Tarves and Barthol Chapel Newsletter

May 2019 

The Manse
8 Murray Avenue

Dear Friends

A couple of months ago we had a new addition to the manse household – an eight week old golden retriever puppy, who goes by the name of Melville.  He is the fourth in our line of golden retrievers. As Melville is our fourth retriever we thought we knew all we needed to know about puppy-proofing the house and garden…..well it turns out that we had forgotten quite a lot in ten years!  

Let me explain.  Over the winter Sean has been busy building raised beds in a section of the manse garden.  We thought we might grow some fruit and vegetables to enjoy later in the summer, (and at the same time see if we can improve on last year’s 2nd prize for a cucumber in the Tarves Flower Show!).  To protect the new beds and their contents from the unwanted attention of dogs, Sean put up a piece of fencing and a metal gate.  Unfortunately within 48 hours of his arrival Melville had discovered he was small enough to get through between the railings in the gate.  So we hurriedly blocked them up with a piece of netting.  Then the puppy discovered the fun of digging and managed to tunnel his way under the gate – until we blocked that off too.  But woe betide us if we forget to shut the gate - he is into the vegetable area like a shot enjoying the wooden beds, the smells, the vegetation, building himself a nest in the midst of it all!  For Melville it seems, that that old rusty gate leads into puppy heaven – and he is determined to find his way there!  

I don’t know what your idea of heaven is but the Bible has quite a lot to say about heaven.  The kingdom of heaven was the subject of much of Jesus’ teaching.  And while we may not be able to say exactly what heaven will be like, we do know that in heaven it is God’s reign that prevails.  And that reign is characterised by love and justice, peace and joy.  What is more the Christian understanding of heaven begins not after we die, but in the present.  Wherever we see darkness being transformed into light, hatred and bitterness into grace and forgiveness, war and conflict into peace and joy, pain and suffering into healing and wholeness, then we see the seeds of God’s future reign of love growing in the world today.  

Sadly, down through the generations God’s future has too often been misinterpreted or abused by those who would seek to promote their own ideas of heaven.  Much violence has been perpetrated both in the name of religion and against religion.  And we have seen tragic examples of this in recent times in New Zealand and Sri Lanka.  However, in the midst of this the Church celebrates the season of Easter.  And we are reminded that sin and death and hell do not have the last word.  Because the last word belongs to God who is love.  In love, for love God in Christ laid down his own life for the world.  And he invites people to share in his work of love, and to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth as it already is in heaven.  And that may mean laying down our own selfish hopes and dreams, or giving up things that are precious to us, for the sake of God’s world and future generations.  

Surely what our world needs more than anything else today, is a renewed vision of God’s heaven, and a fresh determination to seek love and justice, peace and joy for all the world’s people.  And while that may sometimes seem a far off hope, it begins to become a reality as we seek, with God’s help, to live it out in the small actions of our own daily lives.

I hope you have a relaxing and refreshing summer and look forward to catching up with you at the various celebrations and events that we enjoy in Barthol Chapel and Tarves over the summer.

With warmest wishes

Alison I Swindells

Your friend and minister