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:
Loving Lord, you look us in the eye
and remind us that we are already part of your family.
Help us to let go of anything that gets in the way,
that we may worship you with all our hearts,
and wholeheartedly love all our neighbours. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)
Reflection from 30 May: The elephant in the room
Reading: John 3:1-17
Today is Trinity Sunday when try to think about what God is like. But first a story that comes from India and is over 2500 years old. A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: “We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable”.
So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. The first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said, “This being is like a thick snake”. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said the elephant, “is a wall”. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.
None of them had the full picture. They were all right but also all wrong.
When we try to explain what God is like we have the same kind of problem. We just cannot put it into words because we only experience bits of God.
But there are three things that I would want to say about the Trinity:
1) There is only one God.
2) The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is each God.
3) The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not the same.
We know about God our Father who cares for us. We know about Jesus who is our friend and who shows us in human terms what God is like by what he says and does. We know about the Holy Spirit that lives within us each and every day. On Trinity Sunday we try and bring all the pieces together, but we only need to remember those three things if we want to say anything about the Trinity.
A new beginning
Who am I? No, it’s alright I’m not having a senior moment but in these days of identity theft not everyone is who they seem.
We’re asked for our name, our address, our PIN number, our post code, our password, our account number, our mother’s maiden name and our inside leg measurement just to prove that we are who we say we are. Soon we’ll be asked to give our fingerprints, a sample of our DNA and a retina scan before we can perform the most simple of tasks. Indeed my bank probably only knows me through some of these details because more and more transactions are done online, and I haven’t been into my own branch since about 2004.
But whilst these things all help to identify me they don’t tell people very much about who I really am and what makes me tick; to do that you need a lot more information. A PIN number doesn’t tell someone the colour of my hair. My address doesn’t tell them what kind of a childhood I had although it may tell someone a lot of other things about me.
To quote that iconic TV series of the late sixties I am not a number. I am a human being created in the image of God and that makes me special just as each one of you is special. My personality is shaped by my memories, my thoughts, and my feelings and by my relationships with other people and with God.
Those are the things that make me who I am. But we like to make things neat and tidy. We like to put people into manageable categories, pigeonholed by age, gender sexuality etc; and we try to do the same thing to God.
We try to cut God down to size. We can write creeds; we can create symbols and visual images to help us try to understand God. But the truth is that, in this life, no matter how hard we try we can never truly understand God, whose thoughts are not our thoughts, whose ways are not our ways. No amount of creeds or dogmas can be the basis of a living relationship with God. We will always be seeing God through a glass darkly.
Nicodemus thinks that he has got God nicely taped. He’s a Pharisee, a teacher of religion, and he thinks that he knows everything about God that there is to know. Then he hears Jesus talking to the crowds about God, he sees the things that Jesus is doing in God’s name, healing the sick, forgiving sins, eating with sinners, and suddenly Nicodemus’s God has escaped out of the box or rather the holy of holies in the temple.
He is so awed and disturbed that he comes to Jesus secretly, afraid that someone might see him and ask awkward questions. He wants to find out more about this new God that Jesus is talking about. But he is so locked into his own traditional way of thinking that he simply cannot understand what Jesus is telling him.
Their conversation reveals two apparently irreconcilable views. Nicodemus seeks intellectual understanding and is factual, logical, and literal as befits the student of theology. Jesus however is enigmatic, speaking the language of poetry and paradox. He uses images that Nicodemus understands, water, Moses’ snake on the pole and gives them new meanings, baptism, crucifixion, and he makes it quite clear to Nicodemus that he will never understand ‘heavenly things’ by reason alone.
Tradition and reason, the head, can only take you so far, after that it’s all about the heart, it’s all about faith. That’s when belief becomes a living relationship.
Jesus defines God’s work in terms of living relationships, the relationships between Father, Son and Spirit. God’s hallmark is love, expressed in giving his Son, in the Son’s redeeming work, and in sending the Spirit. To enter God’s kingdom is to enter into that relationship, to live in a new way, or, as Jesus puts it, to be born again.
Like John Wesley, whose heart was strangely warmed, what a wonderful expression, when he received an assurance of salvation at ’about a quarter to nine’ on 28th May 1738. Many Christians can identify the moment of their spiritual awakening, the moment when they were born again. For others though the experience is much less clearly defined.
I always describe my call to ministry as an itch that wouldn’t go away and for many people growing into faith is the same. It is a conviction that the only way to live, to make sense of life and the world is as a follower of Christ.
Our spiritual birth is the beginning of a process, a time of transformation as we are taken deeper into the mystery of God’s love. But in order to enter into that new relationship we must be prepared to let go of our past, our sin, of everything that stops us being the people that God wants us to be.
Nicodemus couldn’t begin to understand Jesus until he let go of his old ideas. Like him we must also let go of the things that limit our understanding so that we can relate to God in new ways. We have to let God out of the box that we so often put God in. We have to let God be God.
In C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian Lucy meets Aslan several years after her first visit to Narnia in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She notices that he seems to have grown. He replies that this is because she has grown older. Every year you grow, Aslan says, you will find me bigger.
If we are to become the people that God wants us to be, we must also be ready to grow and change, and, sometimes, to let go of things. And as we grow we will surely find that God does indeed get bigger, more mysterious, more awesome reducing us to silence until, at the end we are content just to rest in God lost in wonder, love, and praise. Amen.
Rev’d John Mackerness
Our readings for this week
Mark 3:20-35 (NIV)
Jesus accused by his family and by teachers of the law
20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’
22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’
23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: ‘How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.’
30 He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an impure spirit.’
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting round him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’
33 ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle round him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Genesis 3:8-15
- Psalm 130
- 2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1
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 URC lay preacher Marion McNeill 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.
From the Methodist Church
The latest issue of ‘Circuit Life’ is now available and you can read it here.
The London District of the Methodist Church is hosting ‘Woven Weekend’ on 24th and 25th July – a series of online sessions drawing on what it means to be ‘woven’ into each other and into God. Registration is free. Find out more at https://www.methodistlondon.org.uk/wovenweekend
Memories of Uxbridge
Up until the 1950s, Uxbridge had a voluntary Fire Brigade. Several of the firemen were shop holders. In the 1870s/80s the pump was hand pulled and operated.
At the beginning the fire station was housed in Windsor Street. At the beginning of the 1920s it moved to Cricket Field Road and remained there until the rebuild of the centre of the town in the 1970s when it moved up to Hillingdon in a newly built fire station.
Praying for other churches
This week we pray for our own church, praying for those leading and encouraging our church as we continue to move through this interim period without a minister.
you sent your Son into your world
to gather us all up into your kingdom.
Be with us, as we hear and respond to your call to do the same. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)