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 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:
Jesus, we come before you with open eyes so that we may see the glory of your resurrection,
with open hearts so that we may know your presence with us,
with open ears so that we may hear your word,
with open minds so that we may learn your will,
and with open hands so that we may do the work to which you call us. Amen.
(Taken from Roots )
Reflection from 9 May: Faith, obedience and love
Reading: 1 John 5: 1-6
Over the last month there have been many highlights in my life. Interviewing and being offered two new roles, one of which I accepted and will start at the end of the month. Having a birthday and getting lovely presents, including this lovely top from my daughter. Seeing the peas that I’ve sown on the allotment germinating. But one thing I found especially delightful was seeing a bunch of flowers and a thank-you note that one member of this church sent to another, the latter being someone who’d spent a lot of time on a particularly thank-less task. The note on the flowers read “You’ve worked so hard just lately and have done an amazing job. Now make yourself a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy looking at these instead of your computer screen for a while!” For me this captures something special and helps illustrate some of the points I want to make about faith, obedience and love.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, we have the wisdom that “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” I want to you to see that faith, obedience and love, which the central themes of the reading in the first letter of John today, should be three strands of a cord in our lives. They say that “three is the magic number”, well at least the New York hip-hop band De La Soul did in their opening track of their 1989 album ‘3 feet high and rising’. More classically, the Latin phrase “omne trium perfectum” – roughly translated that ‘everything that comes in threes is perfect’ or ‘every set of three is complete’ suggests the same. Some examples of sets of three that you probably remember:
- Use three identical words – as in Tony Blair’s famous use of ‘Education, education and education’ to set out his top three priorities for Government.
- Use three different words – such as ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’ from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
- Use three phrases – as in Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Government of the people by the people for the people’.
- Use three sentences – as demonstrated by Winston Churchill’s historic description of the Battle of Britain: ‘This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’
And I want you to reflect on and remember the set of three – “faith, obedience and love” which feature in the first letter of John.
So – turning to the scripture, let’s first think about the context of the letter and what John was seeking to say to the original audience. He wanted to address the problems in the churches that had been caused by false teachers who had left the church. Specifically, these false teachers were haughty and unloving. They denied the Incarnation and the deity of Jesus and claimed not to be sinners. They may have been precursors of the Gnostic heretics who plagued the second century church.
In response, John in chapter 2 talks about the tests for faith, obedience and love. In chapter 3 he expounds on obedience and love. Chapter 4 focuses on faith and love. Now at the start of chapter 5 he weaves all three, faith, obedience and love together – showing how they connect and depend on each other.
Let’s walk through verses, firstly 1 John 5:1 – “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Whoever loves the Father also loves the child who is born of him.”
Unpacking this we see the implications of believing Jesus is the Christ, specifically it brings you into relationship with God, effectively ‘born of God’ – that is begotten of God, adopted into the family of believers. But note the very specific wording, Jesus is the Christ, definite article. Not as some might claim ‘Jesus had the Christ spirit’ as other religions may claim such as those who follow Buddha or Mohammed. No, it is more specific, Jesus is the Christ – one and the same. The second part unpacks the implications of being born of God. Firstly, we will love the God, the Father – but more than that we will love others who are also ‘begotten of Him’, that is our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This defines our common ground, not race, language, culture, affluence or any other demarcation, but rather our status children of God. We should take care not to limit our love for our brothers and sisters to those within our church, or our way of worshiping or our theological persuasion. I was encouraged to hear of Rev’d Andrew McLuskey talking last week about Open Table, I was involved in the leadership team of Open Table London for a while, but in some ways Open Table was born out of the failure to love and accept LGBT Christians within the church, and the passion to create a space where they could be loved and accepted. Let’s take care to love one another and avoid marginalising anyone or any group.
1 John 5:2-4a “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.”
We can know that we love the children of God (that is one another – our Christian brothers and sisters) if we (1) love God and (2) keep God’s commandments – that is obedience. So how does love and obedience show we love the children of God? If we look at the ten commandments, you’ll notice that Ten Commandments are divided roughly half and half between those having to do with honouring God (Exodus 20:2-11) and honouring other people (Exodus 20:12-17). More than that, even within the Sabbath commandment – “You shall not do any work (on the Sabbath), you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates” (Exodus 20:10). You’ll see that the primary provision is honouring God – but it also weaves in protections for several people, especially the vulnerable – females, servants, strangers. He also promised, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love” (John 15:10). There’s a direct linkage between obedience and love.
Let’s think about the verse ‘His commandments are not grievous’. Perhaps most directly this is a response to the legalism of the scribes and Pharisees, who added their own complex traditions to God’s commandments which became impossible to live by. Whereas on the contrary, God wrote His law on your heart, that is through the Holy Spirit working in our lives, we know in our spirit what He would have us do. Let’s think too of the words Matthew ascribed to Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30). “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart;and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”
John states that “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” We can have confidence that we will overcome, that is to achieve victory over the world that is opposed to God. As in our family prayer, “God’s will be done on earth” in and through our lives. That said, there’s no timeline given here – just an assurance that the end point will be victory.
1 John 5:4b-6 “This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”. In verse 4 we see that it is your faith, your belief in Jesus as the Son of God, as the Christ, as your personal response to hearing the word of God – is the victory that has overcome. Note the tense, has overcome, denoting a completed finished act. The next verse builds on this by reflecting that that who are overcoming, are those that believe in Jesus as the Son of God. Note the tense, here we have overcoming as a continual act that we as Christians engage in. Every day we face temptations, struggles and every day strive to overcome them.
In verse 6 we have a somewhat cryptic reference to blood and water – though this is likely picking up a phraseology that would be known to his original readers – if not so well known by us today. There are various interpretations – but perhaps but most likely water refers to either Jesus’ baptism or maybe physical birth and blood refers to his death. Both highlighting the physical manhood of Jesus – as opposed to only a spiritual Messiah as some heresies taught – that the Messiah wasn’t really a man.
Rounding out the verse, we have the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit that makes the truth known to us. If we’d carried on in the gospel reading to verse 26 we would have heard that shortly before his death, Jesus promised his disciples, “When the Holy Spirit has come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will testify about me” (John 15:26). So we see that the truth of God is revealed to us by the Spirit.
Now let’s think about the three key themes and how we might apply to ourselves Faith, Obedience, Love.
Faith – that which we believe in. I’m told that the messages I’ve shared at Christ Church have been on the more intellectually challenging end of the scale. Well, I make no apology for that. I think it’s important that we challenge ourselves to think about our faith, what do we believe, why do we believe. To dive deep into the bible, what’s the context, what did it mean then, what does it mean now, how does it fit in the overall story arc.
Obedience – In his letter James tells us that “faith without works is dead”, and we’ve seen clearly in John’s letter the intrinsic linkage between faith, love and obedience. So we must ask ourselves what does keeping his commandments mean to us today – how does that outwork in our service to others. I also wish to turn this around and invite you to think about when you’ve taken on a job and your first enthusiasm fades and then your heart isn’t in it any longer. How much more of a chore it seems to keep on – especially if it’s one of those many thankless tasks that are needed to keep the church running. I spoke of faith, obedience and love as a three stranded cord in our lives – if you’re down to the single strand of obedience it quickly gets near breaking point. So if you find yourself over-indexing on obedience without the faith or love, then perhaps you should check yourself and take steps to rebalance, otherwise you’ll risk stress and burn out.
Finally love, it’s clear we need to love one another. Obviously, that’s each other in the room, and those on the livestream and those on the video catch up too. Loving those of God’s family that He brings our way. And as I started by sharing how an act of kindness, from one church member to another to say well done was a great example of love – let us take time out to show love to one another by appreciate each other’s efforts in a personal way.
Our readings for this week
Acts 1:1-11 (NIV)
Jesus taken up into heaven
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
6 Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’
7 He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Psalm 47
- Ephesians 1:15-23
- Luke 24:44-53
We meet at 11am for our Sunday services, which are also live-streamed on our Facebook page. 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. Our service this week will be led by Methodist minister Rev’d Ken Kingston.
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.
We have been following the Bible Society ‘Lyfe’ series over recent weeks and have found these sessions exploring different aspects of our faith interesting. Each session finishes with some challenges. Last week’s session was ‘Just Lyfe’ – focusing on developing a life of compassion and the challenges were as follows:
1) Let’s Talk – Surprise someone with encouragement; contact someone who is struggling or extend forgiveness and seek reconciliation with someone.
2) Mood Changer – aim to speak well of everyone and if you do find fault in someone, find a way to flip it around so you can come alongside them and help them grow.
3) Compassionate – Choose to support something that you feel passionate about, where you can make a difference or spend time asking God where he would like you to direct your resources.
If you would like to join us for any future sessions, you would be very welcome. Each session is a standalone session so you don’t need to have attended previous sessions.
Christian Aid Week 2021
This year’s Christian Aid Week is 10th – 16th May. We will be having a retiring collection for Christian Aid during our service on 16th May. You can also donate online to Christian Aid through our church e-envelope here.
Virtual Beetle Drive – Saturday 15th May, 7pm
As part of our fundraising for Christian Aid Week we are hosting a virtual beetle drive on Zoom on Saturday 15th May at 7pm. If you would like to join us for this, simply make a donation to Christian Aid via our e-envelope and then email Louise (email@example.com) for the meeting link.
Reminiscences of an organist: Part 5 – The move to Uxbridge
With the passage of time, driving to Hayes each Sunday morning was losing its charm. Hearing that the local Methodist church needed an organist, I applied and, in due course, became organist at Wembley Park Methodist church. Some years later, and following my move to Slough College of HE, Beryl and I again decided to move further out. We chose Uxbridge. It was in the course of house hunting that we came across Christ Church. A notice in the window proclaimed ‘Organist Wanted’. The rest, as they say, is history. Coincidentally it was on the same day that Beryl and I found the house of our dreams and where we have lived for the last 37 years. In all it took a whole year to organise the ‘move’ and during this time we remained in touch with Christ Church via Les Clark.
On the day of our removal there were some anxious moments regarding safe delivery of my much loved grand piano and especially in regard to our four cats (much protesting en route). All went well and on Sunday 18th July 1984 I played for my first service at Christ Church. A keen organ enthusiast at that time was dear friend (now departed) Bruce Bates. It was through his generosity that the church now possesses a 3 manual Allan Organ. It is my wish that this fine instrument will continue to bring joy to listeners and performers alike in years to come.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Wealdstone Methodist
- Wembley Park URC
You are a person of God,
You are held in the loving arms of a divine Creator,
And you go from this space – from this moment – into a world crying out for love, for hope, for justice.
(Taken from The Vine)