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)
Lord God, we lay our burdens at your feet.
We are ready to experience your power.
Sometimes you are at work in our lives
and we don’t even know it.
Lord God, make us positive along our way,
whatever our circumstances.
Help us to be amazed by the unusual.
Open all our senses to you, Lord.
We want to feel your healing touch today. Amen.
(Adapted from Roots)
Reflection from 12 March
Reading: John 4: 5-42
‘Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans’ (John 4:9) hits us smack in the face, a phrase included by the author of John’s gospel to explain the awkwardness of the encounter. It’s tempting to look down on this as part of ancient Jewish legalism as though we’re somehow much better – echoing the religious person in the temple, ‘Thank God I am not like those people.’
Now we may not articulate it like John. There may be no group of people that we’d say, ‘Oh we don’t share things with them.’ But, if we reflect on who we associate with, there are many groups of people that we never meet or spend time with, people we avoid, whether actively or through the ways we organise our lives. And our actions are far more telling than our words.
When we shape our lives so that we live in a bubble of people like us, we miss something of the rich diversity of God’s creation and the whole of humanity. Through our lack of encounter with the Other, we lack an understanding of the depth of human experience – what’s it like to be this or that kind of person in this or that situation from this or that background? And then we find ourselves othering people, looking down on them, not understanding their choices or how they live. Ultimately, if we don’t know them, we cannot love our neighbour – which Jesus made clear during his time, the Samaritan, who many Jews had othered, was their neighbour.
If we’re honest with ourselves, there are groups of people who we don’t associate with. We may never have made the decision to avoid them, but somehow through the way we live our lives, our paths never meet, we never spend time with them, and our understanding of all the children of God is narrowed. For everyone is a child of God regardless of what we think of them or whether we make time for them.
Jesus grew up in a culture that saw Samaritans as outsiders, a people who had their own culture that had developed separately to those who had been in exile and returned. This fear of otherness created a division. Jesus, on his way from Judea to Galilee, chooses to go through Samaria, the land of the Samaritans. Anyone who has decent local knowledge would immediately think, well this isn’t the most direct route.
So Jesus made a decision to go through Samaria. To meet with those his culture considered outsiders, unlikely to be welcomed or offered hospitality. An interesting point, as Jesus often taught his disciples to go to places they are welcomed and stay where hospitality is offered. But he decides to take the risk.
In the midst of this journey we get a beautiful encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman, at a significant site known as Jacob’s well – yes, that’s Jacob, the father of Joseph who had his special coat. The area is significant for both the Samaritans and for Jesus’ culture – a common history. Much to the woman’s surprise, Jesus begins a conversation, but more than this he asks for water. The woman is taken aback. In this simple request, years old tensions and divisions are eroded, a bridge is built and the simple encounter of two people demonstrates a common humanity.
For some of the early followers, Jesus had come to the Jews and that was where his mission ended, indeed there are parts of the gospels where Jesus affirms this as his early mission. But the beauty of God’s love is that it circles ever wider. And here’s where the writer of John affirms this. Jesus offers who he is and what he is giving to the Samaritan woman, a foreigner and an outsider, but also a woman, seen as second class in a patriarchal society. Jesus turns all expectations upside down and in this encounter affirms God is for all.
The conversation is incredibly interesting. As he reveals who he is, he takes an interest in her and chooses to reveal something about her. Has he gleaned it from some prophetic insight, or has he overheard local gossip? Either way, he goes straight to the detail. We wince thinking he’s pulled out her deepest darkest secret in an act of judgement, but maybe that’s our own lens looking down on her situation. For he offers no criticism and we have no sense of the tone he uses. He just states it and she interprets it as a revelation of who Jesus is. It’s not used to offer moral teaching, but to reveal that he is the great ‘I am’, the Messiah. In that moment, regardless of her past, regardless of whether we judge her for it, she is accepted by Jesus and given the hope of being born of water and spirit.
Energised, she dashes off to tell others, leaving her water jar – I wonder if Jesus was able to get his drink then? But then something even more miraculous happens: the Samaritans ask Jesus and his disciples to stay. These groups with hatred for each other break down the barriers and spend time in each other’s presence, sharing in the good news of the reign of God, with water of life for all.
This is a story of deep transformation, a simple exchange at a well becomes the transformation of a whole community and deep learning for those who follow Jesus: there are no outsiders. None of us are outside God’s love, however shady our past. God will sit with us at the well, knowing all we are and offering us eternal life, a drink from the deep spring of God’s love. And all we are expected to do is share that joy with others – just as the Samaritan woman did with those around her.
If we are tempted to draw the circle small or find ourselves avoiding certain people, then, like Jesus, our challenge is to take a different route and place ourselves in spaces with people we may not encounter. For it is in those moments of encounter we truly experience the Other and learn of the depth of humanity and all that God is and in that we learn to draw the circle wider. For as we do, we open up the possibilities of transformation as we build bridges and discover the love of God in the midst of mutual encounter.
Take a moment to imagine yourself at the well with Jesus, how might the conversation go? Are there people you avoid who you might spend some time with?
Stephanie Marr (taken from The Vine)
Readings for 19 March
John 1: 1-41 (NIV)
Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
9 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
8 His neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- 1 Samuel 16: 1-13
- Psalm 23
- Ephesians 5: 8-14
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 for Mothering Sunday this week will be led by Methodist local preacher, Ade Benson. 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.
19 March – Ade Benson (Methodist local preacher) – Mothering Sunday
26 March – Revd Maggie Hindley (URC minister) – Holy Communion
2 April – Neil Mackin (Christ Church member) – Palm Sunday
6 April – Christ Church worship group – Maundy Thursday, 7pm
9 April – Joanne Mackin & Louise George (Christ Church members) – Easter Sunday communion, 9.30am
9 April – Richard Reid (Methodist local preacher) – Easter Sunday, 11am
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.
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
Church charity news
Church charity fundraising ideas needed
We are looking for ideas of ways that we can fundraise for Communicare Counselling Service throughout this year. There are a few events currently being considered – a cream tea in late Spring/early Summer, a quiz evening in the autumn and a silent auction around November time. Another idea which is being considered is a table-top sale if anyone would be interested in helping to organise this.
If you have any ideas for fundraising activities or would like to organise a fundraising event, please let one of the elders know so that we can start putting some fundraising events in the church calendar.
You can find more details about Communicare Counselling Service, our church charity for 2023 at https://christchurchuxbridge.org.uk/activities/churchcharity2023
GB coffee morning
We are holding our next Coffee Morning on Saturday 18th March. We always divide our proceeds between our own funds and our chosen charity. This year our older girls chose to support YoungMinds, a mental health charity for children, young people and their parents (https://www.youngminds.org.uk).
Over the last few weeks the Seniors and Brigaders have been busy making things to sell at our Coffee morning. Here’s some photos of a few of them. Please come along and support them between 10am and 12 noon. There will be cakes too!
Other church events
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 Trinity, Harrow (URC & Methodist) in our prayers.
Lord, open my eyes to see what you are revealing.
Open my mouth to speak about you.
Guide my thoughts and increase my understanding.
Stir my heart to love as you loved us.
Move my hands and feet to serve you in others.
In the name of Jesus Christ, my example and friend.
(Taken from Roots)