Letters from the Minister

Letters from the minister, originally published as “From the Baptist Church” articles in the King’s Stanley magazine.

June 2018

It must have been quite a dream, vivid and impressive!

The ladder had seemed so real, yet the scale had been distorted. How else could it have reached up from earth to heaven? And the angels, how did he know they were angels?

They just were.

Jacob had been running away from his brother Esau who was out for revenge. Encouraged by his mother, Jacob had lied to his blind father, Isaac, to receive the blessing due to Esau as the elder son. Cheat and a liar as he was, he recognised that he was in a special place, saying, “This is the house of God, this is the gate of Heaven.”

Jacob’s story can be found in the first book of the Bible, and on one level it says something about how people have always set aside certain locations and buildings as places of worship. On another level it offers a challenge to a very human tendency to rule that certain groups, or people with certain tendencies and lifestyles, are deemed to be unworthy or unwelcome. Jacob was far from being an exemplary character, yet he was blessed by God who promised to be with him wherever he went.

In chapter four of John’s gospel there is an account of how Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well at noon, a time when she could be pretty sure of not meeting the people who would have ignored her. Jesus asks her for a drink. That surprises her. Then Jesus say something enigmatic about being able to give her “living water.”

There are various links between these two stories. One is that of a gift being offered to a seemingly undeserving character. Another is that of worship. Jacob recognises the place of worship. The Samaritan woman encounters Jesus, who is the person through whom worship is offered. He is also the one who offers a fresh start to doubtful characters, the one who, Christians believe, offers “living water” to those who worship in “spirit and truth.”

Sunday worship offers a welcome to all, a visit to the well, to the gate of heaven, into the presence of Jesus who offers that “water of life”, an “inner spring always welling up for eternal life.” Be assured of a warm welcome at the Village Hall 10.30 am on Sunday mornings.

With best wishes,

Robert Draycott (Rev)

May 2018

“People are all the same.” “Everybody is unique.”

These statements seem to be contradictory; if one is true then the other must be mistaken. If we take an “either/or” approach, then we might try to work out which statement is false. But if we take a “both/and” approach, we could appreciate the strengths of both viewpoints. The first is about what humans share and have in common while the second is about how each one of us is different from everyone else.

I had been looking forward to hearing him speak – world famous, a Nobel Laureate – at the World Youth Conference I was due to attend. But then he was assassinated on 4th April 1968. Martin Luther King had been loved by many, as a champion of human dignity in the battle against Segregation in the United States. He was hated by many others. If we pause to ask ourselves why they hated him, what answer(s) can we come up with? We can state the obvious and say, “Well, he was Black, and they were White.” In writing that, and as you read that, it doesn’t make much sense. It is an answer that doesn’t answer anything at all. It begs a whole series of further questions.

Martin Luther King held both our opening statements to be true. Humans have so much in common across barriers of race, class, gender, language, age, educational attainments, and so on. Yet each human being is unique, and as such has an intrinsic worth and dignity. Yes, there is difference when it comes to human beings, but this is to be celebrated and seen positively as an enrichment, rather than negatively as a problem to be resolved by barriers and separation.

Christian Aid week will be celebrated 13th-20th May. Poorer people have the same needs as we do for food, clean water, and shelter. This is an opportunity to give something from our plenty to help others less fortunate than ourselves. They also have an intrinsic worth and dignity which Christian Aid seeks to uphold and recognise. Meanwhile, reflecting on Martin Luther King’s legacy can challenge each of us to consider whether there are groups or categories of people whom we need to see in a different light – in an accepting and positive light. After all, as Christians, we believe that God created all humans in his image (people are all the same), and that Jesus Christ died for every single (unique) person.

God bless,

Robert Draycott (Rev)

April 2018

“It’s a joke!” “You’re joking!”

April Fool’s day works on the principle of trying to play a joke on somebody, trying to catch them out, getting them to believe something that isn’t really the case – but it might be true.

For the first time in decades, Easter Sunday falls on April Fool’s day this year. Is Easter a joke, or is it trying to get people to believe something that really isn’t the case?

For Christians, Easter Sunday is THE DAY, the day of resurrection. On the third day Jesus, who had been crucified, appeared to his followers. His tomb was empty. The stone that had sealed the tomb had been rolled away. Does this sound too good to be true? If it is true then death itself has been conquered; how so, when clearly everybody is destined to die?

One way of trying to explain this is to think back to WW2. The key event was the success of the D-day landings on 6th June 1944. Once the Allies had landed then it was just a matter of time. In less than a year, VE day was being celebrated. Christians see the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as being decisive in deciding the final victory of God and his good purposes against sin, death and evil. Is this claim a poor joke, too good to be true? Or is it in line with our sense that life is worth living and that it is worth contributing our ‘penny’s worth’ in the mopping up operations.

In Matthew’s gospel we read that on that first Easter Sunday, an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and sat on it. Was the angel tired? Or is this a joke at death’s expense? That which was meant to seal the tomb, that which symbolised the finality of death, is now useful only as a seat for one of God’s angels. The stone becomes ‘a bit of a joke’.

The question remains as to whether Christians are trying to get people to believe something that isn’t true. Yet if Jesus really did rise from the dead, then there is someone who can accompany each one of us through death itself, into life eternal in the presence of God. Who do you think will have the last laugh?

Every blessing,

Robert Draycott (Rev)