Worship at Berwick Grange on September 13th 2017

On Wednesday September 13th I led worship at Berwick Grange MHA.  We sang ‘Praise, my soul, the king of heaven’ before I led the prayers.  I read Matthew 18.15-20 before we sang ‘Dear Lord and father of mankind’.  In the short talk I described how a priest helped settle a dispute between neighbouring farmers, by setting them each a task to fill a third of the barn before sunset.  If he won they would have to stop arguing and be friends; if they won they could have all his fruit and vegetables growing in his garden.  Jonathan and Thomas rushed all day to fill their third of the barn, but the priest only arrived when the sun was setting.  He only had a candle and he walked into the middle of the barn and put the candle in the middle; he spoke a verse from the opening chapter of John’s gospel; ‘The Light of Christ shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.’  Then he knelt down and lit the candle and its light filled the whole barn up to the rafters of the roof.  Father Kevin had won and Jonathan and Thomas stepped forward and shook hands; from that time they became the firmest friends!

Jesus said that if anyone sins against you, you should try to get the person to admit their fault, and get things right again between you and him.  In other words we should never get into a situation when there is a break in personal relations between one member and another in the Christian community.  If something goes wrong what should we do about it?  We should not dwell on it but should say what our grievance is and see him or her personally to discuss the problem.  If that fails we should take someone with us as a witness to help us sort it out and be reconciled again.  If still unsuccessful then you take it to the Christian fellowship to get yourselves reconciled.  Still do not give up completely or abandon that person who has wronged you but win him with love and patience. Jesus found no person hopeless.  Jesus is with us wherever we are and wherever two or three meet together there he is in the midst.  He loves us and will never leave us and he will help us stay friends.

Worship concluded when we sang ‘Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.’

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Recollection of Worship at Wesley Chapel on September 10th 2017

On Sunday September 10th our supernumerary minister Rev Trevor Dixon led worship at Wesley Chapel.  He told us that the phrase, ‘Where 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name…..I am in the midst,’ had been taken out of context for years!  If there were not 10 people in a synagogue they could not pray, so the above saying would have not been applicable in that situation.  Apparently a traveller, who was an atheist, had to go to the synagogue to make up the numbers for prayer to take place.  Jesus took the law and turned it on its head and said that only 2 or 3 needed for prayer and worship to take place.  In one small chapel only 2 old ladies came to worship; only when one went into a home did the worship discontinue.

The original context was the final section on church discipline in the gospel.  It is still flexible in churches in isolated units where congregations have personal agendas and individual units.  Paul pleaded again and again for Christian love to be in context in Romans 13.  In Matthew 18 a similar context Jesus said that to just love each other is to fulfil the law.  The writer had seen the difficulties in a local congregation. The sayings of Jesus were gathered together to maintain order.  Two or three witnesses were needed to present a dispute in Jewish Law.  In Deuteronomy a single witness was not enough to bring a charge, so 2 or 3 witnesses were needed at Jesus’ trial. In Matthew’s church they had to choose trusted representatives to deal with disputes.  If there was still a problem the dispute had to be taken to the whole congregation!

How would we feel?  How would we judge?  It is good to have opinions, but how do we deal with disputes?  We cannot all be of the same mind but we can still love each other anywhere?!  We do not fully respect the Spirit of Jesus when we disagree.  What if the offender refuses to listen to even the whole of the church; we need to be gentle and unprejudiced towards people.  Jesus in contrast in Luke is shown befriending the Gentiles and tax collectors and welcoming them all to church.  Do we have the definitive mind of Jesus or are we prejudiced?  We need as a church to be open in our judgements.  How do we deal with those we do not find acceptable?  Do we throw them out or accept them?  Who is or might be acceptable?  God is present in worship and not absent in a finance meeting, as God is present in the whole of life, even in discussions about sexuality, abuse or divorce.  God is interested in all these things.  God’s name is glorified in the way we deal with negative sides of fellowship and living.

Trevor said that when he was an industrial chaplain God was there in the work place.  It was his task to help people find God in different situations; being a comfort to the oppressed, a companion to the friendless, and with those who fight prejudice and injustice.  God is in all situations and sometimes works through people there.  There are no ‘no go’ areas for God.  If someone offends you, do you challenge them or discuss it through with them.  How do we challenge them?  We search for the truth in the situation. Jesus was a radical person, a disturber of the peace, not a comfortable word, but dark and dangerous.  Those who proclaim the truth are prophetic voices, disturbers.  Jesus is in the midst but challenging and we too need to challenge violence in the world and overcome evil with good.

 

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Sunday September 3rd Worship at Wesley Chapel

On Sunday September 3rd our minister Rev. Christine Gillespie led the communion service at our chapel.  Our opening hymn was ‘Sing for God’s glory that colours the dawn of creation’ before Christine led the prayers of thanksgiving, praise, confession and the Lord’s Prayer.  We then sang, ‘Through all the changing scenes of life,’ before 1 Peter 4.12-19 was read describing suffering as a Christian.  Matthew 16.21-28 was read where Jesus foretold his death and resurrection.  We sang, ‘Deep in the darkness a starlight is gleaming’, before Christine preached.

Christine reminded us that there had been a welcome service for Ben, our new superintendant minister, and a young probationary minister called Grace supported by a supernumerary Gillian Ann.  The new chairman of the district was Lesley Newton, who had also just been appointed to the York and Humber District, of which our Nidd Valley Circuit is now a part.  Formerly we were part of the Leeds District.  Christine knew there would have been times when they had questioned their calling.  Where was the church calling them to go?   What happened when Jesus called the first disciples on the Lakeside, when they just left their nets and followed him?  Former disciples of John the Baptist asked Jesus where he was staying and Jesus told them to come and see.  Levi a tax man was asked to leave and follow Jesus and he did.  Later on there was another call to the disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross if they were to follow him.  This is different, not just a simple call, but the disciples were now asked to take something up.  Jesus began to talk about his coming suffering and death.  Peter blurted out that Jesus must not suffer, having previously recognised Jesus as the Messiah and was rebuked by Jesus.  The call to the disciples was deeper and more challenging; Jesus was coming to the end of his earthly ministry, so the disciples would need to grow in their faith to take over his ministry.  We all expect children to grow and parents are called to meetings if a child is not progressing as expected.  The Salvation Army shared testimonies of how God had led them each week; it was not a one off conversion but a faith which grew.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians to encourage them to grow in the faith; he told them that they were infants in Christ still living on milk, not solid food.  He rejoiced when they were newborn Christians, but they had to mature because of who Jesus was, and act and be prepared to deny themselves.  Parents deny themselves for their children.  The disciples knew what a cruel form of torture the cross was and found it difficult to contemplate that happening to Jesus. It would be difficult for the disciples to accept such a call.  When Christine had the call to preach, she felt she had no strength to preach, but accepted the call and the strength came.  We don’t know what we will be called to do as believers but we know what Jesus did for us, even going to die on the cross.  Would my love and faith be enough or would yours?  Jesus took up his cross and went resolutely to Jerusalem.

Christine then led the prayers of intercession before we sang, ‘God of Bethel by whose hand thy people still are fed.’  Christine then led the communion service and worship closed when we sang, ‘Lord for the years.’

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Worship at Pannal Chapel on August 27th

On Sunday August 27th I led worship at Pannal Chapel.  We sang, ‘Thou whose almighty word’ before I led the prayers and the Lord’s Prayer.  Then there was a dramatised reading based on Exodus 1. 8-2.10 about how the baby Moses was put in the bulrushes.  I gave a children’s address, when I was able to tell them I had just heard that my grandson Alexander Stephen had been born in the early hours of that day, although I had not yet met him.  He was 5 days late and my daughter Cathy had to have an emergency caesarean.  I told them a true story about the arrival of Danae, following an emergency caesarean at 24 weeks in 1991!  Diana’s precious daughter was not expected to live and if by some chance Danae should survive, she would most likely be mentally retarded and have cerebral palsy.  Diana could not think of that; she was the longed for daughter, a little sister for her son.   Danae was so fragile that she could not be touched, so Diana prayed that God would stay close to their precious daughter.  Against all odds Danae left hospital 2 months later.  In 1996 their perfect little daughter had no signs of mental or physical impairment; she was a feisty young lady with glittering eyes and an unquenchable zest for life.  One blistering afternoon in the summer near her home in Irving as she was sitting on her mother’s knee, she asked her mum if she could smell that.  Her mother thought it smelt like rain, but Danae shook her head, patted her thin shoulders with her small hands and loudly announced, ‘No, it smells like Him. It smells like God when you lay your head on His chest.’  Diana’s eyes blurred with tears as those confirmed that their prayers had been answered.  When Danae was too sensitive to be touched God was holding her on His chest and it was a loving scene that she remembers so well.  In the same way Moses’ mother had prayed that he might be kept safe and he was rescued by the princess and grew up under the protection of the princess.  There he was prepared for his later leadership of the people of Israel and with God’s help free them from slavery.

We sang, ‘Father I place into your hands’ before I read Romans 12.1-8 and Matthew 16. 13-20 was read.   We sang ‘O Thou, who camest from above’ before I preached.

I asked the question about who I am.  I am the daughter of my father and mother and sister of my three sisters and two brothers.  At Nottingham University I became a Christian.  I gained a degree in German and Biblical Studies, before training to teach at Leeds University.  I then became Stephen’s wife and mother of Beth and Cathy and a Methodist Local Preacher.  After Stephen became ill I went back to teaching German and French.  After Stephen died I became a widow and went back to the Anglican Church St Mark’s Church to rebuild my life.  I had a break from preaching and met and fell in love with my second husband Malcolm.  I had a breakdown and left teaching and rebuilt my life with Malcolm  My roles in life were teacher, wife, mother, local preacher, widow, wife again, clinical coder and summariser at a doctor’s surgery and now a pensioner; recently becoming a granny to Alexander.

Do I really know who I am?  I am aware of how I let God down, but at the same time I know he loves me as I am.  God loves you too as you are.   Paul in Romans reminded us that we are called to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God and not to be shaped by the world we live in.   We are to fix our eyes on Jesus until our lives reflect him through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Paul urged us to recognise our own capabilities and accept ourselves, using the gifts God has given us.  I know that serving coffee causes me to struggle; and I get very stressed about cooking for a large number of people.  I love baking cakes as that can be done in advance.  However I feel called to preach and lead our Bible study group with my beloved and that I am an encourager.  I do help with serving coffee if needed but do not feel comfortable doing that.  I am learning to pray with Brian, my prayer partner better than I can alone.

Jesus at Caesarea Philippi came to a personal crisis, as he recognised his time left was short, so he asked his disciples who people thought he was.  He knew he was not John the Baptist, nor Elijah but Peter recognised him as the Messiah, the son of God.  I too see Jesus as the Son of God who came to show us how much God loves us.  He never gives up on us, loving and accepting us as we are.  Each of us is invited to give our heart to Jesus, our constant companion and guide.  How are we to share our faith in Jesus with others?  Does knowing Jesus make a difference to our lives so others want to come to know him? We can only serve Jesus if we come daily to speak to him, filling our lives with his love and acceptance through the power of His Holy Spirit.

We sang, ‘For the healing of the nations’ before I led the prayers of intercession.  Worship concluded when we sang, ‘May the mind of Christ my Saviour’.

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Family time and retail history

I spent a night with my sister Fran in a hotel in Grassington, whilst her ex husband and first friend of Malcolm, Dave spent the night with Malcolm.  It was early August and the weather was variable.  It was just lovely to have a break in Grassington.  We enjoyed popping into different cafés for drinks and nibbles.  We were booked in for a meal at the hotel.  I was pleased to see how dog friendly the town was.  All cafés seemed to allow dogs in and the hotel we were in also was happy for dogs to stay.  I thought it would be an ideal place to come with my beloved and Piper when the weather improved.  I bought some special doggy treats back for Piper and a funny guide on how to care for a dog and a lovely carving of a dog almost identical to Piper for my beloved.  The time passed quickly and it was relaxing despite a lot of wet weather.  My beloved and Piper were glad to have me back home.

On August 10th we had a talk at the Guild about the history of the Retail Trade by Mr G. Brian Greenwood.  Greenwood’s men’s shops were opened in Nidderdale and there is still one in Harrogate.  The first market trading started thousands of years ago initially in the open air.  Department Stores were built at the end of the 18th Century.  Apparently the first escalator was installed in Harrods in 1898; a nurse would be waiting at the top with a tot of brandy for the ladies!  Before the war Selfridge’s had a golf club on the roof and there was also a ladies’ gun club on the roof!  The first multiple department store was in London in 1792 and was W. H. Smiths and Sons. Unique features of department stores were standardised products and prices; as they had multiple buying power they were able to undercut the prices of the small traders.  Multiples were all very similar like Burton’s Men’s Stores.  There were 616 stores by 1952, so there were 10,000 staff based in Leeds and 50,000 suits were made a week.  Boots the Chemist has been there since 1849.  Jessie Boot was initially a herbalist.  There are now many multiples of charities like Save the Children and British Heart Foundations.

Mr Spencer started a business in Leeds in 1884 selling everything for a penny; later he joined with Mr Marks and became as M&S.  Woolworth began in America selling items at 5 and 10 cents stores.    Woolworth came to Liverpool in 1909 items were sold for 3d and 6d for everything in the store.     In 1950 New York had the first self service food shops and in 1951 the first service food shop came to London.  Tesco opened its first shop in 1929 after having started as a market trader.

Benjamin Franklin set up a mail order catalogue which sold science books and other books.  In the UK big business is now conducted over the internet and it continues to grow.  Montgomery Ward had the first catalogue in 1872, which had railway times in different areas of the USA. There continues to be a slow decline in independent traders with the increase in supermarket.  We learnt a few interesting facts about the growth of the retail trade.

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Theology Talk by Bishop John Pritchard on January 27th

The retired Bishop of Oxford, Bishop John Pritchard now living in Richmond came to talk to us about the 5 events that made Christianity.  Jesus is the centre of his faith and he told us that many people are fascinated by Jesus.  Apparently 52% of the UK has no religion but there are 2.3 billion Christians in the world. 70,000 Christians are added to that number daily worldwide.  Jesus is still respected by non believers.  Apparently Jesus is the no 1 person people would like to meet from history.  Philip Bulmer is very critical of the church but very pro Jesus.  Even Ghandi admitted that the Spirit of Jesus was the only one that could save.  Einstein an unbeliever recognised Jesus as a luminous figure.  Jesus made such an impact on people of different or no faith, yet he was only in public life for 3 years!  In New Zealand there was a poster on a wall describing a radical, non-violent  teacher, never anti gay nor mentioned birth control, longhaired brown skin middle Eastern Jew – Jesus!! Albert Schweitzer said that Jesus came to us as one unknown, spoke to us asking us to follow him; to those who obey him he will reveal himself and they will learn who he is in their own experience.

John repeated the phrase that Jesus is the centre of his faith.  He studied Law at Oxford University and there he met Jesus and everything made sense.  He loves taking people on pilgrimages to the Holy Land.  On the last day of a pilgrimage they can see one of 3 possible sites for the road to Emmaus story. There they go into a monastery garden which is quiet.  He loves the strength and serenity of the Monastery building.  There they share their final communion and pull all their experiences together.  He also leads retreats in the Holy Land, which he finds a more profound experience as they are not just going from one site to another.

The five events that made Christianity are (a) birth (b) death (c) resurrection (d) ascension and (e) Pentecost.  These are held together by the person of Jesus.  We tell of this love story, the origins of which are in the nature of God. The first letter of John states that God is love.  It is the Biography of love and the Biography of faith.  Love is creative; a couple create a home; a writer loves words; a gardener loves plants; a scientist loves discovery.  God wanted to share his joy and love of the world and his desire to create led to the incarnation.  We only know God’s love as expressed in Jesus’ words and actions.  John 1 is the outpouring of the light and love of God, revealed in Jesus.  If we go into a house with no windows we stumble in the dark until we come into a room with a large window and we find the view stunning, but also it can be overwhelming; do we stay inside and look out of the window or dare we go into the light and experience it?  We see God through the window of Jesus, but some might go out of the window into the mystery of God.

Jesus preached with authority, healing people in Galilee and everyone took notice.  He announced the Kingdom of God which was at hand, where love reigned expressed in new ways of love, justice and peace.  Such a message seemed dangerous to the religious authorities. The accuracy and power of the message was dangerous to the religious and secular leaders, as it upset neatly constructed rules of behaviour.  Jesus had too much truth and light and they needed to get rid of it; the light was too much for them.  Father Paulo went to talk with ISIS, but he was killed for standing up for love, as Jesus did.

  1. The resurrection

The authorities had to get rid of the dangerous Galilean, but love like his was too full of life for him to remain dead.  Of course Jesus died, but God raised him and he lives; love has come again; the cross was a victory not a defeat; death was defeated.  We are an Easter People, so we should not let the sorrows of the world hide the joy of the risen Christ.

  1. What you do with a love like this? That love needs to be given its proper place. The Ascension put everyone in its place; Jesus at the right hand of his Father; the disciples now on earth rejoicing and worshipping God in the temple.
  2. The power of God, his Holy Spirit is available to every believer; that transformational love, which is there for us and the world. Anyone can co-operate with God’s energy, renewing the world away from its self-centredness. We are part of the 5th or 6th chapter of the Biography of love, a tough love, which is the last hope for the world. In the Eucharist we reclaim his love in our lives, so that God can continue to write his love to world.

Biography of Faith

Five events echo the faith story of Christian people like us.  God’s love is in us, not just manifested in Jesus. That is not prescriptive but is descriptive of what many of us experience.

  1. The birth of faith can be expressed in different ways such as twice born or being converted. John Pritchard had a sort of faith when he went up to Oxford to study, but that faith became real for him at the university.
  2. The crisis of faith comes for us all; hopefully not too soon after we have made a commitment in faith. We need time to root ourselves in Jesus before we face complex questions or find more questions than answers. In Christianity many Christians find themselves as it were outside worship, feeling critical of it.  That can become a full scale crisis of faith.  They might still worship masking their true feelings in the church, but life has gone from their faith.  The darkness of Holy Week can be a bitter experience.  Will we come through it alive?  It is tragic how many founder at that time without a wise guide; Andrew Motion lost his faith when his mother had a bad accident.
  3. New Life can come after the crisis; for some that means leaving the church altogether; for others it means having a more liberating faith, which is open, more inclusive and kinder. After a crisis of faith, faith can be less definite, not as clear cut as it was before, but that faith can be deeper.  John now feels he is a better listener and not so ready to proclaim what he believes as right.
  4. Faith finds its true place in our lives, as happened at Jesus’ ascension into heaven and our faith has a more natural expression. John now finds his faith is the centred motor of his life.  Jesus has gone to heaven and the disciples had to learn to relate to God as Jesus had done.  God is God and we can relax in him, who we trust and he is our ‘home’.  We recognise that we are at home with Christ.
  5. Finally we are set free and empowered for love.

In the first stage of faith we are inward looking, but after a crisis our faith deepens and becomes essential for our lives.  Love has to overflow from us into action in the world.  Love has to be expressed, so we can reach out to others with mercy, compassion and peace.  Our own personal Pentecost comes when we are empowered by love of God to love our neighbour.  Faith is a journey likely to have a period of complexity  in crisis before we learn to accept the grace of God resulting in a deeper and more open and wider faith.

John finds the Holy Land a wonderful place to reflect on the 5 events of Christianity, in a journey of the mind and heart. It is a single story told in 5 chapters in which we follow the main character of Jesus in the biography of love, leading to our biography of faith in 5 sessions, changing us gradually into the likeness of Christ.

God is the God of the whole world, not just of Christians but of all faiths and of those who have no faith.  We have a unique faith in God through Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit, God’s energy and power. That divine energy of love, justice and compassion puts the life of the Spirit into our very selves.  We worship a huge God, uniquely revealed in Jesus.  John finds that God gets bigger and bigger and he sees the Holy Spirit as active in the world beyond faiths.  He is sure the Holy Spirit will direct people towards the truest route to God.  For John Jesus is the truest route to God.  Jesus is still at work in the world; wherever people are open the Holy Spirit will be there.  Jesus is the most direct line to God.  Any descriptions of God are metaphors, as God is beyond our understanding.  God has given us Jesus, who revealed the nature of God in his biography of love.  We limit God to our ways, but God is beyond God; there is always more love and grace to discover.

  1. We need to be properly attentive to another person and not put our own interpretations in.
  2. We need to listen really not just to the words the person is saying, but also to see the feelings underlying the words.
  3. Only then can we tentatively suggest, ‘I wonder if this would make sense?’, making a suggestion or inviting them to consider commitment. We need to be truthful to who we are.

I found John compelling to listen to.  I had a more simplistic faith until my first husband died after his fourth overdose, when I had a crisis of faith.  Now my faith is less simplistic but deeper and I have more questions than answers.

 

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Sunday August 6th Worship at Wesley Chapel

On August 6th Rev Christine Gillespie led our communion service at Wesley Chapel.  Worship began when we sang, ‘I sing the almighty power of God’.  Christine led the prayers and the Lord’s Prayer, before we sang, ‘From heaven you come helpless babe.’  The Gospel reading was the feeding of the 5000 as described by Matthew 14.13-23, after which we sang, ‘God grant us words to speak,’

Christine preached.  She reminded us of the party game of Consequences, where different people put down a woman or man’s name, the place and event and the consequence of it.  In real life there can be unexpected consequences and when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been killed he withdrew to a solitary place by boat.  John the Baptist had been criticising King Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife, even though his brother was still alive.  John had been imprisoned for challenging King Herod about that marriage. King Herod had been celebrating his birthday with a meal and had too much to drink and his wife’s daughter had danced inappropriately in front of him.  He was so impressed that he rashly promised to give Salome, anything, up to half his kingdom, but at her mother’s instigation she demanded the head of John the Baptist on a plate.  That resulted in John’s violent death after the excesses of the party.

Jesus had heard of the execution from the disciples of John the Baptist, so it was right for him to withdraw from the people and grieve for the loss of his cousin.  It gave him the chance to reflect on what John had preached, the Baptism of repentance.  That reminded him that things might end in the same way for him.

That time of prayer and reflection was cut short, when crowds arrived before him.  He felt compassion on the crowd even though he needed space; he healed the sick being generous with his time.  Even at the end of the day came, he did not send them away, as he saw their need of food.  He fed them from a little bread and fish, so that they were all satisfied and there was even enough over to spare and be collected in baskets.  We are the Body of Christ and we are called to have compassion on the needy and stand against injustice.

When we consider how many actions of compassion began in churches like food banks, the homeless hostel and earlier hospitals. When we are called to care in our discipleship; that care has consequences.  We may find we have less money, or we may be more tired and doing what we don’t want to do.  John’s honest challenges led to his death and Jesus knew he would be facing a similar fate and needed time to be quiet, rest and pray.  Although Jesus needed time to pray and rest, he met the needs of the crowd and finally dismissed the crowds, sent the disciples off and then he prayed alone.  We as Methodists tend to be doers but we also need time to pray.  The Methodist Conference had called for a day of prayer and fasting to begin the new Church’s year, which would be a time to withdraw to pray and find strength from God.

Christine led the prayers of intercession before we sang, ‘Lord we have come at your own invitation’.  She then led the preparation to receive communion and we received his body and blood.  Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Give me the faith, which can remove.’

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