Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. Hope that you are all continuing to keep well and stay safe. We are back in lockdown once more and unable to meet together; however we are continuing to try and maintain our church community as best we can. Our newsletter will continue to be sent out regularly to help continue to maintain contact and a sense of community while life continues to be restricted. 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:
As the darkness of winter draws in,
As the coldest time of the year approaches,
As we close our doors and turn up our heaters,
Come, Lord of light,
Come, God of the warm embrace,
Come to us, Immanuel, God with us. Amen.
(Taken from The Vine at Home)
Reflection from last Sunday: God’s Great Gifts
Readings: Psalm 90, 1 Thessalonians 5.1-11 and Matthew 25.14-30
It’s two weeks to the start of Advent – a time of waiting and anticipation for the birth of Jesus. But today in England the big wait is to see whether or not the lockdown will continue in some form after the 2nd December and whether or not we will be able to celebrate Christmas with one another. We live in uncertain times, when we don’t know what will happen next, or how things will go.
There are so many questions that we keep on asking ourselves as people of faith. A significant question raised by some is ‘Is what we’re going through God’s judgement on humanity – in response to climate change, racism, inequality, injustice?’ It might not be God’s judgement, but it might be a call to look again at ourselves and our world and the kind of life that we live.
When we look back to Scripture, we can see that people of faith have always been wrestling with the events going on around them, and asking over and over again ‘where is God in all this?’
Today’s readings contain words about judgement and about an unexpected future. The psalmist speaks of God’s wrath and anger, but then prays that we might have wisdom. Thessalonians points to the way in which the day of the Lord will come with sudden destruction and no escape, but then points to the God who has ‘destined us not for wrath, but for salvation’. In Matthew the gospel moves us on to tackle the question ‘how do we live responsibly in God’s way, with the gifts that God gives us?’
I want to look today at how these scriptures speak to us about our role as Christians in these changing times. Living in God’s way is not about knowing all the answers. It is about day by day looking at ourselves and our world, and praying for the strength to let God’s love and God’s gifts fill us and enable us to live for others.
The passages today point to three key characteristics of living in God’s way.
- Being filled with faith, hope and love
- Accepting and using God’s generous gifts.
- Encouraging one another
These three characteristics are a contrast to some of the ways of the world at present. The world around us is often filled with judgementalism; with the thinking which says ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’; with the desire to be critical of others; with the concern to look after ourselves first, rather than those who are in most need.
Firstly, from Thessalonians, there’s the image of the breastplate and the helmet. These are not exactly current images for us today, but they are given significance in Thessalonians ‘put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.’
I want to suggest that the image of the breastplate points to the heart – and the way in which, in our hearts we’re called to be full of faith and love, as God’s gift. The image of the helmet points to the covering for the head, or the mind, and the gift of hope.
Being loving and faithful in our hearts and hopeful in our minds draws together the need to be attentive to both emotion and reason in the Christian life. We don’t need all the answers. We don’t need to despair. But we do need the gift of love and faith in order to reach out to others. We need the ability to wrestle with our minds, in a hope-filled way, about what’s going on in our lives and in the world around us.
This takes me on to the second point – about God’s generous gifts and the way we use these. The parable of the talents is a memorable story. Three people are given different amounts of money. Two people use the money given to them, and the third one buries it in the ground. It’s the third guy who takes our attention. One of the commentators points out that he wasn’t a bad guy:
‘He wasn’t dishonest; he wasn’t out to defraud people, he wasn’t a swindler; he didn’t embezzle the money; he wasn’t out for a fling.’ All these things that he wasn’t!
So what was he? It could be said that he was ‘risk-adverse’. He was very cautious. He didn’t want to risk what might happen if he put his money to use. And so he lost it.
Being cautious can be a virtue. But in this man’s case it had become a vice. He had misunderstood what God was about – and had not seen God as a generous giver, but as a harsh tyrant. Jesus comes with words of judgement, judging the man’s mistaken beliefs and his mistaken practices.
God is the generous giver who freely pours out gifts on God’s people. These gifts aren’t the same – some are more public, and some are more hidden. But no one is excluded from God’s gifts, whether public or hidden. God took a risk in Jesus in loving us. When we follow him, we’re called to take a risk, with who we are, with our money, with our fears and hopes, with our gifts. And then we will be blessed.
Thirdly, back to words from Thessalonians ‘Encourage one another, build up each other, as you are indeed doing.’ People who encourage each other and build each other up are people who care about each other, listen to each other, know each other’s joys and woes, value each other’s views.
The Christian life is not about how we can each outdo each other – in prayer or spirituality or wisdom about the faith; it’s not about how I can win my point at the expense of other people’s views; the Christian life is about how we build each other up. And all this is a great relief – for the encouragement is mutual – how I encourage you and you encourage me and we each encourage one another.
This is the life we’re meant to share with God’s world, especially in these troubled times. We’re here to share God’s gifts and to encourage each other. We’re here particularly to look out for the needy and those in despair in the communities around us. This is where God is present with us, and where God will always be present.
Thanks be to God.
Rev’d Elizabeth Welch
Our readings for this week:
Psalm 95:1-7a (NIV)
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24
- Ephesians 1: 15-23
- Matthew 25: 31-46
Although we cannot meet for worship in the building at present, our services continue to be live-streamed on our Facebook page at 11am each Sunday. If you wish to view our services online, you can find them here. You do not have to be a Facebook user to watch them – our services are publicly viewable. You can also view a recent service on our church website here. This week’s service will be led by members of Christ Church.
We meet 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 in person or 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.
Bible exploration – Advent
On 1st December the Bible exploration group on Zoom will be starting our Advent series. If you would like to join us or follow along at home you will need to purchase a course book. You will need a course booklet (booklets and digital versions available) and optionally the transcript of the audio items that form part of the course. The digital versions are slightly cheaper but if finance is a problem please let us know and we will sort something out. Please order soon to ensure delivery in time if you are wanting the printed versions. You can order here: https://www.yorkcourses.co.uk/product/living-in-hope/
Church charity news
Silent Auction in aid of HOPE not hate
STOP PRESS: A late addition to our Auction catalogue. 20+ back copies of “Who Do You Think You Are?” magazine. They become lot 27 and have a minimum bid of £5.
We are also extending the deadline to Friday 27th November to allow everyone to bid on this item. Details of how to bid and the full auction catalogue can be found here.
You can send your bid to us via:
Phone: Cathy Simpson (01895 255594)
Post: c/o Joanne Mackin, 13 Cleveland Rd, Uxbridge, UB8 2DW
Virtual games evening – Saturday 12th December
We will be having a virtual games evening via Zoom on Saturday 12th December at 7.30pm in aid of our church charities. Come and join us for a fun evening of games such as Pictionary, word scatter or online bingo. Suggested minimum donation of £2, Zoom meeting details will be sent out via email once your donation has been received.
You can find more details about our church charity fundraising events and items on our virtual sales table here. Gifts and donations can be made online via Virgin Money Giving or by cash or cheque made payable to Christ Church and clearly marked for the church charity.
Although the coronavirus pandemic had a big impact on Christian Aid Week earlier this year, with many planned fundraising activities having to take place virtually, it managed to raise nearly £4 million in total. Thank you to everyone who supported Christian Aid Week this year.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- North Hillingdon Methodist Church
- Hounslow URC
God, you come in disguises:
in a friend asking for a chat, in a person asking for help,
in all calls for assistance.
May we take the time to hear you,
knowing that when we respond to one person,
we are responding to you –
who always responds to us.
(Taken from Roots)