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Vine Branches: 2 May 2021

Dear Friends

One of the by-products of just having Ansty Road to work with on a regular basis is that I’m catching up on some reading. I’ve just finished reading Sacraments after Christendom, by Andrew Francis and Janet Sutton. Andrew and Janet are both URC ministers and Janet has been a friend since we worked together in Manchester. It is a book they have been working on for a couple of years, but the pandemic has allowed them to reflect more urgently on the way the pandemic has re-shaped the church and in particular our use of sacraments to be “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible means of Grace” (Cranmer). They explore the different ways that we have viewed Sacraments across traditions and wonder about their use in a culture that is no longer predominantly Christian, to be moments of grace. 

As ever, there was much to think about, particularly how this human-divine encounter has been experienced as we have met through computer screens or in some cases not met at all. Part of the hope of these letters and the worship material attached is that we each have the opportunity to experience God in our own homes in a way that is distinctive from the zoom services and at the time of our choosing. Is that a sacred moment? Could it be regarded as a Sacrament if we are not meeting together? And for those who do meet on zoom and who have continued the practice of sharing bread and wine together once a month, does that feel as sacred in the way that it might when we gather in a church? 

The book concludes that whether these moments are Sacraments or not will be determined by our understanding of “how one believes God acts in the world through the Holy Spirit.” But that essential in any action is the way in which we are allowed to remember our stories of faith and use such remembering as a point as which we begin again. “If we look closely, we can see, in each historic church tradition, the movement of God’s Spirit – “Behold, I do a new thing.” – unfolding fresh patterns of the human-divine encounter. Today is no different. The journey of God’s people is never static but ongoing,  more evidently now than ever. Our primary task is to follow the words, works and ways of Jesus faithfully in our gathering and in our scattering … and – unnerving as the thought might be – to be open to all that God promises us through the power of the Holy Spirit.” ( Francis, Sutton, p135)

We are preparing for a post-pandemic church, and it feels good to be preparing to begin again. We are preparing for a new way of working in a building that has also been transformed. In doing so we must be open to all that God promises us. The path forward still feels uncertain, a little unsettling –  yet we can step onwards in faith.

As we head into May we would normally be gearing up for Christian Aid Week which this year runs from 10- 16 May. But once again we will not be doing door to door collections. This means that our contribution towards Christian Aid this year will be highly dependant uponour own giving, although we do hope to arrange an event when we feel we can.

Our service on May 9th will focus on Christian Aid but the issues they are encouraging us to engage with are there all the year round. Once again CA are focusing on climate change. Here is one person’s story:-

I am 19-year-old Glory, from the Philippines. I want to share my story to urge you all to take care of our environment, our Earth … we must act on the crisis of climate change. I live on a small island of Tabugon, Carles with my family. It’s beautiful and peaceful, with fresh air, coral reefs, and fresh seafood. But it is changing. Living on an island is very challenging. I really feel the impact of climate change. … As local fisherfolk, our lives depend on the sea.

Climate change has made the weather … unpredictable. At times we’ve not had enough to eat due to a low fish catch. My parents cannot afford to provide food or a school allowance. At present, water is very scarce, so we need to cross another island to buy water, even though it’s very risky for us. I feel so sad every time I witness senseless and uncaring people destroying our environment. … It also breaks my heart when I see children in our community suffering from poverty, because their livelihood is so affected by climate change, just like my parents. … I campaign to protect our ocean, like spreading the word for people not to throw their garbage or dump used motor oil in the sea. I also plant fruit trees and flowers in our yard. … residents in our village are involved in environmental and coastal management, like mangrove planting and sea patrolling to keep away the illegal fishermen.

We still remember typhoon Haiyan. We were so scared of the strong winds. The roof of our house was blown off. We sheltered in our kitchen, but then strong winds blew the coconut trees onto our kitchen. We panicked and cried. We decided to evacuate to our church but we couldn’t go immediately because of the falling trees and other debris flying around. With our trust in God, we were able to evacuate despite the danger and cold. 

My message for the world is that, we need to be responsible. We should be concerned on protecting our surroundings because this have been created for us. We have the wisdom to know what is right and what is wrong. When I found out about Greta Thunberg, I realised how important it is for us young people to be involved in climate change. Especially for us who live on isolated islands and rely upon fishing. I feel angry at those who are abusing our natural resources.

https://donate.christianaid.org.uk/Donate/

This Sunday our Service will led by the Elders  at 10:30am on our usual ZOOM LINK. 

On Thursday, I will lead prayers in church at 10am, and Isabel will lead Prayers on the Sunday zoom link at 7pm

be blessed,  Craig

 

Worship for 2 May 2021 

– put together by Craig and will be different from the service led by the Elders on zoom.

Hymn

Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,

a place where saints and children tell

how hearts learn to forgive;

built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;

here the love of Christ shall end divisions:

All are welcome,

all are welcome,

all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where all are named, their songs and visions heard

and loved and treasured, taught and claimed 

as words within the Word.

Built of tears and cries and laughter,

prayers of faith and songs of grace,

let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:

All are welcome,

Marty Haugen (b.1950)  © 1994, GIA Publications, Inc. Text: © 1994, GIA Publications, Inc. 

One Licence A-632955

Prayer 

God who births love

revealed amongst us

shining from companions;

May love flow through our hearts,

be present on our lips,

flow through each encounter.

God who reveals love,

sent among us,

abiding with us;

May the Beloved Word

remain in us,

restore our souls.

God who abides in love,

dancing with the Spirit,

testifying to hope;

May we live through love

speak out with love,

act as children of love. 

 

God who encourages love,

casting out fear,

making life perfect;

may we be bold before judgement,

aware that love renews

that we belong to God

Before your love

we bring our pain, our lies,

the wrong we know is within us,

our brokenness 

all we struggle to love;

May we receive your forgiveness,

your mercy and grace.

God who commands love,

as the one who first loved us,

as the one who loves all creation;

May we love all that is created by you,

all who abide in you,

all whose love is birthed in you.

Craig Muir, based on 1 John 4 

Bible: John 15:1-8

Reflection Christ is the vine, we are the branches and on this vine there is room for diversity, for a variety of ways of being connected to Christ. The central issue is are we connected? Is Christ abiding in us? and how will anyone know? This vine creates space, a home for all sorts of people. Some we are comfortable with for they are like us. They look and speak like us, we share values and imagine a future much like the one we have known.

Sometimes, we look across at another branch and wonder if we belong together. Are we really connected to the same vine. They look different, act differently, have language and mannerisms that don’t feel right, yet we can see that their fruit is loving and people are being nourished in love.

I love the diversity of the vine; the ability to learn from those who might be considered very conservative or very liberal and finding the same deep love that takes us into working against social injustice, and supporting those who are in need, learning from so many different people with a deep love of  scripture that roots their ethics in those of accepting people for who they are and how they see themselves, discovering that Christ abides in each of us  even if sometimes we struggle to abide each other. 

I believe there is room for diversity on this vine, space for us to grow together, learn together, to model a way of living with different views, of reading scripture in different ways and yet still being connected to Christ the vine.  The fruit of such diversity is love, and that love is the nourishment our communities need. Fruitful branches are places filled with love and the fruit that a vine grows is not for the nourishment of the vine, but for those who will pick it, eat it and be nourished by it. May we be people who nourish. 

Hymn

Jesus the Lord said I am the Bread

The Bread of Life for the world am I

The Bread of Life for the world am I

The Bread of Life for the world am I

Jesus the Lord said I am the Bread

The Bread of Life for the world am I

 

Jesus the Lord said I am the Vine

the true and fruitful vine am I.

 

Jesus the Lord said I am the Life

The Resurrection and the Life am I

Dermott Monahan © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

God of abundant life, we see your goodness all around us 

and we thank you for every part of it;

from the plants and animals which play their part in complex ecosystems,

to the dry deserts and stormy seas which test the limits of life.

We pray that in this time of climate crisis and ecological emergency,

you may help us to rediscover your love of creation 

and to reflect that in our own lives.

God who speaks through unexpected people,

We thank you for contemporary prophets

 who are challenging us to act on climate change;

for indigenous people and their invaluable knowledge

 of the land and sea where they live,

for scientists dedicating their careers 

to warning us about changes to the planet,

and for young people striking for their future.

We pray that you will help those in power to hear their prophetic voices.

Help them to see beyond short-term political priorities and business plans. Give, wisdom and courage when they face difficult decisions.

God of second chances,

we recognise the damage we have done to the Earth

and the injustice we see in society every day,

all of it fuelled by worship of profit and possessions.

We pray for the coming of a better world 

with justice, kindness and humility at its heart.

We ask that you guide us to be co-creators of this new world.

Give us confidence to follow the prophetic voices

to stand against injustice to people and to the planet.

So that together, in your strength, we stop this climate crisis.

From Christian Aid Worship Resources

https://www.christianaid.org.uk/resources/appeals/order-service-song-prophets

Loving Lord Jesus,

You told the disciples not to be afraid on the first Easter Sunday.

Help us not to be afraid as the restrictions are eased

but to trust in Your strength.

Give us the strength we need to move 

towards the uncertainty of a new normal.

Enable us to speak of you to those in distress and those who are afraid.

Fill us with The Holy Spirit and empower us to live our lives for You.

Amen

John Collings, Lay Preacher, Rutherglen URC 

https://urc.org.uk/general/3729-prayers-during-the-pandemic.html

Hymn

The love of God comes close

Where stands an open door

To let the stranger in

To mingle rich and poor

The love of God is here to stay

Embracing those who walk His way

 

The grace of God comes close

To those whose grace is spent

When hearts are tired or sore

And hope is bruised or bent

The grace of God is here to stay

Embracing those who walk His way

 

The Son of God comes close

Where people praise His name

Where bread and wine are blest

And shared as when He came

The Son of God is here to stay

Embracing those who walk His way

Graham Maule | John L. Bell

© 1988, 1997 WGRG, c/o Iona Community, Glasgow, Scotland (Admin. by Wild Goose Resource Group) CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Categories
News Sermon URC Daily Devotions

25 April 2021: Speaking Holy Words

Dear Friends

It’s been a funny old day. In the  morning I thought my days of heading to Manchester to watch football were over. But by the evening order has been restored, football is back to being controlled by some incompetent greedy people instead of some super incompetent greedy people and whenever we are allowed to return I might have to do so. So I spent the day preparing for Sunday whilst following the emerging story on the internet. In the passage from Acts that we will look at, Peter has the crowds on his side whilst those in power are looking to silence him and ensure that only their voice is heard. Human behaviour hasn’t really changed much in 2000 years. Sometimes we need to review our decisions and head in a different direction.

We have also had to review our plans for Ball Hill. For a while now our attempts to lease a shop premises so that we could work from there as well as Ansty Road have been struggling. Last week it became clear to the Steering Group that we had to re-think our plans and we have decided that the project on Ball Hill can not go ahead. Hopefully new ideas will emerge in the weeks ahead but for the moment we continue to look forward to being able to meet at church again in a few weeks time. All being well, those plans will not change.

In other news, I’m sure many felt for the Queen sitting on her own at Prince Philip’s funeral. It felt very strange that no one was able to sit with her. But it was a poignant reminder that whatever trappings of power we live with, there are times when we are each one person alone with our own grief. We know that she is a person of great faith and I hope that is sustaining her through this time and whatever years she has left amongst us. 

May our own faith also sustain each of us.

This Sunday our Service will led by myself at 10:30am on our usual ZOOM LINK. 

On Thursday, I will lead prayers in church at 10am, and Isabel will lead Prayers on the Sunday zoom link at 7pm

be blessed, 

Craig

 

Worship for 25 April 2021

Hymn The Lord’s my Shepherd I’ll not want

He makes me lie in pastures green

He leads me by the still still waters

His goodness restores my soul

And I will trust in You alone

And I will trust in You alone

For Your endless mercy follows me

Your goodness will lead me home

He guides my ways in righteousness

And He anoints my head with oil

And my cup it overflows with joy

I feast on His pure delights

And though I walk the darkest path

I will not fear the evil one

For You are with me

And Your rod and staff

Are the comfort I need to know

Stuart Townend © 1996 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Integrity Music)

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Prayers Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd

as a shepherd gathers their flock

so You have gathered us today

drawing us in to the shelter of Your flock

to feed and refresh us.

Some of us come before You rejoicing,

because our path has led us through green pastures

and You have filled our cup of happiness to overflowing.

Some of us come before You battered and bruised by life,

because our path has led us through dark and frightening valleys

and we need to know Your strength restoring our souls.

Some of us, like foolish sheep, come before You ashamed,

because we have wandered astray instead of following You

and now we come to seek for Your forgiveness.

If we have followed the crowd, doing as others did,

forgetting that we are pledged to follow You,

then, Good Shepherd, set us right.

If we have chosen to do what we want

rather than act out of love for others

and have found ourselves in difficulties,

then Good Shepherd set us right.

If we have been so preoccupied with other things

that we have stopped listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd,

then Good Shepherd set us right.

Bring us back from where we have wandered

and set our feet on the path that leads to life.

Speak Your word of pardon, Lord

and remind us that You said:

“I have come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

May each of us know that we matter to You,

however far away we may have strayed.

May we hear Your voice afresh during our service today

and draw closer to You before we leave.

May we entrust the week ahead to You

and have the courage to follow You day by day.

For we pray this in Your name.

 Colin Sinclair Posted on the Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website.

Bible Acts 3:1-12a, Acts 4:1-12

Reflection The Acts of the Apostles tells the stories of Easter through the lives of the people who had known Jesus and were now looking to follow his example in their own lives. Here we find a man born to be a beggar whose life was changed when Peter offered him more than silver and gold. As a result he was found dancing with joy praising God. Peter could have left it like that, carried on into the temple and completed his prayers. But the crowd needed to hear as well as see good news so Peter took the opportunity to make it clear that this was done in the name of Jesus because good news stories have the power to change lives.

But, “speaking holy words has consequences.” Peter’s actions bring him into direct confrontation with power and in the second part of the passage we find Peter and John accused of heresy and sedition because he dares to call into question the gods of our age – wealth, privilege and self-appointed power. They were questioned, expected to account for their own authority by those who never account for their own power and evaluated by their background, social status, education, gender, ethnicity. However speaking in the name of Jesus,  Peter turns the tables, breaks the power structure and disempowers elites, for he stands with the man healed by the power of Jesus and they can’t comprehend such power nor escape the true judge. 

This is one of the stories we included as part of our Mission Background when we formed Ansty Road. It represents those moments when we celebrate the good news of a life transformed in the name of Jesus. Our aim is to create those moments through regular prayer, by seeing God in action and sharing those stories with our community. It seems that we can’t do that on Ball Hill any more, but we can do it around Ansty Road and in the places where we each live. It’s time to be condemned for good deeds and dance for joy and we do so.

 

Hymn

God is love His the care

Tending each everywhere

God is love all is there

Jesus came to show Him

That we all might know Him

Sing aloud loud loud

Sing aloud loud loud

God is good

God is truth

God is beauty

Praise Him

 

Jesus came, lived and died

For our sake crucified

Rose again glorified

He was born to save us

By the truth He gave us

None can see God above

Sing aloud loud loud

 

Jesus shows how to love

Thus may we Godward move

Joined as sisters brothers

Finding Him in others

Sing aloud loud loud

 

To our Lord praise we sing

Light and life, friend and King

Coming down love to bring

Pattern for our duty

Showing God in beauty.

Sing aloud loud loud

 

Percy Dearmer Public Domain

Prayers

Eternal God,

as Jesus and the early Church cared for those in need,

we pray for all who suffer and are not cared for,

or whom care cannot reach.

We pray for the elderly who die alone,

the young who are neglected, or cruelly treated,

young and old whose weaknesses are exploited

and sensitivities abused.

We pray for all who have grown hopeless

and weary as each day is like the last.

For those who face hunger and homelessness

with no way out;

refugees from war and violence

to whom no-one wants to give a home.

Those whose lives have been wrecked by conflicts

they do not understand

and cannot affect or change,

hounded by economic and political forces

or by the impact of climate change

which take no account of their need.

In this world of so much suffering

we pray too for all who are affluent,

comfortable, warm and cared for,

who do not care.

For those who know what they should do

but do not bother.

For those who close their eyes and minds;

and those who simply find

other people’s troubles and needs

a cross they do not wish to bear.

We pray for those who do care –

Those who accept the pain and disturbance

that knowledge brings but do not see what they can do. 

Those whose consciences are hurt,

who want to help, but cannot see how.

We pray for all who do care –

Who are willing to go the extra mile

time and again, often at cost, in so many ways.

For those who go where trouble, pain and poverty are,

risking life and limb, facing danger and fear.

Father, as we pray, increase the depth of love in us

and in others who have something to give

to the ill, troubled and dying.

Give us such love

that Your sheep, both inside and outside the fold,

may be found, given health, strength, food

and the ability to enjoy life to the full

and the joy to praise You.

We thank You that Jesus is the Good Shepherd

and for Your grace and mercy

that has made us part of His flock.

Thank you that You watch over Your flock. 

You know us by name,

You understand what we are like,

You call us to follow

and You accompany us along the path,

seeking us out when we stray,

keeping a loving eye on what we do.

Lead us into Your future

on the adventure of faith,

for Jesus’ sake.

Colin Sinclair Posted on the Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website.

Hymn

Jesus Lover of my soul

Let me to Thy bosom fly

While the nearer waters roll

While the tempest still is high

Hide me O my Saviour hide

Till the storm of life is past

Safe into the haven guide

Oh receive my soul at last.

 

Other refuge have I none

Hangs my helpless soul on Thee

Leave ah leave me not alone

Still support and comfort me

All my trust on Thee is stayed

All my help from Thee I bring

Cover my defenceless head

With the shadow of Thy wing.

 

Thou O Christ art all I want

More than all in Thee I find

Raise the fallen cheer the faint

Heal the sick and lead the blind

Just and holy is Thy name

I am all unrighteousness

False and full of sin I am

Thou art full of truth and grace.

 

Plenteous grace with Thee is found

Grace to cover all my sin

Let the healing streams abound

Make and keep me pure within

Thou of life the Fountain art

Freely let me take of Thee

Spring Thou up within my heart

Rise to all eternity

Charles Wesley Public Domain