Archive for May, 2021

Trinity Sunday Communion 30th May

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

30th May 21

25th May Bible Study

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

BIBLE- PROPHECY AND COMFORT

In worship last week we talked a little about the reality of Zoom meetings. I do think they are real, but someone did mention that it was easy to not ‘fully turn up’. For example, you can put a jacket on but still wear your jogging bottoms or, as someone I know did with an Area Meeting, put the picture on mute and dust the living room at the same time.

  1. Have you ever been ‘outed’ as not fully present somewhere?

Read Zechariah 1:1-7

Background

Life was difficult for God’s people. They had returned from exile in Babylon, but it wasn’t the end of their troubles. Work was hard, the Temple was only partially rebuilt, and their identity was in tatters. Would God keep His promises? Would it be better to look for security elsewhere? They were physically in Jerusalem, but their hearts were elsewhere and away from God. Whether we are worshipping back in our Church buildings or watching the Youtube videos it is still easy not to be fully present to God. Understandably, our minds can be on our daily to-do lists, our concerns or our lunch (is that just me?). Life can be lived not fully present. We can be in our relationships but still feel lonely. We can show up to work but wonder if it all matters.

  1. What helps us be fully present to God and each other?

Zechariah 1:2 talks of God’s anger. It is not a comforting picture of God at all! We don’t tend to talk of God’s anger very much. God’s anger towards sin is righteous, not petty or irrational like much of our human anger. Also, God’s anger does not sever God’s heart from His people. Previous generations didn’t listen to God and ended up in ruins. We know that deep hurts can reverberate down the generations. I wonder what you make of Prince Harry’s comments about parenting? What about the injustice that society has passed down to us? I remember being really cross as a teenager with the idea that ‘we were the future’ as if we had to fix what the previous generation had messed up with impunity. However, despite the fact we don’t listen, God doesn’t give up on us.

  1. What differences are there between God’s anger and human anger?
  2. Are we doomed to carry the hurts or perpetuate the mistakes of previous generations? How do we stop that? What comfort can we take from Zechariah 1?

Zechariah is prophesying 18 years after the exiles return home and they still have lots of questions. Will a new power overtake them when they are so vulnerable? We have returned to school, work, theatres etc. but we still have questions too about the pandemic, job security, self-worth.

Read Zechariah 1:7-17

Darius was generous towards the Jews but he’s still in control. At first glance, the vision of horsemen who ride across the earth and report back that ‘the whole world is at rest and at peace’ sounds like a positive image, except that this is a picture of the Persian communication system. Interestingly, Scripture often uses the phrase ‘the whole world’ to criticise Empire and a fake peace. The peace is not true. Jerusalem is still suffering, and the angel pleads for it. God offers ‘kind and comforting words’?

  1. Are they kind and comforting words (verses 14-16)?

We are not left in ruins. We are not left with worries about generational sins and an incomplete future. God says ‘return’ to Him and then the promise of rebuilding can begin. If we return then we really need to show up, fully come to ourselves and repent. The prodigal son didn’t just return to the home/place he had left but fully returned/repented before his father and his heavenly Father.

  1. As we return where do we need to fully return to God and each other?

Prayer

As many aspects of normal life return, help us fully return to each other and You. We worry about the mistakes of the past and we have an incomplete picture of what the post-pandemic world will look like. We worry that so many things are ruined. But you speak “Return” instead of “Ruined” and that is our comfort. Help us repent fully and trust in Your promises. We praise You Father that there is always an ‘again’.

Amen.

23rd May 21- Whitsuntide worship led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

Repeat of Wednesday worship (19th May) but with the opportunity to sing Whit Hymns outside the church

Wednesday worship 19th May 2021

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

Led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

Sunday service 16th May

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

Led by Mr Darryl Lmas

Wednesday worship 12th May 21

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

Led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

Bible Study 11th May 2021

Monday, May 10th, 2021

BIBLE STUDY- AN UN-STORY

1-Did you have a toy when you were little that gave you comfort? Perhaps a toy that you needed to sleep. What happened if you could not find it?

Read Isaiah 30: 1-5 NIV

Woe to the Obstinate Nation

“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin;
who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge.
But Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame, Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace.
Though they have officials in Zoan and their envoys have arrived in Hanes,
everyone will be put to shame because of a people useless to them, who bring neither help nor advantage, but only shame and disgrace.”

Obstinate children are people of Judah who rebelled against God. Negotiations underway & Isaiah condemned their twisted plans. People of Judah sought assistance from everyone except God. When we are driven by fear we seek help from anywhere.

I hope to return to looking at the Hebrew Bible over the Summer. We paused at the Wisdom Literature so now we are looking at the prophets. The prophets speak uncomfortable truth to those in power and to us. Isaiah was a prophet to King Hezekiah. Generally, in the Old Testament King Hezekiah is described as good king because he takes down the altars to foreign gods and removes the idols. He is the prime example of a good person who makes a stupid mistake. He hears that the Assyrians are coming down from the North ready to attack. The Assyrians were a huge, military power compared to little Judah. Hezekiah panics. He needs protection and security, but he looks in the wrong place. He sends his ambassadors to Egypt to sign a treaty. The people have come so far since slavery in Egypt. God has protected and provided for them again and again but in a crisis Hezekiah, in spiritual terms, goes developmentally backwards.

I can have a good week but then I get an angrily worded email, something goes wrong at work, someone says something sharp at home and I’m a six-year old again whose teddy bear is missing. I want to feel secure again. I’ve noticed we’ve all got a bit crosser and grumpier during this second lock-down. We are in a crisis and we are feeling insecure.

Words like ‘protection’, ‘help’ and ‘refuge’ are words we associate with God (think of the psalms) but Hezekiah is going to Pharoah instead. This is the Exodus story in reverse. It is an ‘un-story’. Some of the things we use to make us feel better/more secure are great (a hug from our partner/a walk in nature) others can be paradoxically destructive.

2-What ‘securities’ makes us feel better in the short term but can have long-term consequences?

Read Isaiah 30:6-7

A prophecy concerning the animals of the Negev: Through a land of hardship and distress, of lions and lionesses, of adders and darting snakes, the envoys carry their riches on donkeys’ backs, their treasures on the humps of camels, to that unprofitable nation,
    to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless. Therefore I call her Rahab the Do-Nothing.

Our false securities cost us dear and the journey backwards is even tougher than the first Exodus out. It is also all for nothing. Verse 7 says ‘I call her Rahab’. Rahab means ‘sit still’ or ‘do nothing’ and is a nickname for Egypt.

Rahab = mythical sea monster – leviathon??

What happens when instead of following God we look for our own securities?

  1. Shame (Verse 5). Shame is a horrendous emotional state to be in. It’s more than feeling guilty because you’ve done something wrong. You believe that you are something wrong. Shame also breeds disconnection. Adam and Eve enter into their shame and hide from God. The opposite of shame is vulnerability – openly admitting your weaknesses and failings.
  2. Denial. Read Verse 8-11.

Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness.
For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction.
10 They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.
11 Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!”

This is band-aid theology! This is refusing to do the hard-digging of the soul.

3- Where are we guilty as individuals, Church or country of this type of denial? The thing you are most defensive about is often the thing you struggle with the most.

  1. Destruction Read Verse 12-15.

12 Therefore this is what the Holy One of Israel says: “Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit,
13 this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant.
14 It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.”

15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.

Wow! What an image. It reminds me of the Sheffield Flood and the bursting dam. I think we often think that we can fix the cracks, but the forces are just too big. Verse 15 is just beautiful and such a contrast to what has gone before. The word for ‘quietness’ is used for a baby asleep in its mother’s arms.

V15 Judah could not be saved by other nations only God

4- When has quietness been redemptive for you?

It would be great to end our study with the people turning their backs on Egypt and returning to God but the toddler who wants a more tangible security says “No!” (Verse 16-17)

16 You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
17 A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.”

  1. Flight. Often when our mistakes catch up with us, we try to flee or escape rather than face them.
  2. Abandonment. This is a startling image. Ultimately our false securities will abandon us and prove themselves false. We will be like a lonely flagpole on a hill or a tattered banner on a distant mountaintop. Perhaps we think God has given us chance after chance after chance and God will do no more but….

Read Isaiah 30: 18

18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

God longs to be gracious. God longs for his people to return to Him. Did Jesus have this passage in mind when he told the story of the prodigal son? Hezekiah does return to the Lord and Jerusalem is saved from the Assyrians but Isaiah predicts that Judah’s sins will lead to greater destruction- the exile in Babylon is yet to come.

What does that image of a lone flagpole remind you of?

Read Matthew 27: 28-37

28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.

We might be mocked for our belief but so was Jesus.

This is more than an understanding that God will not abandon us or give up on us. God in Christ, entered into our places of abandonment and destruction. Jesus shows surprising solidarity with the shamed. When we are utterly alone and think we deserve to be alone, the cross is there reminding us that we are not.

Prayer

Lord, I sometimes feel as if I am going backwards.

Reaching out for old securities even though I know they don’t work.

Getting angry because I feel insecure and overwhelmed.

I feel as if my story with You is rewinding.

Help me seek refuge in Your protection and love.

I gain strength in quietness with You,

I gain confidence in trusting You. Amen.

Sunday Service 9th May – led by Mr Darryl Lomas

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

Wednesday Worship 5th May – led by Mr Darryl Lomas

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

Readings Ezekiel 34:1-6 & Matthew 27:11-31

What makes a good or bad leader?

Darryl reflected on the position in which Pontius Pilate found himself within the Roman Empire.

He was a minor leader not a ‘mover and shaker’ in the backwater Province of Judea. He wasnt enamoured by the country people or culture. The Romans respected the religions of the nations they conquered but not Pialtae.

He was obstinate turning a deaf ear to what he didn’t want to hear and had no moral fibre submitting when threatened to let Jesus go or Caesar would be informed.

Have we saved face by running others down. Pilate certainly passed the buck and offered the crowd a choice

.What is our responsibility as individuals? Are we role models?

Sometimes we just don’t know who is being influenced by our actions.

Wednesday 28th April – worship led by Rev Suzanne Nockels

Monday, May 3rd, 2021