Rocky Road Epistles Chapter 28

Welcome to chapter 28, by the time you read this we will have been informed of the next stage in the government’s plan to tackle the Coronavirus. One problem of going back into a more restricted way of life is that one day can seem very much like another. 

On the Radio 4 “PM” programme the film “Ground Hog Day” was discussed.  It involves a self-centred weatherman, Phil (played by Bill Murray) who wakes up each morning to live exactly the same day over and over again.  The day may be the same, but during the film Phil changes on each repeat.  He becomes more concerned for others and for the community.  Through this change in approach to life he escapes the repetition.  As they discussed the film one fact emerged, that of the importance of living the present day as well as you can. 

As Psalm 118 speaks of what Jesus has achieved and in v.24 encourages us

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Let us be people who rejoice in the present, as Paul writes to the Thessalonians,
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thes 5 v.16-18)

Or as it says in the cartoon remember God in every step, so God is every step.


Important News on accessing recordings of services

At our reduced Sunday morning services in our building, there is regularly around two dozen of us as well as those who follow the chapter and pray for us at home.  Now for those of you who remain at home you can listen to a recording of the service.

If you have internet, then go to our website (RRBC.org.uk) where you will find a recording.

If you are not on internet, we have now paid to have a “Dial-a-Service” facility.  If you ring 01536 909787 you will be able to listen to a recording of the service on your telephone.  It does not cost you anything but does cost the church about 30p each call. 


Dates

Harvest Service 4th October, money collection will be for BMS and any gifts of food will be given to Accommodation Concern.

Tearfund Big Quiz Night

Saturday 14th November, this is still going ahead though we are not quite sure what form it will take. 

Shoebox Appeal. 

Please note that leaflets are now available at church as are wrapped shoeboxes (thanks to Isobel).  If you can, please pay the costs to send your box online.  If you prefer to just give a donation instead of filling a box, please let John have that (clearly marked).  It is even possible to pay online for a shoebox to be filled. 

Shoeboxes need to be back to church by Sunday 8th November

Church Meeting

On Sunday 27th we are having a short business meeting and time of discussion after the service, to which all those involved at RRBC are welcome to come.  It would be good to discuss our current situation from these two questions. 

In terms of church life, is there anything:

  • good and valuable that you would like to continue and develop through this phase?
  • that you have thought about, ‘I wonder if we could try this…?’ as lockdown continues?

If you cannot come but want to feed some thoughts in - do contact Laura.

Here are four other statements which you are invited to respond to.  As we look forward to lockdown eventually being ended see if these statements provoke a positive or negative reaction for you.  You could give a score of 0 (no way) to 5 (definite yes).

  1. “We return to being church in our traditional/established ways as soon as possible.”
  2. “We recognise that health and social restrictions will be with us for a long time and so we cannot do what we’ve always done at least for a long time.”
  3. “Our return, along with practical considerations on social distancing, will be shaped by discerning God’s new mission for us in the post-lockdown context”
  4. “We learn from the lessons of the lockdown days, mindful that some churches have been able to reach parts of the community that traditional ministry didn’t touch, including (but not only) through worship offered online.”

As we ponder and discuss how to emerge from lockdown can you see the challenges and opportunities for ministry in each of these scenarios?


Bible Study

On Wednesday 30th September at 7.15pm for 7.30pm start,

We are continuing a series looking at creation alongside the reflections. 

The title is “Land, Sea and Vegetation” based on Genesis 1 v.9-13

All are welcome to join in and if you do not have internet you can join us over the phone. Please ask Laura for details. 

If you prefer to do this Bible Study at home, then read the passages and consider the following points.

Questions for reflection

On Psalm 148

Questions for Reflection

  1. Why do you think the Psalmist lists so many different beings praising God?
  2. Humanity comes last in the beings praising God – why do you think this might be?
  3. How do you praise God and give thanks for creation?

On Mark 4 v.26-41

Questions for reflection

  1. Jesus often tells parables about the natural world and we see two of them here.
    His audience at the time would have understood his messages about sowing seeds;
    how do we understand them differently now?
  2. Jesus demonstrates God’s power over nature by calming a storm.
    What does this tell us about Him?
  3. Jesus is also able to sleep through the storm when the disciples cannot.
    Does this tell us something further about Him?
  4. At harvest time we often sing the hymn, which includes the lines “the winds and waves obey him”. What might be other opportunities during the church year for reflecting on God’s power over nature?

Reflection

From Phillip on “Let the land produce vegetation” Genesis 1 v.9-13

Throughout Genesis chapter 1 there are two things that keep occurring.  One is “God said”, which as I remarked two weeks ago does not mean that God just said it once, but that he keeps on saying it.  In other words, God was and is still involved in all that he created.  The second thing that keeps repeating is that God saw, at each stage along the way, that what he was doing was good.  Look through Genesis chapter one and count the number of times that something was good.  There are seven including the final one that, God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (v.31).  We sometimes remark that it is a fortunate person who is happy in their work.  Here in the opening chapter of Genesis we find that the first worker, God, was in that happy position; pleased with all that he did, for it was good. 

In lots of activities in life we do them as an end to a means.  For example, I am not an enthusiastic decorator.  I paint a room because the décor needs refreshing, not because I enjoy doing it.  But with other things such as gardening and growing vegetables I get pleasure from planting the seeds, watching the plants grow and finally eating the produce.  God derived pleasure from creation and still enjoys the beautiful world he created.

I think at sometimes in our Christian history, believers have been guilty of seeing the earthly world as something already established and only a place we were passing through on our way to heaven.  Certainly, in my young Christian life, I can only recall creation being mentioned in harvest sermons or to emphasise the fall of man.  (You’ll also realise that in my early Christian life equality was also not an issue, now I would say “fall of humankind”).  Certainly, when Conservation and the Green Movement started it was not allied to the mainstream church.  But I am pleased to see that many Christian churches and traditions now recognise their responsibility towards the environment which God created and in which we live.

Returning to the passage, verse 11 tells of the creation of plants; God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.”  Not only are the plants established but within them are the seeds to bring forth more of the same.  This is creation on an extravagant, abundant scale – not just plants for today, but for tomorrow as well.  Amongst them are trees which were set to play an important part throughout the story of the world.  At the start there is the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2 v.9).  Then the Lord met with Abram near the great tree of Moreh (Genesis 12 v.6).  Although not quite a tree, God spoke to Moses in a burning bush (Exodus 3).  The Judges often held court under a tree and the prophetic hope of a Messiah is spoken of as a righteous branch beautiful and glorious and bearing the fruit of the Lord. (Jeremiah 23 and 33).

There are over 250 references to tree or trees within the Bible and trees have been involved in the salvation of the world through the building of the wooden Ark (Genesis 6) and the cross on which Jesus died - sometimes referred to as a tree as in David Mansell’s hymn,

Jesus is Lord!  Yet from his throne eternal,
In flesh he came to die in pain on Calvary's tree.

The Lord of all creation, the one through whom all things were created (including trees) died for us by being nailed to his wooden creation.  He died so that we, who once were far off, might be brought near through his blood spilt out onto the earth.  Then notice in Matthew 27 how nature reacted to the crucifixion of the one who created it.  Darkness came over the land (v.45) and at the point of death, the earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open (v.51).  We know that death was not the end, for after three days Jesus rose from the grave and where did that take place?  In a garden.  We, as his disciples, have a duty to do all we can to care for his world; for truly there is an intimate connection between Jesus and the creation he made.

Next week for our Harvest Service we are continuing the series on Creation “Saying Yes to Life”, the theme is “Let there be Lights in the Sky” Genesis 1 v.14-19


Songs for Sunday

  1. For the beauty of the earth,
    for the beauty of the skies,
    for the love which from our birth
    over and around us lies:
    Father, unto You we raise
    this our grateful hymn of praise.
  2. For the beauty of each hour
    of the day and of the night,
    hill and vale, and tree and flower,
    sun and moon and stars of light,
    Father, unto You ...
  3. For the joy of human love,
    that we share on earth below;
    for our friends and family,
    and the love that they can show;
    Father, unto You ...
  4. For each perfect gift divine,
    to our race so freely given,
    thank You Lord that they are mine,
    here on earth as gifts from heaven;
    Father, unto You ...

Folliott Pierpoint
© CCLI no. 5638

1. Jesus is Lord!
Creation's voice proclaims it,

for by His power each tree and flower
was planned and made.
Jesus is Lord!  The universe declares it;
sun, moon and stars in heaven cry,
'Jesus is Lord!'
Jesus is Lord!  Jesus is Lord!
Praise Him with Hallelujahs,
for Jesus is Lord!

2. Jesus is Lord! Yet from His throne eternal
in flesh He came to die in pain
on Calvary's tree.
Jesus is Lord! From Him all life proceeding,
yet gave His life a ransom thus setting us free.
Jesus is Lord!  …

3. Jesus is Lord! O'er sin
the mighty Conqueror.
from death He rose, and all His foes
shall own His Name.
Jesus is Lord!God sent His Holy Spirit
to show by works of power that Jesus is Lord.
Jesus is Lord!  …

David Mansell
© 1979 CopyCare CCLI no 5638


Prayers

A prayer for trees and earth from El Salvador

God of creation, you have taught us to love life.  That our longing for life should be above all other desires; a transcendent longing that values all of creation’s living creatures.  The earth and trees groan because of our failure to care for and protect them, ruling over and profiting from them rather than protecting them from death.  We have viewed the earth as a resource to be exploited rather than as our mother.  We accept the challenge of taking care of ourselves in order to care for the earth our mother and our common home, for the trees and for life itself.  We recognise that you have given us an understanding greater than other living creatures in order to reflect your creative, communal and loving character towards everything that exists. Lord, we commit to live caring for all nature, guarding our hearts from selfish desires and not living as proprietors, but as brothers and sisters and in community with all living things, especially the trees that are the source of life.

Gérson J. Ramírez is a theologian and member of Tearfund’s Young Theologians, of the Transforma Jóven (Transform Youth) movement in Honduras and of the Micah Network youth movement.  He is a theology teacher and a consultant on issues of development and theology of mission for churches and organizations in El Salvador and Central America.

We are asked to pray for Northampton Broadmead Church, minister Rev Adan Eakins 

Please remember our “Mission of the month” Operation Christmas Child and the Christmas shoeboxes in your prayer