Friday, 15 February 2019

I had a rough sea crossing the other week on a short outing from Newhaven to Dieppe. There was a gale and we were warned against going on deck. From the ferry you could see the rise and fall of the sea and smaller boats in the English Channel perilously bobbing up and down.

On board there was a gentle motion on account of the stabilisers which counter the rocking we’d otherwise have felt directly. It was a great parable of Christian faith which doesn’t take you out of troubled seas but helps you sail through them with peace passing understanding.

The same week I’d experienced a bereavement. Whilst the pain of loss was there I found it allayed by knowledge of the risen Lord, through whom we know life is changed and not ended by death. 

Jesus Christ is our stabiliser as we voyage through the stormy seas of life. His Church - the immense body it is - sails like a boat towards the eternal shore and, as the song goes, ‘with Jesus in the boat you can smile at the storm’. 

You can smile, but, as on my ferry, you still feel the sea’s movement. No boat is aloof in a storm even if its passengers benefit from those wonderful stabilisers below deck.

Like me you may be travelling now through a storm in your life. Put faith in Jesus Christ as your stabiliser and keep fellowship with others in the ferry which is his Church. You’ll one day reach harbour and be part of the rejoicing felt after a stormy voyage!

Friday, 1 February 2019

It’s a new month in a new year of tumult in our nation.

At this time the credibility of Parliamentary democracy has taken a tumble, with that of ministers, politicians and the media, leaving many bewildered not knowing who to trust.

Fear not - trust! Trust God - he is above all to be trusted!

In the tumult of an earlier age, as the Roman Empire fell apart in the 5th century, St Augustine of Hippo preached on the message of the Christmas angels in these words: ‘Fear not the coming of your God: fear not his friendship… Fear is a suffering that oppresses us. But look at the immensity of love.’

 To believe is to have the capacity to rise through natural fear into the glorious liberty of the children of God. To know you are loved, that God’s Spirit has been poured into your heart, is to connect through trust in God with the centre of the universe and see his perfect love casting out fear and its oppression over you.

In the tumult we’re living through over Brexit, believers refuse what Augustine calls ‘the suffering fear brings’ and immerse ourselves in the immensity of God’s love, wide as the ocean!

I believe this to be a month in which people who do so will become like beacons in this storm, drawing people towards ultimate security in the peace of Christ that passes understanding.

Fear not - trust! Trust God - he is above all to be trusted!

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Thursday, 31 January 2019

Premier Radio thought on St John Bosco

John Bosco who’s commemorated on 31 January is a Saint associated with mission to youth. His work with poor boys in 19th century Turin was fuelled by his own humble origins as a shepherd, his struggle to become a priest and his belief that love rather than severity was the clue to forming children up into godliness.

‘A main trick of the devil is to make people believe serving God is synonymous with a dull life’ he taught. ‘This is not true at all. I should like to teach you a method of Christian life that will make you happy and content finding joy and pleasure’. John Bosco learned how to juggle as a youth. He used that gift as a way of entertaining young people and earning the right to speak of the Lord to them.

It was prison visiting, seeing 12 to 18 year olds locked up for petty crimes, that fuelled Bosco’s resolve to make a difference to youngsters. He sought  employment for them. With his mother’s help he accommodated scores of children from whom came Christian leaders who in turn helped transform 19th century Italy.

John Bosco was a dreamer. In his early days God spoke to his passion to help the youth in a dream, words he came to live by which summarise the challenge of today’s Saint: ‘You will have to win these [young] friends of yours… with gentleness and kindness… to show them sin is ugly and virtue beautiful’.

May our engagement with young people be blessed after John Bosco’s example with holy love from above!

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Thursday, 24 January 2019

Today’s the Feast of St Thomas Aquinas who lived in the thirteenth century and was expert at putting faith into words. He saw, to quote him, how the light of ‘faith wakens us to the mystery of God’.

Those words came back to me on a stormy sea journey when at one point on our crossing of the Channel the sun broke through the storm clouds. Light streamed on the turbulent sea reflected forwards in a scene of extraordinary beauty. You couldn’t look at the sun but you could feast on a remarkable display of light reflected from the moving waters. Their threatening look was changed into a scene of immense beauty.

So, in Aquinas’s thinking, the light of faith transfigures life’s dark circumstances showing us God in the midst of it all. ‘It is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ writes Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:6.

When I feel threatened by my circumstances I put faith in God. I ask for the light of faith in him to shine and change the look of things so I can persevere and do right. By that light I see beyond what’s facing me outwardly to God’s hand outstretched to me beyond those circumstances. As Aquinas writes in a hymn: ‘faith our outward sense befriending makes the inward vision clear’.

So be it for us all!

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