Categories
Minister News Prayers

Vine Branches: 2 May 2021

Dear Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

be blessed,  Craig

 

Worship for 2 May 2021 

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

Hymn

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

a place where saints and children tell

how hearts learn to forgive;

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

here the love of Christ shall end divisions:

All are welcome,

all are welcome,

all are welcome in this place.

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

and loved and treasured, taught and claimed 

as words within the Word.

Built of tears and cries and laughter,

prayers of faith and songs of grace,

let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:

All are welcome,

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

One Licence A-632955

Prayer 

God who births love

revealed amongst us

shining from companions;

May love flow through our hearts,

be present on our lips,

flow through each encounter.

God who reveals love,

sent among us,

abiding with us;

May the Beloved Word

remain in us,

restore our souls.

God who abides in love,

dancing with the Spirit,

testifying to hope;

May we live through love

speak out with love,

act as children of love. 

 

God who encourages love,

casting out fear,

making life perfect;

may we be bold before judgement,

aware that love renews

that we belong to God

Before your love

we bring our pain, our lies,

the wrong we know is within us,

our brokenness 

all we struggle to love;

May we receive your forgiveness,

your mercy and grace.

God who commands love,

as the one who first loved us,

as the one who loves all creation;

May we love all that is created by you,

all who abide in you,

all whose love is birthed in you.

Craig Muir, based on 1 John 4 

Bible: John 15:1-8

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

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

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

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

Hymn

Jesus the Lord said I am the Bread

The Bread of Life for the world am I

The Bread of Life for the world am I

The Bread of Life for the world am I

Jesus the Lord said I am the Bread

The Bread of Life for the world am I

 

Jesus the Lord said I am the Vine

the true and fruitful vine am I.

 

Jesus the Lord said I am the Life

The Resurrection and the Life am I

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

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

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

and we thank you for every part of it;

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

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

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

you may help us to rediscover your love of creation 

and to reflect that in our own lives.

God who speaks through unexpected people,

We thank you for contemporary prophets

 who are challenging us to act on climate change;

for indigenous people and their invaluable knowledge

 of the land and sea where they live,

for scientists dedicating their careers 

to warning us about changes to the planet,

and for young people striking for their future.

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

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

God of second chances,

we recognise the damage we have done to the Earth

and the injustice we see in society every day,

all of it fuelled by worship of profit and possessions.

We pray for the coming of a better world 

with justice, kindness and humility at its heart.

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

Give us confidence to follow the prophetic voices

to stand against injustice to people and to the planet.

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

From Christian Aid Worship Resources

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

Loving Lord Jesus,

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

Help us not to be afraid as the restrictions are eased

but to trust in Your strength.

Give us the strength we need to move 

towards the uncertainty of a new normal.

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

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

Amen

John Collings, Lay Preacher, Rutherglen URC 

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

Hymn

The love of God comes close

Where stands an open door

To let the stranger in

To mingle rich and poor

The love of God is here to stay

Embracing those who walk His way

 

The grace of God comes close

To those whose grace is spent

When hearts are tired or sore

And hope is bruised or bent

The grace of God is here to stay

Embracing those who walk His way

 

The Son of God comes close

Where people praise His name

Where bread and wine are blest

And shared as when He came

The Son of God is here to stay

Embracing those who walk His way

Graham Maule | John L. Bell

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

Categories
News Sermon URC Daily Devotions

25 April 2021: Speaking Holy Words

Dear Friends

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

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

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

May our own faith also sustain each of us.

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

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

be blessed, 

Craig

 

Worship for 25 April 2021

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

He makes me lie in pastures green

He leads me by the still still waters

His goodness restores my soul

And I will trust in You alone

And I will trust in You alone

For Your endless mercy follows me

Your goodness will lead me home

He guides my ways in righteousness

And He anoints my head with oil

And my cup it overflows with joy

I feast on His pure delights

And though I walk the darkest path

I will not fear the evil one

For You are with me

And Your rod and staff

Are the comfort I need to know

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

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Prayers Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd

as a shepherd gathers their flock

so You have gathered us today

drawing us in to the shelter of Your flock

to feed and refresh us.

Some of us come before You rejoicing,

because our path has led us through green pastures

and You have filled our cup of happiness to overflowing.

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

because our path has led us through dark and frightening valleys

and we need to know Your strength restoring our souls.

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

because we have wandered astray instead of following You

and now we come to seek for Your forgiveness.

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

forgetting that we are pledged to follow You,

then, Good Shepherd, set us right.

If we have chosen to do what we want

rather than act out of love for others

and have found ourselves in difficulties,

then Good Shepherd set us right.

If we have been so preoccupied with other things

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

then Good Shepherd set us right.

Bring us back from where we have wandered

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

Speak Your word of pardon, Lord

and remind us that You said:

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

May each of us know that we matter to You,

however far away we may have strayed.

May we hear Your voice afresh during our service today

and draw closer to You before we leave.

May we entrust the week ahead to You

and have the courage to follow You day by day.

For we pray this in Your name.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hymn

God is love His the care

Tending each everywhere

God is love all is there

Jesus came to show Him

That we all might know Him

Sing aloud loud loud

Sing aloud loud loud

God is good

God is truth

God is beauty

Praise Him

 

Jesus came, lived and died

For our sake crucified

Rose again glorified

He was born to save us

By the truth He gave us

None can see God above

Sing aloud loud loud

 

Jesus shows how to love

Thus may we Godward move

Joined as sisters brothers

Finding Him in others

Sing aloud loud loud

 

To our Lord praise we sing

Light and life, friend and King

Coming down love to bring

Pattern for our duty

Showing God in beauty.

Sing aloud loud loud

 

Percy Dearmer Public Domain

Prayers

Eternal God,

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

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

or whom care cannot reach.

We pray for the elderly who die alone,

the young who are neglected, or cruelly treated,

young and old whose weaknesses are exploited

and sensitivities abused.

We pray for all who have grown hopeless

and weary as each day is like the last.

For those who face hunger and homelessness

with no way out;

refugees from war and violence

to whom no-one wants to give a home.

Those whose lives have been wrecked by conflicts

they do not understand

and cannot affect or change,

hounded by economic and political forces

or by the impact of climate change

which take no account of their need.

In this world of so much suffering

we pray too for all who are affluent,

comfortable, warm and cared for,

who do not care.

For those who know what they should do

but do not bother.

For those who close their eyes and minds;

and those who simply find

other people’s troubles and needs

a cross they do not wish to bear.

We pray for those who do care –

Those who accept the pain and disturbance

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

Those whose consciences are hurt,

who want to help, but cannot see how.

We pray for all who do care –

Who are willing to go the extra mile

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

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

risking life and limb, facing danger and fear.

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

and in others who have something to give

to the ill, troubled and dying.

Give us such love

that Your sheep, both inside and outside the fold,

may be found, given health, strength, food

and the ability to enjoy life to the full

and the joy to praise You.

We thank You that Jesus is the Good Shepherd

and for Your grace and mercy

that has made us part of His flock.

Thank you that You watch over Your flock. 

You know us by name,

You understand what we are like,

You call us to follow

and You accompany us along the path,

seeking us out when we stray,

keeping a loving eye on what we do.

Lead us into Your future

on the adventure of faith,

for Jesus’ sake.

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

Hymn

Jesus Lover of my soul

Let me to Thy bosom fly

While the nearer waters roll

While the tempest still is high

Hide me O my Saviour hide

Till the storm of life is past

Safe into the haven guide

Oh receive my soul at last.

 

Other refuge have I none

Hangs my helpless soul on Thee

Leave ah leave me not alone

Still support and comfort me

All my trust on Thee is stayed

All my help from Thee I bring

Cover my defenceless head

With the shadow of Thy wing.

 

Thou O Christ art all I want

More than all in Thee I find

Raise the fallen cheer the faint

Heal the sick and lead the blind

Just and holy is Thy name

I am all unrighteousness

False and full of sin I am

Thou art full of truth and grace.

 

Plenteous grace with Thee is found

Grace to cover all my sin

Let the healing streams abound

Make and keep me pure within

Thou of life the Fountain art

Freely let me take of Thee

Spring Thou up within my heart

Rise to all eternity

Charles Wesley Public Domain

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 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 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 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