Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. I hope you are all keeping well. Our church is 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:
Loving, gracious God,
who does not put us in order – greatest to least,
best to worst, loved most to loved least,
or any other order:
be with us as we spend time
with one another and with you.
Help us to listen to you as you speak to us
and challenge us, love us and encourage us. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)
Reflection from 12 September: On the way
Reading: Mark 8:27-38
“Travel broadens the mind” we are told; but stepping outside the front door can be scary particularly after a prolonged period of being told the only safe place to be is inside.
Outside there are other people. They may come from a different background, have different values and have a different lifestyle. Outside there are hazards. There are vehicles whose drivers may or may not be aware of or care about your presence. There is noise. There is pollution. There may be viruses that will affect your health. There are advertisements and signs demanding your attention. Outside is a world that bombards your senses and unless and until you adjust to it; it seems daunting, dangerous and perhaps overwhelming.
So, the temptation is to stay where we are, where things are familiar and give us a sense of security. But if we stay where we are; we miss out. Our minds, our knowledge, our comprehension is bounded by what we experience. If what we experience is limited by what is familiar and secure; it is difficult, if not impossible, to understand the possibility of life beyond that.
When we heard the story in our dramatized reading, I wonder how much attention we paid to where this happened? It happened on a journey. It involved people who had stepped outside the front door.
The first verse tells us that Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. This story did not happen in someone’s home, or the synagogue, in Nazareth or Galilee or even in the coast town of Caesarea Philippi; it happened on the way to the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
“On the way” whether it is travelling to the villages of Caesarea Philippi or somewhere else; we encounter all sorts of unfamiliar experiences which we could never experience if we stayed at home. Out of that come questions and thoughts and, perhaps answers that would never have come but for being “on the way”.
The early Christians saw themselves as following in the way of Christ and the way of Christ was to be “on the way”. On this particular journey, Jesus asks his disciples what may seem like an odd question: “Who do people say that I am?” (27). However, maybe it is not such an odd question for people on a journey going through unfamiliar places and meeting unfamiliar people on the way.
According to Mark’s Gospel there had been previous journeys which happened just before this one. There had been the journey to the region of Tyre where Jesus had encountered the local woman who not only had a different nationality but a different faith to his; whose daughter he had healed (7: 24 – 30). There had been the journey through the region of Decapolis where he had encountered the man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. There is no mention of what his faith might have been but, nonetheless, Jesus healed him (7: 31 – 37). There had been the journey to Bethsaida where he had encountered a blind man, again with no mention of his faith, and healed him too (8: 22 – 26).
So, with all of these encounters happening through being “on the way”; maybe it is not so surprising that he should be asking what people are saying about him?
The disciples answer according to what they have overheard people say. But then comes the more difficult question to answer. Jesus asks them: who do you say that I am?” (8: 29). What do all these encounters “on the way” say about whom they say Jesus is?
Peter famously answers: “You are the Messiah!” (8: 29). But what does that actually mean? There is the answer that he and the other disciples would have been familiar with from the familiar teaching they would have received in the synagogues they attended and the family conversations that they were part of as they grew up at home. But is that what it means when you are “on the way” and the journey exposes you to all sorts of people and sights and experiences you never encountered at home?
The teaching Jesus gives is that he, and those who follow in his way, cannot expect the comforts and security that we may be familiar with at home. The journey, by its nature, involves a going away from not just a familiar physical place but also the familiar comforts and security of what one has been used to in the past and may hope, from that experience, to be a foretaste of yet more comforts and security to look forward to in the future. It involves being vulnerable to others and the risk that your presence may challenge their sense of personal security and their human response to try and protect that at your expense.
Faced with that threat; it is tempting to stay where we feel comfortable and secure and things seem familiar. It is not just a matter of staying in a physical building we call home, it is also a matter of staying within a way of living and a way of thinking and hoping and believing that is home.
Peter’s comment that what Jesus had said he could expect “on the way” and, which he subsequently made explicit applied to those who followed him on the way could expect too, indicated that although Peter was physically in the same place as Jesus he was still hoping for and thinking in the way of someone who was still at home and not spiritually “on the way” with him.
Hoping and thinking and believing the way that Peter’s comment exposed was a temptation for Jesus, for Peter, for the other disciples, the would-be disciples in the crowd and for us. As with the temptations Jesus faced during his time in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry this way of thinking and hoping and believing had to be rejected and Jesus’ apparently harsh rebuff to Peter’s good intention in making the comment reflects that. It is also a harsh rebuff to what we might hope, think and believe too.
Hoping and thinking and believing in comfort and security requires us to stay where we are and not be “on the way”. Not being “on the way” means we miss out on all those enriching experiences that are only possible when we step outside, not on our own but with Jesus. We have a choice to make and he is there inviting us to be with him not just physically but spiritually “on the way”.
Our readings for this week
Mark 9:30-37 (NIV)
Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time
30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Jeremiah 11:18-20
- Psalm 54
- James 3:13-4:3,7-8a
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 our Harvest thanksgiving and parade service and 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.
19 September – Christ Church worship group – Harvest and parade service
26 September – Rev’d Eddie Boon (URC discipleship enabler) – communion service
3 October – Christ Church worship group (11am)
3 October – URC North Metropolitan LAG (3pm) – Joint service of thanksgiving
10 October – Mr Graham Hinton – parade and enrolment service
17 October – Christ Church worship group
Picking up the pieces – 26th September, 1pm
After the service on 26th September, we will be having a simple lunch (soup, bread and cheese) followed by a ‘Picking up the Pieces’ gathering with Eddie Boon, the URC Thames North Synod Discipleship Enabler. This promises to be an interesting, positive and useful event aimed at helping us explore our Christian discipleship both as local church and individual in this new season following the pandemic. The event will start at 1pm and finish about 3pm. We hope you can join us for this.
Moving Forward with Thanksgiving service
The URC Metropolitan North Local Area Group (LAG) is holding a joint service, ‘Moving Forward with Thanksgiving’ on Sunday 3rd October 2021 at 3pm at Christ Church.
Please join us as our churches come together to reflect on the coronavirus pandemic, with an address by the Synod Moderator, Rev’d George Watt, seeking God’s guidance as we move forward together.
There will be a choir of singers from the different churches who will sing “A Heaven on Earth” by Sally De Ford which will meet to rehearse this and other music for the service at 2pm on 3rd October. Music will be provided by email. Please contact Peter Williams (email@example.com) for further details if you would like to be part of this.
If you would like to be involved in the readings or prayers during the service, please let Louise know.
Refreshments will be served after the service. If each church would be able to bring along a cake to share – especially if you have cooks who could create one modelled on your Church building, or the letters LAG – or just their usual yummy cake – that would be most appreciated! Please let Louise know if you would be willing to make a cake.
We would like to see Jesus
John, in his gospel, tells of a time when some Greeks came to Philip with a request. “Sir”, they said, “we would like to see Jesus.
Do we stand in the same shoes? In all truth, we know very little of what Jesus taught. We know a great deal more about what the Church has taught about him! We do know that he was “a fiery Aramaic-speaking Galilean Jew” (words from the Independent when reviewing ‘The Authentic Gospel of Jesus’ by Geza Vermes). The search for what Jesus actually taught has engaged many and Geza Vermes is among those who argue that much of what is recorded is not authentic. The gospels have been sanitised by preachers. They carefully skirt round his challenging and abrasive words and perhaps leave us wondering why the Romans would have seen him as a threat. The disciples knew him. They complained to him about his ‘hard’ teaching. It is perhaps in the ‘hard’ teaching that we catch an authentic glimpse of what another writer (Simon Loveday in ‘The Bible for Grown-ups’) has called “the angry prophet from Nazareth”!
So I invite you to ponder some questions.
Why did Jesus query being addressed as good?
What did Jesus mean when he said, “do not think I have come to bring peace on earth, but a sword”?
Why did Jesus heal the Roman centurion’s boy so readily but show such reluctance to heal the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter?
Was he angry when he told the parable about the man who was beaten up by roadside brigands?
Did Jesus believe his message was exclusively for his own people?
These questions are not exhaustive, nor are they a coherent pattern. They are important though.
They get to the heart of what we believe. Could it be that we have turned the real Jesus of Nazareth into the Jesus of stained-glass windows and Sunday Schools?
BB and GB Centenary roses
The Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade centenary roses are currently blooming in Graham’s garden. Aren’t they beautiful?
Girls’ Brigade News from Captain
It was just over a year ago that we had our BB/GB Virtual Get-Together and the BB and GB staff passed around a message saying “We are 1st Uxbridge and we WILL be back.” Well, we are!
Over the last 18 months we have met weekly via Zoom, and just before the schools broke up for the summer holidays each section met for 4 weeks in the Christ Church Halls car park for 45 minutes socially distanced and very much restricted as to what we could do and how we did it. But last Friday, 10th September, with Girls’ Brigade now back at the Green Readiness Level, we were, at last, able to meet together again and run a – more or less – normal evening.
It was so good to see everyone again – not just the girls but their parents and siblings too. Not many now have a uniform that fits them, but we can sort that out. Although we have a few girls who are not coming back after the long break away, we have welcomed lots of new girls who had been on our waiting list for quite a while – many of whom were in 2nd Uxbridge GB which closed in September 2020.
Our calendar isn’t quite as full as it usually is at the start of a GB year but all being well, we will be going to The Compass Theatre in December for our annual trip to the Pantomime and are holding our first Coffee Morning on the 25th September when we hope to be selling some home-made cakes as well as tea and coffee. The money raised at our Coffee Mornings is split equally between our own Company funds and our charity for the year. During 2019/2020 our charity was HALO and we have decided that, as our fund-raising was cut short by 6 months, we will continue to support HALO this year too. Our first Church Parade of the year is the Harvest Thanksgiving Service this Sunday.
In August JoJo, one of the Explorer leaders, had a baby boy and over the last 4 weeks Fleur, currently an Advanced Young Leader, has been attending training, via Zoom, with 10 other ladies from across England and Wales, to become a full GB Leader.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold Yiewsley Methodist church in our prayers.
You have walked a path we could never tread.
You hold the wisdom of the ages
and you invite us to sit with you.
when we lose sight
of the blessings you pour out for us.
to open our hearts
to your way of being.
into a people
who delight in walking your way.
Lead us towards your kingdom –
may it come in us!
(Rachel Poolman, from ‘Conversations’, the 2021 URC prayer handbook)