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Thought of the Week, Sunday, 12th July 2020.

Genesis 25:19-24, Psalm 119:105-112, Matthew 13:1-9,18-23, Romans 8:1-11.

One of my favourite verses in the bible is Psalm 119:105
’Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path’.
In verses 105-112 the psalmist celebrates God’s word, committing to obeying God’s commands even when life is difficult and enemies threaten.
Nearly 20 years ago, when David & I were in New Zealand, we hired a car which happened to have a CD player. Wanting to make use of this ‘extra’ we went into a large discount store where I found the only CD to our tastes contained a track based on these very words. It was the first time I had heard a Psalm set to a ‘modern’ tune. It was completely different to any tune for a Psalm I was used to singing in church. This new, for me,way of praising God accompanied us as we toured the beautiful landscapes of NZ.
Singing hymns whether to an old familiar tune or a catchy new one can lift the spirits whether we can sing in tune or not!! I have found the three programmes ‘The Choir-singing for Britain’* with Gareth Malone moving and inspiring. He worked with front-line staff, key workers and those who have been in isolation during lock-down to come up with songs which reflected each of their situations:much like the writers of the Psalms did. In the final episode he completed his mission to write a song that he hoped would bring the people of Britain together. Much of the inspiration for the song came from 18year old worship leader Rae-Kwan. Together with participants from the other 3 programmes he delivered a moving rendition of the new composition which included the words ‘This is just another storm and every storm must fade. We will rebuild together’. Words so fitting for the times we find ourselves going through at the moment. What a great message to convey to the nation that God is in it with us and will be with us as we rebuild a new future together.
The music might not be to your taste-too modern or jazzy but I’m sure you will have your own favourite passage or hymn you can turn to to keep your spirits up and your faith alive until we can meet together and praise God for his light which is leading us through these dark days.
God’s Word is a lamp or guiding light for us to follow but He has called us all to bring His light to shine into the lives of those who are broken, hurting, lost and alone.The Word came to us in human form in Jesus so that we might better understand. Through him too we have the Spirit to inspire and give us hope and help us fulfil our calling.
In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus talked about the word of God as seed that is scattered and reproduces in abundance in good soil. I pray that many of those who watched the programmes will have received the seed of God’s Word and that it finds good ’soil’ in which to grow. May we be ready to serve God in encouraging those who come newly to His Word through whatever route so that their lives too might be lived abundantly for Him as they follow His guiding light.
Every blessing, Sally.

* available on BBC I player. If you have not watched I recommend it but have the tissues ready!!

Posted: Sat 11th Jul 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 5th July 2020

Isaiah 61:3, Colossians 3:12-14  

The weather in recent days has been quite cold for this time of the year. We have experienced blustery winds, lots of clouds and long showers of rain. It is interesting to observe that some folk are choosing to wear warmer clothing items more appropriate for the weather – waterproof jackets, wellies, jumpers and cardigans, hats and caps, scarves and gloves and even some winter jackets, replacing the light summer items. Watching folk go by, have got me thinking that, every day, we all make multiple choices including the choice of what to wear. To some extent, what we choose to wear says something about us. Applying this to our faith, I wonder what do we choose to wear that says something about us and our relationship with Christ? 

Do we in unpleasant weather, when there are lots of clouds, long showers of rain and blustery winds, wear the pain and tears of ourselves and others? When there is brokenness and despair, do we wear the garment of praise and hope? When others need our encouragement and support, do we choose to wear clothes of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience? Furthermore, we are encouraged in Colossians to wear love at all times: And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. it’s your basic all-purpose garment. Never be without it (Col. 3:14, The Message). We must allow everything we do and say to be our garment of witness to the Lord, thereby saying something about us, and our relationship with him to the world. 

One of the classic films that I have enjoyed watching is ‘My Fair Lady’, with Audrey Hepburn as lead actress. In addition to her acting career, she was also a humanitarian. As one who was always well dressed, she often shared her beauty tips using a quote that included the following: 

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his/her finger through it.

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

(Audrey Hepburn 1929-1993, adopted this quote from Sam Levenson, 1911-1980)

Stay safe and blessings

Irene John 

Posted: Sun 5th Jul 2020

There are names of sixteen (16) books of the Bible hidden in the paragraph below. Let's see how many you can find:

I once made a remark about the hidden books of the Bible. A certain luke, kept people looking so hard for facts, and for others, it was a revelation. Some were in a jam, especially since the names of the books were not capitalized. But the truth finally struck home to numbers of our readers. To others it was a job. We want it to be a most fascinating little moment for you. Yes, there will be some really easy ones to spot. Others may require judges to help find them. I will quickly admit it usually takes the preacher to find one of them, and there will be loud lamentations when it is found. A little lady says she brews a cup of tea so she can concentrate better. See how you will compete. Relax now, for there really are sixteen books of the Bible in this paragraph.
Happy searching!!


Answer - The 16 Books are:
1. Mark
2. Luke
3. Kings (looking so hard)
4. Acts
5. Revelations
6. James (jam especially)
7. Ruth (truth finally struck home)
8. Numbers
9. Job
10. Amos (almost fascinating)
11. Esther (yes there will be)
12. Judges
13. Titus (i will quickly admit it usually)
14. Lamentations
15. Hebrews (she brews a cup of tea)
16. Peter (compete. Relax)

Irene John

 

Posted: Sun 28th Jun 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 28th. June 2020

Jeremiah 31:13-14


Jane, is a relatively healthy and very independent 80plus, who when asked how she was, responded by saying: ‘Fed Up’. This is understandable as Jane, who due to the virus is classified as ‘at risk’, lives on her own, with very limited contact to the outside world. Before lockdown, her lifeline had been her involvement with various activities, including attending regular church worship. Now, on a daily basis, she finds herself bored as the long lonely hours drag by, with the situation beginning to play tricks on her mental and emotional wellbeing. Jane is not alone ‘Fed Up’, is a view echoed by many others, who find it a challenge to know how to fill in the days and hours, while feeling the effects of isolation and separation. However, things are starting to move in the right direction – lockdown restrictions are easing, and the rate of infection from the virus is slowing down. So, the encouragement is to keep on keeping on, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Find things to do to help you cope, such as - take time to enjoy the sound, sight and smell of nature. Continue to appreciate and help those who need your help, by listening and praying for them, having a friendly chat, sharing a smile, and offering practical help. Whatever you decide to do: don’t count the days but make the days count (I got this very meaningful expression from Mary T. Garstang).
Also, as well as continuing to cope, stay hopeful about the future. In the scripture passage, we see a hope-filled people in Jeremiah’s day, who on the eve of redemption from exile, visualised the future restored community, with survivors living together, celebrating their union with God. They imagined a community where the painful realities of their present world is reversed, as God turns their weeping into laughter, and sorrow into comfort. As restrictions continue to ease, find time to visualise some positives in the future when by the grace of God our communities will be restored.
The women (and children), will dance and be happy, and men will rejoice. I will comfort them and turn their mourning into joy, and their sorrow into gladness. I will satisfy all the needs of my people. Jeremiah 31:13 -14.


Stay safe and blessings
Irene John

Posted: Sun 28th Jun 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 21st June 2020.

A reflection on Psalm 86
This is the Psalm that is set to accompany the Lectionary readings for this week. I would encourage you to read the Psalm in full before going any further.
The Psalm is a fascinating piece of scripture including in its 17 verses forty quotations from the Torah. Perhaps the Psalmist has been challenged to provide a short summary of its teaching. In its four parts it offers us a framework to reflect on God’s presence in our lives and our response.

Appeal for Help (Verses 1 -7)
For us, the Psalm is written from the perspective of an ordinary member of the church. It reminds us of the elements of prayer we should make as a regular part of our worship (personal as well as collective) – Affirmation of God’s grace and glory, Our confession and receipt of forgiveness, and our requests for help in our intercessions.
In our current circumstances, we should perhaps particularly reflect on verse 7
“In the day of my trouble I call on thee, for thou dost answer me”

Finding God (Verses 8 -10)
The next three verses read like a response to that appeal. The Psalmist asserts his confidence that God will be there for him even on his darkest day.
As we’ve gone through the last three months, reflecting the impact of events on our personal life, our local community, and our nation, have we wondered where God is. Perhaps we have prayed for signs of his presence in those difficult times.
The Psalmist should give us confidence that God is and will be there, read the affirmation in verse 10
“For thou art great and doest wonderous things, thou alone art God”

Plea for Guidance (verses 11 -13)
In the third part, the Psalmist offers plea for God’s guidance:
“Teach me thy way, O Lord, that I may walk in thy truth”
At a point where our traditional patterns of support and worship have stopped, and we now starting to think about what happens next, how are we reaching out to God, to seek his guidance. Change presents all of us with a challenge, to our traditional expressions of faith, but also an opportunity to start renewed for the next stage of that journey. At points like this, the Psalmists asks us to be open to God’s guidance, but confident in his steadfast love.

My Faith (Verses 14 -17)
In the final section the Psalmist shares something of his personal faith, the challenges of living a faithful life; of being slow to anger, constant and faithful in the face of what the world throws at him. His honesty is refreshing but also his determination to continue to work faithfully, verse 16:
“Turn to me and take pity on me; give thy strength to thy servant”
Three weeks ago, we celebrated the feast of Pentecost when we were reminded of the gift of God’s Spirit as a sign of his blessing and his help as we journey through our world, proclaiming His Kingdom. Like the Psalmist aa we journey in faith we should be confident that our “Lord, has helped us and comforted us” (Verse 17) and will continue to do so.

A prayer for our journey of faith.
Hearing God,
Help us hear what You hear

Speaking God,
Help us receive what You say

Eye-opening God,
Help us see what You see

Amen

Mike Hart

Note all quotations from the Revised Standard Version

Posted: Sun 21st Jun 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 14th June 2020.

Exodus 19:2-8a, Psalm 100, Matthew 9:35-10:8 and Romans 5:1-8


Leaders of a small community, having heard of a serious threat heading in their direction, set off into the hills to find a place of refuge for their family and friends. Once they had found such a place they intended to return and lead the people into safety until the menace had gone away. They hoped the threat would pass leaving all unscathed.
After a long day of travelling, clambering over rocks and boulders, they decided to rest for the night. Seeing an opening in the hillside the weary souls took shelter. It was very dark and they were soon fast asleep. In the morning they found they had stumbled upon a cave which seemed to stretch way into the hillside. They decided to explore its depths and sent a message back home of their intention. It soon became obvious that they had stumbled upon a hidden passageway and they all wondered whether this would lead them to the place of safety they sought. They pressed on. It was not easy terrain, the tunnel was dark, they stumbled and fell but helped each other along, pooled their strengths and resources so made steady progress.
After some 80 or more days they glimpsed a speck of light ahead. It was quite a way off but there was now no turning back. They persevered and, encouraging one another, eventually emerged into a world where the birds were singing so loudly it drowned out their previous worries; the sky was bluer than they had ever known; in the valley below were people waving and shouting for joy at their sudden appearance.
Unknown to the explorers the threat had come so close that those they had left behind had decided to find another way round the hillside to reach a place of safety. Young and old had travelled together encouraging and supporting one another. The whole community was now reunited, the perseverance of each member meant they had come through the difficulties together and now had hope for their future together. As each person had found reward in being neighbourly and sharing their resources, knowledge and time with others they knew that life was going to be different from then on.
…We gladly suffer because we know that suffering helps us to endure, endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us… God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.[Romans 5: 3-6]
Shout praises to the LORD, everyone on this earth. Be joyful and sing as you come in to worship the LORD! You know the LORD is God! He created us, and we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep in his pasture. Be thankful and praise the LORD as you enter his temple. The LORD is good! His love and faithfulness will last forever.[Psalm 100]

Posted: Sun 14th Jun 2020

Garstang URC and Eco Church


At their meeting on 9th June, the Elders accepted without hesitation an offer from Mike Hart to coordinate and guide activities to extend our Eco Church achievements and adopt more ways of learning about God’s Creation and protecting the environment. Mike cannot do all this alone, and we should expect to hear of opportunities to become involved in the various projects he has in mind. These range from themed worship to revitalising areas of the church land and gardens, so there should be something for everyone. We thank Mike for his willingness to take on this role, and we wish him success in the months ahead. 

Posted: Thu 11th Jun 2020

Extracts from the URC leaders statement on racism.

The following statement and prayer comes from Karen Campbell, the United Reformed Church’s Secretary for Global and Intercultural Ministries, and the Moderators of the URC General Assembly, the Revd Nigel Uden and Derek Estill:
 
“I have come that you might have life in all its fullness.” Jesus Christ said this more than 2,000 years ago. But when will that fullness of life be afforded to all people – irrespective of the colour of their skin?
 
The United Reformed Church has no hesitation in adding its voice to the outrage and dismay expressed following the brutal killing of George Floyd. Floyd is the latest in a long line of black people killed in the USA by police officers - those whose sole authority comes from the motto “to protect and to serve”.
 
Together with our sister Churches in the USA, the United Reformed Church declares that racism - in any form - is a sin against humanity, and a sin against God, who created all people in God’s own image and likeness. As Christians, we heed Christ’s call that we should be one, we reaffirm our unity with all people through the love of our one parent-God, and we declare that it is meaningless to claim that "all lives matter" until Black Lives Matter.
 
Prayer
 
Eternal God,
deeply troubled by what is happening following George Floyd’s death,
and by too much other inhumanity that doesn’t reach the headlines,
we cry to you as the one
whose love was the victor at Easter and
who pours it into our hearts at Pentecost.
 
As we observe the pain of a fractured world,
use your love to drive us from sadness to compassion;
as we watch the pain of the bereaved,
use your love to move us from pity to companionship;
as we are faced with the pain of marginalised people,
use your love to point us from complacency to your commonwealth.
 
In our praying,
let us not just talk to you,
but yield to your love;
in our anger,
let us not just rail against injustice,
but manifest your love;
in our actions,
let us not just flail about aimlessly,
but build the civilisation of love.
 
Until none of us are disregarded for who we are
nor any diminished by what we fail to be,
we keep on praying in the name of Jesus Christ,
 
Amen
 
Posted: Mon 8th Jun 2020

Daleeen Ten Cate invites you all to a Partnership Online Communion and Coffee Morning this June.

Please join me for communion and fellowship around Jesus’ table on Thursday, 11th June @ 10am for the Lancashire North Missional Partnership.

Please join me for a brief act of worship and fellowship around the coffee table on Thursday, 25th June. Don’t forget to bring your coffee/tea in your favourite cup.

If you haven't signed up before, drop me an email and I'll send you a Zoom invite.  

Email: Daleen.TenCate@nwsynod.org.uk

Blessings, Daleen Ten Cate

Posted: Sun 7th Jun 2020

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