Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. Our newsletter is sent out regularly to share reflections from services, Bible readings and church news to our church family. You can find previous issues on our church website 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 (email@example.com)
We start with our opening prayer:
Lord, I come into your presence
I come just as I am.
I bring everything I have experienced this past week
the things I’m proud of, and the things I wish had been different.
I bring the people that enriched my week,
and the people I found it hard to share my week with.
I bring the moments of joy, peace, pride, sorrow, frustration, regret and pain.
I bring my hopes for next week.
I lay all of these things at your feet, and rest in your loving presence. Amen.
(Taken from The Vine)
Reflections from 16 October
The God who blesses those who wrestle with him
Reading: Genesis 32:22-31
Fight or flight are options we might have when faced with a situation which, if we stand our ground, will lead to confrontation.
For many of us, our instinctive response is to choose flight. In our mind, the potential risk of what we might lose outweighs any gain we might achieve by confrontation.
Considered to be one of the patriarchs of the Jewish people, the legend of Jacob’s life takes up many chapters of the first book of the Bible. Despite his status, the story we are told is not of someone we might regard as a good example of a godly life. He deceives and he cheats the closest members of his family. When faced with the risks of confrontation with those whom he has deceived and cheated; he flees when he can (Genesis 27: 41 – 45). When that is not possible, he makes an offering with the intention of pacifying his victim (Genesis 33: 1 – 15).
Jesus, as a Jew, is a descendent of Jacob (Matthew 1:2). His teaching commends trying to find an accommodation with an opponent rather than risking the consequences of confrontation (Luke 12: 57 – 59).
But, sometimes, there is no option but to confront. It seems the story from our reading of the Hebrew scriptures this morning is one of those. Jacob thinks he is on his own in the place where he is but discovers that he is not alone at all. There is someone else there occupying the same space and with whom he finds himself wrestling throughout the night. Is it his conscience?
As dawn breaks neither has prevailed over the other. The wrestling has, however, engendered mutual respect so, at daybreak, a truce is declared. Jacob realises that the mysterious stranger who will not disclose his name is God. He asks and receives God’s blessing and with that comes a new name by which he will be known in future: Israel – a name with an ambiguous meaning. In English, it could mean one who strives with God which, according to the story we are told, is why he is being given the name. However, it could also mean God strives. Both describe the experience.
We are not Jews and we are not descended from Jacob as Jesus was; but we, along with the rest of humanity, have inherited the experience of being flawed and being insecure. Like him we act on what we think will be most advantageous for us rather than on principle. Like him our fears of what might happen in a confrontation impel us to run away and hide from what is difficult and potentially costly. Like him we are insecure and seek affirmation of our status in the eyes of others.
Like him too, we may run but we cannot hide forever. When we think we are on our own, we find ourselves mentally wrestling with some mysterious force that initially we cannot identify but which seems to have our measure. Try as we do to assert ourselves, we find we cannot against the power of this mysterious being and when dawn breaks and light begins to shine in on the reality of our experience; our struggle if not ends at least pauses in exhaustion and we find he has left his indelible mark on us.
Despite his apparent remoteness from us, we have much in common with Jacob Including the discovery that, at the end of the struggle, this mysterious being respects us for who we are, for having engaged with him and he offers us his blessing.
At the moment we accept the blessing, our lives change. We realise that the mysterious being who would not disclose his name is, in fact, God. We realise that we have been in the presence of God and God’s blessing on us affirms the status that we always craved. We are now assured that we are part of God’s family, as Jacob is part of God’s family and, as such, is our ancestor.
But with the blessing and the status that comes with the blessing also comes that new name. The new name does not mean one who strived with God nor that God strived. It is a name whose meaning is in the present tense. It is about an on-going process which Jesus and his first disciples engaged with and which we engage with too.
The God who grants justice to those who cry to him
Reading: Genesis 32:22-31 Luke 18:1-8
So, justice comes from the unjust judge, albeit reluctantly.
The story in Luke’s account of the Gospel that Jesus told of the widow and the unjust judge, upon which our courtroom drama was based, is a parable which picks up on the themes of Jacob’s experience at Peniel.
There are, of course, differences. So far as we know from the story, the widow has lived a blameless life. She has no need to be running away from anyone in fear of retribution for a wrong she has done. But although her life story is different; she too comes to a point where flight is not an option and she has to wrestle.
The circumstances of her life may have treated her harshly and she is at the mercy of forces she cannot control but she is not prepared to give up on her life. She has faith that if she persists, in what may seem to others to be a futile quest, surely, she shall eventually receive recognition of the justness of her cause which she craves; even from a blatantly unjust society represented by a blatantly unjust judge.
Like Jacob, she wrestles with the circumstances of her life as she finds it and does not give up. She represents the many people in our own society who have received a very bad deal and just try to get through it despite the indifference or, sometimes, hostility of those who might be expected to offer help.
The key point that Jesus is making, however, is that God is not like the unjust judge. The God that Jesus comes to bring near to people is one who listens and judges according to his kingdom values as represented through Jesus’ life and teachings. The God of Jesus sees through the values and corruption of the society that we are familiar with, and accepts, as being the way it is; to the values of how we should and could live. The God of Jesus does not accept that the way things are; are the way things need to be.
In his account, Luke prefaces his report of Jesus’ parable by saying it is “is about (his disciples) need to pray always and not to lose heart” (Luke 18: 1 NRSV). In the parable the widow keeps asking even though there is no indication that the unjust judge hears what she says let alone listens and makes a judgement on her demands. He only eventually grants what she seeks because her persistence has worn him down.
In contrast the God whom Jesus announces not only hears but listens and acts upon what is said. Early action, however, comes through the response of what the members of his kingdom have heard and listened to.
The prayer addressed to the listening God is one that is answered through the disciple who persists in listening to what God is demanding to achieve the justice of his kingdom and to do what the disciple can to achieve that. It is not answered by the unjust judge in us who is so self-centred that we only think of ourselves and the concerns of our self-interest so that we are deaf to the calls for justice that are there but which we have no time for whether they come from others or from God.
In the end, it is our faith that God’s justice will prevail; but, for those like the widow in the parable, justice is needed now and cannot wait for some undefined time in the future.
Jesus came to bring God’s kingdom to people now whatever their circumstances and that requires not just God to be hearing and acting on what is asked but for us to hear what is asked for and to allow God to act through us.
The hearing, the listening and the acting involves a process of wrestling with the issues of life, with people, with institutions, with ourselves and also a wrestling with God to discern how God is wrestling with what is happening and how God, through us, seeks to move that situation forward in accordance with his kingdom values of justice.
The outcome of our wrestling with God is to receive his blessing and the assurance of our status with him. In addition, like Jacob, we have been given a new name as followers of the Way of Jesus.
With that new name comes an expectation to live up to that. Just as we have wrestled with God and God has wrestled with us; so we, as part of God’s kingdom, wrestle with the injustices of our society.
If we are to follow the way of Jesus, flight is not an option.
Readings for 23 October
Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22
- Psalm 84:1-7
- 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
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. Our service this week will be led by Christ Church worship group. 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.
Unfortunately, Revd Andrew McLuskey is now unable to lead the communion service on 30 October. We are currently trying to make alternative arrangements. There will be a service on this date, but it may not be possible to have a communion service.
16 October – Richard Reid (Methodist local preacher)
23 October – Christ Church worship group
30 October – TBC
7 November – Peter Knowles (URC lay preacher)
Warm Spaces – volunteers needed
Warm Spaces is an initiative started in response to the cost-of-living crisis, providing warm spaces where people can come together to stay warm and perhaps enjoy a cup of tea and a biscuit. It originally started in Gateshead but has grown to become a nationwide initiative with many places of worship and community buildings becoming involved.
Christ Church are hoping to provide a Warm Space in the meeting area with hot drinks available on Mondays, 10am – 2pm starting from 28 November and running until mid-March. We will need volunteers to welcome and talk with people, and to be able to signpost them to other sources of support available. Volunteers will need to have undergone foundation safeguarding training. If anyone would be interested in volunteering to be part of this initiative, please let Louise know (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Church charity news
Operation Christmas Child
Flat-packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child are now available in the vestibule. These will be collected in mid-November to send to children overseas.
Table-top games afternoon
There will be a table-top games afternoon after the service on 13th November as a fundraiser for HALO Children’s Foundation. We’ll be gathering together at around 12.30pm for lunch (bring your own) before the afternoon begins. All are welcome to join us. There will be table-top games provided but if you have a favourite you would like to bring, please do so.
You can find more details about HALO Children’s Foundation, our church charity for 2022 at:
www.christchurchuxbridge.org.uk/activities/churchcharity2022To make a donation to our church charity online visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/christ-church-halo2022
Christ Church 50th Anniversary
If you would like to purchase a mug or tote bag (or both!) as a souvenir of our 50th anniversary, you can do so through the church office. Mugs cost £6.50 each and tote bags £3.50 each (£10 for both). Payment can be made by cash or via bank transfer.
CTU Bible study and prayer group
Churches Together in Uxbridge
Bible study and prayer group
Where: Uxbridge Quaker Meeting House, York Rd, Uxbridge, UB8 1QW
When: 1.15 pm – 2.15pm, on the following Tuesdays:
- 25th October
- 1st November
- 22nd November
An opportunity to pray and study together during a weekday with members of other churches in Uxbridge. This programme is a pilot series of four sessions concentrating on one small book of the Bible.
No homework or special knowledge is required for the Friendly Bible Study method. We’ll dwell prayerfully over a text together, addressing some set queries between us as to how we experience it, before finishing with time for some prayer together. The sessions will last no longer than an hour.
You don’t need to bring anything. Be prepared to hear some unfamiliar English translations of the Bible, as this is integral to the Friendly Bible Study method. If you have time,
you can stay for some chat and refreshments.
Mike Beranek, CTU Chair
Brigades’ enrolment service
It was good to see so many members of our Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades and their families at the enrolment and rededication parade service on 9th October. Thank you all for being with us – it is a joy to have you as part of our church family.
Salvation Army Appeal
URGENT: The Salvation Army are being inundated with requests for winter clothing particularly from asylum seekers. We would gratefully receive winter clothing, particularly coats. Many thanks.
Major John Parry
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Northwood Methodist
- St John’s, Northwood URC
Lord of all hopefulness,
Lord of all joy,
Lord of all we have and are,
Inspire me by your Spirit to be a part of your mission.
(Taken from The Vine)