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)
We start with our opening prayer:
God of grace, good to all,
You have compassion over all you have made.
When I am falling, hold me up.
Raise me to my feet, so that I can walk with you.
When I am in need, meet with me.
Open your hands to me, to satisfy my longing.
When I call out to you, hear my cry.
Watch over me, that I may live in your love.
When I am hurt, lend me your grace.
Open my heart, that I may forgive.
When I see need, help me to face it.
Open my hands, to offer all I have and am.
When I hear you, help me listen.
Open my mouth, to bless your name.
Reflection from last Sunday:
Perhaps it’s a bit ironic in this time of COVID-19 lockdown, when many have had a long time of solitary meals, perhaps now relieved by a meal at a distance within our “bubble”, or maybe in an almost empty restaurant, for the first time in a long while, that we have two Bible passages today with such emphases on food and drink!
The passage from Isaiah is in our Church bibles given the heading of, “Invitation to the thirsty”. It may put us in mind of Jesus, much later, of course, talking with the Samaritan woman at the well of giving her “living water”, the “water of life.” – much more than the water we need to quench our physical thirst or relax in after a strenuous day – the deep nourishment of our souls, the depth of our being, our oneness with our creator. This water, and the food which it also speaks about, we don’t have to buy, indeed we can’t buy. It’s the free gift of God. “Come, buy wine and milk without cost. … Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.” God promises this to us all for ever – an everlasting covenant. Many of the scholarly comments about this passage see the final verse, “Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendour”, as prophesy of the coming of Jesus; but it also speaks to me of our part in the covenant, in response to this deep nurturing of us by God, to be active in the work of his kingdom, loving our neighbours and sharing our faith.
And in our Gospel reading today Jesus demonstrates that same constancy of care for and service to God’s people. He was “withdrawing by boat privately to a solitary space”, having just been told of the beheading of his cousin, John the Baptist, the one who had recognised him as the Messiah, announced him, introduced him, baptised him in the Jordan river. He wanted to be alone in his shock, in his grief. Where better than in a boat on the lake, or on the land on the other side, away from the crowds? But the multitude of people who had been riveted by his words, amazed by his healings, then suddenly deprived of him, was not going to let him get away. They trekked all the way round the perimeter of the lake and were waiting for him when he landed! Distraught as he must have been, his heart went out to them and he continued to heal those who were ill.
The disciples pointed out to him that the day had turned into evening and the crowd needed to eat and to get home. I just wonder whether there’s any element in this of the disciples wanting to see that the grieving Jesus get his quiet time, or even perhaps wanting him more to themselves, but, whatever, Jesus told them that they could give the people something to eat. Gobsmacked? I should think they were.
And the result is amazing! One of Jesus’ “miracles”, which is still widely known about in our society, despite less knowledge of the Bible generally. Did it happen? How did it happen? Where did the five loaves and two fishes come from? In John’s gospel it says they came from a boy among the crowd. Perhaps it was his lunch, provided by his loving mum. In days gone by a recruiting leaflet for Boys’ Brigade leaders started with this moment – “There is a Boy here.”
Jesus was concerned with every member of that crowd, whatever their age or condition. He settled the people down and we have a foretaste of the Holy Communion we’ll be participating in shortly as he takes the loaves and fish, gives thanks and breaks the bread. All are fed to their satisfaction – and there is food left over.
Naturally there has been, and still is, great conjecture over what actually happened. Some suggest that the boy sharing his lunch may have made others reveal and share theirs – and that’s the miracle; some point out that the number of baskets of leftovers being twelve might tie in with the twelve tribes of Israel, indicating that Jesus’ love and care is boundless and sufficient for all.
What’s the message for today? God has all that we need. Our trust must be in him. We are partners in demonstrating and spreading the message of his love. Jesus, revealer and confirmer to us of the true nature of God, shows a selfless example of doing God’s will and of service to others and is our living rock.
Even during our COVID-19 experiences, when we are not as “in the world” and among people as we used to be we still have that “living water”, that “food enough for everyone”, that charge and that commitment. At this time, as church and as individuals, these broadcast services, our newsletter, ‘phone calls and other contacts, shopping for the isolated, voluntary making of masks and other protective equipment, work to restore the use of our buildings and restart our community activities and our neighbourliness are all part of our response as we are held by God and continue to follow the example of Jesus, our friend.
God holds us to himself through Jesus and calls us to be “compassion in action”, to be blessed by giving, receiving and sharing our time and talents with others.
Our readings for this week:
Matthew 14: 22-33
Jesus walks on the water
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28
- Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b
- Romans 10: 5-15
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 welcome Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch to share our reflection.
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 and can also be found in the list of Zoom meetings below.
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.
Our last Bible exploration group session focused on Jonathan. We had a couple of different translations of the Bible being used during this session and it was interesting to see the subtle differences between them which gave slightly different views, particularly when it came to Jonathan’s relationship with David. BibleGateway is a good website for looking up different translations of verses if you want to try this for yourself.
There is no Bible exploration group this coming Tuesday (11th August) but we will be back on 18th August to take a closer look at Daniel. There are quite a few passages to consider for this session so if you would like to join us, it would be helpful to look at them in advance. The passages we will be looking at are Daniel, chapters 1, 2, 3 and 6.
Hope not Hate – our Church Charity of the year
Covid has had many knock-on effects and one has been the lack of activity with our church charity. The charity group, with the agreement of Church Council, has now made the decision to keep “Hope not Hate” as our charity through to the end of 2021. Halo Children’s Foundation, which was to be the charity in 2021, will now be our charity in 2022.
‘Hope not Hate’ was founded in 2004 and established to offer a more positive and engaged way of doing anti-fascism. They prioritised working in communities and town centre demonstrations; engaged and spoke to local people rather than to themselves; and realised that organizations like BNP were tapping into a wider mood of alienation and hardship and it was important to address issues of concern to voters.
Campaigning has always been backed up by first class research and intelligence and has exposed the illegal activities of extremist groups and revealed the unsavoury side to hundreds of extremist candidates over the years.
Since 2010, ‘Hope not Hate’ has focused more on community politics. They have built peaceful and positive resistance to attempts by the far-right to divide communities, offered support to, and run, joint initiatives with Muslim organisations, and have begun campaigning against Islamist extremism. They will also work with the LGBT community who are often targeted by the far-right.
Watch this space for details of a Quiz with options for everyone and a virtual sale table. If you have any ideas for fundraising or offerings for our sale table, you can email us at email@example.com
Gifts and donations can be made online via Virgin Money Giving (https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Hopenothate-Christchurch) or by cash or cheque made payable to Christ Church and clearly marked for the church charity.
Thought for the week
Now we only meet each other via Zoom and there is therefore no need to wear anything below the waist, people who previously made suits will in future make only jackets – and will the onesie become the halfsie?
(Taken from the 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:
- Northwood Methodist church.
- St John’s, Northwood URC.
God, Maker and Lover of us all
Help us to live and breathe with the life of your Spirit,
That we may work with you
Towards the unity of your whole creation.