Monday, 9 April 2012

Easter Sunday

Happy Easter!

More than 30 of us joined together to enjoy the fellowship of an Easter breakfast through the shared food that we’d brought along and celebration through worship and singing.

In church later on, we thought about Jesus as the Way Maker. He has cleared the path, set out and shown us the Way of love, for us to continue along.

He asks us not to let the story finish at the empty tomb, as in the original ending to Mark’s Gospel, but to ensure a never-ending story by going out into the world ourselves and living his message of love and peace.Jesus is with us in dark times and happy times. He has experienced everything that we might face in life - triumphs and disasters - and understands us through our grief and joy.

Today was a special day for me - as I was welcomed as a member of St David's Uniting Church (again - it's a long story!)

This is Claire's testimony, as she told it:

‘Life is a journey and the path isn’t always straight and smooth – that’s for certain! My life and faith journeys have taken some interesting turns, including a few major detours – I have taken the long way back to the path that leads me back to the door of St David’s Uniting Church. I am certain that God was with me every step of the way – I never thought otherwise. He patiently held the map whilst I said ‘let’s try this road; why not go up that path?’ until I finally realised that I knew all along where my true spiritual base was, the place from which all my life’s travels could commence – and so here I am and I think God has put that particular map down with a sigh of relief! Goodness knows there are plenty of other maps we’re wrestling with in MY life, so it’s good to fold one up and put it away!

Now I am back in my spiritual home – and I don’t refer to the building, of course: rather, I speak of you, my friends. I am amongst people who know me, my quirks, my faults, as well as my strengths and, dare I say it, my gifts – and accept me with open arms: ‘Just as I am, Lord’, to quote a song. Also, St David’s Uniting feels so right for me, as I think we hold common beliefs and shared perspectives.

On my journey, I have been grateful for God’s ever-present love but it feels even stronger and more protective from within the embrace of you all. Therefore, I pray that renewed strength will guide and help me through my continuing journey, that others may come to see Jesus through my words and actions. I pray that I will be able to give you all the same love and support you show me and that I will be a busy and useful member of St David’s Uniting Church as we take our place in God’s wider church, wherever all our journeys take us.

Thank you, my friends, for your loving, warm welcome: it feels so good to be back and I intend that my ‘stay’ will be a long one.’

The Grace, Peace and Love of the risen Jesus be with you all,

Claire Hughes

Reflections for our Journey to Easter were inspired by our worship through the week. Thoughts and pictures have been contributed by Fiona, Ben, Sue T, Kath, Lesley, Enid, Michael, Marcia, Cerys and Claire.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Journey to Easter - Good Friday

It's over. Finished. Evil and death have had their way and even though we view events with the benefit of hindsight, we cannot help but feel the sense of abandonment and desolation of Jesus' family, friends and followers.

It must have felt like this was the final word- a statement that goodness and love could not win. For them, unlike for us, all hope seemed lost, resurrection and new life could not be contemplated.

Yet come it did and in spectacular fashion. Today is truly Good Friday because Jesus showed us a way through life and death to life beyond death!

Thanks be to God for his wonderful gift in Jesus.

Cantorion sang the Agnus Dei from the Peoples Passion

A team of 17 people helped to prepare the lent lunch. We served about 130 people and raised £485 for Christian Aid.

Journey to Easter - Thursday

Jesus is the Way Marker. He shows us a new way to be 'great'.

'A new commandment I give unto you
That you love one another, as I have loved you'

God gives us a new family to serve and to love.

It is from this mandation, this commandment, that we get the name 'Maundy Thursday'

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Journey to Easter - Wednesday

Jesus was the original agent provocateur both for the Roman Occupiers of the time, but more for the Jewish authorities. He challenged them and their rigid interpretation of the ancient scriptures and their strict adherence to Hebrew law. He questioned their moral authority, and for that reason they believed that to ensure their preservation he had to be sacrificed and offered for crucifixion.
If Jesus were here today, he would stand alongside those who are persecuted by oppressive regimes, and sometimes who die for their beliefs at the hands of their torturers. They have only mirrored the stand that Jesus made. They are prisoners of conscience; their own ,and the forgotten moral conscience of the regimes they oppose.


- A confusion of noise around Jesus every day. Some people for him. Some wanted him out of the way. Only at night time was there time for quiet prayer.

"We strain to glimpse your mercy seat
and find you kneeling at our feet " Brian Wren

Sometimes we are looking up - when we should look down to see Christ in our world.

Journey to Easter - Tuesday

Tuesday's reflections were held at Church House, jointly with Kids' Club

"When people are cruel it makes all the difference
to know where you're going and where you came from". Stephen Fischbacker

Monday, 2 April 2012

Journey to Easter - Monday

After hearing the story of two blind men who were given their sight back on the way to Jerusalem, we listen to the following song as a reflection
Tell everybody I'm on my way, New friends and new places to see
With blue skies ahead, yes I'm on my way
And there’s nowhere else I'd rather be’ (Phil Collins)

They moved from being by the way to being on the way.

Journey to Easter - Palm Sunday

Make way! Clear the way! Get out of the way now, please! Someone’s coming! Something important is going to happen! Stand back, everyone.

‘Travelling the road to freedom
I am the Way, and I’ll take you there’ (John Bell and Graeme Maule)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Changed by Jesus

In a series of joint Bible studies with Castle Square, a group of us, with our ministers Simon and Gethin, have been looking at stories of people who were changed by Jesus.
Whilst Jairus is anxiously trying to get Jesus into his house to tend his sick daughter (Mark 5 21 – 42) an anonymous woman touches Jesus’ cloak and is healed. We noted the contrasts between her story and that of Jairus – his importance and her social insignificance, for example and the fact that Jesus draws public attention to her action and her healing, whilst insisting that the little girl’s healing be kept secret. Jairus asked for healing, whilst the woman simply ‘claimed’ it, by touch.

How much was the ‘rich man‘ (Mark Ch 10 17 – 29) changed by Jesus? He went away challenged and disappointed. The disciples are left pondering the seeming impossibility of anyone being able to free themselves from worldly wealth enough to enter God’s Kingdom … and also marvelling at what God can do with even our small response.

Jesus responded to a Gentile woman (Mark 7 24-30) in a way that we thought rather ‘unchristian’! He was rude to call her a ‘dog’ (a ‘bitch’ perhaps, in our culture). But she, clever with words and persistent in her cause, manages somehow to change Jesus’ mind about her. She is granted the healing she sought for her daughter.

Jesus sees a disabled man sitting by a pool renowned for its healing waters (John 5 1-18). He asks him if he wants to be healed, and he heals him. In a follow up conversation in the temple, Jesus appears to be telling him off- warning him to behave as though he were well and whole! Did the man indeed want to be healed?

Was the early church for Jews alone, or for Jews and Gentiles? Early Christians struggled with the question and our last two passages show us the ‘breakthrough’ from a closed, Jewish group of followers, to a broader, worldwide church- without which, we would not be here today!

God (or the risen Jesus) convinced Peter, through visions, messengers and ‘co-incidences’, that he should consider no person to be ‘unclean’ (Acts 10 1-33). Peter found the courage to flout the deeply ingrained Jewish holiness laws and go to receive hospitality in a Gentile house. He told Cornelius (and the crowd he had gathered there) of Jesus and welcomed them as fellow believers.

Finally we see how Philip responds to a ‘chance encounter’ with a black, Ethiopian official (Acts 9 26 – 40). The man, it seems, has travelled to Jerusalem on a spiritual quest. When he asks for baptism, Philip obliges, thereby welcoming the first known non-Jew into the Church.

Cornelius and the Ethiopian official were both serious enquirers, on the outside of the Christian community and wanted to be accepted as part of it. Who, we ask, is knocking on the doors of our church? Are we able to respond and welcome them?

And how does Jesus change us? How does he take us beyond our comfort zone, to welcome those on the margins? By ‘chipping away’ through the influence of other people , and the sense that we make of our experiences, or by stopping us in our tracks with new realisations that change everything? Probably both. We may never know the extent to which God is changing us, or the extent to which, though us, God is changing other people. But we can believe and be glad that he does.