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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Sunday 25th November 2018

Psalm 93

The LORD is king, he is robed in majesty;

the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength.

He has established the world;

it shall never be moved;

your throne is established from of old;

you are from everlasting.….

Revelation 1:4b-8  

… “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,

who is and who was and who is to come,

the Almighty.

John 18:33-37  

… Jesus answered,

“… Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

 

From the beginning, the wisdom of Christianity tells us, God the creator is the One who makes atonement; who redeems and reconciles. Atonement was from the beginning in creation and this wisdom is ingrained in us. As we witness this truth, we are driven to embody it. Jesus draws people to this truth, to himself, and teaches us to forgive so that we know forgiveness. This light shines in the hearts of all people from the beginning. To deny it is sin, as it denies the character of God as Creator and Redeemer. If we are to be holy as God is holy, we love our enemies as we are loved. If we are to be righteous as God is righteous, we listen for his voice and obey.

God is the One who would make all things new and enters the churning waters of chaos, walks with us in our mess, and washes us clean, leading us to freedom from sin. We are free as we come to know Jesus as our Lord. Through our obedience, the earth comes to the fullness of the knowledge of the Lord.

The single act of Creation and Redemption, from the beginning, secures all who call on the name of the Lord, who belong to truth, and listen to the voice of Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and has been from the beginning and always will be. In his person we come to know the Father. Jesus reveals this mystery, true from the beginning: the life death and resurrection of Christ is the completion of Creation.

All our answers are in Jesus. We are saved in Christ. He is the fullness of God to all people, leading us to the revelation of God as Father. In Christ we are found, as we seek the knowledge of the Lord, he shows himself- the Son. His sheep know his voice and they trust him to lead them on the way.

God speaks through our emotions and feelings, our experience and our meditations on scripture, but he doesn’t own them: they aren’t the answer. He will not abandon us though, he will seek us out in the mess of our striving. We are often lost but we are always loved.

God takes us on from where we are and gently draws us back to that place of reconciliation with the truth. In his finding of us, we must be freed and carried home; a lost sheep returned to the fold. The experience of being found, the reassurance of being released, is not the whole story. We need to be brought home. There may still be troubles and dangers on the journey and the way may be narrow and through dark places, but he is with us.

The wide road leads to destruction.

Jesus teaches we are to turn the other cheek, carry the extra load, give what we have without question and we are to love our enemies. Jesus teaches, we are to abide in him and ask for what we need.

The narrow way is the way of trust in God, the wide way is the way of violence.

The wide way is the way of those who deny the knowledge of the Lord. We are to be humble and modest, knowing what is helpful on the journey, denying ourselves so we are free to follow Jesus. The Lord is the giver of peace, the author of the true freedom that brings us to the abundant life we were created to live. The truth and way to life are there from the beginning, Jesus the alpha and the omega; the first and the last.

________________________________________

 

We meet at the chapel on a

Wednesday evening at 8pm until 8-40pm

for a period of prayer including 20 minutes silent prayer.

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Sunday 4th November 2018

Psalm 146…

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God,

who made heaven and earth,
the sea,
and all that is in them;

who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.

The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,

but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the LORD!

Hebrews 9:11-14    

But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, … he entered once for all into the Holy Place…with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

Mark 12:28-34

… When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him,

“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

 

We have been pleased in the last couple of weeks to welcome visitors to our meeting. What a wealth of wisdom we have shared!

The psalm is a deep pool of blessing for our prayer life. It offers a framework for approaching God; it points to the beyondness, yet nearness of the God we trust.

Zion, through the blood of Christ has become all humanity. This is the good news; as he is the Light all are called to not only bear the light but become the light. We are the light as he is the light.

One spoke of how we are like a planting of God in a garden; we are given space to grow and our purpose is being in that place. We are the presence of God where we are placed.

It is not us, but it is the Lord, creator of all that there is, seen and unseen who transforms and redeems. It is towards the earth and individuals that his care is turned and the “way” of the wicked is brought to ruin. In our understanding we are not far from the kingdom of God, but it is in becoming the message, followers of Jesus found in Christ, who by his life blood are saved, we enter it. As the new Zion, the place of God’s dwelling not made with human hands, we stand with our consciences purified and bring the presence of the rule and judgement of God to the whole Earth.

The earth and the sea are the Lords, all that has life. The oppressed, the hungry, the prisoners and those bowed down by injustice, the stranger and the dispossessed are his. This our hope; in Christ all are redeemed.

We meet at the chapel on a Wednesday evening at 8pm until 8-40pm for a period of prayer including 20 minutes silent prayer.

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Sunday 28th October 2018

Psalm 34

I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall continually be in my mouth…

…Look to him, and be radiant;

so your faces shall never be ashamed.  …

…O taste and see that the LORD is good;

happy are those who take refuge in him.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD rescues them from them all…

Hebrews 7:23-28 

…Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them…

Mark 10:46-52   

They came to Jericho…Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside… “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly,.. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.”

Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

There is a depth to our existence; creation is more what is seen. There is a universe within us, an inner land, and we live and breathe and have our being in God. The visible, what we can see, touch and reason to be so is woven through and through by the spiritual, creating the whole of reality. If we consider the material to be the whole of reality we miss the source of all glory and are blind to the oppression and battle that is being fought for good and for evil within us and around us. In the spiritual realm there is light and there is darkness. God is light and in him there is no darkness. God is love. This is the confidence of the psalmist, this is our place of safety.

God is good, and he is love. We are commanded to choose life. This is a real choice.

There are afflictions and there is much suffering. We may be experiencing a slow death, mentally or physically; we may be the victims of poor health or inequality; we may be the oppressed and the abused but there is a deeper reality. It may all be darkness.

Out of our darkness we cry out to Jesus, son of David. Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, cries out of his darkness. He knows Jesus as his teacher and he cries out for what he needs. Casting off his cloak he runs towards him, asks to see and his faith heals him. What does he have faith in?

Having been immediately healed he follows Jesus, the teacher, along the way.

Sometimes it feels as if our voice echoes in a void of darkness and many stand against us. Faith in God fills that space and we hear the call to come to him. And we ask. With the psalmist we bless, praise, look to and taste God, who redeems us and recues us. Our eyes are opened; we see God. The reality of our affliction is more than our blindness; creation is more than our sufferings. Approaching God through Jesus our faith is made complete and Jesus joins with our cry, interceding for us.

God is good, and he is love. We are commanded to ask. This is a real choice.

Jesus is Lord and he is God. God is love and out of his love he will answer our faith. In Christ we find that our humanity, a humanity we share with Christ, is empowered to choose life and ask. Our prayer brings glory to God and God is glorified in our healing as Jesus adds his voice to ours in the battle for our hearts within and without. Jesus is the Word of creation and the reason for our hope. Do not give up, keep coming to Jesus, to the victory of the cross, and keep asking.

 

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Sunday 21st October 2018

Psalm 104

 

…O LORD, how manifold are your works!

In wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

 

Praise the LORD!

 

Hebrews 5:1-10 

Every high priest …is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people.

… Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest,…

Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mark 10:35-45 

… “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them,

“You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

The meeting today was, as usual inspired by the many voices of wisdom brought to us through those gathered. Sounds a bit pompous, but honestly Jesus speaks through the experiences and failings of people who are enabled to be heard.

After wondering at the seeming arrogance of the disciples and the import of Jesus’ answer for them, we explored what our tyranny might be and where prayer may lead us. Surely the context of the suffering Jesus prophesied for his followers is the context of Hebrews. In our relative comfort we cannot know what terrors they were to experience, but the onslaught of life can take away the truth of a life devoted to Jesus and the new order he brings.

Some of us live with the daily reality of extreme anxiety that convinces us we are on the point of death, genetic disease and ongoing abuse by others, and some of us are fortunate in only hearing about this. For some of us it is our daily work to deal with these tough circumstances. Our faith isn’t under political threat, but it must hope in the teeth of many devastating imponderables.

Starting from the position that Jesus is saying that his and our lives are to be a ransom for many and in us others are to find Jesus, the source of eternal salvation, how are we to see ourselves. Christianity sometimes seem mired in self-assertion and quarrels about who’s right. We then not only judge our brothers and sisters and put them down, we then move on to others and put them outside the house of God. In our assertions of authority, we set aside God’s grace and his authority, placing ourselves at the right and left side of God.

One shared that in suffering we find Jesus’ mercy for the day, for the moment, for the life we need to live. We find Jesus showing us the way and in love we obey, not because Jesus exerts authority but because Jesus is there with us and offers the way of life. It is in his suffering with us that we find his authority. Each person’s circumstances have a history and even though each person’s suffering may look the same, how they got there is their story and their solution is unique. Our revelation as Christians is that Jesus is there, and he speaks to each of us; his truth sets us free. This is true for everyone, of whatever creed or life circumstance and we water down the salvation Jesus offers if we consign it to the administration of our priesthood. The high priesthood of Christ is of another order beyond the confines of our religion.

One shared, we would like to think that there was a form we could offer for all ills. Fill in this form and all your troubles will be solved. Prayer can become this. But prayer acknowledges the uniqueness of the condition of each individual and in faith hopes for the outcome compassion presents. It’s more than words: it is the standing against spiritual adversaries, showing kindness, laying on of hands and anointing; it’s perseverance; it’s hoping beyond reason. We can be certain, prayer is heard, and Jesus saves but our work is to be single minded in hope.

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Sunday 30th September 2018

Psalm 124    

…Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

James 5:13-20 

…The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

Mark 9:38-50  

John said to him,

“Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”

But Jesus said,

“Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me….

…And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

 

These difficult words of Jesus became a focus for great encouragement in our meeting.

Firstly it was noted that the prayer of Elijah; his crying out, stopped the rain and then brought rain to the earth and many were blessed.

Then it was noted that the very name of Jesus was resulting in works of power, and things were happening by the prayers of the unrighteous. In the eyes of the disciples they shouldn’t. The rain was falling for the good as well as the bad, as they saw it and they weren’t happy that the ones praying were not them.

What is Jesus’ answer? Surprisingly he does not forbid but considers those who were experiencing Christ, despite the unregulated message. “Whoever is not against us is for us.” God is bigger than the box the disciples were trying to put him in.

And then come strong and violent words from Jesus. What are we to think? These set of readings seem confusing and contradictory.

The clue is in the last few verses of Mark and the community that James describes in his letter.

Bad things happen; suffering comes to all, the church is not immune from suffering and sickness; this is the salting with fire and Jesus links it to the fires of Gehenna. Then Jesus takes a turn, a twist, and says salt is good. There is another salt that isn’t the salting of the fires of Gehenna.

The fires of Gehenna are the fires of guilt and condemnation; the consequences of turning from God; of sacrificing to false gods and acting unjustly and without mercy forgetting the poor.

The strictures of the judgements seen in Gehenna brought the people of Israel to their knees as they experienced the outcomes of their turning away from God. God gave them up to the consequences and withdrew from them.

The salt is the law that was there to guide and protect them as a people, which came with a curse. If they had delighted in the law then what befell them would have been different but instead they forgot the seasoned words of the law. God set before them life and they chose death.

The law was to be their teacher and they rejected it, the way of Moses, the law and the priesthood were there to set them apart for the blessing of the world, and now Jesus says plainly that the law had failed and these ways had lost their saltiness.

The temple and its religion had lost its saltiness and here was a new way, the promised way that would be a better way that would be in peoples’ hearts and in their mouths; the way that the tablets of stone foreshadowed, the way that the law was meant to be.

The saltiness of the law would be held within hearts and bring transformation not by control and by prohibition; the external rules would become internal drivers so that no longer would people have to say, know the Lord for he would be near them.

What the disciples were doing was trying to start another system of laws; of prohibitions but Jesus says, “…for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.” He says in another way, do not weed the field let it grow and leave the weeding to God.

And these verses makes sense of the verses on severing of limbs and the tearing out of eyes. This is the violence of the law; the logical consequence of trying to live under law. If the law is the way you choose then you can only gain life by doing violence to the seat of your sin and, just maybe you will gain eternal life as a mutilated stump as Dallas Willard puts it in his book The Divine Conspiracy (Published by William Collins, 1998, page 186).

Jesus puts before us a new way. We need to read the words of Jesus with grace. Our interpretation of Jesus’ words exposes our hearts and the way we practice them reveals the heart our way comes from. Is there good fruit? Jesus calls the disciples to drink the new wine of freedom but in doing so not try to contain it in the old wine skin of control and law but allow God to be glorified in a new wine skin of abundant life and peace.

He does this with a warning. Only this way will contain the work he has brought. We can see in history the havoc that not heeding Jesus’ words has brought. The apostles were found wanting as we often are in our judging. Jesus warns them that they risk severe consequences in their attitude to these works of power; “… it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.” This is the curse for those who reject the new way, the new wine or try to contain the new wine in old wine skins.

So, each day, as God presents us with life, let us be open to the Spirit and reflect on the day, on the blessings that God has brought us through his indwelling presence. Let us reflect on where we have failed, sure in the knowledge that we are God’s little children and  every kindness to us has blessed the giver. Let us resolve with Jesus to do good to all and allow the works of power speak for themselves, marvelling at how God has worked his way into our day.

 

There is a mid-week prayer meeting at the chapel with a period of 20 minutes silent prayer on a Wednesday starting at 8pm and finishing at around 840pm.

 

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