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News: August 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 30th August 2020.

The Summer of 2020 – I believe tomorrow’s sun is always burning, round the rim of night (J.B. Lawrence)

This summer has been an unforgettable one! As it’s nearly at an end, and autumn begins to peep out, what lasting memories do you have of summer 2020? Do your memories include the continuing impact of the global covid-19 pandemic? Is it the demonstrations against institutional racism, and those against unjust systems of governance? Or, is it the heat wave, followed by the unseasonal wind and rain? Is it the opportunity to travel and spend more time with family and friends? Is it the increase use of digital technology? Do your memories include the birdsong, the rich variety of colours and textures of the landscape?
Whatever our memories of summer 2020, we can include the goodness of our ever-present God, whose love is beyond measure, and who is the only constancy in an ever-changing world. Below is a picture of a sunflower, sent to me by Alison Hale (Trinity Lancaster). This sunflower, grew from a tiny seed, planted by her dad, and against all odds, surmounted all obstacles to become a 2m tall plant - Its majestic beauty represents, the mystery and miracle of life, pointing to the faithfulness of the God, who gives strength for each new day, and hope for each tomorrow.

The hymnwriter recognised the trustworthy nature of God in the words of this hymn:
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
there is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
as Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness,
great is Thy faithfulness;
morning by morning
new mercies I see;
all I have needed
Thy hand hath provided, -
great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

(Thomas O. Chisholm, 1866-1960)

Take care and blessings
Irene John

Posted: Sun 30th Aug 2020

 Thought of the Week, Sunday, 26th August 2020.

There is more to life than measuring its speed. Let me look upward into the branches of a towering oak and know that it grew great and strong because it grew slowly and well. Slow me down Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life's enduring values. [Author unknown]

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 A time for everything.
For the last 4 weeks I have been meeting with Ann Wicks and 4 others in Ann’s garden on a Sunday morning. It began when we were allowed to meet with up to 6 people in our gardens [social distancing has been observed at all times]. We all take a poem, reading or article which has inspired, given hope or generally encouraged us especially during the difficult times we have been living through this year. We listen, reflect and comment on what we hear. Last week a theme seemed to develop around trees. During this week as I thought more about what I had heard I realised that trees have a relevance to each of our own lives.

Other than people, trees are mentioned more than any other creation in the Bible. There is a tree in the first chapter of Genesis and at the end of Revelation.
Trees make life possible. They provide us with food, shelter, shade and beauty. They lower temperatures, filter water, remove harmful carbon dioxide and replace it with the oxygen we need to breathe to keep us alive. Beyond meeting our physical needs, trees can teach us things. Anyone who has ever planted any kind of seed knows that they all need light to help them grow. Trees, and we, are no different. A tree naturally seeks light; we find our light in Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” [John 8:12] so we can follow the example of the trees and seek the Light of the world by reading His teachings and following them as best as we are able.
As well as light, trees need water and plenty of it. Psalm 1 exhorts believers to be like a trees “… planted by rivers of water” encouraging meditating on on God’s law i.e. studying and drinking in what the Bible reveals about God’s will and plan for our lives. Given light and water enables a tree to put down deep roots which in turn enables it to grow strong and healthy. Ready to face the storms that may rage around it. The deeper our “roots” go in the Bible, the more we’re able to withstand the trials, troubles, and other threats that come our way.
Ann has a crab apple tree in her garden covered in fruits which are yet to mature. Planting crab apple trees encourages insects and pollinators into the garden which then benefit everything else growing there. What good would any apple tree or other plant be if it never produced a crop or seeds? Likewise, our lives should produce meaningful fruit and help others to do the same. Jesus said that we’d be known by the fruit we produce (Matt 7:16-20).
Genesis 1:11-12 mentions not just one variety of tree, but various kinds. They are not mentioned just for their beauty, but because each gives fruit with seeds in it. We cannot produce fruit of any kind unless we have strong roots and healthy minds based on what we read and learn from the Bible. In Ecclesiastes 3:1 we read that ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.’ As we learn and grow with our roots firmly embedded in the knowledge that God is in overall control, we are all free to produce our own different fruit in abundance for the benefit of others.

Sally Watson with grateful thanks to my friends in Ann’s ‘Sunday Bubble’.

Posted: Tue 25th Aug 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday,16th August 2020.

How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony! Ps.133:1
In Psalm133 (a lectionary reading for this week), we have two images describing the beauty of God’s family here on earth: Firstly, there is the image of Aaron’s anointing oil, saturating his beard and running down his robe, signifying God’s grace, and his total consecration for holy service. Secondly, there is the dew of Mount Hermon; a high mountain in Northern Galilee, from whose base flow the source of the river Jordan. The dew, from its snow-covered mountain was a constant source of nourishment and fruitfulness for all. In the passage a link is made between Hermon and Zion, the hill city of Jerusalem - even though in different locations, both are referred to as members of the same family, called to live together in harmony. These images are linked to us, and the degree of communal harmony that should unite us, bringing fruitfulness for God’s glory.
There is beauty and blessing in accepting each other as a part of God’s family. Acceptance helps us develop companionship and trust with others, as a vital expression of our fellowship in Christ, through His Spirit. We are part of a family, that transcends the natural bonds of physical kinship, and is made sacred by the love of God. God is calling us to live together in harmony with each other - such harmony will help us to enjoy the common bond we have in Jesus Christ. This kind of harmony will help to break down the walls and fences that divide us, thereby ensuring that we display the grace and love of God as a model for community life. Living in harmony is not an easy option, as it does not exclude the need for accountability, integrity, fairness and justice, but it does include graciousness and kindness, standing alongside each other in our shortcomings and achievements, becoming responsible, faithful and trustworthy in all our dealings. Living together in harmony is a gift – as members of the same family do you hold each other as precious gifts from God?
Brother, Sister, let me serve you, 
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to 
let you be my servant too. 
We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other 
walk the mile and bear the load. (Richard Gillard, 1953-) 
Take care and blessings
Irene John
Posted: Sun 16th Aug 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 9th August 2020.

Psalm 105: v1-6, 16-22, 45b and Matthew 14v 22-35

The focus of much of my work for the Synod over the last 10 days has reminded me of the interconnectedness of our lives as Christians not just in this country but across the world. As some of you will know, the Synod has a longstanding partnership with the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan. They have sent us, for our churches, a gift of 10,000 face masks. A wonderful expression of Christian love and charity. It’s been a delight to be able to tell people about this generosity, from individuals as I deliver another set of parcels to the post office, to the audience of Radio Lancashire’s Sunday Breakfast Show. But from that simple gift also comes responsibility to make the best use of what we’ve been given. So in deciding how these masks should be shared, I’ve been reminded of the many ways in which Churches in our area reach out in love to people in their community, through support for refugees and asylum seekers, in opening their buildings to local food banks, and running community cafés to provide food to the homeless.
Today’s Psalm uses the story of Jacob and Joseph to remind its readers of the stories of God’s goodness in our lives and the lives of our community. As with them, I feel blest by the understanding of God’s goodness that I have received this week. As the Psalm ends “Praise the Lord!”, so I respond “Amen!”
But If the Psalm reminds us of God’s providence, so the passage from Matthew reminds us of God’s presence, in time when we are faced with difficult decisions or situations. Here are the disciples floundering in a boat on the storm-tossed Sea of Galilee, seeing what they think is a ghost walking across the water towards them. But as Peter walks towards him his human uncertainties are balanced by the power of our faithful God.
Next week our Elders will meet to discern under God’s guidance how we can best move forward as a fellowship into the next chapter of our journey together. Its easy to characterise this as a binary decision about whether or not to reopen buildings for worship, but the reality is far more complex. Being a church is about how we worship together, how we have fellowship together and how we serve together in mission. If you’ve read Brenda’s history of our church, you will have sensed both the faithfulness of those who have gone before us, but also how in the twists and turns, sorrows and joys, they have never felt abandoned, despite the countless storms. We find ourselves today at one of those twists and turns and I hope you will join with me in remembering our Elders and the responsibility they bear, in thinking about our shared future, in your prayers at this time.

Mike Hart

Posted: Sun 9th Aug 2020

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Posted: Sun 2nd Aug 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 2nd August 2020.

Genesis 32: 22-24

That night…a man wrestled with him till daybreak 

Jacob was experiencing a crisis in his life. He wrestles throughout the long night with God for his blessing, by day break a new Jacob called Israel was born. As was with Jacob, there are times in all our lives when we wrestle throughout the long night, until we are exhausted and feel we could do, or take no more - Times when the sun disappears, and dark clouds of trouble obscure the sky. Times when faith is changed to fear and doubt - When joy gives way to sadness and desperation, and when cheerfulness and laughter falls silent. When guilt, tears, pain, loneliness and anxiety dominate. But in time the dawn breaks anew, and the darkness clears, because God’s love is always shining.

This was the experience of the writer of the hymn: O love that wilt not let me go, sung last Sunday, during Hest Bank’s Zoom service, led by Brenda Mills. The writer, George Matheson, a Scottish Presbyterian minister, attained distinction as a preacher, author and hymnwriter of many hymns. Sadly, his personal problems including blindness in early adulthood, got him to the point of despair. He felt like giving up, but discovered that God hadn’t let him go. He says: I was sitting alone in my study, in a state of great mental depression caused by a real calamity. My hymn was the voice of my depression. In that ‘night time’ of distress, and in a short space of time, the inner voice spoke to him the words of the hymn:

O Love that wilt not let me go, 

I rest my weary soul in Thee;

I give Thee back the life I owe, 

that in Thine ocean depths its flow

May richer fuller be. 


And even though blind he added:

O Light, that followest all my way, 

I yield my flickering torch to Thee; 

My heart restores its borrowed ray,

That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day 

may brighter, fairer be. (George Matheson, 1842-1906)

In the night time of our struggles, when we wrestle with many challenges, may daylight reappear, and may we all experience the love and light of the God who will not let us go.

Take care and blessings

Irene John

Posted: Sun 2nd Aug 2020

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