Over The Wall Letter, June and July 2018 edition
The arrival of summer seems to have happened at last with all the glorious sunshine that we have been experiencing of late (at least at the time of writing) and it makes such a difference.
People are happier - they smile more and are just generally nicer. I was even allowed to pass a group of cyclists who were strung out along the road and they pulled in to let me pass - that's the kind of stuff dreams are made of...... and then I woke up!!!
But seriously, people are genuinely happier when the sun shines.
Many years ago, when I was at college, I had two friends from Africa, William from Uganda and M 'pierre from Nigeria - and these two men brought sunshine to everyone that they met.
Their happiness was infectious and they were always smiling, even when the sun wasn't shining. I remember being out with them in a cafe once and someone asked them why they were so happy?
I would need a lot more space to tell you the full answer that they responded with but - in short, they replied by saying that it was "their love that they had for Jesus and the love that He had for them" that made them so happy.
They firmly believed that they were God's children and they wanted to share that fact with anyone that would listen.
Now I am not saying that we should all have to be happy all the time, as circumstances can dictate how we feel, and there are times when we feel genuinely sad. But I think that William and M 'pierre chose not to let anything dampen their joy.
They would wake each day, thanking God for the new opportunities he gave them.
And although I have not seen them for a long time, I believe that they are still smiling and giving thanks to God for His awesome love.
So the next time that you feel sad - remember that God loves you very much.
Every one of us is important and special to Him and He cares deeply for all of us and He longs to have a relationship with you.
Have a look at psalm 139 and you may just discover that love for yourself - and won't that bring a smile to your face!!
Every good wish
Over The Wall Letter, April and May 2018 edition
Let me begin this letter by wishing you all a very happy Easter and I hope that you all find the Easter season truly wonderful.
Easter, like Christmas reminds us of the central importance of our Christian faith and also reminds us of the terrible sacrifice that Jesus made on behalf of mankind. For as a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the key - the bridge that connects us to God and offers us something that the world cannot give - freedom and hope.
Sadly, many see the Christian faith as something akin to a complex rule book. The Church, they believe, demands assent to a multitude of dogmas and doctrines, which is vital before one can gain entry. But this could not be further from the truth. If you read about the ministry of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, do we see such narrowness of outlook or rigid criteria for acceptance into God's kingdom? Not as I read it, we don't. In Jesus we see one who proclaimed, above all, God's love and mercy and He shows us, through word and deed, how much he values us all. We see someone who cut through all the religious rules and regulations of his time, summarising the Gospel in the simple command to love God and one another. We see someone who happily mixed with those rejected by society, seeing them as individuals whom God counted as of inestimable worth.
No wonder the English theologian, Herbert Butterfield, in his classic book 'Christianity and History' urged - "hold fast to Christ, and the rest be uncommitted. For the call of Christ, first and foremost, was not to believe this or that but simply to follow, and those who did so glimpsed God and experienced life in a new and wonderful light."
Have you grasped that fundamental and wonderful truth? Have you understood that God's love reaches out to you with no strings attached? Or, although accepting that "God is love", have you decided that he cannot possibly love you, for that is where many people come unstuck. They can accept well enough that God is generally loving, but are convinced that they personally are outside of his love - not good enough, not believing enough, not religious enough to warrant it.
"He cannot be interested in me", they say - but the Gospels say otherwise, declaring, "Yes, you"! However little value we may place on ourselves, or however little we think others value us - we matter to God, each of us have "infinite worth" in his eyes.
You may think that you're different, that you have nothing to offer and that he can never love you - but the message of Easter tells us to think again.
For, if I may borrow a popular phrase, "at the end of the day" - it's not what you do for him - it's what you mean to him that counts.
Every good wish
Revd David Scurr
Over The Wall Letter, February and March 2018 edition
Now that the Christmas Season is behind us, we can look forward to the arrival of the season of Lent - which this year begins on the 14th February, St Valentine’s day. This year, like last, we will prepare ourselves with our annual Pancake morning on Tuesday 13th February from 10am - 12noon when I will attempt to flip some pancakes with my left arm. This is because I am having an operation on my right shoulder on the 26th January and will still be recovering on Shrove Tuesday, so it will be interesting to see how things go? We will probably end up with pancakes everywhere -still, the show must go on!!
For those who wish to start their Lenten observation in the traditional way, our Ash Wednesday service will be on 14th February at 10am at St Chad’s.
I like Lent: It’s an opportunity for us to “get right with God” and draw near to Him through prayer and sometimes giving up something meaningful, as a way of an offering to God. In Biblical times, the early Christians would very often fast (give up food) from sunrise to sunset (6am to 6pm) throughout Lent - only breaking their fast on a Sunday, which is a feast day or the Lord’s day. That is a discipline very few people follow today as it would be difficult to go more than six hours without a meal, so there are other ways that we can get closer to God. Some people give up alcohol or chocolate and give the money saved to charity. Some people decide to read an extra chapter in their bibles throughout Lent or spend a little more time in prayer.
I always like to re-read the gospel according to St Luke during Lent and also the book of Acts. It’s surprising how much detail Luke gives us about Jesus in his writings and also how the early Church came about. Personally, I read three chapters a day very slowly, taking in what’s written - while asking God to reveal something that He wants to show me. For concealed within the bible’s pages lies a treasure trove of hidden pearls of wisdom. And the surprising thing about this method of reading is that God does actually begin to reveal Himself to those who earnestly seek after Him.
I was taught this way of reading by Bishop Stephen Cottrell, when he was at Reading and I have to say that it works for me. And if it works for me, it could work for you also. So, as we head into Lent, let me encourage you to journey with me on a road of discovery that only God knows where it could lead.
May I wish you all a blessed Lenten Season
Revd David Scurr
Over The Wall Letter, December 2017 and January 2018 edition
As the time of writing this letter, I am waiting for the Sky Engineer to arrive and fix our phone line. I mention this because we have been without a phone for three days and have been unable to make or receive calls. Needless to say that this has caused us some problems!! Thankfully, we have our mobiles (what would we ever do without them) so have still been able to keep in touch with the outside world. But it makes one wonder how people managed when there were no phones or mobiles? How did people communicate quickly, especially in an emergency?
I can remember as a boy using a phone box and having to make the choice of pressing button A or B to make a call. And it was not until my parents got their own phone (after a three month wait) that we had the “luxury" of our own phone. Mind you, we may have had our own phone - but not our own line, as back then you could only have a shared line. And if you needed to make an urgent call you hoped that whoever you shared the line with was not on the phone when you wanted to use it!
How times have changed. We have become so used to all the new technology and instant messaging that we become impatient if we have to wait a few seconds for the computer or phone to come on now that we live in an "instant" world. It's strange really, times may have changed and our aspirations may have exceeded all expectations but the truth is that, as People of a Certain Age - we still long for that time when things seemed so much simpler, so less pressured. A time when everything was somehow happier and calmer than today.
Some of you may not know that I met my wife Claire on holiday in Tenerife. So, on our return home because we lived over 200 miles apart, we used to communicate by phone and by letter -and it was the letters that I used to look forward to the most. I say this, because a letter lasts so much longer than a phone call.
I still have those letters and every so often re-read them to remind myself of the love we shared and still share today. And in some ways, the bible is like a love letter from God to us. Inside its pages, we learn of God's great love for us and everything that he has done. From the Creation stories to the Nativity - we learn who God is and, when we take the time to read those stories, we catch a glimpse of not only the past, but also the future.
For the truth is, even though we may change, the Bible tells us that God does not change.
He is the same yesterday, today and forever, and His love for us all is constant. And when God sent Jesus, over two thousand years ago, to be born in a manger, into a world of violence and suspicion, He did it with one purpose.
To redeem the world and offer us New Life in Him. God does not promise us an easy ride - but he does promise to be with us always, in good times and in bad.
And if we look hard enough, we may catch a glimpse of God either in the stranger or the manger, depending on where we happen to be.
So, as I come to the end of my letter, the engineer has just arrived and things will slowly start getting back to normal. The phone will start to ring again. The internet will start to work and I will once again be connected to the outside world - a world full of hope, which is longing for a better future, not only for us, but for everyone.
On that note, may I end this letter by wishing you and all those you love a blessed and peaceful Christmas, and a very Happy New Year.
Every good wish
Revd David Scurr
Over The Wall Letter, October and November 2017 edition
If you had the choice between a dictionary and a novel, which one would you prefer to read?
A dictionary has good words; in fact, it has all the good words. A dictionary is a book with an excellent vocabulary, but it is not a story.
A novel is different. In a novel, words are carefully selected and arranged to tell a story.
Are our lives like dictionaries or novels?
Life can be like a dictionary with each event, each phase of life, standing on its own, like a word in a dictionary. That may have its interest, but most of us want life to be more than just a collection of random experiences.
Life can be like a novel. That is when our lives seem to have a plot, to be moving toward a goal that is bigger than us and when we understand how our stories fit into the grand scheme of life. I suspect most of us would want our lives to be more like a novel than like a dictionary.
The words of a dictionary need an author to fashion them into a novel, to give them a purpose, a plot. In the same way, the experiences of life need an author if they are going to be more than a jumble of loosely connected events.
For centuries the Bible, the world’s best-selling book, has been changing the lives of people who encounter it. Bible Sunday, which falls this year on October 29th, is a day on which churches celebrate the continuing impact the Bible has on individuals and communities.
Some people say the Bible is just a loose jumble of events and stories. But we people of faith say that God is the Author of this book. God shapes these stories and events into a story of redemption and life.
It is the Holy Spirit who brings God’s Son, Jesus, into our hearts and minds today. Because of the Holy Spirit, Jesus becomes a part of us, inside us. The word of God is not static, but dynamic. It is not locked away in the bible. And the Holy Spirit makes our lives a novel, not a dictionary. The Holy Spirit shows us how we have a part in the story of the whole creation, keeps us from thinking that our own individual stories are disconnected from the story of God, keeps reminding us that we are part of the whole story of God's creative work in the world.
So let’s read our bibles, whichever version you prefer, for there are many different translations; the King James Version (KJV), the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the New International Version (NIV), the Good News bible and so on and on…..
Sadly, the most common version is probably the “SSV”; the “Stays on the Shelf” Version, whose pages might as well be blank if the bible stays on the shelf and is never read.
The Holy Spirit is the author who can write the novel of our lives.
So which one do we want our lives to be like - a dictionary or a novel? If we will let God be the One who writes and directs our lives, we will find them to be stories with meaning and purpose. Our lives can become a compelling kind of novel in the hands of God. Our stories can be a part of His story.
Make sure your Bible is well thumbed, not an SSV!
Reader St Chad’s Farndon and St Mary’s Coddington
Over The Wall Letter, August and September 2017 edition
I came across this prayer the other day in a book entitled " Asking God" by Oliver Tomkins, who was the Bishop of Bristol and I was very surprised by its frankness. "Father, I often get impatient with those who are slower and more stupid that I am. I listen with difficulty to those who say only what I have heard a thousand times. Help me to remember always how you could be utterly bored by me, who am slow to hear what you are saying and so quick to whine about the same old things: but, mercifully, you are not, because you are long suffering. Teach me to be so, too." I am not sure that I would ever say a prayer like that, but it does show us that we need to be honest in our prayers and let God know exactly how we are feeling.
The little book of prayers has some delightful and helpful prayers for all occasions and can be a tremendous help when we cannot find the words to say and can even help us to get into "prayer mode", so to speak. I know that many people, myself included, can sometimes have trouble praying. Even Jesus' disciples found prayer difficult, so they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. And so he taught them the Lord's Prayer (or the Disciple's Prayer as it is sometimes known).
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen.
In essence, prayer is basically having conversation with God. It can be like talking to a friend because although God is Almighty, he still wants to have a relationship with us. So, prayer is an opportunity for us to let God know what's going on in us and around us. And the Lord's prayer says it all - help us, protect us, forgive us, deliver us. This is the model that Jesus taught his disciples and it's the perfect model for us to use today. For using this prayer is a good way to begin to build a relationship with God.
So the next time you feel you might want to pray but are struggling to find the words, remember the Lord's prayer and also the words of Jesus in Matthew's gospel chapter 7: verses 7 -8: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened".
Revd Captain David Scurr CA
Over The Wall Letter, June and July 2017 edition
I have recently been reading a book about the life of Mother Teresa - not our prime minister, but Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Apparently when she was still living in Macedonia as a young girl, God spoke to her and told her to leave her home and go tell other people about Jesus. So she left her home and began work as a teacher and later as a head teacher of a Catholic School in India. It was while travelling on a train in India that God said to her," Go and serve me among the poorest of the poor."
And that was on the 10th of September 1946 and she knew exactly what God meant. In India she taught the children of the rich, but now she knew that God wanted her to teach the poorest of the poor - the street children of Calcutta. So the very next year, Mother Teresa left her school and set up a new school in the poorest slum in the poorest city of India - Calcutta. And it would be here that she would live out the rest of her life serving the poorest people of the world. During her time there many people from around the world came to help Mother Teresa with her work and in the years that followed, she began helping the poor of Calcutta in other ways. She opened an orphanage, a soup kitchen, a hospital, a youth centre and a hospice where dying people were cared for.
Over her lifetime she won many awards and prizes for her work, but she gave every penny of her prize money to help the world's poor. When she died on September 5th 1997, her only personal possessions were a metal bucket for washing herself and two cotton saris -
Obviously, I have only touched on a few highlights of the book, but it's a book I would recommend to anyone who would like to read about faith in action - to be challenged at Mother Teresa's willingness to serve God in the most difficult of circumstances.
Because God had spoken to her in a kind and gentle voice, Mother Teresa believed in speaking to everyone she met in the same way and encouraged the people who worked with her to do the same. She said that you should "speak tenderly to people. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don't just give them care, give them your heart as well."
Throughout history, many people have believed that they have heard the voice of God. However, in reality, only very few like Mother Teresa have heard it and acted upon it and, if more of us spoke to each other in the way that she suggested, perhaps more people really would hear the voice of God.
Revd Captain David Scurr CA
Over The Wall Letter, April and May 2017 edition
Over the last few months, I seem to have been overcoming one bout of illness after the other and started to wonder if I would ever feel well again. From the conversations that I have had, it would seem that many of you have also been feeling this way, particularly with the effects of the last flu bug - which in some cases have been lasting for weeks and months after the event. These lasting effects can so easily make us feel very low and have a negative impact on our well-being. So it was a wonderful tonic for me when one of my old friends sent me an email after hearing of my last illness and said that now I am in my 60's I should expect things to go downhill. He then sent me a list of signs that are signs that one is getting older. So I share this with you in the hope that if you are feeling under the weather, they will make you smile.
20 Signs You're Getting Older:
1. Everything hurts and what doesn't hurt doesn't work.
The gleam in your eyes is from the sun hitting your bifocals.
You feel like the morning after and you haven't been anywhere.
Your little black book contains only names that end in M.D.
Your children begin to look middle aged.
You finally reach the top of the ladder and find it leaning against the wrong wall.
Your mind makes contracts your body can't meet.
You look forward to a dull evening.
Your favourite part of the newspaper is "20 Years Ago Today."
10. You turn out the lights for economic rather than romantic reasons.
You sit in a rocking chair and can't get it going.
Your knees buckle, and your belt won't.
You're 17 around the neck, 42 around the waist, and 95 around the golf course.
Your back goes out more than you do.
Your pacemaker makes the garage doors go up when you see a pretty girl.
The little old grey haired lady you helped across the street is your wife.
You sink your teeth into a steak, and they stay there.
You have too much room in the house and not enough in the medicine cabinet.
Your arms are almost too short to read the newspaper.
You sing along with the music in the lift.
Here's wishing you all an ailment free Easter and that the risen Christ may bring His healing love into all of our homes and lives. And may the good news of the resurrection fill us all with eternal hope and gladness - this Easter and always.
Every good wish
Revd Captain David Scurr CA
Over The Wall Letter, February and March 2017 edition
Now that the Christmas season is well behind us, we turn our attention to the coming of Lent, which this year begins on Wednesday the 1st March.
Lent is a time when the church and its people prepare themselves for the coming of Easter, through fasting and prayer, or by simply making time for God in our very busy lives. One way of doing this is by spending a few minutes each day reading a portion of scripture from the Bible or by reading one of the many daily reading booklets that are readily available in Christian bookshops.
We at St Chad's and St Mary's use the New Daylight daily reading booklets which helps us to journey though Lent together.
These booklets help us to reconnect with and/or discover more about God by encouraging us to read a recommended piece of scripture every day.
I find that spending a small amount of time every day with some bible reading notes helps us, not only on our spiritual journey but also on our life's journey as well.
Even Jesus himself needed to spend time in prayer to connect with His Father and to hear His Fathers voice. He also encouraged his disciples to follow his example and even taught them the Lord's Prayer as a way to pray when they struggled to find anything to say. As prayer can be hard - even for the most devout. This is one of the reasons why bible notes are helpful, as they can get us started on the right path to beginning a daily time of prayer and bible reading.
Did you know that when we read the bible, we discover about God's great love for us and that He has a plan for each one of us. We discover how God longs to be part of our lives and how He wants to be with us on our life's journey.
One of the great psalms, psalm 139, tells us that God made each one of us and that He knew us even before we were born. It's a psalm that has helped many people over the years and a psalm that is still relevant for each one of us today.
In fact, many of the psalms can speak to us in many of life's situations, if only we but make the time and read them.
So, this Lent, why not try starting the day with a bible reading booklet instead of the TV Guide or newspaper?
Because if we do, we might just discover that this can have a very positive effect, not only on our spiritual - but also on our physical and emotional wellbeing as well.
If you would like to subscribe to the New Daylight bible reading notes via the church, then please contact me for more information.
May I wish you all every blessing this Lent.
Revd David Scurr
Over The Wall Letter, December 2016 and January 2017 edition
I have always loved Christmas. Perhaps you are now expecting me to say that this year is no different, but I have to say that it is different, because I love it even more.
My faith in the most important Christmas gift of all, the gift of God’s Son Jesus Christ, has been deepened and strengthened by the Christian love and support I have been privileged to receive in my battle against cancer this year. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers which have been truly tangible and wonderfully effective.
Advent is a season of waiting, of preparation for the gift of our Saviour.
For my family and I, the last nine months have been a season of waiting – waiting for results and outcomes of many months of chemotherapy treatment, wonderful NHS medical care and months of prayer by so many caring people, may God bless them all.
My early Christmas gift is that I am now in remission and I still have the tremendous celebration to come on Christmas Day when we give thanks that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
What a gift to prepare ourselves for in this Advent season! To pray, to wait, to be still and know that He is God!
Of course, it is difficult to make space to pray, to wait, to be still in our busy lives. We live at such a pace. Everything must be done quickly. All the space is taken up with important jobs and commitments.
We might even think that stopping just to think and reflect is time wasted, but nothing that helps us to align ourselves with God’s direction for us is ever wasted. If we expect God to make time for us we should make time for Him. For as we search for God’s presence around and within us we can find in God’s love the full meaning and purpose of our lives. Over time and with patience we can come to know God more and more as we glimpse the divine, glimpse the extraordinary in the midst of our everyday ordinary lives.
Maybe we could do no better than look again at Jesus and his whole method of working. Did he not take the ordinary and invite people to see beyond the carpenter, beyond the shepherd, beyond the farmer, the housewife, the leper, the wise and foolish girls, to wider and deeper truths? His invitation to the early disciples was to ‘come and see.’
Why would he change now? His invitation is the same to us today: ‘come and see.’ Look in the Bible. See how he lived his life. Understand why he lived it as he did and for whom: … for us.
An ability to see beyond the ordinariness, to see beyond the immediate, is at the heart of our faith, to sense that, behind anything that can be experienced, there is something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty reaches us only indirectly and as a faint reflection.
Christianity began with a man who allowed others to glimpse God in his life, and he told them that God would one day be glimpsed in them.
The first disciples met a mere carpenter from Nazareth but they saw in him something more; they saw the height and the depth and the breadth of God’s love, and they caught a fleeting glance of what their lives might become.
Many families come together at Christmas, come home.
Let us make sure we invite Jesus to be right there at home with us.
May God bless you and all those you love this Christmas and always.
Reader, St Chad’s Farndon and St Mary’s Coddington