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 live-stream our services and send out our newsletter regularly for the foreseeable future. Our post-service virtual chat on Zoom has now come to an end although we are continuing with the fortnightly virtual coffee mornings at present.
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:
The greatness and power of God
are such a contrast to our weakness –
yet, our God loves us.
The holiness and goodness of God
are such a contrast to our sinful nature –
yet, our God loves us.
Come, offer your praise and thanksgiving,
and give glory and honour to our God.
(Taken from Roots)
Reflection from 27 June: Start with God
Readings: Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Mark 12:28-34
We hear in today’s reading that a scribe came to Jesus and asked him which of the commandments was the most important. Jesus responds by reciting the words of what’s called the Shema:
“Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Jesus was an observant Jew and would have recited this combination of confession and prayer to God twice a day during his morning and his evening prayers. And still today the Shema is the first prayer a Jewish child learns, and a pious Jew would want it to be found on their lips at death. The word Shema actually means ‘hear’, which is the first word of the prayer. There were so many Jewish laws by the time Jesus came along, most of them created by mankind. These are all summed it all up in the Shema, which is the central focus of Jewish worship.
Jesus then goes on further with the commandment: love your neighbour as yourself. This means that we should extend to our neighbours the same self-centred love and concern that we all harbour for ourselves. Historically the neighbour referred to in Leviticus 19 specially means the sons of your own people. But Jesus expanded on this definition of the neighbour beyond family and nation, across the borders and across all different barriers, taking away ethnic differences, self-centredness and limits as to who our neighbour was, and commanding us to love our neighbours as ourselves.
It is when we love God with our soul that we will succeed in integrating our faith into all of our being. We cannot put our faith into compartments; we cannot have our religious life for an hour or so on a Sunday and then live the rest of our life doing something completely different. Jesus says that we have to live our Christian lives all of the time and that we have to love our neighbours continually and constantly, reminding us that this love breaks down all barriers and is for all people. As Christians this passage is a call to more commitment and dedication to our faith in every area of our lives.
According to statistics, 88% of people know their astrological sign and 54% of people in this country read their horoscopes at least once a week. Wouldn’t it be so much better if 88% of the population started their day with God in prayer? And wouldn’t it be great if actually 54% of the population read their Bibles at least once or twice a week, because I don’t think we’re anywhere near that!
The Jewish people, as we heard in our reading from Deuteronomy, were told to wrap their prayers on their hands, wrap them around their forehead, put them on their doors so that they would remember them. And yet somehow as Christians, it seems to me that we’re losing that ability to spend personal time in prayer or even to know prayers off by heart.
I was reading another worrying statistic, that apparently only 30% (although someone said to me 30% was good!) of young people now know the Lord’s Prayer. And I think that is a horrible thing because for many of us, even if we can’t remember any other prayer, even if we find it difficult to pray, at least we have the Lord’s Prayer. At least we have the Lord’s Prayer that we can pray in times of sadness, in times of tragedy, in times when we are worried for other people. And newer generations will not have that. Already I find myself increasingly saying when I take services, such as baptisms (when we could have those kinds of services!) and funerals, ‘please turn to page so-and-so to find the words of the Lord’s Prayer.’
It’s something that we have taken for granted for so long. We may not wrap it around our foreheads or wrap it around our wrists; we may not paint it over our doorframes, but we know it and it keeps us going, doesn’t it?
And increasingly, people have, I think, an insatiable longing. They are looking for something to hold on to, something to get them through the difficult times of life. Relying upon scenic vacations, pleasurable pursuits, career accomplishments, human exploits or anything else can lead to a longing for something more. Those things however wonderful they may be, do not bring us peace of mind or an understanding of love.
Jesus says love your neighbour as yourself. To be filled with the love of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour and to let that love abound so that others may experience that love. We were created for God and our hearts were restless until they found rest in God. And so, we as the church have a major task to share that love of Jesus Christ with the people that we meet; the people who are probably yearning so much for that love in their lives.
The number one priority is to begin with God. When you are troubled, when you do not know what to do first; when you feel you don’t have enough resources to handle something or are puzzled and bewildered, start with God. You know and love him. Let him love you and be open to your heart, open your hearts and mind to hear what he has to say.
We are to start with God’s thinking, with God himself. This turning to God must embrace our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength.
Not long ago I was waiting at a car park to go in. A man was standing there at the gate and as I waited there, he asked, “so what do you do for a living?” I thought what a strange question to ask, does he ask everybody this question? And then I realised that I was wearing my dog collar. He looked at me and said, “do you really believe in all that religious stuff?” I replied, “well if I don’t, I’m in the wrong job!” He then started to ask you questions, and one of the first was, “why has God allowed this pandemic?”
I wanted to answer his questions, but I also wanted to get into the car park! So I said to him, “look you have some wonderful questions and I would love to be able to spend time to answer these questions, but first of all, you yourself have to start with God. You have to think or know or understand what you believe of God. What is your belief in God, if anything and what questions do you have of God? First of all, you need to place those questions before God and then open your heart and mind to perhaps hear the answers. Or more importantly you could come along to Kenton Methodist Church on Sunday morning to our service and we’ll talk about these things afterwards! But first and foremost, you have to know whether you believe in God. And I cannot do that for you or answer that question for you. But what I can do is spend time with you and help you on your journey if that’s what you want.”
Anyway, he looked at me and said, “well cheers mate, but I work on a Sunday so I probably won’t see you on Sunday!” And then he went, but who knows what might happen from that conversation? We never do know. But what this man did sum up to me was that there are so many people out there with these questions. And for some reason they are afraid to come to church or approach us if they know us as Christians and ask those questions. And for some of us, we might be afraid if they do ask us those questions! What will we actually say to them?
First and foremost, we have to start with God, with the question of do we love God, and then seek to understand him. Perhaps for some people it’s more heart than mind. For others, the emotional response comes as something secondary. The important thing is that real faith lays hold of all these things. Our emotions, our wills, our mind and our bodily strength. This means that we observe the truth, allow the truth to touch the emotions, and then to challenge and move the will and finally to engage the body.
There is apparently a park in Brussels which has this sign. In German it says, “picking flowers is prohibited”. In English, “please do not pick the flowers”. In French, it says, “if you love flowers, you will not pick them.” It seems to me that in this sign lies the heart of the question for us all. What is our motivation for doing God’s will? Is it obeying God’s commands? Is it fear of authority, a desire for God’s approval or the approval of others? Or is it simply bound up in love? A love that requires of us to love our neighbours as ourselves. Surely the reason why we seek to be obedient in our faith is because we have known the love of God in our lives. We have known the love of God that melts the hardness of self-centred hearts. And as we know God’s loves and seek to return that love, so we strive to follow his commandments and love our neighbour also. In the words of 1 John 4:19, “we love because he first loved us.” Amen.
Rev’d Stephen Poole
Our readings for this week
Mark 6:1-13 (NIV)
A prophet without honour
Jesus left there and went to his home town, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.
4 Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few people who were ill and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Jesus sends out the Twelve
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.
8 These were his instructions: ‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’
12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed with oil many people who were ill and healed them.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Ezekiel 2:1-5
- Psalm 123
- 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
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 Graham Hinton, URC lay preacher and Christ Church member, and you can find the order of service here.
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.
Our Bible exploration group last week discussed the Holy Spirit and how it empowers us in our daily lives. Our challenges to choose from this week were as follows:
1. Spirit Past… Spirit Present
Take some time this week to read about times when the Holy Spirit has come in power since the time of Pentecost, such as during the ‘Azusa Street Revival’ or the ‘1904 Welsh Revival’.
2. Change Churches
Consider attending a church that may have a different attitude towards the Holy Spirit than your own, perhaps via a podcast or streamed service.
Spend some time in quiet prayer this week to reflect on your own relationship with the Spirit.
Church charity news
Virtual Sales table
A selection of cards for you. I had the misfortune to be contacted by track and trace to tell me that I had been near someone who had tested positive for Covid, probably on a train on my way back from Bristol after helping Jess and their spouse move flat. After a bit of a panic, I have been a good girl and self-isolated even though I have had 2 doses of the vaccine. I’ve also had a full test and several home ones that have all been negative. Anyway, the gain from this is I have made some cards for the sales table.
The cards are all 5×7 inches which is about 15x20cm. The backgrounds are a mixture of stencilled, stamped and embossed backgrounds all hand-done by me with various greetings. Inside they are either white or Kraft (light brown) and blank for your own message and are supplied with an envelope. Some have additional embellishments like pearls and glitter. I could add a simple stamped greeting inside if requested and I have that greeting. I believe they will all post for a regular stamp but some will be a large letter if you include a letter. Either pick the numbers from the photos or let me know what occasions you have in mind and I can choose for you. Free local delivery or postage at cost. I suggest a donation of £2 per card or 3 for £5. To order please email Joanne at email@example.com or phone 07803 083093.
You can find more details about our church charity fundraising events and items on our virtual sales table on our church website here.
To make a donation to our church charity online visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Hopenothate-Christchurch
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Hayes End Methodist
- St Andrew’s, Ealing (URC)
Go and enter into the flow of love that is at work in the universe.
Go and discover that God is out there, moving, transforming, touching lives and all creation.
Go and encounter the Spirit of God.
(Taken from The Vine)