Benefice of Seaview, St Helens, Brading & Yaverland
Skip to main content
Jarge's Jottings by Year
2021 2020 | 2019 | 2018
Drawing of notepad  and pencil being used to record jottings

Jarge's Jottings 2018

The Virgin Mary & Mrs Marx:

There were nearly 2,000 years between these two births, Jesus Christ and Karl Marx, their only similarity is that they were both revolutionaries in their own right.

Both had similar aims, the welfare of people, fighting poverty, fearlessly condemning bad rulers, the great difference between these two boys, is that one died a vicious and horrific death, rejected by the people He had come to help, particularly  by the religious leaders, the other was the focus of one of the crueller regimes of history.

It is interesting, how Christmas Carols have changed over the centuries; nowadays the newer compositions sing of angels and lovely babies in a pristine make-shift cot, jolly people making merry, ignoring the hard facts of the case. The Cross rarely mentioned in modern carols.

The reality is that the “stable” was a cave hewn in the rock, ripe with the smell of animals, and within a short time, the family would be refugees, fleeing Herod’s wrath as he contemplated a possible competitor for power.

What was it the old man Simeon said to Mary? “A sword will pierce your own soul also” (Like 2, vv34-35) and that Jesus “would be for the rising and falling of many in Israel”. One wonders how often those words came to haunt Mary as the years went on.

For thirty years He was His father Joseph’s assistant until the day that He went off with a band of young men ready to proclaim the foundation of a new Kingdom, to be based on love and not on force of arms.

Virtually what might be described as a group of homeless “hippies”, for Jesus said that “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” when He was asked “Where do you live?

From the beginning, this young man set out on a Ministry of love, pronouncing a realm of freedom and joy, with the company of a handful of friends, most of whom faithfully followed Him and in so doing set themselves on a collision course with both the religious and political forces.

Jesus deliberately set out to befriend and mingle with the people on the edge of Society, far from the respectable, self-satisfied leaders of His day.

We hear cries that you cannot mix religion with politics, but Jesus did, for “politics” is the force by which people’s lives may be enhanced or ruined.

How I long for the day when our religious leaders will confront the politicians of our day, to deal with the homelessness, the edge-of-poverty living, where thousands of young people are sleeping rough, families struggle to survive when they ought to be sharing in the apparent wealth of the nation.

In His birth, in His life, and in His death, Jesus sought to heal humanity of their ills, physical, mental and above all, spiritual, leaving The Church to continue His work.

Karl Marx is remembered by his tomb in a London cemetery, for in the end his way was one of bloody revolution and oppression; the Saviour headed a revolution of which love was (and is) the motive force and who is remembered by a Cross, an empty tomb and a new relationship between God and humanity.

A happy, peaceful and joyous Christmas to you all.


23 December 2018

Jesus, By Your Side:

Sitting in the Doctors’ Surgery recently, I was amused and puzzled at how, in the “waiting room silence” I could only hear the slight clicking of fingers on mobile ‘phones.

From looking up the weather forecast, doing puzzles, or whatever, most of my elderly companions were hard at work communicating with, even heartless, lifeless websites.

My “parsonic” mind, led to my considering whether many of them equally find time to have a chat with God?

Yes, praying comes naturally to folk who have some personal and painful problems where it seems that only divine guidance can come to their aid. But how would you feel if the only time you met and spoke with a neighbour was because you wanted something, say some sugar in the days when that necessity was rationed?

It comes easier if you are on regular speaking terms with them, which makes me wonder to what extent we are on “speaking terms” with God?

How often do you pray?  I won’t ask, for you might be embarrassed at how little time you spend in talking to God and additionally, how much time you spend listening to Him?

When Rector of Wootton, there was a parishioner who many tried to avoid for when Ron met you, the wrong thing to say was “Hello, Ron; how are you?” and then you would stand patiently (or impatiently), while you had the latest news about some part of his body that was causing concern, unable to get a word in.

It has to be a two-way conversation, for by this we come to know what people are really like, and that applies to God as much as anyone else.

We have thought already about two ways we can meet God in our lives, but this one requires nothing more than a sense of quiet to be with our Friend and an awareness of what God wants to talk about WITH us, as well as that we wish to say to Him. We learn if we are ready to listen.

The wonder of our Faith is that we don’t need professional people like the clergy to do this on our behalf, but are able to take steps ourselves to come to know Him. There is no better way to do this than reading and pondering how He reveals Himself to us when we read the Gospels.

“He that has seen me, has seen the Father” Jesus tells Philip and if we read the scriptures with an open mind, rather than the rag-bag of images that some hold in their minds, we can begin to know the One who is both “Master and Friend”.

However, this does mean discipline, for there are so many forces at work to prevent us from holding these conversations.

Prayer is not a matter of whether we kneel or sit, or even stand doing the washing-up; gazing out of the kitchen window. I do a lot of my “meeting” God with such mundane occupations, and I suspect I probably surprise the neighbours by loudly singing some hymn or psalm that feeds my spiritual devotions.

I have to be honest, that I do not find prayer the easiest activity and I can find worthy reasons why I should be doing something else, but nothing is more valuable than seeking to meet Him by our daily conversations.

Our old friend (the Devil) is always ready to put interesting thoughts in our minds, (a failure that Christians in their confessions to me have regularly admitted) distracting us from this needful occupation. But there is no more important way by which God (in Jesus) comes to us than our conversations fuelled by a regular reading and meditating on the Gospels.  The way He can come to us through our meditations is indeed “Gospel”, that is, “Good News”.


16 December 2018

By the way, “Jargie” was what my wonderful Grandmother called me, particularly when as her Grocer’s errand boy she found me slyly reading the daily paper and would rouse me by “Jargie, Jargie, don’t ‘ee sit there, Do summet useful”, and Jargie obeyed!

Coming in Bread and Wine

There is a moment in the Eucharist Order of service when the priest says “Great is the mystery of faith” and it is proclaimed that “Christ will come again” and I find myself at odds with everyone else, for I always say “Christ has come again ” for we are at the moment when the bread and wine by the power of the Holy Spirit (of Christ)  become the Body and Blood of Jesus. The Real Presence.

A moment so important that in many churches a bell was (and still is) rung at these two moments to indicate that something wonderful has happened of great importance to the present worshippers and the entire world.

Last week we considered how Jesus promised that “Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them”, and if this is so, then what more wonderful than that He can be present in the Spirit and more significantly is sacramentally so under the form of Bread and Wine?

An action so simple, yet like so much regarding Jesus and His teaching can become, if we are not watchful, mundane and almost automatic rather than realising we are In the Presence of Divine Mystery.

When is the moment of Consecration?

There have been many arguments on this subject of over the past 2,000 years; some scholars suggest it is at the words of Institution “This is my Body/Blood”, but it is only complete when the final Amen is said with the congregation , so that it is not just the priest’s offering, but becomes Christ’s people sharing in the priestly act.

It appears in ancient service forms that the congregation once had a greater part in the Consecration Prayer, similar to one in Common Worship where the (Thanksgiving) Prayer involves the people.

The word “Amen” means “So be it” or “I agree”, being the only moment when the laity can share in the act of Consecration. That means that in our worship that united seal of approval and participation needs to be pronounced firmly and even, loudly.

In parentheses, it’s worth saying that congregations seem to be a bit anaemic in their “agreeing” with prayers that are said on their behalf.  Paul writes (1 Corinthians 14, v16) how important it is that the priest or leader of prayer should pray in such a way that we are able to know exactly when we should say “Amen”.

Then again, another school of thought says it is not finally complete until the “Our Father” is said and Common Worship has rightly brought that prayer prior to the administration of Communion, rather than as in the 1662, Book of Common Prayer, being said afterwards as an act of thanksgiving.

So you have a choice, but it doesn’t really matter, except that He is among us when the priest recites His words of Institution, so we can say with the first Queen Elizabeth : “His was the Word that spake it, He took the Bread and brake it, and what that Word doth make it, that I believe and take it”.

One thing is clear that Jesus is not confined by forms of service  for He can be present even among a small believing group, with a particularly focus when we receive Him through the Blessed Sacrament.

It may surprise some that until the Reformation believers were expected only to receive Communion very occasionally, but rather gathered on a Sunday morning to “hear” Mass and to adore the Sacrament but not to receive it!

The whole focus of the 1662 Book and the Anglican reformers was to restore the Mass (with Communion) as the central Sunday act of worship, but for many reasons that didn’t become a realty until the  Anglican revival of the Victorian years.

The Eucharist has only over the past 150 years become the central act of Christian worship in the Church of England.

The glory of Christendom is the teaching of the “accessibility” of God, for we can gain personal access to the Divine without the intervention of priests or elaborate sacrifices of animals or other creatures.

However, when we come to Communion we need to prepare ourselves well for this wonderful encounter and welcome the Risen, Glorious Christ who, as in Bethlehem came (and still comes) quietly with His loving Saving Presence.


9 December 2018

"Watch for the Son of Man Cometh"

“I reckon it will be the end of the world” said an old friend to me, last Monday, considering the dire threats of calamity with global warming, which we had been discussing considering the message of Advent, the “End of all things”.

We wondered together what it would mean for our grandchildren and the legacy of disaster that they will inherit, thanks to our greed and reckless treatment of God’s world and all that is in it.

Rather than heeding the scientists’ warning, Donald Trump refuses to admit that it is going to happen and indeed has sanctioned the reopening of American coalmines that will add to the pollution.

Yes, it’s a frightening future, with the visions of disaster that readings from the Book of Revelation suggest.

Will Jesus come in clouds of glory visible to terrified mankind as He declared? When, How?

Yet, the Gospels suggest that the “Coming” (that’s what the word “Advent” means) may occur in different ways, even in our own lifetime.

Let’s consider the possibilities:

Coming Today?:

Many of us have become complacent regarding our relationship with the Almighty Father.

Of course as I was suggesting last week, Jesus came to show us the “Human face of God”, who by His Cross has bridged the gap between humanity and the divine, but that does not mean that we should not retain what the Old Testament describes as the “fear” of God.

As a youngster, I was truly afraid of God, hiding when I thought I had done something that He would find offensive and for which I would be punished,

If someone had taken me aside and suggested that I needn’t be “afraid” of God, but that I should approach Him as I would anyone who was superior to me; in other words, “Respect”, I would have felt much better.

After all, I respected my teachers, not least Mr. Bolton-King (our headmaster at Sandown Sec.), who wielded a nifty and efficiently handled cane!

So we need not be afraid, but considering His majesty and power, we need to show Him respect and come before Him in reverence.

That is something that has disappeared from much of our thinking and worship attitudes. The Psalmist says “Be still and know that I am God”.

Discussing the changes we (over 80s) had experienced during our lifetime, one subject was that then Sunday worship was an event and when we entered God’s House we should behave as if we were entering a royal palace to meet and have an audience with the Queen.  Quiet and respectful.

In our worship we are approaching the King of Kings, the “Master of the Universe” and should show it by our demeanour.

Jesus is not “up there”, but this morning by the power of the Spirit, is present here in St. Mary’s as He is in any of our four parish churches.

A local priest, justifying the closure of a parish church, said that “it isn’t worth coming to a church to take a service when only 12 people attend”. I’m sure that Jesus doesn’t think so.

Obviously, that priest had not studied Matthew 19. v20 where Jesus tells us that “Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them”.

Our service may begin “The Lord is here!” to which we reply “ His Spirit is with us”, but do we really believe it and are in a state of quiet anticipation?

It was said of the Apostles (Acts 4, v13) that they were inspired, because they “Had been with Jesus”; when we go out to the world would people say the same of us this morning?

No, you don’t have to be dead to meet with Jesus, but if we can’t approach our worship with anticipation, it may be because we are spiritually so.


2 December 2018

God the Supreme Manager?

Watching a documentary last Sunday evening on “The rise of the Roman Catholic Church”, I couldn’t help wondering what Jesus,  born in a stable to obviously poor parents, or His disciples, together a homeless wondering band, makes of the vast enterprise that has arisen from a group of “Nobodies”?

Watching, it was clear that there was little relationship between the Church of St. Peter, St. Paul and the other early apostles and the slick business-like organisation, not only of the Roman Catholic Church, but even of our own Church of England.

What is obvious, is that both are built upon secular organisations, which as far as the CofE is concerned has at its head a competent business man.

Each (and indeed, the other Christian Denominations) have within them the elements of “business”, with a constructed hierarchy, each with their honorific titles.

We view the Roman Catholic set-up, with concern, where the Pope is titled “The Vicar of Christ”, whose authority is absolute, defining what Christians should believe for salvation. He is supported by a vast pyramid of officials (all with honorific titles), of which the local base is the parish priest and congregation, and above it all is God, the Managing Director.

This won’t do, for the whole of Jesus’ Mission was devoted to defining our relationship with Him whom we are to address as “Our Father”. Such a close relationship that Jesus can not only address God as “Abba” (a term of endearment similar to “Daddy”), but that “every hair on your head is numbered”, implying that our relationship with the “Master of the Universe” is one of “freedom” where we can individually have access to the Godhead without the intervention of a priest.

When we see Jesus in action, we are also glimpsing the  “openness” of the Father, for He sits down feasting with a crowd of folk who could by no means be considered “desirable” members of Society, but treating everyone with concern and courtesy.

Between 2016 and 2017, I spent more than 6 months in St. Mary’s Hospital (knees with infected bones) and throughout that whole period, we never saw the Chief Executive on the wards, so that he had no personal relationship with the staff or knowledge of the problems they encountered.

This is the common and understandable complaint regarding our leaders. Many MPs and certainly prominent politicians seem to have no idea how ordinary people live and what are their needs, hopes and aspirations.

To some extent this can be said of our Church leaders; it is fine for Diocesan “experts” to draw up wonderful plans, some without prior consultation with the parishioners and those most affected.

However, when you consider the multitude of people who inhabit this small planet, you may ask how God can possibly fulfil this role to be close to His Creation and particularly what we consider His highest creation, humanity itself?

This is where our vision of God is too small; when we consider the vast, unimaginable Universe with its reliable order, there is no way that we can begin to understand the immensity of the Godhead.

To enter our world and our lives, it is clear that God had to come in recognisable form, as a human being and living among us, chose the most humble of families to whom to be born.

if God came among us with all His Glory, we would be unable to approach Him; as the son of a village carpenter who mixed with every level of Society, He demonstrated that we are equally valuable to our heavenly Father, no matter who or what we are.

“For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind and the heart of the eternal is most wonderfully kind.

If our love were but more simple, we should take Him at His Word; and our lives would be all sunshine in the sweetness of Our Lord.” (Faber)

Not an unapproachable despot, but a loving, forgiving Father and friend to whom we can be joined in love .


25 November 2018

God in a Box?

When I tell you I have always turned my sock tops down since 1950, you are bound to ask, “What was that all about?”

Quite simply, when I entered Cheshunt College there were sharp (but friendly) divisions between “High” and “Low” students, but you knew exactly what other students’ ecclesiastical position was. You simply had to look at their socks! I haven’t got out of that silly student habit, even now.

The “Low tendency”, pulled their socks up (when ordained they mostly favoured high clerical collars too).

Stupid, and one might have expected such silliness from fresh-out-of “Uni” young men, but most of us were “mature” in age, if not in behaviour; trying to regain our lost “teen-age” years.

Read some of Isaiah, and you find there what God thinks about fussy ceremonies and ecclesiastical correctness.  Jesus, obviously thought the same, particularly concerning religious ceremonies that were meaningless and unacceptable without the social commitment.

The prophet tells us that God didn’t want the sacrifice of countless creatures (including people’s children) to demonstrate His importance, but rather that we look after the under-privileged people around, feed the hungry, support the poor and widows, house the homeless and welcome the “strangers” (immigrants).

Many outsiders regard The Church (of all denominations) as insincere for they see that often the Christian Churches are divided, and wonder where the Christian love is.

It is possible, as many Christians do, to imagine that their denomination’s image of God is the only true one, fitting into their particular box.

The Roman Catholics are sure that God favours them, barring everyone else from receiving Communion at their Masses, because only the Pope and those owing allegiance to him are true successors to St. Peter, the first Pope (or Bishop of Rome).

People are able to accept their (often sentimental) idea of Jesus Christ, but when faced with each denomination claiming to be the only “right” one, they walk away in bewilderment.

Isn’t it time that we realise that if Disunity is hindering The Church’s Mission, then we should ensure that it isn’t just prejudice or bigotry causing the divisions, for sadly often it is.

As a staunch High Churchman, for two years, between 1989 and 2001 I ministered regularly to Methodists in Somerset and found some of their views refreshing, quite happy with my Anglican robes and the way I conducted their services.

In some ways I thought that many Methodists approached their Communions more reverently than some of our own Anglican folk.

The truth is that God is not a good Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, or whatever; where, when and how we worship is irrelevant, provided we are carrying out the specific commands of our Saviour, and worshipping in Spirit and in Truth. He is too big for us to think otherwise..

Reading the elaborate sacrificial worship of the Old Testament, all we need for Christian worship is a loaf of bread, a cup of wine and lives dedicated to service of God and neighbour.

We may add other elements to enhance our worship, but all that is truly necessary is for us to love God and our neighbour, for He is too big for us to contain Him in our neat, denominational boxes.


18 November 2018


St, Mary’s: Underneath the Food Bank  box there is a container in which you are invited to place resalable items for the Island charity AbilityDogs4YoungPeople” training assistant dogs for disabled young; they will welcome Ink cartridges, stamps, milk bottle tops-mobile phones, shoes, clothes and bags,

"See that they did not die in vain"

They died, convinced that they were laying the foundation of a new World Order, when there would be peace, prosperity and freedom.

They couldn’t have imagined that 100 years later, Schoolboys would be stabbing others to death, or someone would put a lighted firework in a rough sleeper’s pocket regardless of the consequences? Reported last Tuesday.

Or, that people would still be homeless, abused, or ostracised because of the colour of their skin or their nationality?

Looking at modern British Society we cannot feel comfortable, that with all our words and ceremonies their hoped-for memorial after 2 World wars doesn’t sit comfortably with the world our children and grandchildren are inheriting.

Where have we gone wrong?

Simply, because we have failed to love and proclaim the Christian Gospel

You will say, “That’s what any parson would say” and I do, because looking at the teachings of Jesus and God’s Word through the Old Testament prophets, it is obvious that “Loving God and our neighbour” is the only way of life that can bring peace to ourselves as individuals and as a nation.

Sadly, the Great War had a negative impact on churchgoers afterwards; there was a loss of faith in a good and loving God, the difficulty that both Britains and Germans worshipped the same God and prayed to Him for victory.

The Church was unable to deal with these feelings and when you consider how heartily our clergy (including Bishops) acted as recruiting agents for the forces in the Great War, some of their religion seemed hypocritical, to say the least.

The aftermath of war led to a relaxing of morality in many ways, and “a good time” was the object of those who had the money to do so.

Towards the end of the last war, in 1943-4, a report was produced of great importance, for it presented a comprehensive guide to “Evangelism”, with many ideas which had they been taken on board with enthusiasm by the clergy, would have prepared The Church to deal with the many spiritual and practical problems that would arise.

This report, entitled “Towards the Conversion of England” (One shilling!), sponsored by the then Archbishop, William Temple (a great Evangelist) was almost entirely neglected by Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher (Temple died in 1944), who had never been a parish priest and spent nearly 20 post-war years creating a new set of rules (Canon Law). The “Conversion of England” took a back seat, only to be read and implemented by a minority of parish clergy (including me), who were able to transform their parishes as a result.

The congregations are decreasing almost everywhere and The Church (especially the Church of England) has an especial responsibility, for much of the morality (or lack of it) we deplore today stems from complete ignorance of what Christianity really is all about.

The majority have only vague ideas about the faith and especially, their knowledge of Jesus. The populace have got little further than thinking He was a nice gentle man who never upset anyone and who is irrelevant to the technological world of today.

The Diocese talks about spending some 9 million pounds on gearing up the parishes for this task; it’s not a question of money, but imagination, true faith and to allow the Holy Spirit to be an agent of Change (however much we may find that difficult!). We really are “All in it together”! 


11 November 2018


St, Mary’s: Underneath the Food Bank  box there is a container in which you are invited to place resalable items for the Island charity AbilityDogs4YoungPeople” training assistant dogs for disabled young; they will welcome Ink cartridges, stamps, milk bottle tops-mobile phones, shoes, clothes and bags. 

Blessed are the Dead ...

Fr. Robert Dolling ought to be counted among the great priests of the Victorian years working tirelessly among the slums of Portsmouth attracting worshippers of all ages, classes and colours.

His final achievement was the building of the church of St. Agatha’s and here was a great sadness.

To commemorate a young man who had died prematurely, he had an altar placed in a side chapel of the church, that was to be used for services of Requiem, Prayer for the departed

The Bishop of Winchester (In whose Diocese Portsmouth was at that time), objected on the grounds that such prayers were forbidden in the Church of England, demanding that the altar be removed and such prayers to cease.

Fr. Dolling resigned and took up a less arduous post in the London Diocese, but it broke his heart. St. Agatha’s parish church never really recovered thereafter.

However, the Great War and its slaughter had so affected people, that there was an almost universal desire to pray for departed loved ones, often many `who had no known grave or resting place'. So much so, that the 1928 revised Prayer Book included prayers for the departed and suitable readings to be used at Requiem masses.

We do this in the faith that because of the resurrection of Our Lord, there is hope beyond the grave.

We pray naturally for loved ones separated from us by distance, and whilst we have no evidence of the state of the departed, yet we can pray as the 1928 prayer says “for those whom we love but see no longer”. Love is the most powerful force in life and death and we believe that it can bridge even the chasm between the living and the departed.

We have no idea what lies beyond the grave, for Jesus said little about it, but we hold on to Jesus’ words in his final meeting with the disciples; “ In my Father’s house there are manymansionsif it were not so, I would have told you (John 14, vv1-7) and I go to prepare a place for you . . .  that where I am you shall be also”.

As a choirboy, hearing those words, I had a vivid vision that somewhere there were beautiful houses for us to dwell in, but Archbp. William Temple in his commentary on St. John’s Gospel tells us that the correct translation should be “resting places”.

The word is that used for places where pilgrims on a journey needed rest and refreshment to sustain them, they were led by a man (called a “dragoman”) who like a modern holiday courier attended to all their needs and guided them as they travelled.

If you continue reading that section, Jesus is talking as if He is the heavenly “dragoman” and will take us by the hand and lead us to our destination.

If we continue with that image, we should realise that when we die, few of us, if any, will be ready to meet Jesus, so surely there will be further journeying and learning and as we would naturally pray for  those on earthly journeys, they still need our loving prayers.

It has been a natural action throughout mankind’s history to seek to join with, and pray for, the departed.

It may be just “wishful thinking”, but from the behaviour of early Christians, so convinced of an eternal future that they readily embraced  suffering and death for their faith, men and women who had seen and communed with the Risen Christ, we can pray, love and hope with some good reason.

“Give rest, O Christ, to thy servants with thy saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing but life everlasting.

Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of man and we are mortal formed from the dust of the earth and unto earth shall we return, for so thou didst ordain, when thou created us, saying ‘Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return’. All we go down to the dust and weeping o’er the grave we make our song ‘Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia’”           (Russian Konytakion for the departed)


4 November 2018


St. Mary’s: Underneath the Food Bank box, there is a container, in which you are invited to place recyclable items for this Island charity “Ability Dogs4Young People” , training assistant dogs for disabled young people on the Island: They will welcome:  ink cartridges - stamps – milk bottle TOPS – mobile phones – clothes, shoes and bags. They also have a shop in Regent Street , Shanklin (Station end).

Be Ye Therefore Perfect?

No one among the staff at Sandown Sec. (in Grove Road) had much hope for me in my School Certificate exams.

Too often the Head’s comment was that “Rayner could do much better if he applied himself”, so much so that I wasn’t allowed to take part for another year when it’s true, I tried to catch up.

Yes, I read all manner of books, and my head was stuffed with all sorts of (to them) useless information and they had all written me off, until the results were published.

To their (and my) astonishment I had passed all the subjects, and above all had registered a result of Credits (50%) in all except French (40%) which was only a Pass.

No failures! Indeed in two subjects I had done even better, for I had registered marks of 91% in Chemistry and 93% in Art, and our Art Master (Mr. Charlesworth) said to me “Only another 7 marks Rayner and you would have had a ‘perfect’ result”.

It’s just as well that we don’t have “Fortnightly Orders” for God to check whether we are doing as well as we might if, with His help, we had really tried.

So many people think that God is a “100%-er” and as a result are made to feel inadequate. After all, what did Jesus say?

“You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”, and that’s a tall (indeed, impossible) order .

Yet many faithful Christians are worried by this, for strive as we may, regardless of clerical admonitions, despite all our good intentions, we fail and sometimes it’s like climbing a spiritual ladder, one day we climb one step and then sadly the next day we slip back two!

But consider what Jesus said, because it’s a form of nonsense, for if we were as 100% as God, then we would be God!

We would then be in the situation in which Adam and Eve found themselves. The serpent told them that eating the fruit would make them “as God”, provoking the sin of pride which is one of the most serious sins and the root of so much evil.

The target to which Jesus asks us to aim has to be impossible to avoid this disaster.

Yet, some clergy and some Christians give the impression that God requires us to be 100%, and typically Jesus challenges us with commands like that, typical of Middle-eastern thinking.

However, we only need to read the Gospels and look at for instance, the Prodigal Son, who must have had a poor percentage mark. Seeing him afar off, before the erring son can even say “Sorry” the father runs towards him, embracing him with utter joy.

It was a criticism of Jesus that many of His followers were from  the lower classes, slaves and the like, who unlike their “betters” were aware of their needs and found in Him, one who could address Himself to those needs.

Consider how courteous Jesus could be when approached by those who knew that they had serious spiritual needs.

When the rich young man retreated in view of his many possessions, being told to sell them and give the proceeds to the poor, Jesus had looked upon him and loved him (Mark 10, v17-22) and saw him go with regret.

St. Paul was no 100%-er ; “The good I would, I do not, the evil that I would not, that I do” and says that he is not yet perfect, but is trying hard to run towards the goal of perfection (Philippians 3, vv12-14).

J. B. Phillips in his thought-provoking book “Your God is too small” writes: “if we believe in God we must naturally believe that He is Perfection, but we must not think that He cannot be interested in anything but perfection (if that were so, the human race would be in a poor state).

God is truly perfection but he is not a Perfectionist; St. John tells us that Jesus “knew what was in man” and He died for all those who are far from perfect, and whose progress can only be if we follow and live following Jesus’ words, “Learn of me”.


28 October 2018

Meek and Mild? Surely, not, Jesus?

Father Swinney (Vicar of Tanfield) announced the first hymn for his afternoon Sunday School: “We are but little children weak” and inwardly, I groaned *No, not again!”

What was I doing there?

Simply, because I was teaching myself to play the organ, and Father Swinney was the only priest who had agreed that I might practice on the lovely Harrison, 3-manual organ, at St. Margaret’s as often as I liked, and, wait for it . . . for free!

The only snag, in return, “Would I accompany the singing at Sunday School in the afternoon at 2.30?”

Despite the fact that I had to be in the pit at 5.30 a.m. every Sunday morning, returning to my digs in time for dinner (1 p.m.) I performed this duty every Sunday for 3 years!

Why did I groan?

Because of the sheer inappropriateness of his choices (most from the A&M Hymns “For the young”) which included “We are but little children meek, not born to any high estate”.

Occasionally we had (Oh dear!) “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look on me a little child” , or “Above the bright blue sky in heaven’s bright abode”.

Nowadays could any intelligent youngster in this Space Age, where there have been no sign of this paradise sing such lyrics?

Sitting on the organ stool, I wondered what image these hardy, tough youngsters were forming in their minds.

They were solid, pleasant young people to deal with and sang this damaging rubbish with enthusiasm, but I feared whether they would survive spiritually on such a negative image of Our Lord.

Whoever wrote about Jesus being “meek and mild” obviously had never pondered over the Gospels, where in His dealings with ordinary folk who needed healing and compassion, He could be so gentle and courteous. However, when you consider His condemnation of the hierarchy of His day, of the danger of reliance upon riches, or seeking advancement in Society, of the way in which by His very bearing He could walk unscathed through an angry mob. By the way He steadfastly set His face to Jerusalem, knowing that He was going to a painful, ignominious death, apparently in the world’s eyes, a failure.

As Jesus strides through the Gospels, here is no namby-pamby Individual, or a “push-over” but someone who (as St. John says) “Knew what was in man”.

Sadly, I think so many of these un-real presentations of Jesus in hymns (and prayers) and Victorian art have permeated through to adulthood and this buttressed by some of the sloppy Victorian and Edwardian imagery that attracts a negative response from the outsiders.

How the Jesus of the Gospels can be dismissed by some as weak, inoffensive, a “Creeping Jesus” is beyond me.

Here is a Man, who is walking steadfastly towards death in complete but unwilling, (see Gethsemane) obedience to his Father.

We sometimes hear concerning a person “He/She was a real saint: he/she never saw any harm in anyone and never spoke an ill word against anyone in all his/her life”.

If that is “saintliness”, reading the Gospels, Jesus was no saint. He taught people not to sit in judgement on others, but never failed to speak out against injustices.

He was not blind to the evil that people did or encouraged others to do and spoke the truth, rebuking people such as senior Clerics in high places whenever it was right to do so.

Jesus was a realist and no easy-going “goody” who never saw evil or wrong in others. Where He thought people were not sincere in their religion, He did not hesitate to call them “hypocrites” (play-actors).

To speak the truth was more important to Him than to make His hearers comfortable. Jesus Christ “meek and mild”? No fear, but He was loving, compassionate, wise and sympathetic. He was Love in action, but never at any time, “meek and mild”.


21 October 2018

The Ancient of Days

“Please draw a picture of what you think God looks like”.

That was the subject presented to a class of primary children at our Church School, and I wondered what their teacher would find, given their lively imaginations.

Among the images which echoed the latest science fiction shows on the TV, there was a preponderance of faces of elderly gentlemen, with long bushy beards.

Having attended a School Eucharist the previous day, where one hymn described God as “The ancient of days”, which only confirmed the idea of God being a rather elderly gentleman, I was not surprised.

Couple this with a group of ‘teen-agers” who were asked “Does God understand the Internet?”, who all answered “No” in a show of hands and then when they realised how foolish that was, burst out laughing.

Now if I were asking you the same questions, to “Draw God”, or being examined on the Almighty’s computer knowledge, what would be your opinions?

One of our problems when trying to explain the Christian faith to the average Church out-sider, is that for the majority, God is a product of misinformation or no information.

Think about it. Much as I love the traditional language we often use in worship, many phrases or words are completely alien.

For instance a Collect that begins “ Prevent us O Lord in all out doings” puzzles folk, thinking that God wants to prevent us from doing something (mind, that’s a popular idea of religion, that God is always saying “No”), whereas it means “Go before us”; just the opposite!

Yet, we (if understanding aright) prefer the “quaint” idea that God is somehow different, needing to be approached with different language skills (suitable for a King) and to a great extent they are right.

God is different, because we believe Him to be the One who is the Creator of all that is given yet we try to confine Him within our own human (and inadequate) understanding.

If the mind boggles at the Internet, where at the stroke of a computer key we can latch on to knowledge of almost everything around us, how much superior is the mind that is behind the intricate and extraordinary wonder that we call “Creation”?

As the poet Addison wrote “The spacious firmament on high, with all the blue ethereal sky, And spangled heavens, a shining frame, Their great original proclaim.

The unwearied sun from day to day, Does his Creator’s power display, And publishes to every land The works of an almighty hand.

What though in solemn silence all Move round the dark  terrestrial ball, What though nor real voice nor sound, Amid their radiant orbs be found; In reason’s ear they all rejoice, And utter forth a glorious voice; For ever singing as they shine, ‘The hand that made us is Divine’."

The Psalmists wrote often, drawing our attention to the wonder of Creation and the even greater wonder of the Creator, yet for all that modern astronomy shows, we can do nothing (as Society seems to do) except to litter it with more and more of our space rubbish. Like careless tourists we leave it to be swallowed up by someone or something. Worse still, we are already eyeing up Space to see what we can mine from it (money) or possibly as bases for inter-galatical warfare or a new site for a Ferris Wheel for wealthy space tourists.

“When I consider the works of thy fingers, the moon and the stars that thou hast ordained” says the Psalmist.

Not understanding the greatness and unfathomable mystery that is God, means we can neither draw Him for His image (that is if we could bear the sight), nor question His computer skills, but realise that here is a power beyond our imagining who (as Jesus taught) Himself is Love.  

As we meet for worship “ Lo, God is here, let us adore and own how awe-ful is this sight”.


14 October 2018

The Almighty Father

I had a very happy childhood together with my two elder brothers, Jack and Tom, Jack being the middle brother and somewhat the “odd man out” for he tended to be “bolshie”, not conforming to the “household rules”.

As a result, if anyone was being severely punished (often for being late for Sunday lunch, keeping us all waiting), it would be Jack and as a result, there grew up a barrier between him and Dad that continued until right through to adulthood.

If you thought of God as a loving Father, then as far as Jack was concerned, he couldn’t imagine it. Sadly, there was little love lost between him and Dad.

Jack, I am sure was not an exception in finding difficulty in imagining God as a “loving” father and indeed in today’s brutal world, where physical abuse of children seems to be growing, nor can many children who carry the scars (both physical and psychological) of an unhappy childhood into their adult thinking.

Reading the early “historical”  books of the Old Testament, God is seen as a vicious, brutal being who commands His Chosen People to murder whole communities, including children and babes in arms, taking their land and flocks.

Yet, even in the Old Testament we find indications of another  face of God.

After Cain has murdered his brother Abel, God protects him from being lynched by his neighbours, and in the writings of all the prophets, and the “Rulebooks” of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, provision is to be made for the welfare of widows, the homeless and the “strangers” (immigrants and refugees). Perhaps we should particularly remember the latter.

Read the prophet Hosea (chapter 11) and you find that there is a gentle side of God, likening Him to a Father who takes the hands of His little children, leading and loving them.

Which is the true picture of God then?

We have to have in mind this gentler side of God, remembering that trying to compare the earthly with the heavenly is unproductive.

The “Fatherhood” of God and His character are seen in the life and teaching of Jesus, uncoloured by tribal and religious differences, where we are seen as God’s lambs and sheep of whom “The very hairs of their heads are numbered”.

The God, who in Jesus, takes the little children and gathers them in His arms, warning about the terrible punishment to be meted to those who hurt or abuse them. Jesus (who is the true expression of the character of God), tells us that if we are to be accepted by Him, then we must have the attributes of children.

Not to be crawling on the carpet in our spiritual nappies, but have the trusting, open-ness, sincerity and eagerness to learn, which should be the adult/child relationship. 

We speak of the “fear of the Lord”, but the word means “respect” rather than being frightened. I confess that as a youngster I was frightened of this great ogre-like Father, when I should have been helped to discover that Our Father in His magnificent greatness, loves and forgives me and in the character displayed by the Son of God is warm, approachable and desiring only that we may have the right relationship with Him.

The very first wedding I conducted as a curate was the worst possible experience, with a drunken congregation (including the bride’s father). The service began with the words, “Dearly beloved” and after the service, I stormed into the Vicar’s study and in response to his enquiry as to how it had gone, I said, “Fancy expecting me to call that lot ‘Dearly Beloved’, the way that they behaved!” He shook his head and said gently, “George, you may not have found them loveable, but God, their Father does, so much that He died for them on a cross;  Remember that always”. I have tried to do so in my dealings with our Father’s children at all their ages and in all their stages, and I hope it may have made me a better parish priest.


7 October 2018                              

THANK YOU Alison for providing the handsome Harvest Lunch last Sunday and all who helped and brought desserts. Thoroughly enjoyable with a lovely atmosphere.

Conscience: The Voice of God?

“Always let your conscience be your guide”, so sings a character in a Walt Disney film, which at first reading sounds a fine idea, but there are problems if we’re talking about “Conscience” being the voice of God, guiding us in our day to day behaviour.

Some folk think this is a good expression of God, that small voice directing our actions upon which we can all rely, and at first thought that sounds sense.

However, it’s not as easy as that, for we need to ask

“What feeds our conscience?”

We need to examine this a little more deeply and think how our individual consciences can be manipulated to be unreliable, morally..

Much depends upon our personal upbringing.

Had you been growing up in Germany in the 1930s, with the continual persecution and vilification of the Jews, a young boy would have been led to believe that doing so, was good and right.

Considering the evil influence of this community, it would seem to him to be morally acceptable in the same way that with the divisive nature of the pro-Brexit campaign it seemed considered right to persecute immigrants and refugees within Britain, yet clean contrary to the moral values of the prophets and of course, Jesus.

Deuteronomy and Leviticus list the kindnesses that people should offer to the widow, the stranger (ie refugees and immigrants), that are clean contrary to the tone of other sections of the Old Testament, where none but the pure Jew must triumph regardless of the hurt it inflicts upon others.

One could continue to list ways in which environment and Society can influence what we consider to be good or evil.

To a great extent with the increasing secularisation of England, we are drifting from the Christian morality which in the past shaped so much of our national conscience, to an “I” conscience, where much of our behaviour is guided by how something will affect ME.

If we wish to hear the voice of God, it will not necessarily come through a misdirected conscience, but by reference to the life and teaching of Jesus and the prophets.

We need to soak ourselves in these teachings and example of Jesus and the Divine guidance that the prophets offer, who so often condemn the accepted morality of, what St. John describes as “The World”.

The sad truth is that our consciences can easily be misdirected by external influences and reflect the morals of those around us, and the tenor of the age.

According to our up-bringing, things that are of no moral consequence, such as a youngster being brought up in a vegetarian family, will find his/her conscience challenging, when in other company they are confronted with non-vegetarian foods.

Likewise, a businessman may excuse his poor treatment of employees, because it is for the good of the economy and thus for the “common good”.

If we truly want to hear the “Voice of God”, we shall need to abandon the easy, accommodating thoughts feeding us, and discover the right, but not always easy to obey, directions of Jesus, the true Voice.

The truth of God’s nature is to be found only in the conscience that has been influenced by past Christian teaching and practise; otherwise, the Voice of God becomes nothing but an accumulation of so many possibly negative voices.


30 September 2018

Living the Eucharist

Concluding our thoughts on The Eucharist

The Dean of Wells Cathedral irritated me (not all that difficult), but at the end of the Cathedral Eucharist, he would throw his hands in the air, and proclaim “The Eucharist is ended; go in peace”!.

Why was I irritated? Because it wasn’t (and isn’t) true.

What I wanted to stand up and say was “No it isn’t, Mr. Dean”, (“Mr.” is the correct title when addressing a Dean!), “actually, It’s only just begun!”.

When I was young, seeing the Church Notices at All Saints’, Ryde I saw that at 9.30 there was a “Sung Eucharist” which confused me, with a famous toothpaste being titled “Eucryl”, only to discover later that Eucharist in Greek (Eucharisto), means “Thanksgiving”!.

Which brings me on to the thought that “Thanksgiving” does not feature that often in our Sunday intercessions. Surely, the well mannered when asking for something, should precede it by saying to the donor “Thank you” for what we have already enjoyed.

How often if ever, do we say “Grace” when beginning or ending a meal?

As a child I and my 2 brothers were never allowed to leave the table until we had said a “Grace” even if it was only “Thank you God for our good (supper, dinner, whatever); can I please get down now?”

So, call it what you will, but “Eucharist” was one of the earliest names for The Lord’s Supper, remembering that Greek was a common language at the time.

So, our service is a Eucharist ” a “Thank you” service. The “Sung Thank you”, if you like.

Here we call it the “Parish Communion” and we’ll think about that another time, but it means, that is “The Parish Sharing ”.

Now, let’s return to our enthusiastic Dean, proclaiming “Our Eucharist (Thank you) is ended".

Turn to your Book of Common Prayer; there is a Prayer of Thanksgiving (in which at one time the whole congregation would join and know by heart).

In it we say thanks for all God’s Blessings, and it continues that we “Show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, (that’s the easy bit) but in our lives (the hard bit), by giving up ourselves to thy service and walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life”.

Where are we going to do that?

Why, in our daily living, our encounters with our fellow men and women.

What our Eucharist does, is to provide us by the Sacrament and worshipping with our fellow Christians, the strength to live that life of “serving”; “Serving God and our neighbour”

The Eucharist does not end with the Blessing. It’s full effect will be shown by the way we live, when we have gone through the church doors into the real world with all its opportunities and challenges.

When the priest dismisses us at the end of the Service we are reminded that we are sent out on a mission.

That is, “To love and serve the Lord”.

St. Paul tells us how we are to live the Eucharist OUTSIDE the church doors, and “In the Name of Christ”.

Here’s a list (Galatians 5, vv22-23):

Love, Joy & Peace: describes the Christian’s relationship with God and what we receive from God

Patience, Kindness and Goodness: describes the Christian’s experience in relation to others - our attitudes

Faithfulness, Gentleness & Self-control: describes our relationship with others, being trustworthy, humble, but not a “push-over”

Other “Gifts of the Spirit” are listed in: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4. Do read, pray and ponder over them.

With these gifts, if we will, we can “live” the Eucharist. 


23 September 2018

In Blood there is Life

Continuing our thoughts on the Eucharist

Saturday mornings at the Scala Cinema in Ryde, I and 2 friends sat enthralled, particularly watching the cowboy films starring “Hop-along Cassidy” and Tonto.

Often there seemed to be conflicts with the resident Indians, culminating with a peace pact, where the “Pipe of Peace” was smoked, plus a strange blood ceremony, where a gash in the arm, placed against a similar gash in the erstwhile opponent’s arm, mingled their blood, with the immortal words “Ugh, me blood brother” and peace reigned. We tried unsuccessfully to recreate this in the cycle shed at Sandown Sec.!

However, this wasn’t just a cinematic event, for something similar is recorded in Exodus 24, vv1-11, being the description of a ceremony to renew the Covenant (Agreement) between God and His people of Israel.

First, God’s Law (the 10 Commandments) are read to the gathered assembly, to which they reply “All that the Lord has commanded us, we will do”; animals are sacrificed and the blood gathered in two basins.

Having made this covenant with God, the basins are taken and the contents of one thrown over the altar (God’s share), the other its contents are scattered over the people.

Thus, in the Jewish mind, like our red Indians, the covenant is confirmed at Sinai and God and mankind joined in a blood relationship, removing any enmity between the two parties.

Blood, being the source and maintenance of life was regarded with great reverence, and through the sacrifices in general, worshippers were enabled by purchasing (at a price calculated according to their financial standing) something to sacrifice, to offer their lives by proxy in service and worship of God.

In ancient Jewish circles, every agreement between two parties (even buying some land or property) was sealed with a sacrifice ensuring that God was brought into the process as a witness.

Not surprisingly, our Eucharist has undertones of these ancient practises, and when the New Covenant (Testament) is instituted in the Upper Room, and Jesus says: “A NEW commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you”, He supersedes the original 10, and it is sealed as Jesus passes the common cup around His disciples.

The sacrificial blood is that shed on the cross (study the Epistle to the Hebrews and this will give you the thinking of the first Christians on the matter).

God is insistent that it is for ALL to drink and it is extraordinary that for hundreds of years in the Roman Church only the priest drank from the chalice; the ordinary folk had to be content with bread alone until quite recently when the Pope restored it to them.

However, using the common cup the other element appears for thereby we are rather like our Indians of my first paragraphs; through it we are spiritually joined to our fellow worshippers.

Some people worry about the chances of infection by so doing, but there has never in my 60+ years’ experience and that of informed experts been any instance where an infection could be traced to using a common cup.  Wine is in effect a useful disinfectant.

So we come to the Eucharist week by week to renew our commitment to the new Law of Love, receiving strength to enable us to do so and are joined spiritually to all our fellow worshippers. “All one Body we”.


16 September 2018

The Cost of Love (A very personal thought)

I wept as I knelt, holding Ness’s paw, as the gentle lady vet did the last thing I could do for my beloved dog by putting her to “sleep”.

Liver failure had done its worst and unable to stand and no longer eating, this 15yr. old, Border Collie whose companionship I had enjoyed for 6 yrs. (she was a rescue) it was now time to allow her to go in peace.

She now lies in my son Peter’s garden at Chale Green.

Why the tears? Simply because Ness had been my faithful companion for 6 years and one can only say that I wept because I loved her. All pet owners will recognise that feeling.

That is the problem with love. Once we begin to love anyone or anything, we run the risk of being hurt at some stage, when something happens to that which we love. That can apply, not only to human beings or pets, but also to anything that has occupied the central part of our affections, even our car, or bike, or some other inanimate object.

C. S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all, is to become vulnerable”

The truth is, that if you wish to avoid being hurt, then the answer is simply that you love no one or nothing.

However, not to “love” is inhuman, for all of us, however depraved, have affections for something, so the capacity to be hurt is universal.

However, if this is true of human beings, common sense will tell us that it is, then what about God?

The God portrayed in some of the Old Testament seems to us often to be cruel and vindictive, but this is not true of all of it.

The prophets gradually discerned that there was another aspect of God and that He is loving, caring and forgiving; sadly this message doesn’t seem to have got through even to self-confessed Christians.

That message was brought to its fulfilment in the life and teaching of Jesus, who by word and example as the Son of God showed us that this was indeed true.

It’s a pity that often in history, people, including Christians, have justified the most evil actions on the basis that they believe that this is what God wishes.

If God is love as Jesus taught and so many New Testament texts declare then it follows, not only that God abhors many actions done in His Name, equally He does not send calamities and disasters, whether on an individual or global scale, for a loving God will want the best for His Creation.

The popular notion that God sends illness or disasters, as a punishment, or that it is His will that some child should die of cancer is alien to the life and teaching of Jesus.

If God is love, then it follows that when anything happens to us whom He loves so much that He sent His only Son to enter our world and die on a cross for us, then surely God like us, will suffer also?

God is not remote, uncaring, incapable of hurt, for if He is, then He cannot be a God of love.

Have you ever thought how the heart of God must ache when He surveys the world, in which we could all live happily and fruitfully, yet is marred by cruelty, greed and so much avoidable human suffering; stemming from our own failure to live lives conforming to Jesus’ teaching or in harmony with the wonderful world that He has created?

Love and hurt go hand in hand, so much so that a modern hymn says this:

God is love; and He enfoldeth all the world in one embrace;

With unfailing grasp He holdeth every child in every race,

And when human hearts are breaking under sorrow’s iron rod,

Then they feel that self-same aching deep within the heart of God”.

That thought sustains me and I hope it will you.


9 September 2018

Ness (suffering from a liver failure) was “put to sleep” last Sunday

1662 and All That!

Archbishop Cranmer and his Reformation supporters had one eye on the Roman Mass (then forbidden in England, thanks to Henry VIII) and the other on the Lord’s Supper as it had progressed from the early stages I described last week.

The worship had moved from a fairly informal service, where the first part was the Preaching, Readings and Prayers to a structure where all the requisite “wordy” stuff led on to the structure we have today.

The1662 Prayer Book (that emerged from the first English Prayer Book of 1549) makes this division between what is “said” and what is “done” very clear.

Our Prayer Book envisages a service where the altar is now “The Lord’s Table” (for the Reformers didn’t like the sacrificial idea of an “altar”) and is now to be placed sideways, to which those who wished to make their Communion had to move. It is for this reason that the Prayer Book places the Confession here, half-way through the service. Presumably, the non-communicants can go home for an early lunch or, as they had done previously stay to “hear Mass” but not partaking of the Sacrament, something of which the Reformers disapproved.

Then followed the Lord’s Supper, whereas the first half had been what is “said”, we move now into the realm of what is “done”. We “ Do this, in remembrance of Him”.

What, however do we mean by “Remembrance”?

The word seems to imply that we are merely joining in a kind of memorial Service, but far from it if we think what “remembering” really is.

At my age, I do lots of remembering, but it is not senile romancing about the past.

When we really “remember” the words and actions we recall, are not “going back”. Rather, we are “ bringing the past into the present”, when one can even smell the smells and hear the sounds that are part of the memory.

That means, that through this action, we are bringing into our gathering Jesus who said “Where two or three are gathered in my Name, there am I in the midst of them”..

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence and with fear and trembling stand” and “Christ our God to earth descendeth our full homage to demand”.

At the “Breaking of the  Bread”, we bring the Upper Room of AD30 into the 21 st century, so that Jesus is surely among us here in Brading, Yaverland, St. Helens and Seaview and thousands of other similar gatherings.

The Prayer Book states, the Communion was essentially a sacred meal, with Jesus among us and within us, an aspect of the Eucharist which had fallen almost into disuse.  There had grown up this practise of using the Host (Bread) as a focus for devotion, carrying it in procession, which the reformers criticised because it was in the giving and receiving of the Sacrament that Jesus is Present.

The majority of Pre-Reformation worshippers only came to the Mass to see the Host lifted up by the priest that they might worship and adore. Often windows pierced the walls to enable people to worship from outside the building.

Jesus is unequivocal when He says “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you

For centuries in the Roman Church, Communion had been given in the Bread alone; the chalice was denied to the laity but received by the priest alone and this again was alien to the words of Jesus.(John 6, vv48-58),

The Prayer Book compilers sought to restore the full nature of the Lord’s Supper that had been lost for centuries.

It was only in the 19 th and 20 th centuries that it regained its true place in the spiritual life of the people.

Last thoughts on this next week and thanks for being with me thus far, I hope I haven’t bored you.


2 September 2018

How it all began ...

I want you to imagine that it is a Sunday (because then, the day started the evening before from 5 p.m.), so to us, it’s our Saturday

So, Sunday the 1 st day of the week, the Day of Resurrection begins on Saturday evening, and you are a Christian slave off to worship.  Surprisingly it still does in our Church Calendar.

These meetings took place in the evening as Sunday was a working day and were usually held at one of the believers’ houses, for building Christian meeting places was illegal.

The worship started when everyone had gathered, but you are a slave and while others are awaiting your delayed arrival, they are tucking into wine and food.

You meet in secret, because you have enemies mainly among the Jewish leaders and their faithful. The persecution by the Roman invaders has not yet started, reaching its heights in the reign of Diocletion (303-311AD).

So, the meeting begins, with prayers, and singing, even members “speaking with tongues” as they are led by the Spirit Who is at the heart of all their spiritual lives.

Certainly God’s Law in the 10 Commandments would have been recited, or more probably, Jesus’ Summary of the Law, “To love God with all their minds, soul and strength and to love their neighbours as themselves”.

Something we still do today in our service.

As yet no set Prayers, no form of service, and Bible readings from the Old Testament, the only existing “scriptures”. Possibly, reading a letter (an “Epistle” from one of the Church leaders, such as St. Paul or St. James).

The earliest we have of these is either from St. James (Jesus’ brother) who took charge of the leadership of The Church or St. Paul. Scholars date these letters from 50 AD onwards. 20 years after the Resurrection.

Read St. James’ letter, obviously a plain speaker who might have been the first Christian Socialist leader in his concern for the underprivileged!

There was no “New” Testament as such, for the first Gospel (written (in Greek) was by St. Mark, circa. 65AD, and it’s worth settling down and reading at one sitting his account, for its racy style and brevity.

Until then, accounts of Jesus’ teaching and ministry were given by actual eye-witnesses (see Acts 1, vv15-end) and it was only when old age or execution ended these that it was felt essential (as the “End of all things” had not taken place as they expected) to pass on the Gospel, the word meaning “Good News”.

You will find how this Good News was spread by ordinary members. Read Acts, the earliest account of the life of the first Christians, and note too, how in their preaching they related Jesus to the prophecies of the Old Testament

It was considered that anyone who held any office in the Church needed to have been members of this early fellowship. (See Acts 1, vv15-end ).

It’s worth noting too how many lay women of The Church took an active share of this Ministry and significant that the first witnesses of the resurrected Jesus were women.(See Acts 1, v14)

Then, the Lord’s Supper began and from that time onwards, the Eucharist (Mass, Communion) fell into two sections.

The first being the Ministry of the Word, the “teaching and praying” part and the second the “doing” where the words and actions of Jesus were recited followed by the Communion of the faithful (including baptised children).

This division is clearly seen in the 1662 Communion Service, where the Confession comes immediately before the Offertory, intended only for those receiving the Sacrament.

Breathless? More to come, next week.


26 August 2018

A Bone of Contention

What do you do, as an Anglican priest conducting a Communion service at the well-attended Methodist Church at Castle Cary? The distribution of the Sacrament was ended, but thoughtlessly I had consecrated a whole dish of “Mother’s Pride” sliced bread cut into numerous small cubes of which a good deal was left over.

The Prayer Book says that such is not to be carried out of the church, but reverently consumed by the priest, and any of the laity whom he asks to assist.

For Anglicans, after the Consecration, the bread and wine can only be disposed of reverently, by being consumed, but for Methodists it was still bread, not requiring any special reverence after the Service and so perhaps the birds were lucky!

It was the inability to reconcile these two different approaches that ended the proposals for uniting the Church of England and the Methodist churches in the 1950s.

Indeed, it was equally a bone of contention between the Roman Catholics and the new Church of England at the Reformation, for Archbishop Cranmer (with the Reformers) planned to eliminate the excesses of Rome, where the Bread and Wine became a subject for “Adoration”, the Host (the bread) being often carried in procession, or used as the focus of devotion.

The Anglican Reformers were trying to return the Mass (the Communion service) to one where the whole congregation, not just the priest would share in the bread and wine, with the intention of promoting it as a priority.

What then happens to the bread and wine when it is con-secrated by a priest?

The argument was bitter and indeed deadly, for many were executed or burnt to death between the opposing views.

The Roman Catholics maintained that the bread and wine became indeed to be the Body and Blood of Jesus and worshipped and adored and until recently, the only person who received the wine was the priest.

It was said that if a priest happened to spill a drop of wine from the chalice, he would be expected to lick it up! Such was the reverence offered to it.

When I was first ordained in 1952, the (CofE) congregation where I ministered were expected to come (fasting) to the 8 a.m. said Communion, and then to return at 11.00 for the Sung Mass at which only the priest and a few disabled or elderly folk could make their Communion.

In all this, it is interesting that the Methodists were so called for they, led by John and Charles Wesley came regularly (“methodically”) to the Lord’s Supper, whereas the average CofE member came as little as three times a year.

Until the Reformation, the laity came to be content, coming to worship at the Sung Mass, but not to receive the Sacrament!

Few know of its existence, but at the end of the Book of Common Prayer there is a whole series of definitions (the “39 Articles of religion”) as to what a priest or member of the CofE should believe and do.

Cranmer and Co. wanted to restore the Communion as a necessary service for ALL the people, (not just the priest) and this is re-affirmed by it being the only service at which a sermon is ordered. Mattins and Evensong were intended to be extra devotions for the more devout.

What happens to the bread and wine at Consecration? Frankly no one really knows despite all the arguments; it is a matter for faith and devotion.

When the first Queen Elizabeth was asked (as head of the CofE) for her opinion, she simply said : “ His was the Word that spake it; He took the bread and brake it; what that Word doth make it, that I believe and take it” and so should we.


19 August 2018

The Swinging Sixties

Well, we had plenty of warning . . . 2,300 years ago, both Plato and Aristotle wrote critically of the influence that music has on people’s (especially the young’s) behaviour. Plato, a Greek philosopher when writing a plan (“The Republic”) to create the ideal Society warned that the kind of music allowed should be strictly controlled for “men fancying that they knew what they did not know had no longer any fear and the absence of fear begets shamelessness”. Something apparent in modern Society.

He recommended that in his ideal Society, the type of music taught and practised should be carefully policed, other wise, trouble will ensue.

Similarly, Socrates wrote “Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul”.

Look back to the 1960s, when rock bands appeared for the first time, and melodies gave way to constant drum beating followed by acts of vandalism (even on their own musical instruments), we can see what changes appeared in our Society.

We now have a new outbreak of violence, including stabbing and random killings that is attributed to a more menacing type of music and words gaining ground, especially in the more deprived multi-racial areas of our big cities.

“Alright” you will say, “but I thought you were writing about our approach to worship, what relevance is all this to our Christian situation?”

Quite simply, if you look at the modern Church, the growth is among those evangelical congregations, where the music is noisy, repetitive, much attention being paid by the drummer! Of course, it is worship, but not necessarily helpful in creating a sense of the “otherness” of God.

Elijah, when seeking to find and meet God, found Him, not in the sound of the wind, the earthquake or the fire, but in the “still small voice”, and the psalmist writes “Be still, and know that I am God”.

This is why our choice of music for our worship must be directed to that which will inculcate a sense of stillness and the Presence of God, the great mystery.

Beginning with a bright, rousing hymn or 10 repetitions of a jolly (but sometimes banal) chorus may sound fine, but as a precursor to meeting “The All Holy” in our worship it can well have a negative effect.

Compare that with Wesley’s translation of a German hymn:

“Lo, God is here, let us adore and own how dreadful is this place. Let all within us feel its power, and silent, bow before His face. Who know His power, His grace who prove, Serve Him with all, His reverence love”” or

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand; ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessings in His hand, Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to command”.

Yes, "fear and trembling” and while some will think this is resurrecting “Nasty old God”, fear means “respect” to the Creator of all that is, while we rightly think of God as “Father”, He is mystery beyond human understanding and we can only know His true nature, through the life and teaching of Jesus. 

Traditional Church music surprisingly, can be appreciated by the younger generation, and particularly if it leads them to contemplate the Holy, the “awesome” (to use a popular ‘teen-age word).

Were we to be visiting the Queen to have a cup of tea, imagine the feelings that would crowd in.

You are here this morning because God has invited you, not for a cup of tea, but to receive the sacramental life of His Son. “Lo, God is here, let us adore”.


12 August 2018

This is the Word of the Lord

"Sexy poetry in the Bible, read in church?" well, yes. Two Sundays ago, we heard a short passage that sounded a bit "racy" from "The Song of Solomon" which was read because The Church insists that it is an allegory, describing the relationship between God and His Church.

Dismissing that as "twaddle", our Old Testament lecturer wondered aloud how a collection of sexy love poems had got into the accredited Biblical books. Likewise, the book of Esther whilst describing how the Jews escaped mass-executions (don't get me wrong, as a "story" it's quite enthralling) but it never mentions God once!

Start dipping into the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, where God apparently encourages the brutal killing of multitudes of gentile people of all ages, you are bound to ask the question, "Where is this God of love" of which the New Testament speaks so eloquently?"

Some passages we hear in church are far from the Gospel, and when, after hearing, the reader declare that "This is the Word of the Lord" you might well ask "Is it really?"

A prominent last-century atheist declared that "The Bible is the most dangerous book in the world" and reading some of the Historical (?) books of the Old Testament, one can sympathise with her judgement.

Yes, the Bible is "Dangerous" if you read it without a great deal of guidance, or you take it literally without fore­knowledge of the circumstances.

If we carried out some commands to the letter, for instance, some of this morning's congregation would be condemned for wearing trousers. Deuteronomy says it is wrong for women to wear "Men's garments" as it is equally improper for men to have skirts (unless they are "kilts"?).

When my wife was a 20 yr. old, her father remonstrated as she was wearing moygashel slacks! When his wife did likewise, it troubled him a great deal.

Some of the appointed readings at the Eucharist, without explanation are misleading unless you understand their context. That is why I welcome the inclusion of the readings in our weekly notices, which reading them at home, quietly, helped by the preceeding explanations can give us greater understanding and then they may indeed sound like "The Word of the Lord".

To suggest that "Every word in the Bible is true" is to make a  mistake, but it tells of truths about God and ourselves..

For instance, If you study Genesis, Chapters 1 & 2, you find  2 entirely different accounts of Creation.

In Genesis 1, human beings are created last, and reading it  you find an almost Darwinian sequence of events, but in  chapter 2, Adam is created first.

The reason? Chapter 1 is a later revision, written by religious scholars, whilst Chapter 2 Including the picking of the forbidden fruit was probably an ancient explanation created in the days when knowledge was passed on by word of mouth and is of very primitive origin. Likewise the account of Cain murdering his brother Abel.

Similarly, the story of Jonah and the giant fish is an imaginative writing pointing to the need for the Jews to share with the Gentiles, their faith and relationship with God.

So, because some parts of the Bible are fabrications, does not affect the integrity of the whole, for underneath lies the essential story of God's unique relationship with the Jews, leading on to the New Testament where in Jesus there is a fulfilment of history and ancient prophecies.

The Bible presents us with truths; truth about God, His nature and His purpose for His Creation and that is why we need to listen carefully to the readings as part of our worship, and perhaps read our Bibles more at home.


5 August 2018

Jarge's Jottings by Year
2021 2020 | 2019 | 2018
Search Logo Facebook Logo Twitter Logo LinkedIn Logo Email Logo