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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,

 

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

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