Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. Hope that you are all continuing to keep well and stay safe. This newsletter is one of our ways of trying to maintain contact and a sense of community during this time when we cannot meet together as a church family. You can find previous issues of the newsletter here. We would love to hear from you and are looking for uplifting and encouraging content to share in future issues of this newsletter. If you have any ideas or content that we can share, please do email them to Louise (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For our opening prayer this week, we are sharing the words from a hymn written and shared by Anne Sardeson in last week’s service.
Come Pentecost People, Behold God is here!
Enfolding creation that’s drowning in fear;
embracing in hope all that we do not know;
the seeds in the ground are the life that will grow.
Come Pentecost People, behold, God is true!
God holds us and guides us in all that is new.
Our comfort in sorrow: awaken our heart
to see your great story of which we’re a part.
Come Pentecost People: behold, God will be!
Amidst all the clamour a Word that is free;
a Way that is waiting in this time and place;
a Life that is living in Ground that is grace.
© Anne Sardeson – Pentecost 2020
Reflection from our Trinity Sunday service
We find a beginning and an end in our scripture readings today. In the reading from Genesis, we have words from the beginning of scripture itself that tell us about the beginnings of time and God’s place there. In our Gospel reading we have words from the end of Matthew telling us of the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry as he blesses his disciples and sends them on their way with a promise “I am with you always: to the end of the age.” These two readings tell us of God’s presence from beginning to end. There is nowhere that God is not.
Nowhere that God is not. What an extraordinary thing that is to ponder on. Nowhere that God is not. Even here, in this time and place, God is here: in our fear, in our loneliness, in our anger, in our illness, in our healing, in our joy, in our sharing of care and love and in our new ways of communicating. Even as I sit in my lounge sharing my thoughts with friends at the other end of the tube network and who knows where else: God is here.
There is nowhere that God is not.
Today is Trinity Sunday. It is also the week after Pentecost Sunday. These two Sundays remind us of just how far reaching God is. Pentecost, the feast of the Holy Spirit, a day to remember and celebrate that the Spirit that hovered over the face of the deep at the beginnings of time and that dwelt in the hearts of prophets and priests and psalmists and kings and queens and so many others, is also God’s gift to us. Poured out on all humankind. We are not alone. Trinity, the feast of the extraordinariness of God, is a day to remember and celebrate that the Giver of Life and Saviour of All is also the Ever Present One and cannot be contained by space or time (or human thought and understanding). There is nowhere that God is not. Even the deepest parts of our heads that struggle to comprehend what trinity means.
So, we need not fear that we do not understand everything, because God is even there.
What trinity also gives us, perhaps more than anything else, is this idea that God is about relationship and community. This is so important right now. We are separated from one another in strange ways and we have found a new language of “social distancing” and have conversations about how this will impact us over time. One impact of our current situation has been to create new ways of being community: doing worship this way being one way. Not perfect but vital to do, because meeting matters, making sure community happens matters, being in relationship with others matters. Even virtually!
Thoughts of community are important for other reasons too as we watch our fellow humans across the pond fight for their recognition and dignity in community. Community goes beyond the local and what is happening in America impacts us all. Black lives matter because all lives matter and at the moment there are some who seem to think that black lives don’t matter. Their fight is a fight that belongs to all of us because we live in community that includes all, whether we are like them or even near them.
Trinity tells us that community is not simply at the heart of our faith, it is the One we have faith in. God, Maker, Saviour and Companion, or Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is not simply a Life Giver, nor simply God-With-Us, nor simply a Spirit of Truth and Hope. God is all this. This is God is relationship with God and cannot be God any other way. God. And it includes us.
One of the most extraordinary things I have realised over the last few years is that God wants us to be involved in what I will call God’s “Godness”. We are not an inconvenience that messes things up or gets in the way. We are not a creation gone wrong that needs sorting out. No, we are part of what makes God “God”. So that I don’t get caught up in a heresy here let me make it clear, I don’t believe creation is all that God is. But I do believe creation is part of what God is. Creation is the first act of God: it is what makes God be “God”. It is what gives God the chance to say, “it is good”. We are good.
Creation is good. We part of what God has made and has poured Life Giving Spirit into and this is good.
To be part of God’s “Godness” we need to relate as God does. We need to be in community. With God and one another. With everyone. To be in community means that the needs of one are the needs of all. It is not just “me” but “us”. Bound up with one another, in sickness and in health, for better for worse. This means that as we live our lives, as we live with this virus, the turmoil that grips the USA and the reality of life around the globe, we cannot live at the expense of others. Nor can we live oblivious to the struggles of others. We can never express our faith by dominating another. We can never express our faith holding a bible and standing in front of a church defiantly silencing those we disagree with. We can never express out faith by being strong and stamping on those considered weak. We always express our faith by reaching out and creating community. We always express our faith by building on the Love that Created, the Love that Bore the Pain of Salvation and the Love that is Inextinguishable. This is “Godness”.
It is good that an image of God in community comes the week after Pentecost because in the New Testament the story of Pentecost is followed by a story of community. Acts 2 verse 44 tells us that “all who believed were together and had all things in common”. Community grows from receiving the Spirit; from this profound experience of God. This can encourage us as the truth is community is not easy. It may be an essential part of being human, but it is not easy, which is why some people choose to go it alone or resist the challenge of the other. Perhaps the story of these early believers reminds us that community is a gift of the Spirit. Because of this gift we can be in community in a way that we never thought possible. Perhaps us being in community today is indeed a gift of the Spirit that we have been given.
But this community is not simply about everyone, it is about everything: the whole of creation. St Francis of Assisi was a great teacher in this, and his canticle of creation, which gave inspiration to the hymn “all creatures of our God and King” speaks of sister moon, and water, brother sun, wind and air. St Francis puts us into a family relationship with all of creation. It is well worth taking time to read his teaching on ecology and faith: it is not new (he was born in the 12th century), but it speaks a language we need to hear today.
The question of our relationship with the whole of creation is perhaps the most challenging thing facing our planet right now: how are we to be in community with all of creation? Pentecost gives us a gift, and when we are open, we can be amazed at what it nurtures in us. Trinity gives us an image of interconnectedness and a challenge to be connected to all that is. One of the truths that underpins St. Francis’ teaching is that once we recognise and embrace our own inherent place in God’s “Godness” we cannot fail to see this truth for the whole of creation.
I started off by saying that we had a beginning and an end in our scripture today. Of course, T.S. Elliot would say that in our end is our beginning. And we know this is true. We know the end of Jesus’ bounded presence on earth was the start of something unleashed. The story of Pentecost in Acts tells us that. The story of creation tells us that this is the way of God from the beginning. There isn’t anywhere that God isn’t. And that includes us: you and me and all of creation. And, as the Psalmist says, we have been crowned with dominion, or responsibility, over all creation, to cherish it, to nurture it, to hold it all in community. To see and cherish. It’s “Godness”.
We are at an end and a beginning and right slap bang in the middle as well. In all of this there is not anywhere that God is not. We are part of God’s “Godness”, challenged to cherish and nurture all of God’s creation. Let us be open that the Life-Giving Spirit will fill us, so that we can live as if this were true. Then we can live as those who echo the Godness of our Risk-Taking Maker, our Wounded Healer and our Wild and Wandering Guide.
Our readings for this week:
Genesis 18:1-15 (NIV)
The Three Visitors
The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”
“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”
6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”
7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.
9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.
“There, in the tent,” he said.
10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Psalm 116: 1-2, 12-19
- Romans 5: 1-8
- Matthew 9: 35 – 10:8 (9-23)
Our next virtual coffee morning will be held on Saturday 13 June via Zoom. If you would like to join in, please contact Louise (email@example.com) for details.
We will be meeting on Zoom after the service for a virtual ‘coffee and chat’. The link to join the Zoom meeting will be shared in the comments during the service.
We are also holding weekly prayer meetings via Zoom on Wednesdays at 7pm. If you would like to join us for this or have any prayer requests that you would like us to include, please contact the Church Office.
Links for worship material from the URC and Methodist Church and youth devotional material from #BBatHome are available on the Worship page on the church website.
Taken from this week’s Roots activity sheet
© ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2020.
Reproduced with permission.
Life in lockdown
With apologies to William Henry Davies
I have the time to stand and stare, but only from the window bare.
There are no rolling hills or dales, no glorious pastures, woods or swales.
There are no brooks, or streams or stars, only rows of silent cars.
There are no cows or grazing sheep, just closed front doors and cats asleep.
No children playing, no passers-by, just streets as empty as the sky.
By staying in I show I care. I have the time to stand and stare.
If you have any reflections about life in lockdown or photos of any of the things that you’ve been doing during this time, we’d love to see them!
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Cannon Lane Methodist church
- Acton Hill URC/Methodist church
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.