Faringdon’s Got Talent

Those of you who went to the WATSAN event on 25th November will know that I have been thinking about talent, and you would have been on the receiving end of culinary, sung and spoken examples from Faringdon’s talent pool.

We also saw other aspects of this pool at the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance that was organised (no pun intended) by Joy Blake with Faringdon Brass, the Ferndale Community Choir, Army Cadets, Yvonne Belcher, our town Mayor Councillor Dr Mike Wise and some stunning audio-visual compositions by Gordon Belcher.

But, of course, talk of talent makes me immediately think of Jesus’ parable of the Talents written in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In them Jesus told of the master commending his servants who had made good use of their gifts, saying that , because they’d been faithful, “in a few things” they’d be rewarded by being “put in charge of many things”.

Matthew and Luke’s stories, though basically parallel, do differ in some details but have essentially the same meaning. The phrase ‘faithful in a few things’ reminded me of the one used in Jesus’ parable about the wily steward that was our Gospel in mid September, when Jesus said , Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. (Lk 16:10).

The British Biblical scholar Dr James Moffatt translated this as: “He who is faithful with a trifle is also faithful with a large trust”,

But as I see it, I think he missed the point. Jesus is not saying, “because he is faithful with a little, therefore, in the future, he will be faithful with much”. What Jesus says is that this is a statement of present fact, that to be faithful with a little is to be truly, greatly, wholly faithful; it is to be faithful in much.

If we are faithful in little matters, that is what counts with God – it is the faithfulness that’s important, not the size of the task. Faithfulness is faithfulness, nothing more, nothing less.

“Well, Max”, I can hear someone saying, “this is just semantics, what difference does it make?” To my mind, it makes a very real difference that is relevant to many people today.

The parable of the Talents is used to teach that honest efforts, and hard work, will have their reward. That’s all very right and proper, and I’ve nothing to say against it. But this neat little bit of moral philosophy doesn’t always apply, and I’m sure it wasn’t what Jesus meant.

For example, I don’t think it applies to a large section of the community; what of the wives and mothers amongst us? What reward after years of faithful service? Surely we’re not suggesting they should have two homes to manage instead of one; or five, instead of two children to care for, saying, “You, who have been faithful in a few things shall now be rewarded by being put in charge of many things”, are we? There’s something to be said for a wife and a mother being made Prime Minister, if she’s got the appropriate skills, but what about the millions who will still be faithfully carrying out their daily tasks to the end of their days? Surely their reward is in their faithfulness, and it is of such as these that Jesus said, “Who is faithful in little things is faithful in much”.

It is faithfulness in small things that is so desperately needed today, not in order to get greater opportunities that may come as a reward, but for the love of true and honest work, and for the joy of serving others.

Most people think there’s not much they can do to shape and influence the great world issues of today. But don’t the great issues depend on individuals, and don’t individuals come from homes, schools, Churches, communities, where faithfulness in small things shows character even as it creates it?

Jesus didn’t say, “He who is faithful in matters that are the smallest will be faithful in greater ones” – anyone could have said that – he put the emphasis where it is so often forgotten, that to be faithful with a little is to be truly, greatly, wholly faithful; it is to be faithful in much. I hope this explanation of Jesus’ message will help and encourage those who are filling small places, and doing little things, with great faithfulness, and always will be. So, go to it, faithful talented Faringdonians! Have an expectant Advent, a joyous and happy Christmas and New Year, and an eye-opening Epiphany!

Max Young

Faith For All Seasons: Jeff Lucas

This new book by Jeff Lucas, published this year, is a commentary on the life of Elijah. One of the most important men of the Old Testament: some said that Jesus was Elijah returned from the dead, Elijah was there at the Transfiguration of Jesus, but he was no super hero, always triumphant. He had a period when he hid in a cave, fearful of death from his enemies and wishing he could die. But God was there, always calling him forward, saying, I am here with you, take courage, follow me.

This book is an encouragement to those of us who have periods when we feel disheartened or that God is far from us. The motto of the school in Uganda where I taught for a few years, was “Never give up”. That too was true of Elijah, who learned that, whatever he felt like, God never left him.

Joan Plumptre

JESUS . . . “for us and for our SALVATION” (Exploring the Nicene Creed)

We come now to this crucial part of the Creed, the amazing belief that God the Eternal Son of God the Eternal Father “for us and for our SALVATION came down from heaven”. It’s a statement of historic fact. That Jesus, through whom all existence and creation ever came into being, in marvellous love and wonder, actually took the very nature of our human flesh. That he walked this earth and lived amongst us around 2,000 years ago for some thirty three years. It was the fulfilment of a gracious divine plan, made from the beginning and foundation of the world to meet a fundamental and vital need of each and every one of us; in fact of the whole human race. (See 1 Peter 1:18-21). That without God, without his instructions for worthwhile and purposeful lives, without the aid and grace to live such a life; and that without his first aid when we get it wrong, as sadly we frequently do, we are lost! That’s putting it bluntly!

As I said in an earlier article we have to look with utter realism at the tragedy of human sin, evil and wrong doing; the terrible things that we humans actually bring about through selfishness, greed, lust, hatred and so on. It is a fallen world, distorted, damaged, badly hurt; but it can be rectified, can truly be the Kingdom of God, through the power of the everlasting Gospel and Good News of Jesus Christ. (Note :Mark 16:19-20 AV)

There has of course always been untold generous love lived and shown in countless human lives. There have always been, and still are many true saints across (and yes outside too) all the World Faiths. But there is another black or dark side to our humanity! The absolute freedom and free will that we all need and must have, if we are to love truly, to love each other, and to mature and grow in such love, can be so easily abused, misused, even almost destroyed. We need Salvation, and this Creed takes up the whole work of our Salvation through Christ.

We must now explore the meaning of that great word. First its meaning in the Old Testament, and then how it is developed and extended in the New. Briefly how the early and later Church came to understand and teach it, and the role such belief played in her Sacraments and Worship.

The basic root meaning of the Hebrew word Yashah, translated salvation in the O.T. is to give space, i.e. the exact opposite of being confined and shut in. It lends itself readily to the notion of being liberated and set free. Interestingly the same root word is found in the names Joshua, Hosea, and Isaiah, and of course the very name Jesus, specially chosen to denote his role as Saviour (Matthew 1: 21). Hence, for the Hebrew people of old salvation generally means deliverance from a specific national or personal danger or catastrophe, or from a real visible enemy (Psalms 17:1-3; 18:3; 22:21). Often it is used in the context of battle (as e.g. in the book of Judges) with a special plea for and emphasis on victory. Psalm 20 strongly suggests this. In the era after the Jewish Babylonian exile c. 500 BC the word is used more as a plea for the reconstruction of Jerusalem and Judea, and for bringing home the dispersed peoples after years of deportation and captivity. (Psalms 69:35 & 106:47).

When the crowds greeted Jesus entering Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David”, they were using another Hebrew term for salvation. (Matthew 21:9). Their plea was just as for centuries before, but now it was a cry for freedom from an oppressive Roman rule and power; for national and political victory. But the Salvation that Christ would offer would not be like that; in fact something much wider and deeper, bringing a new kind and degree of human freedom and liberation, with fresh wide space for a brand new life and Gospel living; with full forgiveness and inner healing too, and the assurance of unending glorious life with Christ in heaven.

The New Testament develops this new Salvation-in-Christ, meeting and covering all aspects of human need; our personal interior feelings and relationships, our longings and hopes; and the deepest questions about life and purpose. In a clear brief statement it claims that “he will save his people from their sins” (See Matthew 1:21). But, and I want to stress this strongly, it is not just salvation from…. (Whatever the terrible consequences might be) but salvation for….. I repeat again, it’s about a new kind of lasting victory and freedom. The triumph of a forgiven and transformed new life, lived by faith in Christ within the Church and community of Faith, empowered and enriched by his saving grace alone. It’s a liberated life sustained by God’s holy Word; by worship and prayer also; and specially by Sacrament and fellowship.

The New Testament moves beyond a rescue operation necessary as it is, to an abundant new life! This is the life our Father God had always planned and prepared for us; for every single one of us and forever. Nothing less! Yet it was very costly to bring about, and that we have to look at when we think about the Crucifixion and the Atonement made for us, themes of inexhaustible meaning and relevance.

Please read some or all of these passages: Colossians 1:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-10; 1 Peter 1:3-5 & 19-20; Hebrews 12:22-24; and Matthew 5:3-10 which is about new life Gospel living.

Over the centuries Churches and individual Christians have often stressed the negative things that we are saved from, to the detriment of taking hold of the great positive gifts and benefits. Fear alone rather than generous Love has often been the driving motivation; at times enforced by political power and expediency.

The danger is that no one is ever truly saved by undue stress on human failure, on condemnation, or fear of separation from God forever. (Certainly not nowadays!) It does not make for a balanced mature loving Christian fellowship, and it can easily damage a person’s mental health and equilibrium. The New Testament is overwhelmingly positive, and though the gravity of human sin and wrong doing should never be underestimated, it is the sheer immensity and wideness of the divine Love and Mercy that matters most, and should be our primary emphasis. All that I have tried to explain so far is dramatically set forth in the Church’s Liturgies, and especially in the Eucharist and Communion.

In this great Sacrament our salvation is made truly real for us, is strengthened and renewed, and is a foretaste of its glorious fullness in heaven.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in his justice, which is more than liberty
For the love of God is broader than the scope of human mind,
And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
F.W.Faber

Loving Saviour, Lord and God, thank you for all that you have done for us and given for our eternal Salvation. Help us to show in our lives the fruits of that great redemption until we see your face in glory. Amen.

George Abell

Good News for the New Year

GOOD NEWS for a New Year
UK ratifies Paris Climate Agreement

In November, during the UN climate talks in Marrakech, the UK government ratified the Paris Agreement. Let’s celebrate!

A quick catch up

One year earlier in Paris, 197 countries met at the UN climate talks. They collectively agreed the Paris Climate Agreement, which was to limit the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C, although they hope to further limit that to 1.5°C.

So far 110 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement, including China and the US, two of the largest polluters. In November these nations once again gathered for another set of UN climate talks, this time held in Marrakech, Morocco. It was hoped that these talks would put action to the promises made in Paris last year.

This is an incredible achievement and presents us with a great opportunity to congratulate the UK – Theresa May and Nick Hurd, Minister of State for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – on their commitment to ratifying the Paris Agreement.

But what does this mean?

The Paris Agreement is a commitment to move faster towards a clean energy future so that the poorest communities can thrive. Our ratification is a great step in turning that promise into action.

While it is great to celebrate this achievement, the announcement also gives us a great opportunity to show we support our government in making this commitment to tackle climate change, and to stand in solidarity with those who are most vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate. We can do this by thinking about they way we live.

Is our lifestyle aligned with the commitment our government has made? How can we show love and respect to those living in poverty who are particularly vulnerable to climate change?

If you are looking for some ways to do this why not check out www.lifestyle.tearfund.org

From EARTH & FAITH (edited from Tearfund)