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A very different Easter

The empty tomb

Three years ago, my wife Anna and I celebrated Easter somewhere very different.

On Easter Day, we attended a sunrise service on the banks of the Chobe River in Botswana, just over the border from Namibia. It was a mix of traditional hymns and African singing, local people mingling with elderly British ex-pats, with the sermon preached by a visiting, evangelical American pastor. Despite the location, the sun was concealed behind grey cloud, which made us feel strangely at home, as did the hot cross buns and miniature Easter eggs that were handed out after the service!

I thought then about how different it was from the villages where we worship week after week: different – and yet, essentially the same, with people gathering to witness their faith and celebrate the most extraordinary event in recorded history. This is the story that has spread to the farthest reaches of every continent; the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the implications that these events have for how we live, how we treat each other and for our relationship with God.

Three years on, this Easter is very different again: but this time, it’s unlike any other – no gatherings in churches anywhere this weekend, but services held only online, along with TV recordings made in previous years. Yet despite the challenges of the uncertain times we are living in, the key messages of Easter remain undiminished – the two central propositions of the Christian faith.

·      Firstly, that Jesus was not just another radical who challenged the authorities and became difficult, but that it was God himself who had entered His creation in the person of Jesus Christ. This is not a God who is remote and unknowable, but a God who, in that human incarnation, lived what we would recognise as a normal life for 30-plus years and then suffered the very worst that any of us could experience – torture and violent death. If the story ended with that violent death, then it would indeed all make little sense. But of course, that is not where the story ends.

·     The second central claim of the Easter story and the Christian faith is that Jesus then rose physically from the tomb: that on that first Easter morning and on some ten subsequent occasions was witnessed walking, talking and even eating with the disciples and others. Death had truly been overcome – it was a very real and tangible demonstration that death was not the end.

Without the resurrection, nothing about Christianity makes sense. If it’s not true, then nothing matters. But if you accept the Resurrection, then you see everything from a quite different viewpoint: it changes everything. I have been re-reading Rowan Williams’ thoughts on the Easter story recently. Sometimes, he cuts through the difficulties with an extraordinary clarity – no less than when he observed that “all Christian theology is essentially reflection on Easter”. For at Easter we realise that although Jesus’ crucifixion seemed to mean that the whole purpose of His life and mission had been defeated, the resurrection then demonstrated victory, over both the worst that humans can do to each other and over the apparent finality of death. The impact of this is immense – as are the implications for the life that it challenges us to lead.

We have seen in these last three weeks how people of all faiths or none are responding to the challenge that Christians recognise in the commandment to “love your neighbour as yourself”: the immense generosity of spirit demonstrated by so many acts of kindness and selflessness all over the country.  That is truly something to celebrate this Easter. For, in Rowan Williams’ words, this is a time when we can “simply ask for whatever healing it is that you need, whatever grace and hope you need … then step towards your neighbour. Easter reveals a God who is ready to give you that grace and to walk with you.”

May we all receive and celebrate that grace this Easter; and may it sustain us as we await the better times that will surely lie ahead. Amen.

Good Friday

When writing my PhD many years ago, I came across a sentence from Prof. Dr. Carl Braaten on whom I did my research, describing in a few words the heart of the message of Good Friday and Easter. Braaten wrote: Without the light of the Easter morning the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth would probably have remained eclipsed forever by the blackout on Friday noon. The blackout of Friday noon is of course the moment on which Jesus Christ died on the cross.  

There are many theories about the question of what is the real purpose of the death of Christ? Some of those theories are varied with some mutually compatible, when others are very complex, but each of those theories offer a different interpretations on the death of Christ. In this jungle of different theories and theologies about why Jesus had to die on the cross, all of these are perhaps encompassed in the words of the former Archbishop of Canterbury during WWII, William Temple, who once wrote: Nothing can achieve a power at all comparable to that of the love of God unveiled in Jesus Christ, and above all in His death. There, we see what sin mean to God and how He bears it. And as we see we are won out of our selfishness to a love which answers His.  

As Braaten showed in his sentence, without the message of Easter the ministry of Jesus Christ would perhaps never even been mentioned in the history books and no one would have ever heard about Him. He then would have been like one of the many advocates for liberation from oppressing powers, or one of the freedom fighters, but without using weaponry.  Easter is only within a few days, but now at Good Friday we should already look ahead to what happened on that day. Without Easter, Good Friday can be nothing more than a day of mourning or remembrance. But, with Easter in view, the meaning of Good Friday becomes a day of looking forward to a glorious day, even when it feels a day of sobriety and sadness.  


Maundy Thursday

A few years ago, one of our church members, showed me a small leather purse with some new coins in it.  It was Maundy Money, presented to her by the queen at a special ceremony in one of the Cathedrals. 

The word Maundy derives from the Latin Mandatum, which means command and it refers to the command Jesus gave His disciples to love another as recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter 13, verse 34.   Queens Maundy Money, as it is officially called, are coins which are legal tender but do not circulate because of their silver content and numismatic value. The first Royal Maundy money ceremony took place in the reign of Charles II, when the king gave people undated hammered coins in 1662. The coins were a four penny, three penny, two penny and one penny piece.  

Today, those who receive Royal Maundy Money, are men and women in the older age bracket, who are chosen because of their Christian service they have given to the Church and to the community. The ceremony takes place once a year at Maundy Thursday and there are as many recipients as there are years in the sovereign’s age. At the ceremony, the queen gives each recipient two small leather string purses. A red purse contains ordinary coins, while a white one contains the silver Maundy coins, amounting to the same number of pence as the queen’s age.   

The ceremony is a symbol of the queen her role to serve the people and is based on the command Jesus gave to His disciples to love another. Jesus not only gave this command, but He also showed them what He meant by washing the feet of His disciples.  The ritual of washing feet before dinner was normal in those days, like washing hands before going to eat, but it was performed by one of the servants in the household and certainly not by the host. Jesus however turned this upside down and instead washed the feet of those whom He had invited by Himself. In doing so, Jesus could rightly say; love another....as I have loved you.

There should be no servant/master relationship between those who put their trust in Christ and Jesus gave the example by washing the disciples feet. A Maundy Service in church would have reminded us of this practice and of its symbolic significance. Bill organises this service every year and instead of washing each others feet, we share food prepared by each participant to share with each other before we finish with a short service.  

Because this year we’re not allowed to have service in Church, Bill has made a service for us to be watched as a video on Youtube, via the website, via Facebook, or directly on Youtube. The service reminds us all, that as a church we’re serving each other and there is no relationship like master or servant, but we should all be caring for each other as one. 

Thoughts from isolation
Hans has asked me to share a message that I sent to members of the church in Lovell last weekend.   What a strange few weeks these have been! My wife and I are in isolation like so many others. In our case this would have likely happened anyway because Barbara has an unrelated medical condition that increases the need for personal care.   On the positive side, the garden has never been in such good order. On the negative, I miss just being able to pop out to the garden centre to browse and let's be honest, just indulge in the odd plant or three.   I have been asked how people may continue to support the church. Financially this can be done by sending your gifts to  - Lillingstone Lovell PCC - sort code 20-57-40 Account 40021792. Sadly the bills don’t just stop even in these circumstances.   Should you need support or just a friendly voice then you can contact me or the church office on 01280814430 and someone will get back to you. But do follow the advice to stay home unless absolutely necessary.   Our church building like all religious buildings is shut, as they are for all faiths. I think this is unfortunate. I understand no gatherings of more than two people and that therefor our services must be cancelled. But many find solace and mental strength from being able to use the church just as a place of quiet contemplation and many more a necessary place; a place to commune with God Our Father. For me this is the first time for more than 40 years that I have not gone to a church building on Sunday without a specific reason .I am finding that very strange. When working it was a way to switch off from the day to day pressures. Since retiring it has got me out of the house and able to meet and talk to a group of people I like to think of as like minded friends.    However the Diocese is broadcasting a service every Sunday morning at 10.00am. The link is https://www.oxford.anglican.org/coronavirus-covid-19/livestream/. If that doesn’t workout go to the the Diocesan of Oford web site and use the Directory or try  oxford.anglican.org/livestream

In our own Parish we are developing a new Parish web site. The link for that is http://nbpchurches.org.uk/ On this you will find an increasing volume of news and other information. This months Parish Magazine is on there for you to enjoy.

  Last Sunday I was due to preach at the Deanery Lent Evensong. The theme for the series was christian care. In our communion service within the prayers of penitence we are reminded to “ Love your neighbour as yourself”. All around us we see examples of the vast majority of our community working together for others. Whether it by a phone call to someone who might be isolated or collecting some shopping. It has been good to see how people are acknowledging each other and showing courtesy to each other. Long may that continue. Let us shut out the actions of idiots and those in the press who always look for the negative in every situation. Let's be encouraged that the vast majority are working - together - for the common good - truly following the principles of Love your neighbour as yourself.   One of the set Gospel readings for this recent Sunday, Palm Sunday, on, and the Death of Jesus. But it ends with the Centurion and those who were with him proclaiming “Surely he was the Son of God”.   In this difficult time let us as christians never forget the sure and certain knowledge that he is The Son of God. That he will watch over us and will lead us out of our current troubles if we will believe and have trust in him.   May the Lord Jesus watch over you and your families and keep you well and safe.   Every blessing. May we all meet again soon when times are better.   Ian
Parish letter

All Buckingham households in our Parish will receive a letter about what the church can do for those living in our parish, beginning Tuesday 7 April. Those living in Maids Moreton already received a letter from the parish and church council together. We already received quite a few phonecalls (up to 4 a day) from those living in the parish requesting some support in shopping's or collecting prescriptions, or other inquiries. The letter (here underneath) to all Buckingham housholds explains it further.



Dear Reader,

As the situation around the Corona Covid-19 outbreak appears to continue with restrictions about our moving around, we want to inform you about the support your Parish church at Maids Moreton can give you.

The office in St. Edmunds church functions as a community hub for dealing with requests for help and support where ever needed, for example, we can help with shopping or collecting prescriptions. 

Also, if you are feeling isolated and would like someone to talk to we would be happy to listen.

The office cannot be open as per directive by the Authorities, but you can leave a message on the answer-phone by calling (01280) 814430 in the office or send an email request to the address given on our Facebook account, or to the email address on our new website at www.nbpchurches.org.uk

Several times per day we will listen to messages left on the answer phone and we will call you back, or reply to your email at the earliest opportunity.

We will always do our best to help, but if we are unable to because of Governmental guidance or because we’re not in a position to support you, we will forward your request to other organisations who may be in a position to help.

For any other information about what your Parish church can offer you, please have a look at our website: www.nbpchurches.org.uk.

If we can be of any help you, pease do not hesitate to ask us.

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, 590 MP.

Wow! I've made it.

I was reading this hymn earlier this week, when at last I had decided even I had to lockdown, and it lead me to know the only place to look, in this mess we find ourselves in, was to God. The second verse says: "Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Psalm 121 says:" I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth." Yes I have questions, why is this happening? looking for reasons etc, and yes, God encourages us to ask and seek. Although my questions and looking for reasons have not clearly been answered, I have found comfort and confidence in what I have read to know God is aware and remains the maker and redeemer of heaven and earth. Can I encourage you also to: first, seek the Kingdom of God, second, to read His word and third pray.

Cast all your care upon Christ our Redeemer, and trust in His promise to be by your side.

His love will uphold you, His arms will enfold you, let Him be your Saviour, your shepherd and guide.

Fret not nor fear, for whatever befalls you, remember for love of you Jesus was slain.

In dying for us, He shared our human sorrow and bore on His shoulders the weight of your pain.

Though life be fraught with all maner of sorrows the stresses and strains that beset us each day.

Be firm in your faith for the Lord will be with you, and be by your side as your strength and your stay.

( Rev John Davey, Nottingham City Mothers' Union Branch,uk )


Sermon 29 March 2020

When we celebrate a communing service we do not focus on the last supper Jesus took with His disciples as a sacrament, but as a meal He shared with His friends. 

Being now in the season of Lent, it is the time to look to Jesus Christ and what he means, or want to mean, to each one of us.


Therefore, today we take a closer look how Jesus developed the relationship with His disciples as friends in the first place, and not as His worshippers or His servants.

Because Jesus calls all who want to believe in Him His friends, He opened the way of being in communion with Him.

And being in communion with Jesus Christ makes us part of God’s family.

Jesus Christ’s  offers for friendship is not only to a select group or chosen ones, but to everybody and we're all invited to be part of God's family.


At our Bible reading we looked to this theme of friendship and how Jesus was in communion with His friends when they were having a meal together.

In the gospel of Luke it says that Jesus eagerly desired to have this meal with His friends, so it really meant a lot to Him. And it was at this meal He had with His friends where He called them His friends.

And later on during a prayer at the table with His friends, Jesus prayed not only for His friends now at the table, but for every body else who wants to believe or trust in Jesus Christ.


We will look to 2 aspects of this friendship and the first is about how it opened up a relationship between God and us and secondly how it affects the relationship with each other.


First the relationship between God and us.

In :13 Jesus says that no one has greater love than laying down his life for his friends and in :15 that He has made known to His friends all He heard from God.

So, what is the love of Jesus?

For a better understanding of this love, we have to look first to the OT. Jesus spoke very often in reference to the OT. 

In Psalm 117 for example it says; great is God’s steadfast love towards us. 

The Hebrew word used here for love is a more a concept than only a word. Because it bears different meanings, but all with a common idea or expression. 

This type of love includes the active and social nature of God's kindness. Everything what God calls love focusses on what He does for His people, in past present and future, and in the life of the individual.

God's love promises life, care and preservation. 

His love is characterised by permanence, constancy and reliability. Therefore, God is a faithful God, Who will not fail His love for those who build their trust on Him.

The embodiment of this love is in Jesus Christ. When Jesus speaks about love, He has in mind that type of love God has for His people.  

When Jesus speaks about the love He has for His friends, as in the gospel of John, it is in reference to this steadfast love of God. 

This steadfast love of God is transferred to each one of through the ministry of Jesus Christ. And because Jesus was One of us, this steadfast love of God has become accessible for each one of us.

Secondly, we look at how we express this friendship between ourselves. Over the last few weeks we’ve heard many times the catch-phrase ‘we’re in it together’. 

We can see it in the support we give to our healthcare workers and in everybody else who keeps working for the common good. Times of need appear to lead us to unify and in times like we’re in today, we need each other’s friendship more than ever. 

The writer C.S. Lewis once said; Friendship is not necessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.


In :12 of our reading Jesus said; This is My commandment that you love another as I have loved you.

These words becomes once the more important in times like these, when we are obliged to stay together in the same house, or perhaps remain solitarily in our own homes. 

This might be one of the easiest times, but we can put strength from the words of Christ that He will remain our friend, because He wants to remain close to us as a good Friend. Even when we don’t see or meet each other, His friendship remains and is for each one of us, when we let Him to.


March 26th 2020, the Lost Sheep

Hello, I’m Cathy Pearce and I live and worship in the Parish of North Buckingham where I’m training for ordination. I’m very excited to be writing my first ever blog- thank you for reading it .During this time of lockdown and self isolation many of us may be feeling lonely, isolated or anxious, and this has made me think of the “Lost Sheep” When Jesus was alive he told stories known as parables, to teach people important messages about God and one such story was the Parable of the lost sheep. In the fields around the villages in North Buckingham there are many sheep and lambs in the fields at the moment, and the story Jesus told was of a farmer looking after 100 sheep. But at the end of the day this farmer could only count 99 sheep - one was missing! The farmer in the story leaves the 99 safely together and searches high and low for this lost sheep, he doesn’t stop searching until the sheep is found.Then, with joy and delight the farmer lifts the sheep onto his shoulders and carries it home. What a wonderful picture of God’s love. No one is forgotten by God, He cares for 100%, 99 out of 100 is not enough for him! So, if you are feeling isolated or anxious please know that God cares and that He loves YOU. It has been said that “ to hear the whisper of God you must turn down the volume of the world.” (N. McGuirk) Our world has had to become quieter and less busy, so let us use this time to talk to God in prayer and share with him our feelings and worries. For, through Jesus we will “find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) You can read the parable of the lost sheep in Luke, chapter 15, verses 3-7

Starting a Blog

If this works it will be the first time I have ever blogged. I sit in my office, in splendid isolation, No, I don't have a temperature, it's just that no-one could live with the mess in my office. I look out of the window at the cherry tree about to burst into blossom.

And that's what its all about: can you find a new life when you are stuck at home? Since this is a blog on a church website you will know of course that the answer is yes, but you will be wondering how I will get there: I'm wondering the same thing.

Our created world is always changing, births and deaths are an essential part of it, from the beginning with the birth and death of stars, to our own birth and death. How can being stuck at home be a birth? It's about the new things you take on, and since it's Lent one of the new things you can take on is reading a Lent book. This year our parish is reading At the Cross - Big deals outside the city by John Benton.

This book is a very clear telling of the fundamental belief of the Church of England that we our saved by our faith. The chapter headings give some idea about the book: Faith alone - reson for joy!; Penal substitution - how we can be forgiven and forgive; Justification - right with God; Imputed righteousness - a legal fiction? Christ's obedience - all that God requires; Sanctification - shall we go on sinning?

Of course this book might not give you a new life, you might already have understood its message, or you might read it but ignore its arguments; but for some of us it has the power to let us start afresh, to become new people, to understand that what we need is faith and nothing more.

But from that faith comes a wish to follow in Christ's footsteps, to serve our neighbour, and nothing is more needed than doing this today if your neighbour is elderly or otherwise in isolation. A chat on the telephone or Facetime with your tablet can help anyone who is feeling depressed because of their isolation. Give yourself a new life and your neighbour as well.

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