5th Sunday in Lent/ Passiontide

Post from Revd John Bridge ~ His first Sermon as Vicar at St Giles

It’s hard to believe that it only been a week that we have all been stuck at home, the children have been off school and we’ve been instructed to work at home if possible. Sometimes it seems like it has been a lot longer. ….

On this 5th Sunday of Lent, the start of Passiontide and my first Sunday as vicar, let’s pause and consider what the bible has to say about the idea of eternity and forever. In today’s gospel reading (John 11: 1-45), Jesus boldly stated to Lazarus’ sister Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will never die but shall live forever.”

The oldest living thing on our planet is an unnamed bristlecone pine from the California’s White Mountains, which is around 5,000 years old. But 5,000 years of living is not eternal life. 5,000 years old is but a speck within the eternity of time. The idea of eternity is closely associated with our concept of heaven, that heaven is somehow out of time and bound up with the eternity of God.

And if you summarize the whole Bible into one soundbite, you might quote John chapter 3 verse 16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him will not die but live forever.”

The start of Genesis (“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth”) and the book of Revelation (chapter 21 verse 1 says “then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth had passed away”) both tell us that heaven and earth began together and will be re-created together.

The gospel writers also often talk about heaven and earth passing away. So the biblical idea of heaven doesn’t seem to be permanent or everlasting. In the bible the term everlasting is used in association with God, with God’s characteristics and with God’s word, but not with heaven. In the bible heaven will pass away and be replaced by a new heaven.

If by eternity we mean something permanent and everlasting then that doesn’t seem to apply to heaven. But if we think of eternal as something which exists outside of time, then heaven may be eternal in that respect. The psalms talk about a thousand years in God’s sight being like a watch in the night. And the same way may be true of the place where God dwells in heaven.

Also, if we think of heaven as not being permanent, then this tells us something very significant about God’s love for humanity. If God created heaven and will re-create it, it must be possible for God to dwell somewhere other than heaven. One purpose of heaven then- although obviously not the only purpose- is to provide somewhere closely connected with Earth for God to dwell alongside of us.

Eventually even heaven was too far away and God came to earth in human flesh, but the creation of heaven and earth, alongside each other and at the same time, reminds that God’s desire in creation was to dwell alongside us in a realm created for that purpose.

Heaven and earth are closely bound together, created together and redeemed together. It is easy to assume that heaven is far away because it feels far away. But the biblical tradition suggests that heaven is created alongside earth, and though veiled and hidden from us, is very close to us.

The Bible tries to convince us that the plan, the vision and destiny of God is for us to believe in Christ and live and love forever, beginning now, today, this moment and for all eternity.

God wants to give us eternal life…now. Not when we die. Not in the future. Not at the end of our lives, but now.

The word for “eternal life” is found around 400 times in the Bible, and these words express the very essence of God: that God is forever, that God’s love is forever, that the Lord God rules forever and ever, that God lives forever. And those who are known by God, which is of course everyone, shall also live and be loved by God forever.

Forever describes the very core essence of God, and therefore the very core of God’s plan for us today and in the future. Our rational minds might try to tell us that death is death, and that is the end, that loved ones who have died are gone forever. But the bible tells us otherwise, that there is no cut off in our relationship with God. To be alive with God is to know God forever, beginning on this day and for eternity. Every sunset has been turned into a sunrise.

Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote; “In life after Easter, death becomes a laughable impossibility.”
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die but shall live forever.”

I will be putting some more material online over the next two weeks, if there is anything you would particularly appreciate (sermons, prayers, online worship) then do let me know- it will be very different celebrating Easter this year, but celebrate we must!

In the meantime, here is the Collect for today:

Gracious Father,
you gave up your Son
out of love for the world:
lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion,
that we may know eternal peace
through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thank you Lord for friends

Well it has been a long week in the life of St Giles.

Last Sunday was the first Mothering Sunday I can recall within 50 years with no posies made to bless and hand out, as public worship services were suspended across the U.K. At 7pm, our Church family responded wholeheartedly to a call to place a lighted candle in the window and say a prayer for all in these troubled times of Coronavirus.

Our St Giles family answered the call.

Then a WhatsApp group was set up, and St Giles family answered the call again, reporting in on those people with no internet, a week of loving phone calls, text messages began.

Like the Gospel, love can never be kept in chains.

Then, on Thursday Evening, Revd John Bridge signed the document in front of a video camera in a study at home, in the online presence of Bishop Anne and Archdeacon Jenny, and Parish Representatives Yvonne and Ken.

Not the wonderful Service planned, and sadly no cake…

But this for us was a call for Joy unrestrained, thanks, and praise….

Thanks be to God”

Wonderful things happen. In darkness candles are lit, and shine brightly, in our weakness Christ’s strength is made perfect.

So welcome John Bridge, looking forward to seeing a post or two from you here, but already you are making a difference. This week more pages have been added in the History of the Church on the Hill (from 1199 A.D a church has stood on the spot)

The peace of the Lord be with us all.

Thanks be to God.

And thanks be to our wonderful Church Family and Friends in Rowley and beyond, let us all rejoice, having complete confidence in each other and the Lord, who abides with us still.

Be still, for the glory of the Lord

Be still for the glory of the Lord

Is shining all around;

He burns with holy fire,

With splendour he is crowned,

How awesome is the sight,

Our radiant King of Light!

Be still, for the glory of the Lord

Is shining all around

Picture of Annunciation by Maurice Dennis

Our God, the God of All Glory is most wonderfully courteous. Julian of Norwich calls Him our Courteous Lord in her wonderful writings, Revelations of Divine Love. In this beautiful painting we see an Archangel no less on his knees addressing a humble, lowly person – a person like myself, like you.

The 2nd verse of one of our favourite hymns, advises us to be still, for the glory of the Lord is shining all around. As I write, the sun is streaming through my window, it faces east, some mornings I watch the sun rise, spreading out its coat of many colours. This morning through the same window I see fresh new green appearing on trees.

Every new day the Sun, the sky, are announcing, the fresh new shoots and nest building birds are announcing like angels that the Lord of Life is here, with me, with you. Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus, the Alpha and Omega

An Archangel kneels before Mary bringing a Revelation of God’s Divine Love.

If I could be an angel and messenger of God’s love to you, to all my friends, to the Church in Rowley. What would it be?

I think it would be,

Be still, the Lord of Glory is reaching out in love for you!

Two Good Friends and The Presence

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing He makes me lie down in green pastures He leads me besides quiet waters, He refreshes my soul He guides me …

Two Good Friends and The Presence

Today is the feast of the Annunciation and we are reminded that by the message of an angel and by the little word, yes the Lord Jesus is received into our hearts, minds, lives, the world.

Please click on the link above and read the full post on Fresh Whispers.

May the Lord keep us all wrapped around in His love and peace at this unsettled time. Just as seeds are best sown in still, calm weather, so is the Word of God in our hearts and spirits

For with God nothing is impossible

When we were younger, oh so much younger than today, in my own case, it was often said;

It never rains, but it pours.

That you can’t have sunshine without rain.

We also used to sing “I’m just counting flowers in the rain”

Some have that happy ability to stand in a downpour, soaking to the skin and yet still feel the power of the rain making the garden grow. Others do not

In the present Coronavirus troubles, some will be content with self isolation and restricted movements, filling up the time, working from home, keeping busy, catching up on stuff .. they had no time for before.

Others, mostly, those who already had a great sense of enforced isolation, those who live alone, and who cannot get out and about due to age or disability, will find themselves feeling lonelier, more isolated than before, as their once a week clubs are temporarily shut down

Please, please find time to give someone you know a phone call, and if you find yourself alone,please pick up your phone and ring a friend.

Our thoughts and prayers are with them and also with those who are self isolating, some will be worried.. how will their bills be met, and daily bread earned.

Prayer is not a worthless exercise. All who pray regularly know that in prayer we find that we do have a friend, one who sticks closer than a brother. Many, many, clever, brilliant minds, many hosts of human beings and agencies are coming together to beat this.. our prayers are needed like an umbrella on a very rainy day to cover them with the protection of God… our prayers are needed to hasten the departure of this wicked virus. All things are possible with God ~ the angels assure us of that.

Many Christians are linking Covid19, the fires in Australia and the U.S.A. Storms and floods in many parts of the world with the prophecies written in Revelation, the End Times and the Judgement to come … when that may be is not revealed, only that it will be, and that if we are doing what is right we must continue to do that and the holy person must continue to be holy. All will be judged, none can escape that……

But our God, our Father, won’t close the door of opportunity until the very last moment, so there is time for more prayers, more blessings, more sunshine, more flowers, more friendships and for those who seek Him, know the blessed assurance of an Eternal life that is far more beautiful and blessed than the one we know now.

So amid the conflict, whether great or small

Do not be disheartened God is over all

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,

Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end

Image: Twitter origin unknown

Scripture: Revelation 22.12

Songs: Recalled from when I walking in the rain without an umbrella was a pleasure (my teenage years)

Count your Blessings written by Rev. J, Oatman Jr and E.O.Excell

My greatest blessing: knowing my God and Father in our Lord Jesus Christ

My next greatest blessings: all of you, my friends and loved ones

Coming Soon

Reverend John Bridge, Siobhan and Bradley

Well, the waiting is nearly over.

On The Evening of 26th March at 7:30pm, John will be Instituted by the Rt. Revd. Anne Hollinghurst, Bishop of Aston and Inducted by The Venerable Jenny Tomlinson, Archdeacon of Birmingham as Vicar of Rowley

John continues a very long line of Vicars of Rowley, and we are so happy about this that Rowley’s 8 Bells will peal out a welcome and Rowley’s ladies are planning a feast. There may be just room to squash a few more in to witness John taking his Oaths, and receiving the Key of the door and then as befits the Vicar of Rowley ring the Tenor Bell on the 26th.

A little about John

John was born in Plymouth, but most of his childhood was spent in Bognor Regis. He had various jobs in retail management, before being called to the Ministry, after Ordination John served his curacy at All Saints , Four Oaks (Sutton Coldfield) and then, at Emmanuel, Wylde Green (still Sutton Coldfield) for 6 years

He is married to Siobhan, who is also a vicar, and they have a 13 year old son, Bradley, plus a 16 month old Labrador, three cats, two chickens and a hamster!

Rosy the Churchyard Mouse just squeaked at the mention of 3 cats. But is quite looking forward to the 26th and Sunday the 29th March ~

John celebrates his Communion and preaches his first Sermon as Rowley’s Vicar at 10:15am on the 29th March when we will be joined by our friends the Congregations of St Paul’s, Blackheath and St James, Rounds Green. Join us for this Service, when there will be more time for Rowley folk to meet their new Vicar. A Vicar who is not just coming for us, regular Sunday Pew Fillers but for everyone in Rowley.

No wonder Rosy and Fred Mouse are excited,

Just think of the cake! Really these Mice’s favourite meditation focus is cake! Their little bright jewel eyes are just glowing right now. Cake it’s just the thought…..

Ahem!

No wonder Student Voice, over at St Michael’s School are getting prepared….

Rowley, please get excited with us.

Come and meet your New Vicar …

Arrows And Prayer

Dorothy, my neighbour, loved her church, better than that she knew and loved our Saviour. Flower arranging, Church Mission Society, generous giver and doer, she left behind many happy memories, BUT, I am fully persuaded that Dorothy is still an active member of Christ’s Church, she cheers us on amongst the great cloud of witnesses we read about in Hebrews 12;1

Here it is

Therefore since w are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Now, unlike our Reverend Barrie Roberts (he has scores of medals) – Dorothy Hinton (nee Ingram) was no runner: she was however, a World Class Medal Winning Archer.

Dorothy never boasted.

In her field she had much to boast about but Dorothy never did.

In her quiet, unassuming way… Dorothy’s great boast was the Saviour who died for us on the cross, His crown of thorns, Dorothy confessed was worn for us that we might win the Crown of Eternal Life.

It takes strength, skill and a good eye, even with today’s modern sporting bows to draw back a bow, aim and hit the target.

Just so in our walk with Christ. If we are going to follow the example of St Paul and,

Forget what is behind us and strain forward towards what lies ahead, press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenwards in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3. 13-14) then we need:

The strength of Christ (through Him, we can do all things)

Skill, (the wisdom we find in the Scriptures)

A good eye …that is a generous eye which sees the needs of others and prompt us to come to their aid (see Matthew 6; 19-24)


As we draw near to Ash Wednesday and Lent, perhaps it would serve God’s good purpose if we prayerfully seek the Strength which Jesus gives for our help, and take up our Bible and read a small portion everyday. I saw a tweet, which asked whether like the enquirer other people stocked up with reading materials for Lent well in advance, some I know do that … but there are very many others who will not have that much time, especially if occupied with taking care of families, children or those who are sick…but a little, (just a verse or two) can go a long way to build us up, just as a little food is of great benefit to an invalid

A generous eye? Well whatever we do for others, the Lord will repay.

Our God is no one’s debtor.