Categories
Bible Study Minister Podcasts

Living as Gatekeepers

The second conversation taking us from Easter to Pentecost explores John 10 and the role of gatekeepers.

Categories
Minister News Prayers

for 3rd May 2020

Over the last month I’ve had the rare opportunity to listen to others preach and see the way they lead worship. It’s interesting. Last week I began during my morning walk listening to Bill Young’s blog https://revdbill.uk  “for and from North Coventry Group.” Bill spoke about recognising Jesus “in the every day, in normality, in community.” As I walked along the River Sowe, contemplating the rubbish that collects under London Road bridge, it was good to be reminded that this is the world Jesus loves. Once I was home and breakfasted, Chris and I settled down together to listen to the service from Downing Place, Cambridge https://youtu.be/30MMouFqMiQ where John Bradbury was preaching his last sermon before moving to become General Secretary. He used the Emmaus Road experience to talk about the conversations with his colleague Nigel Uden to bring their two churches together, and all the conversations that had happened across the churches to bring them to a point where they are one church ready to move into a newly renovated building. It reminded me of the steps we took to become Ansty Road and the conversations that will be necessary if St. Columba’s and Warwick Road are to make a similar journey. A thoughtful message was enhanced by music from their talented musicians. Both of those were pre-recorded. The week before we had been to a Zoom Service, about 100 people connected by Video link led by some friends from the North West. It was immediate, interactive, slightly chaotic and a chance to meet up with some friends. But I’ve also looked in at some cringeworthy offerings and others that are worthy but uninspiring. I guess that is just ordinary church week to week. 

Last week saw our first attempts at offering something more than a weekly letter. Kirsty and I produced a conversation “Walking with Strangers” that can be found on the websites. It does not attempt to replicate the worship that is already available, but to add something a little different. But within it, there is a prayer and some music that will point you towards a hymn. We also hosted our first  Zoom Bible Study. It was lovely to see people and to see the effort some of you had made to be connected. Please try to join us again on Tuesday when we look at 1 Peter 2 and what it might be to be Living Stones. The link remains https://us02web.zoom.us/j/4043156568. If you want to try it out before hand let me know and I will try to help you. It is best on a tablet or laptop that has microphone and camera. But if you can see and hear us there are also ways of interacting. 

You are God’s chosen and special people. You are a group of royal priests and a holy nation. God has brought you out of darkness into God’s marvellous light.

be blessed

CraigSunday 3 May  Third Sunday after Easter

Prayer Risen Jesus may we always know your voice, and follow the one who leads us through the gate. 

Hymn The King of love my shepherd is, 

whose goodness faileth never. 

I nothing lack if I am his, 

and he is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow, 

my ransomed soul he leadeth; 

and where the verdant pastures grow, 

with food celestial feedeth.

Bible Read John 10:1-10

Reflection What comes to mind when you think of a Gatekeeper? Are they welcoming or threatening figures? Do they hold the door open for you and bid you good morning, or do they block the way and enquire about your business? I suspect that we have all known both kinds of gatekeeper, but some of us will have experienced one more than the other. How does it feel to be denied access to somewhere we want to be? How might it feel if that happens time and time again – may there be some prejudice at work?

And how often have you been the gatekeeper? Deciding who gets access to a building, or power, or resources. How does that feel? Do you welcome the responsibility or cringe at the thought of it?

Jesus likens himself to the gate, through which we are to enter and find pasture. The gate does not decide whether it is opened or closed, locked or left unattended. But the gatekeeper does.

Jesus also likens himself to the shepherd, for whom the gate is opened so that the sheep can follow the voice they know and trust. This Jesus is not a stranger he is the one to be trusted, the one who will lay down his life for the sheep and gathers them from many folds into one flock.

When we find ourselves in the role of gatekeepers, may we allow the sheep from many folds to follow the way of Jesus, who is the good shepherd, the trusted gate to good pasture.

Prayer Incarnate Jesus, may we know your voice and follow you through the gate into abundant, fruitful life.

Hymn And so through all the length of days, 

thy goodness faileth never; 

Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise 

within thy house forever.

Blessing To God’s scattered people … 

Grace and peace to you in fullest measure.

Categories
Bible Study Minister Walking the Way

To the Scattered

The First letter of Peter is written to the scattered Christian communities in first century Asia Minor, it reminds them that despite the harshness of their life that they are sanctified and more precious than gold. What might the letter be able to say to 21st Century people scattered to their own homes?

Join us on Zoom every Tuesday from 28 April to 26 May. For the link contact Craig or check the letter sent to church members for Sunday 26 April.

Categories
Minister Podcasts

Walking with Strangers

This is the first in a series of conversations between Kirsty and Craig that reflect on a gospel reading and our responses to it. This week we say something about ourselves and the way we might recognise Jesus in the stranger.

Categories
Minister News

For 26 April 2020

It is now over a month since we were able to meet together and we continue to manage this lockdown period in different ways. Many have grown used to working from home, discovering just how much can be done online. But for others it is difficult, trying to manage work, child care, close proximity to one another all at the same time. Last week I was supposed to be on holiday, I did cut back on work related activity – but when you are still on the end of a phone, or looking at e-mails for other reasons, it is hard to do. My thanks to Kirsty for pulling the weekly letter together with some thoughtful worship material. That was one way I had a holiday!

However, it was also a space to think about the different ways we approach this time and Kirsty and I have decided to try some podcasts. These will be discussions based around the weekly gospel readings through to at least Pentecost (31 May) and we hope will complement the other online resources that people are finding. For those who can not access online material, the worship reflections on the other side of this letter, will follow a similar theme. We hope you continue to find them useful and thank you to those who have been writing back to me, it’s lovely to hear from you and to receive letter that aren’t bills!

I’ve also decided to introduce a Zoom Bible Study looking at the First letter of Peter, but will also include something in the weekly letter. 1 Peter was written to people who did not have buildings but were to be living stones wherever they were, The first line is addressed “To the scattered…” Perhaps there will be something we will learn from this old technology, using todays communication methods. 

The first bible study will be on Tuesday 28 April at 7pm, and then same time, same place, each Tuesday through May. If you would like to join me, then please contact me and I will send you the link.

In the meantime, “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Sunday 26 April: Third Sunday of Easter

Prayer Risen Jesus in our conversations and in our actions may we recognise your presence amongst us and in the lives of our community.

Hymn

Living God your joyful Spirit

breaks the bounds of time and space,

rests in love upon your people,

drawn together in this place.

Here we join in glad thanksgiving,

here rejoice to pray and praise:

Lord of all our past traditions,

Lord of all our future days

Bible Read Luke 24:13-35

Reflection Do you recognise anything of yourself in this account? Perhaps the confusion within Cleopas and his friend as they found themselves talking with someone they assumed was a stranger. Perhaps they were still grieving, perhaps they were disorientated by the change in events, perhaps they could not quite believe something that is being reported by women, even though some of the men had been to confirm it.  But for some reason they failed to recognise Jesus in the conversation and only saw him in the action of breaking bread.

Who do we believe? and what makes a person believable? How do we recognise Jesus? and what do we bring to our own conversations? How can we recognise Jesus in people whose lives do not fit into nice neat stereotypes.? How do we help people to affirm who they are and to recognise God’s blessing in each person whether they be stranger or friend?

Prayer Incarnate Jesus, you saw yourself in each of us, open our eyes to recognise you in ourselves and our neighbours so that we live and treat one another with love and compassion rather than fear and prejudice. Amen.

Hymn

As your bread may we broken,

scattered in community;

we who know your greatest blessings

called to share Christ’s ministry.

May we gently lead each other,

share our hunger and our thirst

learn that only through our weakness

shall we know the strength of Christ

RS 530 © Jill Jenkins

Blessing To God’s scattered people … Grace and peace to you in fullest measure.

Categories
Minister Prayers

Forsworn- a reflection on Matthew 26

Categories
Minister Prayers

for Easter Weekend

Ansty Road & St. Columba’s 

Worship material for Easter Weekend

Maundy Thursday Read Matthew 26

Tune Intercessor (RS 486)

This is the night, dear friends, the night for weeping,

when powers of darkness overcome the day,

the night the faithful mourn the weight of evil

whereby our sins the Son of Man betray.

 

This night the traitor, wolf within the sheepfold,

betrays himself into his victim’s will;

the Lamb of God for sacrifice preparing,

sin brings about the cure for sin’s own ill.

 

This night Christ institutes his holy supper,

blest food and drink for heart and soul and mind;

this night injustice joins its hand to treason’s,

and buys the ransom-price of humankind.

 

This night the Lord by slaves shall be arrested,

he who destroys our slavery to sin;

accused of crime, to criminals be given,

that judgment on the righteous Judge begin.

 

O make us sharers, Saviour, of your passion,

that we may share your glory that shall be;

let us pass through these three dark nights of sorrow

to Easter’s laughter and its liberty.

Peter Abelard (1079-1142);Trans. Richard Sturch © 1990 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188

This is the only day of the year where I tend to give this Hymn an airing, so if you haven’t joined us on a Maundy Thursday you may not know it. I always find it a very powerful way of taking us back through Matthew’s telling of the story, the good and bad within it, the despair and hope that comes in the same episode. We are living through a period where everything we assumed was normal has been changed. Our plans can only be tentative, perhaps …  maybe … if …. 

Jesus knew what was coming, but his followers thought this was just another episode in the adventure. It was, but not in the way they imagined. And for Judas it was too much, he was ready to change tack, to forswear whatever promise he had made to Jesus, to this new community and throw in his lot with the old power – to the powers-that-had-always-been. They will not be powers in God’s new reign. There was sorrow to come, but Easter’s laughter and liberty was on its way.

O God who is present at Gethsemane and with us now

In this time of many trials may we be awake to your call

and In the dark night of despair may your will be done

Amen

Good Friday

Read Matthew 27

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

I find this a really emotional hymn. But it has to be sung as simply as possible – without music, if there are enough good singers to carry the rest of us. And it is the simplicity that gives this hymn such resonance – it does not tell us what we are to make or believe about Jesus’ crucifixion – we are left to layer it with our own feelings and emotion – and as we do, we may sometimes find we tremble. 

Verse by verse, the song plays with images – “nailed him to the tree” – reminds us that the cross – so often seen as precious metal, was made from wood, such a natural product growing all around us, soaking up carbon dioxide, so that we can breathe oxygen. But now it is re-purposed as a means of torture and death. And that is where, on a Friday, I always leave this hymn – the last verse unsung, hanging in the air. We know it is coming but we need to carry the raw emotion of seeing Jesus’ dead body lying in the tomb before we can begin to hope again. 

I suspect it is Friday that I’m going to miss most over this weekend. I’ve always found it a strange day. I try to keep the Good Friday service as low key as possible. No flowers, No organ voluntary, Psalm 22 to start, the whole of Matthew 27 read, a simple sermon that focuses on whatever pain is foremost at the time, that hints at forgiveness, at the expectation that Sunday is coming – yet leaves people to lament, and know what they must leave at the cross in order to move on. The service will end with no blessing – for how can we be blessed when Jesus, the God-man lies dead.

And then as others plan a Friday out walking somewhere, or meeting up with friends, I will go home and write an Easter sermon – because I’ve found over the years that I just cant plan ahead – I really don’t know how I will approach Easter Day until I have experienced Good Friday. 

I really don’t know what I will do with myself this year – do you?

O God who is present at Calvary and with us now.

In this time of uncertain hopes may we find wisdom in your Word

and stand with those who can declare, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Easter Sunday

Were you there when God raised him from the dead?

Were you there when God raised him from the dead?

Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble:

Were you there when God raised him from the dead?

 

Read Matthew 28

Christ is alive! Let Christians sing.

The cross stands empty to the sky.

Let streets and homes with praises ring.

Love, drowned in death, shall never die.

 

Christ is alive! No longer bound

To distant years in Palestine,

But saving, healing, here and now,

And touching every place and time.

 

Not throned afar, remotely high

untouched, unmoved by human pains

but daily, in the midst of life

Our saviour in the Godhead reigns.

 

In every insult, rift, and war,

Where colour, scorn, or wealth divide,

Christ suffers still, yet loves the more,

And lives, where even hope has died.

 

Christ is alive, and comes to bring

Good news to this and every age,

Till earth and sky and ocean ring

with joy, with justice, love, and praise.

Brian Wren  © 1975 Hope Publishing Company

So, what are we to do with this Easter? I’ve seen people mention that the first Easter was not a big celebration, it was the confused reactions of frightened, uncertain people who had been locked in their houses, suddenly being given hope. In Matthew’s account, the guards are fearful, the women who have gone to the tomb are fearful and they leave “fearful and full of joy” to tell the other disciples. And then Jesus appears to them all and says, “Do not be afraid, go and tell…” 

I’ve turned to this hymn because it invites the empty streets to ring with praise. We can not gather in our churches this year, but Christ was never to be bound by empty places, but always where life is happening. So if we are confined to our homes, looking out to the world via television, radio, internet, telephones, video conferences, letters, then that is where Christ will be found this Easter. And if we are suffering or fearful for those we know who suffer, then Christ “loves the more/And lives, where even hope has died.”

This Easter morning it will be very strange not to be with you sharing Communion. But the invitation is to share in the United Reformed Church Daily Devotions in a service led by John Bradbury our General Secretary Elect, during which there will be an opportunity to share bread and wine in our own homes, but connected to friends around the world. Or join with services on television and radio, and be reminded that none of us are alone for:-

Christ is alive, and comes to bring

Good news to this and every age,

Till earth and sky and ocean ring

with joy, with justice, love, and praise.

Categories
Minister

Poem for Palm Sunday

Categories
Minister News Prayers

for 5 April 2020 (Palm Sunday)

1st April 2020
Dear Friends
As I type the date I wonder if somehow a great April Fool’s trick is being played on us, confining us to our homes, whilst somewhere else, life continues as it always did. But in truth I know that it doesn’t and that actually the calm surreal atmosphere I see from my window is very different for those confronted by the sort of medical emergency that we thought was consigned to history.
The strange thing about isolation is the confusion of ways to keep in contact – for those who are surrounded by technology. I’m aware that for those who are not, this world is even more isolating. So thank you for those who are keeping in touch with one another by telephone, by post, perhaps a wave through the window or dropping off supplies for those who need them. I have updated the website, and will look to keep that up to date. I will post on facebook from time to time and would encourage others to do so as well. And I hope to write something most weeks to keep us up to date and to create a service sheet that you might like to use in your own prayers and reflections.
Some of my colleagues have quickly moved into full blown online mode, with live streamed or pre-recorded Sunday services. Others are experimenting with video conferencing for a Sunday morning. I have been a bit slower, sensing that you are content to pick up what is available on television, radio and internet and that there is no need for me to replicate what is already available. But if you want something more then let me know. I have invested in Zoom – a video conferencing app. We used it for our Elders’ Meeting and I have used it to re-start the Wednesday morning prayers for the Chapel of Unity. I am going to produce a videoed reflection for a series that Lillington Free Church are putting together for Holy Week, so will list the link for you. Let me know if you would value something very specially created by or for Ansty Road.
 
 
That is the end of the notices, it is time to worship God
 
My song is love unknown
my Saviours love to me,
love to the loveless shown
that they might lovely be.
O who am I that for my sake
my Lord should take frail flesh and die
 
One of the things that this pandemic has highlighted is our essential workers. Many are in low paid service industries. They are the people who care for our sick, our older people and our children. They are the people who farm, transport and stack food where we can find it. They are the people who keep us connected, informed, cleaned. They are fulfilling many unloved roles.
 
We hold key workers in our prayers – may their frail flesh know life and love.
 
Sometimes they strew his way
and his sweet praises sing;
resounding all the day
hosannas to their King.
Then “Crucify” is all their breath
and for his death they thirst and cry.
 
Another is the goodness of praise. It is so easy to criticise, and clearly some have been quick to do so. But praise encourages us onwards, lifts the heart and brings joy for many. We come into Holy Week knowing that the Hosannas will become cries of Crucify, that the acceptance, even excitement of lockdown will become wearying for many, that already Domestic Violence is on the rise and many whose mental health is fragile will be broken.
 
We hold all who are anxious and frightened in our prayers – may they breathe life.
 
They rise, and needs will have
my dear Lord made away
a murderer they save,
the Prince of Life they slay.
Yet cheerful he to suffering goes,
that he his foes from thence might flee.
 
On the one hand a pandemic can strike anyone. We have seen the Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales being diagnosed. On the other, privilege still protects the Privileged. The wealthy can be tested, and I can isolate in a comfortable house with the ability to work, connect, eat, be entertained. We brought the Night Shelter to an end a week early, and whilst all our guests were moved into hotel accommodation, it was without the comforts I enjoy. From India there was a picture of people being forced into shared accommodation, crowded together – too poor to be isolated whilst chaos capitalists will make vast sums of money.
 
We hold the poor of our world in our prayers – may they find freedom from suffering
 
Here might I stay and sing
No story so divine;
never was love, dear King,
never was grief like thine.
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.
 
My website reflection last Sunday, focused on friendship. And this verse reminds me once again of the friendship we find in Christ. That God comes into our world as one who travels the lanes, shares meals, tells stories amongst friends, and calls us to gather as friends of one another and friends of Christ. This is a relationship that endures through all the troubles of life, through isolation and grief and emerges into new life. Easter may feel delayed this year but it will come.
 
We give thanks and sing for the friendships we enjoy – may each know the sweet presence of Christ
 
Be blessed, Craig
Categories
Minister News

Second Sunday of Social Distancing

Had I been leading worship this morning, my planned theme was Friendship. The gospel reading today was the one where Jesus is called to the home of his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. By the time he arrives Lazarus has been dead four days, Mary and Martha are grieving and Jesus grieves with them. This, despite knowing new life is coming for Lazarus. That need for friends to share human emotion becomes central to their relationship and the experiences they share.

Instead, I spent the morning watching/listening to various friends presenting worship via video/podcast. Each had their own ways of doing so, their own emphasis on the passages. But in each case something of the grief of isolation was expressed, of being apart from other human company. It was good to see them all, to remember how each of these friends has played a part in my life, how much their friendship is valued.

This time of social distancing, has emphasised how much being in the company of other people is central to who we are. Yes we can meet online, we can worship via video link, we can meet in video conference, we can work from home and keep in touch via a variety of social media. But none of it compensates for being with people, their presence and their interaction. I’m even missing the odd hug – not too many, but the occasional expression that come only come from human touch. It makes me realise how important social spaces are for isolated people – those who just come for a cup of tea, speak with no one, but value being able to do so. How meeting as a church is as much about the greeting and gathering as it is the content of a prayer or sermon. These are lessons we must remember when we return from isolation.

This mornings Old Testament text was Ezekiel being invited to see dry bones come to life. It reminds us that throughout human history, people have struggled through hard barren times and emerged with hope. we will do so as well.