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 we get things wrong,
we place our trust in you, Lord.
When we feel lost and alone,
we place our trust in you, Lord.
When we are scared and hurting,
we place our trust in you, Lord.
When we face the unknown,
we place our trust in you, Lord,
relying on your endless love.
(Taken from Roots)
Reflection from 19 February
Readings: Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21 and Matthew 17:1-9
I wonder what you first think of when you hear the word transfiguration. I wonder what your grandchildren or children or next-door neighbour would think of first? I think there is a good chance they might think of a well-known story, but perhaps not the one from the Bible featuring Jesus. Maybe they’d think first of the one where a professor called McGonagall teaches young witches and wizards such as Harry Potter how to transfigure things, such as animals into water goblets. Maybe you’re unfamiliar with the tale of Harry Potter and spells taught in Transfiguration Class, you may also have issues, like I do, with the author’s political views on inclusion but one similarity it has with the account of the transfiguration of Jesus we have heard today is that both are stories rich with enchantment and wonder. How often do you find yourself able to pause for a moment in awe and wonder? How often are you enchanted by the world around you?
The Christian faith has a rich tradition of mysticism. Bernard McGinn in his book which compiles the key texts of the Christian mystics, defines Christian mysticism as: “the preparation [of a person] for, the consciousness of, and the effect of a direct and transformative presence of God.” In other words, mystics are people who are intentionally seeking a direct and transformational encounter with God, or a union with God, often through contemplative spiritual practices. You could say that the philosophy underpinning mysticism, which was at its height in Western Christianity in the Middle Ages, is one which values an openness to inexplicable spiritual or supernatural experiences. It is therefore not surprising that the Enlightenment, with a philosophy of its own that values the pursuit of reason, knowledge and understanding saw a change in the way we relate to those events in our Christian stories which the mystics related to most easily.
We can be tempted to approach events like the virgin birth, the incarnation, the transfiguration and the resurrection with our Enlightenment brains whirring, seeking out logical explanations. And yet these stories – full of wonder, enchantment, inexplicable acts of and encounters with God – are stories best read as mystics. We miss out on something of the power of these extraordinary stories if we read seeking out nothing but reason. Our own understanding will only ever get us so far.
We hear today of Moses climbing a mountain and entering a cloud to meet with God where he stayed for forty days. And of Jesus, with his disciples Peter, James, and John, climbing a mountain where Jesus’ face suddenly shines like the sun, and his clothes become dazzling white and there with them are Moses and Elijah – alive centuries before the birth of Jesus – talking with them. There, on the mountaintop, time has folded in on itself, and past and present seem to be strangely overlapping, and God’s voice is audible in the clouds. It is right that we find these tales extraordinary.
Yet, can we channel our inner mystics when we read these tales of supernatural encounters with God on mountaintops? We might find the details of these tales almost as hard to believe as the magic of Harry Potter – but there is a reason why the tales of this young wizard are so popular, and that’s because we are a people who are craving awe, wonder, and enchantment.
Transfiguration Sunday marks the transition between the season of Epiphany and the season of Lent. Epiphany is a season where we remember the ways Jesus was revealed to the gentiles, most notably the Magi who came from the east to the stable to see the new born Christ. Lent is a season where we remember Jesus in the desert at the very beginning of his ministry. As a society, we’re very good at embracing the magic of the Christmas season, but once we’ve taken down the tree, recycled the cards, and packed up the crib scene we can easily slip back into an expectation of mundanity in our everyday lives. And then, in the season of Lent, we take that a step further and root out any whiff of extravagance, as testified by the tradition that has become Shrove Tuesday and the pancakes that we will have after this service. But here, just before we slip into the wilderness of Lent, we’re reminded by Transfiguration Sunday to pay attention to the inexplicable acts of God all around us and to stand in awe and wonder at the mystery of them.
But what if we can’t quite get our Enlightened selves to sit down and be quiet? What if we find ourselves wondering how exactly the events of the Bible came to be, or we can’t help but desperately try to explain away the mystery with logic? Have no fear -the story of the transfiguration and the account of Moses meeting with God on the mountaintop are here to help us. Let’s look at ways in which it might.
In our readings today, both Jesus and Moses climb mountains for their extraordinary experiences. We know that God is with us in the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary, spaces of our lives. We know that moments of incredible connection with the divine can happen while doing the washing up, while sitting in a traffic jam, or while walking the dog. And yet, the transfiguration teaches us how, when we’ve made an intentional journey to a place where we expect to meet with God, we should be prepared for something remarkable to happen. And so, this is a lesson, if we find ourselves resisting the mystic in us, and yet we long for union with God, let us go to a sacred space. In the words of the Psalm, we must go to a “holy mountain”.
The Celtic Christians speak of ‘thin places’ where heaven and earth are closer, where God feels more tangible, where spiritual experiences happen more easily, where our stuffy, logical, reasonable, busy minds are quieted enough to notice the divine permeating the place. Today’s scriptures feature such thin places.
A friend of mine went to Jerusalem a few years ago and walked the probable route Jesus took when carrying his cross to his crucifixion. Along the route at a place not notable in the guide-books as anything particular he was overtaken with what he describes as the presence of God. He felt a deep conviction that this was the place when Jesus stopped and Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry the cross. For a little while he could hardly stand. Even now when he tells the story you can see the deep impact that encounter had on him.
Do you have a thin place you can go, where you expect to meet with God? We can’t all go to Jerusalem and walk that route, but we can find a place. It might be small space in our home or community, it might be a church, or a location outdoors. Perhaps you’ve already found such a place and have met with God there. Transfiguration Sunday and our mystical reading of its story, bids you to make room in your lives for visiting such a place. Personally, I find them in places that have seen worship for hundreds of years, profoundly beautiful and remote places and often at ancient monuments and stone circles. Maybe that last one is recognising the effort they put into creating those places even if the God they worshipped we cannot recognise as the one from our own faith.
As Peter’s epistle tells us: “You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” It is our task to seek out the lamp, even when our lives feel dark. So, find your own sacred space and go there, with the expectation of having an extraordinary encounter. Go there, ready to sit in awe and wonder in union with God. Go there, with your eyes and hearts and minds open to how God might be seeking to transfigure you and the world around you.
And we come to our second lesson for embracing our inner mystic on this Transfiguration Sunday. In Matthew’s telling of the transfiguration which we heard today, those present on the mountaintop are “overshadowed” by a cloud, but Luke’s Gospel goes further, and they “entered into it.” Whichever we read, the disciples are invited to climb this mountain of transfiguration with Jesus. They are invited to participate in this supernatural experience. Just like Moses, they are called by God into an encounter, to meet together in this extraordinary moment.
We too are called to participate in the wonderous presence of God. We are reminded in these stories of awesome encounter and supernatural experience, that God invites us too to get involved, to be present to God’s presence all around us. During the transfiguration of Jesus, as the disciples are perhaps properly aware for the first time that Jesus is both fully human and full of the divine – Peter’s first words are: “it is good for us to be here”. This strikes me as the words of a mystic. Peter does not ask how or why these events are unfolding. Peter simply recognises that he is glad to be present. How often are we simply grateful to be – just be –present in the presence of God?
Our second lesson from the transfiguration, is about willingly entering into an encounter with God and simply being present. We know that Moses remained in the cloud above the mountain for forty days. He didn’t hurry back down to continue his life. He was present with God, for as long as he could be. Now, we may not each have forty days to sit on a mountaintop, but God calls us to be present to God’s presence all around us – in our sacred places and in our everyday lives. God calls us into a life of awe and wonder, of enchantment. God calls us to pay attention to the ways God is revealed and speaks to us. God calls us to be open to all the ways God transfigures us into our most true, loving, present, and authentic selves. Let us live as mystics, as disciples, as prophets: expectant of encounter with God on every mountaintop, and in every traffic jam.
Joanne Mackin (adapted from The Vine)
Readings for 26 February
Matthew 4: 1-11 (NIV)
Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Psalm 32
- Genesis 2: 15-17; 3: 1-7
- Romans 5: 12-19
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 communion service led by URC minister Revd 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.
26 February – Revd Dr Elizabeth Welch (URC minister) – Holy Communion
5 March – Revd Dr Dong Hwan Kim (Methodist minister)
12 March – Christ Church worship group – parade service
19 March – Ade Benson (Methodist local preacher)
Tuesdays, 12.30pm – 1.30pm
28th February to 28th March 2023
Bible passages, discussion, quietness, reflection, prayer using Churches Together material and “Worship in Stillness”, by Susan Sayers.
28th February: Good and evil – God who protects.
7th March: God’s glory – God of journeys.
14th March: Sin, suffering and hope – God of acceptance.
21st March: Relationship and reconciliation – God of growth.
28th March: Parenthood and adoption – God who heals.
The sessions will also be available to join via Zoom using the following details:
Meeting ID: 975 3521 4949
World Day of Prayer service
Friday 3 March, 2pm
Our Lady of Lourdes & St Michael, Osborn Road, Uxbridge
This year’s theme is ‘I Have Heard About Your Faith’, based on Ephesians 1:15-19 and the service this year has been put together by women in Taiwan. All are welcome.
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
URC 50th Anniversary Service
Saturday 15th April at Methodist Central Hall
For more information, please visit https://bit.ly/urc50
Part-time clerical assistant vacancy
We currently have a job vacancy for a part-time clerical assistant. The main duties will involve:
- Assisting in co-ordinating the day-to-day running of the church
- Keeping the church diary up to date with room bookings and exploring avenues for increasing income through room bookings and creative use of the church premises.
- Responding to enquiries and visitors to the church office
- Assisting with providing admin support to the Church Administrator, minister (when in post) and elders, including producing publicity materials and papers for meetings.
Applicants are sought with relevant experience, computer literacy and sympathy with the aims of the Church.
The post is for 15 hours a week (worked Monday – Friday)
Proposed start date: April 2023
Salary £9,350 – £10,300 per annum depending on experience
An application pack is available from the Resources coordinator (email@example.com)
Closing date for applications: 5pm on Friday 3 March 2023.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Ruislip Methodist
- Gerrards Cross URC
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord!
Lord, help us to trust ourselves to do what is right.
Help us to trust each other for friendship and support.
Help us to trust in you when times are hard
For your love surrounds us when we trust in you.
(Taken from Roots)