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News: July 2020

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

 

Colossians 3:12-17 

During lockdown, we were all on restricted movement, and some are still needing to exercise caution for a little longer. We all probably had times, and maybe still have times, when it’s difficult finding beauty in the routine of the ordinary. Too often, the endless round of daily duties, that seemed uplifting at the start of lockdown, now seems burdensome. We now struggle with being cheerful amid the mundane and tediousness of routine. Thinking about this made me recall the story of Nicholas Herman, commonly called brother Lawrence, who lived in France in the 17th Century. He grew up in humble surroundings, with very little formal education. In his teens, he was initially employed as a footman, but he says, he was awkward and broke everything he handled. Trying to figure out who he was before God, he made a commitment to his Christian faith at 18, and at 24 he joined the Carmelite Order, as a lay brother. He was assigned to work, as a cook in the monastery kitchen, where he was committed to fulfil his duties as in the presence of God: The time of business, he said, does not differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.

Although, brother Lawrence spent most of the time in obscurity in the monastery kitchen, he made a lasting impact, so much so, that after his death, his friends complied a book of his letters and conversations called ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’. Equally, before Lawrence’s time, St. Paul, in Colossians, saw every activity, every endeavour as something for which we should thank God, and that we should do for his glory. To recall his words: let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever, be done in the name of Master Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. Friends, let us be encouraged and challenged to practice the presence of God, taking him into the significant, the ordinary and every day. 

I leave you with some words of brother Lawrence: Lord, of all pots and pans and things, since I’ve no time to be a saint by doing lovely things, or watching late with Thee, or dreaming in the dawn night, or storming heaven’s gates, make me a saint by getting meals, and washing up the plates. Warm all the kitchen with Thy love, and light it with Thy peace; Forgive me all my worrying, and make all grumbling cease…accept this service that I do – I do it unto thee (Brother Lawrence, 1616-1691)

Take care and blessings

Irene John  

Posted: Sun 26th Jul 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 19th July 2020

Reflection: Who am I?

Lectionary Readings: Genesis 28 v10 -19a, Matthew 13 v24-30, 36-43

I am not always the greatest fan of lavish TV dramas but next Sunday I am looking forward to the start of the adaptation of Vikram Seth’s novel of post partition India, “A Suitable Boy”. My interest stems from the fact that I hope before the TV drama starts, I will have completed reading the book.

From the title and a cursory reading of the first chapter, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is some straightforward tale of a mother’s search for the right future husband for her remaining unmarried daughter. However, whilst that is an important strand of the tale, the novel has a far broader palette to cover in addressing questions of personal identity, between generations, within families, through political affiliations, and of course religious observance, all in 1500 pages. 

So, what has this to do with the readings that the lectionary has to offer us this week. I want to particularly turn to the reading from Genesis. Those of you who use the URC’s Daily Devotion will have come across this passage not long ago as part of a whistle-stop tour of some of the highlights (and lowlights) of Genesis and Exodus. Here we find Jacob in flight from home after acquiring his brother’s birth-right by trickery and deception. As he sleeps, God comes to him in his dreams and sets out the full span of his inheritance:

·      his past: his family history, 

·      the present: the place where he finds himself, 

·     his future: the legacy his actions and offspring will leave

All because God roots Jacob in His identity and offers Jacob the same covenant as he offered to Abraham. In that and Jacob’s response his identity becomes entwined with God.

As we seek to follow Jesus what are the things in your self-identity that you draw from your family; from where you grew up, or other places that you live, from what you do and from your understanding of God. Some of that is easy, for me I can say I grew up in the URC (or the Congregational Church as it was until I was nearly 9); I had a rather nomadic early childhood, so I have a restlessness about place; and obviously my finance qualifications defines a lot of what I do. But if those are the simple bits, more complex and challenging is my understanding of scripture and my faith in Jesus.

If the Genesis reading asks us about who we are, then the parable from Matthew challenges us about what we do, about how we live a righteous life, and the contrast with those who choose not to. The modern translation of tares as “weeds” loses much of the sharpness of the old comparison – tares were something particularly horrible if eaten. For the Hebrews, righteous is a doing word (a verb) so in the Gospels the identity of followers of Jesus is not simply about who we are but about what we do to further His kingdom. Perhaps verse 43 should be read as “those keeping the commands of God will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father (note the Biblical pun!). 

So, in our identity as followers of Jesus we need to be proud of our identity and what makes us each who we are, but we must also listen with our ears to understand what that means we must do. (Matthew 13 v 44). Sorry Biblical pun number 2!)

 

A short prayer

Thank you, God for all that you are.

Thank you that I find myself in you and that my identity come from who you say I am

Thank you for my past, my present and my future hope

Help me to inhabit my inheritance

Help me to live out my identity in Christ for all to see.

Amen

 

Mike Hart

Posted: Sat 18th Jul 2020

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

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