Hello everyone! Our minister Rev. Trevor Dixon led the service ably assisted by Deacon David Hunt. It was a communion service led by Trevor with David leading the intercessions and taking parts of the lead up to the celebration. Trevor preached on Mark 7v8 ‘You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.’ Passages were also read from Deuteronomy 4 and James 1. Trevor explained that as a hospital visitor, he was encouraged to rub his hands with alcohol gel, but found it had run out in the toilets, as when he questioned them, they did not want it to be used inappropriately! It was especially encouraged for visitors to surgeries or hospital to use the alcohol gel during the swine flu scare. Trevor told us that we later share the peace if we dare!! Apparently a mother using an alcohol rub told her son he must use the gel but could wipe it off before having an ice cream; as Trevor pointed out that it just needs to be rubbed into the hands to be affective, so she was missing the point!
The Jewish leaders criticised Jesus and his disciples for not following the washing laws before eating; discipleship at that time was regarded as keeping age old religious laws, but Jesus saw discipleship as obedience to God instead of keeping rules. How do we know Trevor asked if we are doing the right thing? The Hebrews had the Torah with the 10 commandments and the prophets who emphasised justice, mercy, dignity and shalom. James in his letter encouraged his readers to care for the most vulnerable in society such as widows and orphans; women and children lacking the care and authority of men were especially condemned to poverty and servitude.
How helpful or unhelpful is the law of keeping the Sabbath day holy, Trevor wonders? What did we do 20-30 years ago on the Sabbath? Now the shops are open longer and most people shop on a Sunday, less people go to church and that does not make Sunday special. People often have to work on Sundays and do not have time with their families; on the checkout Beth, my daughter, was able to opt out of Sunday work in Sainsbury’s, but as a baker she has no choice but has to work on a Sunday in her rotas, as they need fresh bread on a Sunday too! What do we really think about it, Trevor wondered?
Trevor explained that the Law had become systemised way to live with 300 do’s and 600 don’ts, but all Jesus advocated was to lead good and just lives. Jesus trusted people to discover how to live as they saw what God is like and how God might expect them to live through seeing how Jesus lived. Deuteronomy celebrated wisdom and discernment more than the law. Jesus delighted in the law yet it angered him to see how the law was used to damage people and communities. Jesus challenged them when they criticised him for healing on the Sabbath or plucking corn or not doing ritual washing as they forgot humanity of someone in need. Jesus challenged tradition, which had abandoned God’s commands. Stunned disciples saw him talking to a Samaritan woman and Peter challenged Jesus when he said that he would die. In Acts Peter had to have the vision on all food being clean to be prepared to accept the Gentile Cornelius into the church.
Trevor reminded us that God is bigger than us but he is interested in each one of us. Do we not see the new insights of new hymns or do we find our religious practices a barrier to the challenges of being open to what is new? Something new and different can revitalise our faith. Trevor hoped that we would soon be given planning permission for our church development to go forward and then we can see how God will challenge us to be more relevant to those outside to draw them to God’s love. However our church body here at Wesley Chapel is more than just the building. Recently however we had celebrated the 100th anniversary of our organ with an organ recital. An organ was not always in Methodist Churches and was regarded as popery when one was first installed in a Methodist Church in1827!! Orchestras apparently provided the music before the installation of organs and now many churches have piano keyboards. Pastoral training courses now include discussions on euthanasia, sexual orientation amongst other topics which had no place in the past.
Who does Jesus call us to support today? We are called to recognise the many marginalised in today’s society; namely the homeless need our support, widows and orphans of refugees, single parents, the single person male and female without family support and all such people need continuing support especially as such broken people often fail at the first and subsequent hurdles, but need us to care providing second, and third and if necessary more chances to begin to rebuild their lives. How are we called to love our neighbour? How about supporting fair-trade? It is an exciting challenge and adventure as we explore how we God calls us to be; seeking inclusive justice and love which Jesus revealed to us when he walked this earth. Let us allow ourselves to be changed each day more into the image of God through the love and acceptance Jesus revealed to us.
After this inspiring service I did my usual tradecraft stall and chatted with members of the congregation. Then I set off to get my car and return home, but I could not remember where I had parked it!! I had forgotten my phone to warn my beloved that I could not find the car, so I became further panicky and stressed as I hate to worry him. Having walked up and down the same stretch of Victoria Avenue with no sighting for 15 minutes, I decided to try the stretch next to Waitrose and there at last I saw my car and was able to drive home!! As I had been afraid, my beloved was beside himself with worry over what might have happened and that made me feel so bad! I had felt so helpless when I could not locate the car. Apparently even in my 20’s, according to a former pupil, Gwyneth, the characteristic she best remembered me for was my being scatty! I have not changed much obviously!! It just showed me how much more as a flawed person I need the support of Jesus in my life each day.