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.
You can find previous issues of the newsletter here. We would love to hear from you and are always 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:
It’s August, holiday time for some.
Perhaps the Sun shines fiercely
on a bright summer’s day,
or maybe the rain falls hard,
watering the crops, preparing for harvest.
Perhaps today you feel hope
for a new, brighter future of freedom,
or maybe you feel dragged down by what has been,
and by grief for people who have gone.
Loving God, however we feel today,
be alongside us in the sun or the rain.
In joy or sadness, bring us hope. Amen
(Rev’d Nick Jones, from the URC ‘Prayers during the pandemic’)
Reflection from 15 August: Wisdom vs Folly
Reading: Proverbs 9: 1-18
Proverbs tells us of two invitations of two women, one called Wisdom and the other Folly. Wisdom abides in a rock-solid house with seven pillars. She’s prepared a banquet of choice meat and fine wine. The table is set, and in verses 4-6 she sends out messengers to call out from the highest points of the city, “Let all who are simple come in here. Come eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live. Walk in the way of understanding.” But Folly is issuing a similar invitation in verses 16-18, “Let all who are simple come in here. Stolen water is sweet. Food eaten in secret is delicious.”
So now we have a bit of a quandary. Two invitations. Two choices. Two claims to truth. Two ways of approaching life. Two destinies. There are interesting differences between the two women. Wisdom has prepared a meal of her own; Folly has stolen hers. Wisdom serves wine, but Folly talks of stolen water. Wisdom sends out her servants to invite those who will come; Folly is loud and stands at the door boisterously calling out herself, inviting everyone in. Wisdom is calling on those who are in the wrong to walk in the way of wisdom, but Folly is calling to those who go straight on their way to leave the straight path and follow her. Wisdom’s invitation leads to life. Folly’s invitation leads to death.
This is similar to what we see around us in the world today. There are two philosophies of life calling for our attention. One the way of wisdom, the other the way of folly. Two different world views, both claiming to be the right way. One appealing to the mind and wisdom; the other appealing to the senses and folly. One way believes in God’s truth, the sole truth. The other way believes that everyone should live by their own truth, whatever that may be. One believes God’s laws are the path of life. The other believes that there should be no rules even if it leads to death.
So, what is the answer to this dilemma? How do we make the choice between two competing world views? I believe that Wisdom is calling out to each of us today in the same way that she did in our reading. First of all, Wisdom’s invitation is a call to fear the Lord. The pivotal verse in that chapter is verse 10 which says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Some people try to begin with the love of God instead of the fear of God, only to find that things have turned completely around, and there is an illustration which makes this point. There was a young man in a small town who was a member of the local church. He had grown up in the small town and knew most of the people in it. As a youth he was basically a good kid but liked to test the boundaries. One day a police officer pulled him over and gave him a ticket for doing 55mph in a 35mph zone. He wasn’t really worried. The judge was a member of the same church and an old family friend. So, he went smiling into the courtroom and greeted the judge by his first name, expecting a wink and a reprimand rather than a fine. What actually happened was that he came up before an angry judge who rebuked his irresponsible behaviour, pointed out the risks to the public and fined him the maximum amount. The young man left the courtroom with a hugely different attitude to the one where he went in. If he had learned to properly fear the judge, he would not have ended up in court experiencing his wrath. If he had learned to fear the judge first, he would have ended up avoiding his wrath and instead experienced his friendship and love.
Fear is the beginning of wisdom and love is the end of wisdom. Love is where wisdom is completed and lies at the end of the path. We fear God because he is the judge of all the earth. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13) Proper fear is the appropriate response to the judge of all the earth. It comes with an understanding that he is God, and we are not. We will stand before him and account for the way we have lived our lives. Often we focus almost exclusively on love but it makes it easy to forget that there is an appropriate call to holy fear. I’m not saying that we need to go back to the days of the early teaching when all the preaching was about hell and damnation and if you didn’t do what God wanted, you were damned for all eternity – that’s not what it’s about. But you need to have a healthy proportionate dose of fear to fully understand the measure of God’s love.
God is our Father. He loves us immeasurably. But just as a good father disciplines their children and the children learn to respect the disciplinarian side of their parent, so it is with God. If we fail to respect the discipline and boundaries that God calls us to do; if we get something wrong, then there normally is a consequence. It’s the same way with God the Father. Failing to respect his potential for anger and displeasure means we not only distort the idea of him and our understanding of the actions of Christ on the cross, but we also don’t fully experience his love.
Failure to fear God properly means our life is headed down the wrong road. The secular world around us doesn’t really tell us about the need to fear the Lord. The world is constantly trying to take us away from the path of God, telling us it is ok to search for more; more money, more power, more status, more material possessions. The search for more and more, never feeling satisfied with what we’ve got. When we tear down the rules of God, we no longer fear him.
But the holy fear of God, this proportionate fear of God that sits alongside God’s love for us is a deeper understanding that the rules do apply to us and that we are accountable to God. Not only because God lives amongst us and around us, but because he created the world in which we all live. He makes the rules; we are here to keep them because these rules are the product of his love and to ignore them is to experience his wrath. God’s laws were not given to make our lives difficult but instead to make them more full and more meaningful. To miss this important point is to accept Folly’s invitation to walk the path of the fool. Psalm 147 verse 11 says, “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
The second part to Wisdom’s invitation is a call to avoid deception. Verse 13 tells us that Folly is undisciplined and without knowledge. At first appearances her call sounds the same as Wisdom’s: “Let all who are simple come in here.” But the message thereafter between the two is quite different. Folly tempts us that evil more pleasurable than good. Her manner and speech are deceptive as she swaggers and sways. She hasn’t actually prepared a meal for anyone; she hasn’t even stolen the meal that they’re going to be having. She only promises that there is food there to steal. Verse 18 warns us that this is a trap, a deception that we need to avoid: “but little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.”
It is easy to see how we can be deceived and seduced by Folly as she takes us down the path of the fun things in life, the short cuts to achieving what we want, the route that is a little bit easier. But this is the trap that will destroy us because we need to be aware that walking down that dangerous road can lead to undesirable consequences. If Folly can win us over to the wrong path her deception is complete. This makes the difference between the two invitations even more important, which leads to the third point of Wisdom’s invitation being a call to life.
Wisdom says at verse 6, “leave your simple ways and you will live”. By contrast Folly leads to death. Her door is the entrance to the grave and the gates of hell. Those who enter expect to find pleasure and freedom, but find destruction and death instead. Jesus said, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) and of course we know that well-known verse “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.” (John 3:16) The idea that God’s way of life, following Wisdom’s call is not just wishful thinking, it’s our reality here and now. Those who follow God and give heed to Wisdom’s invitation will live a longer and fuller life.
So, in conclusion, we always have to decide our path between the two choices we have. Two claims of truth. Two choices. Two world views. Wisdom or Folly. The wise choose to fear God and follow him. They choose to avoid deception and believe in God’s truth above anything else. The wise choose life. In this week ahead I encourage us all to think about the path we are on. Are we on the straight path with Folly creeping in with some simple things that are starting to take us away from God, like telling us we are too busy for a moment of prayer? Or is Wisdom calling you, “come you may not have done your prayers last night, but say them today, come back into the path of God.” Let’s think about where we are on our path, let’s change our path where we need to, and make sure that we are on the path which leads to life and faith and spiritual growth in God our Father. Amen.
Our readings for this week
John 6:56-69 (NIV)
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’
52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’
53 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live for ever.’
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Ephesians 6:10-20
- Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18
- Psalm 34:15-22
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. This week’s service will be led by members of Christ Church. 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.
22 August – Christ Church worship group
29 August – Rev’d Dr Claire Potter (Methodist minister) – communion service
5 September – Christ Church worship group
12 September – Mrs Angela Lount (Methodist local preacher)
19 September – Christ Church worship group – Harvest and parade service
Songs of Praise service
The service on 5th September will be a ‘songs of praise’ service. Please let Louise know if you have any favourite hymns or Bible readings that you would like to share as part of this service by Friday 27th August.
Church charity news
Thank you to everyone who came to our church social at Tiled Lodge on 14 September. We raised £135 for our church charity.
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
Job Vacancy – Part-time bookkeeper
The main duties will involve:
- Keeping a record of all income and expenditure
- Arranging reimbursements of approved expenses for church members
- Arranging reimbursements of expenses/allowances of visiting preachers
- Producing summaries of financial information for church meetings
- Preparing information for auditors
- Monthly reporting to the church treasurer or specified church elder
- Additional bookkeeping duties as required
Applicants are sought with relevant experience, computer literacy and sympathy with the aims of the Church.
The post is for 2 hours a week (worked flexibly Monday – Friday)
Proposed start date: October 2021
Salary of £10.85 per hour
An application pack is available from the church office
Closing date for applications: 5pm on Monday 6 September 2021
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Ruislip Manor Methodist
- Holy Trinity, Perivale (URC/CofE)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(From Romans 15:13)