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

Categories
Minister News Prayers Sermon

At the Meeting Place – for 18 October 2020

 

Dear Friends

This has been the week of Elders meetings. Somehow we have fallen into the pattern of holding both Elders’ Meetings on consecutive days. Sometimes it is useful as it allows us to share information quickly but sometimes it feels a bit rushed between Ansty Road on Monday evening and St. Columba’s on Tuesday morning, and this week was a rushed one. However, it was good to meet with the St. Columba’s Elders mostly in person and to support one another as we made some practical decisions about clearing the church building. If you have not yet contacted one of us about something you would like from the building please do so. There are a number of plaques we would also like to find homes for.

At Ansty Road we spent the meeting making plans to re-open for live worship this coming Sunday. In doing so, we hesitated, wondering if in the current situation we should open at all, but decided that for the sake of those who want to be in church and unable to meet on zoom we would create that opportunity. However, there are some of us who need to stay in for good reasons, please do so. Please do not put yourself or others at risk. We need to continue to look after one another.

The rules are that:-

  • if you feel ill or particularly vulnerable, please do not come
  • you must either use the QR code or sign in the test and trace book
  • you must remain socially distanced from everyone who is not in your bubble. 
  • you must wear a face-covering and sanitise hands as you come in. 
  • we have set the church out with the chairs in pairs and threes, but you can only sit with someone in your bubble. 
  • we will fill up from the front left hand corner and we will leave from the back right hand corner.
  • if we have more than 12 households/bubbles we can open the screen and use the hall
  • the offering plate will be in the welcome area
  • we will play hymns, but those in church can’t sing – those at home can.
  • we will only open the accessible toilet and only one person at a time should go up the corridor to the toilets.
  • there will be no after church cup of tea/coffee and we ask you not to linger in the building. 

After that long list, which I know does not sound very encouraging please be assured that we will make every one who comes welcome. We welcome those who join us on zoom. And as ever you are welcome to stay at home and do your own thing. We each need to take good care of ourselves as well as one another.

Prayers & Reflection

Welcome back to Ansty Road, to our new entrance and upgraded rooms. 

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

Our past, our present, our future

Our moving on, our hanging back, our uncertain steps.

We have returned the soil and ashes from the memorial garden to a new space, it awaits fresh planting

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

Our memories of those we love and those who have gone before us

Our grieving and our living, our delight and our flourishing

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

Our fears, our dreams, our hopefulness

Our joys, our celebration, our pride.

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

Our gifts, our grace, our generosity

Our teaching and learning, our wondering questions.

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

Our preaching and listening, prayers spoken and enacted

Our good news telling, our grace filled living.

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

We name partners and friends …

We name those who we have been asked to pray for ….

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

To the glory of God, In the name of Jesus, 

in the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen

© Craig Muir, 2020

Bible Exodus 33:1-23 

Reflection After the drama of the fight that ensues after Moses discovers Aaron leading worship before a golden calf/bull, Moses begins to meet with God in a tent on the edge of the encampment. You sense that the relationship is strained, perhaps God does not want to be in the midst of these rebellious people, whilst the people are grieving this soured relationship. Reconciliation is not easy, we know that, we know how hard it is to find the right words, to be in the same space with people we have fallen out with, and we each have our own ways of dealing (or not dealing) with such situations. 

Other than the young assistant Joshua, Moses seems to be on his own. There is no mention of Aaron in these encounters, and Moses prays, “you have not let me know whom you will send with me. … show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favour in your sight.” There is uncertainty here because in verse 1 God has told Moses to take the people to the promised land and that an angel will lead them – but this is not the presence of God that Moses has become used to. Moses begs God to be with them, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here …” It is tense and just like on Mount Sinai, God concedes to Moses and agrees to be present with the people as they venture onwards. 

How do we perceive God to be present with us? In this account God is perceived as a pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the meeting tent; as a disembodied voice in conversation with Moses, as a friend; and then anthropomorphised into a hand and a back, but not a face. However much we may perceive God’s presence, there is still a hiddenness, a mystery that we can not get beyond. Yet, at times of decision, dilemma, doubt we must seek God’s presence and goodness in all that we discern.

This has been a time when we have been reminded that God rests wherever we are – we don’t need special holy places. God’s presence can be with us in our home, on a walk in the park, in a zoomed prayer meeting, in a telephone conversation, in our quiet reading of scripture, a prayer,  a poem a photograph, a piece of art. Yet here some of us are – in a meeting place that is special for us, amongst friends who can be no closer than 2m unless they are in our bubble, not allowed to sing just listen and watch those who join us from home. Is God more present here than somewhere else? I don’t believe so, but I do believe that we need places to meet with one another, to work from, to be a base for all we do – and that is how our church buildings function for us. Of course they can also be places of memory, we have experience here – some for a lifetime, others much less, and at the moment we are all re-learning those experiences, not only is the space different to the one some of us walked out of in March, but the way we have to use it is different from how we imagined – because we didn’t imagine setting chairs out 2m apart. 

Where is God presence in all this? On Thursday I was sitting in the new welcome area, I could see across the labyrinth, to Ansty Road, it was late afternoon and the road was busy. Through the other window, I could watch Hocking Road, as a steady stream of traffic edged along to the junction, children were heading home from school and those who had parked all day returned to their cars – it was good to watch the world go by and hold it in prayer. There was no cloudy pillar, no disembodied voice, just the quiet certainty that God knew each person by name and here was a place where God presence can be still known through the loving actions of the community who gather here, whether in person or online. 

As God met with Moses in a tent on the edge of their community, Moses was being prepared for the future. He didn’t know it, but with him, quietly minding the tent, was Joshua, being prepared to take over from Moses in the future. It would be Joshua who leads the people into the promised land, not Moses. Moses though, still had work to do. He would intercede for the people, he would be a witness to God’s glory, he would enable the people to be aware of God’ presence in their midst even when the relationship was uncomfortable. So we dedicate this meeting place to be be a place where each person may know God’s presence in their own lives.

God of the Meeting Place

May those who stand away afraid to meet with you

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May those aware of their own failings and sinfulness

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May those who feel anger rise in their heart

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May each plant and creature, that you have named

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May our earth, created and placed by you

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May all who struggle to arrest climate catastrophe

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May all who seek reconciliation between peoples

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May all who stand in the role of peacemaker

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May all who solicit your goodness and mercy

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May those who grieve all that is lost

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May those who grasp for healing

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May those who gather in your name

Know your blessing and your peace

© Craig Muir, 2020

 

Categories
Minister News Prayers

Horses & Chariots: 13 September 2020

This has been a difficult week. The last time that we gathered for Sunday worship at St. Columba’s I preached on John 4:34  Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work’ On Tuesday we gathered in St. Columba’s and via zoom for the first time since then. We listened to a hymn, prayed together and then made the decision to close St. Columba’s in December.

It is difficult to feel that we have ever completed the work that God has given us but we have come to a point where the work at St. Columba’s needs to be brought to an end and as a congregation it is time to move on to something new. We might have come to this view without Covid, but the lockdown has forced us to make the decision sooner than we might have liked with the added sadness that we are unable to meet and support one another as we prepare for this change. We trust that God will complete the work from the seeds that have been sown in the community from St. Columba’s.

As I prepared to print and send this letter I learnt that Ken Newborough a previous Minister at St. Columba’s died this morning. We give thanks for his life and his ministry. Please hold Janet and the family in prayer.

At the same time we continue to prepare for a new start at Ansty Road and Ball Hill. The restrictions in place for Covid mean that our restart at Ansty Road will be lower key than it would have been otherwise. We have planned to open Ansty Road this Saturday so that people can see how the work is going and have a preview of the new look building. That will still happen but in the light of the changing Covid situation we will not hold the Afternoon Tea that we had planned. Instead anyone who comes will be given an Afternoon Tea box to take home and others will be delivered. 

On Monday evening Ansty Road will hold a Church Meeting using the zoom link that we use for Sunday worship. It will be good to review our work together and plan for the future. However tentative those plans need to be there is still plenty of work to be done.

Please continue to pray for each other and support one another by your friendly phone calls and bubble visits. It makes a big difference to those who who are not able to get out and about as before. 

Prayers & Reflection for 13 September 2020

Prayer

Give thanks to the God of heaven

For love endures for ever

The stone which the builders rejected

has become the main cornerstone

This is the work of the Lord

It is wonderful on our eyes

Hymn

Guide me o thou great Jehovah

pilgrim through this barren land;

I am weak, but thou art mighty,

hold me with thy powerful hand;

bread of heaven, bread of heaven

feed me now and evermore.

 

Open now the crystal fountain

whence the healing stream doth flow;

let the fire and cloudy pillar

lead me all my journey through:

strong deliverer, strong deliverer;

be thou still my strength and shield.

 

When I tread the verge of Jordan,

bid my anxious fears subside;

death of death, and hell’s destruction

land me safe on Canaan’s side:

songs of praises, songs of praises,

I will ever give to thee.

William Williams  (1717-91)

Bible Exodus 14:19-31 

Reflection

Many lectures from my time at College have been quickly forgotten, but a few made such an impression at the time that I still go back to the notes from time to time. One of those was a bible study by John Ponnusamy, a visiting tutor from Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary, Madurai. He took us through all the times horses and chariots are mentioned in the bible. It begins in Genesis 50 when Joseph welcomes the family into Egypt. Horses and chariots were the finest military hardware of the biblical period. They were fast, frightening, formidable. Every time they are mentioned they amplify military power and the might of Empire. Time and again the biblical writers show that God is far more powerful, and Exodus 14 makes the point in a terrifying way. Israel will celebrate whilst Egypt mourns.  

Later, Israel will be encouraged not to follow this path of creating military power, but to trust in God. In one story David captures chariots, but destroys them rather than use them himself. It was Solomon who brought horses and chariots into the life of his Kingdom, ignoring the warnings of the prophet Samuel that militarisation would create a society in which the whole purpose of government would be to feed the power of the army. That would be many years in the future, returning to the Exodus passage we see the forces of Empire destroyed and those who were slaves experience the joy of liberation. A fresh future is before them – what will they do with freedom?

And what do we do with the freedom we have been given? How do we view the consequences of that freedom, especially where people’s lives have been lost? Does it matter if those lives were fighting for the “other” side or do we mourn all that is destroyed through human conflict? 

In destroying the horses and chariots of the Egyptian army, God was leading the people into a life that was radically different to the one that they had left behind. They were not to build a community based on the oppression of some people for the glorification of the few. They were to build a community that trusted in God, and they would live in the wilderness for 40 years whilst those lessons were learnt. Of course, when they do emerge into Canaan they would do so by force and those living there would be conquered. This is not a simple story of peace and harmony. Human relationships are always messy. And so we pray …

Prayer

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world

have mercy on us 

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world

have mercy on us 

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world

have mercy on us 

Hymn

For the healing of the nations,
Lord, we pray with one accord,
for a just and equal sharing
of the things that earth affords.
To a life of love in action
help us rise and pledge our word.

You, Creator God, have written
your great name on humankind;
for our growing in your likeness
bring the life of Christ to mind;
that by our response and service
earth its destiny may find.

Fred Kaan  (1929- 2009)

Categories
Minister Prayers

Joseph’s Empire: for 16 August 2020

We have been making plans for the autumn. They are all a bit vague filled with “maybe,” “perhaps”, and “if”. But we are also beginning to imagine a situation where we can meet at Ansty Road and continue to use zoom for those who can’t manage it to Ansty Road.

So here are some potential dates for diaries. Church members at St. Columba’s should already have 10:30am Tuesday 8th September, a Church Meeting at which we will confirm the future of the church. We will meet at church or on Zoom. At church we will use the sanctuary with one pew per household and a one way system for entry and exit. At the same time we will use the usual Sunday link  to allow anyone who can not come to the building to connect via zoom and still participate in the discussion. 

At Ansty Road we are going to explore holding an afternoon tea on the front lawn on Saturday 12 September 2pm-4pm. We will ensure there is the correct social distancing but we also hope to be able to show people into the building so that you can see how the work is progressing. This of course will be arranged with the builders and will have measures to keep the building Covid secure. On Monday 14 September at 7pm, we will hold a Church Meeting via zoom. We then hope to be able to use some weekends to clean and  re-arrange the church ready for worship to re-start from Sunday 18th October. If we have managed to get broadband installed by then we will then devise a service that can be accessed in person or via zoom. 

Craig will be on holiday for a couple of weeks including 23rd and 30th August. On those days Kirsty will be leading worship and will send you a different link in next weeks letter. 

Prayers & Reflection for 16 August 2020

Prayer

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, running down over the collar of his robes.

It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.

For there the Lord ordained blessing, life for evermore.

Psalm 133

Hymn

All my hope in God is founded

he doth still my trust renew

Me through change and chance he guideth

only good and only true.

God unknown

he alone,

calls my heart to be his own.

Bible Genesis 45: 1-15 

Reflection And so we reach the emotional reunion, when these brothers are reconciled to one another and Joseph’s dreams have come true. He is lording it over the whole of Egypt and his brothers are in his power. Joseph now controls where his brothers can live, the land, their flocks, their children and grandchildren will live by his gift, and he weeps tears of joy. Only then are his brothers given space to talk. Joseph’s whole rise to power has been the classic tactics of Empire – control the land and means of production, monopolise trade and gather power into the hands of a few; restrict who has access to power and which voices are heard. 

Am I being too harsh on Joseph? Isn’t this all part of God’s plan? Well that is what Joseph wants you to believe, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.” In all of these chapters God is only mentioned when Joseph is grasping power and justifying his actions. Just like the brothers, God does not get to speak other than in Joseph’s voice, it is another classic example of Empire – In God We Trust, so long as God endorses the actions of the elite. Otherwise, keep religion out of politics!

Israel and his children will become beneficiaries of empire for a couple of generations, just as many of us still benefit from the fruits of the British Empire. But in time those benefits will fade and God’s voice will be heard amongst those oppressed by Empire, will our ears be attuned to hear? Writing many centuries later, Paul, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, reminds us that, “At the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.” (Rom 11:5) As the beneficiaries of God’s grace, may we know the difference between those who claim God’s blessing to endorse their own power and those who speak with God’s blessing. 

Prayer

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.     Selah

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.

May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.

Psalm 67

Hymn

Still from earth to God eternal

sacrifice of praise be done,

high above all praises praising

for the Gift of Christ his Son.

Christ doth call

one and all;

ye who follow shall not fall.

Robert Bridges (1844-1930) based on Joachim Neander (1650-80)