Bible Study on May 15th at home

On Monday May 15th we had our Bible Study at our home.  We continued our discussions on the theme of receiving Christ in the stranger and the needy.  We were encouraged to read a comment from Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) philosopher and essayist: ‘If Jesus Christ were to come today, people would not crucify him.  They would ask him to dinner, hear what he had to say, and make fun of it.’  We were asked if we are ever reluctant to declare your membership of the church for fear of attracting personal animosity.  No-one in our group was reluctant to declare our membership of the church or share the fact we were Christians if we were challenged.  We read Amos 5.21-24 and recognised that however fine our Sunday worship would be of no worth if our lives through the rest of the week were not a true reflection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  We were also asked whether we would allow members of a local mosque the freedom to worship in our chapel if their mosque was being renovated.  I did not feel there would be a problem but it would have to be decided by our local church council.  We do not at present have a mosque in town, although there are a group of Muslims who are considering the use of a local building as a mosque in Harrogate; at present Muslims have to travel to Leeds to worship and pray.

Revd Dr Ken Howcroft a former President of the Methodist Conference told us of a moving reaction by Muslims after a terrible massacre of Christians in Pakistan.  In a number of Pakistani cities Muslims came and stood round Christian churches holding hands, to let their Christian brothers and sisters go in to worship and to protect them.  Ken thought it would be a good idea if Christians did something similar here if mosques come under attack in some of our cities.  He knows of a few churches which send their Muslim brothers and sisters, and people of other faiths, greeting cards at times of major festivals.  When I was a teacher in a Bradford school in the 90’s my Muslim pupils always brought me Christmas cards, which I found very thoughtful. I should have responded by getting cards to celebrate Eid and also for Hindu and Sikh festivals, although I was more used to the Muslim time of celebration following their challenging fast of Ramadan.

Professor Keith Ward says; ‘If the Church welcomes sinners, you’re going to get quite a lot of sinners in church.’  We were asked to think of the church as a spiritual outpatients’ department in a hospital for the morally sick and whether we were comfortable with that image.  I think that such a picture is accurate; we are all sinners who have been forgiven but are continually in need of repentance and forgiveness.

We read Hebrews 13.1-3 which talks of giving hospitality to the stranger.  Refugees dominate the news but Britain admits very few, preferring to donate money.  We were asked if we had ever considered welcoming an immigrant into our homes.  My husband and I had considered offering a home to a refugee, but not many were accepted in Harrogate. However although we had wanted to offer accommodation my beloved has been battling more with his chronic illness of ME and is often in pain.  Now added to that severe systemic disease he now has gallstones.  He is never well and this year has been one of his worst since being taken ill in 2003.

Finally we were asked to consider whether we would prioritise our family over duty to our neighbour.  I do find that very difficult as my beloved needs my support due to his chronic illness.  I do also volunteer to help those with mental health issues and belong to church groups, the Labour party and am a local preacher, but if my beloved’s illness deteriorated more I would have to reconsider my commitments.  We need always to be ready to serve others, but not forget family needs.  We have found our current Bible studies very challenging.

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An eventful week especially for my beloved

On May 8th my 65th birthday I had a busy day.  I had an appointment with the doctor in the morning as my right arm was still painful after Piper had pulled me over months before and I had landed heavily on that arm.  My right thumb was also very painful and I was finding it increasingly difficult to write.  Dr Atkinson referred me for an x-ray, although I did not think anything was broken, as I could move my hand afterwards.  The x-ray proved very helpful; it was not broken but there was arthritis in the base of my right thumb.  However the doctor had referred me for physiotherapy for my arm.  When I saw the physiotherapist he was pleased to see how flexible I was and showed me that my right arm was weaker than my left arm.  The muscle needed strengthening so he gave me some exercises to do.  He told me that I could get an injection in my thumb at the doctors to help with the arthritis.  I made an appointment and was able to have an injection in the base of my right thumb, which was painful but improved it and I can use it better now, as it is less painful.  I was discharged last Wednesday from the physiotherapy as my arm is stronger now, but I must continue my strengthening exercises.

My beloved had his pre-assessment on Monday afternoon for his arthroscopy the following Saturday.

On Thursday the sub-editor of Harrogate Advertiser came to talk to the Guild at Wesley Chapel.  He was interesting as he spoke of his background in Scotland and how he eventually was offered the job in Harrogate.  He talked about how they liked to be involved in local events and just needed to be informed, so that they could feature local activities.  There was a lively discussion and criticisms given to the sub-editor if something had not been reported or there seemed too many adverts.  However he fielded the comments well, as there is only a small team of reporters who have to be there at the right time to report in the paper.  The Advertiser group included the Ripon and Knaresborough local papers; articles varied in the publications so that local issues would be highlighted in the appropriate area.

On Friday I was finally well enough to help at the Acorn Centre with the computer. It was good to be back there.  On Friday evening I delivered my apple fruit cakes and caramel shortbread to Liz to take to the coffee morning for Fair-trade day at St Peter’s Church.  I could not help as I was taking my beloved into Harrogate Hospital for 7.30 am for an arthroscopy on his right knee.  I needed to be available to bring him home as soon as the procedure was over.  I took Piper out for his walk before popping into the local coffee morning at our former chapel to take some items for sale for the cause, before popping into the local shops to buy some things. I heard from the hospital that my beloved was ready to collect at about 11am.  I set off to collect him and only waited a short time, when he came out walking well with two sticks. He had not wanted a wheelchair!  It had all gone well, as the cartilage had nearly gone and bone was grating on bone.  He could not then go out even for a short walk for a couple of weeks.  He needed not to be left on his own for the first 48 hours. Beth, bless her walked Piper for me on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, so I did not have to go out.  Beth was an absolute godsend. I watched the service on the television with my beloved as I had to be with him.  My beloved made a good recovery and found that once he could walk out again, that his knee felt better.

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Sunday May 7th Worship at Pannal Chapel

On Sunday May 7th I led worship at Pannal Chapel. Before I started a prayer for peace was said and a candle lit.  We began worship by reading Psalm 23 responsively before we sang, ‘In heavenly love abiding.’  I led the opening prayers and the Lord’s Prayer.  John 10.1-10 was read before I talked to the children. 

I talked about hearing and listening properly with a radio as an illustration.  Do we really listen to radio or is it just on?  I listen more intently to speech channels like radio 4, whereas my beloved listens more intently to Radio 3 or music CDs.  Piper, who has excellent but selective hearing, in his bids to escape, wilfully ignores my call if he is intent on pursuit of a scent.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd and he calls us and knows us by name, but do we always listen to him?  Is it more exciting to do something wrong, rather than listen to his voice? Jesus is patient and has his crook to reach out and pull us back out of trouble.  Let us listen to our friend Jesus so we can become the people He knows we can be. 

We sang the song of fellowship ‘Father I place into your hands’ before I said the blessing to the children going to their classes.   Acts 2.42-47 was read and a dramatised reading on 1 Peter2. 19-25 before we sang ‘I know that my Redeemer lives’.  I was very grateful to the congregation for doing the readings, as I was concerned my voice would not hold out for the service; I had a very sore throat, but I managed as I drank copious water and did not sing the hymns!

I began preaching by sharing a Native American translation of Psalm 23; with phrases such as; The Great Spirit above is a Shepherd chief; I am His and with Him I want not.  He throws me a rope and the name of the rope is love; and He draws me tenderly to where the grass is green, and the water not dangerous, and I eat and lie down satisfied.  There are many things in the world which make us ask God, why there should be hunger and hatred, violence and death, illness and pain.  In 1 Peter 2 he explained that we suffer as Jesus suffered and died on the cross.  He said that Jesus came to love and serve us, to reveal God’s love to us as he saw us as sheep that had lost our way; He brought us back to follow the shepherd and keeper of our souls. Christians whether slave or free are to follow the example of Jesus as they are under the care of the Shepherd and must act as he did.  Undeserved suffering must be quietly endured. In Acts the characteristics of the early church were that they learnt from the apostles, shared fellowship and prayed together.  Their shining faith in the risen Lord made them a worshipping, caring and sharing group and many new people came to know Jesus and joined the community of faith.

A shepherd’s life was very hard as he was never off duty; there was very little grass and no boundary walls, so sheep were bound to wander. He also had to protect the flock against wild animals like wolves and also thieves and robbers who were ready to steal the sheep.  God was often pictured as a shepherd in the Old Testament and the people as his flock in a number of psalms and the prophets.

The Palestinian shepherd had a sling with stones and a staff to defend himself and the sheep from marauding beasts and robbers.  His rod was like a crook so he could catch and pull back any sheep moving to stray away.  The Shepherd went in front to see if the path was safe and the sheep followed.  The sheep know and understand the eastern shepherd’s voice and they will never answer to the voice of a stranger.  The true shepherd leads his sheep out to pasture and they follow because they know his voice.  Jesus warned his listeners that those who climbed into the sheepfold but did not go through the door were not to be trusted.  When the door is opened by the keeper the shepherd calls his sheep out and they follow him, because they know his voice.  Jesus knew his sheep by name; he knows us by name and calls us to follow him.  We need to listen to his voice and respond and follow him and not be led astray.

Jesus also called himself the gate.  When the sheep were on the hills in the warm season they did not return at night to their villages and the more secure folds, but were collected in sheepfolds on the hillside. The sheepfolds are stone enclosures with one opening to come into and go out of and no gate; the shepherd would lie down at the gateway to be the gate, so no sheep could get in or out without going over his body.  Jesus said that he opened the way to God as the gate, when he came to show people what God was like.  Jesus came to bring fully abundant life of peace and love.  When we walk with Jesus our lives are enriched everyday as we listen to his voice.

We sang, ‘Christ is alive! Let Christians sing’ before I led the prayers of intercession.  Worship concluded when we sang ‘The King of love my shepherd is.’

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A celebration and a need to recuperate

On Wednesday May 3rd Martyn came to do our garden as usual but it was a special day; his birthday, so I had some cake for him.  Some of which he took home to share with his wife Rachel. The weather was good fortunately so that did not spoil his day.

On Friday I was looking forward to going back to the Acorn Centre, but on Thursday overnight I woke feeling as though I was going to be sick.  I was unable to be sick but felt so nauseous that on my return to bed, I had to rest upright so could not sleep well.  I realised when I could not move out of bed the next morning that I had better ring with my apologies to the Acorn Centre as I felt so unwell.   I had had a sore throat the previous day.  I rested all that day and the next as I was due to preach on the Sunday and hoped to have a voice, so I did not let them down.


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Friends and Family Time

On Monday April 24th Cathy and I met with Kristina, baby Henry and Grandma Alice, Kristina’s mum at a café, which specialises in accommodating families for an afternoon tea; our lunch together.  Henry is really growing up and is such a lovely boy.  He enjoys life with Grandma or Grandpa for a day, and a couple of days with a child minder, whilst Kristina works part-time.  We enjoyed miniature sandwiches and cakes and enjoyed catching up with our news.  Time flew and I brought a couple of cakes back for my beloved. The café is really a get together place for women and children, so I found it relaxing. At the end Kristina who is very careful about not allowing Henry too many sweet things, asked him if he would like one of the cupcakes and he chose a chocolate one!  He said with enthusiasm as he bit into it; ‘Nice!!’  It disappeared quickly. He  is good at eating fruit and vegetables though!

On Tuesday I had my hair done which was lovely.  Sinead is a brilliant hairdresser and I enjoy our chats.  In the evening I went to the Fair-trade group meeting, in which we discussed what we had been involved in this year and prepared for the forthcoming coffee day on May 13th.  I said that I would not be able to help this year as my beloved was having a minor operation on that day, so I had to be available to pick him up and look after him at home after the procedure.  I did agree to bake my usual 2 Apple fruit cakes, one gluten free, and caramel shortbread for the coffee day and drop them off on the Friday evening.

On Thursday I met with Brian for our prayer time, which was helpful to us both.  I had a phone call from the Acorn Centre to say that the computer class was starting on the Friday, but as I had not expected that I explained I could not go that week and they understood.

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Sunday April 23rd Worship at Wesley Chapel

On Sunday April 23rd our minister Rev Christine Gillespie led the special Woman’s Day Service at Wesley Chapel.  Worship began as we sang, ‘Thine be the glory’ before Christine led the prayers and the Lord’s Prayer.  Before the readings we sang, ‘Father in heaven grant us your children.’  As it was a special service Jenny from Starbeck Chapel read ‘1 Timothy 2.1-8, which gives instructions for worship.  John 20.19-31 was also read by Catherine describing Jesus’ appearing to the disciples after his resurrection.  We sang ‘When Easter to the dark world came’ before Christine preached.

Thomas was not there when Jesus appeared to the disciples.  He was not there at the right time.  Those who were present in the right place and at the right time had the Easter experience.  Mary Magdalene went to grieve at the tomb and when she was there she found the tomb opened and the stone rolled away so was able to run and fetch John and Peter.  John looked and he believed and he and Peter returned home.  Mary remained to see the angels and listen to the announcements that he has risen.  As Mary was still there she encountered whom she thought was the gardener, but when he addressed her as Mary she knew it was the risen Lord Jesus.  As Mary was the first there, she was the first witness to the resurrection.  The testimony of women was not considered valuable in the Middle East and yet here in the gospel, their testimony was valued.

The disciples were in a locked room, afraid and in grief, so were puzzled when they heard the testimonies of Mary, Peter and John.  Suddenly Jesus was there with them, so it all made sense for them.  Jesus wished them peace and breathed the Holy Spirit over them.  It was an amazing experience for the disciples present but Thomas was not there.  Thomas was sceptical and angry and needed concrete proof before he would believe it. Thomas was given a second chance when Jesus came and asked him to touch him and believe.  Then Thomas recognised Jesus and said, ‘My Lord and My God!’  His deep grief was replaced by Joy, faith and understanding.

If we continue to read we remember how Jesus appeared to different disciples and later ascended to heaven.  That was not the end of the story as they were empowered at Pentecost to witness no longer afraid so that 3000 people joined the church.

Even today it is important to be there at the right time.  Where are we?  How are we to be in the right place at the right time to hear Christ speaking?  Jesus shared the last supper, took, broke bread and instructed them the disciples to do that in remembrance of him.  He washed his disciples’ feet. Do we understand what we have to do?   Jesus set the example and we are to do the same. We are in worship to pray and be in fellowship and communion with people, as Christianity is not a solitary religion. The disciples spoke to crowds at the synagogue.  Paul described believers with different Spiritual gifts as forming the Body of Christ.

Ordering worship where they meet in fellowship is where they feel God is alive.  If we are absent from worship we find other things to take its place.  Do we come in expectation to receive from worship?  We meet in fellowship as we serve one another.  Schools and hospitals have a Christian foundation.  Christians founded prison visiting, the MHA; Methodist Homes for the Aged and many churches support food banks and the homeless.  Where we serve others we find accidentally we meet with Jesus.  Where should we go?  Mary had come to grieve her loss of her Lord and Jesus appeared to her when he was not expected.  Jesus gave Thomas a second chance and gives us second chances.  Jesus gave the promise; ‘Seek and ye shall find.’  Jesus comes to us to give us fullness of life.  The locked doors behind which the disciples felt bereft are not enough to stop Jesus coming to them.

We sang, ‘Where can we find you, Jesus our master’ before Christine led the prayers of intercession.  Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Christ is alive let Christians sing.’


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Piper and I caught in a thunderstorm

On Tuesday or Wednesday this week I was out walking with Piper and it began to rain heavily. That did not bother Piper at first as he loves his walk but the rain got worse and we were walking through a small wooded area, when we first heard the thunder!  Immediately Piper’s tail went down between his legs and he stayed right next to me.  As the thunder seemed close we got out of the wood into the field and as Piper was so scared, I began to head for home.  However the lightning and thunder came closer and closer together, so we made a determined effort to speed up.  It seemed to take ages as Piper kept shrinking into the wall then rushing towards home with each clap of thunder.  I too wanted to get home. Piper’s tail only went up when we were safely in the house!  He was like me a drowned rat!  He needed to be close to us as my beloved attempted to dry him, by rubbing him with the towel and putting the fire on. I had to change my clothes completely as I had got soaked through my supposedly waterproof coat!   Piper kept close to my beloved nuzzling into his body.  That evening he was nervous of possible thunder, especially if an aeroplane sounded loud above; it took most of the walk for Piper to recover his confidence and his tail went up, to show he felt happier!

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