Category Archives: Minister’s Messages

Thoughts for the Week: Looking Forward in God’s Hope

Having wished many people all the best for the new year, we come to Epiphany. A new beginning? At times, it seems more like an ending, so I add in HOPE! It might be that the bells are not ringing anymore, the Christmas decorations have been put away, the cards are collected, and I am sure by now all the left-over food has been eaten or given to the birds. No doubt that this year more than any other that we have experienced is said with HOPE. Hope that with the vaccines, COVID-19 will be overcome, and a new year will have dawned. HOPE means looking forward and is a gift of God.
In some countries Epiphany will be celebrated by giving presents to one another in memory of the Magi who brought gifts that had special meanings – gifts with a purpose. The story is in Matthew’s Gospel 2 v1-12. Last week we looked at faith and now we turn to HOPE. Biblical hope is inseparable from faith in God because of what God did in the past, preparing for the coming of Christ, and what God is doing now through His Son Jesus Christ. HOPE on its own seems to be just a thing that is explained in many ways but with God it is a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. Because of Christian’s having faith, they have an assurance that God’s promises are real and there is a list of people who have found it is just like that for themselves when God is with them in Hebrews 11 and HOPE from God never disappoints.
Going back to the reading about the visitation of the Magi. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. They had seen the star, followed the star, saved the child from Herod, all before they were certain that the star had brought them to the child who was the new king, the Messiah of God’s promise and the one they had brought the gifts for – a gift of gold for a king, frankincense for deity and myrrh for a special death. As we have seen the lights going out, we remember the promise that the Christ light never goes out and we have God’s HOPE and CHRIST’S HOPE forever.
As I was preparing this week’s THOUGHTS the news came that we had to go on Lockdown. This will mean difficulty for many people in all kinds of ways. Let us be aware of people who need help, especially those who will not ask.
Let us pray that the Lord will help us to recognise those people and in a gentle way, get to know them as a friend. That might be all that they need to help them through these days ahead of us.
Father God lead us in the right way to be like the good Samaritan, to act when we see a need and show by what we do the love of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen
At times like this it is good to have a laugh. I saw the following stories in a past Grace magazine.
Each Sunday the minister told the children a story. One day he brought a telephone to illustrate the idea of prayer.
“You talk to people but don’t see them on the other end of the line,” he began. The children nodded. “Well talking to God is like talking on the telephone. He’s on the other end, but you can’t see him. He’s listening though.” Just then a little boy piped up and asked, “What’s His number?”
A little girl became restless as the preacher’s sermon dragged on and on. Finally, she leaned over to her mother and whispered, “Mummy, if we give him the money now, will he let us go?”
There is the story of a preacher who got up one Sunday and announced to his congregation, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is, we have enough money to pay for our new building programme. The bad news is, it’s still in your pockets.”

Thoughts for the Week: The Blessing of Faith

My Thoughts this week have been about storms. As if we haven’t had enough with Lockdown and rules and regulations, Storm Bella hit the country causing floods for many people. This led me to think about one of the parables that Jesus used to teach people. With poetic licence: Jesus got into a fishing boat followed by his twelve disciples. Without warning a furious storm swept over the boat; well, not just their boat because the sea of Galilee was not a huge amount of water and according to Josephus, an ancient historian, there was usually 300 fishing boats on the water at any time. With so many there could have been a panic as the fishermen tried to pull the sails down for safety and, at the same time, keep rowing with the oars. Before they had set off, Jesus had been teaching and healing, after which He would go away into the countryside to pray but on this occasion, he had decided to cross the sea with His disciples, so it was no wonder that He had taken some time to have a short nap.
The storm got worse and worse until the waves were breaking over the boat and his sleep was broken by one of his disciples shouting out to him, “Lord save us, we are going to die!” To which Jesus reply might have seemed a bit sharp, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” We’ll look at that another time.
Just as I got up this morning, the news came from Oxford University that another vaccine had been approved which would be enough for the whole world. I suggest that COVID-19 was like a sudden storm to our lives and that some of us have said, “Lord save us” or “Lord help us” or “Where were you Lord?” In the Old Testament, God speaks through Isaiah about the future Redeemer who will take all our infirmities and carry all our sorrows and all our diseases. We could call it a response to prayer but again we would have to have faith that the whole world had been praying in the words of the disciples.
WHAT HAS JESUS BEEN SHOWING US ABOUT FAITH? Faith is an action based on belief in Jesus.
Faith is belief in the invisible God. Faith believes in God’s promises.
Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you afraid?” to his disciples because they had been quite recently chosen to be his disciples and they would eventually be His Apostles and would carry on His mission when He would leave the earth. To understand more about faith, turn to Hebrews 11. By the time you receive these notes it will be New Year 2021.
Thank you for my Christmas cards and for your support through the difficult year now over, and my prayers will be for you and your families. The future is in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ but…

Words to remember by Teresa of Avila (1515 – 1582)

Christ has no body but yours
No hands, no feet, on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good
Yours are the hands with which he blesses this world
Yours are the feet, yours are the hands,
yours are the eyes, yours are his body
Christ has no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Thoughts for the Week: Christmas: God, You Are With Us

Christmas! We are nearly there and despite those annoying tiers I believe that many people have made more of an effort to make this Christmas the real reason to have a celebration of God coming into the world. Firstly, at the beginning of Advent, if not slightly earlier, beautiful lights were appearing all over houses, shops and pubs. Lights which speak of Jesus, the light of the world. I know not everyone who has lightened their homes will say it is because of Jesus but it has made it easier for believers to talk about Him and to know that they are doing their best to do what God has asked of them which was, ‘The Gospel must be preached to all nations.’
Then there is the shopping which often was made difficult for two reasons – one the fear of being with too many people and secondly that the shops had been ordered to be closed. This has been disastrous for shop keepers and businesspeople who had hoped for the usual spending spree for the best time of the year to make their profit only to have it taken away from them. So many people have suffered in different ways through the Lockdown and the rules and restrictions and because of the loss of work the thought of Christmas coming has seemed to make the sadness caused by the Pandemic even sadder. However, it isn’t helpful to speak negatively; instead, we need to look in hope to a better future. Recently the vaccines have in a short time become available and although it will take some time to reach everyone it is a blessing which will save many lives. We must be aware of what it has cost in people power for us to be so near to being saved. The scientists who have worked day and night and sometimes with young students who have volunteered to give their time to help saving people. I agree that it is difficult to hold on to hopefulness for as I write there are floods in Hereford which I believe in the past two weeks will have felt safe from the virus as they were in tier no.1, only to have to cope with their homes at risk.
Our thoughts and prayers must continue to be with the suffering and grieving people, but I move on now to the closed churches and chapels. Was COVID-19 to be allowed to destroy our worshipping of God at the special time that is Christmas? Not at all. I am often reminded of Gerald Reeve, one of the Long Itchington Deacons, when stuck with a problem would say, ‘There’s always another way.’
I have seen more Nativity plays this Christmas than before and they’ve all been doing what God asked, to preach to all nations. One was in a local church with keen adults and a few children. Then a school Nativity of 250 children divided into classes sang in turn new songs specially written for the children to learn about the coming of Christ into the world. And close by, a family used the Bible to prepare their own Nativity to be acted for anyone who would be able to come to it. Moving from area to area, we would find many more plays about the Christmas story on ZOOM and YouTube and if we look around, we could see outdoor events to Celebrate Jesus, the Light of the world. We might see groups of people delivering boxes of food to others in need, others who give their time to spend with lonely people. Also, on our televisions we see people who walk beyond their expected ability, very elderly from 101 years to small children and those with special needs determined to raise large amounts of money often for hospitals.

PRAYERS

Almighty God, we began with the words ‘God, you are with us.’ Father we praise and thank you for always being close to us as we come with troubled minds and hearts. We are aware of the needs of people and of the fears of many. We try to help them to accept that you are with us and yet they struggle to understand that you are the one and only living God. Today Father we give thanks for all the children, their parents and teachers who show through Nativity plays that Jesus is the king of the world and that by acting and singing about Him they grow up with a gift of faith that will help them through their lives.
Now Lord we bring the needs of people to you. Through this time, we have all seen good and bad happening to people because of the virus. We pray today for women and children who are being abused by the adults who should be their carers and sometimes the men are the ones to be hurt. Lord, these people who cannot contain their anger are the ones that need to be taken away from those who are suffering because of them, and so our prayer is that they will be found and prevented to act in such a way. Our other prayers are for the scientists who have put themselves at risk while working all hours to help save others. We pray for more vaccine to be made to prevent people from getting seriously ill or dying before their time. Lord God, we pray in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Thoughts for the Week: 3rd Sunday of Advent – Celebrate Jesus

I have always been interested in the simplicity of Celtic worship and have at times used it on a Sunday morning. Today we will have a mixture of worship and you may have seen the poster that Lisa prepared which simply says: CELEBRATE JESUS LIGHT OF THE WORLD
If you have a window or a Notice Board nearby, please request a poster to display it. Because of the vaccine we are, perhaps, saying to ourselves that the light of Jesus is now shining brighter than it has been for months due to COVID-19. Whatever went through our minds during that time there was never a belief that we wouldn’t see that light again. Remember what we read from John’s Gospel chapter 1 v5 we can look back in wonder if we remind ourselves what lighting the ADVENT CANDLES really means: “The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has never overcome it.”
Firstly, we say in prayer, God of all hope shine your light on the story of the Saints who journeyed before us. May the seed that they planted in the world, seeds of peace, joy and love take hold in our hearts and stretch towards the light. We look now at Psalm 5. In the beginning, David is remembering his own sins and those of others but as he cries to God there is a different feeling in his mind. Verse 11 says, “Let all who take refuge in you ever sing for joy” and we think about one of the Advent hopes: “We light a candle for peace and pray for the courage to stand up for it. As the waiting and expectation deepen our desire for peace, like the wise called to journey in those early dawning days, may we seek, strive and search for peace.”
Each of the Saints of old have their own journey story. Today we have a very shortened story of St. Brendan. Born in AD 489 in Tralee, SW Ireland, he was brought up on the stories of Noah, Moses and Jonah. He travelled with the Lord instead of searching for Him. To him, Jesus was a pioneer, the way, the truth and the life. Throughout his life he was looking for the Island of Promise and even though he didn’t find it, he died aged 90 and then put his foot on the true Island of Promise. This is like the story of an old climber who set off to climb a mountain in freezing cold. When questioned about getting there he said, “My heart is there already so others can follow”.

PRAYERS

Where we are at the present time is part of our spiritual journey or you might call it your voyage. Recently we have all been tested on our lives and how we have coped with the changes made for us. When we look at Lisa’s poster, do we see the light shining for us and leading us on in our new lives? Do we celebrate Jesus who also had a difficult life and a terrible death in giving Himself for us, and are our hearts already where our Lord Jesus Christ is, watching over us all the times of our lives?
I know that you are all wondering about the futures of our Chapels so join me in prayer each day:
Heavenly Father, we praise and worship you, and we try to be positive about the future. We pray that we will be able to open the Chapels for services again. We pray for Long Itchington and the repairs that are needed. And we pray for both congregations to be able to sing with joy and praise to You Lord, as it says in the Psalm, and as in Psalm 66 to shout with joy and sing the glory of God’s name. The Psalm speaks to us saying, “Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds, so great is your power. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you.”
We pray in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We move in prayer to the Holy Spirit who is our comforter, our counsellor, our help in times of need. We pray for all the children who have been brought before you in the chapels. Some will be in other churches, some in other lands, some who have faith in you and others who have none. Father, Son and Holy Spirit hear our prayers and guide us and all who might be open to a call to serve you in either of our chapels. Amen

Thoughts for the Week: 2nd Sunday of Advent

Last week on Advent Sunday, Matthew’s Gospel led me to think with the disciples about the future. As the disciples left the Temple with Jesus, they looked up at the buildings and commented on the magnificence of the Temple that had been rebuilt by Herod the Great to keep the Jewish people satisfied. This included the religious Pharisees to whom the building was more important than Himself. He told the disciples that at a certain time it would all be destroyed. After this Jesus told them what they would see happen in the future, for instance wars earthquakes etc. They asked when the end would come, and Jesus replied that only the Father knew but the Gospel must be preached in all nations. (Matthew 24)
There are many ways of spreading the Gospel: Long Compton’s living Advent Tree, lights & candles and Christmas cards with the Nativity or parts of the story such as the shepherds or the Magi which are not always available. LISA has prepared posters that you might like to put in your window or on a notice board AND I have made an exhibition of ten Nativities which I would have put in Long Itchington Chapel but it wasn’t to be again. So, back to ADVENT Sunday No. 2.
WE LIGHT THE SECOND CANDLE TO CELEBRATE HOW GOD, THROUGH THE BIRTH OF HIS SON JESUS, BROUGHT LIGHT OUT OF DARKNESS SO THAT WE CAN TRUST HIM TO BE WITH US AT ALL TIMES. IN THE WORDS OF ISAIAH, “THOUGH DARKNESS WILL ENVELOP THE EARTH, SEEMINGLY IMPENETRABLE, HIS LIGHT WILL SHINE UPON YOU, HIS PRESENCE GLOWING BRIGHTLY IN YOUR MIDST.” (Isaiah 60 v2)
Many years ago, my son Darren and his wife Kirstie went on a safari in Kenya and bought me a present, which was the Nativity. It was made out of an old Coca Cola can. The shape is of the place where Jesus was born because there was no room for them in the inn and if you look closely you might make out shapes of people and animals. I have treasured the gift and what it meant for a long time.

PRAYERS

Ever loving Father, the words you gave to Isaiah were that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Every year as we await the coming again of our Lord Jesus, we hope for the end of walking in darkness.
Every year we celebrate the coming of the Messiah, your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Father God, you do not accept evil and we pray to be delivered from evil. We pray to come out of the darkness and yet it is still in the world.
Today, again, we cry for help. Jesus came bringing light into a darkened world. Today, we are waiting to celebrate the gift of our Lord.
Father, we ask forgiveness that we have spoken about repentance but have failed again and again to follow in the way that your wonderful Son showed us. All around us we see injustice, a lack of love for one another, while we are fed with plenty, we know that others do not receive the daily bread because we have taken what is not ours to have. Lord Jesus Christ we pray for change in ourselves as we repent in Your Name. Amen

Thoughts for the Week: 1st Sunday of Advent

By the time you receive these THOUGHTS we will have started Advent. In my thoughts last week, I suggested we might light a large candle in our homes as we will not be able to have our Advent ring in the Chapel. I thought afterwards that many Christmas lights would be safer. I noticed that one of my neighbours had put beautiful lights on the outside of her house and thought it can never be too early to welcome Jesus into our lives again. When we light a candle, we read the following:

WE LIGHT THE FIRST CANDLE RECALLING THE EXPECTATION OF GOD’S PEOPLE OF THE PAST AND WE LOOK INTO THE FUTURE TO ALL THAT HE WILL ONE DAY DO. IN THE WORD’S OF ISAIAH, ‘WAKE UP AND SHINE, FOR THE LIGHT HAS DAWNED; THE GLORY OF THE LORD HAS RISEN AMONG YOU! YOUR LIGHT WILL ATTRACT NATIONS AND KINGS WILL COME TO SEE THE NEW DAY BREAKING AMONG YOU.’ (ISAIAH 60 v1-3)
LONG ITCHINGTON: It has been disappointing that we have to be in the third tier after keeping to the lockdown rules but the good news is that Rav has a builder friend who will repair the chapel’s ceiling at a very reasonable cost. The other good news is that we managed to fill 76 shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. The Church Support Worker congratulated us saying that it must have been difficult bringing together 76 shoe boxes during lockdown. But the Lord is good and now 76 children will be blessed. Well done!
LONG COMPTON: What a great idea to build an advent card using people. Lisa and I are pleased to take part by sending a Christmas object for your tree with our personal reason why Christmas is special to us. We hope to be able to see it and share some of how it went with Long Itchington after Christmas.

ADVENT HYMN

(can be sung to the tune O Word of God – no.527 in Mission Praise)
Advent, a time of waiting
For Christ to reappear.
A time of preparation
With hope and fervent prayer
Each year we’re contemplating
The unknown hour or day,
When ev’ry knee will bow down
Before the Lord and pray.

The world is in a turmoil
As Jesus prophesied,
Nations fight each other
And faith in Christ’s denied.
He said, ‘stand against falseness
And do not be afraid,
For those who do not waver
He’s promised will be saved.

We join the heavenly angels
To praise God as they wait.
The father holds the secret
Of year and time and date.
Our lamps are full and ready,
Our hearts with joy expand
With love for the most needy
It was the Lord’s command.

And when He comes in glory,
When Advent is no more,
And all his angels with Him
From heaven’s open door;
For all who’ved followed closely
His life, his truth, His way,
He’ll say, ‘Come to the Kingdom,
You’ll be with me for aye.

PRAYER

A prayer for difficult times by Susan Durbur, URC Prayer Handbook

God of all love and understanding
you know that there will be many times this day
when I will, without much thought
ask to be spared something difficult.
You know the things I fear and dread
all that I recoil from or avoid.
But in this prayer now,
I ask for strength and courage
to bear the small trials of life
with cheerfulness and grace.
And, now before you,
I ask for all I might need
to face whatever life may bring me this day.
And, if one day I am tried beyond endurance,
I ask that I may know then
that you are with me.
May the Christ,
who in Gethsemane asked to be spared,
bless me with holy courage
that I may follow Him even to a cross.

Thoughts for the Week: Advent

ADVENT for me is the beginning of an adventure leading to the birth of Jesus. Just as it was a change of life for many of the people who found themselves part of the coming of the Messiah into the world, it has also been the change throughout the years of people like us hearing about the Son of God and experiencing the love of God that Jesus brought into the world.
When we read Luke 1 v5-15 we become part of that adventure. We become part of the praying and the yearning of two good people, Zechariah the Priest and his wife Elizabeth, who had prayed and prayed for a special gift most of their lives.
Years of longing, hoping, waiting
Vacuousness aching to be filled
Destructive hopelessness, envy
Rising dangerously, heart stilled
By force of will.
That’s just part of a poem and I pause deliberately at the word ‘will’ because it seemed that the couple had continued to serve God by accepting His will that there would be no child in their elderly age; and yet we know that God had listened to their prayers and it was His will to eventually fill the years that had been saddened with what they possibly saw as emptiness, to joy and delight and even more with a special kind of service. As the account from Luke’s Gospel tells us, what that service was to be we have lessons to learn. Zechariah, in spite of his praying and praying, fell short of his weak faith by his unbelief of the message brought to him by the Angel Gabriel from God. It’s interesting to read how God dealt with his show of fear and unbelief. We’ve all probably heard the saying, ‘Be careful what you pray for’.
I recently read a prayer which said this, “God, we wish that you would break through the darkness and evil of this world, that you would show yourself.”
It then went on to list those things that the writer thought bad and suggested how God should deal with them.
Taking us all back to ADVENT once more, the wonder of the story of Advent and the birth of Jesus the Messiah, we know that God has broken through by sending His Son into the world to bring us out of the darkness, to come as the light of the world. Not only did he show himself through His Son, He told us what we must do to be part of the light. Jesus the Son showed the great love that His Father had for the world by sacrificing Him. Christ has brought us out of darkness to live in his marvellous light.
We cannot gather to celebrate inside our Chapels at present, but we can have more lights this year in our homes with Nativities on show or some pictures of the Nativity.
LIGHT A LARGE CANDLE where it is safe and take time to think about Christingle and the people around the world who are thinking about the coming of Jesus.
HE IS OUR LIGHT. JESUS IS OUR WAY AND WITH JESUS EVEN IN THE DARKEST PLACES HE IS WITH US. IN JESUS WE WILL LIVE FOR EVER.
God of love, Father of all, the darkness that covered the earth has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh. Make us a people of this light. Make us faithful to you that we may bring your light to the waiting world. Grant this through Christ our Lord. AMEN.