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:
Gracious God, whose loving kindness has no limits, teach us afresh the way of Christ.
Where we have felt discouraged, renew us through signs of hope;
where we have been tempted to give up, grant us strength and faith to face the day;
Where we have grown anxious about the future, give us courage to plant the seeds of tomorrow in acts of radical love today.
Renew us by your Spirit and set us free to serve you so that the whole of creation may rejoice in your name. Amen.
(Richard Andrew, Darlington District Chair – taken from the Methodist Church prayer of the day)
Reflection from last Sunday:
‘We live in interesting times.’ This is a phrase that keeps being said about these days in which we live. It has both negative and positive implications.
When have times ever been so uncertain as the present? Will we or won’t we be able to eat out in a restaurant or go to a pub? Will there be a vaccine and immunity that can be freely offered for all people, or is this an impossible dream? Will the world go back to what it was, or will it be something completely different, that we can’t yet imagine? On the one hand, it’s an age of fearfulness and doubt.
On the other hand, people are re-discovering the importance of spending time with family and friends. Space is opening up for reflection, rather than just living a life which involves constantly rushing around. There’s time to step back and re-think priorities. In the quietness and reflection, new possibilities are opening up.
There’s an underlying question for us as Christians: where is God in all this? We can be tempted to think that our faith should offer us easy answers and simple ways out of difficult situations. But this has not been the case for God’s people over the centuries.
Today our scripture readings offer us two helpful responses to the question of ‘where is God in all this.?’
Firstly, there’s Elijah. God’s prophet, fleeing for his life. He journeys into the wilderness, where he is fed by an angel, and given strength to get to mount Horeb. Here he finds a cave in which to hide. He is full of lament and cries out ‘I alone am left, and they are seeking my life to take it away’.
God draws him out onto the mountain, where he sees wind and earthquake and fire. But God isn’t in these strong visible signs; God is in the silence. In the stillness, Elijah hears God’s voice, a voice telling him to go back, to return to the wilderness. And Elijah goes back.
Secondly, there’s Jesus and Peter. Jesus has been rejected in his hometown. He’s heard of the beheading of John the Baptist. He’s worn out with healing the sick and feeding the hungry. So he goes off on his own to pray, and prays through the night.
When the day dawns, he looks down to the lake and sees the strong wind battering the boat with the disciples. He comes to them, walking on water. Instead of the disciples being delighted to see him, they’re terrified at the vision in front of them. Jesus speaks words of calm. But then Peter succumbs to the temptation of wanting to do what Jesus did – to walk on the water.
Interestingly enough, when he focuses on Jesus, he can walk on the water. However as soon as he looks around and see the wind, he sinks. Jesus catches him, and refers to him, not as a doubter, but as a person of little faith.
One of the dilemmas is that Peter has wanted to be Jesus, to be the Son of God, and to do what only Jesus could do. But Jesus doesn’t write him off. He sees his faith. As we know, Peter goes on to become a primary leader in the early church.
Both Elijah and Peter were afraid. Elijah just wanted to run away and hide. Peter felt like he was sinking beneath the weight of what was happening to him.
They were fragile human beings, succumbing to the emotions of the events going on around them. Yet God hadn’t given up on them.
Elijah ran away and tried to hide. But God was with him, in unexpected ways – not in the drama of wind, earthquake and fire, but in the still small voice heard in the silence.
Peter felt he was sinking and going to drown. But Jesus was with him and held him, and helped him return to the boat.
Just as they were getting too caught up in their emotions, the reminder comes – to keep the eye on where God is. They are to go back, knowing that God is with them.
For us today, it can feel like we only live in uncertain and fear-filled times. We don’t know who will live and who will die. We don’t know who will have jobs or even homes. It can be easier to panic, to give in to fear, to want to run away.
Yet God doesn’t promise us that we will live in a world free of fear; what God lays before us, is that God is present with us.
God’s presence isn’t necessarily in big spectacular events. God’s presence is felt in the still small voice, in the silence and the quiet. God speaks to tell us to trust, and to go back to the difficult places.
There is a positive aspect about being fearful, about having little faith – it leads us to trust in God.
If we were always strong, we might get full of ourselves, and become dependent on ourselves alone.
But the stories of Elijah and Peter remind us that if we only look to ourselves or to all the difficult stuff going on around us, we are lost and in danger of sinking. When we look to God, we can hear our names called and we are renewed – just as we think we’re drowning.
This age in which we find ourselves reminds us that we’re being drawn back again and again to look to Jesus, to look to God. At the very moment when we’re in the midst of our own storms, our own doubts and fears, God opens a new path, a way that invites us to have courage, and confidence and trust, even in the midst of the uncertainties that lie in front of us.
Thanks be to God.
Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch
Our readings for this week:
The Faith of a Canaanite Woman
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Genesis 45: 1-15
- Psalm 133
- Romans 11: 1-2a, 29-32
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, our reflection will be shared by Joy Barrow.
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.
Church charity news
Virtual sales table
Please support our current Church Charity – Hope not Hate.
Our first item on our virtual sales table is… face masks.
These pleated masks are a similar size to the disposable ones (approx 7″×3½”). They are washable and reusable and made especially for you. A wide range of colours/patterns are available for you to choose from. Cost is only £6 each (or you can donate more if you wish to), payable either upon delivery or via our Virgin Money Giving site.
To order yours and choose your colours please email email@example.com,uk or message our Facebook page.
Save the date for our Online Quiz.
Saturday 29th August at 7.30pm
More details to follow.
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.
Memories from Syd
In 1954, a man walked into Technicolor with a large roll of film. He said that it was impossible to use as it was stuck together and solid and asked if I could do anything about it. “Leave it with me,” I replied. I dunked it in a bucket of water for 48 hours to soften it and then found that by rewinding very slowly, I could do it so put it back in the bucket. I called the engineers and asked them to make a rewind system with a drying cabinet at the end. When it was ready, I got the roll out onto the rewind. Once it started, I knew that I could not stop, or it would dry out. It took 24 hours.
The original was a print. It was necessary to make a negative from it. Being so old it had shrunken so much that it would not fit the projector of an optical printer. The engineers modified the projector to fit the film. We were then able to make a print. On viewing we found that it was Queen Victoria’s 70th birthday parade in 1889.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Pinner Methodist church
- Ickenham URC
we rejoice in your greatness and power,
your gentleness and love,
your mercy and justice.
Enable us by your Spirit
to honour you in our thoughts,
and words and actions,
and to serve you in every aspect of our lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.