You and I are not responsible for people’s reactions. We should not pat ourselves on the back if our friends come to the mission and receive Christ; nor should we be affronted or feel rejected if they refuse. It’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s about Jesus.

And there is yet another momentous saying in Luke 10. When the 72 return from their mission with joy, Jesus says: ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’. Satan has been defeated already, defeated at the cross through the victory of Jesus the great conqueror. The foe is already fallen, and we serve in the victor’s army – an army for whom the victory is already won. This means that the gospel we preach has real conquering power to give a new start, a new forgiveness, a new relationship with God, and a new assurance of eternal life. It works! Because Jesus has already won. And every person invited, every person welcomed, every person saved is another little victory for God.

It is a great privilege to know this gospel, and to share this gospel with others. That is our privilege this Autumn. Jesus said:  ‘Many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it’ (Luke 10:24). Thank God that you have heard the message of the love of Christ, and pray that together we may bring it with power to others who need it so much.

All best wishes – James

Rector’s Letter – July 2014

Rector’s letter:

I had a very happy and fruitful Sabbatical time, but it is really good to be back! I am so grateful for this time away from parish duties, but I am also really grateful for your generous welcome back into the fold.

God has been very good to me in these recent months. I have so enjoyed a change of pace, and the chance to attend some conferences, to have some retreat time at Lee Abbey, to visit some clergy friends and reflect on life and ministry, to read 22 books, to spend more focused time with God in prayer, to do some unhurried bible study, to visit my father and my sisters, and to spend more time with Becky, Harry and Joseph (we had two weeks in France, visiting Disneyland, going up the Eiffel Tower, and eating pastries). In addition, I saw Paul Daniels performing live in London, visited some magic shops, practised some new sleight of hand, and attended the Bristol Magic Convention.

Some of what I have learnt, and some of the subjects I have reflected on, are bound to emerge in different ways in the coming months and years. You can read about one of them under the Tough Questions heading, further on in this edition of FOCUS.

Last time I wrote for FOCUS it was February. Then I blinked, and now I’m writing for July! Which means that we are about to say good-bye and thank-you to Bob Banfield for his amazing service of us all, as verger at St. John’s. Do come to the party on Friday 4th July if you are able to. I know that I am among so many who can say: ‘Bob was the first to welcome me to St. John’s’. Bob, I have so appreciated your Christian service for me personally, for us all in the parish, for the building of St. John’s, for the people of Yeovil and for all visitors. But above all, you have been a servant of the Lord Jesus, and we honour you for it.
It seems much too early to be writing the next bit: but we shall also be saying farewell to the Lewis family before long (lunch party on Sunday 20th July). Tim, Beth, Amelie, Hettie, Olivia: we thank you all so much for all you have been and done among us. Your contributions in so many areas have been such a blessing. Everyone knows how much I personally will miss Tim as a gifted and trusted colleague and friend in ministry. But we shall stay in touch, and we promise (hold me to this!) to pray for the Lewises and for the work of the gospel at Cranleigh School while Tim is chaplain there.

Please pray too for a new clergy post which has been advertised: an associate minister to work 80% in the parish with us, and 20% as Chaplain to Yeovil College. This is an exciting opportunity as we look ahead, and we trust it would give us the chance to foster closer links with Yeovil College, its staff and students, and to contribute further to the mission of God across the town.

On the last day of my Sabbatical, I read this verse in my quiet time: ‘Tell Archippus: See to it that you fulfil the ministry that you have received in the Lord’ (Colossians 4:17). It seemed very apt for me at that moment, and indeed it is a word from the Lord for us all.

All best wishes – James.

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