Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. I hope you are all keeping well and coping as best you can with the current lockdown restrictions. 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:
O Preacher of Good News, declaring holy revolution,
Who founds a People using common folk who’ll hear,
Calls those who’ll wait through troubles, take no trust in wealth, or might, or power:
Come now and heal us; summon us, and make us yours.
(Epiphany Antiphon for 24 January – for more details see the Methodist Church website)
Reflection from 17 January: Staying focused
Reading: Philippians 3:13-14
A young man dating a young woman called her mobile phone on New Year’s Eve and received this voice mail. ‘Hi, you reached the voice mail of Sally, I’m sorry I’m not available at the moment, but please leave a message and I shall call you back as soon as I can. Thanks for calling. And, Oh, one more thing, I’m currently re-organising my life, including getting rid of all non-essentials; so if you do not hear from me, it means you’re one of them…’
St Paul was writing to the Philippian church, from Roman prison awaiting execution; and so for him, every day would be his last. However more importantly, the apostle deemed every day, as a new opportunity to soldier on for his Master. And as we begin the year 2021, St Paul gives us the secret on how to make every new year our best ever. He began by making a candid admission which is the starting point for making our life better on a daily basis… ‘Not that I have already obtained the prize or am already perfect, but I press on to make it to the finishing line, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.’ In that letter, Paul was admitting that he didn’t have it all together. Though he could boast of many achievements, he was aware that there was still more to do. It doesn’t matter how old you are, my friends; there are always more life lessons to be learnt, and more room for growth in our faith journey. And to that degree, St Paul gives us three simple steps that we can use as our blueprint as we begin this journey of the year 2021.
First, ‘Forget what is behind you…’ Yes, forget those things that dragged us down; things that we spend so much time and money acquiring, knowing very well that we shall leave them all behind. The great man, Plato wrote 400 years ago that: ‘An unexamined life is not worth living.’ And St. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 11: 28 ‘You should examine yourselves.’ He also wrote to young Timothy in 1st Timothy 4:16 ‘Pay close attention to yourself, keep a close watch on how you live.’ In other words, keep a critical eye upon your own life. Furthermore, St Paul says in verse 13 of our readings: ‘Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have reached the finishing line, but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind, I press forward towards the goal.’
In the passage, Paul uses sports language – running a race, straining and pressing on for the prize. I watched the summer Olympics in London in 2012 and how athletes worked themselves so hard to reach the finishing line, sometimes ending by photo-finish. That’s the kind of spirit St Paul is recommending for you and me. You cannot win a race if you are always looking backward. As you look back in 2020, my friends, take some time to reflect, to take stock of your life , think about your mistakes – things you should have done but failed to do; things you did only to regret later; And ask yourself what lessons you could learn from them to make you a better person; say to yourself, ‘Yes, I did fail that time, I made some mistakes; but I’ve also learned some valuable lessons, that will make my life more meaningful from today.
Secondly, ‘Focus on the future.’ St Paul says: ‘Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it on my own. But one thing I do…’ Those two words keep reappearing in the Bible for a good reason. And here are a few: When the rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked him how to receive eternal life, Jesus said, ‘One thing you lack.’ When Martha was arguing with Mary over what was really important in life, Jesus said to Martha, ‘Only one thing is needed.’ King David said in Psalm 27:4, ‘One thing I have desired of the Lord, that I will seek.’ And what was the one thing Paul was seeking? He says, ‘I press on toward the goal for the prize of my call in Christ Jesus.’ In other words, Paul said the key to living a meaningful life is to stay focused. Paul had a one-track mind, but his mind was on the right track. I am convinced, my friends, that the reason why so many churches are so ineffective in their mission call is because they tend to gravitate, dwell on non-essentials.
St Paul said, ‘Set the right goals in your life, and then work hard, in conjunction of the Spirit of God which will lead you into greater things, and greater heights.’
Finally, ‘Fulfill what is ahead of you.’ St Paul says this, ‘I press on.’ The language of prayerfulness, determination, perseverance, and endurance are almost non-existent in our post-modern world, my friends. And so when the boss gets a bit unreasonable, we quit our job; when the studies become a bit difficult we drop out of school; When the marriage, the relationship becomes a bit unbearable, we seek divorce. I am appealing to us all today, to take a different approach this year by working on those virtues in our lives. Let us make this ONE THING our resolution and our goal in the ensuing year, 2021. And what is that? Staying focussed in our faith journey, our prayer, our service, our relationships; like the five wise bridesmaids, watching and waiting for the arrival of the Bridegroom. Brothers and sisters, God our Father has graciously handed to you and me a brand-new cheque of 365 precious days; but privileges come with responsibilities. So let us get beyond the way we used to, the kind of our past where we were at the centre stage and allow Jesus to take first place. Let him redirect our future, in areas we fall short. Let him be at the centre stage of our lives. In today’s terms, let Jesus ‘call the shots.’
Kate Wilkinson put the words of St Paul into a beautiful hymn, which we use in our worship and I shall close my sermon with the words: ‘May the mind of Christ my Saviour live in me from day to day; by his love and power controlling all I do and say. May the word of God dwell richly in my heart from hour to hour; so that all may see I triumph only through his power; May the love of Jesus fill me, as the waters fill the sea; him exalting, self-abasing, this is victory. May I run the race before me, strong and brave to face the foe, looking only unto Jesus as I onward go.’
Brothers and sisters, that is the only thing that would make us worthy of another brand year. We do not have much time; our time is running out and we know it. We began the year 2020 with many people; today, they are no more. But you and I have another opportunity to do the only right thing – staying focused in our walk with God our Creator in 2021. Let’s fully commit to it if we hope to win the prize, the Crown of Life, when we come face to face with our Saviour. I wish you all a happy, blessed and blissful New Year. Amen.
Prof Samuel Kow Arthur
Our readings for this week
Mark 1:14-20 (NIV)
Jesus announces the good news
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’
Jesus calls his first disciples
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Jonah 3:1-5, 10
- Psalm 62:5-12
- 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Our services are currently online-only and are live-streamed on our Facebook page at 11am on Sundays. 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. This Sunday’s service will be a communion service led by Graham Hinton.
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.
Church charity news
Fundraising ideas wanted
We are currently looking for ideas of ways that we can continue to fundraise for HOPE not hate during lockdown. If you have any ideas for virtual events or fundraising ideas, please let us know.
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.
From the Circuit newsletter
Holocaust Memorial Day Event – Hillingdon Inter-Faith Network
Holocaust Survivor’ son gives testimony of his father on Zoom on Jan 26th from 7.00pm – 8.30pm
Joy Barrow has organised, on behalf of Hillingdon Inter Faith Network, a special Zoom event when we can have the opportunity to hear Michael Bibring, give testimony of his father, Harry Bibring BEM, a Holocaust Survivor, and his own experience both as a second generation survivor and that of his family.
To express an interest in joining the Zoom event please email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
We have really missed not being able to go on a Company Outing, so we decided it was time to do something about it. On Friday 15th January we all meet at 6.30pm, said hello to each other, shared our news and set off for our trip. But don’t worry, we were actually all sat at home in front our computers, iPads or iPhones at our Friday night Zoom meeting!
First of all we boarded a plane for a very short flight, before arriving at San Diego Zoo. Whilst we were at the zoo, we visited the Apes, Baboons, Elephants, Giraffes, Hippos, Tiger, Koala, Penguins, Platypus and Polar Bear – via the live webcams. Occasionally the internet buffering got in the way, but the sun was shining and, just like any visit to the zoo, sometimes the animals were out and sometimes we couldn’t find them at all!
Before going on the trip girls had been asked to bring with them some paper, pens, scissors and glue. Once all the animals had been visited, and before returning home, we all made a polar bear. I wonder if you can work out how we did it?!
Praying for other churches
This week we hold Yiewsley Methodist Church in our prayers.
thank you that you meet us where we are,
in the middle and muddle of our daily lives.
Help us to hear your call,
to recognise your voice,
and to respond to your invitation
to follow you whatever we might be doing.
(Taken from Roots)