Monday, November 20, 2006

Advent Calendars!

When I was little Advent Calendars were of two types: The first type was the "non-religious" where the pictures which were revealed were of snowmen and parcels and Santa Claus and robins - even if the picture on the front was vaguely "religious" the innards certainly weren't! The second type was the "religious" type which usually had either a very arty nativity or a cartoon Bethlehem scene on the front and pictures of angels or wise men or shepherds or donkeys. If it was a particularly "religious" calendar then on the inside of the doors there would be one of the familiar Christmas verses

These days there is one qualifying factor for Advent calendars - they have to provide huge quantities of chocolate for every day of December. If they are particularly indulgent then there is an extra chocolate for Christmas Day (Horror of horrors - my advent calendars used to stop at number 24!!!) and even an extra countdown to the New Year.

It got me thinking about Christmas and how we prepare for the celebration. Are we like the first type of calendar with vaguely religious intentions but then we give in to robins and tinsel. Or are we like the second type where December is a month to be religious, to remember the familiar words and stories but then when January comes its back to normal. Or maybe Christmas is just a time to party - lots and lots of chocolate and then an extra party for New Year.

This December why not try something different - why not take a few minutes in and amidst the busyness to wonder why God should choose to be one of us, to become a baby, to live and care and heal and ultimately to die - the Bible says so that we could live life to the full.

So are we headed for a traditional December? I hope not!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Hmm. Have you ever struggled to forgive someone, or perhaps to be forgiven. Stephen preached on Sunday about this as part of our being the body series - check out the sermon using the "sermon downloads" link in the column on the right!

Monday, October 23, 2006


If you want to hear a sermon again then click here or click on the link on the right of the blog!


November is a time for remembering. We start the month with the annual competition to let off the biggest firework (with bonus points if you do it after midnight) in memory of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators who attempted to blow up King James. Then comes a more solemn time when we wear our poppies and pause on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to remember the men and women who gave their lives in two World Wars and in many conflicts since. Later in the month on the evening of Sunday 19th at All Saints Church we will take time to remember our loved ones have died when we gather to remember and to think and to cry.

You may have read the article in the Brodsworth Informer or the Highfields Village Chimes where I talked about my search for records of my Great Uncle Clifford. As a family all we had was a memorial plaque and the memory of my Grandma saying that he died in the war. Yet we knew that would have been barely 16 when the war ended. I tried for nearly 5 years to find records of Clifford, yet I couldn’t. Then I found an entry in the registers on-line which gave me hope. I sent for the death certificate and found that Private Reed, of the 3rd East Yorkshire Regiment died in 1919, aged just 17. “I’ve found him”, was all I could say as I held the piece of paper.

Remembering, I discovered, is not something that just happens. It’s something we have to work at – whether remembering failed plots and treason, or loved ones, or brave young men and women. If we simply rely on them coming to mind then eventually the remembering will stop. We need to be deliberate about remembering.

The same is true of our faith – the Christian faith is about remembering – remembering that God created the world, that He loves each one of us so much that He came to save us – remembering His death and resurrection with the symbols of bread and wine – remembering that He is here now through his Holy Spirit. We need to be deliberate about telling the story of God, not just waiting for it to come up in conversation or in our homes, but actively remembering, reminding ourselves and others of the Good News – allowing God to make it real again in our hearts and minds.

November is a time for remembering. The hope we have comes from remembering God’s faithfulness in the past and then looking ahead to the future that he has promised.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Will your anchor hold?

In loving memory of Gladys - A lady whose anchor held firm to the end and who is now safe in God's hands

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
Fastened to the rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!

Will your anchor hold in the straits of fear?
When the breakers roar and the reef is near;
While the surges rave, and the wild winds blow,
Shall the angry waves then your bark o’erflow?

Will your anchor hold in the floods of death,
When the waters cold chill your latest breath?
On the rising tide you can never fail,
While your anchor holds within the veil.

Will your eyes behold through the morning light
The city of gold and the harbour bright?
Will your anchor safe by the heavenly shore,
When life’s storms are past for evermore?


Just a question - where are you anchored?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Is there more to life than this?

It's a good question.

Is there more to life than eat, sleep, work, shout at the kids, be shouted at by your wife/husband/parents/children?

Is there more to life than just what we can see?

Some people ask the question and despair because they haven't found an answer.

In the Autumn of this year there is a chance to explore the meaning of life;

to ask questions;

to talk.

At All Saints we are going to run an Alpha Course - which provides a very easy way to explore together some of the big questions of life

Questions about suffering, about religion, about faith, about how to cope with life as we know it, maybe even questions about God!

So watch out for more information over the coming months and maybe you could find out if there is more to life than this!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Up, In, Out

Well, the Sunday after Easter Day is traditionally called Low Sunday - why that is I'm not sure but the modern take on it is that the congregation is usually very "low" in numbers.

This year our beloved Local Education Authority decided to put the two week Easter school holiday before Easter so it was back to work in a hurry on Easter Tuesday!!

Hence the long break in the blog - blame it on post Easter chocolate poisoning!!

So what's with the title - well over the last few weeks we've been learning about "Lifeshapes" a resource developed by Walt Kallestad and Mike Breen (former Rector of St Thomas' Church, Crookes, Sheffield).

The shapes are simple - you'll find a summary here - but they really help in living a Jesus-centred life.

Today we were thinking about the Triangle and about a truly balanced Christian life -

Up - our relationship with God - how we worship, pray, and learn to be God's friends
In - our relationships with each other - how we show love for one another in the church family
Out - our relationship with the world - how we share the good news of God's love with others

At All Saints we've been thinking about how these relate to us

UP - the word was "Listen" - we need to learn how to listen to God, not just telling Him what we think but taking time to listen to Him and what He says

IN - the word was "Love" - obvious but not easy - Loving everyone, even people that you really don't like - "Love your enemies" Jesus said - easy to say but to do it...

OUT - the word was "Go" - again obvious but have a read of the following story

Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen. And lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact, the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish. And the fish were hungry.

Week after week, month after month, and year after year, those who called themselves fishermen met in meetings and talked about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing. Year after year, they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing is always to be a primary task of fishermen.

These fishermen built large, beautiful buildings for local fishing headquarters. The plea was that everyone should be a fisherman and every fisherman should fish.

One thing they didn't do, however; they didn't fish.

In addition to meeting regularly, they organized a board to send out fishermen to other places where there were many fish. The board was formed by those who had the great vision and courage to speak about fishing, to define fishing, to promote the idea of fishing in faraway streams and lakes where many other fish of different colors lived. Also the board hired staff and appointed committees and held many meetings to define fishing, to defend fishing, to decide what new streams should be thought about.

But the staff and committee members did not fish.

Large, elaborate, and expensive training centres were built whose original and primary purpose was to teach fishermen how to fish. Over the years courses were offered on the needs of the fish, the nature of fish, how to define fish, the psychological reactions of fish, and how to approach and feed fish. Those who taught had doctorates in "fishology."

But the teachers did not fish. They only taught fishing.

Further, the fishermen built large printing houses to publish fishing guides. Presses were kept busy day and night to produce materials solely devoted to fishing methods, equipment, and programs, to arrange and encourage meetings, to talk about fishing. A speakers' bureau was also provided to schedule special speakers on the subject of fishing.

After one stirring meeting on "The Necessity of Fishing," one young fellow left the meeting and went fishing. The next day he reported that he had caught two outstanding fish.

He was honored for his excellent catch and scheduled to visit all the big meetings possible to tell how he did it. So he quit his fishing in order to have time to tell about the experience to the other fishermen. He was also placed on the Fisherman's General Board as a person having considerable experience.

Jesus said "I will make you fishers of men"

Have you been fishing lately?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Thinking outside the box!


I like Easter. Perhaps more than Christmas now that I'm all grown up and have to worry about how much presents cost rather than how quickly I can unwrap them all!

I think what I like best is that I can disentangle in my own mind the whole eggs, chocolate, bunny, chick, daffodil thing from the events just outside Jerusalem at the time of the Jewish Passover sometime around 33AD. At Christmas things get all jumbled up, but for me Easter is clear.

We celebrate the fact that Jesus is alive. That despite the best efforts of many people to put an end to Him, God's love proved to be stronger, stronger even than death.

I know he's alive because I've met him - that might make me sound mad, but it's true, and All Saints Church is full of people who would tell you the same thing.

My views on the alternative Easter images is summed up in the poster below which is produced by CPO

Now is a good time to find out who can!!

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 14, 2006

What's so good about "Good Friday"?

This year more than any other I've been asked this question, mainly by the younger members of our church or those visiting. Why is it "Good" Friday?

The thing to remember is that it is our name, referring to our view of the day. That first Good Friday was not a good day. 3 men executed, one on seemingly trumped up charges, the curtain in the temple torn in two (See here for a reference), a man expected to be the saviour of his people dead and buried, betrayed by one of his own and deserted by everyone except a few weeping women, one close friend and his mother.

There is no easy way to say this - Jesus died in utter agony. Crucifixion was THE most painful way to die, and he had been flogged half to death first. Add to that what we blieve was happening - that all the powers of darkness and hell vented their fury on Him - what was happening in the visible world - the nails, the lash, the pain, the darkness - were echoes of what was happening also in the spiritual world - the whole weight of our sin, our wrongdoing, taken out on Him by the powers of evil.

But why then Good Friday - because of one word Jesus spoke - in english it is rendered "It is finished" - in the original language of Jesus' day known as Koine (Coynay) Greek it is one word "tetelestai" (te-te-less-tay). It was a word written on a bill which had been settled - it can also be rendered "paid in full"

Somehow Jesus paid the price of our sin - he broke down the wall which our wrongdoing had built between us and God, he opened the way for us to know the love of God again.

It wasn't "Good" for Him, it was "Good" for us.

Because of His death we can know forgiveness and a chance for a new start!

Indeed Good Friday!

A towel, a plate, a cup and a Traitor

Well! Finally a chance to reflect on the Easter weekend.

Thursday evening found us sat around a low table set for 13. We remembered Jesus' words and actions as he washed his disciples feet, as they enjoyed God's goodness as they remembered His rescuing His people from Egypt and as Jesus took bread and wine and gave it incredible significance.

What always strikes me on Maundy Thursday is that Jesus did all this BEFORE Judas left to betray him - at least that is the way I read the Gospel accounts. Jesus washed Judas' feet, gave Judas the great signs of God's mercy.

All the disciples ran, Peter's denial was as much a betrayal as Judas. The only difference was Judas decided to take his future into his own hands, Peter stayed long enough to discover Jesus' version of Peter's future!!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Passion of the Christ

What is your image of Jesus?

Is it Robert Powell in "Jesus of Nazareth",
or maybe Max von Sydow in "The Greatest Story ever told"
or maybe it is the wonderful animated version "The Miracle Maker"

Last night we watched Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" at Church.

If you've never seen it I would say it is a "must see".
There are lots of films which show the death of Jesus but none which capture the utter brutality of death by crucifixion. It was meant to be excruciating. Watching a crucifixion was designed to act as a deterrent - you would see the agony of the condemned and so you would toe the line.

When it came to punishment the Romans knew what they were up to!

There are two possibilities to consider when looking at the man Jesus nailed to a cross.

Either he was deluded about himself, in which case he must have been a complete madman to even consider dying in this way (and you have to say looking at the evidence Jesus did nothing to prevent his death by crucifixion)


Maybe he was who he said he was - God himself come to restore the relationship which we had spoilt because of our wrongdoing - to break down the wall which we had built between us and God.

Don't take my word for it. Read some of the things Jesus said and decide for yourself whether you thought he was mad or not - because if he wasn't, if there is just a chance that he was who he said he was - then it changes everything.

Why not watch the film for yourself and then just ponder the idea that he went through all that pain because he wanted you to know just how much God loves you!

Now there's a thought!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Revival in our homes

What a day Palm Sunday was this year. As well as a vicarage birthday we celebrated Jesus entry into Jerusalem and looked to Friday as we took our Palm Crosses.

The music group and singers sang two songs from Roger Jones' musical "Jerusalem Joy" whilst the children paraded around the church waving the palm branches thay had made.

Palm Sunday is a bitter-sweet sort of day - we celebrate Jesus hailed as a king knowing full well that by Friday the crowds will be baying for his blood - and all that without the modern media!!

In our last hymn we sang

"Sometimes they strew his way,
and his sweet praises sing,
resounding all the day hosannas to their King.
Then "Crucify!"
is all their breath,
and for his death
they thirst and cry."

For all the words click here

In the evening we went to the City Celebration in Doncaster - a town wide gathering of Christians of all denominations, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Salvation Army, Free Church, and several other groups I haven't remembered to mention.

The speaker was Rachel Hickson and she was amazing. Very dynamic and very challenging but speaking right to the heart of what Doncaster needs! Her website is here. She spoke of the need to see revival happening first in our homes and then seeing the light spread out onto the streets.

We spent time praying for marriages, for families, for children, for businesses and for those who have no voices to speak out - the marginalised and the outcasts.

Very challenged but very encouraged!

What a start to Holy Week!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Christ in the Passover

Today saw the start of our series of events for Easter.

A young lady from Jews for Jesus came to share with us about the traditions and symbols of the Passover. We were gently taken through the symbols of bitter herbs and salt water, representing the bitter slavery of God's people in Egypt and the tears they shed, on to the symbols of sacrifice (a roast egg!) and the shank bone of a lamb reminding of the passover Lamb which can no longer be eaten as there is no temple in which to sacrifice it.

Our friend showed us how Jesus in his Life, Death and Resurrection was the ultimate fulfillment of all the Passover promises of God!

One thing I found incredible - at one point during the meal a piece of the unleavened bread (caled Matzoh) is taken from a special cloth which has three pieces in it, ceremonially broken and then wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden, later in the meal a child will be sent to find the piece of Matzoh now called the "Afikomen". When it is found the child receives a reward and then the Afikomen is broken into small pieces and eaten in the place of the Passover lamb.

Jesus, part of the Trinity which is how Christians know God, came and he was "broken" on the cross. His body was wrapped in linen and "hidden" in the tomb. He was, three days later, found to be alive and that finding carried a reward - eternal life (and it still does, although really it is Jesus who does the finding!!). In church during communion we eat bread to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us - eating bread in place of the true Passover lamb who died so that we could be God's friends and enjoy Him forever!

Oh! and just one last thought about the Afikomen - the Rabbis (who make a lot of the rules by which Jewish people live) decided that the Matzoh - the unleavened bread - should be pierced and striped! Hmm! Have a read of Isaiah 53 verse 5 and tell me if you don't think that God is trying to persuade His precious chosen people to believe in the the One who came to be their Messiah - the saviour of the world - Jesus.

More soon about Palm Sunday!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Well, It's a start!


I've been meaning to start a Church blog for a while but I've never got round to it. A friend directed me to and lo and behold here we are.

But who are "we"?

We are All Saints Church, which is based in the village of Woodlands, north of Doncaster, in South Yorkshire in the UK. Our parish covers 2/3 of Woodlands and all of the village of Highfields.

We are part of the Church of England - and our local part of the church is the Diocese of Sheffield.

Our building is quite distinctive - I'll post some more pictures as we go along but here is a nice shot from GenUKi.

Oh! Who am I?

I'm the vicar of All Saints - Rev Stephen Gardner - and we'll talk a bit more about the church family and what we do, and faith, and life as the vicar of a church, and about Jesus - who is reason All Saints exists!

See you soon

The Vicar!