Andrew talks about ‘bucking the trend’ on BBC Radio Wiltshire

This morning Andrew had a short interview on BBC Radio Wiltshire. It was about how St Katharine’s is going against the tide as the Church of England announces that national attendance has dropped below 1 million for the first time.

If you would like to have a listen, click on the following link and skip to 1:23:50 (this is the point in the show that you can hear the interview).

http://bbc.in/238gPJu


Always Winter and Never Christmas – the World of Narnia

Many of us are familiar with the story of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, four children evacuated from London in the 2nd World War, who are given lodging in an old house in the country belonging to an eccentric professor. On a rainy day, confined to the house, they set about exploring the corridors and rooms of this country mansion. Finally they stumble into a room that is quite empty except for one big wardrobe. Lucy, on entering the wardrobe, finds herself in a cold and snowy land in which it is “always winter and never Christmas”.

In her encounters with the inhabitants of Narnia, Lucy learns the story of this fascinating land. The true king of Narnia is a great lion named Aslan, who has been absent for many years now, but who is now “on the move again”. Edmund also enters Narnia but he learns a very different story about this land. He hears the story from the White Witch, who presents herself as the true and lawful ruler of the land. Who is to be believed? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a tale about how these characters are tested just as their stories are also put to the test.

In order to make right judgments, the children need to learn to trust the true over-arching story of Aslan, and in time they need to meet Him and to learn to trust His love and wisdom for their lives. As they do this they find that in this strange world into which they have stumbled, like it or not, they are destined to play a significant role.

Lewis’ imaginary world of Narnia is a world of supposition. In effect, Lewis is asking us to imagine what it would be like if the Son of God were to enter a world like Narnia. As He became a man in our world, He becomes a lion in the world of Narnia; now imagine how the story would unfold… As we read the Chronicles of Narnia, we are called to reflect on how C.S. Lewis’ imaginary world helps us to understand our own.

As the impact of the Church has declined in our country, the over-arching story of the love of God shown to us in Jesus Christ is more in the background than it has been in previous decades. If Aslan is the answer to the problem of it being “always winter and never Christmas”, I wonder whether we might see our world in similar terms? Just as the Beavers of Narnia kept the faith, and kept telling the story of Aslan, so there are churches today that are still confident of Jesus’ ability to bring a thaw in the conditions. As our Church grows, and new people respond to the love of God, we have seen a lot of the snow already melted. Just

as the creatures of Narnia began to understand that Aslan was on the move again, so in our world we sense that Jesus is bringing a fresh move of His Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus is on the move again!

Just as Lucy and Edmund were tested, so this life tests our character, and all of us are found wanting at some time or other. And what of the stories that Lucy and Edmund want to tell about Narnia? Edmund has been bewitched into thinking that Aslan is not the answer to Narnia’s woes, and he has to be won back from the clutches of the White Witch, something that can only be accomplished by Aslan’s death on the stone table.

Edmund has a threshold to pass through, and in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ‘thresholds that take us into another world’ is a central theme in the book. Pushing through the fur coats to the back of the wardrobe can transport us to Narnia, but Aslan himself becomes another kind of threshold. Nothing but Aslan’s death, it transpires, can take Edmund from legally being bound to the White Witch to being a child of the King of Narnia. Edmund reaches the point when he sees the White Witch’s story as a pack of lies, and he is desperate to change his allegiance over to Aslan, but what it costs Aslan to enable him to cross over, comes as a surprise to him.

I think it comes as a surprise to us too, to find that it takes Jesus’ death for us to cross over into His Kingdom. When we put our faith in Jesus’ death and pledge ourselves to follow Him alone, we find this step of faith truly takes us to another world where we can see much more clearly the Aslan/White Witch divide, and can more keenly sense that Aslan(Jesus) is on the move.

Just as C.S. Lewis’ Narnia has the capacity to re-enchant a dis-enchanted world, entering over the threshold of faith makes each of us a new creation and opens our eyes to the wonderful plans Jesus has for the part we are to play in this world. Would you like to take that step? A prayer that asks forgiveness for the past, pledges your life to follow Jesus and make him your lord, and asks him to come and live in you by His Holy Spirit, is what it takes. Then join a lively church and tell the church leader you’ve just prayed that prayer.

Just as the children in the story find that they have a special role to play in Narnia – once a King or Queen in Narnia, always a King or Queen in Narnia – so Jesus calls us to a significant role in how the story of His world unfolds…

The Chronicles of Narnia are wonderful. They resonate strongly with our basic human intuition – telling us that our own story is part of something grander.


A Curious Kingdom

When Jesus started his preaching ministry, his primary message was ‘The Kingdom of God has come close to you’. What on earth did he mean by that? What would it mean to you if someone spoke those very words to you? Jesus conducted a ministry of compassion, healing and deliverance from evil, and when you were on the receiving end of his ministry, strange though his message was, you were beginning to get a handle on what he meant with his odd turn of phrase, ‘The Kingdom of God has come close to you’. We might imagine the excitement of those first followers of Jesus as they said to themselves, ‘If this is the Kingdom of God, then count me in!’ For those who were responding in this way, Jesus went on to ask them to ‘repent and to believe’, that is to turn from a way of life that was not helping them and to put their full trust in God. Many did just that, and Jesus sent out groups of them to copy his ministry. First he sent out the original group of 12 and then a larger group of 72. To the first group he told them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who had leprosy, and to drive out evil. ‘Freely you have received’, he told them, ‘Freely give’. They were to preach the same simple message, ‘The Kingdom of God has come close to you’! What, you may be asking, were the results of this? In Luke 10 we have a report of the 72 coming back in high excitement at the results, and of Jesus breaking into spontaneous praise with these words: ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure’. The experience of the Kingdom of God is at the heart of Christianity. That makes the response of faith something that is heart-warming and relevant. Looking at it another way, the Kingdom of God is very much about the Holy Spirit. When Jesus started his ministry he was filled with the Holy Spirit at his baptism. Before Jesus sent out the 12 and the 72 he sent them off with the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. That’s how they were able to perform the miracles they did, and when people responded to this Kingdom activity with faith, this is what happened. They experienced a spiritual birth into the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom grew. The Kingdom of God came when the Holy Spirit came and people responded to his coming and are still responding in the same way today.