I write on a strange day. The sun is shining, it’s warm, yet muggy – an autumn day that suggests summer is still in the air. Yet earlier, the clouds were grey blue, the sun peering through – red and eery, warm wind gusting. In the west, Storm Ophelia is hitting Ireland in a great Atlantic storm; here, sand and warm air from the Sahara leaves all still and calm. By the time you read this you will know the impact, but at the moment we seem a million miles from whatever storm is coming.
Ophelia is the 16th Tropical storm of an hyperactive year in which there have been the greatest number of consecutive hurricanes in the satellite era. Ophelia is the easternmost major hurricane on record. Tropical cyclones form over large bodies of warm water, deriving energy from evaporation and forming into cyclones by the earths rotation. Whilst they are often devastating for human populations they also bring benefits by carrying heat energy away from the tropics and bringing it into our temperate latitudes.
Whilst some argue that there is little evidence that human activity has created the conditions that fuel such storms, as stewards of God’s creation, I believe that we need to act on the assumption that our lifestyle causes global warming and encourage ways in which alternative sources of energy are used. That will not always be easy or straight-forward. Sometimes it may seem to be more expensive in the short term but on the way we will create a cleaner, more sustainable space for future generations to thrive in. If the global-warming deniers are wrong and we continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate then a catastrophe awaits.
So could we explore becoming an Eco-church? It would encourage us to examine our individual and collective lifestyle and discover ways in which together we can make a difference. And if we were to be an Eco-Church would someone be keen enough to take a lead on this for us and help all of us to have a concern for the integrity of creation?
Come along for a nibble and a natter, Hopefully we will be out on the front lawn enjoying the sunshine!
Last month I wrote about the Holy Habits of discipleship. This month I want to focus on the key habit of learning. At Ministers Summer School we looked at discipleship and were reminded that “A disciple is learning to live the way of Jesus in their context at this moment”
The first disciples of Jesus learnt at his feet – remember Jesus telling Martha that sister Mary had chosen the better part by choosing to learn from him (Lk 10:42). On another day she learnt of his compassion as she fell at his feet grieving her brother (Jn 11:32). Those disciples shared the stories and sayings of Jesus so that later generations could continue to learn and be identified as disciples.
Our learning takes the experience of first century Israel and translates that into our own context – sometimes we discover that human experience changes little across times and cultures, other times we discover that modern life creates its own questions to be explored in this moment. Thats why we continue to explore the bible on a Sunday, or in small groups and should be doing so in our individual lives – not as some strange add-on to church life but as a normal holy habit that is shared with those around us.
So what was the last thing your learnt about Jesus? How did that impact on your 21st Century life? How can we enable each other to learn? What help do you need with your own learning? Speak to you your Elders, let us know and help us to find ways to support your discipleship.
Another thing I learnt this week was the idea of TTT – it’s a question to be asked each Sunday – what will you de doing This Time Tomorrow (or Tuesday or Thursday)? In answering it, we hear about the challenges of being disciples Monday to Saturday and get an insight into the ways we can prayerfully support and encourage one another in our daily lives. So, be ready with a response when I ask, “What will you be doing TTT?” And receive the prayers we offer.
At the beginning of June we will celebrate Pentecost, the moment when the first disciples began to realise that inspired by the Holy Spirit they could create a God-shaped, Christ-centred, Spirit-led community. Amongst the ways they did, was to get into the habit of meeting together for teaching, fellowship, communion and prayer, as a result of which they experienced generous giving, kindly service, growing fellowships, shared meals and worshipful lives. These essentials of Christian Community have not changed over the years, but sometimes we think we can opt in and out of some habits and still feel like we belong. In doing so we do God a dis-service.
Over the summer months I intend exploring these Holy Habits and the way that belonging to the body of Christ has always involved all these elements. Asking how we can help and encourage one another to continue this tradition and in doing so enhance our own discipleship creating God-shaped, Christ-centred, Spirit-led communities that serve God well and honour the inheritance we have been given.
Alongside these Holy Habits we will explore the story of biblical disciples; Barnabas who encouraged, Mary who learned, Hannah who prayed, Martha who welcomed, Mary Magdalene who witnessed – how can we be encouraged, learn, pray, welcome and witness? What are the habits we do well? What new habits must we form? What does it mean to be disciples in the 21st Century?
As a Collect for the feast of Barnabas says, “Grant, O God, that we may follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the wellbeing of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.”
Be blessed, Craig
Come and join our a Quiz Night in which the questions will test your knowledge of many things French and you will be tempted by some hearty English Puddings.
Don’t worry if you can’t make up a team – I’m sure we will be able to put some together.
I’ve just come home from an AGM that focused on hope, it told inspirational stories whilst knowing the harsh reality of human life, yet looked forward to the future; that spoke of hope as part of the human condition, as a partner that walks through life with us; that throws open its arms and welcomes; that transforms our lives and speaks our language.
This is the hope that we speak about at Easter with death overcome, love conquering hate, the opportunity to begin life afresh, to tell inspirational stories, to be overcome by God’s spirit bursting into tired, frightened lives – the language of transformation that creates a culture of hope even where we struggle to believe that such things can happen.
The inspirational AGM was hosted by Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, looking back at the work of the last year, listening to refugee stories that burst with emotion. That reminded us of human inhumanity, whether in the places they flee or within the bureaucracies to which they come. They spoke of communities torn apart and of people piecing life back together. They gave us hope and they looked to the future as a hope-filled journey. For CRMC that journey is going to take them into a new centre, this year they will move from Bishop Street to Norton House, renovating a tired building, creating modern office space and a community hub that will welcome those in need and encourage integration into this city which has such a long history of welcoming the stranger. To do that they will need financial help and have launched an appeal which can be found at http://covrefugee.org. The theme of the appeal and the years ahead is Hope.
In this Easter season it was good to remember that hope comes in many forms, to many people. That where we engender hope then we build new lives. As we tell this Easter story we do so in the love of Christ who transforms lives by opening our capacity to hope and calls us to speak the language of hope.
In the silent garden,
we stood with graves laid out
as if disbelief could turn back time.
Sometimes, silence is all we have to express ourselves;
awed, astonished, ashamed, ashen,
silent as the grave.
In the hushed corner plot,
woeful folk quietly plant raised beds
as if peace could descend with new blooms.
Sometimes, silence sings collusions victory dance;
soft, scented, scared, scarred,
hushed with inaction.
In the secret terrace,
weans play a raucous hide ’n seek
as if solemn tongues could break into laughter.
Sometimes silence is the comma, as life explodes –
caught, caressed, carried, carved,
gleeful Easter’s fête.
In festival garden,
world-weary ones feast on merriment,
as if lament will be heard no more.
Sometimes, silence proclaims extravagant garlands,
plaited, pretty, presented, pricey
fanfare of rebirth.
Craig Muir March 2017
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
I wanted to write something that viewed Jesus’ burial site as a garden – as that would be the natural place for Mary to meet with “the Gardener” But I found myself imagining a park where different activities go on alongside one another and yet still told a story that takes a community from despair to delight.
In one corner is a burial area, – so often there is little to be said after the formal words – we say little but are reluctant to move away.
in another corner people are gardening – finding some healing in doing so – but it also contrasts the way silence can be companionable with the times when our failure to speak out colludes with injustice.
In another corner the children (heard but not seen) play (weans is not a natural world for me but it allows the part rhyme of we/wo/we/wo to begin each second line) children really allow life to remain quiet for long – they are the reminder to us that life goes on – that so many moments that seem like a full stop – are really just a comma, as the story unfolds. (And couldn’t resist the homophone of fête with fate)
In another corner, it’s time to party, parade, feast, festival – Easter time!
So if Lent is a fast, why is our Lent Theme all about Feasts and Festivals?” Well, partly because the United Reformed Church is following that theme in various guises throughout the year, but also because Lent is as much about feasting as it is about fasting. Each Sunday is a feast day, and not counted in the 40 fast days of Lent. Our Lent Gatherings will be a time to reflect on the way our journeys can take various turns, that some are feasts and others fasts but all take us towards the greatest festival of all … Easter.
The sessions have been inspired by the wonderful prayers in this years Prayer Handbook, for example
We pick up the stones
of the hurts of the world
violence and poverty,
disaster, and starvation
wanting you to turn them into bread;
Carol Dixon, URC Prayer Handbook 2017
God so loved …
this home for humanity,
rich varieties of shape, colour, language, identity, story
that God sent his son not to condemn but to save.
May we value all of humanity with the same love,
share the same willingness for sacrifice
and make the same risks
that God makes for us
Vaughan Jones, URC Prayer Handbook 2017
In the midst of a fast, we will enjoy a feast of poetry, song, prayer and discovery. We will touch, look, taste and imagine. We will roam from wilderness to garden, pausing at a well as darkness falls and we catch our breath. Come and join in
be blessed, Craig
Inspired by Deuteronomy 30, Matthew 5 and the Trainspotting advert
Choose to resolve conflict;
Choose agreement over anger;
Choose peace and understanding;
Choose to greet your enemy in friendship;
Choose to listen,
to walk together through life’s trials
Choose a partner;
be faithful in what you think and in what you do.
Choose two eyes and two hands,
Choose a life well lived.
Choose truthfulness where Yes is Yes
and No means No.
Be known for speaking the truth
for sharing God’s foolish wisdom.
Choose fellowship and seeking God,
finding who you are
and where you stand in all creation.
Choose creative living,
full of possibilities and opportunities;
Live a life that others can look back on and declare.
“It is good.”
Choose a community transformed
by love and grace and justice and mercy.
Choose your future.
Choose our future.
Choose a future for the world you inhabit,
Choose life ….
the life that God holds out before you
this day and every day.