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:
Dear and glorious God, we cry to you.
At the moment, love seems both deeply hidden and alive like never before.
Selfishness is alarmingly exposed, numbing us to the fear which feeds it.
Selflessness is gloriously and exhaustingly alive, restoring our faith in you and in humanity.
In this Lenten time, stir in us, waking your love, enriching us with grace to be gracious.
Comfort us to know that our small steps made well are your active, powerful love.
(Rev’d Elizabeth Gray-King, taken from URC ‘Prayers during the Pandemic’)
Reflection from 7 March: Worship turned upside-down
Reading: John 2:1-13-22
It’s a well-known reading this one from John, isn’t it? I’m sure many of us have heard it many times and have pictured the scene. The hustle and bustle of the temple court, filled with people and animals. People coming to Jerusalem, making a pilgrimage to the temple for Passover. How noisy it must have been with sounds of the cattle, sheep and doves, and the sounds of the people buying and selling animals to give as a sacrifice; exchanging their money in order to pay the temple tax. Perhaps it was something that had become a fairly normal scene during that time of year; the sellers and the money-traders providing the means for those arriving in Jerusalem to be able to observe the required rituals of worship at the temple.
And then into that scene comes Jesus to turn it all upside-down. An angry Jesus, taking in the scene, stopping to make a whip out of cords and then driving the animals out of the temple, overturning the tables of the money-changers, scattering their coins and telling those selling the doves, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a marketplace?”
This isn’t “Jesus meek and mild” as he is often portrayed – the Jesus that I think many of us are more comfortable with. This is a Jesus who challenges, coming into the practices and rituals that had become commonplace to overturn them.
I wonder how the disciples felt watching this scene. They’re rather passive in this passage. I picture them just standing there reflecting on the words they remember from scripture – the words of Psalm 69:9: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Were they shocked? Were they afraid? Did they stand alongside Jesus as the Jews demanded of him “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” or did they hide in the shadows. They were probably as incredulous as the Jews were by the response “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.”
It’s only in hindsight that this response made sense – that they understood that the temple Jesus was referring to was his body. We too have the benefit of hindsight in this scene. It’s easy to look at it two thousand years on and think to ourselves. ‘well of course, there was corruption going on; of course the temple court shouldn’t have become a marketplace; of course Jesus was right to come in and turn it all upside-down.”
Worship becoming ritual. Sacrifice being something that was purchased at the entrance to the temple instead of being from the heart. Corruption creeping in. Profit being made through providing the means for people to offer sacrifices and come to the temple to worship. Somewhere along the way, perhaps, rituals and observance became a substitute for meaningful relationship with God.
What would Jesus see today, I wonder, in our own churches, or rather our churches as they were before the pandemic? I’m not saying that he would see our churches as a marketplace, but would he see ritual and following the practices we have become accustomed to, or would he see worship – people opening their hearts to God – a church in relationship with God? I wonder, if we are sometimes more like those sellers and money traders than we care to admit? I suspect there are times when we come to church as part of a ritual, bringing ourselves but leaving our hearts behind.
Like Jesus turning things upside-down in the temple, this past year living through the Covid pandemic has turned things upside-down for our churches. It’s shown us that church is not just limited to a building – it is the heart and soul and passion that is part and parcel of our relationship with God. It’s not about making offerings and reciting words of ritual. It’s about looking into our hearts and bringing ourselves to God. It’s about relationship.
It’s all too easy for our worship to become words of ritual, for our prayers to become transactions – a series of requests for God to fulfil. In this time when the world that we once knew has truly been turned upside-down, I wonder if this a time when we should examine our hearts, examine the rituals and ask whether we are putting God first – whether we are truly coming to worship God with our hearts or whether we are just going through the motions and following our rituals. How are we challenged to be a church in relationship with God?
Our readings for this week
John 3:14-21 (NIV)
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Numbers 21:4-9
- Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
- Ephesians 2:1-10
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 a virtual parade service led by members of our Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade companies.
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
Our Maundy Thursday service will be a live Zoom service at 7pm on 1 April and all are welcome to attend this.
Please note that this service will be recorded and shared later on our website and social media channels. No names of those attending will be shown on the recording and videos of those attending can be blanked out for those who would prefer not to be seen on the recording.
You can find more information about Lent and Easter activities on our church website here.
Did you know…?
For centuries Uxbridge was a market town, with corn as the principal commodity being traded, but a decline came in the 19th century. On June 24th 1862 the local paper reported that not a single sack of corn was seen in Uxbridge market – the first time for over 700 years. The trend continued, and corn disappeared from the scene. One explanation for the decline was the rapid transport of goods. Local farmers found that market-gardening was much more profitable, with produce being speedily transported to London and elsewhere.
Beware the Ides of March
You have probably heard of the Ides of March, because it is the day Roman statesman Julius Caesar was assassinated. The immortal words “Beware the Ides of March” are uttered in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to the leader by a fortune-teller. Other bad things have happened on March 15, of course, but there’s probably no reason to beware March’s Ides more than the Ides of any other month.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica the Ides is actually a day that comes about every month, not just in March—according to the ancient Roman calendar, at least. The Romans tracked time much differently than we do now, with months divided into groupings of days counted before certain named days: the Kalends at the beginning of the month, the Ides at the middle, and the Nones between them. In a 31-day month such as March, the Kalends was day 1, with days 2–6 being counted as simply “before the Nones.” The Nones fell on day 7, with days 8–14 “before the Ides” and the 15th as the Ides. Afterward the days were counted as “before the Kalends” of the next month. In shorter months these days were shifted accordingly.
Not only bad things happen on March 15th as my diary tells me that Clothes Rationing finished in Britain on March 15th 1949!
Church charity news
Murder mystery evening
Our next fundraising event is a virtual murder mystery evening on Saturday 10 April at 7pm. More details to come in next week’s newsletter.
Virtual sales table
Our virtual sales table is still open with several items available including beautiful home-made Easter cards and craft kits for making Easter egg decorations. More details are available on our church charity page on our church website (see details below).
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.
What we’ve been watching lately
This week Joanne shares what she’s been watching lately:
“Neil and I have been watching a lot of TV and YouTube as we can’t go out.
We can recommend “The Americans” (available on Prime video). It’s about two Russian spies who are in deep cover in America. Very interesting look from the opposite point of view and great if you like a thriller.
We are also re-watching “Silent Witness” (who doesn’t like Emlia Fox?). They do seem to get in far too many fixes for just being pathologists. All 22+ seasons are available on iPlayer. If you need something a little more gentle try Foyle’s War on ITV Hub (free, but you do have the adverts to contend with). I do like the gentle pace and beautiful feel they have. I’m also saving Death in Paradise for later, also on iPlayer.
If you want something a little less terrifying than Silent Witness, we have been watching ‘The Map Men’ on YouTube, a funny duo (Jay and Mark) who look at history and anomalies of maps. Jay has also done a series you can find on the same channel called “Unfinished London” that looks at big projects around London that were, as the name suggests, unfinished, such as the Northern line extension.
Now if your interests bend towards trains do look up Paul and Rebecca Whitewick. Paul and Rebecca plan on visiting all the disused railway stations in the country and get distracted by Roman roads and tunnels along the way as well as the odd canal. Apparently if they resume the speed they had before Covid struck it will take them 11 years as there are over 6000. One day they will need to visit Uxbridge to bag our disused stations.
If you really get into that we have been watching “All the Stations“. Geoff and Vicki visited every open railway station in the UK (2563 of them) in 2017. They also look at interesting places around the country as Vicki explores and are also running a loosely railway based quiz most Saturday nights as well as having other videos.
If you’d like to share which books you’ve been reading lately, or anything that you’ve been watching that is still available to view, please let Louise know so we can share them in future newsletters.
Use your finger or a pencil to follow the labyrinth path as you think about God loving you for ever. You can start the journey wherever you like.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- North Harrow Methodist
- St Margaret’s & St George’s, Harlesden (URC/ Moravian)
Lord of light, help us to look to you in the coming week.
Guide us when the way ahead seems dark and full of obstacles.
May we always give thanks, even in the darkest times,
and enable us to shine as lights in the world. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)