Rocky Road Epistles Chapter 24

Welcome to issue chapter 24, the last one of the summer holidays.  The thoughts of many people are now turning to the re-opening of schools with all the necessary arrangements for the new normal.  At church we are planning for the next season as well. 

We now have the shorter Sunday morning service (starts 10.45am) running in the building and a Thursday morning prayer meeting (starts 10am) in the hall, followed by coffee – bring your own mug!  We are hoping to manage a Church Meeting towards the end of September, there was one scheduled for Monday 21st September, but in the present situation it makes sense to have a very brief one following the service on 27th September. 

In addition, I am reviewing all the things I do.  One question is about continuing with the audio service on the website.  We did the recording specifically so that those shielding, and who are able to access the internet, could be part of a service.  Sadly, numbers accessing it have been very small and I have only had feedback from one couple.  We are also thinking about the format and timing of these chapters.  I am thankful for the encouragement of a few people who have said how much they value them.  But it is a balancing act of the time (and cost of posting the epistle to some) with the increasing number of tasks I’m involved with at church. 

The exciting news is that both Age UK and C2C are going to start using our back rooms every weekday in September, with careful planning to maintain Covid 19 restrictions. 

Other things will not start for several months.  However, the cleaning event on Saturday morning 12th September is happening.  Timings to be confirmed next week.  Then there is the option to go for a tour round a few other churches as part of the Historic Churches “Ride and Stride”, please ask Laura for details.


Bible Study

On Wednesday 2nd September at 7.15pm for 7.30pm start

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

For this study the passages are Genesis 1 v.1,2, Psalm 8, Psalm 19 and Psalm 24

Title is “I believe in God, the Father almighty creator of heaven and earth”.

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

  1. What does the title mean to you?
  2. Looking at the passages, what do they tell you about God as creator?
  3. What place does God as creator have in your faith?
  4. What place does God as creator have in the church?
  5. The late Prof.  Dr Wangari Maathai (the founder of the Green Belt Movement which has planted over 45 million trees across Kenya) reflected on the difference it would make if we remembered creation as well as salvation.  ‘One is left to wonder whether conceiving of God as the origination of all that is would make people of faith recognise that they have a responsibility to be the custodians of God’s creation and, in the process, their own survival’.  Is she correct?

Reflection

from Laura based on Acts 8 v.1-8

Finishing our look at Biblical situations of lockdown - Evangelist Philip and the growth of the early church

The early church did not have chance to get stuck in a rut or end up in routines where new ideas were greeted with the phrase, “we tried it once and it didn’t work”.  Numbers in the Jerusalem church were increasing, and the Apostles appointed seven Deacons to assist them and ensure that they could concentrate on their primary God-given task of ministry.  These Deacons are described in Acts chapter 6 as being full of the Spirit and Wisdom.  Stephen and Philip (who we meet in our reading) were two of this group.  Stephen was the first Christian martyr, as we read in chapter 7, and Phillip became known as Philip the evangelist (see Acts chapter 21 v. 8).

The passage starts after the death of Stephen, and Philip must have been one of those grieving for the loss of his friend and brother in Christ.  Also, the passage mentions Saul who becomes Paul, this is the second time that Luke mentions him in the book of Acts.  We read of Saul being one of the main persecutors of the early Christians, dragging men and women off to prison.  The authorities put the early church under a vicious lockdown with the aim of destroying it and keeping the rest of Jerusalem safe from the “spiritual virus” of Christianity.

When you were growing up did you ever blow a Dandelion clock?  If you are not sure what I mean, the clock refers to the seed head of a dandelion and supposedly the number of puffs needed to blow all the seeds off the stem told you the time.  I am not sure about the accuracy of the time keeping, but it was a lovely sight to watch the seeds scattering off on the breeze to a new location each to grow a new plant, although hopefully not in my garden!

In the passage the persecution acts like the wind on a seed head.  God used the persecution not as a punishment but to spread the gospel.  The believers in Jerusalem were scattered so that they could be planted in new soil and bear fruit.  This was the next stage in the growth of the church,  There is another reaction to persecution described, some people did not leave Jerusalem to get out of the situation instead they stayed put and faced the danger.  Neither reaction is better than the other and each person had to do what was right for them before God.  The apostles stayed in Jerusalem, not out of laziness, but showing courage in remaining to care for the persecuted church.

Philip though was one of the scattered seeds.  He went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed Christ.  The Samaritans were a mixed race and were looked down on by Jews, hence the shock in the story of the Good Samaritan - as he proved to be a better neighbour than the pious Jewish clergy.  Jesus had ministered to a Samaritan woman by a well and so some seeds had already been sown in that area.  Now Philip witnessed to the Samaritans by word and deed.  The miracles he did demonstrated God’s power and caused the people to listen to what he said.  Luke writes that the people of Samaria, who heard the Gospel and believed, were delivered from physical affliction, demonic control, and, most importantly, from their sins.  No wonder there was great joy in the city!

Philip witnessed wherever he found himself.  In verse 4 we are told that all who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.   It was not just left to one or two who happened to be especially good at witnessing.  As disciples of Jesus we are all called to be missionaries, to share God’s word wherever we find ourselves.  That does not mean God is sending us overseas, we should be showing God’s love at home, at work, in the shops and with anyone we meet.  Even in lockdown we can testify to God ‘s love;  Philip’s actions caused people to listen to what he said.  God is still a miracle working God and we should pray expectantly for Him to act through us whilst striving to live lives which reflect our faith.

Next week in our reflection we are starting a series on Creation based on the
Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2020 Lent Book “Saying Yes to Life”. 
We start with - “In the beginning” Genesis 1 v.1,2


Songs for Sunday

Jubilate, everybody,
serve the Lord in all your ways, and
come before His presence singing:
enter now His courts with praise. 

For the Lord our God is gracious,
and His mercy everlasting. 
Jubilate, jubilate,
jubilate Deo!

Fred Dunn ©1977, 1980  
Kingsway’s Thankyou Music CCLI #5638

 

1.    I want to walk with Jesus Christ,
I want to walk with Jesus Christ
All the days I live of this life on earth;
To give to Him complete control
Of body and of soul.

Follow Him, follow Him, yield your life to Him,
He has conquered death, He is King of kings;
Accept the joy which He gives to those
Who yield their lives to Him.

2.    I want to learn to speak to Him,
To pray to Him, confess my sin;
To open my life and let Him in,
For joy will then be mine.
Follow Him, follow Him, …

3.    I want to learn to speak of Him –
My life must show that He lives in me;
My deeds, my thoughts, my words must speak
All of His love for me:
Follow Him, follow Him, …

4.    I want to learn to read His word,
For this is how I know the way
To live my life as pleases Him,
In holiness and joy:
Follow Him, follow Him, …

5.    O Holy Spirit of the Lord,
Enter now into this heart of mine;
Take full control of my selfish will,
And make me wholly Thine!
Follow Him, follow Him, …

© 1964 C Simmonds CCLI #5638


Prayers

This week’s prayers are based on the hymn “Lord for the Years” by Timothy Dudley-Smith

Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided,
Lord we thank you for all our years, for your leading and guiding us as individuals, families, church, and nation.  Just as you have been with us in the past so you promise that you go with us into the future and on that we can depend.
Lord of the years, we bring our thanks today.

Lord, for that word, the word of life which fires us
Lord we thank you that you are not a distant God but speak to us through your word.  Forgive us when we do not pay attention to you.  Thank you that you never ever give up on us, that you want to teach and train us, challenge us when necessary and inspire us for what is to come.
Lord of the word, receive your people’s praise.

Lord, for our land, in this our generation.
Lord we thank you that we live in a fertile land.  We thank you for all those who work on the land and for the harvest which they are currently bringing in.  We pray for our young people as they return to school and college, that they would grasp all the learning opportunities presented to them and that they and all the teachers and other staff would be kept safe.  We pray for the government and all those in positions of power and responsibility that they would govern wisely and well, conscious of the interests of all.
Lord of our land, be pleased to hear our prayer.

Lord, for our world; when we disown and doubt him.
We pray for the world in which we live – God’s world.  We pray for peace and think particularly today of the situation in Belarus following a presidential election and in the United States as they prepare for one.  We pray for parts of the world affected by natural disasters of fire and wind and for the plight of refugees wherever they might be.  We pray for those working on cures for the Coronavirus that this illness may be fully eradicated.
Lord of the world, we pray that Christ may reign.

Lord, for ourselves; in living power remake us,
Lord thank you that even in lockdown and isolation you do not forget us.  We pray for those who today do feel isolated, the lonely and vulnerable and sick and the dying.  Be with them to console them, support them and encourage them.  Finally we pray for ourselves - help us to be your true disciples bringing your love and care into the world.
Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.

Prayer Requests

We are asked to pray for “Rushden, Highfield Community Church” and their minister
Rev Steve Pearman. 

Also this week please pray for the work of “Livability” a disability charity that connects people with their communities.  They run disability care services and community projects for all ages.