Sunday, 28 May 2017

From St Luke’s House Magazine article October 2016

Bonjour tout-le-monde!

I have just returned from a wonderful wedding in France! It was a privilege to be a part of this special day for our friends, and it was fascinating to see the different customs the French have. For instance, each car, as it arrived at the town hall, had to blow its horn long and loud, and then after the ceremony, drive a roundabout route to the reception in convoy, again blowing its horn!

The wedding reception was less formal than here, with no speeches, but with much singing. We sang a ‘Bon Appetit’ song, plus we serenaded the cheese course as it arrived! Tables of guests took it in turn to sing a French song, and then, as honoured visitors from the UK, Mandy and I were asked to sing a medley of Beatles songs, accompanied by a musician but without any words in front of us! The French obviously believe that all we English know the Beatles songs off by heart! But actually I found, once the music started, the words of the songs did just seem to come and I think we got away with it!

Isn’t this often the way with songs and hymns and carols, that we can remember their words for years and years when we have long forgotten other things? Somehow our brains seem to be ‘wired’ in a way that helps us to remember words set to music. John and Charles Wesley knew this, and made use of it to good effect in their writing of the hymns that we know and love so well. They used them to explain things about God in a way which would take root in our minds and be a foundation stone of our Christian belief for the rest of our lives.

Some hymns have a special meaning for us at different times in our lives, perhaps when they remind us of truths about God which we needed to hold on to, or when their message seems to fit our situation perfectly. On 16th October we will be holding another of our popular ‘Songs of Praise’ services at 11:30, so if you have a hymn or a song which has a special meaning for you, please send me a note about it and why it is important to you, and I’ll try to include it in that service.
Please do come along to the service and get a ticket for the meal afterwards - bring a friend if you can! It will be a great time to enjoy and to be reminded that God is with us through all the circumstances of our lives.

From St Luke’s House Magazine article September 2016

Recently I travelled to Canterbury for our son Jonathan’s graduation. It was a grand affair which took place in the Cathedral. All the students were dressed up in robes and mortar boards, and the University staff were in their finest for the occasion. I think the person reading out the names of all the graduates must have practiced hard at their pronunciation, as some of them seemed decidedly tricky!

An honorary degree was also awarded at the ceremony to an alumnus, Iva Daadler, who gave an interesting talk following the result of the EU referendum. He described the generation which the graduates represent as one which, instead of choosing left or right wing politics, will make the choice of being ‘open’ or ‘closed’.

I’ve been reading the book of Acts where the apostles found that Holy Spirit was given by God not only to the Jewish nations, but to the Gentiles too – people from other nations apart from the Jews – people like us. That must have been quite a change of understanding for the Jews to move from thinking of themselves alone as God’s chosen people to accepting that salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit were being offered to people of all nations.

I’m glad that I don’t have to make the decisions about who should or shouldn’t be allowed residence in our country. But I guess we can all choose how we treat people of other nations who we meet. We can choose to be ‘open’ or ‘closed’ to new people. I think Jesus wants us to be open to people of other cultures and backgrounds. To learn from them and to tell them about our views and beliefs too. Differences of culture or ethnicity are not a barrier to Jesus. As Paul say in Galatians 3 In Christ ‘there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’. The good news is good news for everyone, regardless of background, and so we needn’t be afraid of trying to show and to tell that good news to people of other nations whom we meet.

Rev Chris Stebbing