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 Healer of the humble, Silencer of fears,
Who raises up the beaten grass-stems, binds our wounds,
Who speaks the names of every star and misses not a one:
Come, as a rushing eagle; bring the rescue of Good News.
(Epiphany Antiphon for 7 February – for more details see the Methodist Church website)
Reflection from 31 January: How does God speak to us? Christ is our light, shall we follow him?
Readings: Deuteronomy 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, Mark 1:21-28
In the midst of so many demands on our time, we ought also, and more importantly, look after our spiritual life too, ‘living lives worthy of the calling we have received’ (Ephesians 4:11). That is, of course, the reason why you and I are here today, to pray and worship together, to hear the word of God, and to commit ourselves anew to follow the way of Jesus, the way of love and abundant life.
The Methodist Way of Life, lead by Roger Walton (former President of the Methodist Conference) its Commitment Card says in one of the lines: “we will look and listen for God in Scripture, and the world”. A first application of the sermon today is to suggest that when you wake up and reach out to your mobile phone try not to look at the news, or Facebook, but instead look at the verse for the day that the Bible Gateway app offers. This is a much more enlightening way of starting the day, to look for the light of the Christ, for the word of God in scripture. That will get you in a much better mind set for the day. There is also the ‘prayer of the day’ on the Methodist website and so many other resources there for a life of prayer and encouragement to love and serve others.
The contradictory dimension of our OT lesson today is that it shows that the people fleeing slavery and on the move to improve their lives at the time of Moses, felt that it was a terrifying experience to receive the word of God. When they reach Horeb, Mount Sinai, although already on the way to freedom and redemption, they could hardly cope with the word of God resplendent in the dense cloud, the thunder, the lightning and the voice of God speaking to Moses that came from the top of the mountain. The light was too bright, the voice too loud, the holiness too intimidating. Everybody trembled. (Exodus 19 and 20) And they said: “please do not have God to speak to us directly, let’s have prophets and signs, but not the voice of God directly, otherwise we will die” (Ex 20.19 and Deuteronomy 18:16).
And since that experience in the Desert, (which could represent historical, political, psychological, emotional, or spiritual and/or enlightenment), the Lord has provided prophets, messengers, preachers, apostles to every age and every individual. Above of all, God has revealed his eternal word of love and redemption in Jesus Christ our Lord who remains the face of God: suffering, saving, healing, liberating, reconciling. Jesus remains that word, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). However, we don’t see the face of God or hear God’s word so directly, or very rarely someone perceives that directly, we see/hear that word through scriptures and in the world.
This OT passage is an invitation for us to open our ears, our eyes, and seek God, God’s word in scripture and in our world today, in our lives and for today. We believe the word of God can be found in scripture and active in the world as the commitment in the Methodist Way of Life says. The word of God is eternal, alive and speaks to our situation, individually and collectively. Beyond the Holy Scriptures, the word of God through present day prophets has all sort of forms: e.g. George Floyd and the BLM movement. The word of God is a wake-up call to those who are asleep (Ephesians 5:14), a call to our conscience and to society, it is a wake-up call to the sinful and oppressive nature of our societies. God speaks through the most unexpected voices, the marginalised, the poor, the migrant.
Pope Francis, listening to the word of God in the world, had this to say: “on 20th January, just a few metres from St Peter’s Square, a man was found dead due to the cold. A homeless Nigerian man, 46 years old, called Edwin.” The Pope continued, “there could be cause to say together with St Gregory, the Great, who, when faced with the death of a beggar said: that there would be no mass that day, no Mass celebrated, because that day was like a Good Friday.” Traditionally there is no celebration of the Eucharist on Good Fridays. Pope Gregory said the death of a beggar made that day like Good Friday. And Pope Francis continued pointing the finger to himself: “Let’s think about Edwin. Imagine what that man felt, 46 years old, in the cold, ignored by all, abandoned, by us as well.” The Pope heard the word of God spoken to him through the death of Edwin, the migrant who died of cold near St Peter’s Square.
And the Archbishop of Canterbury and of York had this to say in a recent letter to the nation: “100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure. Each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us. We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God. We write to you then in consolation, but also in encouragement, and ultimately in the hope of Jesus Christ. The God who comes to us in Jesus knew grief and suffering himself. On the cross, Jesus shares the weight of our sadness.” I find here in this message the word of God, of comfort, of consolation in the face of the pandemic. I lost former parishioners, friends, and my own brother-in-law to COVID-19. God speaks to me. God speaks to us.
But of course, God speaks to us through good and beautiful things too: the light of the dawn, the colour of the flowers, the singing of the birds, the beauty of the Earth. God speaks to us in a simple gesture or smile, even of a stranger.
The OT reading promises that God will raise voices, and invites us to hear the voice of God in the prophets who by their word, their lives, their action or circumstances reveal to us the Word of God, and through creation that speaks of God goodness and infinite creativity, also to find the word of God in others, their love and care, our love and care of them.
Chapter 8 of 1 Corinthians warns us that we ourselves can be a sign of salvation and blessing for others, as we can be signs of scandal and fall too. St Paul is suggesting that we are free to do all sorts of things, but that, because we will be the word of God for others, we ought to be careful how we convey that word in our lives so that people may be affirmed in their faith and not discouraged and not lost because of our example, but the opposite: encouraged and saved.
God needs those who will be his word for today, who will speak and live out the Good News for today. So, in his own time on earth, as the passage of the Gospel for today shows, Jesus was slowly gathering his disciples to be that word for today, to mediate the word of God and announce the Kingdom of God that is near.
After recruiting Peter and Andrew his brother, James and John, sons of Zebedee, Jesus goes to the Synagogue and teaches others, calling them to conversion and to follow his way of life, believing in the Kingdom of God. Now a man who was possessed, could not accept the call. It was too much for him, spiritually he belonged to another team, not to the light of God, emotionally he was not prepared to change his life, he was terrified of the changes the Word of God would bring to his life. Because Jesus was inviting him/them to leave their shores and seek other seas (metaphorically but also practically in some cases) the man/ the spirits within him felt threatened. “Have you come to destroy us?”. No, Jesus came to transform them and their lives. He came to liberate the man, to invite him to leave the shackles of his existence of oppression and slavery for a life seeking a new reality, Jesus was calling him/them to a journey into the desert, with an unknown destiny. This was too much for that fearful man. He had lost all his faith in himself, and the new possibilities life offered him. He was trapped in his own existence, the jails himself and others, the devil, satan had imposed on him. Jesus was inviting him to raise up his eye sight, from the stony road he was on, to the open horizon beyond the shores and the sea of Galilee. This was the word of God calling the man to a new life.
Will he come and follow Jesus? Will he leave his boat on the shoreline behind him and walk side by side with Jesus? Will he seek a new life and other seas?
That is the same calling for us today. For us to again decide or rededicate ourselves to follow Jesus, to walk side-by-side with Jesus, and be ourselves word and sign of God in the world.
Will we allow the devil to fill us with fear, or in other words, with lack of faith preventing us from having the courage to launch ourselves in the direction of Jesus? To refuse to hear Jesus’ voice is indeed madness, it is demoniac, or evil, indifference will not do either.
Let’s choose light not darkness, not only to listen to God’s word in scripture and the world. But to be ourselves, that word of God for all to see.
Rev’d Dr Leão-Neto
Our readings for this week
Mark 1:29-39 (NIV)
Jesus heals many
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all who were ill and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Jesus prays in a solitary place
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’
38 Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ 39 So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Isaiah 40:21-31
- Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
- 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
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 at www.facebook.com/christchurchuxbridge. 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 led by members of Christ Church and we will be sharing a video reflection from URC Discipleship Enabler, Eddie Boon.
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.
Looking towards Lent
Post-service pancakes – 14 February
Sadly we can’t get together in person to enjoy pancakes after the Sunday service before the start of Lent this year, but if you’d like to bring your own to the post-service Zoom chat on 14 February, we can still enjoy our pancakes together. Do you have a favourite pancake topping or do you prefer to stick to the traditional lemon and sugar?
Woven – Lent Bible study
In our Bible exploration group during Lent, we will be following the London District of the Methodist Church’s Lent study course – Woven. All are welcome to join us on Zoom on Tuesday evenings at 7.30pm. You can find more information about the Lent study course and download a copy of the booklet for this course at https://www.methodistlondon.org.uk/lentcourse2021
Church charity news
Virtual beetle drive – Saturday 20th February
Our next virtual event in aid of our church charity will be a virtual beetle drive on Saturday 20th February at 7pm. Come and join us for a fun evening on Zoom in return for a donation to our church charity. Meeting details will be sent out via email once your donation has been received.
We have a new item on our virtual sales table! Joanne has made some beautiful Easter cards available for a donation of £2.50 per card. They can also be done in lavender shades and peacock blues. The cards fit in a DL envelope and are standard postage. There will be a limit of 25 cards in total available so don’t miss out!
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.
Communicare Counselling Service
In 1983, following the report of a steering group, Christ Church resolved to provide premises and fund the establishment of a counselling service. This was in large part on account of a research into local needs conducted by Martin Eggleton, the Methodist minister and one of two ministers of Christ Church at the time.
During the years Communicare Counselling Service (CCS) has flourished and although now a separate charity still operates from Christ Church with financial support and some trustees nominated by the church. The following is their report on the current challenges.
Despite the lockdown, CCS has continued to work ‘normally’ since the pandemic started in March last year although this is inevitably remote working by telephone or video-link. All CCS counsellors have adapted speedily and flexibly to the changed circumstances, as have their clients. Positive feedback from clients indicates that this has proved very successful, including couples therapy via video-link.
It is also encouraging to note that, in the 10 months since the beginning of the pandemic, CCS has been contacted by 154 potential new clients and, following their initial contact, 103 of these continued into counselling alongside those clients already in counselling with CCS. We have been surprised and pleased to see that this is only slightly below the usual level of non-pandemic CCS activity.
Due to the economic hardship that has impacted on our community, the availability of CCS’s bursary scheme has ensured that clients who require financial assistance can be offered counselling too. On an equally positive note, the option of remote working has also opened up the opportunity for clients who are housebound or have restricted mobility to access CCS for therapy without needing to attend in person.
Throughout this time, supervision at CCS has continued as usual, albeit by remote means, and meetings of the counselling team and of CCS’s Trustees have also taken place via video-link. Many counsellors have been particularly appreciative of the informal video-link gatherings regularly arranged by team members for mutual support during remote working as well as for their continued learning and professional development.
What we’ve been reading lately
Joanne has been reading the St Mary’s chronicles, 9+ books and spin offs all about time traveling historians and their exploits, by Jodi Taylor. Available on loan to anyone.
If you’d like to share which books you’ve been reading lately, or have any books that you’d be willing to pass on to others, please let Louise know so we can share them in future newsletters.
From the London District of the Methodist Church newsletter
The latest Methodist Podcast is a special on vaccinations. In it the question of ‘Is vaccination compatible with the will of God?’ is discussed, and we also hear from a Methodist nurse why all communities need to have the vaccination. It’s a really good listen and you can find it online here.
Simon couldn’t find Jesus. Join the dots to find out what Jesus was doing.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold our own church in our prayers.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.