The Rectory Bulletin
Easter

The Legend of Jesus

Wed 31st Mar 2021

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive (1 Corinthains 15:6) - A popular theory about Christianity is that the whole thing is rather a mistake! Yes, Jesus was a great teacher but he was no messiah, let alone God. The truth is that we have very early written evidence for the claims of Christianity, evidence backed up by the names of eyewitnesses. The claim that this is all a later legend simply does not hold water.

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Easter

"Spiritual" Resurrection

Tue 30th Mar 2021

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. (John 21:12) - In the 1980s there was a great furore surrounding David Jenkins, one time Bishop in the Church of England. One of his statements which attracted attention was that the resurrection was “spiritual rather than physical”. He remains a force within the world, a force which is distinctively “Jesus”, but the physical resurrection is denied. And then we come back to the tricky issue of the empty tomb. Why would a spiritual resurrection result in the body disappearing? No, this theory may fit in with modern ideas which seek to deny any supernaturalism but it doesn’t fit with the evidence of the New Testament.

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Easter

Mass Hallucination

Mon 29th Mar 2021

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3–8) - It is hard to square this view with the facts on the ground. The disciples were not expecting a resurrection and Mary Magdalene, for instance, failed to recognise Jesus when he stood by her. It is hard to think that Thomas, skeptical as he was, would share in this delusion. It is harder still to believe that Paul, when he was determined to wipe out the earliest church, would have had a vision of Christ which can be put down to wishful thinking.

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Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Sun 28th Mar 2021

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9) - As Jesus enters Jerusalem, the crowd see the wrong sort of king. They are concerned with the kingdom of David and he with the kingdom of God. How often we limit our horizons to the physical! How saturated out consumer culture is with ‘stuff’! The joy of the Christian is to have his or her gaze fixed on a far horizon, and to have a sure destination. Don’t share in the mistake of the Jerusalem crowd. Let the kingdom of God be your goal, and you will not be disappointed.

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Easter

The Misplaced Body

Sat 27th Mar 2021

“They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).” (John 20:13–16) - This body of soldiers was placed at the tomb on Good Friday with the express commandments to guard Jesus’s body. For the misplaced body theory to be credible, we have to believe that the two Marys both forgot where their beloved Jesus was buried, and that the Temple Guard managed to guard the wrong tomb. No, the misplaced body theory does not work.

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Easter

The Stolen Body

Fri 26th Mar 2021

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” (Matthew 28:11–14) - There was a guard of Roman soldiers placed at the tomb and the tomb itself was sealed by a large stone. It is not credible to believe that the disciples either crept past the guard and rolled back the stone without being noticed, or that they could have overpowered the guard.

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Easter

The Swoon Theory

Thu 25th Mar 2021

“And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:50–53) - As we continue to look at the theories which seek to disprove the resurrection, we come to one which is quite common: Jesus did not actually die on cross, but simply fell into coma and later recovered in the tomb. Given the flogging, the crucifixion itself and the thrusting of a spear into Jesus side it is simply not feasible that he would have survived. The Roman soldiers were professional executioners.

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Easter

The Twin or the Lookalike

Wed 24th Mar 2021

“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”” (John 20:27–28) - As early as the third century we find claims that another was crucified in Jesus’ place. Others have speculated that Jesus had a twin, or that a lookalike was mistakenly crucified in Jesus’s place. However, if a lookalike was crucified and laid in the tomb, then why wasn’t he there on Easter morning?

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Church History

The Resurrection

Tue 23rd Mar 2021

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:13) - Christianity is unique in that it insists upon historical, witnessed events as proof of its teachings. It presents us with a figure whose teaching was heard by thousands, and whose claims were recorded by the four gospel writers. Jesus is mentioned in many Roman sources outside of Christianity and his existence is not in doubt.

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Where is your Heart?

Mon 22nd Mar 2021

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2) - The timescale of Christianity is eternal, and its scope is cosmic. Rather than simply dealing with the present, it puts today into the context of eternity. It raises us up so as to give a better perspective and a broader view. The chapter of our life is set into a larger book, and as a result takes on a richer meaning.

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Sundays

The Order of Melchizedek

Sun 21st Mar 2021

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him. “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:5-6) - If God is sovereign, then you are not. If God is a creator, then you are a creature. If God is infinite, then you are finite. He creates life, and your entire life is heading towards death. He is limitless, and you are limited. He is all-knowing, and your knowledge is small indeed. That is what is at the heart of the fear of God. It is that a great God makes us feel small indeed.

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“And I Did Not Know It”

Sat 20th Mar 2021

“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16) - You are never beyond his gaze and his guiding hand. Your prayers are never so distant that they don’t reach the ears of God, his concern is not bounded by geography. Remember that the Lord is where you are right now. And let that be a comfort.

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Hymn Stories

Before the Ending of the Day

Fri 19th Mar 2021

Before the ending of the day, Creator of the world, we pray, that with thy wonted favour thou, wouldst be our guard and keeper now - Ambrose of Milan (340-397) is one of those greats of the church who makes you long for days of steadfastness, intellect and purpose. He was a defender of the faith, who spent many years battling those who denied the full divinity of Christ. When made bishop, he lived a life of simplicity and gave his money to the poor. The hymn, which takes the form of a prayer, asks for God’s protection through the night - a protection of both body and soul - before finishing with a verse calling upon the Trinity

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Holy Musing

Thu 18th Mar 2021

“My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned…” (Psalm 39:3) - One of the great losses of our increasingly instant and distracted culture is the gift of musing. How many hours of musing have been sacrificed to scrolling on Facebook, or have been lost as the phone rings, the email pings and the doorbell tings? These days musing has had to become an art form, something which is repackaged and sold to us under the brand of Mindfulness. These days it seems that only men of a certain age lean on a gate and stare.

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The Prayer of the Morning

Wed 17th Mar 2021

“O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch” (Psalm 5:3) - Over time a rich pattern of prayer formed within the monasteries, but it would be foolish to think that regular daily prayer is simply the preserve of the monk or nun. When Cranmer put together the Book of Common prayer it was his intention that all in the parish would join in raising voices of praise twice a day. As Spurgeon put it: “The morning is the gate of the day, and should be well guarded with prayer. It is one end of the thread on which the day’s actions are strung, and should be well knotted with devotion”.

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Church History

St Julian of Cilicia

Tue 16th Mar 2021

“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4) - Born in Cilicia (southern Turkey) in the second half of the third century, Julian was a man of rank. His father was a senator, and his mother - crucially - was a Christian. When he reached eighteen a great persecution of Christians broke out under Emperor Diocletian who ruled from 284-305. Julian soon found himself in the hands of Marcian, who proved to be a brutal magistrate and wanted to break the young man’s resolve.

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The Little Things

Mon 15th Mar 2021

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10) - It is the way of God to begin great works from small beginnings. Daylight begins tentatively, and the small buds appear on the trees. The oak hides in the small acorn, and the lofty pine has its cone.

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Sundays

What is the Love of God?

Sun 14th Mar 2021

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17) - For here is the love of God: Jesus comes alongside us in our danger. Here is the love of God: an action and not simply an emotion. This is the way in which God loved the word. He sent his only son. We face death, and Jesus comes to offer us a way to life.

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The Tyranny of Tomorrow

Sat 13th Mar 2021

“yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.“ (James 4:14) - When worry nags, turn your concerns to prayer. Seek good things not by effort, but by following God’s commands. In the end, only God knows what will happen tomorrow, and if we trust in a God who loves us surely we can trust him with our futures. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5)

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Hymn Story

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Fri 12th Mar 2021

In 1824, Aberdeen (which I am told is the sunniest city in Scotland) witnessed the birth of one Walter Chalmers Smith. A great figure in the church, he was famed more widely for his poetry. Unsurprisingly his love of poetry lead him to write hymns, and today’s is a meditation on the glorious nature of God. His starting point is a wise one: we must acknowledge that God is beyond our knowledge. Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes, Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

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“They had been with Jesus”

Thu 11th Mar 2021

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognised that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13) - They may have been uneducated, common men but they had been marked by their presence with Christ. The history of the church is littered with such men and women, people whose lives have been transformed by being with Jesus. Being with Jesus in prayer, in the reading of scripture and in worship. This is the engine which drives the church.

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Christ-ians.

Wed 10th Mar 2021

“The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26) - Here, then, is a challenging thought: if you moved into a new village, and no-one knew you or your background, would they come to the same conclusion? Would you be more noted for being a follower of Christ, than someone who has (or had) a particular job or a distinct hobby. Would you be nicknamed “Christian” because it is clear that he is the central guide and impulse of your life?

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Church History

Gregory of Nyssa

Tue 09th Mar 2021

“Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” (Acts 16:30–34) - On this day in AD395 Gregory of Nyssa breathed his last, aged around sixty. He was the son of aristocratic, Christian parents and his father’s mother was venerated as a saint: St Macrina the Elder. His mother’s mother had been martyred for her faith by the Romans.

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Fishing in the Sea of Galilee

Mon 08th Mar 2021

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.” (Matthew 13:47–48) - There was money to be made from fishing, but it was hard-earned. The work was heavy, difficult and tiring. It took time and preparation. When Jesus promised the disciples they would be fishers of men, he didn’t have in mind a pleasant day casting a line into the Wye. This was work.

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Sundays

We Preach Christ Crucified

Sun 07th Mar 2021

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19) - May I beg you to put the cross back into its rightful place. Will you place the cross at the centre of all that you do and believe? Because the cross is where you were put right with God. The cross is where you find comfort and strength.

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To Work and to Will

Sat 06th Mar 2021

“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12–13) - This should be a great encouragement. God produces within us all that we need. It should also be a prompt to prayer.

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Hymn Story

And Can it Be?

Fri 05th Mar 2021

And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour's blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! how can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? - “At midnight I gave myself up to Christ: assured I was safe, sleeping or waking. Had continued experience of his power to overcome all temptations; and confessed, with joy and surprise, that he was able to do exceedingly abundantly for me, above what I can ask or think.” As you read the words of the hymn, you can sense the wondering joy of Wesley and he contemplates what Christ has done, and the liberation this brings.

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Those who wait…

Thu 04th Mar 2021

“Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 49:23) - As life speeds up, patience withers. Time becomes something that we “spend”, and we hanker after results which are instant. Yet eternity has a way of putting things into perspective. The economy of God is founded on patience. And waiting. He acts in his own good time, and the wise person is one who waits for that good time. Patience is an engine of faith, and the accomplice of wisdom. Waiting is deeply counter-cultural, but God has his own timing. We would do well to fall in step.

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Shine Bright!

Wed 03rd Mar 2021

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14) - Whatever the weather the light would flash around the room, starting on one wall and quickly racing across to the other side. The lighthouse (or was it a lightship?) was sending out its silent warning. You could screw up your eyes, but still it pulsed. Oh that our Christian conduct would shine so bright! The city on the hill can be seen for miles around, as it light twinkles on the horizon. “In the same way” urges Jesus “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

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Church History

Henry Venn

Tue 02nd Mar 2021

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4) - On the 2nd March 1725, one Henry Venn was born in the Surrey town of Barnes. As a son, nephew, grandson, great-grandson and great-grandson of Anglican clergy his future looked pretty pre-determined.

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Places in the Bible

The Sea of Galilee

Mon 01st Mar 2021

“but in the latter time [God] has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations … The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone …. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:1, 2, 6) - In ancient times, the sea was known by a number of names. In the New Testament you might find it referred to as the Sea of Chinnereth, Sea of Gennesaret or even the Sea of Tiberias. Many of the early disciples made their living on the sea, and next week we’ll look at the life of the fisherman. For now, we’ll simply note that centuries before Christ this area was earmaked for great things.

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