Thought of the Month

Sunday, 7 May 2017

General Election

So how are you feeling as we approach another general election? For many it seems the subject of politics is getting annoying and people just want it to be over. Others have very strong views, some stating there is clearly no competition while others say just as firmly there is no way the Conservative party can win!
Some of course also say that the church should not interfere with politics, although we live in a nation that is grounded on biblical law and morality. Jesus himself was very political (or often anti-political I suppose), not afraid to speak out against the authorities.
I’m not going to get political in that sense other than to say we all have an opportunity to have our voice heard when we vote. We are also heard when we write to and contact our MPs to share our concerns either about local issues or about national things coming out of Westminster.
It is important that we take the opportunity to be heard but that in doing so we are not just looking to our own interests. We do live in a nation that is built upon a biblical foundation of law and morality. Jesus, who’s teaching helps us understand the laws of the world as God the creator intended, also taught us that one of the greatest commandments was to love one another, to love our neighbours as ourselves. So when we have these opportunities to speak out, whether through our vote or letter or whatever other way it might be, we should be thinking not just what is best for me, but what is best for us, for my neighbour, for our nation, for our world.
 God bless
 Simon

Friday, 24 March 2017

Question Time

I wrote this the day after the first of our 3 Question Time sessions in the Green Man.

It was great to see so many people get together and put their questions to the panel. There was a real mix of questions, some of general interest, some reflecting the state of our world and others to do with personal issues some are facing. It was also a privilege to be able to continue some of those conversations after we had finished the official panel part of the evening. (by the time of completing we have now had our second session but there is still one more on  4th April and a chance to post your question via boxes in the Church and another in the Green Man).

Reflecting on the evening as a whole brought two thoughts to mind, firstly sometimes when you hear the background to a question it can perhaps shed new light onto a subject that at first seemed simple and straightforward.

Secondly, and this is where I want to focus, it made me wonder where are the places that we go to when we just want someone to talk to, maybe it is the pub or a particular friend or family member but for some that is not the right place or the right time.

The Bible tells us of the encounters many people had with Jesus. He often asked people about their needs, he took time to listen and he prayed for them. Today the church fulfils some of that role; we are able to provide a listening ear, a word of prayer and encouragement, advice and support. We don’t always have the answers, we aren’t always able to solve the problem but we can and we do listen.

When I was training for Ordination, one of the phrases that kept on coming up to describe the role of a priest (I am ordained priest in order to carry out my role as rector/vicar) is representing God to people and people to God. In other words, part of my job is to tell people about God, but also to tell God about people, to pray with and for those who just need to know that someone cares and will listen. And it doesn’t have to be about the big things or the struggles (although we can be there for that too) but also about the little things, the things we want to say thank you to God for but perhaps don’t know how or where to begin.

I am happy to talk with, pray with, pray for you, whether that be face to face over a cup of tea or you dropping me an email or giving me a call, whether that be a celebration of something or sharing a burden/problem (a problem shared and all that!)

Sometimes it can be difficult to know who to speak to but as part of the church I can and do offer the opportunity for safe and confidential conversation (unless I have a legal obligation to pass on information). It’s part of being the Rector for the village, the 5 Parishes and everybody who lives here, that’s what makes it the Church of England.

God bless


Simon

Thursday, 16 February 2017

The Possibility of God

“How can you possibly believe in some altruistic sky fairy…you with your science degree and belief in evidence based decision making?”

Well it’s hardly fighting talk but I did need to count to ten.  For a start my inquisitor got the evidence bit wrong.  I have a long held belief that evidence based decision making is of itself suspect.  When the evidence changes a wrong decision has been made and some poor chap has gone to the gallows.  Alternatively in waiting to gather the evidence an issue can “time out” leaving trouble such as when a terrorist under surveillance blows up a bus.

I like the idea of “judgement” as a regulator to evidence based thinking.  It also has the merits of being quick and when there is no evidence it can be applied in isolation to the process of problem solving.  That said it does lack an audit trail which can be a problem when the lawyers come a feasting.

In my judgement God exists and the altruistic sky fairy in the form of his son Jesus Christ is alive and well.  Not quite what my interlocutor wanted to hear and his “where’s the evidence” response suggested we had some way to go.  In effect he wanted me to demonstrate what I would describe as a known fact.  To…..as it were…experiment to prove the existence of God.

Blimey we were only on our first pint!

As the rugby was about to start and I’m no expert on ontological arguments I figured that partial success could be achieved if there was an acceptance of the possibility of God.

In the past I had a standalone computer which when it broke all was lost; everything within its hard drive died.  Yes there were the letters printed off but the computer’s very essence was gone.  My programs, my preferences, my operating system: everything gone.

Then some genius created the “cloud” where computers were no longer standalone but networked.  When these computers broke the content of the hard drive would have perpetual existence through its ascendency into the cloud.  Nothing but the body of the computer was lost albeit some of its components could be salvaged.

Does the possibility exist that Christians, or others of faith, are simply networked computers who when they die (break) will see their souls (Storage) leave the heart (Hard Drive) and ascend into heaven (Central Server)?

Are our advances in IT showing us a model for the possibility of God? 

Then England scored and the discussion ended.  It was a score draw.  No evidence of God but evidence of the possibility of God.

So for me it is back to my old friend “Judgement”.  I only have an allotted span and I don’t want to be “timed out” waiting for the evidence.  I’ll not have an audit trail so for all he likes the devil can come a feasting but I don’t plan on being around.  Rather like our Fall Back during the second half!

Contributed by Lyndon Robinson



Thursday, 12 January 2017

Post Truth

Later this month President elect Trump will be sworn into office as the most powerful political leader in the Western World. Some commentators are saying we are now living in a 'post truth' era where it is not the facts but the story that wins the argument. If we consider we are living in a 'post truth' era should we throw our hands up in despair and bemoan the demise of civilisation as we know it?

If we as the general population look at decisions we are asked to make can we believe the facts we are told by politicians or the media? How many times have you been convinced by one party and then hear facts presented by the opposing party and changed your mind or at least had some doubts? Do we need to do our own research to get our own facts, in which case where do we go to get these facts, I doubt we have time, funds, or in some cases the expertise, to do our own fundamental research, maybe google is the answer!!!

So is there something beyond the facts that we have always relied upon? If someone gives us 'the facts' are they telling the 'truth', can we 'trust' them, do we 'believe' them, do we have 'faith' in their motivation and 'values'? Now there are some interesting words, truth, trust, belief, faith and values. These are often words that come up in the Christian story.

Is it true that all through time we have relied upon story tellers and it is not so much the facts upon which we make our judgements but rather whether we trust the messenger, share their values and beliefs and have faith in them as leaders?

Maybe in looking at both our political leaders and our faith there are things in common. Is it about whether they are trying to convince us of their position for the benefit of society as a whole or their own benefit? Jesus made his position pretty clear in laying down his life for his beliefs and us.

Contributed by Andrew Cowell

Monday, 5 December 2016

Hope in an Uncertain World

We hear a lot of comment today about how uncertain the future is. The media raise our anxiety as we see the progression of the Brexit process and the election of a new President of America. I wonder how much less certain the future looked to some previous generations? The 20th century had its challenges with two world wars to work through for starters. Going back how would our forefathers have viewed a world with no electricity, no running water, no NHS, a pretty uncertain future I would suggest?
In times of uncertainty it is often helpful to have a few reference points or anchor points that give us some stability. We also need some hope for the future. In stormy times seafarers make for a harbour with safe anchorage in the hope that better weather is ahead to continue their travels.
As we are now in the season of Advent our Christian calendar looks forward with hope to the coming of Jesus at Christmas. We look back today and reflect on the events in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, the wonder is that the hope that came into the world then is available to us today. 2000 years on the messages are still relevant of how in an uncertain world we can live our lives following the example set by God’s son as he walked and lived a life on earth.
As we hear again the Christmas story may we consider if there is some anchor point and hope that we might take forward into the New Year. Not just the reference point of knowing that Christmas will come again on 25th December 2017 but that the hope and message of Christmas is there for us 365 days a year.

Andrew Cowell 
Churchwarden

Friday, 14 October 2016

Open Church

So this morning I was thinking through what my day held. One of the
things in the diary was to write a reflection for the website this month. As
I was thinking about this I was opening curtains and seeing the leaves on
the lawn (beautiful colours but there are quite a lot of them and still lots
more on the trees!) I am one of those people for whom songs are
triggered easily by things I see (sometimes I just wake up with songs I
haven’t heard for years in my head). This morning the leaves reminded
me of a song from a bit before my time! Actually I know a cover version
better but it’s from the Mamas and the Papas - California Dreamin’.

“All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey” (actually there is a little bit
of blue trying to sneak through this morning).

The second verse begins:

“Stopped into a church I passed along the way.
Well I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray…”

For many people the church can be a place to find peace and comfort,
maybe from the coldness; the autumn we may find ourselves facing
emotionally or spiritually as well as physically.
We are very fortunate in that we are able to keep the church here in
Mursley open during the day. It is open to anyone from the community or
just passing through, open for shelter from the elements and for shelter
in times of difficulty. Whether you go in to pray or don’t know how to pray
it is a place of peace and has been a centre of prayer in this community
for around 800 years.

If you are looking for somewhere for a bit of quiet, some space in the day
please feel free to use the church, if you want someone to talk to or some
guidance please feel free to be in touch.

The peace of God be with you.

Simon

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Oh Still Small Voice of Calm

Hopefully over the summer many of us have had the opportunity for some rest and relaxation.  There will also be people who have not been so fortunate and have continued to wrestle and juggle the many pressures that seem to come along with our present day living. I am increasingly aware of the articles in the press about the importance of recognizing the need to keep our mental health in good order as well as our physical health. It is now common to read about teenagers who should be enjoying their youthfulness feeling depressed and needing help. At work many of us will have wellness programmes and employee assistance programmes which include addressing mental health issues.

There is no way that we can 'stop the world' or 'put the Genie back in the bottle', we all need to work out our approaches for dealing with what life has in store.

I find myself wondering what the Christian faith has to offer in this area. There is the opportunity to spend a time of quiet reflection, whether that be at home or in church. Church can provide that opportunity to stop and think, the discipline of doing so regularly on a Sunday with others can help or it may be popping in as you are passing.

One of the hymns that comes to mind is 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind' including the line 'take from our lives the strain and stress' and concluding with 'Oh still small voice of calm'. This is a link to one version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqOnjmr9Ah0

I doubt anyone or any methodology has the complete answer, but if the Christian faith through reflection or fellowship with others can assist the door is always open.

Contributed by Andrew Cowell