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 is relationship, and you are invited in this day.
God is connection, and the Spirit is reaching out for your hand this day.
God is love, and the heartbeat of the divine is for each and every one of us, this day, and always.
Come, by your Spirit, Lord God. Amen.
(Taken from The Vine)
Prayer for Israel and Palestine
We cry out to you, in anguish and horror, at the situation in Israel – Palestine.
The images we are seeing, the stories we are hearing, of homes, hospitals, places of sanctuary, healing and care, destroyed.
We know that there are so many more stories which have not yet been told, and perhaps never will be.
Of precious lives lost, of grief and trauma beyond that which most of us can imagine.
Compassionate God, you came and dwelt among us; you know and understand the suffering of this world.
There is no place beyond your reach; you are everywhere, even in places where we fear there is no hope left.
Where we are tempted to despair, your spirit brings mercy, and justice, and healing.
You call us, again and again, in times of conflict and destruction, to be attentive to those who are most vulnerable.
Give us the compassion to weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn.
The discernment to recognize the limits of our own wisdom, and to avoid those actions and words which may cause further harm.
Inspire in us a renewed commitment to walk humbly with you, seeking the peace and flourishing which you desire for all of your beloved children. Amen
(From the Methodist Circuit newsletter)
Reflection from 22 October
Readings – Exodus 33: 12-23, 1 Thessalonians 1: 1-10, Matthew 22: 15-22
I looked up from where I was sitting on a Piccadilly line train. Above the seat opposite was an advertisement inviting me to travel to Turkey to have my teeth realigned. On another day, on another train, there was an advertisement for a clinic in London extolling the virtues of their hair regrowth treatment.
You may not have been concerned about the alignment of your teeth or your thinning hair before seeing these adverts but their presence is designed to sow seeds of doubt as to whether you ought not to be.
Our image is important. It may not be the way we see ourselves; but it is the way others will initially see and judge us. The first impression we get of someone else is likely to be the way they look. At a job interview you can be judged before you have said a word. Your deportment as you enter the room, how you are dressed, whether or not you are displaying piercings and tattoos; all send out a message which can have a profound effect on how you are perceived and what the possibilities might be of a future successful relationship of employment.
What image we have of God affects what we think about God. From what we can or cannot see come our answers to the questions:
- What does the evidence of what we see tell us whether God exists at all?
- If what we see is sufficient evidence for us to accept that God does exist; what does it tell us about God’s nature? Is God present in our life and engaged with us in the challenges we face or is God a remote being too distant to be concerned about us?
What image we are conscious of affects the day-to-day decisions we make about how we respond to the competing demands on our time, talents and material resources.
What image we project to others affects how they perceive us not just as individuals but also as a group. Does the image they have of us attract them to us or does it cause them to be repelled from us?
All our readings today raise big questions about image which we would be wise to think about.
With Moses’ reputation as a towering figure leading an enslaved people to freedom and a new relationship with God; we can miss that in the Hebrew scriptures he is presented as someone uncertain of his own relationship with God, lacking in self-confidence and the qualities required to effectively lead his people.
So, we come to this morning’s Old Testament reading. One of many pivotal moments in the story of Moses as he leads the Hebrew people to the land they have been promised. The verses before our passage tell of his regular times of encounter with God, on this journey, in the tent of meeting which he pitched outside the main encampment at a discreet place where he could go to speak with God.
Yet, despite his experiences of being in close contact with God in these encounters; he still questions whether he has favour with God. To give him the assurance he sought; he sought not just to speak with God but to be able to experience God close to him. He wanted to be shown God’s glory.
The God of Moses is always something of a mysterious figure who never fully reveals himself but, at the same time, does leave evidence of the reality of his presence. Whilst Moses shelters in a cleft in a rock, we are told that he does indeed experience the presence of God close to him with all of God’s graciousness and mercy with God’s hand covering him until he has passed by so that, although he can see God’s back once he has passed, he cannot see his face.
God maintains his mystery by not showing his face to Moses but enough has been seen of him for Moses to have the assurance he sought that he has experienced God close to where he is and of the nature of God to be assured that he has God’s favour.
Moses’ experience is special for him but it is not unique.
The opening verses of Mark’s Gospel record that the first message of Jesus’s ministry was that “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15 NRSV).
All of us can have the special experience Moses had and experience for ourselves the closeness of God, his graciousness and mercy through his image present in the place where we are even if it is impossible for us to see all that God is.
All of us can experience the image of God affirming his presence where we are but for most of us, for most of the time, that image is obscured by the images that dominate our daily life.
It is the images of our daily concerns, of what commercial interests are trying to draw our attention to, of the issues of the moment that people are talking about that dominate what we see and, because they dominate what we see, they dominate our thoughts and the way we live in response. In doing so, they obscure what we see of God which, in turn, reduces the priority we give to the response that God demands of us. Is this wrong or is it just part of the way things are?
In our Gospel reading Jesus is asked to answer an awkward question posed by the Pharisees who would not support Roman rule over their country in the presence of representatives of the party of King Herod whose authority was entirely dependent on support of and from the Romans. Should taxes be paid to the Roman emperor or not?
It is an awkward question for him to answer because if he publicly answers “yes” it would destroy his credibility as a Jewish religious teacher. If he publicly answers “no” his teaching would be referred to the Roman authorities by the Herodians as seditious. He is placed in the sort of apparent impossible dilemma many of us find ourselves in when issues of religious conviction and conscience come into conflict with issues of social, political or economic reality.
To answer the question, he calls on the power of the image. On this particular question the taxes demanded by the Roman Emperor are paid by coins with the Roman Emperor’s image embossed on them.
God’s image is embossed on God’s creation and our relationships. His kingdom values apply to these and the issues they raise for us. The mechanics of secular government often overlap with them and, when they do; that does raise difficult questions we have to make a decision on and our decision is likely to be affected by what image we see more of.
But on the narrow issue of the funding of secular government generally, using coinage provided by secular government; the claim of ownership through image of something that does not derive from God but from secular government for social maintenance and good government is not something God claims dominion over.
As the Gospel of John records Jesus’ answer to Pilate at his trial is that his “kingdom is not from this world” (John 18: 36 NRSV).
Jesus’ reply in our reading invites us to recognise both that God’s image and his claim on our lives is present in areas where we sometimes fail to see it or ignore it and also that it is not always present in areas where we try to justify what we think should or should not happen by claiming that our personal opinions are endorsed by God.
Our third reading from the introduction of Paul’s letter to the early Christian community in Thessalonica states that they have “become imitators” (1 Thessalonians 1: 6) of the Christian witness they saw in the ministry of Paul and his companions which was faithful to the image of Jesus’ own ministry. Their imitation of that ministry has meant that people in the region have seen the image of Jesus’ life in ministry in the way the Thessalonian Christians have lived out their faith.
Paul’s comments about them are in stark contrast to the image presented by some of the other Christian communities to whom he wrote.
It raises the question of what sort of image do others see in us both individually and as a church claiming to follow in the way of Jesus? Do they see the image of Jesus’ way of living in the way we live or do they see something else? The image that they see in the way we live has a profound impact on the message of Good News discovered in Jesus that we say we are proclaiming.
Whether it is our own experience of God and God’s nature; whether it is how we make day to day decisions; whether it is our ability to communicate what we say we believe to others through the way we live: image is important.
Our readings today require us to reflect on just how important it is.
Reflection from 29 October
Readings – Leviticus 19: 1-2, and 15-18, Matthew 22: 34-46
I gather some of you have been very busy doing the Wizard of Oz this week. And it went very well by the sound of it. It’s fun, isn’t it, to get together and do things. And this coming week, you could be celebrating nearly every day if you really wanted to. What things you could you be doing this week? On the 31st? Halloween. I don’t think many of you will be putting on outfits and going trick and treating though. It’s got so commercialised, hasn’t it? I remember having fun when I was a youngster putting sheets on to be a ghost and so on. But now, somehow, it’s got out of hand. And to me, that’s not quite right. But we could be celebrating.
What’s the next day? All Saints’ Day. Very relevant to all of us, isn’t it? We are here this morning because we want to be saints in the reformed tradition. We believe in the ministry of all believers so we should all be saints.
What’s the next day? We don’t often celebrate this one but some people do. All Souls’ Day. After All Saints’ Day you have All Souls’ Day and of course that is very much remembering any loved ones who you want to have a special time to remember and think about. Perhaps not a celebration in the same way but it is there.
And next weekend? We come down to earth with a bang! Fireworks, Guy Fawkes, bonfires. And again, it’s a time of celebration, a time of getting together. We could have a really busy week. But in the midst of all of this we’re thinking about God’s love and that commandment to love God, to love our neighbour and to love ourselves. Loving neighbours: the neighbour next door, the neighbour within our community or across the world. They’re all neighbours.
“The measure of love is love without measure” (St Francis of Sales)
I like that. This idea of love being central, and love without measure, no boundaries to it. And isn’t that what this is all about? That neighbour isn’t just the neighbour who lives in the next house to us. It’s anyone we might come across in our work, in our daily lives or even someone we see on the news. So we measure our love by how we give love without measure.
“To be saints is not a privilege for the few. But a vocation for everyone.” (Pope Francis)
I found that interesting, because that’s repeating what I said earlier – we are all potential saints. And here is a Catholic Pope saying this, which I think is lovely. But again, the potential is there for us to be saints, to think about loving beyond and living for God.
“He who is filled with love is filled with God himself.” (St Augustine)
St. Augustine was quite a difficult chap as he grew up but he had this amazing ministry which came from quite difficult roots. And you get a saying like this: If we’re filled with love, we’re filled with God. The relationship is two way. God loves us. We love God. And it needs to be two-way to work.
Following on from that we go on to the second part of what Jesus said. Each day. Quite a challenge, actually. I wonder if you ever think when you go to bed at night ‘have I shared love with anybody today?’ Think about it, because in many ways you may have done. It may have been somebody who you spoke to maybe just casually at a bus stop or in a shop. You might have shared a word. Once after Christmas I went around Sainsbury’s in our local store and I needed to get some bread and I helped somebody who couldn’t reach the top shelf. But she said to me, I haven’t spoken to anyone all the holiday. She lived on her own. And I thought what that meant to that person. We don’t always know how important it is those relationships, sharing just a word, perhaps a phone call. Just that bit of love which shares God. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
In today’s world, I think we need to be reminded of this. Perhaps sometimes we feel we get a bit sentimental with love as Christians in churches, but love isn’t sentimental. It’s hard. There’s lots of aspects to love beyond just that gentle love in relationship. We can be challenged to go a step further than maybe we’d like to.
Love your neighbour as yourself. We can’t do anything unless we love ourselves because we need to be content and peaceful, to be in a position to pass on love. That to me, I think is very important. There’s so many people in our world today who are lonely, who are depressed, who are struggling. That need to be content, be comfortable with where you are, to love yourself can be quite challenging for some people.
As we look around the world we’re also aware of all that’s going on outside. We may wonder how will peace be achieved in the Holy Land. It seems to just be getting worse. It’s quite heartbreaking as we see the violence just escalating. But our call as Christians is clear. We are to love all our neighbours, to care for them as we would ourselves. People who are hurting, people who are hurting one another. How can we love those people? We can pray. And how can we help to bring peace to this situation? Offer it to God. God has answers. That is our hope and we need it.
At the moment too we may be wondering what some of the politicians are doing and what is being said. We want truth, we want honesty and reality and we want to be able to trust. That’s one of the things with God. We can trust God and we can trust his love.
There was a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently about the current cost of living crisis and more and more children are being impacted by it. There are elements of public opinion that are coming from politicians and the media that tend to put blame on the families who are poor and struggling. Is that fair?
As Jesus tried to refocus us with that commandment we need to think where are our priorities? Where do we need to focus?
We need to be aware of the needs around us and that love. There are over 300 mentions of love in the Bible and that love is central. Of those 300+ mentions, over 100 of them specify the type of love that is agape. In other words, love in action. I’m sure you’re aware that in the culture in which the Bible was written, there were several words to refer to love. Our language is lacking in words to express love in many ways, but agape love isn’t just relationship love. It’s about an action of love. You could say that when we share communion later, we are sharing a meal of agape love. We are sharing together in action.
So how do we demonstrate this love? We should never feel helpless because we have prayer. There are ways we might donate to charities that are helping with emergency aid. We might speak out, perhaps some of you are members of Amnesty or other organisations that promote justice and peace.
But it’s very clear from the summary of the law that Jesus gave us that love is as relevant today as when he answered that question. And it’s also as relevant as when Moses gave those laws in Old Testament times. And we could say in the words of the song, “What the world needs now is love, love, love.” Amen.
Revd Bridget Powell
Readings for 5 November
Matthew 23: 1-12
A Warning Against Hypocrisy
23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For 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:
- Micah 3: 5-12
- Psalm 43
- 1 Thessalonians 2: 9-13
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 member, Ken Pearce. 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 November – Ken Pearce (Christ Church member)
12 November – Revd Julie King (Methodist minister) – Remembrance Sunday, 10.50am
19 November – Lilian Evans (URC lay preacher)
26 November – Revd Jon Dean (URC minister) – Holy Communion
Church charity news
Silent auction – now live!
Our silent auction is now live and the catalogue can be found at https://tinyurl.com/ccsilentauctionitems2023. It’s now time to get your bids in! To place a bid for an item, you can either contact Louise directly by email at email@example.com or by telephone on 07971 514997. You can also leave your bid in a sealed envelope in the church office marked ‘Silent Auction, FAO: Louise George’. The closing date for bids is Sunday 19 November and the winners will be contacted directly within a couple of days of the closing date.
Thank you to everyone who attended our recent fundraising events. The table-top sale has raised £163 and the quiz £249.58. The total raised so far for CCS is £1025.16
You can find more details about Communicare Counselling Service, our church charity for 2023 at:
Interfaith Peace Symposium
Sunday 19 November, 12pm – 3pm, Quaker Meeting House, Uxbridge
We invite you to partake in our Interfaith Peace Symposium, join us for a meal, an opportunity to engage with individuals of diverse faiths and hear messages of peace. Quakers & Ahmadiyya Muslims are jointly hosting the event at the historic Quaker Meeting House for a much called-for time of sharing and prayerful listening.
If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Mike Beranek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 07757 775625.
Dates for your diary
|CTU Bible exploration group
|Interfaith Peace Symposium
Silent auction closing date
|Congregational meeting with bring and share lunch
|Carols and mince pies
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Wealdstone Methodist
- Wembley Park URC
- St Margaret’s, Uxbridge
Go into the world with Jesus
as your inspiration, guide and friend.
Be generous, without always counting the cost.
Give of your time, without always seeking a reward.
Share your love with a needy world.
Make peace and strive for justice.
And do it all in Jesus’ name. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)