Five things you might want to give up for lent.
1. Give up the past tense for Lend.
2. Give up, giving up things for Lent.
3. Give up new year’ s resolutions.
4. Give up procrastination next Lent.
5. Give up making lists.
When we talk about religion we very rarely talk about freedom. For most people the last thing that religion leads to is freedom. For centuries religion has been synonymous with the law, with order, with structure, with boundaries and limitations. Some would argue that religion is a gift, that when accepted wholeheartedly, and with gratitude it brings life to the soul, body, mind and spirit. However, since Jesus’ death and resurrection, despite religion emerging as the defining force in culture, church, society and law, scripture suggests that Jesus came to abolish religion not to establish it! How is it then that although the Church of Christ is larger and more numerous than it has ever been (2.23 billion worldwide), we find that religion is still the defining force of what we do as a church?
For many in this country, turning to God has become more difficult. Believing in God is often seen as a limitation on freedom, not the spiritual and physical liberation that it claims. Is Lent just another example of ‘religion’ rather than freedom in Christ that the early apostles proclaimed?
I know this might sound controversial but Jesus didn’t come so we could clear out our larders on Shrove Tuesday! St Paul insists, in his letter to the Romans, that Jesus replaced the ‘law of religion’ with the ‘law of the Spirit’, and that through the Spirit we are set free (Romans 8:1-4). Unfortunately, Lent has become a time for physical detox, when we hope to improve ourselves in some way; but actually Lent is more about freedom and joy than it is about austerity and detox. It is true that Lent is meant to reflect the wilderness experience of Jesus but you’ll remember that just before those 40days in the wilderness, John the Baptist said “Repent”, which means “Turn to God”. Turning to God is the most freeing thing we can do. When we turn to God we rediscover the personal relationship that God longs to have with us. And so instead of Life/Lent being bound by religious or even cultural obligations it becomes uninhibited and liberated by the love of the One who came to save us.
If you are to give up anything for Lent this year, why not give up the often religious or cultural observances that are popular at this time of year, and instead give in to God. And with it I pray that you will know the joy and freedom of His companionship, and love for you.
May the freedom of Christ be with you and all whom you love. Jeremy.
Epiphany comes at a time when we’re normally packing away Christmas and when the magic of Christmas seems to be wearing off. The decorations have come down, the cards are being put away, and it seems our Christmas food has taken its culinary journey from feast to bubble-and-squeak a long time ago. In addition there is of course the disposal of the Christmas tree and that terrible job of vacuuming up the needles. Throughout the year, no matter how many times you vacuum, you always seem to find those pine needles in the oddest of places.
I think it must depend on whether you have long pile or short pile carpets, and whether you opted for fir, spruce or pine. The choice of Christmas Tree and its environment will determine the length of time taken to remove said needles. Oh I lament the spruce / long pile combination!
I wonder how much of Christmas we really pack away. Even though they were late for the birth, thankfully for the Magi, Mary and Joseph didn’t pack Christmas away. You know if it weren’t for the Magi completing their Anneka Rice-esque treasure hunt then we Gentiles may never have heard about the Good News of Immanuel at all.
Today, the Epiphany season is the proverbial searching for the needle in the carpet. Just as the Magi searched for the babe from heaven in the rough of Judah so we must continue to look for the miracle of Christ’s incarnation around us. And although I might wail over the finding of needles in the carpet in late March, there is something quite lovely about stumbling over an unexpected memory of Christmas hidden away in the dark corner of a living room or dining room.
My appeal to you this January is ‘don’t pack Christmas away entirely’. Leave something out. In fact, before vacuuming up your needles tread them in to the carpet first, if it means we don’t forget what the Magi saw on that starry night. For in the dark corners of life – of which there are many – what gets us through are those small acts of kindness, those unexpected encounters with the light of the world, the marvel in the rough of the world.
I pray that you will experience the wonder of Christmas again and again and again, and that you remember you also carry the miracle of Christ’s kingdom come; and for someone else, you may be the sparkle in the rough.
May you have blessed 2016 and may the joy of Christ’s birth be with you always. Jeremy.
You might say why have we been to Calais?
We went because of you .You have seen on the T.V. in the papers and in the Media generally the plight of the many Refugees there. The numbers have doubled since we were there in August. Your response was overwhelming. Donations of tents, food, blankets, sleeping bags and much much more. We had to move some the donation gifts from the hall of All Saints into the main Church for our volunteers to be able to sort and pack all that was given. This happened over two work days. We took over 500 Shoe Boxes full of personal items and food. These boxes were to give to individual refugees. Forty boxes of Blankets-Coats-Shoes-Sleeping Bags and about fifty tents and tarpaulins, all this plus many practical items. All these donations were from anonymous people who’s caring and giving spoke of their generosity and feelings.
To cover transport and travelling expenses many also gave donations of money.
On Wednesday the 25th November we packed the van, the longest transit made and on Thursday we travelled to Folkestone and met up with two other groups, one group from Launceston, one van and one from Somerset with two vans. We travelled to Calais arriving at 9.OO a.m. European Time, having left at 6.30 GMT. In Calais we unloaded all the items except the Shoe Boxes and reloaded the vans with all items such as 800 blankets, 600 sleeping bags, sleeping mats etc., these went to the refugee camp and our party distributed them. We returned to the warehouse for lunch and refilling the vans.
In the afternoon we returned to the camp with tents pallets, tarpaulins and rope and much more. By the time we had finished the distributing it was dark.
What were the conditions like? Very simply, cold, wet, muddy, smelly and crowded, could it be worse? No.
Did your and our efforts make a difference? Yes. You only had to see the smiles on the faces of those who received the gifts to know we made a difference and gave them hope that someone cares enough to do something.
Colin, David and myself felt very blessed to be able to deliver your gifts of Love and Hope to so many people.
So what next, well we are still digesting what we have learnt and are in contact with the people we met and who work there work 24/7. We are listening to the day by day assessment of how to best support them with the needs of so many of our fellow human beings in such difficult circumstances.
So watch this space- you can and do make a difference.
Keep in touch by checking two web sites…. www.asht.org.uk and www.care4calais.org
Your brother in Christ
If you were playing a word association game and someone started with the word ‘Advent’ then it’s likely the next word spoken will be ‘Calendar’. Don’t you just love Advent Calendars? Every day during Advent you get that wonderful sense of journey and anticipation as you open each door, counting down the days. And what’s more, behind each door there’s often a little message about the Christmas story, oh, and of course… a little chocolate treat too. Marvellous!
Advent and Christmas is a time of waiting and a time of promise. It is also a time for gifts. Isn’t it true that the real joy of gifts - given and received - is the wait and the promise? It might be difficult to appreciate a gift when there is no expectation, hope or surprise? At Christmas the Church gets a chance to tell both stories, the one about hope, promise and expectation; as well as the story of fulfilment, joy and new life. The problem however is that the world is not very good at waiting. I suppose we’re good at queuing, but when it comes to the material things in life, we often want to take the waiting out of wanting.
The ‘buy now – pay later’ culture is the new moto of our time and if we’re not careful it can slip into to our faith and spirituality too. My hope is that this Advent will be a time of great hope and anticipation and that the waiting for you will be a time to reflect on the truth of Christmas and Emmanuel, the coming of Jesus.
Whilst there are two stories of Advent, of waiting and wanting, there are also two stories of Christmas. The church looks to tell the story that impresses, captures attention; the story of the Holy Family, the magi, the angels and shepherds. Then there is the story that is rooted in fragility, pain, fear and forgiveness, the story of Herod, the story of a desperate world in need of salvation. The story of a simple refugee family looking for shelter, and of perfect love found in the squalor of a borrowed stable. My job is to tell both stories, but it pains me to say that I think the church all too often shies away from telling the latter. Is the Christmas story really just about the wonder and awe we see displayed in our cards and gift wrapping, or is there more?
Part of the problem might be in the kind of news we are used to seeing. It’s harder to find good news stories nowadays. Reporters look for the dirty, and gritty stories of our time, and rarely give column inches to so called ‘good news’. The unconscious reaction of the church has been to readdress the imbalance by telling the good news story of Christmas but by leaving out the rough and gritty bits. The problem is, this version of Christmas is neither a good ‘news story’ nor ‘The Good News’ story.
Our lives are not neatly packaged; God doesn’t ask for our glittery and polished story, he delights in knowing our whole story and loves us for it. In the same way the world doesn’t need a neatly packed Christmas Story, it needs the messy, gritty, dirty Christmas. The one that reflects the fragility of the world, the one that honours the pain some people feel at Christmas. The one that acknowledges that some of us will be mourning, struggling, homeless and lonely. The truth is that Christmas was always for them, as well as for you and me.
Why not join us in telling the real Christmas story this year, and may God bless you and all who you love. Revd Jeremy Putnam.
The laws of maths and geometry teach us that the shortest distance between two points is always a straight line. If only the Israelites had paid attention to this when leaving Egypt, perhaps it wouldn’t have taken them 40 years to arrive in the Promised Land!
These days when we take a long journey we use the likes of Sat Nav or Google Maps, plotting our course based on a number of factors, such as distance, traffic and weather conditions. In Moses’ day they just had the stars - which was in a way, a kind of Sat Nav - but it certainly wasn’t the voice of Google Jane reading out the instructions en-route, “You have wandered too far into the wilderness turn around when possible.”
Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we had a GPS device for faith, and hear the voice of God as clear as our mobile phones, handheld GPS devices and TomToms, helping us to stay fixed to the right path?
The psalmist wrote (Ps 119:105) “Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Trying to articulate God’s vision for the church without listening for his Word is a bit like waiting for the Sat-Nav to give directions only to find you’ve locked it in the boot of the car because you thought you wouldn’t need it. The Word of God is what fuels the fire in our hearts, it is what fills the Church with passion, hope and Godly ambition for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A vision without the Word of God is a vision that has only an earthly sense of place and direction, and therefore we are left with a simple and logical utility like ‘The shortest distance between two points is always a straight line.’
But as the Israelites showed, sometimes the shortest route is not the best route.
Our obedience to the Word of God may well take us on a slower and more challenging route, as it did the Israelites. In his poem “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverge in a wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” I think that there is something to be said for taking the easy route because it makes us feel safe. On the other hand there is something profound in taking the road less travelled, even if longer, windier and more dangerous along the way, because in doing so we venture through new territory, experience life and grow in unexpected ways.
God has a habit of working out his plan over the course of time. Very rarely does he call for the ‘quick fix’, or the ‘easy win’. As you read through this vision document you may feel that there is a lot to take in; we have time for this. This is a plan for the next 3-5 years so that we have the freedom to do this on God’s terms, and in His way.
The reason why the Israelites took so long over their trip to the Promised Land is because God wanted them to grow and to learn about the wisdom and grace of God, learning to live with a provisionality and dependency on his Word. We must do the same if we are to see the Gospel prosper and our Lord glorified. We must do the same if we are to see God’s purpose fulfilled in us and the church. Lifelong and meaningful change in the world can only occur through a lifelong and meaningful commitment to the Word of God, Jesus Christ. So my friends, here it is, our chance to make a difference, to grow in faith, to grow in number, to live for Christ and to seek his Kingdom.
Let’s do this together.
Yours in Christ
Not so long ago a certain computer retail company paid an external consultant to train their branch managers on ‘how to remember’. The process was simple; anything you needed to remember was visually placed on an imaginary ‘peg’ in your mind. The idea being that all you needed to do was recall the peg, and the important things would be there too; in essence, you could program your brain to not forget. Ridiculous! I can’t imagine how much the training cost but I’m sure it wasn’t cheap. Unfortunately, the outcome saw us managers able to recall random and fairly useless information at will, something that we didn’t really have too much difficulty with in the first place. Although entertaining at the time, one of the many mistakes the training made was to consider the act of remembering as something we do on our own.
November is a time when the act of remembrance can be a painful and tender process for many. All Saints Day can remind us that all too often following Christ can be costly; All Souls Day can remind us of the once filled spaces in our lives; and Remembrance Sunday can remind us of the high cost of freedom. November can also be a time of thanksgiving for the lives of those we have loved. Whatever emotions this month might bring it is good to remind ourselves that the act of remembering is not something we do on our own; in fact it is not something we can afford to do on our own. I would go as far to say that we cannot fully enter into the act of remembering unless it is done within a remembering community.
To be a part of a remembering community means that our memories become part of a bigger story. Our act of remembrance becomes a time where we rely upon each other, to support each other, to pray with each other. It is a time to help each other remember when we struggle to do so on our own.
Last month I celebrated with the Alzheimer’s Society their 4th anniversary of the Singing for the Brain group. The group that meets at All Saints on a Tuesday afternoon relies on the important truth that we can remember better together. Singing and music is particularly important as a way in to remembering together. Jesus demonstrated this well when he shared in the Passover with his friends, and worshipped in the synagogues.
Jesus taught us that remembering was an act that only fully made sense within a community, with others. He shared bread and wine with friends and asked them to remember him (Luke 22:14-20). And together the disciples realised Jesus had risen from the tomb when they remembered his words (Luke 24:1-8 & 30-31). These passages remind us that a remembering community can transform the act of remembrance into healing and resurrection.
My prayer for us this November is that as we remember we might also know Jesus’ healing, and be encouraged in the truth of his resurrection. May Jesus teach us ‘how to remember’ and with it may we receive his healing and life-giving power.
October starts with our Harvest Festival, a celebration of creation, abundance and blessing. Marking the Harvest goes back to the biblical idea of giving thanks for the first fruits of the land, and acknowledging them as the gifts of God. This idea was continued throughout the centuries and was formally marked on the 1st August as Lammas Day by the English in the Middle Ages. The practice disappeared after the Reformation and all that was left was the secular ‘harvest home’; a celebratory meal at the conclusion of the ingathering of the crops and the origin of our Harvest Supper (or lunch in this parish!). In 1843 the Revd R S Hawker revived the Lammas Tradition in his Cornish parish of Morwenstow but kept it on the first Sunday in October as it was closer to the usual time for the traditional ‘harvest home’. The idea proved popular and spread to many other parishes and in 1862 the Church of England made official provision for the harvest service.
I’m sure that you will agree that we are so privileged to live where and when we do. We live in a land of plenty. Our farmers work tirelessly to produce our food, a wonderful range of goods is imported from all four corners of the earth and the shelves of our supermarkets are always full. There is so much to be thankful for. Yet once again as we count our blessings we cannot ignore the harsh reality that tonight, as every night, millions will go to sleep hungry. And this year our harvest thanksgiving takes place against the backdrop of numerous conflicts, which have forced millions to flee their homes in the face of terrifying and unrelenting violence.
Isn’t it true that any conversation about poverty inevitably leads us to talk about wealth too? And both can make us feel deeply uncomfortable as we reflect on our own place. Jesus’ words ‘blessed are the meek… the poor… and the broken-hearted’ were said for a very good reason, since humanity has always been very good at trying to fix the problems of others, whilst forgetting that all are in need of the riches of Christ’s kingdom. Maybe we should learn to see those in need through the lens of Christ’s own poverty, and then we might finally see all people as brothers and sisters in Christ, instead of treating others as simply needing our generosity.
A record number of people received aid from UK foodbanks in the last year. The Trussell Trust said three days’ food was given out 1,084,604 times in the 2014/15 financial year. That roughly works out as 1 in every 200 people needing help in this way. Of course, the problem of poverty in this country is far more substantial and complex than a single statistic about food banks; but the need is there and food banks meet part of it. Did you know that we get the word bank from the old Italian word banca and the French word banque, and that both originally meant table? Maybe the term ‘food bank’ gives us the wrong idea of what is going on. Is it really a place where transactions occur? Where we pay in and let others pay out? No, food banks are more like food tables, places where we sit with others to eat. So how do we support the work of the food banks and how do we support those who use them?
The food offerings at our Harvest service this year will be given to Truro Foodbank and the Cornwall Women’s Refuge Trust, both serve people of this parish and Truro. Your food offering will mark the start of a relationship, of a meal with friends. So please give generously.
While Germany and Sweden are building camps, providing aid, and taking refugees into their own homes, the British Government is building walls, fences and deploying guard dogs. Despite all this the overwhelming majority of people in this country are very eager to show compassion. Surely David Cameron and –dare I say it - our Archbishops can see that we must put aside the politics, statistics and scapegoating and assert our intention to help these people in need.
With your help, and the help of many other likeminded people All Saints Church took 100 boxes of food, clothing, shoes and toiletries to Calais to give out to the refugees. People donated nappies, children’s toys, shoes, blankets and tents. On sorting all the donations I was joined by teenagers on their summer holidays to do their bit! I received letters and messages of good will with donations to cover petrol and transport. It was incredibly moving to see the generosity of others in action; it made me think that there are some people in Britain who would even be willing to welcome the refugee in their own home too, and to treat them with the dignity they deserve, as a friend, instead of an interloper.
Jesus, and therefore we also, belong to a people indelibly marked by stories of Exodus and exile. Like the millions of Syrians today, Jesus and his family were forced to flee their home and find refuge. In Jesus’ case it was Egypt, the very place their own ancestors fled in the time of Moses. Today it seems that some Christians in the West act as if a comfortable existence is their divine right, that for some reason we have earned the right to take up a higher place in humanity, and to protect our privileged status at all costs. But closing off our borders to the needy, the oppressed, the persecuted, the desperate and the displaced of this world is an anathema to the Gospel of Jesus.
Jesus was forced to wonder from place to place, as King of a world hostile to him. He was ejected from the Holy City, the place his own Heavenly Father was said to inhabit, and then crucified on a rubbish dump. How many more children will wash up on the shores of Turkey until we realise enough is enough.
How many more debates will we have about net migration figures and EU border controls until we see that our own humanity is drifting away with the bodies of dead refugees?
We are one family under God, a single Body formed in the image of Christ and shaped by the Holy Spirit. It is my hope that our recent project to help the refugees in Calais, will enliven our commitment to look for the image of Christ in the migrant, the sojourner, the outcast, the refugee, and in all of us. So that together we can reclaim a humanity for those with an outstretched hand, both theirs and ours. Jeremy
He created the horizon when he separated the waters; he set the boundary between day and night.’ Job 26:10
The horizon has always been a captivating sight, a seemingly never-ending point both in space and time. A place that on the one hand symbolises the distance and awesomeness of God, whilst on the other hand can also remind the onlooker of the intimacy of God. As we look upon the awe inspiring sight of the heavens touching the earth we can also imagine how God’s life is touching ours, either through the story of Jesus, or through the power of the Spirit, or even through one another. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling, and of course here in Cornwall we are often blessed with many coastal scenes like the one pictured above.
Setting a new vision for the church can feel a bit like looking out toward a horizon. In search of what the future will hold. In wonder of what God might have in store.
A while ago I was given a telescope to look up at the heavens. Suddenly I was gifted with an amazing new perspective of our night sky. As I looked upon the planets and the stars with a new clarity, and in particular upon our own moon, I realised something quite important. Do not look at a full moon through a telescope! It is not only hurts your eyes, but you don’t actually see much anyway, the sun’s light bouncing off the moon is so strong that it washes everything out. I soon learnt that the best time to look is when there’s a crescent or half-moon. Through a telescope you get an amazing view of where the light side of the moon touches the dark side of the moon. The edge of the light is called the ‘terminator’ and the clarity is breath-taking.
You can see every bit of detail– the mountains, the valleys, the peaks and craters; they are all clearly visible along the line where the light meets the dark. It is simply stunning.
One of the big questions for us as we set the new vision of the church is ‘where is God calling us?’ Well maybe God is calling us to a place like the one I see through my telescope!
What I mean is this: maybe God is calling us to be in a place where the light touches the dark. The place where things are clearer. A place where the brightness of the Son touches the darkness of the earth, the threshold of the kingdom where the pain of the world is touched by the healing light of our God, where hurt and anguish are calmed by the Morning Star; in other words, where heaven touches earth.
Isn’t it true that Jesus spent most of his time with those in darkness: the outcasts, the lost, the hated and despised? Jesus was, and is, the threshold where darkness turns to light, where things are seen with clarity and detail. So I hope that as we continue to discern God’s vision for All Saints we might consider our calling to the lost corners of our world, and to the shadows of our existence. Please pray for a clarity of vision and a consensus of opinion as we seek God’s will and seek to follow his Son to the place where his great and beautiful light shines bright into the darkness of our world.
Beyond here be angels!
At the edge of the map as they reached the point of known territory medieval cartographers wrote the words ‘beyond here be dragons’. It was a phrase used to denote dangerous or unexplored lands and seas, and its effect was to ward off travellers and seafarers from the unknown.
Every journey has its own ‘at world’s end’ where the next step – put simply – is into the unknown. No matter which way you slice it the journey of life whether spiritual or physical has a degree of uncertainty and insecurity about it. In life there are times we look down at our maps to see the words that we don’t really want to see. If you are anything like me then you’ll know we like being in charge of our own destinies. We want the questions answered and the route plotted out. However, no matter what stage in our journey with Christ, life has a tendency of throwing the unexpected at us, and sometimes it can all feel a bit like the words beyond here be dragons.
When Jesus called his first disciples they didn’t have any idea what the future looked like. The truth is, if Jesus had told them what laid in wait around the corner they may never have followed him - here lies the level of trust required to follow Jesus.
Following Jesus is not an easy road, it is an unfamiliar path and full of risk, but we do not walk this path alone.
Before Jesus healed the blind man at Bethsaida he led him out of the village by the hand. If you’ve ever led a blind person or partially sighted person, instinctively you know to stand by the person’s side and gently guide them by the arm. Jesus doesn’t do this; instead he leads the man by the hand (Mark 8:22-25). Jesus’ way is risky and unsettling, yet he is always with us and his hand will guide us.
Jesus knows that the unknown can be a frightening place, but time and again he encourages us with the same words: ‘Do not be afraid’ or ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’. Indeed, the bible says how God repeatedly sent angels, messengers and co-workers to people who feared the path ahead. Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Elijah, Mary and Joseph to name but a few. God’s word for them was one of assurance and peace. So maybe the words on the edge of the map shouldn’t read beyond here be dragons, but instead read beyond here be angels!
As All Saints begins this new chapter there are many unknowns and it’s difficult to know what the future holds for us, but with Jesus as our companion and the Spirit as our guide I am confident that we will know the blessing of God.
May God bless your journey and may you know that he is with you always. Jeremy.
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.