God's beautiful creation and wonderful promises.
People who live and work in the countryside have a particular connection with the land. Throughout my life …… in the village where I grew up, in my previous ministry in rural Warwickshire …… and perhaps especially this year, among the beautiful villages and countryside of Mid Trent …… I have always been struck by the beauty of God's creation, as summer begins each year.
Of course, I'm not a farmer, so I have the privilege of enjoying the beauty of the land, without all the hard work of taking care of it!
At some point during May each year, the church marks Rogation. This was traditionally a time when Christians prayed for God's blessing on the crops, land and farming work in their parishes. It was called "Rogation" from the Latin word for "asking", because the Bible reading for the day included the words, "Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give to you."
In the days before maps, Rogation prayers for the parish were often combined with "Beating the Bounds": walking the parish boundaries to remind everyone where they were, and to ask for God's blessing on their land and their work.
Sometimes a boundary stone or tree would be beaten, but traditionally the children of the parish were beaten, or bumped on the boundary stones or markers, to imprint the boundaries firmly on their memories!!!
Whatever else has changed in the world since those days, the Bible says that God's promises never change. Whatever our circumstances, there are times when all of us feel that we cannot continue in our own strength.
One day, when teaching the crowds gathered to hear him, Jesus said: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me …... For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
The rural folk listening to Jesus would have known that a farmer often yoked together a strong, older and more experienced ox with a youngster. The older ox would bear the greatest load and the younger one would learn from him as they worked together.
Today, as we enjoy the glory of God's creation, let's remember that his promises never fail. We too can rely on Jesus to guide us and lighten our loads. We simply need to ask.
Yours in Christ Mike
Our Team Vicar's Message for October.
We plough the fields and scatter……
Whether we are farmers or not, living in this beautiful rural part of England we are all aware of the changes that take place in the fields around us…….even if, like me, you can't confidently name all of the crops that are relying on the sun and the rain for their healthy growth!
Jesus often used stories about everyday life when he was teaching, and one such story went something like this:
One day, a farmer went out to sow his seed. Some of it fell on the road; it was tramped down and the birds ate it. Other seed fell in the gravel; it sprouted, but withered because it didn't have good roots. Other seed fell in the weeds; the weeds grew with it and strangled it. Other seed fell in rich earth and produced a bumper crop. This is one of the few parables that Jesus explained after he'd told it. The seed, he said, was God's word, and the different types of soil were the people who heard it. Although the same seed fell on 4 different types of soil, what happened next depended not only on the seed, but also on what the soil was like.
And it's the same with us. What I get from what you say depends not only on you, but also on me. What you say might make perfect sense, but if I don't speak your language, or don't pay attention to what you're saying, or don't like what I hear, then it's not going to have any impact on me.
The Bible says that God sent Jesus to show us what he's like, and what he wants us to be like. It says that what Jesus shows us is that God loves us and will never give up on us. It says that we should listen to what Jesus tells us, and ask for God's help in doing as he says, and say sorry when we get things wrong.
How does that sound to you? I guess that every person who reads this article will have his or her own, very individual reaction to what I've just written. Each of us is unique, and we've all had very different life experiences. What we take from what we read or hear will depend partly on what we bring to it, and nobody will bring quite the same things to it as you do.
Christians make great claims for the Bible. "All Scripture is God-breathed," wrote the Apostle Paul, and that means that God can speak personally to each one of us through each and every living word of it.
Maybe you'd like to put that to the test, but don't know where to start. I'd suggest finding a good modern translation of the Bible …… one that you find easy to read …… and beginning with one of the Gospels.
Whichever part of the Bible you decide to read, what happens next will depend not only on what you read, but also on who you are, and on how hungry you are to know more, and how willing you are to be challenged by what you read. God gives each of us the freedom to choose what will happen to the good seed of his word when it is scattered on the unique and precious land of our own hearts and minds.
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