Wednesday Worship – 14th October

October 19th, 2020

Where Are You?

Led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

Wednesday Worship 7th October

October 19th, 2020

Led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

Tuesday 6th October Bible Study – Esther

October 8th, 2020

Led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

Esther is often criticised as a book where God is not mentioned. However, I think much of this book is about timing- God’s timing. Perhaps the most famous line in the book comes from Mordecai when he challenges Esther ‘For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this’ (Esther 4:13-14)

Queen Vashti

Read Esther 1:10-22

Esther 1 builds up a picture of huge wealth, indulgence and power. Notice that by this point after seven days the men were pretty wasted on wine. Queen Vashti is summoned (out of the female realm) for the amusement of the male party. Some have commentated that verse 11 suggests that she was told to wear only her royal crown.

  1. Would you have obeyed or disobeyed the command?

Interestingly, Queen Vashti’s disobedience makes the men fear that women throughout the kingdom will despise their husbands. When someone breaks societal rules, do we fear that society itself will collapse? (The personal is political)

Esther 2:1 says that when he was more sober the king regretted his decision. Queen Vashti is set up as a foil to Esther who works in a different way, but could Esther have achieved what she did without her? I am indebted to the women of dignity and courage who have gone before and often only get a chapter in the story.

The quest to replace Vashti is often presented as a beauty contest but it is more sinister than that. Yes, Esther is brought into the palace because of her beauty but she, along with all the other girls, has to spend a night with the King. Esther becomes Queen because ‘she won his favour and approval more than any of the other virgins (2:17). However, she has told no one that she is Jewish. In this world outward beauty is more important that inner truth. Is that still true?

Mordecai

In chapter 2 Mordecai who is Esther’s cousin and adopted father has arranged for to be part of the contest. He is still instructing her while she is Queen. In chapter 2 he uncovers a conspiracy which Esther reports to the King and credits Mordecai. However, this is quickly forgotten. When Haman is appointed as second-in-command to the King, Mordecai refuses to bow.

Read Esther 3: 1-11

  1. Would you have bowed? Why do you think Mordecai didn’t?
  2. Do we forget the good things people do too quickly?
  3. Again, one person does something that means a larger group is feared/hated? Where do we see that happening today?

Esther

Read Esther 4:12-17

Mordecai knows of the plot to destroy the Jews and goes around in sackcloth wailing (again few seem to take notice). Esther first sends him clothes and then the second time she sends a messenger to ask what is wrong. Esther doesn’t think she can do anything because she can’t approach the King without him summoning her- to do so would be to risk death. Mordecai’s famous words are not encouragement but a rebuke. They begin ‘Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you will escape’.

  1. What do think about the ways that Esther tries to respond to distress? Do we go through stages of understanding?

Read Esther 5:1-8.

  1. In what way is Esther’s approach to the king different?

Haman is happy at getting a banquet in his honour. However, when he sees Mordecai at the gate who still refuses to bow, he is enraged. His family encourage him to ask for Mordecai’s death at the banquet. He is so certain of this that he has the scaffold built.

During the night, the King cannot sleep. He goes through the palace records and reads about the plot that Mordecai had uncovered and that he had forgotten. Mordecai had not been honoured so he decides to bring Mordecai back into the palace.

Read Esther 7:1-10

  1. What does Esther appeal to in the King?
  2. In the book of Esther, we have three difference ways of responding to injustice: civil disobedience, protest at the gates and working from the inside. Which do you favour?
  3. Where do you see God in this book?

Prayer

When we destroy dignity for amusement,

When we choose outward appearance over substance,

When we treat people as commodities,

When we forget the good and too easily believe the bad,

When we can only be happy when someone else is miserable or brought low.

Forgive us and change us.

May we act according to your timing wherever you have placed us.

Do we outrightly disobey, protest or work within the system?

Lord, Esther destroyed the plot because as a woman, no-one saw her coming.

Jesus you destroyed sin and death from a lowly position upon a cross,

Evil had written you off and didn’t you coming.

Your love conquers all and we praise You for it.

Amen.

 

Wednesday worship – Harvest Festival 7th October 2020

October 8th, 2020

Led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

Wednesday worship – 30th September 2020

October 8th, 2020

Led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

Bible Study – Tuesday 29th September 2020

September 28th, 2020

Led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

Bible Study- Nehemiah Dealing with Opposition
I can remember talking with an activist who said that rights were not granted but hard won. Building-up something new, restoring something valuable, fighting for justice or developing your inner spiritual life can be a hard slog. The Bible makes it clear that when we work with God to build the kingdom, something good, there will be opposition. In fact, ‘Satan’ in Hebrew means ‘Adversary’.
1-Have you been part of a long campaign to build something good? What were the successes and
setbacks? Does it help to know that opposition is part of the course?
Nehemiah has permission from the King of Persia to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city of Jerusalem.
He rallies the people in chapter 3 and everyone gets involved (even the priests do the building). However,
in chapter 4 there are setbacks and opposition. Nehemiah is not a straight path to success.

Read Nehemiah 4: 1-9
Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs (remember this is pre-Islam!), the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod are all local peoples who do not want to see Jerusalem rebuilt and the Jews strong in the region again. They unite in opposition to retain what control they have.
2- What forms does their opposition take? (e.g. anger, fear, intimidation etc.)
3- Have you ever faced opposition like that when you were trying to do something good? Does it help to know what fears are fuelling people’s opposition?
4- What do you think of Nehemiah’s prayer?
Read Nehemiah 4: 10-23
5- How does the attitude of the workers change? Why? (notice that just as opposition from outside scales up so does opposition from within)
6- How does Nehemiah respond? He prays to God and…….Do we ‘pray to God and….’
Read Luke 4: 16-30
7- What similarities can you see between Jesus and Nehemiah?

Wednesday worship – 23 April

September 28th, 2020

Led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

Wednesday worship – 16th September 2020

September 20th, 2020

Led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

As well as her normal outstanding sermon Suzanne also included information about the Mayflower Pilgrims on the 400th Anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower to the Americas.

Bible Study 15th September

September 13th, 2020

Bible Study- Elisha and the Axe-head

There is a pattern in the miracle stories of Elisha, the prophet does a small, contradictory thing in faith and restoration or healing occurs. For example, he puts a bowl into a Spring and the water becomes drinkable again. He adds some flour to a stew which counteracts ‘the death in the pot’ (2 Kings 4:38-41). No jokes about my cooking! He feeds a hundred people with just twenty barley loaves and there is bread leftover (2 Kings 4:42-44). If that story sounds familiar- it should. Even the healing of Naaman only involved dipping in a river much to his annoyance. God is the power at work not dramatic actions or spells.

  1. When have you been underwhelmed? Have you been underwhelmed by God?

Read 2 Kings 6:1-4a

The company of prophets is a bit like a proto-Church. I like the fact that they have identified that something is too small and therefore inadequate and decide to do something about it. Notice the ‘us’ and that each of them aims to get a pole from the Jordan region.

  1. What is inadequate/not enough in our life together? What do we need to do about it collectively?
  2. Does the response of the prophets reflect our Congregationalism in some way?
  3. What does leadership look like in this short passage?

Read 2 Kings 6:4a-5

I wonder how long it was before the prophet realised that the axe-head was missing? Was he standing there with a big stick beating a tree wondering why it wasn’t cutting? I often get frustrated with equipment before I realise it is not plugged in! We need to keep things sharp and not allow our spiritual senses and practices to become blunt.

  1. Where can we become blunt and less of a useful tool for the purposes of God?
  2. What keeps us sharp? See Proverbs 27:17, Ecclesiastes 7:3, Ecclesiastes 10:10, Hebrew 4: 12-13
  3. If you were a tool or utensil in God’s hand what would you be?

Read 2 Kings 6:6-7

I find three things interesting here. First, Elisha wants to know the location. Where did you lose your sharpness? Sometimes it is good to recover your steps and understand where things when wrong. Second, the iron floats! Iron usually sinks but God can make heavy things light. Third, the prophet has to reach out and be part of the miracle. I am not sure I would want to reach out and pick a sharp axe-head. I might lose fingers.

  1. Where have you had to meet God halfway to participate in a miracle?

Prayer

Lord God,

Sharpen us up so that we can be useful for You.

Forgive us when we have been careless or forgetful and our spiritual senses have become blunt.

Show us where things went wrong so that we can recover our zeal.

Thank you for the people, life-events and Bible passages that keep us sharp.

We want our churches to be alive for You.

Help us be willing to expand and change when You call us to.

Don’t let us go through the motions when those motions no longer work.

Grant us Your wisdom.

Amen.

Wednesday worship – 6.30pm 9th September

September 13th, 2020

Led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

https://youtu.be/Osg1wOYOulE.