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 this week’s opening prayer, we are sharing a poem written by Rev’d Heather White, URC minister to Luton and Dunstable Cluster:
When all is calm,
and life is still,
we sense something greater than ourselves.
We see things reflected,
we see things from a different perspective,
a new angle.
Suddenly the world is twice as big
as we see the whole picture,
reflections reminding us that there is more to creation.
When the world is in turmoil,
and life is chaotic
and nothing is as it should be,
when our hold on life feels fragile
and we worry for family and friends
let us rest awhile in that still place,
held in the oneness of creation,
held in the love that is God.
In the stillness, may our hearts be calm for a moment,
our fears subside
and our hope be restored.
Let us be still and know God.
©Heather Whyte 2020
Used with permission
Reflection from last week’s service
Friends, it’s good to be with you today even if it is only virtually. That passage from Romans 6 is always going to be a difficult one and in the current climate perhaps even more so. But we have to be prepared to explore some of the difficult passages in the bible if we are to truly understand how life changing our faith really is.
Paul lived in a society where slavery was the norm as it still is for some people today. To our way of thinking slavery is wrong but it wasn’t the case then. So Paul is quite happy to use images which we find difficult, unacceptable today. But uncomfortable though they are, we cannot ignore the basic point that Paul is making in this passage.
Paul is talking about sin, again something that we would rather not think about in any great detail. We prefer to think about our minor transgressions, the things that we did that we shouldn’t have done and the things that we didn’t do that we should have done rather than the systematic sin that saturates our lives and the society in which we live. Paul isn’t concerned about the minor sins; he is looking at a much bigger picture which is fundamental to our lives both now and in the future.
Paul believes that we are all slaves to something. Ask any addict and they will probably agree with him. We are either slaves to God or slaves to sin, evil, the Devil. Paul speaks from experience. Before his encounter with the risen Lord he persecuted Christians. He was a slave to sin. After his encounter on the Damascus Road he became a slave to God.
I know how easy it can be to become enslaved and how that stops us from being the people that God wants us to be. But Paul says that we have a choice.
He puts it this way ‘Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.’
Who or what will we let rule our lives? Is it going to be sin or is it going to be God?
The fact that we go to church, that we try to live good lives might suggest that we have made our choice. We are followers of Jesus with all that means it terms of how we live our lives. We have chosen life, eternal life, by the grace of God over the death that sin brings, our lives cut off from the love of God.
Like Martin Luther King Jr. in the now famous picture we have taken the knee before our God in prayer, in submission to God’s will.
Which brings us on to the M word, mission.
For the last few weeks, the readings from Matthew’s gospel have been about mission. We see sharing fellowship and offering refreshments as mission. It makes us feel good and yes it will be rewarded if not in this world then certainly in the next.
Jesus says, ‘If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.’ But we live in a world where that kind of fellowship is going to be hard to do safely.
We all know people who haven’t discovered Jesus for themselves don’t we? We know people who are slaves to sin.
A few days ago I attended an online session on mission organised by the Church of England. It was about mission in the new normal when the old ways of doing mission are no longer available to us.
A couple of facts: 70% of believers when asked ‘who do you think God is calling you to reach out to?” immediately have the name of someone come into their mind, a member of the family, a friend, a work colleague perhaps. When asked how many intend to reach out to that person 80-90% said that they have no intention of doing anything about it.
Why are we so reluctant? Is it because we don’t know how and it’s all too scary? It needn’t be.
What about this as a plan?
Each day simply and prayerfully ask God ‘is there somebody I’m being nudged to connect with – to reach out to – today?’ God’s response to our question, His ‘call’, is for us to reach out to the name that may come immediately or later. It’s God’s nudge to us.
Our response may be through a phone call or any of the now well-recognised ways from Zoom to FaceTime to WhatsApp to text message and more. The first step is as simple as asking ‘How are you doing?’ and really listening to the answer. All the time remember that this conversation is as a result of what God’s inspired. If it feels right offer to pray for them then and there or later.
It’s OK to be afraid when we’re asked to do something which is unfamiliar, but it is not OK to let fear stop us doing it.
Share with a Christian friend what God has done in this situation – even if it seems to be a very small step. Think of the disciples reporting back to Jesus when they returned from a mission. We often need help to see the good in what we have done and to see what God is doing through us.
Reflect on what God has done in and through us.
In the past we may have been too busy to listen to God’s voice and respond. But now, with God having our full attention, we may notice that God has used us and helped us grow in obedience and faith.
Put the first letters of each section together, ask, call, obey, report, notice and you get ACORN and from acorn’s mighty oaks grow.
Look through your phone list and see if there is one person there who God has placed on your heart. Contact them, ask them how they are. There are a lot of sad, lonely, frightened people around. Your call might make a big difference to them and eventually you may be able to have that conversation about Jesus. If you have the chance share what God has done for you in the good times and the bad.
Slaves to Sin or Slaves to God?
I know who I would rather have as my master.
Let us pray.
Lord, for ourselves in living power remake us, self on the cross and Christ upon the throne, past put behind us for the future take us, Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone. Amen.
Rev’d John Mackerness
Our readings for this week:
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (NIV)
16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
The Father Revealed in the Son
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Genesis 24: 34-38, 42-49, 58-67
- Psalm 45: 10-17
- Romans 7: 15-25a
We are now live-streaming services via Facebook each Sunday at 11am. You can find our services here. You do not have to be a Facebook user to watch this – our services are publicly viewable. This week we will be welcoming Rev’d Andrew McLuskey to share a reflection for us.
We will be meeting via Zoom immediately after the service for a virtual ‘coffee and chat’. The link for this will be shared in the comments on Facebook during the service.
If you are unable to join us online for our Sunday services, but would like to receive a recording of them on a memory stick to watch at home, please let us know.
Incredible, but true
In 1876 the famous artist Vincent Van Gogh preached at Isleworth Methodist Church. He grew up in Zindert in the Netherlands, where his father was the minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. He was also interested in art, and his first job was with a firm of international art dealers. They sent him to London, and it was then that he attended the Isleworth church. Soon afterwards he returned home and began working in Belgium as a missionary. He then decided to become an artist, but his mental state began to become confused, and his behaviour erratic. He lived in poverty, produced over 200 paintings, but was never recognised in his lifetime. He died by suicide at the age of 37.
(Taken from this week’s Roots activity sheet © ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2020. Reproduced with permission.)
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Hayes Methodist Church
- Ealing Green URC/Methodist
When times are hard, walk beside us.
When we are unsure of which way to turn, dwell within us.
When we need to listen to others, encourage us.
When our lives and work bear fruit, rejoice with us.
So may the blessing of God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with us all today and forever more. Amen.