Hello everyone! On Friday we went round and spent time with Malcolm’s friend Kay, who he had met by chance in one of our local charity shops. She prepared us some spicy nibbles and some cakes and my beloved had a good chat with her. She had thought he had vanished as she had not seen him for so long! Of course he has been out of circulation a lot since he developed M.E. He has missed interaction with others so much, but he cannot manage to cope with long meetings or going out to concerts any more. At least he gets out to Open Church more than he did before and we do enjoy a drink and cake or a light lunch together at Café Culture. On Saturday my beloved and I just relaxed together watching programs we had recorded or DVDs; it was lovely just spending time together.
On Sunday I took my friend Molly to our church and the service was really uplifting and worshipful and led by a former minister at Wesley Chapel, Rev. Ron Dale. His prayers are always inspiring and thoughtful. His opening question was whether we had watched ‘Downton Abbey’ to which I responded with an enthusiastic nod, whereas others reacted unfavourably; our response as a congregation was certainly mixed! Ron said that he never watched ITV because of the interruptions by adverts, although I must admit he knew about some adverts. He said that all adverts followed the same pattern, namely describing a problem and then giving a solution; for example; if you have a headache take aspirin and then you feel better. If you are lonely you will be fine enjoying a beer at a pub or if you are thirsty there is nothing better than a coke to quench thirst!! If you are overweight then get slim with this new diet! The gospel has the same type of message; once we were lost and now we are found. The gospel really does make a difference to our lives. Jesus has changed everything from the way it was to the way it is now. New life is the gift of God’s transforming love which God makes possible for all. Peter in 1 Peter encouraged the frightened community of the church to stand firm in the face of its problems.
Today the church in the world faces conflict in some countries with Islam, in America the church is threatened by materialism. Ron reminded us that we were once no people with no community of faith, so everyone served themselves alone. When we had not received mercy, experienced being loved and forgiven, we had to impress others to feel accepted. Ron described a family where only the mother and children attended church. He decided to visit her husband and he was shown his big house, his land and all he had materially; he told Ron that he did not need church. Ron just accepted what he said. However not long after that the husband arrived at church, having discovered the emptiness of his wealth. He came and received God’s mercy and acceptance. His whole outlook on life was changed and he looked with wonder at the light meeting the risen Christ brought to him. Ron said that no trouble is beyond the reach of God’s mercy. There is no quarrel or dispute or anything in society, the church or in the nations which is beyond God’s help. God’s response to hatred was to bring mercy, forgiveness and healing revealed through Jesus. Jesus let himself be arrested and crucified, take all the worst that the world could bring against him and transformed it with love.
Ron described an episode from the autobiographical story, ‘The Exquisite Burden’ by A A Thompson, when he described his upbringing by his strict maiden aunts; he would be struck by fire and brimstone if he failed to follow their rules exactly! On one occasion he saw a man go into a pub and after he came out the boy waited to see the man struck by fire and brimstone by God for going in the pub. The boy followed him and when he was not struck by fire and brimstone, he believed in the mercy of God from that day on.
Ron had many years of being a prison chaplain and on one occasion he was assigned to a special security block, where most people visited with an escort, but he visited a particular high risk prisoner alone. The prisoner had lost everything including his family and felt there was little point to his life; Ron just told him that nothing was outside God’s mercy. The next time he was about to visit, he was warned about the prisoner, as he had ‘got religion’ or as Ron expressed it, Jesus had changed his life completely forgiving him and accepting him. Just such a transformation is available for all if they just accept the mercy and love Jesus brings.