Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. I hope you are all keeping well. Our church is now open for Sunday services but we will continue to send out our newsletter regularly for the foreseeable future. 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:
Holy, holy, holy is our wonderful God!
Creator! Saviour! Sustainer!
Let us worship our God of infinite mystery,
yet who is closer to us than our own breath.
(Taken from Roots)
Reflection from 23 May: Empowered by the Spirit
Reading: Acts 2:1-21
The period from Good Friday through to Pentecost must have been a huge rollercoaster ride for the disciples. So much happened in such a short space of time – Jesus’s arrest and death, his resurrection and reappearances to them and then his ascension. One minute he’s talking to them, telling them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit; then all of a sudden he’s gone again.
Big life-changing events can often leave us confused and disorientated for a time. When someone important to us is suddenly no longer in our lives, we can find ourselves left in limbo for a time. Not quite knowing what to do with ourselves; unsure how to move forward, where to go next, particularly when that person has been a leader in our lives. The disciples are in that state of limbo at the start of today’s reading from Acts. I imagine they must have felt somewhat drained by all the events of the previous weeks, as they gathered together. Uncertain, perhaps afraid, not knowing what the next steps would be or how to move forward.
The disciples had become used to following Jesus, to obeying his commands, following his will. As they gathered together on the morning of Pentecost, they were still obeying those commands, having been told, “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about… in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” (Acts 1:4b,5b)
And so they waited. Then suddenly, dramatically, the Holy Spirit comes upon them in wind and flame – the sound of a violent wind filling the house, tongues of fire separating and coming to rest on each of them. In an instant, the disciples are renewed and reinvigorated; galvanised into action. They start to speak and as they are speaking, a crowd begins to gather. People of different nationalities coming together, amazed and perplexed to find that they hear the words being said in their own language.
Of course there are some in the crowd who make fun of the disciples, wondering if they have had too much wine. I wonder how we would react in that situation? At one of our Bible exploration group sessions recently, we explored the introductory session on ‘Spirit Lyfe’ taking a closer look at the power of God’s spirit moving in and through us. We shared our thoughts about the Holy Spirit and how we felt it manifests itself in our lives.
I think sometimes we can be a little uncomfortable with the Holy Spirit and the things we might associate with the Spirit – like speaking in tongues. Perhaps those who made fun of the disciples in today’s reading were those who felt uncomfortable at seeing this group of men so suddenly empowered to declare the wonders of God for all to hear. I wonder if someone came into our church today and suddenly started speaking in tongues how would we react to that. Would we see the presence of the Spirit moving through them, or would we, like some of those in the crowd, wonder if they had been drinking?
Of course, the presence of the Spirit in our lives isn’t necessarily about speaking in tongues, although some may be led by the Spirit to do so. I think for many of us, it’s more of a still, small voice that encourages us on and strengthens us to do things that we didn’t think we were capable of or pushes us forward in ways that we didn’t expect. I think the Spirit has been at work in many of us over the last year as we’ve found ways of trying to keep our church life and community going in spite of all the restrictions. It’s certainly transformed me from the person I was at the start of the last year – someone who was very apathetic about her faith and about church life. Standing here now is certainly not where I thought I’d be a year and a half on!
Peter’s sermon is spontaneous and completely Spirit led. I wish I could have said the same about this one! However, although Peter’s sermon isn’t pre-prepared in the sense that we think of, there has been preparation that has led to this moment. It’s been pre-prepared through Peter’s prior life with God, through his relationship with Jesus, coming out of deep-seated beliefs and thoughts and empowered by the Spirit.
The words from Joel – twice repeated here – “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” All people. This gift is not just for the disciples but for all of us too, empowering us, enabling us to do things that we wouldn’t have thought we could do, giving us strength to follow where God leads us. We can’t do it through our own strength alone.
As a church, we’ve found ourselves in limbo over the last couple of years or so. Not just with the pandemic, but also through being without a minister. Wondering how best to move forward as a church, having to deal with the huge challenges of trying to be a church community when we’ve been unable to physically be together. We’ve been in a prolonged period of waiting and wondering how best to move forward as restrictions are relaxed, as we come back together as a community once more. Like the disciples in that period leading up to Pentecost, our experiences have changed us as people, changed us as a church.
The Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples and transforms them to be the leaders of the early Church. It empowers them, gives them the tools they need to carry out the next steps, to share the word of God, the story of Jesus, their faith with those they encounter. It transforms them, enables them to build communities, to grow.
In this period without a minister, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us, to empower us to go where God leads us, to be the church that God wants us to be. Just as the power of God’s spirit reinspired the disciples and sent them out to serve in new ways, we also need to be prepared to go out and serve in new ways. Where we’re going may be quite different from where we’ve been. We need to be open to God’s spirit leading us forward and guiding us as we move together into the future. What is the Spirit empowering us to do today? Where might the Spirit lead us? What kind of church is the Spirit calling us to be?
Our readings for this week
John 3:1-17 (NIV)
Jesus teaches Nicodemus
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’
3 Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’
4 ‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’
5 Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’
9 ‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked.
10 ‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man. 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.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Isaiah 6:1-8
- Psalm 29
- Romans 8:12-17
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 a communion service led by URC minister and Heathrow chaplain Rev’d John Mackerness and you can find the order of service here.
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.
Last week’s Bible exploration session was ‘Whole Lyfe’ focusing on making the invisible presence of God visible in everyday life. Our session finished with three challenges of ways in which we can bring life and faith together:
1) Count your blessings
Write a list of things for which you’re grateful to God and add to this list every day, including all areas of your life – family, work, sport, food, sleep etc.
2) That’s entertainment
Spend some time listening attentively to the music you hear – in your car, in the shops or at home – and looking for deeper meanings. Be open to the possibility that God may want to communicate in this way to you.
3) One day
Pick one day this way where you choose to consciously honour God and invite him into every part of your day; from the moment you wake up, into your commute, your daily tasks and conversations. Before you go to sleep, take time to stop and reflect.
We enjoy joining in with #30DaysWild each June, a challenge run by The Wildlife Trusts, to encourage people to do a ‘random act of wildness’ each day in June and connect with nature. Ideas for random acts of wildness include sitting and listening to bird song; taking time to look up and watch the clouds passing by; taking a closer look at the mini beasts in your garden or writing a poem or drawing a picture about nature. This year starts off with the Big Wild Breakfast on 1 June – taking your breakfast outside and seeing what wildlife you spot while doing so. If you’re planning on joining in, do feel free to share some of your acts of wildness for the newsletter.
Up until I was 16 years old, my favourite shop was Davies. This was a large shop approximately on the same site that Lloyds Bank occupies now. This was a shop of two storeys. The ground floor was devoted to high class stationery and they specialised in albums of many kinds, particularly albums for collectors of special subjects.
The upper floor was devoted to toys, particularly Meccano construction kits and Hornby trains. They always had large models working in both the windows and on the upper floor. They also sold farms and farm animals.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Cannon Lane Methodist
- Acton Hill URC/Methodist
Loving God, pour out your Spirit on our church today.
Help reinspire and reinvigorate us,
strengthen and empower us,
help us to build community and to grow in love, joy and peace. Breathe new life in us and grant us a clear vision to be your church in the world today.