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

 

Categories
Minister News Prayers

Horses & Chariots: 13 September 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayers & Reflection for 13 September 2020

Prayer

Give thanks to the God of heaven

For love endures for ever

The stone which the builders rejected

has become the main cornerstone

This is the work of the Lord

It is wonderful on our eyes

Hymn

Guide me o thou great Jehovah

pilgrim through this barren land;

I am weak, but thou art mighty,

hold me with thy powerful hand;

bread of heaven, bread of heaven

feed me now and evermore.

 

Open now the crystal fountain

whence the healing stream doth flow;

let the fire and cloudy pillar

lead me all my journey through:

strong deliverer, strong deliverer;

be thou still my strength and shield.

 

When I tread the verge of Jordan,

bid my anxious fears subside;

death of death, and hell’s destruction

land me safe on Canaan’s side:

songs of praises, songs of praises,

I will ever give to thee.

William Williams  (1717-91)

Bible Exodus 14:19-31 

Reflection

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

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

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

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

Prayer

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world

have mercy on us 

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world

have mercy on us 

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world

have mercy on us 

Hymn

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

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

Fred Kaan  (1929- 2009)

Categories
Minister News Prayers

14 June 2020

It is now almost three months since we were able to meet together in our church buildings and whilst various activities are opening up, the advice from the United Reformed Church is to be in no rush to open. Our style of church believes that private prayer happens in the home, or street or park, we only need buildings to gather together or reach out from. Even if the government advice is that we can gather in the building, we are still going to be cautious. The Elders believe that too many of our normal congregation will still need to be shielded and that the precautions we would need to put in place would make our already small congregation even smaller.

So far, we have encouraged you to use the material on the reverse of this page, along with television, radio and internet resources in order to worship on a Sunday morning. We have produced some podcasts and have gathered online for a bible study. Elsewhere, I have learnt how to use a conference facility called Zoom. It can be accessed by computers or telephones and allows us to see and hear those who use computers, whilst those on the telephone can hear and talk. I have hosted services for Chapel of Unity, sat in on a service with North Warwickshire Group, as well as sitting in lots of meetings from the comfort of my own chair.

At both Elders’ meeting this week it was felt that the time had come to use zoom to create a space where we could be with one another on a Sunday morning and so from this Sunday we are going to offer an online service each week. I will continue to send you a weekly outline for those who do not wish to join with us or find the technology too difficult. But I would also say that many people have been surprised at how easy it is to use – so please give it a go.

To join by phone dial one of the following numbers

0131 460 1196

0203 051 2874

0203 481 5237

0203 481 5240

If you have problems try another number. 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 

To join by computer,  click on this link  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83142689496

and say yes to the various questions. (It gets easier the second time). 

Meeting ID: 831 4268 9496       Password: 512001

Please come and join us, we will all be learning as we go.

On other matters. The work on the church building has begun. I know some of you have been past for a peek. There have been a couple of surprises once the builders were able to uncover previous work and that has caused a bit of adjustment, but I hope we have found the right solutions. If you are able to support the work financially then that would be helpful. The budget is tight and the more leeway we have the better. So far the grant applications have not been successful. If you can, please send your contributions to Caroline, preferable by a direct payment into our Barclays account Sort Code 202355 Account No 60995746. We also need to meet ongoing costs. We believe we can do that as we have a reasonable reserve but of course all contributions help to sustain that confidence. 

Sorry to end with the begging bit – keep going and I hope you find something much more nourishing.

 

Prayer Powerful God, you strengthen us, no matter what storms we face in this life. We give you the glory!

United Church of Christ, Daily Devotional 10 June 2020

Hymn

Here in this place, new light is streaming 

now is the darkness vanished away, 

see, in this space, our fears and our dreamings, 

brought here to you in the light of this day. 

Gather us in the lost and forsaken 

gather us in the blind and the lame; 

call to us now, and we shall awaken 

we shall arise at the sound of our name. 

Bible Genesis 18:1-15

Reflection Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

Is this a God-incidence? Kirsty is in the process of finalising the details of renting a shop on Ball Hill so that we can start the work there that some of us have been talking about for many years. And I asked, what are we going to call it? What name do we put above the door? As is my want, I then began throwing out suggestions. Amongst the things I played with, was the current address – 185 Walsgrave Road – what if we called it 1/85 or 18:5? I began looking at bible passages that fitted, there are lots of them for 18:5 – and one is the verse above. It comes in the midst of this passage about creating hospitality. God’s self as three strangers is welcomed into the camp. This is what we want to do at our [Unnamed] shop – welcome, refresh, pass on, serve. 

Having dashed something off to Kirsty, I turned to thinking about this Sunday and looked up the lectionary readings. Here we were again, Genesis 18:5. Abraham knowing he has to welcome these strangers – however in the next verse he is mansplaining to Sarah, how to make cakes (Whoops) and then rushing off to instruct servants on picking out some meat to serve. Eventually, he settles down and he has time to hear the message, “Sarah will have a son.” Sadly, Sarah hears this by listening from the tent, but her mocking laughter is noted and her son Issac (He laughs) will be named for that moment.  

For some of us, this has been a busy time. Sometimes it’s been difficult to take time to sit down and listen to God. And yet when I do it is all about the future and some plans seem ridiculous enough to create mocking laughter. Next week Kirsty and I will be at online Ministers Summer School, instead of meeting at Swanwick. There is no planned content in the afternoons and we are being encouraged to rest and reflect. Makes you laugh!

Prayer God, you disrupt our calm. Continue to be our peace. Amen.                                         United Church of Christ, Daily Devotional 8 June 2020

Hymn

Not in the dark of buildings confining 

not in some heaven, light years away 

but here in this place, the new light is shining 

now is the kingdom, now is the day. 

Gather us in and hold us forever 

gather us in and make us your own 

gather us in all peoples together 

fire of love in our flesh and our bone.

Marty Haughen © Gregorian Institute of America