Welcome

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives
May you never give up praying.
When you pray, may you keep alert and be thankful.
Pray that together we may make the message of the mystery of Christ as clear as possible.
Amen
(Based on Colossians 3 and 4)

Readings for Sunday: Vanderbilt Divinity Library

Reflections for the week: Lyfe Devotionals

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Reflection for Sunday 10th December 2017

Matthew 6:5-14

IMG_0471 (2)Everyone prays. The prayers we pray are what form our lives. They express our faith as we walk in the world. They express our inner voice. Prayed to God they are the foundation of our hope and breathe our knowledge of God, coming from the heart, coming from our forgiven centre. In them we know God.

I see God as being involved intimately in every moment of creation engaging with all prayer. My understanding of God is that he has placed my future in my hands and we are fully in his hands. I believe this because of the framing of the prayer Jesus teaches. Some say God, by his nature, is unchanging and unmoving. I think he is more than this. God by his very nature is beyond what we can conceive. I believe this from my reading of scripture. I see God as engaging evil in a way that allows us to choose good and defeat it. It is his will that we are one as he is One and that we love one another. He turns the outcomes of our failing into opportunities for good, for us to turn to better ways, for salvation. If we fall he picks us up. Yes we experience loss and pain but God brings good out of it. God suffers on the cross.

I see our universe as a forgiven universe, where the revelation of the cross is the revelation of God himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I see this as always having been so, though having been shown to us at the right time. God gets his hands dirty from the beginning forming us from the dust of the earth, he is changed and moved by our condition and our asking yet remains God.

The author, Tozer in his book, Knowledge of the Holy, sees the rule of God in the world as like a ship bound for a harbour. The passengers on the ship live their lives on board but the ship carries them to their destination. The lives of those on the ship are free but the course the ship sets is in the hands of its pilot. Prayer opens us up to seeing the course of God’s rule, his guiding and the way things are and our inclusion in God’s rule.

Jesus’ prayer is from its first words inclusive, universal, and welcomes us in to a relationship with God, our Father. This is the reward of seeking intimacy with God. Jesus would have prayed the eighteen blessings, three times a day as a good Jew. This prayer is said standing up and declares the faith of Israel in God’s character as God’s people. Jesus lived that prayer, and reveals its truth to Israel.

Jesus calls us to the universal Father- the Father of all not just the father of Israel. It puts in our hearts and causes us to express the desire that his people, all people, will bring glory to his name in their lives and in their praise, here on earth as it is in Heaven. Heaven is where God dwells, beyond the horizon, in unapproachable light. The prayer is a call for us to stand assured in God’s presence which is as close as a breath on the earth. Here. Now. In God’s presence, we know only love for God and for our neighbour. We love our enemies.

From this high place, we are brought down to earth seamlessly in to the reality of daily existence. As, I believe, our futures are open in the hands of God, so we ask God for our daily bread, what we need now; the food we need. This is not certain. For many it is the focus of their day. God asks us to involve him in our need to eat. Many have little to eat and dirty water to drink through no fault of their own.

We ask, as God loves us to ask. God knows our prayers before we ask, no moment is not known to him. This prayer for food forms our choice throughout the day and opens us up to thanksgiving and trust. Sometimes we will know abundance and sometimes want, but God is with us in our needs, in our asking and in our receiving. Food for our bodies can’t be taken for granted and its availability can make us complacent or doubt God’s goodness. God cares. In sharing our needs with our loving Father we are opened up to the needs of others. We become the way of kindness. We invite God into our longing.

IMG_1200Blessed are you Lord God who is our provider. May the ground yield its fullness and may we share together in its bounty as we steward wisely the earth you have given us.

Next, we ask God to forgive us the debt of wrong choices we have made. We, in speaking the prayer, declare our forgiveness of others who have wronged us. It is the practice of the church to examine our consciences before praying the prayer Jesus teaches.

The prayer prompts us to declare our forgiveness of others and opens us up to receive the forgiveness God gives by grace. Our forgiveness is entirely by grace, not dependent on us or a form of words. Our faith in Jesus is our forgiveness. Faith in Jesus sets us free from sin. We need God to work through our words of forgiveness to deepen our knowledge of the forgiveness we have received even while we were still bound by sin. We become forgiving as he is forgiving; as we understand others and forgive we come to know that God understands us too and forgives us.

An interpretation of Jesus’ words can be, As we forgive others in this moment, having examined our consciences, forgive us our trespasses and debts or, Forgiving God as we forgive others reassure our hearts that we are known by you and forgiven. It is a work of God’s grace to reveal to us the depth of the forgiveness we have received and for us to participate in sharing this gift.

IMG_1202Blessed are you Lord God who forgives. Open our eyes Lord, to your forgiveness as we forgive others as Jesus taught us.

God in his goodness knows all things. There is nothing that happens to us that is not held in the knowledge of God. This is beyond our understanding and in this truth our choices are not predetermined. He places, as I believe, the future in our hands but being God, he knows all futures and being God, he has planned goodness in all our choices. God is good all the time. So, we pray in the time of trial we will not fail.

God does not tempt anyone. The word “lead” that we pray in English does not carry the whole meaning. Maybe, “do not let us” completes its meaning. Do not let us fall in the time of trial, carries the meaning better for me. Do not let us fall into temptation in the time of trial is a prayer that acknowledges our weakness and that we might fall. We know our weaknesses, our tendency to pride and arrogance, to self-righteousness. We pray that in all our troubles, in all circumstances, our eyes are open to the goodness God has planned for us. We want to see God’s name lifted high on earth as it is in heaven. In the prayer, our hearts are prepared for the troubles and trials, and in us asking God that these will not cause us to fall, our expectation is formed that our eyes will be opened and we are trusting God to answer our need and for strength to persevere.

IMG_1202Blessed are you Lord God who is our guide. Teach us your ways and show us how in our choices we might worship you.

Finally, the prayer Jesus taught acknowledges that evil is an enemy. There is an evil malignant presence in creation. The powers and principalities act in every manner possible to rob us of our present blessing and separate us from the goodness of God. We ask for God’s deliverance in an uncertain and dangerous world. Today might be our last.

Blessed are you lord God who redeems us from our enemy. Deliver us from oppression physical, mental and spiritual that we may love you and you alone with all we are.

The prayer Jesus teaches leads me to an understanding of my walk in this world. I am in God’s rule, prepared from eternity to enjoy God, secure in his love and to know him in intimacy as Father. The prayer that Jesus taught forms me. It forms the people he knows from the beginning.

My world may feel like a wilderness. The wilderness is a tough environment, an external threat to our wellbeing. The western way is to internalise the wilderness and take it as a metaphor, sometimes making its experience a virtue.

Jesus teaches us to pray that we will not be lead into temptation in times of trial. He warns us that each day will have its troubles. In his prayer, we pray for our daily bread. Nothing is certain but we are told not to worry. This is a call to trust. It is a call to faith in the to and fro of chance and time, in being the victim of biology, history or geography. Our inner land is one of faith. Faith in God, faith that we are loved: to believe in the God who is love, compassion, mercy, steadfastness and justice. This is our task. This is where our prayer begins. It’s the real world.

IMG_1203Our Father in heaven loves us and is worthy to be praised.  We are to know the unity of the Holy Spirit and be as he is, One in loving all.

The dark night of the soul is to find yourself in a prison, deprived of daylight and on meagre rations. Your physical reality is that your horizon is the bars of your cell and you crave darkness to hide the awfulness of your plight. It’s outside circumstances battling with the inner world. The struggle is with the temptation to despair. It’s a questioning and deepening of faith in the reality within. It’s holding on to love despite everything.

In my opinion, all suffering stinks and is never good. Ultimately there is no pain, there are no tears nor is there suffering in the presence of God. Suffering is the work of the evil one and we are to call him and his works evil. Suffering is evil. Suffering may deepen our faith but that does not mean that faith is deepened by suffering. It is the presence of God in each moment of suffering that deepens faith, it’s being humble, accepting where we have done wrong, forgiving the wrongs others do to us and walking in new life. The truth is, in my experience, faith is more often shipwrecked by suffering than strengthened. To be detached and wifty-wafty about suffering is perverse in my estimation and anything that says otherwise sounds like a fairy tail to me. The reality of creation is that the creator, God, is humble and we get to choose life. Death exists but is not inevitable. We have a choice.

I think we need to be sickened and angered by suffering, not complacent and accepting because it really is not nice and pretending it is, and is somehow God’s will, is nuts. Jesus teaches us to pray, in the time of trial, do not abandon us and deliver us from evil. We place ourselves in God’s hands. He does not teach us in the prayer to be thankful for trials or excuse evil. Jesus does not teach a philosophy of suffering but gets his hands dirty and confronts it and strengthens us for the troubles of the day.

 

 

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Church Meeting

There will be a meeting of the Church after the main public meeting on 3rd December 2017

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Reflection for Sunday 19th November 2017

Psalm 79

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

…8 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;[a]
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!…

The Psalms are cries of the human heart which God occupies and fills. The Psalms are human words breathed by the Holy Spirit from the hearts of people in times of joy, bewilderment, despair and reformation. They are cries to remember God’s blessing and to build. They are cries of anguish and horror at the evil that has befallen the people of God. They speak of repentance and renewal and a God who does not give up on a wayward people. Their truth is found in the event of the cross. Each prefigures the life and death of Christ, the cry of abandonment on the cross and the pouring out of the love of the Father for the Son in the Spirit and our adoption as children of God. Sin is dealt with as is guilt and condemnation.

We pray to the Father through the Son in the power of the Spirit. We pray to the One God revealed through the cross in the complexity, suffering and messy reality of our lives. The moment of prayer takes our lives to the cross where our lives are transformed by the one who loves us and died for us. We are empowered by the revelation of God as Father; we discover our inheritance as sons and daughters of the living God. The thunder from heaven reveals the God of the burning bush; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God who made all things, to be to be the Father of Jesus. The cry of the heart of the Psalmists is to the One God we know as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, because of what happened on the cross.

Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we learn that God’s people are the humble; those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace and those who are poor in spirit. We learn that it is at the margins, in the corners of society, where people are attacked on every side, that God is present. The poor are forgotten and the meek despised. The good are cast out.

Those who live by violence, the arrogant and the proud, seemingly have an easy victory as the people of God are left for dead. Does God not care for the weak and vulnerable scattered on the battle fields of man’s folly and greed? Are the poor and dispossessed fit only to be forgotten? Is the rule of God a fantastic dream, a laughable delusion? Why does God not get more involved? Surely God is angry and will pour out his anger!

Where do we place ourselves in this equation of evil and punishment? Are the enemies of God those others who are “not us”? Are we truly free of blame? Are we bound in complicity? Do we personify evil in the “them” and forget that our enemy is not flesh and blood?

We need to know God as the God of compassion. Forgive us Father for what we have done and what we have failed to do. Lord have mercy. Jesus Son of God have mercy on us. Father, do not remember our sins, our debts and our trespasses. Atone for us Lord God- wash us clean and deal with the groaning of our hearts. Make real the cries of our hearts. Make real the praise of our lips! This is not driven by guilt but by love.

At each moment God has a plan for our salvation. In each decision, he is there. The cross is the event of our release from sin, guilt and condemnation now and forever. Faith frees us to believe, even in the depths of our sense of separation as well as  in the intimacy of a breath, that we are loved and called to live a life of blessing.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

Veronica Zundel, whose Mennonite church in North London had to close, reflects on her experience of losing a precious gathering and the pain of its loss. She says,

It is not our sufferings that are a ‘bad witness’ to the world. It is when we quarrel, when we lack compassion, when we demonise people who are different from us, or when we fail to practice ‘good disagreement’, that people may justifiably ask, ‘Where is their God?’

(BRF: New Daylight, Autumn 20017)

Pádraig Ó Tuama is a poet and leader of the Corrymeela Community, a peace and reconciliation community in Ireland. He wrote the following poem as gift to his friend.

Jesus of the Corners
a Collect for Jim
Luke 7: 44: “Then turning towards
the woman he said to Simon,
‘Do you see this woman?’ ”

Jesus of the corners.
You saw all:
those at the centre
and those at the edge.

Guide us into all the corners
of our wide world.

Because when you went into rooms,
you found life and love
in the stories that others
ignored.

Amen.

This poem was written for Fr. James Martin, SJ and can be found at https://twitter.com/JamesMartinSJ/status/931341396132364289

 

 

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Reflection for Sunday 12th November 2017

Psalm 75

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

…6 For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
7 but it is God who executes judgement,
putting down one and lifting up another…

10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.

 

When arrogance gains power whether in relationships, in the work place or in society, sin is soon revealed. The vulnerable are abused and the weak and needy forgotten. Our fruits reveal us.

Pride’s punishment is a shrivelled humanity which imprisons us – you do not become what we are called to be. We are to be more than our needs. Arrogance and pride bind us in a cage of our own self, limiting us to our immediate hungers. This is the punishment. Evil drinks it to the full- power is grasped and drinks evil to its dregs.

God is there though, in each moment, with the possibility of redemption. However deep we have fallen, however messy life is, God is there. God’s plan is that all will be saved. God is good and in his goodness, he is there in our every moment. In turning from evil and doing good, goodness redeems us and we become goodness as he is goodness.

The choice is always there, but some harden their hearts and become stiff necked. This is the punishment, the not turning is the punishment and the separation of ourselves from God’s ever-present goodness is the punishment. The goodness of God hardens some hearts. Not accepting God is good stiffens necks but God is always good, always there. Instead of life, death is chosen. God hardens some. God’s goodness hardens hearts. Some are lifted by God’s presence but others are put down.

All life is treasured by God and he does not relent. He is humble and will not give up on anyone. By the power of the cross, the sting of death is removed and forgiveness is there for all. There is healing.

We all pass through the needle’s eye of death. We are all purified by the fire of God’s love. The power of the cross is the power of forgiveness and healing. This is true as we live and when we die.

We may suffer great loss as we pass through the eye of the needle and we may feel intense anguish as the flames of God’s love deal with our stuff. The stuff we grasp and hold too tightly is stripped from us and burned up to reveal, and free, our true blessed selves. From the mess of our lives the wood and hay is burned up leaving the gold and the precious stones.

From first to last, we are blessed and loved. Hearts of flesh are formed now and forever as we turn to God. There is healing in the cross as we regain our true humanity and all is made good and we are drawn beyond our humanity. This happens in our now and at our death. Good remains. God is ever present as we are renewed and refined in our troubles and through it all, through the hardships, we gain a crown of glory.

But what if in passing through our final death, no good remains and the fire burns everything as there is only wood and hay? What if in the separating from our stuff and the burning, nothing is left? What if through it all there is only death? What if our being is consumed by pride and arrogance? If in our lives we become stiff necked and God’s goodness only hardens our hearts, what then?

Love is vulnerable and opens itself up to the pain of rejection. Evil denies freedom and binds others to itself by force. There is no evil in God. God is love. God will surely draw all to himself and no evil will come into his presence.

What remains as God draws us will be treasure as we face the judgement of our good and loving God, daily and to the last. All evil is consumed by the cross. All pain, suffering and hurt will be no more. All are healed by the cross. This is our new birth, now, today and for ever.

All are born again in Christ to inherit ever-flowing life. The one on the cross is the resurrect Christ.  In the suffering, in the hurt, in the pain and in the tears the God of ever flowing life, ever new life, is there. It is the God of new life who is on the cross. Choose life and receive it to the full!

2 Corinthians 5

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

5 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 … 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

… 10 For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

… we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

… 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, … in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

In his book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (Feb. 2008), Wright says this about the resurrection:

“The point of the resurrection … is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die … What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it. What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbour as yourself—will last into God’s future.”

 

…everybody believes something
everybody believes somebody
Jesus invites us to trust resurrection
that every glimmer of good
every hint of hope
every impulse that elevates the soul
is a sign, a taste, a glimpse
of how things actually are
and how things will ultimately be
resurrection affirms this life and the next
as a seamless reality
embraced
graced
and saved by God

Resurrection by Rob Bell
http://player.premier.org.uk/media/t/1_gm67a9sy

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Appointment of new trustees

There will be a meeting of Church members after the service on 24th September 2017 to elect two new trustees. Applications from members to be trustees must be submitted by 14th September 2017.

Ballot papers for the vote will be made available during the meeting on 17th September 2017 for members unable to attend the meeting on the 24th September 2017.

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