Thought for the month

Rev Dr Michael Paterson introduced worship at our joint service on 15 December with these words:

Welcome to worship on the Sunday after the Friday before.

Whether your heart is celebrating, or your spirits are in your boots, know that you are welcome here.

Whether you are a leaver or a remainer, know that there’s a place for you at this table.

Whether you are a Unionist or a Nationalist, know that God says you belong.

On this Advent Sunday we meet as God’s people, still waiting for justice, still longing for a better future, and still hoping for the healing of our divisions – as a world and as a church

That’s why today, in the centre of our worship, is the table of light – symbol of all that we need in these dark days of the year, until God sends his final messenger in Jesus, and puts the darkness to flight.

So let’s light candles rather than curse the darkness.

We then enjoyed an ecumenical service, where Julia Reid shed a new light on Matthew 11.2–11, and Liz Crumlish led our intercessions. And the table of light pictured above combined Episcopalian and Methodist practices in a creative way.

Today is Advent Sunday: we lit the first Advent candle, and we read from Isaiah 2, starting again at the first page of the Lectionary. And this is some of what Michael Paterson said to the St Margaret’s congregation:

At one level it’s all about getting ready for Christmas, and that’s right. But it’s also the day the Church presses the restart button and says: Let’s make a new beginning.

Every Advent, God poses the question to people like you and me who have been coming to church all our lives, and have been through the Advent and Christmas cycle so many times:

And the question is this: As the church presses reset, and begins all over again, are we up for religion? Or are we up for grace?

Religion is about the basics: keeping the commandments; honouring God and the Sabbath; loving our neighbour as ourselves. Religion is about the minimal entrance requirements for heaven. But the life of grace is a quite different affair.

Grace is about going beyond tinkering with religion, and saying to God: “I vote for you. I sign up to your deal. I back you 100%.”

Grace is about saying: “The time for dabbling in dieting and getting fit are over. The time for playing games and messing about with religion is over. I am in it for real, Lord.”

Grace is about turning our lives completely over to God, and praying for God to finish what he has started in us, to bring it to completion and to change us from glory into glory.

And all it takes is one simple YES to turn a lifetime of religion into an eternity of grace.

Let’s pray for the grace this Advent to start out all over again, and to set our goal on nothing as tame as religion when transformation is on offer. Amen.

Michael’s homily can be read in full at this link.

30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, yesterday’s Sunday Worship from Coventry Cathedral included contributions from one of the partners in their Community of the Cross of Nails, the Chapel of Reconciliation in Berlin.

Today’s chapel not only bears the name of its 1894 predecessor but also contains rubble from its walls. The original church had become inaccessible after the building of the Wall, and was later destroyed. Following the reunification of Germany, a new chapel was built on the site.

Thomas Jeutner, the parish priest, said:“The chapel is situated exactly in the former death strip – that means the main part of the wall is over there and the church was really inside the wall, it was actually walled in. We describe it sometimes like an imprisoned person or an imprisoned symbol.

“The community of the cross of the nails worldwide is situated at wounded places … I meet people here telling me their stories of their wounded histories somewhere in the world. This prayer of reconciliation, it links you every time when you read it to the deepest failing humanity, but we do it as a duty every week, we belong to the community.”

The Coventry Litany of Reconciliation

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class, Father, forgive.
The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own, Father, forgive.
The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth, Father, forgive.
Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others, Father, forgive.
Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee, Father, forgive.
The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children, Father, forgive.
The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God, Father, forgive.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

You can read more about the programme at this link, and also listen to it for the next month

At the St Margaret’s service on 29 September 2019, Rev Dr Michael Paterson shared the reflection from which this is an extract.

Our public life this week has been full of the language of disdain, of traitors, of enemies, of surrender and of capitulation. But have you noticed just how much our service today is full of the language of love, of forgiveness, of belonging, of peace, and of hope for the future?

… I am really worried that Brexit has taken us beyond that to what one writer has coined ‘common enemy intimacy’ … “I don’t know you … but I’m glad that you hate the same people I hate, and I’m glad you hate the same things I hate.”

… that’s why I think what we doing here together this morning Is absolutely radical, absolutely outrageous, and absolutely revolutionary. Because, when the world’s story pushes us to call people enemies, what could be more radical than God’s story? …

And, at a time when the world encourages us to view others as traitors, capitulators, and zombies, what could be more outrageous than God’s call to leave the comfort of our seats to wish each other peace, irrespective of whether we voted leave or remain?

… at this crisis point in our history, I think that we who call ourselves Christians need to come together more than ever to do three things: to sing, shake and share.

Because there’s nothing like singing to remind us of the power of our belonging together. There’s nothing like reaching out to people who are not a bit like us to wish them peace, real peace, deep peace, to remind us that we don’t have to fuel divisions but that we can heal them.

And there’s nothing like kneeling at the communion rail with people we would never spend time with the rest of the week, to remind us that, when push comes to shove, we all hunger and thirst for a fuller and better life, not just for ourselves, but for each other and for our world.

So, while the world repeats history, and tries to drag us into war, let’s tell a better story and let’s go on singing, let’s go on shaking and let’s go on sharing.

Read the whole of Michael’s sermon at this link.

At our joint Harvest communion on 22 September 2019, our Gospel reading was Luke 16:1–13 – The parable of the dishonest manager – and Rev Liz Crumlish shared the reflection from which these are extracts.

With this parable today, we are invited, not to gloss over it because it seems difficult, but to engage with it and discover how it might speak into our lives and into the life of the world we inhabit. Never, in any of Jesus’ parables, are we allowed to be bystanders …

This is a parable in which we are implicated as we wrestle with all of our socio-economic, our political and our ethnic divisions. So let’s, just for a moment, consider three of those divisions with which we wrestle today – let’s talk about Brexit, let’s talk about austerity measures, and let’s talk about climate change.

… the truth is that we’re not simply dealing with the economies of today, but with the deficits of the future, the things that, by the way we live and the choices we make, we are denying those who follow us into the future.

So what can we do? We who claim to live by a different rhythm, we who are influenced by a totally different set of economics, the economy of the Kingdom of God. How can we follow Jesus, modelling relationships that are compassionate, that are restorative and that are creative?

… it is by waking up to crisis, like the dishonest manager, that we will find creative ways not to save the church, not even to save ourselves, but to listen and learn from those outside our normal circles … to listen and learn how we might survive the crises that assail us – and not just survive but flourish, making it possible for all of creation to know and to share in the abundance that God promises and longs for us to know …

We are invited, with the God of the harvest, to wake up to the crises all around and to be courageously creative in seeking and in implementing how we might be shrewd managers of all of God’s gifts today. For the glory of God. Amen.

Read the whole of Liz’s sermon at this link
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1100 Morning Worship

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