Categories
Minister News Prayers

Hard Change: 14 February 2021

Did you enjoy the snow? Just enough to look good, but not deep enough to cause any trouble. Which is fine – except when we want it deep enough to cause trouble or give us stories we can recite in the future – I won’t bore you with mine, you will have your own! As I write this the sun in shining, it is hinting at the spring that is coming and I do enjoy these cold bright days. I am going to be on holiday next week, so if this weather continues it will be a good time to take Ben on some good long walks – it’s not as if we can go anywhere else. So the plan is some good walks, switch the computer off and eat pancakes on Tuesday. 

I’m sure that St. Columba’s folk will be glad to hear that we have found a new home for the organ. It will be going to St John the Baptist,  Hilmorton, Rugby, so another congregation will be able to enjoy hearing it. Thank you to Lynne for asking the right people and finding somewhere for it to go. 

When I return from holiday we will launch into a number of Lenten events – all designed to be done online. The Chapel of Unity will offer a 20 minute poem and reflection each Monday evening at 7pm via zoom (please contact Craig for the link). It will follow the poems set for each Monday in The Heart’s Time ed by Janet Morley. Those who use the telephone can join on the numbers below. 

The Coventry URC’s Lent Group will meet on Tuesday evenings 7pm – 8:15pm. It is called Living as Disciples, It has been put together by Nick Stanyon, Kirsty Mabbott and myself. We will begin on 23rd February with Disciple as Worshippers. Again it is on zoom (please contact Craig for link)

I hope some of you will be able to join us on those occasions. 

This Sunday is a Communion Service at 10:30am on our usual link. Please bring some bread and wine/juice.

On Thursday we will meet for Prayers at 7:00pm on the same link.

be blessed, 

Craig

A poem for Ash Wednesday 

The poem that Janet Morley sets for Ash Wednesday in The Heart’s Time is by R S Thomas. It is a reminder that to keep Lent is to turn away from the ordinary patterns we have fallen into and give ourselves the opportunity to see something afresh. It is like watching a familiar film and seeing something we hadn’t noticed before, or travelling along a familiar route but at a different time of day and seeing the way new shadows fall. 

The Bright Field 

I have seen the sun break through

to illuminate a small field

for a while, and gone my way

and forgotten it. But that was the

pearl of great price, the one field that had

treasure in it. I realise now

that I must give all that I have

to possess it. Life is not hurrying

 

on to a receding future, nor hankering after

an imagined past. It is the turning

aside like Moses to the miracle

of the lit bush, to a brightness

that seemed as transitory as your youth

once, but is the eternity that awaits you. 

R S Thomas

However you mark this Lent, may it be a time  to discover something new and beautiful.

Worship for 14 February 2021

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 will 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

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;

Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

Thomas O. Chisholm, 

Prayers

I have a dream that with our faith 

we will carve out stones of hope from the mountains of despair

We have a dream of a kingdom to come

I have a dream that with our faith 

we will transform the discords of nations 

into a beautiful symphony of friendship

We have a dream of “God’s will be done.”

I have a dream that with our faith 

we will together achieve the day of freedom.

We have a dream of heaven coming to earth

I have a dream of people singing a new song of hope and love, 

dancing together the way of full life

We have a dream of abundant life for all

I have a dream of heaven on earth, enough bread for everyone, reconciliation and God’s forever ‘amen’ chorus.

We have a dream of living in God’s love and embrace

It is a dream we can share when we live the prayer that we say: 

Richard Becher https://urc.org.uk/images/mission/Intercultural/documents/RJ_Sunday_2018.pdf

Generous God,

open our eyes, ears and hearts to see your love transfigured 

in the world you love so much.

May your word speak to us showing us the way,

telling a story, your story,

Jesus’ story, our story. Teach us

trust in the midst of fears,

hope to overcome our despairing. Lead us up,

lead us down and

lead us out…

Lead us to listen to the voice of your beloved, 

LOVE incarnate.

Michael Jagessar

https://urc.org.uk/images/mission/Intercultural/documents/RJ_Sunday_2018.pdf

Bible Reading 2 Kings 2:1-14

                        Mark 9:2-9

Reflection Change is hard. We get used to the way things are done and when those anchors shift the new landscape becomes uncomfortable. Elisha has been mentored by Elijah, he knows the role he is to take, the way in which God is calling him and the way Elijah has trained him for the role. But when the time comes he still wants to squeeze out every last moment with Elijah. Perhaps he is hoping that he will stay a little longer, perhaps he wants to make sure that every lesson that can be learnt is learnt. Elijah knows that there is one last gift, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” That spirit would be represented in the form of the cloak (mantle) Elijah carried. With Elijah’s mantle Elisha demonstrates that leadership has changed, this will be Elisha’s moment.

On the mountaintop Peter, James and John are given a reminder of history and insight into the new life that God is bringing into being. Moses and Elijah represent the past; the giving of the law and the word of the prophets. But Jesus is the beloved one, who overshadows even Moses and Elijah, the one to whom we should listen. The past is gone, Jesus is the present and the future. The landscape is changing, the old ways have gone and new ones are emerging. Peter may want to linger, to hang on to what  has been as well as to bask in this beautiful moment. And we could focus on the beauty and wonder of God and ignore the world around us – but Jesus will always lead us back into the reality of life. 

Today is earmarked as Racial Justice Sunday. I wasn’t sure what to do with that, I didn’t find the material produced by the URC particularly helpful, partly because it’s mainly been prepared by white people and here I am another white person venturing into a world I’ve heard about, read about, taken an interest in, but can never really experience. That could be an excuse to do nothing – to go back and wallow in the beauty of a God-moment and ignore the beast that is racism. Yet, every day I find myself coming across stories in which racism is at the core and so I am also impacted – even if it is one step removed. I can not use whiteness to ignore the issue because too often it is whiteness that is at the core of the problem. 

We live in changing times, old ways are being challenged and that makes some people uncomfortable. Particularly when the questions about race still come back to issues about power, control and the worth of human life. Do black lives matter as much as white lives matter? A report released this week had discovered that “for black women, the risk of stillbirth was one and a half to two times higher at all stages of pregnancy. Although the study did not look into causes, the potential reasons cited for the stillborn race gap included “low educational and socio-economic status, reduced access to antenatal care, and increased rates of fetal growth restriction”. A different study had also found that the rate of maternal mortality (death in pregnancy and childbirth) was five times higher for black women than white.” https://patient.info/news-and-features/black-women-twice-as-likely-to-experience-stillbirth. 

Another story this week was that of Jarel Robinson-Brown, whose questioning of the motives for the clap for Captain Tom, was met with a flood of racist abuse. His words may well have been mistimed, but sadly the Diocese of London, where he serves as a curate, waded in with a statement that heaped more abuse upon him. Looking at the responses it’s hard not to come to the conclusion he would have been treated very differently had his skin been white. Incidents like this are a stark reminder that the church is not a safe place either and that is why, uncomfortable as it is, we need to address our own prejudices and be aware of the different ways we each respond to people whose ethnicity and experiences are starkly different to our own. It is the reason why those of us who are white, can not hide away from the subject as if it has nothing to do with us or we have no experience – because the way we have each reacted just to these words on this page will be coloured by our own expectations about whose voice can be heard.

Elisha has taken on the mantle. Peter, James and John are being prepared for future leadership, our world is changing and that means that those who we once expected to stay quiet, sit in the background and only sing when invited to do so, are emerging as the voices of a new generation that expects an equal role in the present. In the midst of all those voices, Jesus is still the one we look to, still the one whose voice we listen for, still the one who rises from death and leads us into life. 

Hymn

Take this moment, sign and space;

Take my friends around;

Here among us make the place

Where your love is found.

 

Take my talents, take my skills,

Take what’s yet to be;

Let my life be yours, and yet

Let it still be me.  

John Bell & Graham Maule

© WGWG

Prayers

For the hungry in our world, and for those who have too much, 

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

 

For the lonely, and for the crowd,

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

 

For the sick, the weak and the lost,

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

 

For the new life striving to be born,

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

 

For those who lead and carry heavy burdens, 

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

 

For your church, that she might be faithful, 

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

 

For ourselves, that we may be the women and men you create us to be, 

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

Carla Grosch Miller

 

Hymn

When I survey the wondrous cross

on which the Prince of glory died,

my richest gain I count but loss,

and pour contempt on all my pride.

 

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

save in the death of Christ my God!

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to His blood.

 

See from his head, his hands, his feet,

sorrow and love flow mingled down!

did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,

 

spreads o’er his body on the tree;

then am I dead to all the globe,

and all the globe is dead to me.

 

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

love so amazing, so divine,

demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Categories
Minister Prayers

Setting Priorities: 7 February 2021

I’m finding myself in a few conversations about the way this time is changing our perceptions on life, the ways in which it may shift the way we live. Is it an opportunity to live differently? Some see it as an opportunity to reverse the climate catastrophe, or to re-focus how we work as churches or a moment when we shift work patterns or a time when we get our life/work balance into harmony. There are some of those (and other) things that I warm to. Yet I also hear people desperate to get back to how everything was before and treat this time as a little blip in history. 

The lesson of history, is that for those living through this period, it will be hard to force the changes that we want. It may well be that as historians look back they will see the shifts in lifestyle, the opportunities grasped and the impact upon the years to come. I was reminded of the major shifts that came from the Black Plague in the 14th Century, for those who survived it created prosperity as the value of labour increased and much of Europe moved from serf based societies to ones based on the free movement of labour. At the time, I doubt anyone was rubbing their hands in glee at the economic opportunities before them – they were mourning those they had lost whilst grasping the opportunity to live. Closer in time, I’m reminded by the programme It’s a Sin that the Aids epidemic brought the lives of LGBTQ+ community into sharper focus for many of us. As some people fought for life they also created an LGBTQ+ civil rights movement that has vastly changed the landscape for the community. It’s still not perfect and many face discrimination and misunderstanding, but it is vastly different from the world many of us remember. I’ve no doubt that this epidemic will bring some major cultural shifts, but I’m not sure that we are in a position to anticipate them all. What we can do is to look out for one another, hold one another in prayer and be ready to respond in whatever way God calls us as we emerge into the future. 

be blessed, Craig

 

This is the poem I wrote on the approach to Easter 2017. Shortly after writing it there were a number of terrorist attacks – Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge. I thought the poem might be about those times. But re-reading it, I wonder if it can also speak to this moment. 

Silence

In the silent garden,

we stood with graves laid out

as if disbelief could turn back time.

Sometimes, silence is all we have to express ourselves;

awed, astonished, ashamed, ashen,

silent as the grave.

 

In the hushed corner plot,

woeful folk quietly plant raised beds

as if peace could descend with new blooms.

Sometimes, silence sings collusion’s victory dance;

soft, scented, scared, scarred,

hushed with inaction.

 

In the secret terrace, 

weans play a raucous hide ’n seek

as if solemn tongues could break into laughter.

Sometimes silence is the comma, as life explodes –

caught, caressed, carried, carved,

gleeful Easter’s fête.

 

In festival garden,

world-weary ones feast on merriment,

as if lament will be heard no more.

Sometimes, silence proclaims extravagant garlands,

plaited, pretty, presented, pricey 

fanfare of rebirth.

Craig Muir  20 March 2017

Worship for 31st January 2021

Prepared by Margaret Marshall

Call to Worship

We’re waiting!  Actively waiting for the Lord!
Our strength renewed, no longer weary and faint!
For our God does not faint or grow weary,
but gives power and strength to those who wait.
Beyond the Zoom, the quarantine, the COVID, the cold, we’re gathered to lift our eyes to the everlasting God, Creator of the ends of the earth!

Prayer

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who has taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the gift of the same Spirit we may be always truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Hymn

Hark the glad sound! The Saviour comes, 

The Saviour promised long; 

Let every heart prepare a throne, 

And every voice a song. 

 

He comes the prisoners to release, 

In Satan’s bondage held; 

The gates of brass before Him burst, 

The iron fetters yield. 

 

He comes from ignorance and doubt 

To clear the inward sight, 

And on the darkness of the blind 

To pour celestial light.

 

He comes the broken heart to bind, 

The bleeding soul to cure, 

And with the treasures of His grace 

To enrich the humble poor. 

 

Our glad hosannas, Prince of Peace, 

Thy welcome shall proclaim; 

And heaven’s eternal arches ring 

With thy belovèd name.

Philip Doddridge (1702-51)

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Confession 

Lord God, high in the heavens, yet kneeling at our feet,

let us pray quietly, let us listen attentively, let our words praise you,

let our actions praise you.

Living, loving eternal God, as we draw near to you, may we find that you are already on your way to meet us. Come with healing light to open up and reveal to us not only who you are, but what your love might be.

Our eyes feast on the beauty of the sky and the scenery around us. Words are not enough to express our heartfelt wonder of the beauty of creation. However, thankfully, you know our hearts and our motives. We do not always understand your motives, Lord, but then you are God and who are we to question you when you see the bigger picture?

We thank you, that we can come to you in order to recharge our batteries. And that we can come alongside others in your strength and serve our community.  

People everywhere and everyday are seeking you, Lord.  Following you, hunting for your presence, wanting your attention. Yet not once do you complain.

We are sorry, Lord, that the weight of life’s demands causes us to stumble, to lose our temper and at times buckle under the pressure. Help us to be more like you.  We admit that we do not always get our priorities right. Help us to know the importance of spending time with and drawing refreshment from the Father.

We are sorry for allowing other people and things to take over and squeeze out our time with you. We ask Lord, because of your love, healing us and setting us free, we are forgiven.

We ask this prayer through the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.  Amen.   

Bible Reading: MARK CHAPTER 1 VERSES 29-39

Sermon

When politicians or chief executives commence a new role, they often set out a list of priorities for their first 100 days, this is giving them a sense of the direction of their thinking. Then, we may critically evaluate their achievements against their stated hopes and goals. I must admit that I during the recent years have a list of the tasks in priority order that I have to undertake.

As we read through this first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we observe that he wastes no time telling his story, and his urgency comes through, even when we try to divide his Gospel into neat little passages, that we can consider one by one. Mark very often uses the word ’immediately’

Here is what Jesus has done so far -he called four fishermen to follow him, and they left their boats and nets immediately; Jesus with those four men went to Capernaum, where the four men had lived; on the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach with authority. A demon possessed man challenged him, and named him as the Holy One of God – in other words, the Messiah – but Jesus told the unclean spirit to be silent and leave the man. It obeyed immediately.

We have read today that they left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. However, as they entered the house, they found Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jesus was immediately told. He did not say a word but puts out his hand and takes the hand of the woman, immediately the fever went and Jesus lifts the woman up. 

As soon as the Sabbath draws to a close, a stream of people makes its way to Simon’s door, asking for healing, asking Jesus to do for them what they had seen him do for the man in the synagogue.

However, Jesus feels that he wants some quiet time for prayer and he goes off alone. He goes to some deserted location, reminding us of his time in the desert at the commencing of his ministry, when he was preparing to refuse Satan’s temptation.

Even Jesus struggled to find his purpose at the beginning of his ministry, but he knew how to discover it. He prayed. He set time aside to be alone with his Father in the darkness, to seek God’s will.

Jesus never went out looking for people to be healed. That was never the priority part of his mission. People came to him, seeking his healing touch, asking for his help, and he had compassion on them. Some of them did believe. Some did repent and follow Jesus, and their lives were transformed for ever. These were the ones who, like Simon’s mother-in-law, responded with gratitude.

However, Jesus had to choose between becoming the local healer and reaching to as many people as possible with the good news of God’s love for them. Jesus led the disciples into the unknown territory of introducing others to the Kingdom of God.

The disciples quickly learnt that they could not be true followers of Jesus by staying in their own homes and communities. They had to get up and join with others in the work of the Kingdom.

We are the only ones who can show people what it means to be transformed into Christ’s image through the daily disciplines of quiet times for prayer, service and sacrifice. 

We are the only ones who can show people what it really means to be followers of Jesus Christ. We are the only ones who can love them as Christ loves us.

Jesus had no stated list of priorities, aims and objectives. People could see from his actions what he wanted to achieve. What do our words and actions, say to people about us being followers of Jesus Christ?  Do we make it a priority to show others about God’s love for them?  Amen.

Hymn:

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,

    forgive our foolish ways!

Reclothe us in our rightful mind,

in purer lives thy service find,

    in deeper reverence, praise.

 

In simple trust like theirs who heard

    beside the Syrian sea

the gracious calling of the Lord,

let us, like them, without a word

     rise up and follow thee.

 

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!

     O calm of hills above,

where Jesus knelt to share with thee

the silence of eternity,

     interpreted by love!

 

With that deep hush subduing all

     our words and works that drown

the tender whisper of thy call

as noiseless let thy blessings fall

     as fell thy manna down

 

Drop thy still dews of quietness,

     till all our strivings cease;

take from our souls the strain and stress,

     and let our ordered lives confess

the beauty of thy peace.

 

Breathe through the heats of our desire

    thy coolness and thy balm;

let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;

speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,

     O still, small voice of calm!

J G Whittier (1807-92)

Prayers for other people and the world

Creating God, we pray that the world may be led into new ways of seeing and perceiving human life; we ask that humankind may not gaze in awe at the trappings of wealth and power, but look in compassion at the suffering of the poor, the refugees and the powerless.

We pray for people who have to leave and possibly lose their homes through war or natural disasters: for those who struggle to survive and no longer know where they belong or where they are going. We pray for the people in this country who are homeless, we give thanks to the Foodbanks as food is provided for meals for many families.  

Father, we pray for those who suffer turmoil of mind or spirit, those in physical or mental pain and the bereaved, we think of those known to us. 

We ask for your healing on those suffering from COVID, that they might be open to receive your healing, peace and comfort. We pray that all may be aware of your arms always surrounding them.

We ask that you will give strength to all those in the Medical profession at this time and we give thanks for the vaccine that will help in this time of challenge.

Re-creating God, we pray that your church may be given new ways of living, in discipleship to Christ. We pray that we may walk boldly with the Lord of Life along the way of self-giving love. We ask that we will leave behind the old ways and follow you along new paths. 

Help us to make the priority of finding a quiet time for prayer with our Father. Give us unity of heart as we pray, that we may pray as one with you and one with each other and one within ourselves. Let your Holy Spirit cover us and bind us and draw us close together, that we may be whole within our minds. Save us from caring about small things that do not matter in the light of your eternity and helps us to pray for things of everlasting consequence.

We bring to you these prayers along with all the unspoken thoughts and prayers from our hearts. In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Hymn:

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.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.

When we sing to God in heaven,
we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together
of Christ’s love and agony.

Richard Gillard (1953-  )

BLESSING

Lord Jesus, go with us into the world this week. Help us to remain focused upon you and to make your priorities our priorities in all the places you are send us.

And the blessing of God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, remain with us today and forever. Amen.

Categories
Minister News Prayers

Jesus, Holy One of God 31 January 2021

Praise the Lord!

Sing praises

Let joy fill lungs, hearts and minds

God of songful joy

build your people

gather outcasts 

heal the broken hearted,

bind wounds.

God who counts each star

Calls us by name

understand without measure.

lift up the meek;

cast out wickedness

hear our confession

[Silence]

God of thankful song

hear the love melody

let grace fall like rain

let mercy grow like grass

let love sustain like fodder

hear the ravens call

take delight in the awe of creation

in those who hope for mercy.

Hymn    

Be still, for the presence of the Lord,

the holy one, is here;
come bow before him now with reverence and fear.
In Him no sin is found, 

we stand on holy ground.

Be still, for the presence of the Lord, 

the holy one, is here.

David Evans (1957-);© 1986 Thankyou Music

Bible Mark 1:21-28

Reflection We all have our demons. Things that disable us, frighten us, demean us. I have a little voice that says, “You can never do that.” I have a bright idea, I get all excited, start to plot, plan, scheme and then suddenly. “Don’t be stupid, no one is going to get involved in that.” I start to imagine what could be, the big thing that is going to really change everything – “You can’t afford it, there is no time, that isn’t what you should be concentrating upon.”

Sometimes that little voice is external, the teachers who said I couldn’t spell well enough to write anything. The athletics coaches who were always more interested in others. Those in congregations who claim, “None of us agree with you.” Often their voices are much louder than the ones who have encouraged me over the years. The negative memories loom larger than those that brought achievement. 

Jesus stands in front of the congregation and they are amazed by his authority. I wonder what preconceptions they had that didn’t expect that level of eloquence and wisdom? Was it where he came from? The way he looked? His family background? So often we are judging people before they even open their mouths, we think we know whether they are worth listening to. How often have we been surprised by a voice that doesn’t meet our preconceptions?

Jesus speaks with authority, and one of those demons decides to interrupt. Is this someone who believes they have so much privilege that they have the right to be heard? Is this someone whose own demons are too much for them and they need to intervene? Is this someone who is so frightened of the good news that Jesus brings, that they just have to close it down? For good news disables the fear that demons thrive upon.

Jesus draws out the demons and the demon proclaims who Jesus is, they just can’t help themselves – Holy One! They speak with such authority that the people have to look again, search their own response. For the recognition of holiness can both delight and appall. We can gather to it, or we can circle wide keeping our distance. Which is it to be?

Jesus recognises this demon. “Be silent.” He commands. For the demons believe that those with loudest voices get to decide the agenda, determine who has access to the community, create the narrative that all must believe. Those who keep speaking know that therefore they do not need to listen to other voices, for all other voices are silenced, ignored, irrelevant. When Jesus commands silence, now there is the opportunity for other voices to be heard, other stories to come to the fore, other ideas to emerge and be fertilised. A space for new teaching to be absorbed as fresh memory.

What are we to do with our demons? How do we create space to hear the voice of Jesus, the Holy One of God, bring us new teaching? Where is the silence that fills our heart? Where does the fame of Jesus astound and astonish all who hear?

Hymn 

Loving Spirit, loving Spirit,

you have chosen me to be–

you have drawn me to your wonder,

you have set your sign on me.

Shirley Erena Murray (1931-2020)

 

Prayers

Where death dominates 

may life be found.

Where fear enslaves 

may life be found.

Where grief overwhelms

may life be found.

Where hunger impedes

may life be found.

Where injustice breeds

may life be found.

Where anger embitters

may life be found.

Where prejudice disables

may life be found.

Where disease grows

may life be found.

Where greed impoverishes

may life be found.

Where disability encumbers

may life be found.

Where evil darkens

may life be found.

Where belief falters

may life be found.

Where love’s lost

may life be found.

Where doubt whispers

may life be found.

Where ideas wither

may life be found.

Where eloquence deceives

may life be found.

Where wisdom stutters

may life be found.

Where bias decides

may life be found.

Where privilege intervenes

may life be found.

Where hints divide

may life be found.

Where agendas silence

may life be found.

Where holiness appalls

may life be found.

Where accents cleave

may life be found.

Where stories collide

may life be found.

Where teaching tears

may life be found.

Where destruction dictates

may life be found.

Craig Muir

 

Hymn

The voice of God goes out to all the world;

his glory speaks across the universe.

The Great King’s herald cries from star to star:

With power, with justice, he will walk his way.

 

The Lord has said: ‘Receive my messenger,

My promise to the world, my pledge made flesh,

A lamp to every nation, light from light’:

With power, with justice, he will walk his way.

Luke Connaughton  (1917-1979) 

Categories
Minister News Prayers

New Year: 3rd January 2021

Dear Friends

Happy New Year! I suspect 2020 is a year many of us will be glad to see the end of, although the beginning of 2021 might be more of the same, so let’s not get complacent just yet. With that in mind Ansty Road Elders feel that it is prudent to stay at home this Sunday and to just operate on zoom. At the moment we will work on a week to week basis, so if you are unsure what we are doing please contact one of us. I’m sorry for those who feel excluded by not being able to come to church and being unable to make use of zoom. I will continue to write each week and hope that helps you to be involved, but we all know it’s not the same as being able to see one another. I will also continue to send these letters to St. Columba’s folk, but please tell me if you don’t want to receive these anymore and I will take you off the mailing list.

The other important thing to note is that we are changing the zoom link. The change in my role means that I will not be available to provide the zoom link every week and so we will move to a dedicated Ansty Road account that we can ensure is open every week. The new link can be found on the home page.

be blessed

Craig

 

Worship for 3rd January.

Adapted from URC Daily Devotions

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, 

for a child has been born for us, a son given to us! 

Glory to God in the highest heaven! 

Let us worship the Prince of Peace. 

 

Hymn

Hail to the Lord’s anointed, 

Great David’s greater Son! 

Hail in the time appointed, 

His reign on earth begun! 

He comes to break oppression,

To set the captive free; 

To take away transgression, 

And rule in equity. 

 

Kings shall fall down before Him, 

And gold and incense bring; 

All nations shall adore Him, 

His praise all people sing; 

For He shall have dominion 

O’er river, sea and shore, 

Far as the eagle’s pinion 

Or dove’s light wing can soar.

James Montgomery

Prayers

Lord, we come to you today, in the darkest months of the year, 

as people surrounded by light. 

The light that shines from your son, Jesus Christ 

We lift our hearts and voices in praise and worship 

Hear our prayer 

Forgive us when we stray into the darkness 

At times it is hard for us to find your light, 

As we stumble and fall 

Allow us to be guided, as the Magi were, 

out of the darkness and into  your light. 

Lord, hear our prayer 

Allow us to follow the pathway of Christ 

To not be blinded, but to be led in the teachings show to us 

Let us be your example here on earth 

For all to see, that they too may follow 

Lord, hear our prayer 

May we always be guided by your words 

Should we be tempted to stray, as Herod was, 

Let us be reminded of the leadership shown to us through Christ

Guiding us back onto the righteous path 

Lord, hear our prayer 

Forgive us when we place more importance on the gifts we bring 

Than on the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit 

Settle our restless minds and provide us with patience 

Filling our hearts with love and kindness 

Lord, hear our prayer 

Allow us time to contemplate the true meaning of epiphany 

The realisation that Christ is your true son 

The light to our dark world 

Our guide and saviour 

Matthew 2: 1-12 

Magi – We Knew it Would be worth it 

We knew it would be worth it the moment we saw the star, worth the hassle, worth the effort, worth the sacrifice. But there were times when we wondered, I can tell you! As we laboured over those dusty barren tracks, as we watched fearfully for bandits in the mountains,  as the sun beat down without a break, and still no sign of an end to it, we wondered, all too often. We asked ourselves whether we’d got to wrong, misread the signs. We argued over whether we’d taken the wrong turning  somewhere along the way. We questioned the wisdom of carrying on as the days dragged by. And when finally we got to Jerusalem only to find his own people had no idea what was going on,  then we really became worried. 

Quite astonishing – the biggest event in their history, and they didn’t even realise it was happening! Thankfully they looked it up, eventually, somewhere in one of their old prophets, and we knew where to go then. It was all there in writing if only they’d taken the trouble to look –  God knows why they couldn’t see it! 

Anyway we made it at last, tired, sore and hungry, but we made it. And it was worth it, more than we had ever imagined,  for in that child was a different sort of king, a different sort of kingdom, from any we’d ever encountered before. As much our ruler as theirs, as much our kingdom as anyone’s. So we didn’t just present our gifts to him, we didn’t just make the customary gestures of acknowledgement. We fell down and worshipped him. 

Can you imagine that? Grown men, respected, wealthy, important, kneeling before a toddler.Yet it seemed so natural, he most natural response we could make,  the only response that would do! 

Meditation of the Magi 

Well, we made it at last. After all the setbacks, all the frustration, we finally found the one we were looking for –  our journey over, the quest completed. And I can’t tell you how relieved we were. You see, we’d begun to fear we’d be too late, the time for celebration long since past by the time we eventually arrived. 

It was that business in Jerusalem which caused the delay,  all the waiting while Herod and his entourage rummaged around  trying to discover what we were on about. 

They were unsettled for some reason, taken aback, it seemed, by the news we brought,  apparently unaware a king had been born among them. A rival claimant, they must have thought, and who could tell what trouble that might stir up? Anyway, they pointed us in the right direction if nothing else,  but we’d wasted time there we could ill afford,  and although the star reappeared to lead us again  we were almost falling over ourselves with haste  by the time we reached Bethlehem. 

It was all quiet,  just as we feared – no crowds, no family bustling around offering their congratulations,  no throng of excited visitors, just an ordinary house – so ordinary we thought we’d gone to the wrong place. But we went in anyway, and the moment we saw the child, we knew he was the one –  not just the King of the Jews, but a prince among princes,  a ruler among rulers, a King of kings! 

We were late,  much later than intended, the journey far more difficult than we ever expected,  but it was worth the effort, worth struggling on, for, like they say, ‘Better late than never!’ 

Magi – Do you know what we gave him? 

Do you know what we gave him – that little boy in Bethlehem? Go on, have a guess!  A rattle? A toy? A teddy bear? No, nothing like that!  In fact, nothing you’d associate with a child at all, even if he was destined to be a king. Gold! That’s what I brought! 

And my companions? Wait for it! Frankincense and myrrh! Yes, I thought you’d be surprised, for, to tell the truth we’re pretty amazed ourselves, looking back, unable to imagine what on earth possessed us to choose such exotic and unusual gifts. It wasn’t so much that they were costly, though they were, of course – to a family like his they were riches beyond their dreams. But we could more than afford it – little more than small change to men of our means. 

No, it wasn’t the price that troubled us afterwards, but the associations, the possible meanings his parents might have read into our presents when we’d gone. Now the gold, there was a problem there – a gift fit for a king and designed to say as much, of course. But frankincense? Well, the main use his people have for that, as we learned later, is to sweeten their sacrifices, to pour out onto their burnt offerings so that the fragrance might be pleasing to their God. Hardly the most appropriate gift for a baby. But compared with myrrh! Don’t tell me you don’t know? It was a drug used to soothe pain, either for that or as a spice for embalming – more fitting for a funeral than a birth, having more to do with suffering and death than celebration! 

So what were we thinking of? What possible significance could gifts like those have for a little child? Frankly, I have no idea. Yet at the time the choice seemed as obvious to us as following the star, as though each were all part of some greater purpose which would one day become clear to all. Were we right? Well, after all I’ve said, I hope not, for if this king was born to die, to be offered in sacrifice rather than enthroned in splendour, then his must be an unusual kingdom, very different from most we come across – in fact, you might almost say, not a kingdom of this world at all! 

Meditations by Nick Fawcett from his Reflective Services for Advent and Christmas © Nick Fawcett. Published by Kevin Mayhew Ltd.

Hymn

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! 

Bow down before him, his glory proclaim; 

with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness, 

kneel and adore him: the Lord is his Name!

 

Low at his feet lay thy burden of carefulness, 

high on his heart he will bear it for thee, 

and comfort thy sorrows, and answer thy prayerfulness, 

guiding thy steps as may best for thee be. 

 

Fear not to enter his courts in the slenderness 

of the poor wealth thou wouldst reckon as thine; 

for truth in its beauty, and love in its tenderness, 

these are the offerings to lay on his shrine. 

 

These, though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness, 

he will accept for the Name that is dear; 

mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness, 

trust for our trembling and hope for our fear. 

 

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! 

bow down before him, his glory proclaim; 

with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness, 

kneel and adore him: the Lord is his Name! 

J. S. B Monsell (1811 – 1875)

Intercessions 

In this Season of Epiphany, shine your light upon us, into the recesses of our spirits, 

into those places where we experience anxiety, depression, fear and despair. 

We ask today, that you lift up in particular all among us who are  struggling. 

And in this time of silence, we bring those who we love into your light…. 

Shine your light upon us, 

into those places of conflict and tension, within our families, 

in our friendships, in our work and community relationships. 

May your light be a healing balm, 

bringing with it forgiveness and reconciliation. 

Shine your light upon us, 

Across the common human ties that bind all people together 

Neighbour and stranger, friend and enemy alike. 

In your light, remind us that we are all created 

In your image, unique and beloved by you. 

Shine your light upon our country and its leaders 

That they may govern justly and wisely, showing empathy for all. 

Taking into account the needs and concerns not just of the most wealthy  and powerful, 

But especially of those who are poor, those who struggle with physical  and mental illness, 

Those who are forgotten and forsaken.

Shine your light on all the places around this world 

Where violence and war are found: 

For all people who are living in daily fear for their lives. 

With your light bring peace to those who languish 

In fear, violence and despair. 

We thank you for the light that shines 

The light that we see in the glory and wonder of your creation, I

n the snowy mountain tops and cold frosty valleys. 

Thank you for the light that shines through our community and its  members, 

young and old, who remind us of your presence in tears and laughter, 

teaching and learning, order and disruption, work and play. 

Shine your light upon us. 

Around us, 

And within us, 

That we, too may be a light to the world. 

Amen. 

Hymn

We three kings of Orient are 

Bearing gifts we traverse afar 

Field and fountain, moor and  mountain 

Following yonder star 

O Star of wonder, star of night 

Star with royal beauty bright

Westward leading, still  proceeding 

Guide us to thy Perfect Light.

 

Born a King on Bethlehem’s  plain 

Gold I bring to crown Him again 

King forever, ceasing never 

Over us all to reign 

O Star of wonder, star of night 

 

Frankincense to offer have I 

Incense owns a Deity 

nigh Prayer and praising, 

all folk raising

O Star of wonder, star of night 

 

Myrrh is mine, its bitter  perfume 

Breathes of life of gathering  gloom 

Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding,  dying 

Sealed in the stone-cold tomb 

O Star of wonder, star of night 

 

Glorious now behold Him arise 

King and God and Sacrifice 

Alleluia, Alleluia 

Earth to heav’n replies 

O Star of wonder, star of night 

John Henry Hopkins Jr. (1820-1891)

Blessing

Fill us today with the light of Christ,

That we may feel his love and guidance

In our words and deeds throughout the coming week

So that we may shine his light for all to see.

May the illumination of God’s words fill our hearts,

May the light of Christ shine into our lives

And may the brilliance of the Holy Spirit guide us along our path.

Categories
Minister Prayers Sermon

Do not be afraid: for 20 Dec 2020

Dear Friends,

This letter is going to run two weeks together as I’m unlikely to be able to get the posted letters out next week before Christmas Day. We are working hard to make sure that we can celebrate Christmas in a way that will lighten our lives and prepare us for light returning in so many ways. I know that many of us are struggling with the isolation we are being forced to live with and many are ready to rebel. However, there appears to be some light and we need to look after one another  for a few months longer. I’m really glad that so far the incidences of Covid within our congregations have been mild, and we need to aim to keep it that way.

Our morning service this Sunday 20 December  will be at 10:15am for a 10:30 start and will be led from Ansty Road via zoom by myself. 

Our Carol Service will also be Sunday 20 December at 6:30pm, led from Ansty Road & via zoom. 

Our Christmas Morning Service will only be available & via zoom 10:15 for 10:30 am

Our Communion Service at 10:30am on Sunday 27 December is due to be led from Ansty Road & via zoom by myself. It will focus on giving thanks for St.Columba’s on what is our last Sunday. However I’m conscious that this is within the 5 days where the Government is allowing more household mixing and I’m getting nervous about adding church to the mix. It might be useful for you to let me know if you intend being in church that morning as we might decide to just use zoom, in which case I could work alone from St. Columba’s. 

Whether you wish to be in church or not will be your own decision, but please do not come if you feel vulnerable or ill and please obey the restrictions that are in place. Remember we are in Tier 3 because it is deemed that there is a very high risk of spreading the virus and the hospital is working at capacity. For those who prefer to join via zoom the link is 

 https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83142689496. 

You can also join by phone by dialling one of the following numbers

0131 460 1196, 0203 051 2874, 0203 481 5237, 0203 481 5240

When asked to enter your Meeting ID, key in 831 4268 9496#-  if asked for a Participant key just dial #. If asked for a password it is 512001 

A reminder that we are supporting a number of charities as part of our Carol Service. For Ansty Road that is The Coventry Boot Fund and St. Andrew’s Home. Our Church Meeting agreed that we would support both from the proceeds of the charity fund, but if you would like to add to those sums please send your gift by cheque to Caroline or via the church account Sort code is 202355 a/c no 60995746. Mark it for the Charity Fund in the reference box. For St. Columba’s it is to Christian Aid, https://www.christianaid.org.uk or send a cheque to me made payable to St. Columba’s URC, but tell me it’s for Christian Aid.

Be blessed, Craig

Worship for Sunday 20th December 

Hymn

No wind at the window, no knock on the door
No light from the lamp stand, no foot on the floor
No dream born of tiredness, no ghost raised by fear
Just an angel and a woman and a voice in her ear.

No payment was promised, no promises made;
No wedding was dated, no blue print displayed.
Yet Mary, consenting to what none could guess,
replied with conviction, “Tell God I say,  “Yes”’.

John L. Bell (b1949) © WGRG, The Iona Community 1992

Prayer 

Into our world as into Mary’s womb

Come, Lord Jesus

Into the forgotten planes as into the stable

Come Lord Jesus

Into the lives of the poor, bringing hope

Into the lives of the powerful, bringing caution

Into the lives of the weary, bringing rest

Into the lives of the wise, bringing restlessness

and into our lives and longings

whatever our estate

Come Lord Jesus

This is the good news

Christ is coming

and blessed are those who wait on the Lord

Therefore come quickly Lord.

(Cloth for the Cradle p57)

Come that we may know mercy

for the times when we have known no hope

for the times when we have acted in power

for the times when we impose upon the weary

for the times when we have not listened to wisdom

Come that we may know grace

that we may know your blessing

that we may live following your Way

this day and each day.

Craig Muir

Bible: Luke 1:26-38

“Do not be afraid” What apt words for our time. 

Mary was not to fear the angel or the challenge before her. The same phrase had been heard time and again throughout the Hebrew Bible. First by Abraham as God made a covenant with him, then by Hagar in the wilderness as she feared for the life of her son. From Moses as the Israelites fled Egypt, from Boaz as he arranged to marry Ruth, from Elijah as he spoke with the widow of Zarephath and then by the angel to Elijah as he faced the soldiers of King Ahaziah. That is just a few examples as so many times people have had to face an uncertain future and be reminded to be unafraid.

Later Jesus would repeat this to James and John as they were called to be disciples, then to all the disciples as they faced a future empowered by resurrection and then to John as he received the book of Revelation.

“Do not be afraid.” How much do we need that for ourselves? 

You will know your own fears, for yourself and your family.You will know the fear we all have for public health, for our economy, for a changing political landscape. As we look back through history we can see that humanity has often been here before, and that at such times some have been aware of God’s presence encouraging them to be courageous. But that does not mean that we ignore the reality of particular grief, dread, dismay. It does not mean we ignore injustice, oppression, abuse. It does not mean that we no longer hold to account those who profit from fear. Mary’s response will challenge the powerful and proclaim good news for the lowly and hungry. 

“Do not be afraid.” It is time to step forward with faith.

Prayer

We can hardly wait, dear God.

Looking out upon a world

that is far too familiar with Isaiah’s sorrows, 

the mounting ashes of our failures

and the heavy heart of human suffering, 

your coming cannot be too soon.

So pour out your Spirit now, today. 

Bind up broken hearts

and release the good word

and the goodwill

that we have held back too long.

Announce your clear intentions now. 

Garland your sorry world with joy 

and clothe it with

the splendour of your presence here. 

Plant a new way of life

in which truth and justice 

stand rooted like a tree.

Psalm 126 paraphrase

Make us into a new race of people

who love justice,

cherish their commitment to each other 

and are eager for your coming.

We can hardly wait. Amen

Lord Jesus Christ,

born for us in a stable,

making your humble way into our lives,

we praise you for your tireless search 

for lost humanity. 

Hold us we pray.

And so that we might serve you, 

and you alone,

grant us your Spirit’s wisdom

to know and reject all that is evil and harmful,

to turn only to you for our pleasure,

and to spend ourselves for the sake of your kingdom and its peace. Amen

Duncan Wilson: URC Worship Book

Hymn 

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord! 

Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice; 

tender to me the promise of his word; 

in God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.

 

Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word! 

Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure. 

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord 

to children’s children and for evermore!

© Timothy Dudley-Smith, 9 Ashlands, Ford, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP4 6DY England

 

Lessons and Carols 20 December 2020

Voluntary: Love came down at Christmas

Lesson 1  Mark 1:1

RS 167 Once in royal David’s city

Lesson 2  Psalm 80:1-7

RS 135 Joy to the world

Lesson 3  Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11

RS 144 It came upon the midnight clear  

Lesson 4  Mark 1:2-8

Song: What joy is mine

Lesson 5  Luke 2:1-7

RS 145 O Little Town of Bethlehem

Poem:BC:AD

Song   Silent Night, Holy Night

Lesson 6  Mark 1:21-45

Song: O Holy Night

Reflection  Mark’s Christmas

Hymn: Dream a dream, a hopeful dream

Poem read by David Monks 

Song  God rest ye merry gentlemen

Prayers of Intercession

Lesson 7John 1:1-14

RS 160 O Come all ye Faithful

Share in your own mince pies, mulled wine, coffee and tea from home. 

Categories
Minister News Prayers

The beginning of the good news …

I need to start with some sad news today and inform you that Marjorie Wilkinson died on Tuesday 1 December. Funeral details will follow when we know them. Marjorie had a life long association with Wyken, as her parents were amongst the founding members of the church and she was a faithful member throughout her life. Please hold Gillian, Gina and all the family in your prayers.

The other sad activity has been picking through the archives at St. Columba’s, reading so many of the activities of the past and deciding which need to be kept, binned or shredded. My shredder is getting very tired! I have also been disposing of many items stored away around the building,  making arrangements to auction the better items and scrap everything else. If there is something you want to rescue I need to know this weekend – although be warned, it might already have gone.

It was also sad to realise that we would normally have been holding the Life Path Carol Service this week, It feels strange not to do so and I have had one sad telephone call from Michael who normally plays the organ.  However, I have been in contact with Diane, the Chief Executive and we  have pencilled one in to be held at Ansty Road next year. That felt good.

This it seems is the nature of Advent; so much sadness and yet the promise of good things in the future. We hold these things in tension. Some want to charge straight through the sadness; the radio has moved to incessant Christmas songs, insisting we must all be jolly. Advent invites us to acknowledge and live with our sadness whilst seeking new life. It allows us to name our sadness and to take time to let the hope seep in. Perhaps by Christmas, hope will have found a new level. 

I also look forward to receiving volunteers to contribute to our Carol Service on 20 December. If you haven’t done so already, please get in touch. We can record contributions via zoom. 

Our service this Sunday will be at 10:15am for a 10:30 start and will be led from Ansty Road via zoom by Chris Mellor. Whether you wish to be in church or not will be your own decision, but please do not come if you feel vulnerable or ill and please obey the restrictions that are in place. Remember we are in Tier 3 because it is deemed that there is a very high risk of spreading the virus and the hospital is working at capacity. For those who prefer to join via zoom the link is 

 https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83142689496.

On Thursday 10 December at 7pm we will meet on the zoom link for 18:5 Bible Study looking at Joshua. 

 

Worship for Sunday 6th December

These notes have been prepared by Craig, but as I’m not leading worship on Sunday, the service on Sunday will be different.

Hymn

Hills of the North, rejoice, 

echoing songs arise,

hail with united voice

him who made earth and skies:

he comes in righteousness and love,

he brings salvation from above.

Editors of English Praise 1975 based on CE Oakley (1832-68)

Prayer

God of new beginnings

We thank you for this day

We thank you for new experiences

We thank you for familiar stories, told afresh

God of good news

We thank you for those we love

We thank you for those who care for us

We thank you for familiar faces, 

with whom we are blessed

 

God of Jesus Christ

We thank you for the story of his birth

We thank you for the stories he told

We thank you for calling us, 

word and flesh.

God of raised valleys and smoothed mountains 

We seek your way through wilderness

We seek your path through life’s journey

We seek a revelation of your glory.

God of enduring word

We listen for your voice

We say to the towns 

“Here is your God!”

We are gathered into your gentle arms.

 

God of mercy and hope

We confess our sinfulness 

in word and deed

in action and inaction

in our structures and values

We seek your mercy, 

Ask that you proclaim that our debt has been paid 

We declare our hope in your grace that carries each close to your heart and gently leads us into new beginnings.

Bible: Mark 1:1-8

You may have noticed that the poem I shared last week, ended just beyond this point with the declaration in the wilderness that Jesus is the Beloved. It linked the story of Hagar banished into the wilderness who becomes the first to name God as God-who-sees, with Hannah whose prayer God sees, with John the Baptist whose time in the wilderness declares that God’s time is coming. Throughout history many have felt the wilderness of a life that is filled with despair, sorrow, fearfulness. For many that is the real history of humanity. But the good news that Mark wants us to hear is that we can repent (turn around) and live differently. The kingdom of God is near and the history of ordinary people is as crucial in that kingdom as any named in history books.

Mark tells us that this is the beginning. That has a resonance with Genesis and with John’s gospel, but they were describing the beginning of history. This is not the beginning of history of course, It is one point in time, but it is the beginning of a new salvation history that will focus on Jesus, the Son of God who invites us on a new discipleship adventure. That beginning happens whenever we hear the story for the first time, or when we hear fresh once again, ready to change our lives.

That beginning of good news will mean something different for each of us, perhaps we need to change our focus in life, or amend the way we live, or be open to new ideas. When the time is right we will each know the way in which God is calling us into the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the in-between time we listen for voices crying out in the wilderness, we listen for those God names as beloved, we listen for the urging of the Holy Spirit.

Charity Giving

Thank you to those who have supported the Giving Tree Project and to those who handed in their Mission boxes to Roberta. Those gifts have raised £112 that we will send to Commitment for Life.

I’m now going to encourage you to support those charities that we support at our Carol Services. For Ansty Road that is The Coventry Boot Fund and St. Andrew’s Home. Our Church Meeting agreed that we would support both from the proceeds of the charity fund, but if you would like to add to those sums please send your gift by cheque to Caroline or via the church account Sort code is 202355 a/c no 60995746. Mark it for the Charity Fund in the reference box. For St. Columba’s it is to Christian Aid, https://www.christianaid.org.uk or send a cheque to Craig made payable to St. Columba’s URC, but tell me it’s for Christian Aid. 

Prayer from Christian Aid

May you abound in the hope of the prophets, imagining another way.

May you abound in the hope of a mother, singing revolution.

May you abound in the hope of an infant, the incarnation of love.

May you abound in the love that builds hope this day and evermore.

And may you have a hopeful Advent and a comforting Christmas.

Amen.

 

Tune Kingsfold (RS 349, I heard the voice of Jesus say)

When out of poverty is born

A dream that will not die.

And landless, weary folk find strength

To stand with heads held high,

It’s then we learn from those who wait

To greet the promised day,

“The Lord is coming; don’t lose heart.

Be blest; prepare the way!’

© Kathy Galloway, the lona Community. 

Written for Christian Aid. 1990.

Categories
Minister

Twenty Twenty

Categories
Minister News

Advent 1: Letter

We are about to move into Advent and this year we will be creating new ways of working that will combine online activities with the opportunity to meet in church. As I write we have learnt that Coventry will be in Tier 3. That means we will be able to meet at Ansty Road, with Covid protections in place, so long as there is no interaction between households. That will be difficult in practice because I know people will be glad to see and to respond to one another, but we need to take that seriously and take care of each other. Our Church Meeting last Monday agreed that we would broadcast our zoom service from Ansty Road each Sunday from 6th December. You will need to make your own decision about whether to join us there, but if you do please be sensible about not interacting. However, Christmas Morning will be zoom only, which will allow us to mix in family households at home and join with those who can use zoom to celebrate Christmas. 

This is the last week when I will remind you about our “Toy Sunday” appeal supporting Coventry City Mission’s Giving Tree. Please donate money or purchase from their wish list at http://www.covcitymission.org.uk/ministries/givingtree.html or you can send a cheque to Coventry City Mission PO BOX 40 Coventry CV1 9DQ. Next week I will move on to the charities both churches have traditionally supported at the Carol services.

The other tradition that I have followed from time to time is to write an Advent poem which I then inflict upon you in the newsletter. I know not all of you “get” it, but for those who do this years offering is in the next post. I find it is an interesting exercise to see what I have on my mind, and to look back on previous years to see what is different. This year has felt like a history shifting time, hence a focus on the ways we look upon history and the clash between those who want history to be written in a specific way. I have my own biases, and that will inform my own perspectives, as will yours. 

An Advent perspective says that God intervenes in history.It is that intervention that we pray for, “Come, Lord Jesus Come.” It is that intervention that we anticipate, “O Come, O Come Immanuel.” It is that intervention that gives us hope in a year that has been so difficult, “Comfort my people,” says our God. “Comfort them!”

Our service this Sunday will be at 10:15am for a 10:30 start and will be led by Kirsty. On Thursday 3 December at 7pm we will meet for Prayers on zoom link

 https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83142689496. 

You can also join by phone by dialling one of the following numbers

0131 460 1196, 0203 051 2874, 0203 481 5237, 0203 481 5240

When asked to enter your Meeting ID, key in 831 4268 9496#-  if asked for a Participant key just dial #. If asked for a password it is 512001 

Be blessed, Craig

Categories
Minister News Prayers

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

Categories
News Prayers

A Welcome Video