Sunday March 26th Mothering Sunday

 

On Sunday March 26th it was Mothering Sunday and we had Rev Ann Fox a probationary minister in our circuit, who is responsible for Starbeck, Park Grove and Scotton Chapels. We sang the verse from the Tree of Life which was about Jesus’ Spirit to inflame our hearts, so that we may inherit His joy, when we bear the cross with him.  We sang ‘For the beauty of the earth’, before Ann led the prayers of praise and confession. She thanked God for mothers who care.  She told a story about her son, when he was 6 or 7 and bought a plastic plant in a pot, when he wanted to have money left over to buy sweets for himself! What amused her most was that the previous day her son, now 29, came with his wife and gave her exactly the same plastic plant for her Mothering Sunday gift!! She asked us of things to thank mothers for and gave a short prayer to include our suggestions. We sang ‘For all the Saints’ before the reading from Exodus 2, when Moses’ mother hid Moses in the bulrushes. There was a reflection on the Holy Spirit, showing the tenderness of God, the Spirit being like a caring mother.  We sang a hymn I had not sung before but was appropriate for the day; ‘God of Eve and God of Mary’ before the reading from Luke 2.33-35.

In the sermon she explained that she had two grandchildren one only a few months old and a five year old at school, who had managed to set off the fire alarm!!  We all want our children to have a good start.  She reminded us that Friday had been Red Nose Day.  Apparently Ed Sheeran had written about a trip to Liberia West Africa, where he found appalling conditions, far worse than he could imagine. Yet in all the poverty and deprivation the children had dreams to a doctor, teacher or Politician. One 12 year old girl, whose father had died of Ebola had worked for a year to support her family and could not go to school. She sang a song in tears as it reminded her of her father.

What did Mary think about Simeon’s words?  She had no idea what would happen, but wanted the best for the child, as Moses’ mother did.  It was the second visit to the temple; the first would have been for the circumcision of Jesus.  Mary had then needed 40 days of purification after the birth of a boy when she needed to offer 2 pigeons to redeem her son.  If a girl had been born she would have needed 80 days of purification!  Every first born son was dedicated to the Lord and 5 shekels paid back to the priest to claim her son back.  A child was not a gift but only leant by God.

A child is precious and there are those who need assistance to conceive or have no family. Other children are failed by their homes or others.  The Charity Action for Children helps those children and young carers, and those who have been abused; they give parenting advice and teach skills to one parent families, and those affected by death or family breakdown.  Rio Ferdinand was going to talk about how he acted as a mother and father to his children after his wife’s death.

Simeon was a good man, who believed that he would see the Messiah before he died.  He did not believe that he would come in violence to overthrow the Romans; he just waited quietly in prayer.  His words are now known as the ‘Nunc Dimitis’. Now he knew he had met the Messiah and was ready to depart in peace.  How would we have felt?  The message described how the child would bring salvation; his mother’s soul would be pierced by a sword.  Simeon was overjoyed, but he knew that the child and his followers would face opposition culminating with Good Friday. We can only weep with his mother Mary before the joyous Easter Day. Joseph loved Jesus as his own; he and Mary trusted in God to help them. We can thank those who have cared for us and the church which sustains us. As a church we can create a safer space, an environment where all feel safe and loved.  We should aim to be more caring for each other and others in the world in need. We need to be childlike, open hearted and grateful.

She prayed for the world that violence might end and barriers be overcome.  The terror attacks affected someone’s father, mother, brother or sister.  She prayed for a better world for all and for all those who have cared for us in life’s journey. She wished all God’s people a happy Mother’s day. She completed the sermon with the collect for the day.

We sang ‘God is love. His the care’ before she led the prayers of intercession and the Lord’s Prayer. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Now thank we all our God.’  It was a thoughtful, worshipful service.

 

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Friends and Family are important

On Monday March 20th I had a meal and good chat with my best friend Hilary at the Table Table Restaurant.

Our gardener Martyn tackled our garden with his usual gusto on Wednesday 22nd March.  We are so blessed by him.  I led worship at Berwick Grange MHA later that morning.  We began worship by singing, ‘Glorious things of thee are spoken before I led the prayers.  I read the reading from John 4. 5-30, 39-42; this was about the Samaritan woman. We sang, ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’ before I acted out the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, as this helps the dementia sufferers to follow the story. Our worship concluded when we sang, ‘Jesus, lover of my soul’.

On Thursday March 23rd Toyota did the annual service and MOT on my Toyota verso; it is brilliant as the driver collects the car for me and returns it afterwards all pristine and clean. It means that I can get on with things at home without just having to sit and wait at the dealership.  I pay monthly so it costs me nothing unless I need a new part.  On Friday I helped with computer as usual. Beth came and we spent some time together before she took Piper for a long walk on Saturday. My beloved and I relaxed together over the weekend.

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Sunday March 19th Worship at Wesley Chapel

On Sunday March 19th our minister Rev Christine Gillespie led worship.  It was the third Sunday in Lent and we sang the third verse of the Tree of life Candle Liturgy:

‘We remember truth once spoken, Love passed on through act and word, Every person, lost and broken Wears the body of our Lord’ and the third candle was extinguished as we remembered the suffering in the world.

We sang ‘Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, King of creation’ before the prayers of praise, confession and the Lord’s Prayer.  We sang ‘There’s a spirit in the air’ before we heard the reading from Exodus 17.1-7, when Moses drew the water from the rock.  ‘Desert Flowers’ by Pat Marsh was read before we sang, ‘As water to the thirsty.’  Then we heard the reading about the woman of Samaria from John 4.4-30, 39-41 before we sang, ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say.’

Christine  began her sermon by reminding us that Jesus had said he was thirsty on the cross and sour wine was held to his mouth and after having received it he said, ‘it is finished.’  Nowadays there are places where many women still walk up to 8 hour journeys to get water, which is often dirty.  Yet water is vital to life; if we lose 10% water in our bodies we become very ill and would die if we lost 20%.  If we give water to the needy we will be giving it to Jesus.  Jesus knew the value of water as do those who have to walk miles to get water.  Was the sour wine on the sponge to shut Jesus up or a small act of kindness on a brutal day?  On the cross Jesus asked Father to forgive them as they knew not what they did.  Those who were thanked and commended for helping did not know they had done anything.  When they had helped the least little person they had done it for Jesus.  Christine was not enthusiastic about a church being floodlit in preparation for the millennium, but saw the value of another church sinking a well in Africa to provide clean water and save lives a worthy millennium goal.  Jesus said, ‘I thirst’ and someone was kind to him.

He knew of the need of water for the woman at the well. She misunderstood the living water and thought it meant she would not have to keep coming to draw water or endure the neighbours’ scorn and turn up at midday.  He offered her cleansing water having summed up her complicated life in a few words; having had 5 husbands and now living with a man.  Hers was a story of abuse, possibly sinned against as well as sinning.  Jesus was perceptive and kind and she received understanding, forgiveness and courage to tell her neighbours to come and see him. Jesus offered her spiritual fellowship, a gift of life to worship in spirit and truth.  The disciples were very surprised that Jesus was offering spiritual water to her.  We are all in need of spiritual refreshment, forgiveness and grace.  Even Jesus had spiritual needs too.  In Matthew he said, ‘My God, my God why have you forsaken me?’ When we ponder on the meaning of thirsting, we remember all are thirsty who are in crisis at the time and are helped.  Those who spiritually thirst are helped by those who seek to guide and help.  We must remember those who do not recognise that they thirst.  All can through the resurrection of Jesus receive the well of the water of life.

Christine led into the prayers of intercession.  Worship concluded when we sang ‘Father of everlasting grace.’

 

 

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The Pope Francis Effect by Julie Clague

We had our Bible Study starting the York Lent Course on Monday March 13th and we had a good discussion on the theme of ‘Receiving Christ as children of God.’  We were asked to consider what the best things in life and the second best things in life were.  Did we have a personal relationship with God and did we feel like a child of God?  Did we wonder how God could care about ‘little old me?’  We found so much to discuss that we only considered the first 4 questions suggested.  It was a challenging and interesting discussion.

On Saturday morning whilst I was out walking the dog my eye suddenly felt odd and I discovered later that I had had a second spontaneous haemorrhage round the eye!  The doctor did not see anything sinister on Monday, it just happened for a second time!

Julie Clague gave the final theology talk of the season on the subject of ‘The Pope Francis Effect: Christian Witness in the Church and the World.

We considered:

  • What Papal agenda has Francis set for himself?
  • How does he understand his mission as pope?
  • What agenda is Francis setting for the Catholic Church?
  • What is the impact of Francis’ papacy on the church?
  • How is he seeking to witness to Christ in the Church and the wider world?

There are 1.1 billion Catholics; about 2/3 live in the Global South and ¼ live in Europe.  There are 6 million Catholics in the UK from the world church in Poland, Africa, and India.  There are 220.000 parishes and 414.000 priests, 705.000 religious sisters and 55.000 religious brothers.

Catholicism is huge in the world wide church, highly diverse, culturally variegated; there are multiple ways of being Catholic, so there are many disagreements and divisions in it.  The Church under the pope has to try and be one voice in big issues.  Some cardinals criticise the pope for wrong teaching.  The Pope is to bring unity holding the Catholic world together; show leadership; point to Christ; manage like a CEO the institution of the church. He is a teacher, enabler, empowered to promote inclusion and participation and respect diversity and difference.

The role of the pope is to build bridges not walls; speak to ordinary people and connect with and inspire people of all faiths.  He needs to foster dialogue in diversity and disagreement and nurture Christian unity, by nurturing inter-religious understanding and cooperation.  He is called to promote world peace and speak truth to political power without national interests; to be a voice for the all people, especially those left behind.

Who is Pope Francis?  He was born in Argentina in 1936 as Jorge Mario Berglio.  He is a member of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits.  Jesuits see God in all things and people and are interested in discernment and read for reflection and prayer; feeding the intellect and spiritual life.  He was ordained in 1969; he is a pope of sound bites with 10.5 million followers on Twitter.  He chose the name Francis as he served the poor.  He asked the crowd in St Peter’s Square to pray for him after he had been elected and bowed his head for 20 minutes.  He has an apartment not a palace and cooks for himself; he drives a Ford Focus not a limousine.  He is a man of the people who travels on public transport and has lunch in the Vatican canteen.

Francis has key phrases; Jesus and the gospel; mission; pastoral is very important; mercy; church of the poor; discernment – he does not want to rush into tying down teaching; decentralization (reform of church structures).  Francis wants more devolved governance to local Catholic Churches to work out for themselves.  He feels that the Vatican does not have all the answers.

He brought out the ‘Encyclical on Faith 2013 on the proclamation of the gospel in today’s world. He also brought out an Encyclical on care of the Environment and the Apostolic Exhortation on love in the Family. He sees mercy as being the foundation of church life.  He feels that the church which goes forth is a church whose doors are open.  The Church should be a place of healing where Christians patch each other up.  The Confessional was not to be a torture chamber but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better.

Francis advised the church to take account of the complexity of various situations; moral laws should not be applied as if they are stories to throw at people; need to practise discernment and not just follow rules; divorced and remarried Catholics should be supported.

However he still upholds ban on contraception but encourages responsible methods.  He apparently said; ‘if a person is gay and seeks the Lord and is of good will, who am I to judge him’ on July 29th 2013.  He continues not to support the ordination of women but he will set up a commission about women acting as deacons.  He will form a council for 9 Cardinals to help him with church reform.  He wants to scale down the curia and have a synod on the family and a worldwide synod consultation questionnaire. The Pope is trying to say that all doctrine not as important as knowing the living Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brian Hoare’s Talk on March 12th

Brian Hoare asked us what we considered the best known verse in the Bible and I thought of John 3.16; ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’.  Martin Luther saw that as the gospel in miniature. There were 6000 Pharisees and they were a very select brotherhood, which followed the Jewish Law as set down in the Pentateuch.  They were very well educated and knew the Old Testament well.  They were scholars and teachers of the Law to the people.  The Scribes studied the Law in minute detail and elaborated on laws like keeping the Sabbath holy; they had 24 chapters giving the details.  Jesus had harsh words for the Scribes and the Pharisees because of their outward show and intellectual approach, when they did not have their heart in it.  Nicodemus a ruler of the Jewish people was a member of the Sanhedrin, an exclusive group of 70 men.  A baby does not decide to be born; it just happens.  We don’t decide to be born again; it is what God does within us, turning our world upside down. Saul the persecutor became Paul the Apostle.  Emperor Constantine’s battle cry was in the sign of the cross ‘conquer’.  John Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed at Aldersgate Street. C.S. Lewis was travelling on the top of a double-decker bus when he realised the reality of God.

Jesus spoke of the snake on the pole Moses had in the wilderness from Numbers 21, when those bitten by snakes had to look at the bronze snake on the pole to be healed.  Jesus saw the snake on the pole as a symbol of the crucifixion; Jesus lifted up on the cross, then resurrected and ascended into heaven.  As we look to Jesus we may be reborn.  What about our story?  Has the wind of the spirit blown in my life, Brian asked; he doesn’t remember being born again.  Many are not conscious of the wind blowing in their lives but some people are.  Brian felt that the Emmaus Road story most fitted with his experience.  I know that mum felt the Emmaus Road story was special for her. Some people have a Jericho road experience when someone helps them when they are in a bad place.  It does not matter how people come to believe that knowing Jesus is best, as long as they come to know him.

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Goodbye Ernest and Thank you

On Sunday March 12th Rev. Brian Hoare, a supernumerary minister led worship at Wesley Chapel.  Our opening hymn was ‘Sing of the Lord’s goodness’ and Brian led the opening prayers.  We said Psalm 121 responsively before we sang ‘In the wonder of creation.’  Genesis 12.1-5 and John 3.1-17 were read before we sang, ‘Author of faith, eternal word.’ Following the sermon we sang ‘All I once held dear’, before the prayers of intercession and the Lord’s Prayer.  Our closing hymn was ‘O the bitter shame and sorrow.’  It was a worshipful service.

On Friday March 17th I went to the funeral service of one of our most faithful local preachers, William Ernest Stephens, known to us as Ernest.  He only took a few weeks off preaching when his wife was in the final stages of terminal cancer, otherwise he was known as the compulsive volunteer.  He was accredited as a local preacher in March 1991, a year after I came on full plan.  When my late first husband was ill in Clifton hospital in York, he was one of the most faithful visitors in 1980.  He was a very caring and helpful person, who was involved in organising music concerts too at his chapel, Woodlands Chapel.  He was a former nurse.  He loved dogs and after he felt he was too old to have his own dog he delighted in walking other people’s dogs if required.  Sometimes it is not good to be too indispensible, as following his death, the chapel now has realised how much he did, and there is a shortage of ready volunteers!  He took his last service at Hampsthwaite Chapel, having preached there first in his years of service just days before his death.  He was planned to preach at our chapel, but rang one of our local preachers, Rosemary Green, as he felt too unwell to preach the following Sunday; she had not expected him to have died before that service!!

There was a family service of commendation at the crematorium, before the thanksgiving service at Woodlands Chapel. Christine his minister welcomed the large crowd of worshippers and we sang ‘Sweet is the work, my God, my king’, which was the signature hymn of the Harrogate Male Voice choir. John 14.1-6 and Peter 1.3-9 were read before Christine led the tribute, wondering how she would have managed without his volunteering over the years.  He was very conscientious and for a time he was the Local Preacher’s Secretary.  He regularly attended the Local Preacher’s meeting and was always interested in how everyone was.  Christine led the prayers and the Lord’s Prayer after we had sung, ‘Give to me Lord, a thankful heart.’  The final hymn was ‘In Christ alone my hope is found.’ Donations were given to St Michael’s Hospice which had supported Ernest during his wife’s illness.  It was a privilege to have known him.

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Life with Piper

I have been much busier each morning with our rescue dog, Piper.  He has revolutionised our lives.  He is very loving and at times mischievous.  After a nasty virus I had caused me to cough at night, Piper no longer wanted to sleep downstairs as he felt the need to keep watch over me.  He usually starts the night sleeping in the chair but later in the night he joins us on the bed, sometimes even under the covers, becoming a real hot water bottle until he gets too hot!  Most mornings I am first up and go down to feed the dog, get a drink of hot lemon juice and a fruit, before going for a shower.  I then usually take the dog out for his morning walk.  If I have time I take him for a longer walk, where I used to let him off for runs, but last Monday he had his last free long run, as he took more than 3 hours to return!  I waited 2 hours but then walked home to have some breakfast before going back to call for Piper with my daughter and son in law.  Cathy and I walked down to the last place I had seen him whilst Ken walked around the back of the woods into which I had seen him vanishing.  My beloved was heartbroken and I thought I had really lost him.  I kept calling him and then Cathy had a text from Ken to say he had seen him and almost simultaneously Piper reappeared with Cathy and me, looking as though butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth!!  He seemed very relaxed but filthy, so he had to be showered by my beloved on his return home!

Previously Piper had been good at getting out of his harness and making a bid for freedom on a couple of occasions!  I began to train him to come back after I let him off and was mostly successful for at least two times or even three, but the fourth occasion he decided he was having too much fun to come back!  On one of those occasions he finished up at the caravan park at the bottom of the Yorkshire Show Ground, before I finally caught up with him; he had even lost his harness!  He twice cut through a fence, having wriggled out of his harness and had fun barking at and chasing rabbits; once taking me more than ¾ hour to catch him, but on another occasion only 15 minutes!  I avoided walking in that field then.  Once he came back three times then got carried away running up next to the Showground and when I finally caught up with him, he had sneaked through an open gate into the woods in the Showground.  After an hour of trying to catch I finally got him back on the lead.  During the Yorkshire Show I was careful to keep him on a lead but he slid out of the harness leaving me with the harness on the lead but no dog!!  I was very concerned as cars were coming in to park in the field on the busiest day of the show, the Wednesday!  He is very fast and although I called him he still did not return straight away.  A man told me he had seen a dog across in the next field but he could not get hold of him; shortly after that he appeared and came and flopped in front of me! He was incorrigible.  Now the only time I let him off the lead is at the local park where there are no rabbits!  If he spots rabbits as my best friend Hilary points out, a red mist descends and he fails to hear my voice, until he is ready to come back to me in his own time!!

My beloved and I are relieved to have our delightful Houdini of a dog safely home with us and he will now not have the freedom to run off as before; it is too worrying!  Piper as a cross between a beagle, with excellent scent skills for rabbits and a Spanish hunting dog or Podenco with excellent eyesight, just cannot resist chasing rabbits.   We know he has a scent or has seen one, when he starts to bark in a particular way.  He is very attached to us as his ‘people’ and always has to on the couch with one or other of us, so would be upset if he ‘lost’ us!!  Finally I am beginning to do my blogs again, but I may not remember all I have to catch up but will do my best to write more regularly again.

Beth, bless her, takes Piper for a long walk each Saturday afternoon with her Caverchon, Chase.  I am very blessed by my lovely hubby and two special daughters and a thoughtful, helpful son in law, Ken.

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