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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When our words are not enough, how should we act?
When our actions seem too little, how should we pray?
God calls us to speak and act and pray, that others will see
and praise God through the love that shines from us.
Lord, open our eyes to those who need help.
Keep us from giving up
when it seems too difficult to help everyone.
Help us to remember that you renew and restore,
and let us be as salt and light in all the places around us.
(Taken from Roots)
Reflection from 29 January: The Beatitudes
Readings: Psalm 15 and Matthew 5: 1-12
In his book ‘Our Good Crisis: Overcoming Moral Chaos with the Beatitudes’ by Jonathan K. Dodson, it says this: “if you could cut out one or two Beatitudes, which ones would you drop from the list? Perhaps the ones about being righteous. Or the persecuted? Or those who mourn. Or thinking about it another way, which ones might you like to add? Blessed are the driven, for theirs is the Kingdom. Blessed are those who are true to themselves, for they will be happy.” I like blessed are the comfortable, for they will never have to sacrifice. And to borrow a line from the rapper Kendrick Lamar, “Blessed are the liars, for the truth can be awkward.”
Today we are exploring the opening portion of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus, of course, is speaking to large crowds on the mountainside, but also present are his disciples nearby for this mammoth teaching session. Of course, we have to be careful with passages like this because sometimes the danger is that we can think ‘oh yes, I know this familiar passage’ and then we switch off. That may be the case, but I think it’s always good to refresh ourselves and remind us of these important readings.
The Beatitudes find their roots in wisdom literature and especially the Psalms. Matthew’s Beatitudes are often contrasted with the ones found in Luke’s gospel. Luke though only has four and matches them with four woes to boot. Whereas Matthew has eight all in the third person, and the expanded one in the second person at the end. It won’t surprise you to find out commentators disagree as to the purposes of the two sets of readings. But there is a consensus around that Luke describes what the disciples are, but Matthew states what they ought to be. In Luke, the social implications of Jesus’s teaching and reversals at the consummation of when Jesus comes again whereas Matthew talks on the standards of Christian righteousness to be pursued now for entrance into the Kingdom later.
Some translators use the word ‘happy’, but commentators agree that the use of the word will not really do for the Beatitudes, because the word has been devalued in modern use. One commentator states that the Greek word describes a state not of inner feeling on the part of those to whom it’s supplied, but of blessedness from an ideal point of view in the judgement of others.
So then how are we to behave? We are to be people who are poor in spirit to confess our unworthiness; to be mournful, meek, hungry and thirst for correct living, which is righteousness; merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers who are supposed to spread the good news and promote the Kingdom. Well, I think you’ll agree with me that’s quite a challenge and quite a list. Sadly we don’t have time today to drill down into each one and unpack them. But let’s look at them and. See if we can kind of see a pattern and what we might learn from them.
So what does pure in spirit actually mean? Some speak of the economic poor, whereas this looks more likely to be talking of the spiritually poor because of the phrase ‘in spirit’. But that’s not to denigrate those sayings to physical and political statements, but I think it’s to do them an injustice because it neglects the fact that God tends to favour those who are humble and lonely and contrite in spirit. People like Mary, for example. Though you could argue that those who have suffered economic deprivation and social distress will find favour with God, and that is also true. But it neglects the spiritual element and again reduces the statements to mere political and moral assertions rather than powerful spiritual ones.
Each Beatitude begins with the word ‘blessed’, meaning favoured by God’ and thus recognised for what she or he has done. They’re in the category of persons identified usually for the way they have acted, or for a trait of their character, e.g. meek, merciful, pure, etc. The second part of the sentence states what the outcome of this godly behaviour or attitude will be, for example, shown mercy themselves, see God filled with righteousness, etc. Notice that the outcome of these traits will be in the future. It doesn’t say immediately, but says ‘will’. And notice, too, where these important phrases come in relation to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. They come at the beginning, almost as an introduction, as if Jesus were laying out godly character traits and ways of behaviour of a Christian before then setting out how we should act and demonstrating how the law should be fulfilled. Then Jesus starts going through important topics such as murder, adultery, divorce, as if building upon the important foundation stones of the Beatitudes, which he starts off with.
The final Beatitude is slightly different, and as I said before, is in the second person. And it just doesn’t mention one like the others, but mentions three things. If you are insulted, persecuted, or have false claims made against you, you are also blessed. So this section ends with the response we are to have. “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” So again, we are being told the recompense will come later in heaven, but for now, rejoice and be glad because you are like the prophets who have gone before you.
When you read the list of Beatitudes what do you think? Do you think, ‘oh yes, this amply describes my own behaviour.’ Or do you read the list and think, ‘oh crikey, I feel daunted.’ Or do you think to yourself ‘I could never act like that’? So, what lessons do we learn from them then? Well, firstly, Jesus is explaining how we are to be. This is something to aspire to. It’s not designed to be an unrealistic yardstick by which we should beat ourselves. Secondly, they are meant to serve as an encouragement, so that when we feel downtrodden, persecuted or falsely accused, we can stand tall knowing that we are doing the work of the Kingdom.
And finally, we can be assured that in due course our diligent work, our patient character, our suffering from the gospel, and our kindness to others will be rewarded by a just, good and merciful God who calls us all into this important work. So today, let us aim high and strive to be better, knowing that we serve an amazing God. And then we will realise that this list of Beatitudes doesn’t need editing, reducing or expanding because it is right, just the way it is.
Revd Andrew Pottage
Readings for 5 February
Matthew 5: 13-20 (NIV)
Salt and Light
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
The Fulfillment of the Law
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Isaiah 58: 1-9a
- Psalm 112: 1-9
- 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31
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 URC lay preacher, Alan Yates. 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.
5 February – Alan Yates (URC lay preacher)
12 February – Graham Hinton (URC lay preacher and Christ Church member) – parade service
19 February – Christ Church worship group
26 February – Revd Dr Elizabeth Welch (URC minister) – Holy Communion
Church charity news
Church charity for 2023
Our church charity for 2023 is Communicare Counselling Service. Our next fundraising event will be the coffee morning on 4th February.
You can find more details about Communicare Counselling Service, our church charity for 2023 at:
Other church events
CTU Friendly Bible study series
Tuesdays, 1.15 – 2.15 pm. Quaker Meeting House, York Road.
Until 21st February 2023
Currently focusing on the book of Judith. All welcome.
URC 50th Anniversary Service
Saturday 15th April at Methodist Central Hall
For more information, please visit https://bit.ly/urc50
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- North Harrow Methodist
- St Margaret’s & St George’s, Harlesden (URC/Moravian)
Light of the world, shine through us.
Like salt of the earth,
scatter us where there is need.
Help us work together
to repair and renew,
to rebuild and rejoice
throughout this place.
In Jesus’s name.
(Taken from Roots)