Author Archives: Administrator

Godsend

A reflection on Matthew 10: 40-42

for Sunday 28th June

Bill was our class leader when Joyce and I were preparing to get married forty years ago. Wealdstone Methodist Church still had classes in those days, and Bill and his wife Gwen ran the housegroup and offered us loving and very methodical pastoral care. After our wedding and, as I was going through initial training as a local preacher and as a candidate for presbyteral ministry, Bill was always on hand with practical support and discreet advice. After we moved to Banbury (70 miles from Wealdstone) he drove my widowed Dad up on Fridays so that we could see him regularly on my day off. Bill was an absolute Godsend.

Last Sunday’s services brought all this to mind and the readings for the coming Sunday (June 28th) continued the theme in a particular direction. The short passage from Matthew’s Gospel concludes a chapter about discipleship, its character and its costs. Then Jesus is recorded as speaking about welcome: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10: 40).

Jesus is himself the sender (Matthew 10: 5), because he comes from God, sent by God. The four New Testament Gospels are agreed on this. In the Gospel of John, at the end of the chapter which features the night-time conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus is described as the one ‘God has sent’; as the beloved Son, ‘all things’ come into his hands by the Father’s decision (John 3: 34-35). The central point of this is the offer of eternal life to all who believe in him (compare John 3: 36 with John 3: 16).

Those who live faithfully as sent disciples are drawing on the great chain of commissioning that has its origin in the relationship between Jesus and the one he trusted as loving Father. So we give thanks to God for all we have received from loving and committed disciples and pray that the welcome such service evokes will sustain them and us on the costly road ahead.

Trevor Thomas (24th June 2020)

Fair Trade News – Nestlé to stop using Fairtrade cocoa and sugar for KitKat bars

This is not good news, so we'll get straight to it. Nestlé have told us that from October they will stop using Fairtrade cocoa and sugar for KitKat bars.

For those cocoa and sugar farmers, the timing is terrible. With the global health and economic crisis threatening their future, co-operatives representing 27,000 farmers now face losing almost £2m of Fairtrade Premium each year, along with the security and power Fairtrade has offered over the past ten years.

The affected farmers we've spoken to have told us they want to remain Fairtrade. And the Ivorian Fair Trade Network has today released a powerful letter, which we've shared on our website, explaining why this is such a damaging decision.

Read their full letter and the Fairtrade Foundation's official statment on our website

The Ivorian Fair Trade Network chose to speak out because Fairtrade offers these farmers a secure, fairer income and the power to decide how to spend that income.

We're deeply disappointed Nestlé have failed to promise farmers that this income and their decision-making powers will be protected in future.

Just last year, we saw a 23 per cent increase in Fairtrade cocoa sold in the UK, including new commitments from Lidl and Waitrose and Partners, and over 50,000 of you told our government all cocoa farmers deserve a Living Income.

And 10 years of Fairtrade KitKat has made a big difference on the ground too.

For example, Ivorian cocoa farmers have used their KitKat Fairtrade Premiums to build more classrooms and dispensaries, as well as investing in support for women to grow their businesses.

We need to make sure that the voices of farmers losing these benefits are heard loud and clear.

That's why we're sharing the Ivorian Fair Trade Network's letter today, and why we've been listening to farmers who'll be affected by this decision to understand how we can offer our support.

We’ve spoken to farmers as a priority so we can represent their concerns, but we also want to hear from you.

How do you feel about this decision? And what do you think needs to happen now? Tell us by filling in this quick form, or by replying to this email. And watch this space for more ways to support the affected farmers very soon.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK

Make no mistake, if Nestlé don't reverse this decision farmers will lose out. So now more than ever, we need each and every one of you to keep choosing Fairtrade and speaking up for farmers.

Thanks for your support - we'll be back in touch soon.

Stefan
Fairtrade Foundation, Supporters' Team

Patience

Many of us live in well-loved homes which remind us of what we have done in our life. But perhaps we are now finding that we have had enough of our four walls. Our patience is wearing thin. So, what of this picture entitled Patience?

PJ Crook, Patience, 1983, The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum © the artist, reproduced with permission

This small painting demands our careful attention. Let’s pause and look closely. A woman sits alone at a card table playing patience. She is fully absorbed. The room is simply furnished and tells of an ordered life: the piano with open music and candled sconces tells of another solitary pursuit, a small bookcase likewise. Flowers and fruit are neatly arranged, even the ginger cat seems settled. Were she to look up she would see the wall clock, to measure time passing, or she might catch a glimpse of herself reflected in the wall mirror over the piano.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the paintings hanging on the walls are charged with significance – for there is nothing accidental here – I don’t think it is an ‘overread’ to see in the portraits that face us the woman’s younger self: with a sister perhaps and, in profile, with her husband. She is, after all, living with her memories. However, for me it is the third painting, which hangs behind her and is reflected in the mirror, which disturbs for it is a painting of the landscape glimpsed through the open door with topiary trees and well-tended privet. It is as though the outside has been brought indoors to be made part of this closed space.

So, is this simply a painting of peaceful contentment? Of the well-ordered life where even memories are fixed in place? Or is there something more? In Patience we discover a tension between contentment and containment, what is outside and what is within. A solitary card game, within an enclosed room, within a formal enclosed garden, bounded by sentry-straight trees that entirely screen the natural landscape beyond.

Within the quiet stillness and thoroughly domestic subject matter we discover an underlying tension: a life enclosed. And yet the door is open, it is a bright summer’s day. Perhaps it is time to find the courage to step outside.

A prayer

Lord, sometimes our orderly routines are not enough
and we feel ourselves drifting into boredom and frustration.
We feel hemmed in by circumstances
and are not sure what the outcome will be.
Show us the door in our life that is still open
and prepare us to take the risk
of walking into a fresh experience of the familiar.
Lord, we have to live with the cards we are dealt,
help us to make the most of what we have received
and trust you that everything will fall into place
in your good time.

And an afterthought

The keen eyed may have noticed something unsettling about this painting. And it’s all to do with the framing.

It is difficult to see in reproduced form – but it is just possible to discern that this panel is ‘framed’ three times over. Look at the moulded shaping that distorts the rug and the ceiling, the verticals that edge the clock and kink the wall by the door, the horizontals that parallel the curtain valance and distort the cat’s tail.

The artist, PJ Crook, has throughout her career sought to break free of the confines of the traditional frame, allowing her work to spill out; in this case multiplying the traditional moulded surround to articulate and underpin the narrative. So, our painting which explores this tension between contentment and containment is quite literally shaped and moulded; the boundaries are barely visible but will need to be traversed.

Michael Mays & Rev. John Rackley

22nd June – A Prayer for Today

Image copyright BBC

This morning BBC Radio introduced ‘Rethink’ – their open discussion about how society and our lives might change for the better after the COVID-19 crisis. At the root of this is one of the biggest questions the UK and the world face: what has the Coronavirus crisis taught us and what should we, individually and collectively, change to improve our lives after it?

‘Rather than analysing what might happen when the world moves beyond the pandemic, this project asks a wide range of thinkers - as well as BBC radio audiences - to consider what they want to happen. It will explore everything from the way we travel to how we assess individual health risks, how we look after the elderly and look out for the young, the future of globalisation, what it means to live a good life, and who we most value and reward in our society.’

Lord,
help us to rethink –
what we see and how we see it,
who we see and how we see them,
what we use and how we use it,
what we consume and who really pays,
what we spend and how we spend it
and what we want and what we need.
As we stand at the edge of change
may Christ light our way;
may your Kingdom come.
Amen.

Michael Mays

On the Way…

A story of transforming love.

Based on Luke 24.13-35

The past few months have been a trying time for as all as we’ve struggled with the Covid 19 pandemic. Many have watched as loved ones have suffered and even died as the health and caring services have struggled to cope with the thousands upon thousands who have been and still are being struck down by it.

And whilst reflecting on our own family and friends it struck me very forcibly that Alison and I have been extremely fortunate. Both daughters and a daughter-in-law have suffered and thankfully recovered. But hundreds of thousands of others have died! And millions of relatives and friends have been left distraught.

It was then that I recalled that amazing post-resurrection story of the two disciples walking home from Jerusalem on the Emmaus Road. Those two disciples were also very distraught. Perhaps even scared witless by what might happen to them as well. They were so totally unaware who the ‘stranger’ was that joined them on that road. They still didn’t even recognise him as he walked with them and they recounted to him the happenings and the crucifixion and the women saying that he was alive!

Grief does that to you. It can totally block associative recognition, and leave you in a state of shock that renders you almost totally unaware of the reality around you. And that seems to exactly fit their responses to Jesus as he then responded to them on their journey! They knew others had said Jesus was alive and yet the impossibility of overcoming death was still at play in their minds! To them, Jesus was now dead – all hope was lost in their pain and sorrow!

I want you to fast-forward now to what happened at the table at the home the two disciples invited Jesus to enter. They had prepared a meal for their guest, and it was only when that ‘stranger’ picked up a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, and then shared it with them that the proverbial ‘penny dropped’ – their eyes and minds were opened - and as Jesus disappeared from their sight they then said to one another: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

I guess by now it was truly dark outside. But regardless of the lack of street lights and the danger of being out after dark they immediately went back to share the Good News with the other disciples!

What a transformation that was! I wonder what time they got back to Jerusalem? Because in those days they would get up at dawn and go to bed when it got dark – so it must have been very late!

That simple disclosure at the table where Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and then gave it to the disciples has always been, for me, a moment of healing. It dealt with past fears and restored them to a right, and real, relationship with the living Christ once more. I guess that is one reason why John Wesley viewed the Eucharist as a liturgy for healing.

I would suggest that as we’re not currently allowed to offer a Eucharistic service to one another at this time I see no reason why this story can’t be used as a basis for a simple ’Love Feast’ instead. Where it’s possible to be with your nearest and dearest or even ‘bubble’ with a neighbour/friend - Love can be shared. It is in sharing love that love can transform and heal – but when isolated we can miss out on that opportunity to serve one another. So if you are able to share, then please do so and serve one another. Methodists do believe in the priesthood of all believers! (Our church requires the ordained to officiate at the Eucharist)

I would invite you to set your table with a plate containing a piece of bread front of you. Then knowing that you are held in the ever-loving arms of our God who is with us on our journey no matter where we are, or how we are feeling – imagine Jesus confirming his real presence with you as you lay yourself and all your anxieties and troubles at his feet. Then simply take the bread, give thanks to God for it, and in eating trust Jesus to take away any anxieties and restore his affirming love for you.

Jesus said:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid”.

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

Luke 24.13-35 (NRSV):

13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ 19He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ 25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Nb.
I use this translation as it is acknowledged to be as accurate a translation as is possible.
You may like to see a comment that is in Andy’s letter referring to how some translations can be very misleading.

Dave Tomlin20/06/2020

Prayer for World Refugee Day 2020

I offered a prayer for World Refugee Week – and then, this morning, found this prayer published yesterday by JPIT.

God of Hope,

We worship you as the God of those in exile,
to whom you hold out the hope of finding peace and security.

We pray for those on a journey away from their homes.
For sisters and brothers on the move who are fearful and hungry and tired,
For those in camps, facing the dangers of COVID-19 without a safe place to isolate.
For those separated from loved ones, holding on to the hope of reunion.
For all at risk of exploitation and trafficking.

We pray for those on the journey of seeking asylum in the UK.
For sisters and brothers struggling to make ends meet with little support.
For those in lockdown, forced to relive the traumas of past experiences.
For those hoping for a better future for themselves, their loved ones and the country they call home,
For all waiting for good news.

Be with everyone on a journey, God of Hope,
And give us the wisdom and perseverance to keep travelling towards your kingdom of peace for all people.

Amen

Traidcraft Newsletter 19 June 2020

Loving Sparrows: From putting out the recycling to avoiding the rubbish heap

Some thoughts on Matthew chapter 10

by Rev. Andy Murphy

I remember once having quite a spiritual experience as I went to put out the recycling. There on the ground lay a little sparrow; not a new-born chick but not much more than a fledgling. This poor little bird lay on its back breathing slowly. It was so fragile, so sweet, so helpless and vulnerable, and it was going to die. It has obviously hit one of the windows and fallen to the ground. It had a wound on the back of its head but it was still breathing – its helpless little face looking upwards. Not struggling, not writhing, just breathing.

As I stood there, my first emotion was utter powerlessness: I was sure a vet couldn’t save it, Emily doesn’t keep anaesthetics in the house, and I had no idea how to humanely put it out of its misery. But really, as I looked at it, there was no misery: this little sparrow was quite at peace. And then I remembered Jesus’ words, and a voice spoke in my mind: “It’s okay, I know about this, I am here.” I got the real sense that God was holding that little bird as it died. And then I heard the words: “And you are worth more to me than many sparrows.”

Jesus said,

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father.  And even the hairs of your head are all counted.  So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

(Matthew 10:29-31)

This sense of God’s love that enfolds all of God’s creation should be the overriding thought in our minds as we read the Bible. This is the God who made this beautiful world and every species of every plant and creature, and who has a special place in his heart for human beings.

Matthew chapter 10 can otherwise seem quite a ‘dark’ chapter. It’s about going out on mission and facing opposition and persecution. It comes as a reality-check to anyone who thinks following Jesus will be easy. The disciples of Jesus will face much opposition in this world – from the rulers and authorities of the world, to even those within their own family. Jesus didn’t mince his words. He wanted to be honest with his followers about what they might find as they went out in his name. It certainly wasn’t to be a stroll in the park. Neither will it be for his followers 21st century.

But, Jesus says, “have no fear”. Everything hidden will be uncovered, all secret injustices will be exposed, and so will our faithfulness to him. Go out and tell his good news in the light, don’t be ashamed of the message, and don’t fear those who might hurt us.

Yet, Jesus says (in verse 28), there is one whom we should be wary of; one who could torment us and lead us away from God’s kingdom – lead us towards ‘hell’ (Gehenna). Some would delete this verse from the Bible altogether, while many think that it is actually referring to God. Some popular Bible translations have even taken the liberty of inserting God’s name into this sentence, because the Greek is unclear whom Jesus is talking about. [e.g. the Good News Bible, the Living Bible, New Living Translation, Contemporary English Version. And many other versions capitalise the ‘Him’ or the ‘One’ to give the same impression.]

That choice of translation comes from a longstanding and widespread idea (going back to the middle ages) about God being the one who desires to cast us in hell for all eternity (or is somehow morally bound to do so). It baffles me as to why modern translations would to want to reinforce this dubious idea, and I think it is certainly not the God that Jesus represents: our loving heavenly Parent. This is why we need to hold in mind from the start the overriding truth of God’s love for all creation.

Now, going down the road to hell or ‘Gehenna’ (as Jesus called it) may be a possibility. Metaphorically-speaking, descending to the ‘rubbish heap’ (as Gehenna was in those days) can and does happen, whether by falling to the depths of hatred and depravity in this world, or by refusing to accept God’s loving grace in our lives – living instead in torment and shame. But it is never God who would choose to send us there. It is not God who desires to torment us. There are other forces, others lords, other idols which can enslave us (if we let them). And the Bible speaks of one who stands over them – the serpent, the satan, the devil, the prince of darkness, Beelzebub. Jesus often spoke about such an enemy, but when talking on God’s behalf he always said: “Do not be afraid”.

Psalm 86 reminds us that God is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Psalm 86: verse 15). Remember that God the Parent is the one who cares even for the little sparrows; the one who loves us as his own children, and is so desperately in love with us that he counts the hairs on our heads: there is nothing about us that goes unnoticed: there’s no joy in us that doesn’t make God burst with laughter; and there’s no injury or injustice to us, no pain or heartache, that doesn’t also wrench the heart of God; no prayer is too small; no worry too insignificant; our tears are not merely drops in the ocean to God – they are the pools of compassion that God swims in. One day he will wipe away those tears, we are told: One day when the Lamb sits on the throne in the Holy City, and the work begins of healing the nations (Revelation chapters 21 and 22).

Sometimes we meet situations where there seems no way out, no answer, no rescue. But Jesus says: “Do not be afraid, precious child: all these things are in God’s loving hands”. Our prayers may not be answered as we long for – but that doesn’t mean God isn’t holding us with the utmost love. There are mysteries, there are unfathomable griefs, and it has always been this way, but there is no injustice that won’t be undone, no hurt that won’t be healed, no grief that won’t be turned to joy, when Jesus makes all things new.

Andrew T. Murphy, 19th June 2020

19th June – A Prayer for Today

This week is Refugee week. This year’s theme is Journeys of Hope.

For many refugees and asylum seekers, the journey they have been on has been one of hope. Hope for change, hope for refuge, hope to be reunited with those they love.

Lord,
We hope
for a society that welcomes the stranger.
Help us to play our part
in making this hope a reality:
by creating a welcoming environment
in our hearts and our minds
in our churches, our communities
and our nation.
Amen.

‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.’ Leviticus 19:33-34

Today’s prayer and the thoughts wrapped around it draw on material offered by JPIT (The Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church).

Michael Mays

Emergency appeal for the Methodist Church in Sierra Leone

Dear friends,

I am very grateful as a Methodist Minister that the church provides everything my family and I need in terms of enough money to live off and pay the bills, and a lovely home to live in. We do not take this for granted and are very thankful. I am very thankful that Church and Circuit financial reserves and the regular giving of our members means that this commitment can continue even when some of our regular income sources have temporarily stopped. In some parts of the world this is sadly not the case.

One of our members at Market Harborough, Anita Beer, has recently visited Sierra Leone on the West coast of Africa. Anita took greetings from us, visiting and getting to know some of the churches over there. Unfortunately, the Methodist Church in Sierra Leone has been struggling to pay its ministers for several months, and the Coronavirus crisis has hit them and their families, and many in their communities, very hard. The closure of church services has meant a loss of regular income, and many in the neighbourhoods have not yet been reached by any government help. The Methodist Church in Sierra Leone has launched a fundraising campaign simply to try to provide food to its 120 ministers and their families, and some of the most vulnerable in their communities.

It would be a tremendous Christian act of solidarity and practical love to help out our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone at a time like this.
So we are launching this Circuit-wide appeal until the 30th June.

The Circuit Hardship Fund (set up for this crisis) has already committed £300 to help.
Market Harborough Methodist's benevolence fund has also committed £300 to this.
We will be sending this £600 to them immediately. But it would be wonderful if we could add to that total to be able to help more families in need.

If you are able to give, and you would like to, you can donate in the following ways, via our Circuit treasurer, Richard Huntington:

  • By sending a cheque payable to "Market Harborough Circuit Stewards Account" to Richard Huntington at his home address.
  • By dropping an envelope with cash or cheque through the letterbox of Market Harborough Methodist Church, addressed to Richard Huntington.
  • By phoning Richard to ask about details for a bank transfer payment.

(For any of these, please mention that it is for the Sierra Leone Appeal.)

I recognise that some of you may be experiencing financial hardship yourselves at the moment, and if you would like to speak to me about this, or accessing the Hardship fund for someone else, please ring me on 01858 462889.

Thank you for your love and support,
With every blessing,
Andy