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 (email@example.com)
Love comes here, as I turn aside to meet with you, Lord God.
Love transforms my heart,
Love moves me into action.
Lord Jesus, Spirit of love,
Show me how to love.
(Taken from The Vine)
Reflection from 21 January
Readings – Jonah 3:1-5, 10 and Mark 1:14-20
The lectionary this week focuses on calling and users. Most of my address is going to focus on Jonah, but before, I would like to say a few words about the reading from Mark. Now, although Simon and Andrew, James and John all seem to instantly drop what they were doing and follow Christ and the reading gives you the impression that it’s the first time that they’ve seen him, that’s not likely to be the case. They all lived in the same area for several decades. Even as youngsters, they may well have heard of Jesus. People were talking about Jesus from when he was a baby. Remember when Jesus as a babe in arms was presented to the temple, Simeon said, “this is the Messiah” and similar things happened in a number of occasions all the way through till the time when Jesus was 30, so I don’t think when Jesus approached these four men that it was quite as blind as it comes across in the reading.
I think they knew about him. They probably thought about him. They probably admired him, and they were probably pleased to have a call, which they instantly took up. It’s very easy to understand what they gave up and interestingly what others gave up. As an ageing father, I have to admit, I feel sorry for Zebedee with his family business being left in the lurch when his two strong, strapping lads had gone off. So although it came across as a call to these men, it would still have been very traumatic for them and everybody around them.
Now let’s move to Jonah. Using a cartoon to get across the message of the book of Jonah, in some ways is quite apt, because it is a bit of a fantastical book as well as a very functional book as well. The book of Jonah is all about calling. Not just the calling of Jonah, but also the calling of other people.
It’s also a book of great fallibility, isn’t it? Jonah was asked to go to the east for 500 miles to Ninevah. What did he do? He decided to go two and a half thousand miles in the other direction to the west. In the book, you would think this fictional Jonah would understand that God is omniscient and omnipresent. So why Jonah thought travelling 2500 miles in the other direction would get him away from God, I’m not terribly sure. But that’s definitely when Jonah’s troubles began.
Now being fair to Jonah, everybody knew at that time that Ninevah wasn’t one of the greatest places to visit. It would have been quite a lawless place where someone going there would not likely come back in one piece, so not wanting to go to Ninevah was actually quite a reasonable position for Jonah to take. It just was not what God wanted to do.
I’m going to make a summary of the entire book in three points, in a way which I hope brings out what I think is the truth from the book the first thing is that God wanted Jonah to bring salvation to the people; to get them to recognise that they had salvation as an option.
For such an important task. God chose a rather less than perfect man for the job. It was also actually a very tough ask. It was not a trivial challenge that Jonah was asked to pick up, but we know from the outcome that Jonah, despite his imperfections, was given the tools to do the job.. So, I think the key message that comes out – and it’s a message that’s as true now as it was when Jonah was written – is that God works with imperfect human beings to do his work. That means that even though I’m imperfect, I can still help to do the work of God. I think that’s a great privilege that you do not have to be perfect first before you sign up and accept the call of God. It’s just as well because otherwise no-one would ever sign up.
The second thing that warmed my heart about this was that Jonah was given what he needed to have to do the job he was asked to do. It was a very big ask, but he succeeded not through his power, but through his obedience. So, I think that the short message for us is to actually listen as Jonah did and don’t be afraid to accept it for the call. Don’t be afraid to be obedient.
And the final thing I want to say covers in the sense that the whole package of the book, and the reason why we think the book was set as a sort of fantastical fable in the first place, is that the book was probably written by a Jew for the Jews to read. Given that perspective, is it strange that the Gentiles in this book are represented in such a good way.
Just think how heathens in the boat (and they would have been heathens because you cannot obey the Jewish laws if you’re on a boat from for three or four weeks at a time so they would have been seen to be heathens by practising Jews) were reluctant to throw Jonah overboard despite the fact they knew he was the cause of their problems. Doesn’t that show the Gentiles in a really positive way? The second thing that I think the book portrays the Gentiles as people who were worthy to be called into the presence of God; that the Ninevites were part of the chosen people, as we today are part of the chosen people.
Both these two messages – the fact that God uses imperfect people, and that the Gentiles are part of the chosen people of God – would have been earth shattering to a conventional Jew. So, I think that the book, in those days, was truly subversive, which is why I. think it was put across in a fantastical way, almost with cartoon characters. But it would have had a huge impact for those who cared to read it properly in those days, and I hope and pray that it will have the same impact on all of us today too.
Let us pray. Lord, I thank you for the message of Jonah. The message that your calling comes to imperfect people and that you provide all we need. And I pray that you would give us the strength and the courage to live up to your calling, and to ask for help when we fall to live up to your high standards. Amen.
Readings for 28 January
Mark 1: 21-28
Jesus Drives Out an Impure Spirit
21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Deuteronomy 18: 15-20
- Psalm 111
- 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13
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 a communion service led by Methodist minister, Revd Dr Claire Potter. 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.
28 January – Revd Dr Claire Potter (Methodist minister) – Holy Communion
4 February – Peter Knowles (URC lay preacher)
11 February – Christ Church worship group – parade service
18 February – Richard Reid (Methodist local preacher)
Dates for your diary
|Annual Congregational Meeting
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following in our prayers:
- Ministers and local preachers residing in the Harrow & Hillingdon Methodist Circuit
- URC ministers and lay preachers who have led worship in our church.
Lord, like your first disciples
you send us out as sheep among wolves.
Teach us to be wise as serpents
as well as innocent as doves.
Remind us that your peace comes with us
and your hand is there to guide and encourage. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)