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:
We are living through a time when many things look the way they did before we lived through lockdowns, but many things look different. Remind us that you are our ever-present, unchanging, loving God.
The news continues to dwell on the worst aspects of life, it is easy to be pulled towards a negative viewpoint. Help us remember that we carry Your Hope in our souls; that our spirits bubble with a joy that cannot be extinguished.
Walk with us, guiding us on the days that we are the joy and light for others through the uncertainty. Comfort us during our dark and fearful days.
Call us to action when we despair that things are bad. Inspire us to think of the needs of others when self-pity is close at hand.
Catch us close to you always. Amen.
(Kirsty-Ann Mabbott, Church Related Community Worker, Coventry, from the URC ‘Prayers during the pandemic’)
Reflections from 24 October
Readings: Mark 10: 46-52 and Jeremiah 31:7-9
I want to share with you a true story of someone who was suffering with a bad back. They had a slipped disc from playing rugby and were in a lot of pain. When the GP came round to see them, he said, “well, I’m very sorry but if the pain hasn’t gone by teatime when I come back, you’ll have to go into hospital so we can manage your pain better.”
So, the GP left and fortunately for this person who was suffering, someone else was there who popped in every morning to make them a coffee and to read the newspaper to them. A little later in the morning, there was a knock at the door. It was the Methodist minister. The minister came in and it was explained to him that this person was suffering and in pain; that the GP had been round and was coming back later. Th Methodist minister promptly got out his oil, prayed over this person and anointed him. Later in the day the GP returned, knocked at the door and was astonished when the door was opened by the person with the bad back.
“What on earth are you doing up?” said the GP.
“This is amazing!” said the person. “The Methodist minister has been round and prayed for me, and the pain has eased and I feel much better!”
How do I know this story took place? Because the man in the story was actually my father, which is how we got involved in the church and came to know Christ.
Our gospel reading today is a familiar one, the healing of blind Bartimaeus. You’ve probably heard this account many times before; it’s one of those ones that we hear often and perhaps remember from our days in Sunday school.
This is the last of the healing miracles of Mark’s gospel. It takes place near that well-known place of Jericho, and we all remember Jericho from the Old Testament, don’t we, the place with the walls, again from probably our time in Sunday school.
Well, the place of the city walls was Old Jericho. This place was New Jericho, just nearby and Herod the Great, that great horrible ruler, had his winter palace there. This new city extended further to the south and was an attractive place to live and work back then. For those of you who like your geography it was located five miles west of Jordan and fifteen miles north-east of Jerusalem, so hopefully you can place it.
Leading from this place was a road, a busy thoroughfare and it was common to see beggars sitting out on this road, particularly those with disabilities and those who were blind. Incidentally Mark is the only evangelist who names Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus. Bartimaeus had heard of Jesus’s reputation as a healer and calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The title ‘Son of David’, David being that great king of Israel, sounds rather Messianic, doesn’t it? So clearly this man, Bartimaeus, has some knowledge, some training, some recollection of the Old Testament scriptures. I want you to picture in your mind’s eye this busy, dusty road with people begging along the side. The people passing by probably did not appreciate Bartimaeus’s shouting. And he’d probably been doing it for several hours. How could he tell, without sight, when Jesus was passing by?
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
You can probably quite imagine the response of the crowd: “Oh, shut up!”, “Give it a rest!”, “Be quiet!”
People wanted to keep Bartimaeus quiet. Why? It’s not clear. Was he a nuisance? Probably. Was he a troublemaker? We do not know. Was he known to people? “Oh, it’s that noisy man again, going on and on and on. Why is he always shouting out?”
We do not know the reason, but hopefully you’re beginning to get a picture in your mind’s eye of the scene, noticing when Jesus comes along, he does stop and he says, “Bring him here.”
Notice he doesn’t try to silence Bartimaeus, or reject the title ‘Son of David’, or start a big theological debate with him as to why Bartimaeus is calling him that. But also, notice the crowd, how public opinion changes immediately.
Sadly, we all know the state of public opinion in this country at the moment. People say “oh, isn’t social media wonderful?” but actually the level of discourse and debate on social media in our country at the moment is toxic, it’s horrible and it needs to change. Public opinion, as we all know, can be quite fickle and change in a moment’s notice. But notice now that Jesus is in the mix, the whole atmosphere has changed, one from menace to one of calm. Couldn’t we do the same in our country? Where people respect one another, where people are tolerant of each other’s views and opinions, where people do not have to be so aggressive, nasty and sadly, in some cases recently, violent.
The people change: “Take heart! Get up! He is calling you.” Hang on a minute, just a moment ago, you were shouting the poor man down!
Bartimaeus throws off his cloak, gets up (the word coming from the Greek means ‘to spring up’) – he springs up full of energy, leaps over to Jesus and then Jesus asks the same question in Mark’s gospel as he did in Mark’s gospel last week and says, “what do you want me to do?”
“My Teacher,” is how Bartimaeus addresses Jesus, showing acknowledgment of authority, a level of respect. He could have also said “Rabbi”, as it is translated in other versions. Rabbi, Teacher. Bartimaeus knew that Jesus was a man to be revered, respected and listened to.
“Let me see again” he asks, implying that he has not always been blind. “Let me see again.”
Now notice here that Jesus doesn’t actually do anything. In other accounts of healings and miracles, Jesus does something. Gathering something up, doing some kind of action, but here Jesus does nothing. He simply commands Bartimaeus to go and says the words, “your faith has made you well.” Your faith has made you well.
Immediately Bartimaeus is healed. His eyes are opened, and he goes on his way. This is very typical of Mark. He is, of the gospel writers, the briefest. It’s boom, boom, boom. Very brief, blunt, brief, breezy, to the point. No kind of extra textual explanation, no more description, we just get a short sentence. As if this was just normal, everyday occurrence: “Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on his way.”
We also heard earlier from Jeremiah this sense of ‘thus says the Lord’; this sense of being guided and directed by the Holy Spirit to Jesus who meets us where we’re at and meets us in our hour of need.
So then, this morning, what do we take from our readings? What can we learn? Well firstly, this notion of taking heart. We get this great phrase in the reading from Mark – “take heart, get up, he is calling you.” To take heart, or to cheer up, occurs only seven times in the New Testament. Six of those seven times are from the lips of Jesus himself. A key lesson here this morning is we are to take heart. Because we too are in the presence of Jesus. Jesus is here with us this morning. He’s in our midst. And that is surely something to take heart from and rejoice about.
Secondly, this notion of getting up, getting moving. Not staying down, weighed down by inaction, but being active for the gospel. We can all do something. We all have gifts and graces to play our part in helping the church, in serving God, in fulfilling God’s mission. But to do that, means we need to recognise our worth as God sees us. Not as the world sees us, but as God sees us. Know you are loved. Know you are cherished. Know you are wanted, needed, special, precious, and truly wonderful in God’s eyes. He loves you, and he wants the very best for you and your life. You can almost imagine as you leave here this morning after you’ve had your tea and coffee and a chat, Jesus being at the door, looking you in the eye and saying, “I love you, you’re wonderful, you’re great. Have a great week. And remember I am always alongside you.”
And then finally, this sense of Jesus calling us. Asking for us, challenging us to get up off the floor, the metaphorical floor, out of the dirt and come to him. To know our worth and work for him. And my question to you is what is God asking you to do today? I encourage you to spend time waiting on God in prayer, meditating upon this passage and let the Holy Spirit speak into your heart and life today.
And finally, as Bartimaeus disappears, we have this sense of ‘your faith has made you well’. Our faith offers us many things, doesn’t it? Hope, trust, promise. It extends our horizon, expands our thinking and deepens our humanity. Be like Bartimaeus today and walk off into the world knowing you are loved, and serve the greatest Saviour. Amen.
Rev’d Andrew Pottage
Our readings for this week
Mark 12:28-34 (NIV)
The Greatest Commandment
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Deuteronomy 6:1-9
- Psalm 119:1-8
- Hebrews 9:11-14
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 led by URC minister, Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch. 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.
31 October – Rev’d Elizabeth Welch (URC minister) – communion service
7 November – Christ Church worship group
14 November – Mr Ken Pearce (member of Christ Church) – Remembrance Sunday service (10.50am)
21 November – Christ Church worship group
28 November – Rev’d Dr Jonathan Hustler (Methodist minister) – communion service, 1st Sunday in Advent
Christ Church in the 2022 URC calendar
A photo of Christ Church will feature in next year’s URC calendar. These are now available from the URC Bookshop for £3.99 +p&p https://urcshop.co.uk/the-urc-church-buildings-calendar-2022/
Church charity news
Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes
Please bring your filled shoeboxes to the church on or before Sunday 7th November as they will feature in the service on this day before being taken to a collection point.
You can donate the fee to cover project costs online or even pack a shoebox online at http://samaritans-purse.org.uk/occ
Save the date: Table-top games afternoon – Sunday 28th November
After the service on 28th November there will be a bring and share lunch followed by a table-top games afternoon as a final fundraising activity for HOPE not hate. More details to be shared nearer the time, but please save the date in your diaries.
You can find more details about our church charity fundraising events and items on our virtual sales table at:
https://christchurchuxbridge.org.uk/activities/churchcharity2020/ To make a donation to our church charity online visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Hopenothate-Christchurch
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: December 2021
Salary of £15.00 per hour
An application pack is available from the church office
Closing date for applications: 5pm on Monday 1 November 2021
We are very grateful for your support enabling us to meet our vision to help those in need and to address the underlying causes of their poverty and hunger.
Lectionary – Yes or No?
The lectionary is a useful guide but, in my view, it should not be a straitjacket. If preachers feel obligated to follow the lectionary come what may, they may lose the opportunity to focus on things which have dominated the concerns of the world in the week preceding Sunday worship and which congregations have sought to have addressed. I always remember the preacher who told me that he prepared his services with the Bible in one hand and the week’s newspapers in the other! To turn Sunday worship into a bible study class leaves a huge gap. So come on preachers! Think outside the box!
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Kenton Methodist
- Brentford Free Church (URC/Baptist)
May the word of God dwell in our hearts,
in our minds and in our actions,
every day of our lives.
And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all, now, every day and evermore.
(Adapted from Roots)