Sunday June 18th Worship at Wesley Chapel

 

On Sunday June 18th our Minister Trevor Dixon led worship.  Worship began when we sang ‘The God of Abraham praise.’   Trevor led the prayers of confession, thanksgiving and adoration.   We sang ‘Come, let us sing of a wonderful love’ before Exodus 19.2-8 was read and we read psalm 100 responsively.  Romans 5.1-8 was read before we sang a hymn that a veteran member of our congregation, 90 in August, had chosen, ‘The great love of God is revealed in the Son.’  The gospel reading was from Matthew 9. 35-10.9

Trevor asked how wide God’s protection and love was. Are godly people safer?  Are they treated as special people of God?  Bad things happen to people; does that mean God does not love them?  Sailors felt cheered to have a chaplain on board in wartime; they felt that God would keep them safe!  Yet in the time of Jonah it was not considered safe to have a man of God on board!  The Exodus reading was 3 months after the Israelites had left Egypt.  They had been told that if they kept his commandments they would be his special people.  God had a special eye on the Jews when they were in danger.  Even when the Hebrews forgot to keep the commandments they knew they were God’s special people.

How did the people cope when Psalm 100 was written?  It said that no matter whom you are, God made you, Jews included with everyone else.  Did they like it as much when it is more inclusive?  Everyone is special to God, no one is more special than anyone else; God’s love is limitless for all.  God is like a warm reassuring safety net in life.  He will always pick us up when things go wrong. Is that really so?

Paul in Romans encouraged the readers to rejoice in knowing Jesus.  God has reached out to the whole world through Jesus, who showed us how much he loved us. Do we hope God is there and will see us right in the end?  We are justified by faith not any merit of our own, nor any action of ours.  How does that feel?  We can now be at peace with God. God sent Jesus as his ambassador, who grants us citizenship as Christians.   Christians do suffer but even in suffering can be at peace.  We have hope at the beginning and end of our journey because of what God has done.  God searches for his people, whom he loves and longs to welcome to his family.    Sometimes we say we cannot cope and want out, we rebel, yet God still loves and hopes for us.  Sometimes we are ashamed of what we have done but we are able to say we are sorry.  God’s grace allows us to wander away and come back.  God’s infinite love is great for everyone in the world.  We are all ordinary yet God still loved us; his love adds value to our lives as we are justified by faith through God’s grace.  If we trust in him we shall never be put to shame.

We sang ‘O breathe of life, come sweeping through us.’  Trevor led the prayers of intercession and the Lord’s Prayer.  Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Behold the servant of the Lord.’

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Sunday June 11th Trinity Sunday The Guild Anniversary at Wesley Chapel

On Wednesday June 7th we enjoyed lunch with Graham and Janet and in the evening I was at the Local Preacher’s meeting.  On Thursday my beloved saw the orthopaedic surgeon, Mr Mitchell, and was discharged as he was walking better, mostly without a stick.  On Friday I was at the Acorn Centre helping with the computers which I enjoyed.  On Saturday Beth came round for a chat and took Piper on a long walk with her dog Chase.  Cathy was still working away looking after the children based in Switzerland.  I always enjoy the times I spent with my daughters.

On Sunday June 11th it was our Guild Anniversary Service at Wesley Chapel led by a supernumerary minister Rev Michael Wearing.  Worship began when we sang, ‘All praise to our redeeming Lord’ before Michael led the prayers.  He then gave an introduction based on the anniversary of the Guild.  He remembered the band of hope which met in the Guild Band room, where they had youth socials.  The Guild Coat of Arms, one heart one way, made reference to Jeremiah the prophet in 32: they shall be my people and I will be their God.  We sang the Guild hymn; God in Jesus Christ who calls us’ before the call of Samuel was read from 1 Samuel 3.1-10.  We sang ‘I the Lord of sea and sky’ before we heard the reading from 1John4.7-21.  We sang ‘Love divine’ before Michael preached.

He reminded us of how some radicalised people who do acts of terror believe that they are being obedient to God.  At one time an organist arrived at the last minute for a service Michael was leading and claimed that they were not singing the minister’s hymn choices, as they were to sing the hymns God had given him or her.  Michael however said that God had given him the hymns the previous week and he was not changing them at the last minute.  The Yorkshire ripper had murdered 13 women and attacked a further 12 before he was found guilty. The ripper pleaded diminished responsibility for his actions, because the ‘Voice of God had told him to kill prostitutes.

When we say this is the word of the Lord; do we believe it is?  Such a statement needs to be measured against scripture, in fellowship and in prayer to see if it really is the word of the Lord.  God does speak.  He spoke to Samuel the boy in the Temple, but Samuel thought Eli was calling him.  Eli the priest realised when Samuel came the third time that it was the voice of God and told him to respond and say he was listening.  Jeremiah had a successful prophetic ministry, but suffered, when Jezebel reacted against him and got him imprisoned.   Zedekiah still had a sneaking regard for the prophet and met him quietly under cover to find out if there was a word from the Lord. Michael believes that a word from the Lord needs to be tested by scriptures, fellowship and the Holy Spirit.

In the Church we need fellowship, comradeship, friendship, togetherness in the Holy Spirit. The church is not just a building; it is a fellowship and community.  When we come to receive the body and blood of Jesus we have fellowship, Christ meets us at the Communion table and we eat and drink with all the company of heaven, the Communion of saints. We share with another in groups in fellowship.

We now have bitterness and bloodshed in our country; Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and the Manchester Arena bloodshed brought such suffering and senseless destruction.  Is there a word for our suffering world? Yes, love is the word. At Old Trafford 60,000 people showed how love conquered fear and terror, as the concert was beamed worldwide. 14 million viewers saw how love won in Manchester.  Love led by the younger generation was heard again and again.  Justin Beaver sang his song with tears in his eyes that God is good in the midst of evil and darkness, He loves us.  The whole New Testament was witness of God’s love for the world as revealed through Jesus.  Jesus showed how far God’s love was prepared to go when he died on the cross and we love him because he first loved us.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ brings the free gift of teaching and forgiveness.  Grace was revealed through Jesus’ life, a life lived for others.  That gift is of God when he gave his son who died for all and was raised to life by his father.  His amazing grace is given to the perplexed, discouraged and disappointed people.  By faith we are saved through grace.  The grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all for evermore on this Trinity Sunday.  We sang ‘Come thou’ to conclude worship.

We all shared a meal at Ascot House to celebrate the Guild Anniversary.

 

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Sunday June 4th Worship at Wesley Chapel

Sunday June 4th was Pentecost Sunday and our minister Rev Trevor Dixon led worship.  The Terrorist trouble in London on the previous day reminded Trevor of the time when 25 years earlier, when he had been a teacher, he had taken a group of first year students on a trip to London.  They had arrived on the Tuesday and visited the Tower of London the same afternoon.  On the Wednesday he had an anxious phone call from a parent, who wondered if they had been at the Tower of London when the bomb exploded that day.  Trevor had not realised that had happened, but was able to reassure the parents that they had gone there on the Tuesday, not Wednesday.  There always have been terrorist problems on and off for years in London.  He remembered how Pentecost Sunday used to be associated with white dresses. We sang, ‘This is the day that the Lord has made’ before Trevor led the prayers of confession and the collect for the day.  We sang, ‘The Spirit lives to set us free’ before Numbers 11.24-30, which described the 70 elders being given the Holy Spirit, and 1 Corinthians 12.3b-13 about the gifts of the Holy Spirit were read.  We then sang, ‘Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me’ before Acts of the Apostles 2.1-21 was read.

Trevor said we were nearly at the election finally after 4 weeks.  He reminded us how we live in a media hungry and information rich world; everything for the election on the TV.  The attacks in London were reported straight away on the news.  The images are stage managed with gimmicks and sound bites.  There is a culture of mockery and contempt; we are manipulated and hoodwinked by the parties we don’t like.  They keep talking at cross purposes, never answer questions or say they have changed their mind.  Politicians may be the worst offenders, but we don’t all behave like that in many parts of our life.  We often see everyone different as an enemy.  We don’t communicate honestly; families don’t speak to each other.  We don’t say someone has died but that has passed on.  Redundancies caused by downsizing; shops which have continual sales.  The Spin doctors use double-speak and the communication gap goes deeper still.  Why is it so hard to do and say what we really mean and be unambiguous?  When we attempt to correct our errors, we make things worse.  Paul understood that struggle; do not do the good we want to do, but do the evil we don’t want to do.   We feel frustrated about showing the person we really are; few of us admit to reality.  We don’t have an honest dialogue with ourselves, with our neighbours, other nations or people of other faiths.  There is a missing link, a communication gap.  Yet we have a world of instant communication via the internet, the mobile phone, satellite and television.  We are afraid of revealing ourselves in real communication, as we don’t know how people will react.

What happened at Pentecost?  The wind, ’ruach’, the breath of God blew beyond control; the Dove of peace hovering and brooding over creation.  The flames of fire were kindling the hearts to a blaze.  70 elders in Numbers were filled with the Holy Spirit and they prophesied once.  The Day of Pentecost was even more powerful; suddenly they understood one another; the communication gap closed.  Pentecost is the festival of communication with each other and with God, clearly, openly and unambiguously, without dissembling or cloaking reality.  It made the church united.  People got together to build the high tower and got proud and built the crazy ziggurat, a sky scraper, but God saw it and came down and stopped their work; he split them up and muddled their languages into so many different languages, which caused enmity and division; language became a babble – Babel.  There are now a rich variety of God given cultures and different languages.  In the European community where Parliament moves every 6 months there are different language translators, who help the people to listen to each other.

Pentecost brings the promise of people being open to each other; frustrations are banished; and the church is renewed full of the Holy Spirit.  God speaks in the church through his Holy Spirit.  Churches today are divided, like St Peters and Wesley Chapel; there are tenuous links between the two in the separate buildings; when they shared our chapel, as their building works were done, we had stronger links.  When the Spirit unites us, He brings peace into our church, our shops, and workplaces; wherever we meet other people.  Trevor suggested that if we saw anyone without a smile, we should give a smile.  It is a manifesto for a better world.  We have a superior manifesto to share, showing the world what God has done for us.  The Holy Spirit is a communicator and draws us together in unity as we follow Jesus.

We sang, ‘There’s a spirit in the air’ before the prayers of intercession.  Before the communion we sang, ‘Because you have said.’  Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Do this for my sake.’  Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled the disciples with power and wisdom and courage is the birthday of the church.  We too each day need to be filled again with God’s Holy Spirit to strengthen, guide and unite us in the service of Jesus.

 

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Sunday May 28th Worship at Wesley Chapel

On Sunday May 28th I led worship at Wesley Chapel.  The call for worship was based on Psalm 68 and the opening hymn was ‘The God of Abraham praise.’  I led the opening prayers, before ‘1 Peter 4.12-14, 5.6-11 was read.  I gave a short talk; it is not the burdens of life which bring us down but how we handle the problems.  We gain strength to cope as we hope in the Lord.  In the chapel we need to care for those in need.  We can help those who cannot cope in their difficulties in life by listening, praying with and comforting them. We sang ‘When I needed a neighbour, were you there?’  Acts 1.4-14 was dramatised and then I read John 17.1-11.  We sang ‘The head that once was crowned with thorns’ before I preached.

Jesus knew that the climax to his ministry was coming; as he put it; the hour had come for God to glorify him.  He knew he had finished the work God had sent him to do.  He was obedient when he pointed the way to his Father, the one true God, showing that God had sent him.  His understanding of being glorified was to be prepared to go to death on the cross to show the extent of God’s love for people; that there really was no limit to God’s love even suffering for others.  Through Jesus’ life and teaching we come to know what God is like and how to have a relationship with God.

The disciples have learnt the importance of obedience to the Father and recognised that they heard God’s voice and had seen God’s actions in the life and deeds of Jesus.  Jesus knew that God had given him his disciples and he did not doubt that they would carry on his work.  He knew Peter would fail initially but he knew once they were empowered by the coming Holy Spirit they would not let him or God down.  He prayed that his Father would keep his followers from the evil one, when he was no longer in the world. He had kept them in his Father’s name so that they might be one with the Father, but they needed to stay in the world as his witnesses.  He warned his disciples that they would face hatred and opposition as he had done, but did not belong to the world.  Jesus prayed that his Father might keep them in the truth.

When Jesus had come together with the disciples after his resurrection he told them to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the promised coming of the Holy Spirit.  The disciples wanted to know when Jesus was going to restore the kingdom of Israel, but Jesus said it was up to the Father when that would come about and was more concerned about reminding them that they were to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Samaria and the whole world, once they have been empowered from above by receiving the Holy Spirit.  They did not realise that God’s kingdom meant a society which was built on love not power leading all to obey God in return for his love.

After that Jesus was taken up out of sight of the disciples behind a cloud, he ascended to be with his Father.  The cloud signified the presence and activity of God.  The ascension concluded Jesus’ appearances to his disciples after his resurrection; he had returned to the glory from which he had come.  The disciples looked up into the clouds being witnesses to his glorification after having witnessed his life, teaching, death and resurrection.  Two men in white signifying they were heavenly beings challenged the disciples for standing looking up and reassured them that one day Jesus would return, as they had seen him go.  They felt bereft and alone at that time.  As Jesus had instructed them the disciples returned to Jerusalem to await the promised Holy Spirit, where they stayed behind locked doors, but they were united with each other and kept on praying together with women including Mary, Jesus’ mother and his brothers.  God was still with them but no longer having Jesus with them, God would feel far away.  They were obedient but apprehensive.  They would be relieved when they received the promised Holy Spirit.

Peter in his letter told his readers to be glad when they suffered as they were sharing in the sufferings of Christ; if they were insulted for being followers of Jesus they should be joyful, as it showed God’s Spirit was with them.  If God was with them no opposition would be significant.  The testing of their faith would make their faith grow and keep them firm in the faith.  God does not ignore us in our suffering; he cares for us.  As we give our lives to Jesus our life in his kingdom begins.  The God who raised Jesus to new life at his resurrection and to whom Jesus ascended when his earthly ministry was done, offers eternal hope which continues beyond our earthly lives.

We sang ‘We cannot measure how you heal’ before I led the prayers of intercession, when we especially remembered the victims of the Manchester bomb and their families and those injured and traumatised. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘I the Lord of sea and sky.’

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A week with friends and family

On Sunday May 21st in the afternoon there was a community activity on the Almsford Playing Field when my beloved’s friend’s group, ‘The Night Jars’ were to be playing so I drove near hoping to take my beloved.  My beloved was unable to walk any distance as he had only a week before had his arthroscopy.  I had asked if I could bring him in the car and then park the car, so he could join in.  The lady assured me that I would be able to drive up to the field, but in the event the road towards the access was blocked for cars and there was no steward to give me permission to drive down the road; we just had to return home, disappointed.   Later I said how disappointed we had been and was told it would have been fine to drive down!

On Monday lunchtime my friend Christine came over and we had a good chat over lunch at the M&S café.  We were expecting Joy, who I had also worked with in Wetherby, to join us; she did arrive later and it was so good to see her.

On Tuesday I helped Rosemary with her coffee morning at our chapel.  I enjoy chatting with the customers and I am coping better with it.

It was good to see Cathy on Wednesday. I went with her to an appointment and she came to see us but needed to return home early for a rest.

On Friday I enjoyed helping people with mental health difficulties with their computer skills.  It is good to help boost their confidence and skills.

On Saturday I enjoyed a relaxing massage; a treat one of my daughters had given me as birthday presents.  It is my favourite treat.

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Sunday May 21st at Wesley Chapel

On Sunday May 21st our minister Rev Trevor Dixon led worship at Wesley Chapel.  Worship began when we sang ‘How shall we sing that majesty.’  Trevor led the opening prayers of praise, confession and thanksgiving before we sang, ‘Father in heaven.’  John read the reading from Acts 17.22-31 about Paul in Athens and Les read about suffering for the early church from 1.Peter3. 13-22. We sang my favourite hymn, ‘And can it be that I should gain.’  Trevor read John 14.15-21.

Trevor said that anyone on a soapbox who talks to a crowd can be vulnerable; maybe not so much in Harrogate.  Paul in Athens was inviting a reaction so his speech was provocative; some argued with him; some ridiculed him; others walked away.  If sin is confronted then the outcome could be death.  Jesus assured his disciples that the Holy Spirit would be with them, even though he realised that a short time later that Peter would fail him and deny him.  For years Peter tried to follow Jesus in his own strength before things changed when he was empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  1 Peter recognised the suffering faced by the early church.

Before he spoke Paul prepared well as he walked around the city of Athens, talked, using the language of the people, listened and tapped into the world of Athens.  He argued with anyone who would listen.  Paul quickly gathered crowds who enjoyed a religious debate; especially discussing a new religion.  Paul took culturally sophisticated wisdom and as his starting point he talked about their altar dedicated to the unknown God.  Paul said it was a waste of time building an altar to God, as God did not live in any house, nor did he need sacrifices.  The Epicureans or stoics saw God as a remote and detached from our world.  Paul confronted that belief.  Paul explained that their unknown God was the Creator, not indifferent to the world but compassionate towards His creation.  God brought justice into the whole world; the justice proceeded from self-giving love and Spirit.

Trevor reminded us that it was the 500 year anniversary of the reformation.  Jan Huss 1369-1413 challenged the Roman Catholics of his day and barred them from conducting the mass or funerals, so imprisoned them and tortured them. The Inquisition felt God’s truth was upheld when those who were against the Roman Catholics were sentenced to death and burnt at the stake; from that came the reformation.  Confrontations arise in life when we need to take a stand.  Christ’s people are bound to suffer for doing right; they are not to be afraid, but be ready to make a defence when challenged and keep a clear conscience before God.  May God give us the ability to do so?

We sang, ’I cannot tell why he who angels worship’ before Trevor led the prayers of intercession and the Lord’s Prayer.  Worship concluded when we sang ‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.’

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A life of service is celebrated

On Tuesday May 15th I was glad to go to the New Wine group in the morning. We had a time of prayer and sang fellowship songs, a number of which I did not know; however I found myself led along by the other group members.  I like the quiet worshipful time of praise and prayer.

In the afternoon I went to Monica Cundall’s funeral.  She was a local preacher for 50 years and the mother of a friend of mine, Dr David Cundall a retired paediatrician. He is married to my friend Pamela, who went to school with me. The late Dr Cundall senior went out as a missionary doctor with his wife Monica, as he had a calling. David his son also went out as a missionary with his wife Pamela and two children; their third child Anna was born in Meru.  Now as a retired doctor is involved with Nigerian Health Care and goes out for three week intervals with other medical people at their own expense to advise healthcare workers in Nigeria.  They have shown the midwives how to nurture new born children to improve their survival rate.    Pamela was a Pharmacist before she retired.

The thanksgiving service took place at Woodlands Methodist Church and was led by Rev. Christine Gillespie.  She welcomed us to the service and we sang ‘For the beauty of the earth’.   I John 4.7-12 and Galatians 5.22-25 were read.  David Cundall talked about his mother, in particular her quiet studious faith.  Apparently Monica had found the missionary life in Africa a trial, but was ready to support her husband as a missionary doctor.  The second hymn was chosen especially as it summed up Monica’s life and service as a wife, mother, mother-in-law and granny.  I had not known this hymn but I recognised it as a fitting tribute to Monica:

 

‘Father, I know that all my life

Is portioned out for me,

And the changes that are sure to come

I do not fear to see;

But I ask thee for a present mind,

Intent on pleasing Thee.

 

I ask Thee for a thoughtful love,

Through constant watching wise,

To meet the glad with joyful smiles,

And wipe the weeping eyes,

And a heart at leisure from itself

To soothe and sympathise.

 

Wherever in the world I am,

In whatso’er estate,

I have a fellowship with hearts

To keep and cultivate,

And work of lowly love to do

For the Lord on whom I wait.’

 

Those verses seemed most apt to me.  Her eldest son, Edward Cundall said a Baha’i prayer, which his wife sang. Christine gave the tribute for Monica before she led the prayers and the Lord’s Prayer.  The final hymn was ‘O Thou who camest from above.’  We were invited to join the family and friends in the church hall afterwards.  It was good to meet more of Pamela and David’s family.

 

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