Vicar's Letter

VERSE OF 2017:


“Christ in you, the hope of glory!”


Colossians 1:27b

(New International Version)


Dear Friends,


A man was leaving a big store with a trolley, with his young son hitching a ride on the end of the trolley, the way they do, and something triggered the store alarm.  Said the person on duty at the gate, “I hope you’ve paid for that child!” “Yes,” came the reply, “many times over!” I know this because I was standing nearby and enjoyed the ready wit. 


The shop was an extraordinary one in San Jose, California, where, as well as motor boats that can probably go into space, the true freedom-lover can purchase all kinds of weaponry fairly easily (actually, slightly less easily in California than elsewhere over there. For the image-conscious freedom-lover, there are pink firearms to be had, and I have the photo to prove it.)


I have just come back from two weeks with a very kind family who moved from here to Silicon Valley a few years ago, and I had a fascinating time.  From the fact that my hosts have a hummingbird feeder in their back yard, to the wild turkeys and even a wild boar I saw in their street, to the rattlesnake encountered on a bike ride, the giant redwoods (tallest trees on earth, can be over 300 feet) which grow from a cone the size of an olive – reminding me of Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed!) and the breathtaking mountains of the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe, the natural wonders leave very rich memories.  And then there were all the reminders of what a young country the US Pacific region is: the earliest pioneer towns, preserved in something like their original charm, are about 160 years old, mid Victorian as it were! And the diversity of cultures that have shaped the place, such as the Spanish mission buildings and the (overdue) monuments to the Chinese who provided much of the labour building the vast railway lines across the continent.  And just the amazing things that have been achieved in such a short history.  The Golden Gate Bridge really was as good as they said.


People kept telling me how well timed my visit was, in that California’s awful floods back in the winter have at any rate fixed the drought problem that had gone on for years, and the place was wonderfully green and well-watered, except the mountains which were unusually wonderfully white for the time of year, and yet it was now warm and sunny.  How little we usually know when we make our plans and our guesses.


One thing I was reminded of fairly often was how comparatively fortunate we are with our UK politics compared with the US variety (I imagined a present-day Basil Fawlty telling his staff “Whatever you do, don’t mention the wall!”).  Our politics, for all the failings that we see, are just not anything like so stridently bi-polar.  As we approach our general election may the Lord give each one of us the clearest wisdom and insight we are so far able to receive from him, and pray for the public-spirited – and the godly – candidates from all parties. 


The conversation I reported earlier, though I suppose it could have been anywhere, did chime in with my impression that in America, “nothing is for nothing”, everything needs paying for.  This is pretty true everywhere of course, and contrasts with the free-ness of God’s salvation proclaimed in the Christian faith.  Isn’t this a major reason why Jesus says we can only enter God’s kingdom if we receive it like little children? 


When we offered our small children or grandchildren a present, they usually accepted it with straightforward, simple, trust, not worrying about whether they deserved it or any of the other complications which adults sometimes bring in.  And really that’s the same attitude we need in order to accept the free blessings of the Gospel, which are free to any believing heart because already paid for at such tremendous cost by Jesus.


Childlike, empty-handed trust in Christ allows us to hitch a ride with him, for we have indeed been paid for, not “many times over”, but once for all, by Him.


Thinking of children, can I say a big thank you to everyone who played any part in the very happy and successful first session of Messy Church on 12th May.  What a relaxed and fun environment to discover more of the truth and meaning of the Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl.  A really good range of meaningful and easily-organised crafts and activities from the Messy Church organisation.  Excellent food to share.  A real buzz in the air.  Let’s keep on encouraging more people to try it. 


Yours truly,