Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. I hope you are keeping well and staying safe. 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 on our church website at www.christchurchuxbridge.org.uk 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 (email@example.com)
We start with our opening prayer:
Lord, help us to hear your word, and to speak it.
Help us to know your truth, and to show it.
Help us to feel your love, and to share it.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)
Reflection from 23 January
Readings: Nehemiah 8.1-10 and Luke 4.14-21
In those days following Jesus’s baptism, John the Baptist must have been feeling uncertain. In himself, in his call to baptism and repentance and in his expectancy of Jesus. In Luke 7:22 we read that he actually sent two disciples to ask Jesus, “are you the one to come after me, or shall we wait for another?”
Of course, we don’t know what he was expecting, but John had promised a baptism of fire, and like many others he might have expected the Messiah to begin an uprising against the Romans instead of disappearing from the scene. Perhaps he was relieved that, having been gone for some time, Jesus is back. Led by the Holy Spirit to the part of Palestine that he knew best, to Galilee where he’d been brought up.
Galilee was a busy and heavily populated area with many villages and towns. Surrounded by Gentile nations, it was, as several commentaries tell us, probably the least conservative part of Palestine and had always been open to new ideas. As Jesus moved through the area, his reputation grew. Preacher, teacher, healer, inspirational, speaking with authority, drawing crowds. And so inevitably he came to Nazareth, his hometown, and his local synagogue.
It was Jesus’s habit to worship regularly in synagogues but I wonder what his feelings were on that particular day. Memories of his growing up, of learning from the rabbi, and of worshipping here with Joseph must have come back to him. The familiar worship, the memories of the scrolls of the Law and the Prophets being read by men who were highly regarded in the local community. And today it was Jesus’s turn.
I wonder what the congregation were thinking about him. What were they expecting? Some of them of course had known him since he was a child, had known Mary and Joseph too. So, some would have been smiling, encouraging him, so proud of how this local lad had turned out. Others were maybe more doubtful. Shrewdly waiting for him to speak. The law stated that wherever there were ten families, there had to be a synagogue where they could worship, and the service in the synagogue had three main elements: worship, scripture reading and teaching. A bit like our services in a way.
There were no professional ministers so anyone could be invited to read and to teach. Jesus was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and asked to read from that. So filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus chose to read several passages concentrating on Isaiah 61.
Isaiah’s prophesies were made at a time to give hope to the Jews in the midst of their exile. They would be comforted and have joy when they returned to their own land. Isaiah was speaking to people who needed new hope. He spoke of God restoring this broken world and bringing in his kingdom. And so too, in effect, was Jesus. The people of that day were suffering. The land was occupied by a ruthless foreign invader that demanded high taxes. The king was a puppet, currying favour with the Romans and the spiritual leaders were remote, either fixated on the letter of the law, or with keeping the status quo and economic stability, and that meant not upsetting Rome, but it gave no comfort to the people. And so, Jesus read Isaiah’s message:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Reading the law and the prophets was done standing up. Teaching was done sitting down, and so Jesus sat and began to teach; a one-sentence interpretation: ”Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The words applied to him. This would be his mission; to bring good news to every one of God’s children who was bound up, pressed down, broken in spirit, impoverished, imprisoned and desperately hungry for good news. The Law was seen as God’s great gift, his word helping the people to live justly and well in community. One of the problems that Jesus saw was that the way in which the Law, the Torah, was being interpreted was harming rather than helping the people.
We can all become obsessed with things from time to time. Authorities often look bad in the gospel stories, but it was probably their love and dedication to interpreting the law that made them so blind to the needs of others. They might also have been afraid that their worship might be banned and the law lost, so they overworked it and avoided conflict with the governing forces. They would have known their scriptures, all of God’s word. They would have appreciated the emotions that the people felt when the book of the law had been found, read and explained to those who’d returned from exile in Babylon.
We’re all familiar with pictures of homes and businesses that have been destroyed in natural disasters, wars etc. We can hardly imagine how it is possible to rebuild, how the people will ever find the will and the strength to go on to make a recovery. The need to build from ruins was precisely the challenge faced by Nehemiah and Ezra. The exile in Babylon was over, but Jerusalem and the temple in particular had been ruined. The very centre of the people’s worship was in a mess and the people had to face a decision; would they rebuild or live in the ruins. In today’s reading we witness how the word of God formed a solid basis for the renewal of their life.
At first, they wept, perhaps through shame because they’d fallen so far from God’s ways. Perhaps from nostalgia, for things that had once been so much better. But then they were reminded that this was not a day for mourning but a holy day for celebration. It was a new beginning. The joy of the Lord was their strength and what should they do? They were to worship the Lord, they were to feast and share what they had with those in the community who had less.
God always allows new beginnings.
Just as this was a new beginning for the exiles, Jesus was announcing the beginning of his mission. Just as Isaiah had been prophesying to people in need of new hope and promise, so was Jesus. He wasn’t calling for an academic study of the law, or ways of developing a deeper spirituality. His mission was going to be much more social, concentrating on the issues that made life better for individuals and for the community. A mission that evened out injustices. It would of course be challenging, to let the oppressed go free, to bring good news to the poor would involve changing the structures of power and economics.
It’s over 2000 years ago, but it all sounds very modern and very present. Good news is in short supply for many people today. The poor, the hungry, the oppressed. So many more people suffering for different reasons. All the categories that Isaiah spoke of are still with us, as is the law. God’s law and civil law. This past week, debates have raged in Parliament over proposed amendments to our laws, laws regarding protest. There are lots of other issues that people talk about, have argued about, have debated; immigration, police powers, Covid guidance, building, lobbying and countries that are suffering like Ukraine, Ethopia, Yemen, Afghanistan. It’s difficult to make a list because there are so many. They come into the news, and they go out again, but they’re still there, still suffering.
Food poverty is back in the news today. COP26 has passed but climate change hasn’t disappeared. There are so many causes, and we all have our favourite ones, the ones that we support more than others. We’ve got our own opinions and might disagree with those close to us, with friends and neighbours. But it’s good that we can express opinions and listen to another’s point of view, even if we disagree with them. There are, as we know, countries where it is dangerous and against the law not to follow the common line.
And there are issues where Biblical law and civil law don’t seem to come close. We can argue that context and customs are different now. The truth is, that the questions ‘What would Jesus do? What would Jesus say?” are unsettling for us and have us wrestling sometimes with our consciences. There are so many grey areas, like the ones the Pharisees found when interpreting the law. With the law of Moses came 613 rules, I read, some positive, some negative, and only an expert could know them.
King David reduced them to eleven main laws and the prophet Micah there were most importantly three commands: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God. When asked about the most important commandment, Jesus replied, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and love your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus strove always to help the marginalised. He put himself in danger, speaking out against what he saw was injustice. He used prayers and words, not weapons.
But how does this all apply to us as individuals and as church? The way we act in our homes, in our neighbourhoods, in our communities is seen by others. Whether it be espousing causes, speaking out, writing to authorities, demonstrating, or taking some other actions, we are seen as followers of Christ and whatever we do, we should pray that our actions always show Christian love, Christian understanding and compassion for others. Amen.
Readings for 30 January
Luke 4:21-30 (NIV)
21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Jeremiah 1:4-10
- Psalm 71:1-6
- 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
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 Andrew McLuskey. 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.
30 January – Rev’d Andrew McLuskey (URC minister) – communion service
6 February – Mr Neville Walton (Methodist local preacher)
13 February – Christ Church worship group – parade service
20 February – Dr Paul Ashitey (URC lay preacher)
Lent Bible Study
We will be starting a Lent Bible study group in the chapel on Saturday mornings, 10am – 11.15am. This will be followed by the weekly time of prayer. The Lent group will run each Saturday, starting on 5 March and running until 9 April.
If you would be interested in taking part in the Lent Bible study group, please let Graham or Louise know.
Church charity news
Thank you to everyone who attended the film afternoon. It was an enjoyable afternoon and raised £47 for HALO Children’s Foundation.
Our next coffee morning to raise money for HALO Children’s Foundation will be on Saturday 29th January, 10am-12noon.
You can find more details about HALO Children’s Foundation, our church charity for 2022 at:
To make a donation to our church charity online visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/christ-church-halo2022
News from Boys’ Brigade
Last Friday our Junior boys spent some time learning about stars and how they make up different constellations. They each made ‘A Box full of Stars’ to take home. This was done by cutting out their template and carefully pin-holing each ‘star’ and gluing the flaps to make up their box. They were each given a small battery tea light and we turned the lights out to get the effect, which they were all very happy about. Unfortunately, the sky was not clear enough to go outside and see the real thing, but the activity may have inspired one or two to have a look on a clear night.
One boy even had a telescope that he had never used, so he now has an opportunity.
From the Methodist Circuit
Job vacancy – Circuit Property Manager
The Harrow & Hillingdon Circuit are currently looking for a Circuit Property Manager.
The main duties will involve:
- Budgeting and scheduling the maintenance for 9 domestic properties, supported by Local Manse Stewards.
- To advertise and liaise with the Property Stewards when requested at 16 Local Churches and 2 Community Centres.
- To ensure the Circuit keeps up to date with all current property and insurance guidance.
- Complete annual returns relating to the circuit properties and report regularly to the Circuit Resources Network.
- Manage the change of occupancy for the 9 domestic properties.
- Liaising with Letting Agents.
Applicants are sought with relevant experience, computer literacy and sympathy with the aims of the Church.
The post is for 20 hours per week (flexible working). It is a 3 year fixed-term contract with the possibility of moving to a permanent contract. Salary is £15 per hour.
For an application pack or for more information, please contact The Circuit Office, Lighthouse Centre, Queens Walk, South Ruislip HA4 0NL. Tel: 01895 662758, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Closing date for applications: 20th February 2022.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Eastcote Methodist
- URC at Eastcote and Northwood Hills
God of love, help us to be loud,
to speak your word, to spread your love,
to be a voice for the voiceless.
Help us to be quiet,
to listen to you,
to listen to those that most need to be heard.
Let it be so. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)