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)
God of time and space, we cry to you for your children – our neighbours – in southern Turkey and northern Syria, following the earthquake that has devastated hundreds of lives. Only they and you know what it is like to experience such trauma in the middle of the night.
We give thanks for the aid that is already being given and for the promises of help that have been made by many nations.
Comfort, we pray,
those who are trapped in collapsed buildings;
those who have lost loved ones;
those who wait for news and
those digging through rubble to save others.
Grant the gift of hope so that those caught between life and death know that you are with them and that others are ready to support them as they seek a future that overshadows the experiences of today.
We ask this in the Name of Jesus, who endured so much for love of them. Amen.
(Prayer written by the President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Graham Thompson)
There will be a retiring collection after the next two Sunday services for the Turkey and Syria Earthquake Appeal.
Reflection from 5 February: Light and salt
Readings: Matthew 5: 13-20 and 1 Corinthians 2: 1-12
In the Gospel reading you’ve just heard, Jesus tells his followers – and, by the way, I think that’s us too – that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Jesus did not mean that literally. I do not glow in the dark and I don’t suppose you glow in the dark. So, this was a metaphor. A metaphor is a figure of speech. It is a figure of speech that uses, for effect, an example of something else that is similar. It is an example. It is a contrast between two different ideas and it’s meant to help our understanding of a complicated issue. And light is quite a good example.
Jesus very often uses examples and metaphors of this nature not all of them are very easy for us to understand because Jesus lived in a farming culture where people worked on the land. I don’t suppose any of you work on the land today. So I’m a little bit pleased that light is something that we all use so we should understand the metaphor of light.
So what does light do now? It helps you to look at something; helps you to see clearly. It shows someone where you are. It can be a beacon or a lighthouse. It illuminates obstacles in your way and keeps you safe. It brightens up your day. It travels at 186,000 miles a second. That’s fast, isn’t it?
I have a superb light that goes on the front of my bicycle. I was in this small chapel in Cumbria and I was using to illustrate a slightly different reading. I think it was the one from John talking Christ being the light of the world and I wanted to say that light can do something so I took the light and I shot it in the corner. And frankly, it was filthy. There were cobwebs galore. It was rather embarrassing, not just for me but also for the elders, who I think felt that they probably should have cleaned it a bit better. It did demonstrate that light also highlights the dirt, doesn’t it?
I didn’t intend it to be judgmental, but my light was judgmental, wasn’t it? And the Light of Christ is also judgmental. It illuminates the dark places in our hearts the bits that we probably don’t really want to think about. So, when Jesus says to us that we are, and you are, the light of the world, he’s giving us a role, which says that we need to help others to see and understand God. We need to be a beacon, a lighthouse, to attract people to God to show the way we need, to help people to see obstacles in the road that are preventing them getting to the love of God. We also, in true love, need to highlight areas where people need to change. But we probably need to illuminate ourselves first. So that’s light.
I need to give you a bit of a health warning about the rest of this address. The first bit given earlier on about light. I hope was a little bit of fun. This isn’t. This Gospel reading that we’ve heard from Matthew is at least for me one of the most problematic texts in the whole of the Bible. But before I get to that point, I do want to at least touch on our reading from Corinthians. I think this reading actually provides a great prelude to the Gospel reading but that may not be the reason why this this reading was first inserted in this fifth Sunday of Epiphany by the compilers of the lectionary. The bit that resonates for me comes in verses 3 and 4:
“I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.”
These words, possibly excluding the last clause about the Spirit’s power express my feelings as I try and shed some light – there goes that metaphor again – on our Gospel reading. We’ve already considered quite well, how the metaphor of light works. What about salt?
Salt is an interesting situation. Salt brings a few extra qualities. The first is how salt enhances the flavour of the food we eat. You don’t need much, and I think that’s quite a critical issue, a little bit of it works. And without it quite a lot of our food would be bland and unappetising. Could I translate that using the metaphor to say the love of God transforms our dull and perhaps meaningless lives into glorious interactions with Jesus.
The second function of salt is to preserve. Before fridges and freezers we found that the best way to keep food fresh was to soak it in salt or salt water, commonly known as brine, which would prevent the bacteria from destroying the food. How do you think that translates for us? For me that translates into being a role that we have in preserving our relationship with God, even hinting at everlasting life.
So when we put these two things together, the combination of these metaphors calling us salt and light are trying to say that we have and should bring to others the knowledge and understanding of God. We should help to show the way to God. We should be able to highlight obstacles that are preventing people reaching the love of God. We should help others to see where they’ve gone wrong, and for them and us to clean up our act. We should enhance and transform our mundane lives through the love of God and preserve our relationship with God forever.
Now if I left it there, I think that would be a really encouraging and comforting message and it would be even better in some ways had Jesus at this stage said not that you are the light but I am the light and I am the salt of the world which is what he did in a number of other cases, particularly in John’s gospel. But he didn’t. He tells us I am and you are the salt and the light. I think this is what makes the reading so scary because you cannot help but notice that Jesus called himself the salt and the light, and he’s called us the salt and the light. I think that indicates that Jesus considers us as equal partners in his mission and ministry to the world.
Now if that isn’t scary enough for you, then the metaphor of salt should be. Because you if you remember the reading, it says that Jesus talks about what would happen if salt loses its saltiness. Now, excuse the fact that you shouldn’t extend metaphors too far and I know from my chemistry background that salt is actually one of the most stable compounds in the whole wide world. You can almost do anything with it and it retains its saltiness. But Jesus said what happens to salt if it loses its saltiness. He said it would be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
Now I’m guessing you don’t need me to help you interpret what that message means for us. You are the salt of the earth and if you lose your saltiness. Yes, I say no more. In a similar way, but not quite as threatening, I think Jesus tells us in that metaphor of light, ‘don’t hide your light under a bushel.’ If you have light, use it. And if you don’t use it, then you’re guilty of not using your gifts.
I think it’s one thing to intellectually understand what Jesus is getting at when he uses these examples, these metaphors of salt and light, but it’s completely different to then say ‘that’s how I am or should be leading my life.’ And to be honest, it’s even worse for a preacher because I can’t claim to be the light and the salt in the way that Jesus is and I that’s what is partly the scary bit. And it makes it even worse for a preacher because what I’m saying is do what I say not what I do. Nobody likes that, least of all me. But in reality, we shouldn’t be too surprised by this message from Jesus, because as Christians, we know we are meant to follow Christ, we’re meant to emulate, we’re meant to copy what Jesus does, and that’s just what Jesus is saying in ‘you are the light, and you are the salt.’
So this is a reminder to us all to be just like Jesus. That’s your challenge for today. It’s my challenge for today. But that’s why I find the words of Paul so comforting:
“I do not come to proclaim the mystery of God in lofty words. I come to you in weakness, in fear and in much trembling.”
Let us pray:
Lord, I hope and pray that we can live up to these great expectations and awesome challenges and have the humility to ask for help and forgiveness when we slip beneath these high standards. Amen.
Readings for 12 February
Matthew 5: 21-37 (NIV)
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Deuteronomy 30: 15-20
- Psalm 119: 1-8
- 1 Corinthians 3: 1-9
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 a parade service with an infant baptism led by URC lay preacher and Christ Church member, Graham Hinton. 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.
12 February – Graham Hinton (URC lay preacher and Christ Church member) – parade service with infant baptism
19 February – Christ Church worship group
26 February – Revd Dr Elizabeth Welch (URC minister) – Holy Communion
5 March – Revd Dr Dong Hwan Kim (Methodist minister)
The Drowsy Chaperone – a musical within a comedy
22 – 25 February at the Winston Churchill Theatre
WOS Productions is delighted to present ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’, a playful and heartfelt parody of a 1920s musical comedy.
The Man in Chair is feeling a little blue and wonders if he can share the record of his favourite vintage Broadway musical with you to cheer himself up. No sooner has the needle touched the record than the show magically blooms to life around him. This show-within-a-show is crammed full of every cliché, gag and gimmick from the golden age of musicals. Ruses are played, hi-jinks occur. Such are the antics of The Drowsy Chaperone. There are also a few surprises in store to remind you you’re listening to the musical on an old LP!
The ensuing plot incorporates mistaken identities, dream sequences, spit takes, an unflappable English butler, an absent-minded dowager, a ditzy chorine, a harried best man, and Janet’s “Drowsy” (i.e. “Tipsy”) Chaperone, played by a blowzy Grande Dame of the Stage, specialising in “rousing anthems” and not above upstaging the occasional co-star.
Louise George and Lawrence Hoskins are both performing in this production which will be on at the Winston Churchill Theatre in Ruislip from 22 – 25 February. Tickets are available from http://wos-productions.weebly.com/ at £16 for standard tickets and £14 for concessions.
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:
- Northwood Methodist
- St John’s, Northwood URC
Loving Lord, we want to use
our strong feelings to bring change;
our words to encourage;
our gifts to heal;
our eyes to see as you see;
our hands to give help.
Lord, we choose life, we choose you. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)