Dear Friends October is upon us and as I write the winds are getting stronger and the weather seems to be changing. This has caused me to reflect on the wind and the power of the wind. The winds seem to come from all directions. We read in 1 Corinthians 15 v55 to “Stand strong. Do not let anything move you.” Wind can be alarming and mysterious. We sometimes hear of it howling but what is wind and what makes it blow? In a nutshell it is simply moving air. Winds change in many directions and changing winds bring in the change of seasons and temperatures. The wind seems to be part of the rhythm of life. As human beings we are often told we change with the wind. Indeed we know that physically wind can “wind us up “ Children are much more active when it is windy. As Christians the wind has an extra special quality in that we refer to the Holy Spirit as wind and the breath of life. The Holy Spirit wind represents life that energises and excites that breathes God’s peace and also challenges us out of comfort zones into new adventures. So the Holy Spirt can change us and move us and as a familiar song says carry us on its wings. God wants us to stand strong for what we believe, stand up for what is right and stand up for God and make that a thread in our being and doing as we live out what we are called to do. To recognise that God is the wind beneath our wings and sing that out. So this Autumn and Harvest time may we reflect on the goodness of God and the air that moves us for we need to stand strong in changing times. May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
I have now returned from my sabbatical and I am slowly working my way through things as I step back into public ministry.
I am grateful for the time gifted to me to spend recharging my batteries and I have almost completed my challenge of producing and original piece of work in word and song that I have entitled a journey from lament to hope. I hope to be able to share it with you but meanwhile I am going to give you a small glimpse . One thing that really fascinated me in my reading time was an account of the bacteria that formed on the wounds of the soldiers during the First World War. This bacteria had a powerful quality as it shone in the dark.
It healed the wounds in a remarkable way so the idea of light in the darkness being a healing force gave me an idea.
In our dark world in our wishing things were different as we try to recover from the devastating effects of this virus our wounds can become the light by which we shine.
I therefore came up with the words of the following song. I hope it paints a picture, gives you a healing glow or at least makes you think. Light in darkness is a very powerful thing.
Song: Is there anything more beautiful than living light?
1 We are humbled in the mystery of the world.
Suspended in time,
Yet lifted by the light.
Each moment of each day,
Held safe by the glow.
We’re anchored in God’s love,
Reflections of his heart.
Our wounds become the glow by which we shine.
Darkness is our closest friend.
Tiny drops of stillness fill the shadows of our days.
Is there anything more beautiful than living light?
2 We are called to build our lives and work anew.
Begin life again.
With imprints on our minds
Of pain and grief and sadness,
By grace, healing comes.
There’s solace in the light,
of all created things.
Our wounds become the glow by which we shine.
Darkness is our closest friend.
Tiny drops of stillness fill the shadows of our days.
Is there anything more beautiful than living light?
It is unimaginable that it is the one year anniversary of our online services as I write this and as we step into Holy Week.
Our opening to Easter worship features a morning sunrise films over lake Galilee when I was there.
The experience is very memorable . As the sun rises the cacophony of the birdsong quietens and the glow of the sun beams across the lake and dances on the waves. It is peaceful and beautiful as you sit on the end of a small jetty contemplating and reflecting with no one else but you there.
This takes me to Easter morning.
Last week as the basis for my whole message I used a blessing that suggests as we step into Easter week we allow ourselves to be transformed and let the Easter light be born in us.
This is part of the Easter message, we must allow God to execute changes in us and our lives, our churches and extend into community to bring about change there too.
As life slowly unfurls following lockdown we will be tempted to go back to what is familiar. Jesus’s disciples went back to fishing after Jesus’s death it was there that they began to learn that as Easter light had dawned and about what they had to do. It was not the same as before.
There are so many people who have not heard about Jesus so many who have misconceptions about what being a Christian is all about.
Surely during our times of waiting patiently we have all thought about what is important. Our lives have been turned upside down and inside out.
Peter in his encounter with Jesus on a seashore learned he was not back where he started but on a different trajectory to be a fisher of people .
In order to do this we perhaps have to do things differently take risks. The most significant reminder for me is Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep .
What does this mean for you?
What part will you play in this great commission that comes out of the Easter light?
Remember too Pentecost is on its way ..We are not alone.
So we reflect on mothering Sunday without the usual events …..
This year many are recognising loss and separation ,grief and sorrow but maybe for many this is the time to return to God and be thankful for what we have or have had. for new birth and regeneration. This year the whole concept of mothering Sunday and Mother’s day as it has become we recognise is challenging.
For a few moments I hve been reflecting on what the love of a mother means now in the reality we are living in and for for what it means to be mother church also in this reality.
What is this love like when mums are not around either temporarily or permanently when we can’t see or touch or physically hear ? I found the perfect story !
It is called the Invisible string and this is forming my basis for this blog The invisible string between God and us ,Jesus and me , me and motherhood as a mum and a child. There is something of mother love or should be in all my relationships that have meant or mean something or even the loss of connectedness that we have in all our relationships. The story reminds us of a string that is never broke though sometimes gets a bit tangled !
The story begins with two frightened children in the middle of a storm who want their mum. She comes to them and tells them of a story passed on to her about an invisible string.
A string made of love. One child says but I can’t see it !
The children are then reassured that they are connected to those who they love and those who love them wherever they are and all they need to do is pull on that invisible string that they will feel in their hearts.They ask how far can the string reach ? “Anywhere and everywhere”thier mum said.
It reminded me that God tells us this too we are connected everywhere and anywhere You know some of the rest….
Even in the darkest places ..
At the bottom of the ocean…
Up a mountain..
In the jungle…
All of these can be metaphors for how we feel/
“Yes even there” said their mum.
They ask “does the string go away when you are mad at us?”
“No” said mum “love is stronger than anger “
It is there even when you grow up? Questions that we all ask.
This is made so real isn’t it when we reflect on Mother’s day re those connections with mums. Some are are not with us any more ,some mums have lost their children even before they knew them and we need to recognise and celebrate that even if we can’t give gifts or cards or presents or flowers we need to remember to find healing and peace and joy. The story encourages the reader to reflect on all the invisible strings they have and realise their interconnectedness The story it not simply about one string it is actually about a vision or a dream that God has for the world one where all the world is connected by invisible strings or the need for us all to be connected to each other and the need for this never ending unconditional love to be part of a whole. The whole world in fact! The book ends with pictures of people across the whole world joining hands. So simple yet profound
So Mother’s day or Mothering Sunday is about all of these things bringing people back to a unity joined with the invisible string of love that is unbreakable and profound. Do you need to pull or tug on the strings ?
We might think about our own lives – our experiences of mothering or of being mothered; remembering with thanksgiving the people who have done those things for us. And perhaps we might also think of times when we have been failed by those who were supposed to care for us, or those times when we ourselves have failed.
Always remember the string that holds it all together and that we can always tug on God’s strings when we need to feel him in our hearts .
Every Blessing Helen
Call to worship
The waiting begins, again. The breathing in. The holding on. Can you be patient,
this advent season? Can you make space for Jesus be born again, here, today?
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel’ – As we come to you in prayer this morning, Holy God, we ask you to listen to us – and we give thanks that you have said that you will. ‘You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth!’ – Although you are full of majesty and power, yet you humble yourself and draw near to us; shine your light on our worship today we pray. ‘Stir up Your might and come to save us!’ – In our weakness and brokenness at this time we know how much we need you; knowing that we cannot save ourselves, we call upon your strength today. Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved. – In our uncertainty we wonder what restoration might look like in these days, but we trust ourselves to you and ask again that you will shine on us
and give us hope in the shadows.
O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? – Amidst our worship we recognize that too often our lives let you down, our prayers are selfish, our compassion is cold, our witness is laughable…. – In a moment of silence we say sorry… And with thankfulness we receive your forgiveness. Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
As we call on your name this day, we pledge ourselves once more to you, O Lord God of hosts, you who have your hand upon us, you who makes us strong for yourself. – We will never turn back from you who gives us life. – Thanks be to God. Amen.
You can view text versions of our bible readings and Rev Paul Martin’s reflection (also available via the weekly email newsletter)readings-29-Nov
Prayers of intercession.
Advent God, you heard the cry of your people and came to the world in Jesus Christ; come near to us now as we pray: We pray for all affected by sickness around the world; for those who will die today of malaria, tuberculosis, cancer, Covid-19… Faithful God, give your strength.
We pray for all who work to bring healing to those who are suffering in body, mind or spirit; for the NHS, for counsellors, for all who support others… Faithful God, give your strength.
We pray for all who are grieving the loss of family and friends; for those who feel helpless, powerless, guilty, distraught… Faithful God, give your strength. We pray for all who are caught up in situations of violence; for those in lands where war is raging, for those in homes where abuse takes place… Faithful God, give your strength.
We pray for all who have lost their way in life; for those contemplating suicide, for those who don’t know which way to turn, for young people confused by these strange times… Faithful God, give your strength.
We pray for governments and local authorities; for all who have to make difficult decisions, for teachers struggling to make schools safe places… Faithful God, give your strength.
We pray for the church here in …, across these islands, and throughout the world; may we be alert to your presence in the world and draw others closer to your love… Faithful God, give your strength.
We pray for ourselves; we too suffer, we too grieve, we too struggle with abuse and confusion, with anxiety and
selfishness… we cling to your promise to come into our lives and we open ourselves to your coming. Faithful God, give your strength.
We offer all our prayers in the name of Jesus, who came, who comes, who will come. Amen
May we go out and disrupt all that is wrong, unjust and hateful in this world.
May we nurture and plant seeds of love. May we celebrate your coming amongst us, Immanuel.
Dear Friends I greet you again still in difficult times with a message of hope. I have recently had a conversation about what is real and our need for the real and not the virtual? The real question is what do we mean by real? I guess this means being present, experiencing physically, touching, tasting, hearing, smelling and seeing live rather than imagining and being creative in our interpretations. It led me to the story of the Velveteen Rabbit where a toy rabbit has been thrown on a bonfire as it was the onky thing to do to decontaminate following the illness of its child owner who nearly died from Scarlet Fever. Just when the end came the toy rabbit leapt from the bonfire heap and became alive, that is, real. A real rabbit appeared. Once while I was giving a sermon I used this story and held a toy rabbit in my hand and threw it on the floor. Then I heard murmurs around the church for incredibly a real rabbit was indeed touring the car park. Now that was unnerving and quite prophetic it was as if God was saying to the congregation, see this is real, you can rise from the ashes, you can live again. All will be well even when you think it is over. Being reminded of this story again at this point on our pandemic journey is another reminder from God to us that we will live again however desperate we might feel at this time. I would invite you to look around and let God speak in images to you of things that are real now, the blessings that are indescribable, uncontainable and rich in wonder and that do give us hope for tomorrow. I also have a hunch that some of these can also be found in the virtual as we continue to search for those glimpses of God that feel real. Every Blessing continue to stay safe Helen
I greet you in difficult times with a message of hope.
I was reminded by my grandson in a hilarious fashion about Lent and temptation. He was videoed telling his interpretation of Lent when Jesus went to the desert. The metaphor is similar to our current situation…
He described Jesus (or cheesus) eating a huge sandwich and chocolate before he went into the desert where he had no food. There is a sense where we have enjoyed so many good things and now we are forced into a wilderness time. Lent and denial are really coming into focus for many of us. Jesus was being prepared for ministry and spent time relying on God to survive. If nothing else we are challenged in this way at present. We all have a variety of emotions flooding through our minds but the call is to not be afraid and to trust in God’s provision.
The end of my grandson’s tale was he came out of the desert and ate another huge sandwich and an even bigger egg! We will come out the other end, whether we are changed as a nation as a result we do not yet know . However may we prepare for blessings untold and be positive. There is no doubt people will pull together and there have already been many acts of kindness that can be celebrated.
In the words of Jesus…
I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. (John 14:27) Be determined and confident. Do not be afraid of them. Your God, the Lord himself, will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you. (Deuteronomy 31:6) “Do not be worried and upset,” Jesus told them.
Stay safe every blessing. Rev Helen x
As I write this I am preparing to go away on holiday a retreat from the busyness of my role as Minister and feeling somewhat guilty as I have the opportunity to travel to a warm place for sunshine, sea, sand and restoration particularly as my Sabbatical begins in April. Everyone I know tells me I should not feel in the least bit remorseful but actually it does not come easy when I know so many struggle. However on reflection our February lectionary readings have guided us on what it means to be disciples and how to grow too. We have learned from the sermon on the mount about the things we are blessed by. These are things that the world does not understand or appreciate and as church we often struggle to but it came to me the importance of staying salty so we can be salt of the earth that feeds others. The call to all of us is to be salt.
Did you know that in Jesus’s day when Matthew wrote his gospel people were paid their salary in salt. In Greek salt was and has become in English the root word of salary. People were paid in salt so could it be that through the things we do for Jesus help to keep us salty? We also know as in this sermon on the mount Jesus rook his disciples up a mountain and Jesus himself often withdrew to pray.
This teaches us that our discipleship offers us a number of things to do and there has to be a whole variety of ways in which we stay close to God in order we may fulfil the tasks to which we are called.
We must do this as individuals and a community of faith. This will involve rest, study, reflection, prayer, conversation, the necessity to be accountable to each other and the necessity of watching over one another in love. Thank you for watching over me and enabling me to take time out.
We must not only be salt to the world but also season ourselves.
So the challenge for Lent is to engage in things that season you and then church will be a community of faith that rejoices in unusual upside down blessings and is the city on the hill in a dark world that shines and encourages life in all its colours.
We are now in the season of covenant and renewing our promises to God. Some of you may have made New Year resolutions though they seem out of vogue. However it is good to have new beginnings and new ways forward. As seasons change it is part of the rhythm of life so if we take the pattern of nature then our lives should also continually be renewed and refreshed.
The Methodist covenant prayer says “put me to what you will” and also we are really challenged when we state “put me to suffering….let me have nothing….etc “
This year I linked the service with the reading from Philippians where Paul speaks of church and its people being a fragrant offering for Jesus. I wonder how can we be fragrant offerings during 2020?
What does this mean in practice?
When we put on perfume or after shave, we enjoy the scent but then hopefully the fragrance is enjoyed by others.
This is the challenge to commit ourselves one again to serving God and remembering the love he has for us so that others sense a difference in the way we present ourselves and live out our Christian discipleship.
As I write this article it is during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and its theme is one of unusual or extraordinary kindness. Could this be one way as a church community, that in our living we are the ones who offer this unusual kindness? Even when we don’t feel like it, even when we are weary, even when we feel we have nothing to give. Jesus was the one who demonstrated this to us throughout his ministry.
Happy New Year
I recently attended a day of Advent reflections and I would like to encourage you all to take some time out as you prepare for Christmas.
I found it invaluable and it helped me to reflect in a new way upon a part of the Christmas story.
As we are looking at telling God’s epic story we were encouraged to look at stories within stories and I reflected on the midwives who would have been there when Jesus was born. They tend to get overlooked. I am certain Mary did not give birth alone with just Joseph for company. She was a young girl and we know that most probably there was no inn but it would have been most likely a lodging house .The Greek word, kataluma, means “lodging place” and it’s usually translated “upper room” not “inn” It can refer to a room of a house where out of town guests could spend the night or even just a dining room. For example, in Mark 14:14, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples in an “upper room” (same word used here). This is why the 2010 NIV translates Luke 2:7 like this:
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
In Luke 10:34, Luke uses another word, “pandocheion,” when he’s talking about a public inn. The thing is, Bethlehem was a tiny little place with just a few hundred people living there. Which is one reason why there was probably no inn.
They were possibly even staying at the home of relatives.
What is certain there would have been some women to deliver the baby; in other words the midwives.
This has led me to put together the following mediation on the midwives at the birth of Jesus.
Make of it what you will but for me the challenge today is who are the midwives in our society that bring Jesus to birth in the lives of those who do not know him
Here is the meditation for you to reflect upon.
Who was the midwife for Mary?
Was it family, cousins, aunt or strangers? Or did Mary do it alone with just Joseph at her side?
How long did the labour take for after all it was her firstborn?
Let’s look at the story within the story.
“And she gave birth and wrapped him in swaddling clothes.”
Simple but profound as we know some of how it came to be.
Who else was there through the pain, the pushing, the contractions?
Did the waters break or were they broken?
A midwife’s role is recognised as someone who is engaged in the birthing. Their role to ease, to encourage and to facilitate.
Also they are ones who are employed to care, to listen, to notice, to intervene, to wait, to watch, to nurture, to attend often all through the darkness, in the loneliness of pain.
Sometimes witnessing endless agony, sometimes quiet toil.
The holistic purpose to deliver and to bring forth life. To reassure and to celebrate.
The transition from labour to delivery held in their hands.
Holding in this story the moments for Mary when she was out of control, emotional and scared.
In awe of those first moments of breathing and crying and glimpsing the potential of a new beginning. The precious moments of a journey and a story that unfolds and unfurls.
Did the midwife or attendants know who it was they delivered? Did they understand the significance of Emmanuel? God with us, King of all the earth.
Was it just an ordinary birth of an extraordinary child?
Did they catch a whisper of the epic story unfolding that had its birth in a guesthouse or wherever it was? How did they leave? Or did they stay?
What would you have done?
Did they leave changed, puzzled, pondering? What did they make of the name?
Were they surprised by the number and the nature of the visitors?
Not to mention the makeshift cradle! Holding its precious cargo.
Where did they go next? To another birth room helping another mum?
Was it just another day or did they recognise it as a day to them that became a day that would go down in history for eternity.
Oh…. to be remembered as the one who delivered the Saviour of the world.
Unnamed, unrecognised but with a huge part to play.
Spiritual midwives operating from deep respect and reverence for life.
Nourished by their work that night.
That night’s birthing represented the renewal of life, the renewal of nations and people.
The midwives’ vocation emerges as the receivers of life, for precious moments holding God in their arms
The first breaths of God’s son facilitated. Complete, it is finished…echoes of another time and place.
What do you make of it all ?
Where does this story sit with you and your experience of birth?
How does this story help you to see what things you must help to deliver and bring life to?
What will you bring life to maybe even without knowing or understanding?
To conclude …
The question put again for you, for church, for humanity, as midwives and “midhusbands” (a new but maybe necessary word!)
What is God calling you and all of us as church together to bring to life this Christmas ?
May God’s blessing be with you all this Christmas. Helen