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Caring

In our Parish we video a service for every Sunday at one of our 5 churches. Without the enthusiasm, support and contributions of so many these services would never have been produced.

We see a the same so often in our own society and probably everywhere else in this world, so much is done by groups of dedicated volunteers what is often not noticed. And even worse, is sometimes not even appreciated, but only receives negative criticism.

Every Thursday night we single out many of our carers, but we should not forget so many others who keep our society going by their continuing support for each other.

Without all those people serving behind the scene our society would not exist as it is. 

The Bible readings from last Sunday’s service on Acts 1 is often seen of being the origin of the church in Jerusalem. A community wherein people shared the same faith and congregated together. But, was this church as shown to us in Acts in reality the church as God intended it to be? If so, why then disappeared this Church after about 35 years? Already during the writing of the New Testament many other churches appeared and as it seems, none of them followed the example of the Jerusalem church.  

Wherever the church people gather into a close knit community sharing everything and turning into a secluded group of like-minded people, God seem to demolish those ideals.

God doesn’t want His people to be a select or elect group of people who have escaped the world, but instead He wants His Church to be in the middle of the world.  Serving the mission of the Gospel and caring for the people of the community wherein it stands. This is what the history of the Church has shown us; it is thriving where it is focussed on its calling to proclaim the message of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus and where it cares for its community.

What care actually means is difficult to transcribe or explain. The root of the original Greek word is nearly identical to our word for melody. We often hear from people how music, or a particular song or melody, moves their heart. And perhaps that is the reason why the Greek word for care relates to what moves the heart.

The care the Bible speaks about is not caring in the sense of performing a duty or doing your job, but because the heart is moved to do something for somebody else.

The Bible is asking us to do this, because God did is first for us. By sending Christ Jesus into the world God showed His ultimate love and care for us. Jesus did not came into this world because it was duty or His job, but because He kept us at His heart. Christ was moved by love and care for us.  It is for this reason, Jesus didn’t call the disciples His servants, but His friends.

It is by putting our trust in Jesus Christ and into His ministry to reconcile us with God, which overflows in caring with our heart for others as much as God cares for us.

Ascension Day

‘Partir, c'est mourir un peu’ (saying goodbye is to die a little); the French poet Edmond Haraucourt wrote about a 100 years ago.

At Ascension Day, the disciples who were with Jesus were in a similar situation. For more than a month Jesus had met and instructed them on certain occasions, which are not further detailed in the Bible. But, now the time had come to leave them to their own and Jesus asked them to wait a few more weeks before they would receive particular strength to start their mission.

When Jesus left them, He disappeared in a cloud. The cloud resembles with a similar cloud mentioned in the Old Testament, when Moses went into the cloud to meet God. You can read the story in Exodus 19 to 24. After Moses returned from the cloud he held in his arms the two tablets containing the 10 commandments.

When Jesus disappeared in the cloud He promised to come back to His disciples through the power of the Holy Spirit and so that happened at Pentecost.

When Moses returned from the cloud to meet God he came back with the law, but with Jesus Christ the law is no longer a book or a set of rules to be obeyed, mainly for one particular nation to be followed.

In Jesus Christ God meets with each one of us and His parting from us is not to die a little but to receive life in its fullness.

The strength and encouragement to share this message arrived at Pentecost, so may this Ascension Day help us to remember how Christ made God known to us and look at Pentecost as the moment when the Holy Spirit gave us the power to be a witness of this to others.

Hans

"The Blessing"

I thought it would be good to share this song - "The Blessing" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUtll3mNj5U) which has been put together by over 65 churches and movements (representing hundreds of others), who have come together online to sing.

The Blessing image

Technically accomplished, it is also a beautiful piece of worship music. In the words of the publishers:

"Standing together as one, our desire is that this song will fill you with hope and encourage you. But the church is not simply singing a blessing, each day we're looking to practically be a blessing. Many of the churches included in this song have assisted with supplying over 400,000 meals to the most vulnerable and isolated in our nation since COVID-19 lockdown began. This alongside phone calls to the isolated, pharmacy delivery drops and hot meals to the NHS frontline hospital staff.

Our buildings may be closed but the church is very much alive!"

Lyrics:

Verse — 

The Lord bless you

And keep you

Make His face shine upon you

And be gracious to you

The Lord turn His Face toward you

And give you peace

As we receive, we agree, amen

Chorus —  Amen, amen, amen

Bridge — 

May His favour be upon you

And a thousand generations

And your family and your children

And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you

And behind you, and beside you

All around you, and within you

He is with you, He is with you

Original Song “The Blessing” by Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Elevation Worship.

Written by Chris Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Steven Furtick

Audio produced by Trevor Michael

Video edited by Level Creative

For questions and more information please contact theukblessing@gmail.com

How Ecclesiastes speaks during Covid-19

 

Guest column from Georgie C.

In the last weeks the well-known passage from Ecclesiastes has repeatedly come into my mind. It starts at the beginning of Chapter 3 with these words:

Everything that happens in this world happens at a time God chooses.

He sets the time for birth and the time for death

A time for planting and a time for pulling up

A time for killing and a time for healing

…and so it goes on.

If nothing else in these past weeks, we have all been given time to reflect.  For me, these reflections have brought both sad memories and some very happy ones. Sometimes the reflections made me feel guilty about missed opportunities and sometimes I have felt proud of past achievements.

For all of us I believe this time has enabled us to concentrate in a more focussed way about the things in life that really matter.

For most this time has heightened the awareness of how important other people are to us.  This includes not only family and friends but all those who touch our lives without our really being aware of them - our neighbours in a biblical sense.  The importance of other people in our lives matters not only to the most extrovert of characters but also to the shyest recluse.

Fighting the pandemic has been likened to fighting an enemy.  As in any war, there are usually a large number of heart-breaking casualties.  As a mark of respect to those who have tragically died in this pandemic, let us try to improve on some of our old ways.  We have been given time to reflect on better ways of doing things (including being more considerate to planet Earth).  In our hearts we all know what these ‘ways’ are. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes believed in God but did not have the privilege that we have of knowing that Jesus came to restore our hope in a brighter future.  Christianity is very simple (although others may tell you differently). Follow the teaching of Jesus and believe and all will be well with you.

We are living through an extraordinary time.

Georgie C.

 

May letter

Because of all the restrictions put onto the churches and their services, as a Parish we have continued our church services on our Youtube channel, which is easy accessible via this website.

During the restrictions may we remind ourselves that whatever restrictions authorities or others put on us, even with the best options, it will not hinder God to be accessible.

It depends on our own attitude whether we continue communication between God and us. On quite a few places the Bible tells us that God is not away from us.

In the Old Testament for example in Psalm 9:10 it says that ‘those who know You will put their trust in You, for You Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You’. IN the New Testament in James 4:8 we are reminded to ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you’.

May the current situation not deter us from seeking God, or let slip our relationship with Him. And even in times of being reluctant to keep our eyes on God for whatever reason, let us remember how He will never leave us. Jesus spoke to His friends in the Gospel of Matthew 28:20, ‘I am with you always even to the end of the age’. Through Jesus Christ, God will be always there for us.

Gospel reading for 3rd May and some reflections on it for the service from Lillingstone Daryell on that date.

 

 

John 10:1-10 The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

 

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  

 

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 

 

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 

 

 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 

 

But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.” 

 

Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

 

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 

 

All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 

 

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 

 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

------------------------------

Hello. It is good to be writing to you even if rfom my isolation at home.

 

As I prepared my thoughts for today, a number of things crossed my mind.

 

I now wake up each morning to the sound of silence, apart from the birds. No traffic noise. I have no feeling that I have to rush to get on with one of the many tasks that are normally there.

 

All I can hear is the sound of the wind in the trees and of the birds. Particularly pigeons, a pair of which are nesting in our back garden.

If you sit quietly and watch them, you see their anxiety in everything they do. Always stopping and checking that it is safe to enter the nest. Always out and about seeking nesting materials and food! A bit like all of us at the moment in lockdown! Anxious about what is to happen next!

 

If we do nothing else different at this difficult time, let us stop and observe the beauty of nature and the rhythms of life all around us which we are usually to busy to look for and observe. It reminds us how wonderful creation is. Watching the pigeons I feel closer to nature and I feel closer to God, 

 

Our Gospel reading today reflects that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.

 

In the old testament the concept of the shepherd was often used to symbolise a caretaker of God’s people. Have a look at Ezekiel 34! It tells us that God had given great responsibility to the leaders, the shepherds of Israel to care for the people of Israel. This they hadn’t done. And so he promised to provide a true Shepherd, Jesus, to care for the sheep. 

 

In our reading, Jesus is speaking to those who were supposed to be the guardians of the holy law. The moral leaders! To be the shepherds! But as we read too often in the bible, they were hidebound by their misguided perception of the law, without basic understanding and humanity.

 

There are two images in this text.  In 10:1-5 Jesus simply speaks a truth that his hearers would have known and relied upon.  Because Judean's highly valued their sheep as a main source of their food and their clothing  they would have known each one of them and they would have protected them with their lives. There are also a couple of interesting things about the shepherd with whom Jesus identifies himself. 

 

First, this shepherd has the well-being of the sheep at heart, rather than his own well-being.  This shepherd is neither thief nor bandit who would steal sheep, considered a profoundly anti-social act and one in which the sheep would only come to a bad end.  Jesus emphasises the difference between the bandit and shepherd:  the shepherd enters rightly, properly, and openly into the sheepfold. All is open and above board, a cooperative effort with an obliging doorkeeper and sheep who respond to the sound of their name.  

 

There is a relationship of trust among all parties here.  Notice that the sheep are not presented as stupid.  They "know" whom they can trust. In verse 4, their trust is validated and emphasised by another piece of the shepherd's behaviour: He brings the sheep out of the fold and then goes before them. The sheep do not simply escape some confinement or hasten out of the fold to brave the larger world on their own.  Their shepherd leads them out and then goes in front of them, to lead them.  The sheep are not abandoned.

 

The text tells us that the audience didn’t understand this analogy so Jesus tries again to contrast himself with thieving leaders.  He becomes very specific about those who had come before him as the thieves and bandits that he had mentioned in verse 1 and were described in Ezekiel,  from whom the sheep rightly fled. 

 

Jesus says I am the gate, the proper way, the right way, the only way into the sheep fold.  Pasture, that is life, is through me, the gate.  Those who enter are being saved, brought into pasture and life rather than for their destruction. Jesus speaks of the gate to help clarify the image of shepherd.  In both cases it is about the trustworthy one. Whether the one who leads or the one who sets the right path that will lead his followers into ample pasture. 

 

All of us need to follow a good path that leads to good spiritual sustenance.. It is easy to be sidetracked. At the start of the epidemic much good was seen, in caring for those less able. 

Whether it be by simple telephone calls or bringing food and medicines.

 

We did it because it was the right thing to do. Something that instinctively we knew, Jesus would have wanted us to do. He had shown us at this moment in time the right gate to pass through and encouraged us to follow him through it and so many people did. 

 

We must not let that care and compassion fall away.

 

Remember the gate which Jesus wants us to pass through, and do so with confidence and with the certainty that only he can give us, that it is the right thing to do and that he will be there before us to lead us, not just in the current emergency but in everything that we do.

 

This is his promise to us. I will show you the right path and I will open the gate and lead you through it.

 

Let us pray

 

O Lord open my eyes so that I can see the needs of others.

Open my ears so that I may hear their cries.

Open my heart so that they need not be without succour.

Show me where love and faith and hope are needed, and use me to bring them to these places.

Open my eyes and ears that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for you.

 

I also pray that we may soon meet again in fellowship within our churches and community.

 

In Jesus name I pray Amen

 

Ian

 

 

Words of reflection

Words of reflection on Luke 24: 13 – 35.

A number of people recently have asked: “ Where is God ?” “ Why are our churches closed”? Indeed they are questions I have asked, myself. Perhaps our reading from Luke’s gospel can help us find some answers to these and other questions.

Two disciples after witnessing the events in Jerusalem, of unrest, brutality, and crucifictions, especially of their friend and teacher Jesus. Their hopes were dashed, they had hoped Jesus was going to restore Israel, bring peace and freedom. They were bewildered, disillusioned and grieving.

We can often find ourselves bewildered, disillusioned, anxious and maybe grieving. Feeling someone or something has let us down. This may be especially true in the circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment with lockdown, isolation and the fear of getting the Corona Virus.

Jesus comes and walks beside them, helping them to think through and recall what was written in scripture and spoken by Jesus . Not recognising hat it was the risen Jesus walking and talking with them.

At the end of Matthew’s gospel, the risen Jesus says; “ all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me; therefore go and make disiples of all nations; baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age”. This was Jesus promise to his disciples and to us. As we think through the situation we find ourselves in and seek answers to our questions; God is walking beside us in the form of the Holy Spirit now, helping us to understand a little more as we read scripture and discuss with others.

When the disciple reached their home they invited Jesus for supper. This was the point that they recognised the risen Lord and they couldn’t wait to rush back the 7miles they had travelled to tell their fellow disciples. We all have free will and can choose to invite Jesus into our lives, ( this is not as difficult as trying to download skype or zoom, as I have been trying to do recently, ) No we just talk to him anywhere as if he is a neighbour or a friend, invite him in and communicate by reading and praying. We may not recognise Him at first, but he is there, especially in difficult times. He can be a guest in anyone’s home not just in church.

In Such An Hour by Fay Inchfawn

Sometimes, when everything goes  wrong:

When days are short, and nights are long;

When wash-day brings so dull a sky

That not a single thing will dry.

And when the kitchen chimney smokes,

And when there's naught so "queer" as  folks!

When friends deplore my faded youth,

And when the baby cuts a tooth.

While John, the baby last but one,

Clings round my skirts till day is done;

When fat, good-tempered Jane is glum,

And butcher's man forgets to come.

Sometimes, I say, on days like these,

I get a sudden gleam of bliss.

"Not on some sunny day of ease,

He'll come . . but on a day like this!"

Reflections on John 20

When you look for sermons on our reading from John 20 from :19 to the end of this gospel, you’ll find many are about Thomas and his unbelief. However, the story shows that the disciples were not having much more faith than Thomas; they weren’t great believers either. 

It says that on the evening of that day they were shut inside because of fear. Although in the morning they were told the Lord has risen, it didn’t brought them great happiness. Instead, they were behind locked doors because of fear. And in the midst of their fear, hiding behind locked doors; Jesus comes in their midst and says; Peace be with you.   

One of the most remarkable things in the story is that Jesus is not saying to the disciples; have I not told You I would rise on the 3rd day, so why didn’t you believe? There’s no accusation of unbelief or reproach by Jesus when He sees His friends again for the fist time after His resurrection. The first time He sees them again, His first words to them are; Peace be with you.  

Today in the fear of the outbreak of the Corona virus and many are locked inside in their homes, in fear of the virus, Jesus wants to stand in your midst speaking the same words again; Peace be with you. Jesus will not reproach us when we fall in doubt or show signs of unbelief. He’s not saying to us; why didn’t you belief? His words to all those who invite Jesus in their lives are the simple words; Peace be with you. It might sound a simple sentence, but the depth of these words reaches an enormous reservoir of peace, hope, trust and any other comfort we might ever need that only God can give.  

Peace be with you Jesus says; a peace of God no one and nothing else can provide.   

His peace be with you.

A special Prayer for Easter Midweek

Heavenly Father, we thank You for the message of Easter, of the risen Christ among us. Especially today in the middle of Easter week, we are conscious that there is so much that is uncertain, so much we can not predict and so much we neither know nor understand. Lord in Your great mercy, assure us of the victory of Christ.

Remind us once more in this week of Easter, that in all the changes and chances of our nation only You are our unchanging Rock, an unfailing Deliverer and our eternal hope. Lord in Your great mercy, assure us of the victory of Christ.

Help us to continue to celebrate Easter in the next few days of this Easter week. Knowing that Your love continues through all things, Your power continues through all things and Your presence is with us in all things. Lord in Your great mercy, assure us of the victory of Christ.

Give us today a sense of Your great care towards us, a recognition of all You have done and a confidence in all you will do. Be among us now, we pray, through the risen Christ. Help us to hear His voice and to offer You our praise. And guide us to understand that our hope is in You alone and to live in that assurance. Lord in Your great mercy, assure us of the victory of Christ.

Easter

Easter is about surprises. If you go out for a walk today, surprise one of the people you meet on the road (from a 2 meter distance) and say to him or her; Happy Easter because the Lord is risen today. I don’t know whether the other will respond with; He is risen indeed. But, he or she will at least be surprised by what you say.

What happened to the disciples on Easter morning was not less surprising.

The experience of this surprise was for the disciples a kind of spiritual experience which we might better call a spiritual distortion, because their whole world view turned upside down. It’s not normal that dead people re-appear on the 3rd day after their funeral and greet their friends.  

Churches are generally not good at letting people doubt and pastors or ministers are expected to know exactly who God is and how He works with and for His people in this world. Doubt and confusion do not really fit into this pattern. But that’s exactly what the first Easter is all about; doubt and confusion.

Doubt about the resurrection of Jesus and confusion about how and what had happened.

Take for example the witness of the 2 Mary’s who went to the grave to pay their last tribute to the corps of Jesus, as we read in Mark. In those days no one wishing to convince someone of an event would use women as witnesses. 

The doubt and confusion of the resurrection was accompanied by an overturning of certain fixed rules of behaviour in that society.   

The disciples didn’t believe the story at first and it made them think very hard. This experience is a powerful reminder to us. God wants us to be aware of the reality of the risen Lord that we become enthusiastic witnesses.

The disciples and other friends of Jesus have gone through the doubt and confusion for us at the first Easter. But, it didn’t hold them down. Their doubt and confusion turned into the greatest incentive ever seen in this world of convincing others of this truth. They did not go alone, because it was the risen Christ Who appeared to them and helped them overcoming all doubt and confusion. 

As the disciples so many years ago we can overcome doubt and confusion to rejoice and be thankful for what the resurrection really means; sin and evil, all leading to death, have been overcome through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Hans

 

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