1 March 2015
In St Andrew's we have just started a sermon series on the epistle of St James. Although James was writing 2000 years ago, he might easily have been writing directly to the 21st Century church. Grumbling, gossiping, lack of commitment. Very contemporary issues! Tom Wright, in the introduction his book "Early Christian Letters for everyone", writes: They are realistic in facing the dangers a Christian world around, trying to squash the church into its own ways of life and to stifle the rumour that the living God might be on the loose. And they are equally realistic in highlighting difficulties which may arise within the community itself. Last Sunday I commented that James is a bit like a Yorkshire man. Where other writers hint at difficult truths, James just comes right out and says it. James has a great deal to teach us today. I am writing this piece hoping to whet our appetites for private study, to read James for ourselves. Perhaps even to read a Christian book, like Tom Wright's, alongside the epistle. In this short piece, let us pick up on just two extracts from James chapter one.
(1) We ask "why does God allow such in such an unpleasant thing to happen to me/ someone I love?" James wrote: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. How can this be? What does it mean? Is God unmoved by our suffering? The key is to look at ourselves as parents or at our own parents:
When toddlers learn to walk, we know that they are going to fall over, bump into things and bruise themselves. Are we bad parents to encourage them to walk? Rather, we would be bad parents if we stopped them, wouldn't we?
When I was 8 years old, my parents sent me to boarding school 5,200 miles away. I have to tell you I was not happy to do so. I was nervous and homesick. But my parents also suffered. They missed me too. Nevertheless they sent me back to school in the UK because it was the only way I could I get a first class education. Good parents! God also wants us to grow up in Christian Faith and discipleship so that we will develop steadfastness and so that we may become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. As the perfect parent, He suffers as He sees us suffer. But God wants the very best for us and knows that we need to work through these experiences.
And (2) I am afraid that many of us, today's churchgoers, suffer from the 21st Century disease. Bishop Robert alerted the clergy to this problem when he said: "Today’s society regards churchgoing as a lifestyle choice. They say, “You go to church, I play golf. What's the problem?" We Christians have taken on some of that outlook as if by osmosis. We say "I did not enjoy that service." Or "I enjoyed the sermon last Sunday." But the service and the sermon are not meant to be entertainment. They are our worshipful response to God's love and sacrifice for us. They are giving God his due. They are a part of our Discipleship. James wrote: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. This amusing illustration is meant to jolt us into looking again at our approach to God’s Word; the scriptures. The picture this conjures up is of a middle aged man looking at himself in the mirror. "Aah!” he says. “That is what I look like." Then he puts the mirror down and goes away imagining that he looks like Ben Affleck. As the younger generation would say, "How sad is that?" Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
May God bless us all as we seek to grow in our love and service of Jesus Christ and His church here in Tavistock and the surrounding villages.
With every blessing,
1 November 2014
I am very pleased to introduce myself to you and I very much look forward to meeting you personally. I was educated at King Edward’s VI School, Lichfield, and for 15 years followed a career in Banking before becoming a Reader in 1987. This was a change of direction that came about gradually - there was no sudden “conversion experience”. I trained at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, and was ordained in Worcester in 1992. I subsequently obtained a BA at the Open University, and an MA in Pastoral Theology at Birmingham University in 1996, followed by a Ph.D in Theology in 2000.
My ministry began in the largely rural diocese of Worcester. I was assistant Curate in the Worcester South-East Team from 1992-1995 and also a part-time Chaplain at St.Richard’s Hospice and at RNIB New College, Worcester. In 1995, I became Rector of Ripple, Earls Croome with Hill Croome and Strensham, and in 2000 I also became Rector of Upton upon Severn and The Church of the Good Shepherd, Hook Common. The churches, and the communities which each served, were very active and mixed, and I enjoyed the predictable and unexpected challenges and demands of parochial ministry in both town and country; this included developing new patterns of lay ministry and fundraising for a significant medieval church. I was also privileged to work ecumenically as a member of the Upton upon Severn Local Ecumenical Partnership from 1999, becoming its Chairman in 2005. From 1997-2005 I was Rural Dean of Upton, and Chairman of the Worcester Diocesan House of Clergy from 2002-2005. I was appointed an Honorary Canon of Worcester Cathedral in 2003. In 2005, I moved to Cornwall to become Dean of Truro and Rector of St.Mary’s Truro where I began working with new colleagues and many different groups of people within the Cathedral and across the diocese of Truro, all of which I enjoyed.
Read more: The Very Revd Dr Chris Hardwick, Priest-in-Charge (Vicar Designate) of Tavistock, Gulworthy and...