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News: February 2021

The Elders have decided to extend the church Memorial Garden a short distance along the rear wall of the churchyard. This will involve cutting back or removing some overgrown shrubs, and levelling the ground. Management Committee will assist Barrie Mason with that work, which will be carried out when weather and lockdown restrictions permit. The extension will be laid out to match the existing plots. In addition, a new sturdy handrail has been installed along the Memorial Garden path, to provide easier and safer access. The metal handrail was designed and made specifically for us and so quite expensive, but a very generous contribution towards the cost has been received from Nevill Joseph, in memory of dear Hilda, his darling "Snowy". We thank Nevill for this gift, and join with him in fond memories of Hilda.

 

Posted: Sun 28th Feb 2021

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 28th February 2021.

Build on a strong foundation, Matthew 7:24-27.

The above is the theme for this year’s World Day of Prayer (WDP), to be observed this Friday 5th March. The service this year has been prepared by the Christian women of Vanuatu, a small country, located in the South Pacific Ocean. It is an amazing privilege that whoever we are, and wherever we are, as Christians, we can come together and pray around the same theme, as a visible demonstration of what unites us, than what divides us. I also find it meaningful, and of some significance, that WDP happens during the season of Lent, when we think again of Jesus, who lived and died to unite all believers as one.

There is a recognition in this year’s chosen theme: build on a strong foundation, that as Christians our foundation is Jesus Christ, the rock of our Salvation: We need to build our homes, our nations, and the world on the words of Jesus who reminded us about the golden rule – in everything to do to others as you would have them do to you; (Christian Woman of Vanuatu, 2021).

In the chosen passage in Matthew, there is one important difference between the two builders, both hear the words of Christ, but only one acts upon them. As Christians, our verbal professions of faith and loyalty to God, must be backed by doing his will. The foundations we need to build our lives on is Jesus and his words – not just words heard, but words applied, this is what will help us appreciate the good times, but also cope with the storms and battering of life. Below is a Prayer for Vanuatu and the World:

Everlasting God, the God on whom Vanuatu stands, we ask you to help us stand for peace in our families and our nations.
We want to stand against the forces of injustice present in our nations. Give us authority over our Islands and nations.
We pray that we can live in unity, love and peace in the context of ethnic and cultural diversity like Vanuatu and so many places around the world...
Almighty God, protect communities from disasters and suffering. Heal the souls of the people and let them feel your love…Amen (WDP, p.13, 2021)

Take care and blessing
Irene John

Posted: Sun 28th Feb 2021

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 21st February 2021.

Lent 1. Shrove Tuesday 2021.

Dear Friends,

“I will forever believe in second chances and forgiveness, because if it weren’t for those two things I would and should be dead.” So, writes Dedrick D. L. Pitter, an artist, author and poet.

As we journey through Lent, I would like to reflect on the notion of what we call ‘to be given a second chance’.

We can imagine the spiritual high Moses must have felt as he came down from Mount Sinai carrying the tablets containing God’s new Covenant with the Israelites, written with his divine finger. This rush of joy and excitement is quickly replaced by anger and despair as Moses observes the Israelites worshipping the Golden Calf. In response Moses destroys the two tablets.

Both God and Moses are angry at the people’s actions, and despite the punishment God inflicts on the Israelites he invites Moses once more to cut two tablets of stone so that he can again write upon them his covenant. Once more God comes to Moses in the cloud upon the mountain, and thus passes before him saying,

“The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”.
(Exodus 34:6)

Here God is offering his people, past and present, a second chance. I was drawn to the above quote from Dedrick Pitter because of its refreshing honesty on the need for second chances. I am not too sure if he would describe himself as a Christian but his words catch the deep sense of urgency in what we would know as the grace of God.

Many ask how the church can grow, especially in these demanding days? We grow by living and modelling a God-centred life where forgiveness and second chances set us apart from the cut and thrust of self-preservation.

Where would we be if the risen Jesus had not forgiven Peter and given him a second chance by inviting him to lead the early church? Paul was given a second chance to become the apostle to the Gentiles, both by Jesus and by those he had set out to persecute.

All too often we fall short of what is expected of us as Christian disciples, yet God offers to us his forgiveness and the daily possibility of that second chance. So, let us in humility respond to God’s generosity by starting afresh, grounded in God’s forgiveness in Christ. The world has many ways of telling us that we are not worth this gift from God, but we are and we should use it wisely.

If God has offered us this second chance then we must offer the same second chance to those that have hurt or ignored us. Once we do then God’s love and light pours into our lives and our world!

With every blessing,

John Gordon

Posted: Sat 20th Feb 2021

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 14th February 2021 - Valentine’s day.

Valentine’s day, also called Saint Valentine or Valentinus day, comes from Valens (Latin) meaning worthy, powerful, strong. This name was used to describe and celebrate many Christian martyrs who lived in ancient Rome. One in particular, was a kind hearted and caring Roman priest, who is said to have loved God with all his heart. He ministered to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire, and also performed weddings for Christian soldiers against the wishes of the Emperor Claudius 11. He was beheaded on 14th February, around 270BC – 14th February, became a feast day, established in his honour by Pope Gelasius, AD 496.

Today the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day has evolved into the romantic and sensual love (Greek Eros). However, as Christians, Valentine’s day is much more than Eros, as it includes brotherly/sisterly, or neighbourly love (Greek Agape). Agape love reminds us of how Christ fulfilled God’s unconditional and sacrificial love for us his brothers and sisters by taking the path that led to his death and resurrection.

An example of agape love, mirroring Jesus’ unconditional love, was presented to us last week, at the Garstang URC Leprosy Sunday service. The worship was led by Paul Moores, (Regional Manager, The Leprosy Mission). It was very moving seeing the commitment of the leprosy mission team in Mozambique, including the changemakers (some disfigured by leprosy), in showing the unconditional love of Christ to other victims of this cruel disease. One of the people featured in the presentation, is Deolina, a mother of two, who was cured of leprosy 15years ago. Touched by the love and care she received, she trained to become a Leprosy Changemaker. She wants to do whatever it takes to help others recently diagnosed with leprosy. The slogan for this year’s leprosy appeal is: Unconditional love - No Matter How Long; No Matter How Far; No Matter What. (To donate or find out more, ask your church treasurer or go to unconditionalappeal.org.uk).

I wonder whether we can say that the above Leprosy Mission slogan is a model of love that we practice? How far are we willing to go to demonstrate the love of Christ to others? We are morally obligated to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. We must love enough to recognise the needs represented by others, and show empathy by responding with appropriate actions.
Remember that the smallest deed we do for someone else is better than our greatest intentions. You are to: do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can (John Wesley)
Please fill in the gaps below, as a reminder that Jesus is God’s valentine gift to us:

For God so lo-ed the world
That He g-ve
His on-y
Begott-n
So-
-hat whosever
Bel-eveth in Him
Should -ot perish
But have -verlasting life (John 3:16)

Take care and blessing
Irene John


Thought of the Week, Sunday, 7th February 2021, by Rev John Gordon.

Dear Friends,

We all like a good story!

We explain ourselves and understand our world by the stories we tell and the stories we listen to. Many of us during this third lockdown may have been reading more to escape from the pain around us. Maybe we are reading our Bibles, poetry and prose to reimagine the world we now live in and to give our days routine, structure and purpose. We are surrounded by narratives that have the power to reshape our lives.

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy -

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus….
I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message;
be persistent
whether the time is favourable or unfavourable;
convince, rebuke, encourage,
with the utmost patience in teaching”.
(2 Timothy 4: 1 – 2)

In these words, Paul encourages Timothy to keep pressing home the story, the message, of the Good News of Jesus. In other words, tell people his story of how Jesus has changed his life and how Jesus can change other lives too. People need to be told how Jesus has the power to heal and transform the lives of ordinary people.

This doesn’t have to be more complicated than sharing the stories of our daily life with a friend about how you feel God’s blessing listening to the dawn chorus or watching a beautiful sunset. Love and beauty and our senses are a gift from God. Sharing our personal God-centred stories with somebody explaining how you feel God’s presence walking along the beach has the power to inspire and change.

In his 1972 novel, “A Story Like the Wind”, Laurens Van der Post writes:

“The story is like the wind,” the Bushman prisoner said, “It comes from a far-off place, and we feel it.”

I like the image contained in these words of how the words of a story travel mysteriously in the wind of time from a strange place and yet the story can be felt deep within a person’s soul and change the present circumstances.

So, as we share in conversation our own life story with friends and strangers alike, we allow the Holy Spirit in our lives and between us to awaken our need to find purpose in God’s presence.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 some analysis was done to see how people had coped with the trauma of having their world disappearing around them.
It was observed how Christians coped well because the stories of God’s Covenant and the kingdom of God contained within the Bible gave people of faith not only hope but stability in an ever-changing world.

So, Paul was right to encourage Timothy to press home at every opportunity to share the Good News story of Jesus. We would be wise to do the same.

With every blessing.

Reverend John Gordon.
 

Posted: Sun 7th Feb 2021

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