Dear Friends

Welcome to the month of July. July is named after Julius Caesar, a Roman general, statesman and historian. Julius Caesar is not mentioned in the Bible, nor did he live during the times recorded in the Bible, having died in 44 BCE (Before Christian Era).

Tiberius Caesar was however referred to in the 12th chapter of Mark’s Gospel. Here, an alliance of religious sects posed a question about the payment of taxes to Caesar. Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin”. When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply completely amazed them.

There is no doubt of our legal obligation as citizens to pay the taxes levied by the UK government. That is our duty as these taxes fund the delivery of public services for our betterment, policies of our elected government and maintenance of structures for running this country. No difference to the levying of taxes during the Roman Empire times of the ‘Caesars’ but what about those things belonging to God?

In response to Job’s questions in the 38th chapter, God posed the following counter-questions: “Where does light come from and where does darkness go? Can you take each to its home? Do you know how to get there? Where is the path of the source of light? Where is the home of the east wind? Who created a channel for the torrents of rain? Who laid out the path for the lightning? Who makes the rain fall on barren land, in a desert where no one lives? Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground and make the tender grass spring up?” I could go on, but my point is knowing what God’s natural wonders are. God was not seeking answers from Job. Instead, he was inviting Job to recognise and submit to His power and sovereignty. Only then could Job hear the words of God and so should we.

When we hear God’s words, we understand that we are God’s masterpiece. We appreciate that God has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. I shared in a recent sermon that our internal witness of Christ is transformed in order to be an external witness. Each of us is special to God and He wants to fulfil specific things in our lives in harmony with our physical frames, and positively with our families, places of work and communities. If the frame is deficient or deformed, then God can use even that to highlight our unique qualities geared towards becoming more purpose driven.

You see, unless we see that God has been at work in our beings from the moment of our conception with a unique design for our lives, we tend to regard ourselves as of modest value and insignificant value to God. God however continues working on us for our betterment, which a Christian writer captured with the words: “Stay on God’s Easel”. We are God’s painting on His Easel. We stay on God’s Easel constantly transforming from bitterness to joy. We stay on God’s Easel where our fears turn into faith for resilience. We stay on God’s Easel sourcing thankfulness out of deep pain (and that can be difficult without support). We stay on God’s Easel open to be guided towards His ends and outcomes, not our own, growing with greater confidence and resilience.

As I write this letter, I pray that we find rest for our restless spirits emerging out of the Covid-19 rules and much will depend on the latest government announcements. Sometimes it is ok to be sad and lament as I shared in the June edition. But most importantly, we find peace in ourselves daily refreshed because we’re of infinite value to God and to each other in our family and community.

Stay blessed with love,

Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray

Parish of the Claydons