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:
Open our eyes, Lord, our ears and our hearts.
May we be quick to see where you are at work;
quick to listen for your word;
quick to offer love and hope,
and slow to judge. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)
Reflection from 22 August: The challenge and the choice
Readings: John 6:56-69 and Ephesians 6:10-20
Our first reading this morning is the end of a message from Jesus that starts further back in John on the day after the feeding of the five thousand. Those following Jesus are looking for him and find him by the lake in Capernaum. They ask him what miraculous signs he will give for them to believe in him, and he tells that that he is the bread of life. He reminds them of how their forefathers in the desert ate the manna sent down from heaven by God, and then tells them that he is the living bread that God has sent from heaven, and that those who feed on him will live because of him.
The response of those following him is to complain that this teaching is hard. Many of them decide that this is too hard and so they turn away and stop following him. They perhaps were initially attracted to Jesus as the miracle worker of the previous day who fed the crowd, wanting to see more miracles as proof that this was the right road for them. They want the highs of following Jesus, not the lows.
Sometimes that is true of us with church too. We come to church wanting to be fed, wanting church to give us something exciting, something different, without considering what we are being asked to do in response to this. We want the warm fuzzy feeling of faith without the hard work and commitment that Jesus asks of us.
Those in the crowd who followed Jesus wanting only to be fed, or to witness miracles and be able to say, “I was there!” are not prepared to take on the challenge and turn away. Then there are others in the crowd who want proof that Jesus is who he says he is and evidence to convince them that they should follow him. Although they witnessed a miracle the previous day, that is not enough to convince them, not enough for them to be able to trust Jesus, and they too turn away.
Jesus then asks the Twelve whether they want to leave him too. In that moment, they have a choice – do they turn away with the others in the crowd, or do they stay and accept that following Jesus will be hard? Peter responds: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”’ (John 6:69)
Like the disciples, we too have a choice. We are reminded in today’s reading that following Jesus is not an easy choice and that what Jesus asks of us will challenge us.
The road ahead isn’t going to be a nice smooth path, with sunshine and birdsong making the journey pleasant, and clear signs at every junction directing us where to go. There will be times when we stumble, and times when we stray from the path and have to choose whether or not to turn back to it. Even Peter, who spoke so confidently in today’s reading as he asserted his firm belief in Jesus as the Holy One of God, faltered in his choice to follow Jesus when he denied him later on, but was then reaffirmed by Jesus following the resurrection.
We too will have times when we struggle with our faith; when we find that the road ahead feels too hard to follow. Times when we question our beliefs, wonder whether God really hears us. Times when we might shout and scream at God, when faith feels too much to ask. And each time, we have a choice. Do we give up when life is too hard and trusting God is too hard, or do we choose to trust as best we can and continue on this journey of faith?
We might come to the same conclusion as Peter: where else can we go? In spite of our doubts, our struggles and our questions, that deep-seated belief that Jesus has the words of eternal life keeps us travelling on the journey with him.
The journey is going to be a hard one, but we are not travelling alone and there are things we can do to help prepare ourselves for the challenges we will face along the way. One of the things that we can do is to protect ourselves with ‘the armour of God’ as Paul describes it in our other reading today from Ephesians.
I love the visual imagery of this passage – the thought of physically putting on this armour – buckling up the belt of truth, putting on the breastplate of righteousness. Strapping readiness to our feet; taking up the shield of faith; putting on the helmet of salvation and holding aloft the sword of the Spirit.
Truthfulness, readiness, faith and trusting in salvation and the power of the Holy Spirit – those all sound fairly straightforward. Righteousness though, that’s a bit of a tricky one, isn’t it? It’s a word which has a lot of negative connotations in our society – often being used as a slur against someone who is “holier than thou”. It’s easy to get righteousness mixed up with self-righteousness. Self-righteousness puts self-trust at the centre of things – believing that our way of doing things, our faith and our beliefs are the only right ones, that we are better than others because of them. Righteousness on the other hand means trusting fully in God and realising that only God has the answers, not us, which should leave us humbled rather than proud and sanctimonious. And when we are struggling with things, that is when many of us realise that we don’t have those answers. That sometimes there are questions in life which don’t seem to have answers and perhaps will never have answers for us in this life, but will only become clear when we are standing before God.
The other way that we can help ease the challenge on the journey is to pray. Paul reminds us at the end of the reading from Ephesians that we should ‘pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests’, to stay alert and to keep praying for each other. Prayer is how we communicate with God; how we find out what God wants us to do and how we bring our fears and concerns to him so he can help us through them.
Paul also tells us that ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12) Our struggle is against discouragement, against the realities of life in a post-Christian world, a world in which our faith is often misunderstood, ridiculed or deemed to be irrelevant. A world in which our faith and our decision over whether or not to follow Jesus is often challenged.
The question for us today is what response do we make to the choice that Jesus gives us? Do we decide that it is all too difficult to understand, too demanding of our time, too scary to step out into the unknown and trust in God? Or do we put on the armour of God and decide to step out in faith, to follow Jesus wherever he leads us?
Life isn’t easy. Jesus never promised it would be. But if we arm ourselves with truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, and the power of the holy Spirit perhaps we will find ourselves able to take on more than we ever thought possible. I leave you with one of my favourite verses from the Bible, taken from Philippians which follows Ephesians:
‘I can do everything through him who gives me strength’ (Philippians 4:13).
It’s a reminder that we don’t have to trust in our own strength alone. That if we keep our focus on God, and seek to do what God wants us to do, he will give us the strength for the journey ahead. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Our readings for this week
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (NIV)
That which defiles
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the market-place they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?’
6 He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
‘“These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.”
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.’
14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.
21For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- James 1:17-27
- Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
- Psalm 15
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 a communion service and will be led by Methodist minister Rev’d Dr Claire Potter. 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.
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
26 September – Rev’d Eddie Boon (URC discipleship enabler) – communion 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.
Our Bible exploration group will return on Tuesday 7 September as a home group at Louise’s house but will also be accessible via Zoom to those who would prefer to join in online. We will be meeting on Tuesday evenings from 8pm and our theme for the first few weeks will be on ‘Caring for Creation’ which is available from the York Courses website (https://www.yorkcourses.co.uk/product/caring-for-creation/).
Please contact Louise (email@example.com) if you would like to join in or if you would like any further details.
From the Methodist Church
The latest issue of ‘Circuit Life’ is now available and you can find it here.
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
Can you spot the five differences between these two pictures?
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- South Harrow Methodist
- St Margaret’s & St George’s, Harlesden (URC/Moravian)
Loving God, every day
give us the courage to look and listen,
the ability to notice,
the determination to help,
and the compassion of Jesus. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)