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15 November 2020: The Kingdom of God is like this …

As you know, we all are back in lockdown. Not quite as severe as last March, but still very aware that life remains in a strange place for all of us. We did manage three services at Ansty Road and it was good to be able to do that, if only so that we could officially re-open the building after the work was completed and test the viability of hybrid services. We were also forced to experiment with leading a service remotely when Chris tested positive for Covid and so we had to isolate. Thanks to Roger setting up the computer and screen in church so that I was able to lead from home. That may be something we have to think about in the future if those available to lead worship Sunday by Sunday are reduced.

I can also report that Chris has recovered from Covid and is back at work, and that despite her best efforts, I don’t seem to have caught the virus. This is where the virus is so strange, for many people it is just an inconvenience, for others it is gravely dangerous and none of us will know until we become infected. It meant that we spent our holiday watching daytime television and shredding old files – that was not quite what we had planned. 

We have decided to open Ansty Road for private prayers each weekday morning. It will allow those who want a different space the opportunity to come in, but we also wanted to be able to say to the local community that this building is back in action, and the church has never been away. We intend beginning again on a Sunday morning as soon as we can, so at the moment we anticipate that will be on 6 December – but of course that could change. In the meantime, I’m trying to plan Christmas – I must admit I’m struggling for inspiration but there are two decisions we can share:-

Our Coventry URC Advent course is entitled Light in Dark Times. Monday evenings, 23 November to 14 December, please ask for the zoom link, it won’t be advertised publicly. 

We will continue to support Coventry City Mission’s Giving Tree. Please donate money or purchase from their wish list at http://www.covcitymission.org.uk/ministries/givingtree.html

Our service on Sunday will be at 10:15am for a 10:30 start. It will include Communion so please have some bread and wine ready.  On Thursday at 7pm we will meet for prayers both on this zoom link  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83142689496. 

Prayers and Reflections for Sunday 15 November

Prayer

We lift up our eyes

to see your wonder and beauty

We lift up our eyes 

to see you enthroned in the heavens

We cast our eyes

to see the wonder of creation

We cast our eyes 

to see your image in each soul

We lower our eyes

seeking your mercy upon us

We lower our eyes

aware of our brokenness and pain

We close our eyes

from the scorn of those at ease

We close our eyes

from the contempt of the proud

We open up our eyes

to encounter your grace

We open up our eyes

to follow in your ways

We lift up our eyes

to see your wonder and beauty

We lift up our eyes 

to see you enthroned in the heavens

Hymn

Open the word to beauty and all wonder.
Open our hearts to story broken, bruised.
Open the world of hope and joyful welcome.
Open our wires to conversations new.

Look forward, hear of faith’s long re-adventure.
Look out to see the word explored to life.
Look in upon the passion of a dreamer,
Look onward, glimpse a world where freedom flows.

Now pen the fear of chaos and of anger.
Now pen the accents of lament, despair.
And shout the whisper of God’s re-creation
And speak the word of healing and repair.

Inspire our lives to loving word in action.
Inspire our song, to sing of grace-filled faith
And send us now to witness to God’s glory,
Reformed, reforming people come alive.

 © Craig Muir, 2010

Matthew 25:14-30

We have spent a lot of time in the Old Testament over the last few months, but now we are going to return to Matthew’s gospel and this challenging parable about investing in grace. It’s not a passage we can read in isolation, it’s part of a gospel whose central focus is in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) Blessed are the meek, they shall inherit the earth … You are the light of the world ….. So when we read about a slave who acts meekly in the face of a harsh cruel master who pours ridiculous prodigal wealth upon him before disappearing for many years expecting a tenfold or five fold return, are we really to suppose that this Master is meant to be God despite the rest of the gospel giving a totally different impression of God’s characteristics?

It is of course a passage much loved by a system that believes that wealth should beget wealth and people who acquire wealth deserve it because of their own hard work, or willingness to take risks with other people’s money. The third slave doesn’t buy into this system but on the face of it the outcome is disastrous for him. It also doesn’t help our reading of this passage that talent – a large sum of money – has been appropriated into English as an exceptional ability and so too many preachers follow the well worn line that we need to make best use of the talents we have been given. I hope we do, but not because of this passage or a fear of being condemned for not doing so. 

I wonder if it is in the story that follows (Matthew 25:31-46) that we begin to understand the parable of the talents. Do they stand in contrast with one another? Is this one a story about the way of the world with its love of abusive power and wealth and the second a story about the kingdom of heaven and its investment in hungry, thirsty, naked, strangers & prisoners. The world is worried about financial investments, cutting taxes, increasing consumption – salvation by spending money. We are called to invest in people, in particular those who don’t look like good investments. We are called to invest in God’s grace, to tell a story that spreads courage where there is fear, that spreads hope where there is despair, that returns our investment in God’s grace in further acts of kindness and courage. 

Back in the Old Testament reading set for this Sunday we gather under the palm of Deborah, (Judges 4) to discover wisdom. Perhaps the surprise in this narrative is that a woman is leading the nation, and strangely we are still surprised to discover that women can lead nations. If you read on, you will see that Sisera was surprised that Jael was not prepared to be used by him but could be just as brutal as he would have been to her (Judges 5:30) In doing so Jael is investing herself amongst the people led by Deborah and trusting her future to their future. In Matthew’s gospel our future is entrusted in one who blesses the poor in spirit, the mournful, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for right-ways, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peaceable; not the cruel tyrannical exploiter of human endeavour. 

Prayer

May we come to the palm of Deborah

and seek healing for a broken world:-

where evil reigns

where the voice of God is silenced

where the people are oppressed by cruel rule.

 

May we come to the palm of Deborah

and seek wise judgement:-

for those going before the courts

for those seeking reconciliation

for those who have been abused

 

May we come to the palm of Deborah

and find brave leadership:-

from the women who leads us

from men entrusted with authority

from communities working together

 

May we come to the palm of Deborah

and mourn the cruelty of warfare:-

the soldiers slain

the women raped

the cruel acts of survival

 

May we come to the palm of Deborah

and find the peace of God

for those who are sick …..

for those who are fearful ….

for those who mourn …

Hymn

Give thanks for life, the measure of our days,
mortal, we pass through beauty that decays,
yet sing to God our hope, our love, our praise,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Give thanks for hope, that like the seed of grain
Lying in darkness, does its life retain,
to rise in glory, growing green again.

Alleluia! Alleluia! 

Shirley Erena Murray (b1931-2020)  

 © 1987 Hope Publishing

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