Sorry for the slight delay

We’ve had problems recently with cancer for several members, including me.  The good news is that the treatment in all cases seems to be going well.  The bad news is that it’s meant we’ve had to drop the Sunday Morning bible studies for now.

What it has taught me at least is the number of Christians around the world who pray for each other in situations like this.  I’ve had people praying in S America and Europe.  During a break in the treatment we went on holiday to Harlech, and the Anglican church there included us in their prayers.

It left me feeling rather overwhelmed. It also reminded me I’m mortal too.

It shouldn’t be, but it was scary. Maybe that’s a lesson for me!

Malcolm

Another Christmas, Another New Year

So that’s the end of 2015 (well in a couple of days as I write).

We’ve eaten the turkey/duck/venison and too much else beside and sat stuffed in front of the TV for HM Christmas Message and the compulsory James Bond repeats.

So was it a Christian festival? After all we don’t know when Jesus was born, and there certainly were pagan festivals like Saturnalia or Yule on or around the 25 Dec (which was the shortest day when Christmas started to be celebrated).

As far as we are concerned the answer is it all depends:

If you celebrate with a boozeup, a thick head the morning after and the ghastly memory that you woke up with the next day, then you probably celebrated Yule or Saturnalia.

If you celebrated the birth of the child who grew up to be God’s Messiah, and let himself be crucified 30 years later, then you’ve celebrated Christmas.

Simple isn’t it.

Philippians – our next study

Each week we end our 11 am service of worship with a short talk (sermon, homily, call it whatever you like).  Then the week after we have a chance at 10am to discuss what was said and share our questions and our insights.

This month we are starting the Letter of Paul to the Philippians, which is usually referred to simply as Philippians. It was written by Paul some time around AD62 possibly from Rome to the first Christian community in Europe, in the Greek town of Philippi.

Where ever it was it was not a good time for Paul, he was in prison.But that did not seem to matter too much to Paul. He continued to teach and he continued to care for and to advise the new churches that were springing up across the Roman Empire.

That’s how this letter came to be written, and that’s what we’ll be studying over the next few weeks.

If you’d like to join us, then you would be welcome.

 

is the eleventh book in the New Testament. Paul visited Philippi for the first time on his second missionary journey (49–51 AD). It was the first congregation in Europe.

Biblical scholars are in general agreement that it was written by St. Paul to the church of Philippi, an early center of Christianity in Greece around 62 AD.

Bishop Libby Lane, Stockport leads the way

Our brothers and sisters in the Church of England have just appointed their first woman  bishop, and it’s for Stockport, the Rev Libby Lane.

Some, including both men and women, are not happy about  her appointment, believing that a woman cannot be a true priest let alone a true bishop. In fairness, it’s not because they believe it’s wrong, it’s because they believe it’s impossible. These men and women believe that whilst she may be a bishop in the eyes of the church, she won’t be one in God’s eyes.

That’s not our position. We recognise her, we welcome her.

Our church’s position is simple, we see no grounds for denying either men or women any office or function within the fellowship .  Either a man or a woman can preside at Communion or anything else, it makes no difference.

That’s not because we believe it to be fashionable, we believe it because the practice of the early church suggests they had no problems with women in authority. Even Paul, whose words get quoted against women in authority seemed to work very happily with them. Go and check them out if you have any doubt.

So at our worship, we’ll pray for Bishop Libby, that she may glorify God in her work.

New Year, New Book

And we are starting the year looking at Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, and what can we learn from it.

But that’s not the only thing. On Sunday 4 Jan we meet together to renew our promises to each other, to live our lives in ways that show love for each other and to the Father-God who made us.

Living the Christian life is about our relationships, first with each other and with our neighbours, and then our relationship with God. And it’s got to be in that order, because that’s the way Jesus put it in the Sermon on the Mount.

So on the first Sunday of the new year we will remind ourselves of our obligations to each other as sons and daughters of God, to live together in love as brothers and sisters in His Church.

Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church

This month we are looking at Colossians.

This is a letter from Paul to a new church in what is now Turkey. It’s main message is that Christ has made us free from ceremonial laws tht say do this, or do not do that.

Instead we are free, raised with Christ into a new life.

If that new life is real, then we should live it out. We are not to live according to rules and regulations but we should put away malice and jealousy and act with love and respect to each other.

In that new life there can’t be any divisions. Class, culture, colour, language – all the things that are used to divide us and separate us – they are to mean nothing, and we should consider each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Letter of Introduction

You’re a travelling preacher and teacher, you’re planning to go to a completely new city, and you want to introduce yourself to the locals, and to assure them that you are genuine, and not some way-out nutter.

What’s the best thing to do? Write a letter, almost an essay, to them laying out exactly what you teach, and why. That way they know who’s coming, and misunderstandings can be avoided.

So that’s what Paul did when he planned to visit Rome. It’s a good thing he did, because we now have his letter, which is one of the earliest presentations of Christian teaching.

Although his planned visit didn’t work out quite as hoped. His intended trip never happened. Instead he got arrested by the Roman authorities and sent to Rome to be tried before the Emperor. But his letter must  have been well-received, because as they got near to the city, members of the Christian Community there came out to welcome him.

And we are studying Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome this spring.

What kind of Fellowship are we?

Every church has a different feel, a different culture, about.

That’s not wrong. We are all different, different people, different cultures, just generally different.  The Bible doesn’t set out to define “the Christian Culture” as if there only were one of them. It set out a standard against which we should judge any culture, any way of living, and then transform that culture into something honouring to God.

So our fellowship prefers the more traditional songs and hymns. We also have a tradition of asking questions in a service, which slightly surprises some visiting speakers. And we have very little ceremony and no special clothes.  That’s fine, that’s our culture. Some would say that’s our tradition.

But what is more important is that we look hard and long at Scripture, and try to apply it to ourselves, and to what we do. Because in the end it’s not our taste in hymns that matters, or our way of worshipping God. It’s whether we let ourselves, our church and our society be changed by God, into people, into a church, into a society that shows the Kingdom of Christ to the people around us.

That’s what we are looking at in Luke’s gospel at the moment. You are welcome to join us.

Having Peace

We took peace as the theme of our meeting last Sunday.

By coincidence this week happens to be the week of the National Eisteddfod, this year in Denbigh. Every year they award the top prizes in special ceremonies.

There’s pomp and ceremony. All the Gorsedd (the ruling body of the Eisteddfod) come on wearing formal robes. The winner is announced, by their bardic name, and stands up to be recognised. Lots more formality, and then before the winner is crowned the audience is asked if they are in agreement with the result, literally “A Oes Heddwch?” – is there peace?

The audience shout back “Peace. The Archdruid asks again, “The truth against the world – is there peace?”  And they shout back peace, and the prize is awarded, “in the peace of the Eisteddfod”.

But one year I watched the ceremoney on the Welsh news, and there had been a dispute about someone being disqualified (I can’t remember the details). When he asked, “is there peace?” someone shouted out “Nac Oes” – no there isn’t.

The Archdruid looked a bit thrown, but he carried on, saying “I think we can ignore that single dissenting voice”, and he awarded the prize.

The problem is it didn’t work. All they talked about on the news was the dissent, the complaint that caused it, was it justified?

If there is something disturbing peace, then you can’t pretend it’s not there. Because it is, and trying to cover it up usually just makes it worse.

Peace isn’t covering up something wrong. It’s dealing with it.

It might be something between you and someone else – and Jesus said before you try to come to God, put right the things wrong between you and others.

Or it might be something between you and God. In which case, face it and sort it out. Jesus came so that we could sort it out with God. Or you’ll end up like the Archdruid at the Eisteddfod, looking foolish, or worse.

What God means to me, from a church member

Back in the early nineties my wife and I attended a lovely little church in Gorton. Gorton Evangelical Church was situated on the main Hyde road leading to Manchester. We enjoyed some wonderful fellowship, especially at the Sunday morning services, mixing with people of different backgrounds and cultures. The main common denominator being we all believed and trusted in God. People passing by on those Sunday mornings would clearly vouch for that if the volume of singing hymns was anything to go by, along with testimonies from many in the congregation telling how God was doing amazing things in their lives. Continue reading

Suffering

Years ago I was in a motor bike accident. The gentleman coming the other way decided he wanted to turn right, so he did.

Unfortunately my Honda 50 was in the way. I spent 2 weeks in intensive care on a breathing machine, then 2 years on crutches until my leg healed enough to walk.

Somewhere about eight months into this I met a friend from another church, who asked me how I was. The wound was not healing – it was getting worse, and I was feeling pretty low, and I said so. He replied “Praise the Lord”. I nearly hit him with my crutches.

People give glib answers to the question, “why do we suffer”. That’s what the book of Job is all about. A man who suffers, and three friends who give answers which sound spiritual, but are simply glib, false and hurtful.

We’re looking at Job for the next few weeks, to try and understand these issues better. We want to have good answers, not just easy ones. So far it’s been interesting. Very.

The (other) End of the World

After December’s “End of the World” which didn’t happen (again) it seems appropriate that we should look at Revelation in our worship.

Just like the carvings of the Mayan calendar got misused by people who should have known better, so Revelation gets misused by some who want to build timetables for the End of the World, or identify the Beast whose number is 666. If you want some gentle entertainment there’s a website of 16 calculators all claiming to identify the coming tyrant who’s number is 666. They all assure us they are genuine, and they all give different answers. (if you want to try it go this link)

Revelation was meant as an allegory, just like Pilgrim’s Progress, or maybe like Animal Farm. It’s how the writer intended it to be read, and it’s how the people at the time would have understood it.

And if we remember that, then we can understand it, and when we face opposition we can get encouragement that God is ultimately the One in control. And that’s a lot more use than 16 different ways to identify 16 different alleged future tyrants