Cambourne Crier Reflections
Written On Behalf of Cambourne Church
These short, seasonal pieces were written while our church was in a ministerial vacancy and so there was no one to write the 'Message From The Vicar' column in the village magazine. They were all published in the Cambourne Crier, whose archive can be found here.
For Christians, the season from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday is the most important time of year.
It begins with forty days of fasting. This is a time to remember the life of Jesus and to be mindful of our own lives; a time to mourn the ways in which last year did not live up to expectations and consider how we might improve next year.
As we reach Holy Week, Palm Sunday arrives with its joyful declaration of Jesus' rule in our lives, but as the week progresses we see how those who first made this declaration betrayed and turned their backs on it. Every Christian knows what it feels like to have enacted this for themselves. Fortunately, it is not the end of the story: on Easter Day, we awake to find Christ risen from the tomb.
The Christian life is full of noble aspirations, our failure to live up to them, and the promise that tomorrow might bring a better day. In Revelation 21:5, Jesus says 'See: I am making all things new'. We pray that this Easter season brings you this promise for the year ahead: that life might be made new and hope reborn.
- Originally published in The Cambourne Crier, March 2018
Autumn, which John Keats described as the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, is my favourite time of year. After the heat of summer, the turn of the weather to coolness is a relief, and I have a particular fondness for the smell of wood fires, the feel of soft, mizzly rain and the gloomy romance of the twilight in late-afternoon.
Christians spend early autumn celebrating harvest – a word derived from the Old English for ‘autumn’. It is a time for appreciating God’s abundant provision and, in the past, was tied to the agricultural work which gave most people their living. But as the population began to move away from farming, these festivities came to centre not so much on our own abundance but more on those who are less fortunate.
The ancient Hebrews were commanded to ‘not reap to the very edges of your field…[but] leave them for the poor and for the foreigner’ (Leviticus 23:22). In celebrating harvest (not to mention beginning to look ahead to Christmas!), verses like this challenge us to consider how best to use the resources we have. God has provided; the question is what would He have us do with His provision?
- Originally published in The Cambourne Crier, September 2018
Where was Jesus born? Easy, right? Bethlehem. The prophet Micah said: "You, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me a ruler over Israel…"
This is quoted in Matthew's gospel and Luke also places Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. But Jesus is called 'Jesus of Nazareth' - almost 100 miles away. This is like someone famously from Harrogate being born in someone's garage in Cambourne!
Although Micah describes Bethlehem as 'small' - and by Jesus' day there was not even room for a nine-months-pregnant woman who'd walked 100 miles - the town was associated with King David, the greatest king in Jewish history. By placing Jesus' birth there, the gospel writers are saying we should link them together: like David, Jesus is the great king who establishes God's kingdom on earth.
People say that no one 'comes from' Cambourne. We're too new for anyone to have deep roots or for a list of celebrities to have lived here. But I can't help comparing us to Bethlehem. We might rewrite that ancient prophesy:
"You, Cambourne, though you are insignificant among the villages of Cambridgeshire, out of you will come for me…"
As we celebrate Christmas in Cambourne this year, consider this: we can write our own illustrious history. Will we be the ones who come from here and do something great? What can we do in 2019 to spread the Christmas message of love and hope from our little town into all the world?
- Originally published in The Cambourne Crier, December 2018
What do colours mean? Is red anger or passion? Is blue peace or sadness? For Christians, colours mark the cycles of the year – gold for times of remembering Jesus’ kingship, green for seasons of new life. For the next few weeks, we are coloured purple – the colour of penitence and preparation.
Lent – the forty days between pancake day and Easter – is a time for reflection, prayer and seeking forgiveness. Like us, Jesus spent time in preparation. After His baptism, He walked into the wilderness to pray and fast for forty days. There, He faced many temptations but, unlike us, never once gave in to that temptation. During lent, we remember this story and seek to right the wrongs of the past, praying that we might make better choices in the year ahead.
But the forty days are not an unbroken marathon, because Sundays are always for celebration. Christians should never lose sight of the fact that our faith does not ask us to feel endlessly guilty for the ways we could have done better but affirms that we are loved by God and that there is always another chance to do the right thing.
During this purple season of Lent, why not take the opportunity to rebuild bridges, to acknowledge your faults, to seek forgiveness? But if you do, don’t forget to give yourself a break and remember the golden time ahead – when Jesus rose from death to life, offering love and peace and forgiveness to all who seek it.
- Originally published in The Cambourne Crier, March 2019
As Cambourne Church's writer-in-residence, I think about biblical themes a lot while writing poetry. Easter finds several key themes working together. The cross mirrors the tree from which Adam and Eve ate forbidden fruit; the garden where Mary met the risen Christ recalls Eden; Jesus' eternal life heals the death they brought.
I'm often struck by Mary's thought on seeing Jesus: she thought he was the gardener. This poem is about that:
A taste of fruit has altered all creation,
And grown both Adam's pride and mark of Cain;
Entangled in that tree, with each temptation
I choose to lose God's garden peace again.
Where once I tended Earth and turned the soil,
And gloried in the gifts of labour's grain,
Across the sin-scarred land, now I must toil
Against all those who share my sinful stain.
And into this the Prince of Peace was sent,
And showed how sweet the fruits of God could be,
Changed spears to pruning hooks, and swords to ploughs,
So we might find fair work, beneath the boughs
Of life-blood stained and life sustaining tree,
Where God Himself bore violent punishment.
And in the silent garden where I sought
To dignify His death with fragrant oil,
I met a gardener - or so I thought,
And felt the bonds of tempter's tree uncoil.
For from that ground, the peaceful prince had fought
To grow my peace in three days' germination,
So I might labour in His garden-court:
A paradise of praise and adoration.
There is a computer game called Civilization V which, at time of writing, I have spent a shocking 355 hours playing. Civilization gives you control over a country and asks you to build it into a world power. One of the first technologies you develop is ‘Animal Husbandry’, which rewards you with a quotation from scripture: ‘"Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn."
It is Harvest once again so this quotation came back to me. Oxen were important parts of the agricultural processing of grain and this injunction not to muzzle them ensured that as they worked, they could enjoy some of the fruits of their labour. It is a commandment of kindness.
It may not feel like it, but each of us has great power over others – as consumers, voters and fellow-workers. The Bible commands us time and again to wield this power with kindness so that everyone might have the benefit of living in a society which cares for all who live in it. Harvest is an important reminder of what we have, but also poses this question: how can I use what I have for the benefit of others?
- Previously unpublished, for reasons best known to the editors of the Cambourne Crier!