This week's message

Short of time? Here we provide a bite-sized summary of the Minister's or the Local Preacher's Christian message, which may include a 'call to action' for you to think and pray about...

Beautiful Landscape

14th August - God's River

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Rivers can only go downhill but if blocked they find a diversion, another path so in the midst of drought and the risk of flash floods should a rainstorm hit hard ground, Rev Dawn Brown asked if we had come with open hearts this morning? Because if not, then God's life-giving water will not penetrate us, but will just run away to waste. Whilst we all like things done a certain way, sometimes we need to be open to new ideas.

 

Although like grapes in water stress we can improve through adversity, today the world needs a River of Faith in Jesus to revive it. In Hebrews 11 the writer explains how the Israelite heroes of antiquity had progressed in Faith and our calling is to bring that River to people in this day and age.

 

And we don't have to have lived a perfect life! The Hebrews reading picks out Rahab - a woman of ill repute - but she had been courageous during a time of war and helped the Israelites to win. We are all faulted through past sins but the Good News we bring is that Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross brings us and all who have Faith forgiveness and salvation through the Grace of God.

 

We are here because our ancestors kept the River flowing and we must do the same through our works of love and prayers. We do not know where this will lead us in this life but in Faith we know that all will be well.

 

So in this summer of drought, don't keep the water of God's River of Faith in a bucket by the door - let it flow!

Sorry, the full service is not available this week

7th August - Return to Me

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Jesus said "Heaven and Earth will pass away but My words will never pass away" so in the chaos we find ourselves in today, with so much going wrong, we need to hold onto Faith and believe that God's Word is sure and true said Rev Alf Waite.

 

Down the ages humanity has always tended to re-interpret the word of God, saying that much of Scripture and theology is outdated and no longer relevant. But it is wrong thinking to believe that we can adapt and change God's Word to suit ourselves.

 

In the Biblical book of Zechariah, we see God calling to the exiled and broken Jewish nation who had become estranged from God, to wake up because God still had work for them to do. His message in that time of national crisis and brokenness is as relevant to us today as it was then.

 

Post Covid and with the cost-of-living crisis, the church and society are just as broken. Because God is a living God, He wants us, His Christian people to be a vibrant unified church in order to be the hope of the world Jesus built it  to be. God doesn't want us to settle for less, He wants more!

 

Humanity has always had a pattern of discovering God and then forgetting Him, yet He is still the great Redeemer and sanctifier of every generation. We are Jesus' body on Earth and it's our job as Christians to find ways for people outside the church to discover or re-discover God, opening churches in every way possible through social nights, Prayer groups or Bible studies, providing doorways and opportunities for those reconnections to happen.

 

Currently the Church is generally busy just keeping itself open, but when we die to self, God will work within and through us to bring healing to the World.

 

God told Zechariah to tell the exiled Jews to "Turn from wicked ways and I will heal their land". Judah was saved by God. He can rescue us too.

Enjoy this service here in full:

24th July - How to Pray

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Analysing the Lord's Prayer that Jesus gave us, Local Preacher Maureen Simpson emphasised that prayer shouldn't be off-putting, it's just a conversation with our loving Father God - the original word used 'Abba' is very intimate and is best translated as 'Daddy'. Even though we might not know Him we're asked to build a relationship with our Father, the Father not just of ourselves but of all our communities and institutions, just as he is the Father of the whole of creation.

 

'Thy kingdom come'? If God is everywhere surely the Kingdom has come already? But what we are praying for here is that there should be an awareness of God in people's lives, praying that God may enter the hearts of people who do not yet have that special relationship with Him.

 

And 'give us this day our daily bread' means that we will be provided with enough, both mentally and physically, for each day as it comes and no more. In terms of food, it calls us not to waste this precious resource.

 

Then the big one! 'Forgive us our sins'. All God is asking for is honesty - that sometimes we get it wrong in words or actions. We all mess up sometimes and need to forgive others too. We have different personalities so we don't always agree but our characters are God given so that in discussion we can test the best way forward but we must be prepared to take our gripes to God and leave them there. Only by letting our disagreements go - are we able to walk free.

 

And finally, 'lead us not into temptation'. We need our faith and love of God to get through things, so that we can cope when bad things happen.

 

Prayer brings us nearer to God and Faith is the power of the Holy Spirit that underpins it. Are we ready to prepare ourselves, receive the Holy Spirit and continue to help His Kingdom come?

Enjoy this service here in full:

17th July - Sing Praise!

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We had a good old sing-song this morning before Rev Dawn Brown spoke about ensuring that we sing our praises to God - even when things aren't going right.

 

We need to embrace the free gift of God's grace and remember it's always available to us. We are called to remember God's journey with us and what He has done for us. The love He has given, keeping us safe through His grace, as witnessed by His sending Jesus His son to die for us. Think about the love, strength, courage and wisdom we have received. Are we acknowledging this as we should?

 

When times are difficult God shows us His compassion forgiveness and love - do we share these things with other people through the story of our lives? And when God is continually calling us to be faithful why do we sometimes doubt Him?

 

At times we get stuck in the journey of life, not living in faith. For some perhaps it's because they aren't seeing God's power, His presence in the world or His great knowledge beyond our understanding and for these reasons, are not able to raise their voices in song. And that song needs to be sung continuously - not only inside but outside the church's walls.

 

Why not read Psalm 145 written by King David, a man who committed great sin but who always came back to God. Ask yourself if you are showing God's mercy to others through your words and actions, today and every day, and in so doing, singing His praises?

Enjoy this service here in full:

10th July - Saved by Jesus

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Rev Alf Waite spoke about the example set by the two disciple brothers James and John. When they first appear, they are irritable, arrogant and self-absorbed before Jesus transforms their lives.

 

Early on, in Luke Ch 9, we see James and John rebuked by Jesus for wanting to destroy a village that won't allow Jesus to enter. In Mark Ch 10, they ask to be allowed to sit next to Jesus in heaven. It demonstrates their ambition to be leaders rather than to undertake lives of service that they should have recognised by observing Jesus, who came to serve others.

 

Yet the Bible shows that it is James and John, who together with Peter, are chosen by Jesus to accompany Him on many of the most important parts of His story, such as Jesus' Transfiguration and His prayers in Gethsemane prior to the Crucifixion. Jesus overlooked their faults and drew them to Himself, and there's a lesson here - sometimes we are called to accommodate difficult people too!

 

Eventually they were both changed. We know that James was one of the earliest martyrs, by then, not a man calling for a village to be destroyed but surrendering to execution as a follower of Jesus. In many countries there is active Christian persecution, and we need to remember that, but also that we too should be willing to rely on Him and be killed for following Jesus.

 

It is believed that John survived and wrote five of the New Testament books, consistently teaching that Jesus is the Son of God and that through Jesus, the Grace of God and the Holy Spirit, our sins are  forgiven and that there is salvation for all believers.

 

We all encounter many problems and other forms of suffering in our lives but as we go along, remember the faith of James and John, who teach us that we are safe because of the Cross of Jesus.

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3rd July - Pass it on...

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In Luke Ch 10 Jesus sends out 72 disciples to spread His teaching about what God wants from us and how, through faith in Him, the Good News that salvation and eternal life is available to everyone. It's a prequel to Jesus' 'Great Commission' in Matthew Ch 28 where He instructs us to go and make Him new followers over the whole world.

 

So we have the awesome responsibility to pass on Jesus' promise until He returns to Earth again at the end of time. We are told not to be afraid bit to have Faith because through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is always with us.

 

There's a symbolism in the number 72 because it is derived from Genesis Ch 10 where those who left Noah's ark after the Flood founded every nation on Earth. Jesus is saying that His message is for the whole world, not just the Jews.

 

And the 72 were instructed not to take any means of support with them but to rely on the generosity of the townsfolk they visited. Jesus was asking them to trust God to provide for them.

 

Throughout life, we depend on other people, through whom, until Jesus come again, God works. We are called to serve and the people we serve have the opportunity to show God's love in serving us. In engaging with others we get the chance to teach Jesus' Good News through our words and actions. We are not expected to cajole or persuade - our job is simply to sow the Seed of God's Word, giving people the opportunity to begin a Faith based life despite the awkward questions we face, like climate change, the war in Ukraine or the refugee crisis.

 

Finally, Jesus teaches us to avoid self-righteous pride because it's not what we do for God but what He does for us. Let's remember, it's God's Word we are teaching, Him we are following and the glory belongs to Him.

No video this week - but here's our service in full:

26th June - Making Music

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Rev Derek Aldridge spoke today on our 50th Church Anniversary Sunday and asked if we had ever considered ourselves as an orchestra. Within a church, there is no limit on the number of players the orchestra can have because all are welcome - and we never stop recruiting, but there has to be a desire to be in the band and in the orchestra, every instrument plays an important part.

 

The purpose of an orchestra is to play music and to do that, it needs to be in harmony. St Paul told us in Romans 12 vs 16 to live in harmony but at times, when there is discord, we have to remind ourselves that we should play the same tune because the music the music of Christ's life and the theme of God has already been written. In other words, when we get knocked off course, we have to get back to the true message of Jesus.

 

An essential truth was revealed by a simple story which contained the question - "what differentiates day from night"? The answer has nothing to do with the sunrise, it's the time when you see strangers and recognise them as your own brothers and sisters. Our music needs to fit that harmony!

 

Jesus calls us all to be disciples telling the tale of His love, but at times when disharmony and unrest occurs we need to retune, to 'face the music' in a manner of speaking, and look for His direction.

 

We are the players, with His music to perform but we also need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the conductor. Do we sometimes want to conduct Him rather than let Him conduct us? We have to be wise enough to accept that we don't know it all, marching to the beat of our own drum.

 

Yes, it's good to make music - but it's better to make good music!

Enjoy this service here in full:

19th June - Rescued by God

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Today, we looked at the story of the man Jesus freed from his demons as told in Luke Ch 8 vs 26 - 39. This is the famous healing where Jesus allows the man's demons to enter a herd of wild pigs who race away and plunge over a cliff to their deaths in the sea beneath. Rescued by God, we heard the tale as it might have been told by the man (we called him Simon) himself!

 

Mania wasn't understood back in Biblical days when Luke was writing and it's only in recent years that we have begun to appreciate all its potential causes, such as post traumatic dress, so the story was put into modern context by hearing Simon's possible back-story. But apart from the mania this 'dramatisation' of the tale taught us some useful truths about God.

 

Firstly, God is for everyone - and he actively seeks the lost and those who do wrong. Simon wasn't a Jew yet Jesus went beyond His own homeland to find him, a single lost soul. Is He looking for you now?

 

Then, after being healed, Simon wanted to go with Jesus but is told that he must stay where he is and tell his story to the people where he lived, thereby spreading by personal testimony the wonderful news of what Jesus did for him. It taught us that sometimes what we want to do is not what God needs us to do, so we must listen for His instruction and then obey His call - because in the end we cannot resist His will anyway.

 

Until Jesus comes again at the end of the world, it's us, here and now, who do His work, through the power of God's Holy Spirit within us. It reminded us that it's our job to look out for the Simons of this world and do what we can to help them.

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12th June - How to meet God

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Judy Tasker spoke today about the many different stories in the Bible of how people met God.

 

One in the Old Testament is where Isaiah describes his vision of meeting the all-powerful, glorious and frightening God, who gives him a message to relay to the people (Isaiah Ch 6). Although over-awed, Isaiah responds by saying 'send me'.

 

Later in the New Testament John Ch 3 vs 1-21 records the secret visit of Nicodemus, a high-ranking Jewish rabbi and a member of the ruling Council, to Jesus. Nicodemus is told he has to be 'born again' by which Jesus means he needs to have a new understanding and a change of heart as to the nature of God and what God wants from him. This must have had a profound effect on Nicodemus because later, in the Easter story, we see Nicodemus pleading that Jesus gets a fair trial (John Ch 7 vs 50-51) and then providing the embalming spices for Jesus' body (John Ch 19 vs 39-42).

 

Two very different accounts of meeting God, and down the ages, there have been many more stories of people meeting God, some dramatic but others in more ordinary circumstances.

 

If we clear space in our minds to allow it, we too can meet God in all manner of places and ways. There are some places where heaven and earth seem very close and where, like Holy Island for example, people have felt close to God. Then when we see something that we wonder at and makes us gasp in nature, like the Milky Way on a dark night or in the intricacies of a spider's web. God inspires such feelings through the power of His Holy Spirit.

 

Make a habit to make a space in everyday life to hear God speak. The rest is up to Him. Let the Holy Spirit reach into your heart. Give God that opportunity.

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5th June - Keeping the Faith

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St Paul says those who are led by the spirit are children of God, and today on Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the Holy Spirit which came down on the disciples. It's the birthday of the church, a time to party, when we're adopted into God's family through His Holy Spirit. This is when the sharing of the God's Good News, the message of salvation began.

 

God loves his whole creation and on this Platinum Jubilee weekend, much has been said of the faith of our Queen and her 70 years of  Christian service.

 

President Obama said of the Queen that her life had been a gift, not only to the UK but to the whole world. When she  promised, whether her life be long or short, to commit her life to service and sacrifice, she invited us to join in by supporting her through our prayers.

 

The Queen believes she wasn't just born to be monarch but had been called by the Grace of God to serve the Nation, to be head of the Commonwealth and the defender of the Faith and symbolised at her Coronation by her anointment with oil.

 

When he ascended to Heaven Jesus promised that God would send His Holy Spirit through whom we are adopted by God as His sons and to live out our lives in His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not ours by right and we can't earn it, it's a gift from God. Without it, we live only half a life.

 

God has kept His promise and Her Majesty has kept hers and we must do the same. We don't know what's coming but we do know that we need to walk in God's presence, through which we live free, surrounded by His love.

 

This is our calling. To commit ourselves to God, sharing His love in the praise and glory of His name as followers of Jesus Christ.                                                                                                             Rev Alf Waite

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29th May - Waiting

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Before her Coronation the Queen spent time some time away, preparing for her role as monarch to begin. We are not  future Kings or Queens but waiting for God and preparing to listen to Him is essential for Christian people.

 

How good are we at waiting? When Jesus ascended to His Father in heaven, the Disciples were told to go and wait for the gift Jesus had promised them, God's Holy Spirit.

 

So what kind of 'waiter' are you? At the bus stop we see different people on their way to different places. Some wait and worry. Have they got the right change? Or are they at the right stop? Others just wait calmly and if the bus doesn't come, they'll wait for the next one.

 

But what are we waiting for? Are we waiting for God to speak to us? Would we recognise Him if he He did? If we think of God as the bus, do we wait to hear His plan for us or are we distracted, pre-occupied with our own plans?

 

Before the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they had begun to realise that God's plans were different from their own. We too must realise that God's plan for our lives might be different from our own.

 

Jesus blessed His disciples as He ascended to heaven and in the same way God blesses us every day. We might not see it, but each new day and the people we share it with are blessings from God as He works out His plan. God is always with us, even as we wait for His direction.

 

God's Spirit is in all of us as we prepare ourselves to do the work God wants us to do. When He calls, will we be ready or will we remain at the bus stop, hoping His call will never come or so caught up in our worldly desires that we don't see Him as He passes by.                                    Rev Dawn Brown

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22nd May - Keep your fire burning

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This week we Methodists celebrate 'Aldersgate Day' when in May 1738 our founder, John Wesley, felt God's Spirit move his heart and he finally understood that he had found his own personal experience of God and the assurance of his eternal salvation through faith in Jesus.

 

Just as John Wesley had felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’ that day, we too can be refreshed and inspired by sharing our faith stories with each other, listening for the unequivocal call to follow Jesus and through helping others, bear witness to everyone that eternal life with Jesus Christ in heaven is available for all. 

 

Wesley was particularly concerned about inviting people to experience God’s grace and love through Bible study and prayer and by putting faith and love into action and speaking out where he saw injustices, like slavery - which was not abolished until 1834.

 

So do we speak out both as individuals and as a church against injustice? Start by thinking about your personal story, your relationship with God and your thankful response to His call to live generously. In doing so, reflect on what is in your heart and ask if more can be done about today's ills. Modern-day slavery perhaps? Or the cost of living? Institutional racism and bias maybe? Or something else?

 

On Aldersgate Day, Wesley experienced a life-changing experience and a fire was lit within him. Now - as it was then - it's our calling to keep that fire, the fire of God's Holy Spirit, alive in the world today.

 

John Wesley’s most memorable command is still relevant here and now: "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."

 

Can we keep our fires burning and live up to that?

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15th May - Love one another

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At Eurovision last night there was much talk about the love in the auditorium. It showed in the public vote for Ukraine - and nobody got null points!

 

At the Last Supper, Jesus gave his disciples a new command, to love one another summing up the whole point of the 10 commandments which is that it's safe to live with one another without fear.

 

So Jesus' commandment to His disciples at the Last Supper, immediately before the events leading up to the Cross began, was to love one another. He'd just washed His disciples' feet - the lowest job in the house, usually assigned to a servant. Then He goes out, is arrested and lays down His life on the Cross, dying for the disciples - and all of us demonstrating a deep love of service and sacrifice.

 

Because Jews never mixed with none-Jews, who were considered unclean, we hear In Acts 11 that after the conversion of the Roman soldier Cornelius, not much love was being shown to St Peter! He has to go to Jerusalem to explain the taboos he's crossed because it's causing divisions in the first, entirely Jewish, Christian church, just as Jesus had been criticised for the very same thing. Peter explains that in a vision, God had told him not to discriminate.

 

Is this what God is doing? Making Himself available to everyone? The answer is yes and once the first Christian church had accepted this, it grew and spread across the ancient world. And it started with Jesus' commandment to love one another.

 

The only thing we can do is to trust our God - and in so doing sacrificially love and serve one another demonstrating the love of Jesus . That's our adventure to love one another as he has loved us. Actions speak louder than words. It's missional.

 

Through the many doubts of every day. Praise the Lord all your life and love his people.             

 

Rev Alf Waite

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8th May - How we Worship

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One of our Worship Leaders Gwyneth Walsham spoke about how we worship here at Trinity.

 

Singing has always been an important part of Methodist worship because the words inspire and can overcome our fears, just as it did when our founding fathers, John and Charles Wesley were in a ferocious Atlantic storm on a trip to America in 1736.

 

Enjoyment is also a part of true worship. As we smile at each other it is like switching on a light in a very dark room and the enjoyment is shared with each other, take a look at Psalm 16 verses 9 - 11.

 

We Read a lot too. We may think we know  quite a bit about the Bible but I honestly don’t think a lifetime is long enough but hopefully it will give us a good start before we make our heavenward journey and hopefully our Bible readings will help us to reflect their teachings in our everyday lives.

 

Our Meditations in worship allow us to concentrate on the needs of others, here at home in our own community but spreading out from that, to encompass the whole world. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God and there's no better time to do this than through prayer.

 

And our care is reflected in our Offering, not just giving money but our hearts, time and talents, gifts richly provided by God in His service too.

 

And finally we worship with the Name of Jesus on our lips. People should see that we have that certain something in our lives never forgetting what Jesus did for us. It's why we meet every Sunday, and indeed whatever day we choose to worship our God.

 

Maybe you haven't noticed, but we've just spelt out SERMON.

Enjoy this service here in full:

1st May - Beauty from Brokeness

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Judy Tasker spoke this week about the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi which enables quite spectacular repairs to be made to ceramics and glassware using gold dust, making the item more beautiful than it was before. 

 

And it's a metaphor for how God works, because He is always there, ready and waiting for us, if we choose to engage with Him.

 

We read the Bible passages about St Paul's conversion on the Damascus Road and his change from being a persecutor of the early Christian church to becoming it's most famous ambassador and also how Jesus forgave and rehabilitated St Peter after he had denied all knowledge of Him prior to the crucifixion.

 

Both Peter and Paul, pillars of the early church, were broken men. Peter had sworn undying devotion to Jesus yet when he was in fear following Jesus' arrest he denied knowing Jesus three times. Yet after Jesus' resurrection Jesus met Peter again and gave him the opportunity to be reconciled with Jesus again. As for Paul, originally known as Saul, he was jealous for the Jewish religion and wanted to protect it from Jesus and His new way of thinking. Because of this, he hunted down the early followers of Jesus, yet he was transformed in an instant by Jesus.

 

No matter what we have done, Jesus doesn't reject us because we are not perfect, He gives us the opportunity to be reconciled and made useful once again. As with a Kintsugi repair, we can let Jesus shine through our imperfections and achieve great things for His kingdom. Enhanced by the Grace of God we can help to repair others!

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Easter  Sunday - Is it Enough?

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Taking into account all the current problems in the world today Rev Alf Waite asked if the Lord's resurrection was enough.

 

When Mary Magdalene found the empty tomb she found Jesus walking in the garden and went to tell the disciples that she'd seen the risen Jesus - but spoken by a woman with a dubious past, to the rag bag group that were the disciples, is that enough for us here and now?.

 

Many think they've outgrown religion, that it's just a method of control. Is the message enough for those who have lost loved ones to Covid, for those who have suffered mental problems? Is it enough for those on hospital waiting lists, for children trafficked around the world or subjected to violence on the streets and in their own homes? Is it enough for the millions of refugees and victims of war crimes in Ukraine? Or those suffering destitution and poverty on the edge of survival here at home? Is the risen Lord enough for them?

 

Yes it is! It is enough! On Easter Sunday we celebrate a truth that has never changed. Jesus succeeded in everything He came to do in dying for us and rising from death to live for evermore. The benefit is for all who put their trust in Him because by His resurrection death and sin are defeated. The law was given so that we can understand what sin is but Satan can no longer accuse us because the law which measures sin has been overtaken by God's Grace and God has given us new life.

 

We may have to suffer misfortune yet still we have hope in the future because the truth about Jesus is the only thing that lasts in this world and through Him we have an inheritance that cannot be taken from us or be destroyed.

 

That's the message of Easter and it is enough!

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An alternative service:

Palm  Sunday - Watch the Ball!

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Rev Dawn Brown said today that as Jesus and the disciples entered Jerusalem recalling all His earlier miracles, everyone was excited, wondering what Jesus, their Messiah, was going to do next. In total awe, the disciples and the crowd are looking forward to the best week of their lives, anticipating great things, yet their week turns into a week of terror.

 

Because everything goes wrong. When Jesus is arrested, trialled, beaten, killed and buried, the greatest miracle they had hoped for, the crowning of their King of Kings, was not going to take place. The disciples dropped their focus, Peter denies Jesus whilst the others were just 'lost'.

 

We too have experienced disappointment. When on the brink of success, suddenly, it all goes to pot, leaving us not knowing where to turn. We can understand the disciples' confusion and disappointment.

 

But the greatest miracle does actually happen! Christ the Lord rises again. The lesson here is that no matter where life takes us, a miracle may be waiting if we only keep our eye on the ball, on the miracle that is Jesus, when the fruit of the Holy Spirit is born in our lives and those of others.

 

Jesus' human side might have thought that perhaps the Jews had really 'got it', but really He knows He has to focus on why He had come. His faith pulled him through, taking Him to the Cross and then to His resurrection. Jesus didn't take His eye off the ball!

 

Sportsmen know that they need hard work, perseverance, training, a good coach and a good team around them. For us, Jesus is our coach, the Holy Spirit gives guidance and training whilst God as leader of the church supports us.

 

As God's children. keeping our eyes on the ball that is the Cross, we have a choice. Either we fulfil the tasks He has given us - or we can reject Him and His promise of Eternal life.

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3rd April - In dying we Live

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Jesus replied: "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds”. (John 23 v12)

 

Jesus teaches us this as His earthly ministry draws to a close because to Jesus, death on the Cross is the process by which He will create a new existence. His words prompt our thinking towards the concept of new life germinating after physical death.

 

To the Jews, “Son of Man” meant the "undefeatable" conqueror sent by God so they hoped that Jesus was going to lead them to defeat their Roman enemy in war. However, Jesus meant submitting Himself in apparent weakness to Crucifixion where He secured the greatest victory the world has ever known.

 

Jesus looked to the example of a grain of seed, to explain Himself. If the seed isn’t planted, in apparent death then new life cannot grow and produce more seeds for life to continue. Jesus is saying that only through death comes life and that only by giving our life can we save ourselves.

 

At times, because of selfishness, our desire for happiness and comfort conflicts with doing God’s work. We put off doing things or turn a deaf ear because it is inconvenient and we are unprepared to make the necessary sacrifices God asks.

 

Jesus warns us about greed and selfishness: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life must lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the Gospel, will save it. What good is it if you gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul.” (Mark 8 v 34)

 

This is the Crux of Christian living. So what sacrifices are we prepared to make for Jesus?

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27th March - Look Up

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This week, Peter Walsham told us that in the Bible's Old Testament book of Numbers 21: 4-9, when the people complained against God, demonstrating a lack of faith and trust in Him and their leader Moses (for which we can read that they were following their own self-interest) God sent a plague of snakes. Not the response you'd expect from a loving Father and it seems particularly strange because it resulted in quite a few deaths!

 

But then God tells Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole for the people to see and if then bitten, those who looked up and saw it were saved from the deadly effects of the snakebite venom. The message was that they had to renew their faith in God's saving grace to receive the antidote.

 

For us, it means that even at times when we can't see an answer or a way out of our troubles if we look up to God, then all will be well. It's like driving on a road you don't know or being in an airport, you need to look up to and trust the signs to keep yourself on the right path.

 

In John 3 vs 16 we read: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 

 

The disciples had no idea why Jesus had to lifted up on the Cross and what it all meant at the time, but eventually they understood. Like them, we need to believe in Jesus and look up to Him for all our needs.

 

When we do that, we are not condemned but freed from all our faults, completely forgiven and our eternal life with Him is guaranteed.

How amazing is that?

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20th March - Grow with God

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This week Maureen Simpson discussed the parable of the barren Fig tree in Luke 13. It's not really about the tree - it's about us and our walk with God.

 

How can we grow closer to God today? How do we find Peace. It's not done through expensive material things or experiences like a new flash car or by taking Mindfulness courses to make our lives better. We need to live Now, not dwell on the the past or wish for the future.

 

There's a story about a spiritual healer who had terminal cancer. He didn't ask 'why' he was suffering, he said that was a fruitless thing to ask. The real question he posed was 'what does God want me to do in the time I have left?'

 

God gave the fig tree another chance. Some people struggle on with things that are beyond them when they need to think about moving on! Don't get stuck in a rut, grow closer to God here and now.

 

The BBC's 'Repair Shop' and 'Money for Nothing' shows give things another chance. God always gives second chances if we ask Him so let Him help you to change and move along your own individual spiritual journey.

 

The whole Bible is about people moving on. Think of Abraham, Moses, Noah or the Apostles after the Crucifixion, there are many others. Similarly, Jesus called people to move on by freeing them from their broken bodies and minds.

 

God is patient and doesn't give up. Let Him take and transform you into something special, something new.

 

The Fig tree needed time to recover, so in the time we have left, together let's grow with God through faith and prayer, because He is ready to take you into His Repair Shop and refurbish you to work here today for His Kingdom, born again with a new start in Life.

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13th March - Letting go...

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Jesus said that anyone who wants God's gift of new and eternal life has to give up their old life so Rev Alf Waite spoke about finding God's purpose for your life as one of the great adventures of being Christian.

 

We are easily distracted by the world and it's old ways. In Genesis we read that God called Abraham to leave his old life and go to a new land, promising him that he'd be a father to many nations. Because he and his wife were very old, Abraham didn't believe that God could provide them with a family so he tried to do it his way by going with his slave girl. But then, God gave them Isaac, a legitimate child.

 

Similarly, the disciple Peter, recognising that Jesus was the Messiah, tried to persuade Him away from the Cross. Jesus had rebuked him by saying 'Get behind me Satan.' Peter didn't understand that Jesus needed to die and be resurrected before God's promise of a new life could be born.

 

But our new life can only be achieved by first giving up the old one. There are no half-measures. It's a question of Faith and Trust. Faith in the capacity to Trust in the new life God has for us - even before it can be seen.

 

Some people want to hedge their bets by holding onto the old life whilst trying to adopt the new. Take Cop 26 - a lot of words but what's happening now? Are we letting go of the old ways to begin the new ways that are required.

 

The Christian life isn't only about loving. There is the need to respond to the call of God to lose our lives in order to gain the new life and this may lead to suffering.

 

Please reassess where you are today! Remember that the blessing God gives us through His new life is to be shared, that others may be blessed too.

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6th March - Cain and Abel

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Referencing Ukraine and other areas of conflict in our prayers, Rev Derek Aldridge reminded us that we are called not just to be peace lovers but to be peacemakers, drawing on Genesis Ch 4 the story of Cain, the first son of Adam and Eve, the first criminal and the first murderer.

 

But Cain wasn't the first transgressor. The first rebellion was against God when Adam and Eve ate from the tree whose fruit God had forbidden. So this first rebellion against God, then develops into the rebellions of man against man.

 

When God asks Cain, "Where is your brother"? Cain avoids the question and replies "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" He refuses to acknowledge his crime and shows no remorse, until he realises that his crime would make him a target of retribution. But God had a surprise for him - and us. He put a 'mark' on Cain to protect him, a phenomenal act of Grace - the Grace that is reflected in the life of Jesus.

 

Despite our short-comings God does not abandon us, the enormity of Cain's crime is matched by the enormity of God's grace, which means there is hope for us too.

 

Jesus lived for those whose only 'crime' was to be poor, or rejected, or to live in the land of an occupying foreign power..... Christ went to refugees to say they were included in God's Kingdom a Kingdom big enough to include Cain.

 

We're all guilty of disappointing God. We're all marked men but God's Grace is offered to us even when we sin by ignoring others or being over critical perhaps. The Mark of Cain is hard to shake off but through Jesus we know we're not finished, we're a work in progress. We love and serve others because God is love.

 

Cain's question: "Am I my brother's keeper" was the wrong question. Abel didn't need a keeper, he needed a brother.

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27th February - Love your Enemy

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In Luke Ch 6 vs 27 - 39 Jesus tells us not to judge and condemn others but to love each other, to forgive and forget, so in the week where war broke out in Europe, Maureen Simpson brought the thorny issue of disagreements in our personal relationships with each other.

 

We all have faults, we are all wrong at times and sometimes this leads to us bearing grudges. Even 30 years after the Second World War some people still viewed Germans negatively. More recently, in mining areas some people haven't forgotten those who broke the 1985 miners' strike. People hold grudges or want compensation for everything that has gone wrong but Jesus said Love your enemies.

 

We all want fair play, but when it doesn't come, grievances are easily replaced by feelings of vengeance. But hanging on to grudges doesn't do any good and actually harms the grudge-holder.

 

Love is a gift from God. Loving your enemies is to accept other people. We have a choice - bear that grudge or move on!

 

We're all different and we need to accept that the opinion of others sometimes makes things work out better because their disagreement with your plans makes you think. God may not be bothered about your plans but He is bothered that we don't fall out over them.

 

Why is it so hard to be nice? Accept that people, like you, get angry at times. So how can we be kind to our enemies? Well, the answer is - don't antagonise them further. Do unto others as they would do unto to you.

 

Is someone getting under your skin? We've all been hurt. Do we become their enemy and they ours or can we learn to love the enemy within us as well as the enemy without.

 

Differences can be defeated by loving one another. Go on - make God proud:

 love your neighbour as yourself.

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20th February - Being Brave

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Focussing on our need to be courageous in our faith when sharing the Good News, of salvation through believing in Jesus, Rev Alf Waite spoke about the example of the apostle Matthew, the tax collector.

 

When you look at the choices Jesus made with His band of disciples, they were a real mixed bunch, just like the make-up of any church's membership. I think Matthew was one of the bravest of the twelve.

 

In the list of disciples, none of the others were classified by their profession. Why would that be? As a tax collector, Matthew would have been truly despised. Despised by the Jews, his own race for working for the Romans and in leaving his job to follow Jesus, the Romans would have seen him as an enemy. That tells us something of Matthew's courage.

 

Matthew is believed to be the one who wrote the Gospel that bears his name. Dated about AD 60 at the latest, the Gospel speaks of someone who had an orderly mind.

As a financial man, detail would have been important to him, something that was crucial to his witness to the Jewish Christian church he was writing to.

 

Matthew’s response to Jesus' call seems to have been instant. Perhaps he'd met Jesus previously. Jesus said, “Follow me” and Matthew went, leaving everything. That wouldn't have been easy because as a tax collector, it would have been suspicious. But Matthew left his old life, one of wealth and privilege that his job brought, behind.

 

A more unlikely character you would not have imagined to be a follower of Jesus. So for me Matthew was the bravest, knowing that in giving up the trappings of wealth he would face flack from his own Jewish Community and put his life in danger.

 

Many Christians fear the response of families and friends to their newfound faith. Matthew’s heart was to share his faith, can we be brave like him? 

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13th February - Being Blessed

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Jean Shotton preached today on Jesus' famous sermon on the mount (Matthew 5 verses 1 - 12)  which is echoed by a similar piece in Luke 6 and where Jesus outlines what is required to be 'Blessed' by God. These Blessings are known as the 'Beatitudes'.

 

Throughout the Bible God chose ordinary humble people like you and me to deliver His message and fulfil His covenant promises. One example is Jesus' mother Mary, a young girl with no particular status. In her 'Magnificat' poem in Luke 1 she reflects on the trust God has placed in her and wonders that the rich and powerful are turned away empty handed. Mary says that she is treated by God in a way that proves He wants the best for all His people.

 

God picks the poor, lowly and also the weak to deliver his plan, something which St Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 12, that in weakness there is strength.

 

So what can we learn from the Beatitudes today? Basically, Jesus is saying now, as He did back then, that we need to show love and compassion and help those in need. What can we, in faith, do for another person?

 

There are many opportunities. Pray for persecuted Christians worldwide. Pray for the ongoing situation in Ukraine, Yemen and Afghanistan. We can be 'blessed' by supporting Comic Relief or by investing in the material, educational and spiritual needs of someone else, as we saw in last week's service. Want damages people but compassion, kindness, understanding and practical help can help to repair those scarred by deprivation.

 

We can only do what is in our power to do, but this coming week, reflect on all the ways you have been Blessed and trusting in God's Grace and mercy, live out the Beatitudes - the Blessings of love, kindness and compassion in your life and bring the joy Jesus has brought to you to people in need, at home and abroad.

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6th February - Called to Compassion

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Today we welcomed Ollie Lovatt a volunteer with the Christian charity Compassion UK which enables people to invest in children from disadvantaged third world countries by sponsorship providing access to education training and their material needs.

 

There are around 385 million children in poverty in the world, children who didn't choose poverty any more than we chose to be born in a rich country. Sponsorship is about sharing, something which Christians are called by God to do and when we do, it has a positive impact on lives.

 

In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke Ch 10), Jesus chooses the characters very closely and each one has something to tell us today.

 

First, a lawyer who asks Jesus how to achieve eternal life. As a lawyer he should know this so Jesus asks him what he thinks. The answer he gives is to 'love God and love your neighbour' but then he asks how he should define his neighbour, so Jesus replies with His famous story.

 

Three people see an unidentified, injured man by the roadside who has been robbed.

 

The first two, a priest and a church worker should step in - but they don't because in the society of that time the man might make them ritually 'unclean' and so put them through a great deal of inconvenience because of that contact, so they cross over to avoid this.

 

Then along comes a Samaritan, an outcast, a man from a race for centuries seen as enemies of the Jews. He doesn't hesitate to help. He just sees human need and puts himself out both in time and in cost, even giving the inn keeper money for the victim's care in advance.

 

You could argue that the Samaritan is actually an allegory for Jesus Himself.

 

The moral here is that everyone is our neighbour regardless of creed or colour. Can we be that Samaritan to a child in poverty today?

 

Take a look at: https://www.compassionuk.org/sponsorship

30th January - Authority with Love

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Anne Farrow reminded us that in response to heated debate about the need to get rid of the old Jewish traditions, St Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 sensitively taught that our human faults, failures and difficulties are often caused by the absence of love, and that we should always use our knowledge and authority as Christians with love.

 

It's a fact that we are often reluctant to accept advice, the old from the young, or from someone we know perhaps. As a local, when Jesus preached in His home-town, it didn't work! He nearly got lynched!

 

But who can we look to and trust as 'authorities' on the big issues of our day? Let's think of some troubling examples.

 

Take human embryo cloning. Is it tampering? Is it vile and unnecessary, playing at God? What about the research that comes from it against very serious illnesses? Do we let dogma override love and deny people who are suffering those diseases, because of our beliefs?

 

Then there's the end of life. Think about assisted dying. 'Where there's life there's hope' we say but for some, life is hopeless so does our dogma get in the way of allowing people dignity at the end of their lives?

 

And are there just wars? Against Russia over Ukraine or between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Yemen? Where should Christians, as peacemakers, stand?

 

Think also about the recent acquittal of three Climate activists who strongly motivated by their Christian faith took their authority from Christ, and stopped a rush-hour train in London.

 

There are no easy answers to any of these things but as Christians, we have to think about of them. The Church needs to be out in front, employing Jesus' authority and setting standards rather than responding when it's too late.

 

Life is too complicated to know all the answers but we have to ask questions, recognising the authority of Jesus and pass on His wisdom with the deepest love we can muster.

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23rd January - The Lord's Favour

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Peter Walsham told us (Luke Ch 4) that Jesus survived a lynch mob after teaching in His own home church on Isaiah's prophesy, saying that He was their long-awaited Messiah, who would set them free.

 

Israel had been exiled and scattered but they were now being allowed back to their homeland. All wrongs would be put right, the Day of the Lord's favour had come.

 

Jesus taught that the Prophets had not been accepted in their own time, God sent Elijah to a Gentile Widow, similarly in Elisha's time only Nathan also a non-Jew was cured of illness.

 

People don't like criticism. We argue we are right - even when we are wrong! The Jews couldn't accept Jesus' criticism of them demonstrated by their two great prophets.

 

We claim God's saving power when we pray 'Deliver us from evil" in the Lord's Prayer. And if we surrender to Him, God intervenes to save us from Satan's traps.

 

Isaiah Ch 61 contains a prophesy 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me' Does it still apply to us in this age? Does God's spirit rest on me and you? Yes! The Pentecost story in Acts Ch 2 proves we have only to ask for it.

 

God has anointed us to proclaim His Good News of Salvation. To anoint means to pour out. Do you feel anointed by God in the world in which you live? Are you an active Christian pouring out His message of Love through your words and acts of kindness? Do you feel set aside by God for His special purpose?

 

This is the relevance of your faith here and now. There are still many poor, homeless imprisoned and hungry people, who are hard pressed, bullied, victims of abuse and hostility. These people long to hear that 'today is the day of the Lord's pleasure.' It's up to us to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.

 

Let's make those words come true.

16th January - Celebrities for God

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Maureen Simpson spoke about Jesus' miracle of turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana at the start of His ministry, told in Ch 2 of John's Gospel. It's a story of surprises. A carpenter's son from a down-at-heel place called Galilee proved to be a man full of surprises. It was the wedding's third day of celebration, an ordinary midweek day when people were not focussing on their religion. Jesus was an ordinary man from an un-regarded area, at that time without celebrity.

 

How do people get to be known? What makes a celebrity? There is a pressure on people in life generally to become well known. Some dress to impress. Some achieve celebrity by their actions. This early miracle, which saved a family from the social disgrace of running out of wine at a major social event, helped build Jesus' celebrity.

 

And it's a story of faith. Mary, Jesus' mother, saw the problem. She had the faith, courage and intuition to know that her son would sort things out. Had she seen earlier unreported miracles or had she remembered what she had been told about Him in the Bethlehem stable? We don't know, but the fact remains that she introduced the wedding guests to the Son of God.

 

So the carpenter's son from Galilee certainly surprised the wedding guests and the wedding in Cana was transformed into an event that would be heard about for centuries.

 

Do we have, like Mary, the certain hope in the God of surprises, and have a personal relationship with Jesus that seeks to involve others? That through Him all will be well?

 

Do we surprise people? As Jesus' followers, how does the world see us? People know us, but do they see us as different? Do they see the peace that the love of Jesus brings? Do they see us show the love of Jesus with an urge to share His love?

 

Are we celebrities for God?

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9th January - Say 'Yes' to God

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It was our annual 'Covenant' service on Sunday and Rev Dawn Brown reminded us of God's commitment to us and what that means for us.

 

So why do we do a covenant service - don't bother Google, believe it or not, it doesn't know! Methodism's founder John Wesley left us with this tradition so that we ar reminded of God's amazing love for us.

 

In Romans Ch 12 vs 1 and 2, St Paul says that because of God's great mercy to us we should offer ourselves as a living sacrifice as a response to the abundance that God gives us and because His mercies are 'new every morning' (Lamentations Ch 3 vs 23).

 

If you are a dancer, you will have learnt that as long as your core is strong and your mind focussed you can get everything right but if you let go of either, you lose your balance. Our covenant reminds us to keep our focus on God, His mercy and His grace. It also affirms that God is there to hold you safe in His hands when things go wrong in your life, when you get it wrong or are faced with adversity.

 

We are in a world that is breaking, confused and lost and we are God's soldiers, called to serve, so don't go with the temptations and the flow of the world - instead, say 'Yes' to God and go out into the world with His wisdom, offering ourselves without fear and in the knowledge that God is with you. We are recipients of God's grace and love and we are called to share His love and grace with others.

 

Come! Embrace it! Come to worship, read the word of God in your Bibles. Offer yourselves in service to the glory of God. Refocus your eyes on Him and His wonderful mercies that are 'new every morning'. Say 'Yes' to God today.

2nd January - A Stable story

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Misquoting from the film 'Casablanca' Rev Alf Waite asked “Of all the barns in the whole world why did you come into mine?” Chance? Well, Matthew's Gospel (Ch 2 vs 13 - 23) tells us that Jesus' birth was no chance event because Scripture foretold it and God had planned it that way! There is so much encouragement to unpack here.

Firstly, God works in mysterious ways to fulfil His purposes! Jesus’ coming as a vulnerable baby was a surprise. The Wise Men looked for Him in a palace but they were wrong. Eventually they ended up with a humble family in Bethlehem because the birth of Jesus is a continuation of Israel's story. It is not a separate event but a fulfilment of GOD'S PLAN.

 

Next, God's Mission will not fail! Despite opposition, the Jewish-Christian church Matthew is writing to is being joined by thousands of non-Jews because God wants all to grasp His saving Plan. Through the cross, Jesus will lead people to freedom from sin and death. The message is clear: God knows what He is doing and we can trust Him. Mary and Joseph did just that, doing everything God asked of them. Imagine the faith that took!

 

Finally, opposition will not quench God's Spirit!  Matthew's Gospel brought comfort to the first church, exposed to many dangers. Today, the church is still exposed to opposition. As individuals Christians we are not immune to life's trials and often feel threatened. But we need not fear for God is with us.

 

Jesus was threatened from conception. Mary could have been killed for becoming pregnant out of marriage. Herod could have slaughtered Jesus as a baby. Jesus' own people rejected Him and, in many countries today, His church is not welcome.

 

Yet no kind of opposition can defeat God. Be sure that God’s purposes will go forward in 2022 no matter what and that He will never give up on us.

 

Take heart in that and keep trusting!

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