Category Archives: Reflection

When does Jesus surprise me?

From Easter Sunday’s Service – Sarah Derbyshire

I’m super stoked I get to talk about how Jesus surprises me, and how the element of surprise coexists with my relationship with God.

For me, surprise isn’t just a lack of expectation in my faith, but it has become an integral part of my identity as a Christian, and, in some sense, a virtue I’ve both battled with and learnt to love.

Hands down the biggest surprise I’ve ever had, was the day I decided I wanted to be a Christian. I was 16 years old, I was stood at the bus stop, it was 6:30 in the morning, it was bouncing it down with rain, I had no coat and I was already going to be late for sixth form. I told myself that if the bus came within the next 30 seconds then I’d drop everything and there and then I’d start believing in God.

Long story short, the bus took 15 minutes to come; but it was that very morning I knew I wanted to get to know God, I wanted to understand why God loved me so much, why God would allow his only begotten son to be sacrificed for me, and why God would leave me stood at the bus stop in the rain for 15 minutes.

In the 4 years between then and now, and shortly after joining the Catholic Church, I began to understand why God loves me, and why he’d give Jesus as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, although I still don’t understand why he left me that rainy morning at the bus stop!

But, and to be a bit more serious about this, there’s a lot more to how surprise is central to my relationship with Jesus, than the unfortunate events of that early morning 4 years ago.

For the past year or so, it feels like God surprises me more and more, so much so that I’m equally as surprised when my day goes exactly as I planned it to be. And it’s because of this, I thought I was completely ready to take on anything God had for me, and open to Gods plans.

And then at world youth day, surrounded by 3 million young people of the Church, Pope Francis asked a simple question “are you completely open to God’s surprises?”, and at that moment, I realised I wasn’t. Surprise seems to go hand in hand with newness. Whenever I’m surprised in my Christian faith, it usually means I have to let go of the plans I had for myself, and instead, put my complete trust in God.

My ability, or lack of in some cases, to put my complete trust in God when faced with surprise, has been a huge surprise to me. As a raging extrovert, I don’t often get anxious, yet, when it comes to surprise in my faith, trusting in God and leaving my cushy comfort zone often makes me really nervous.

That simple question by Pope Francis completely tore apart everything I thought I knew about myself and my relationship with Jesus. It was at that moment, reflecting on the endless surprises God seems to throw at me, reflecting on my ‘I’m completely ready and open to every surprise God and Jesus bless me with, attitude’… that I realised I was actually doing the complete opposite.

One of the biggest surprises I think I’ll ever have, was when I realised I was called to the Anglican priesthood. I was sat in Catholic Mass when I first realised – and on that day, I was utterly convinced that this was one surprise too far.

Pope Francis gave us a few minutes more to reflect before saying “how wonderful is it to be surprised by God’s call, to embrace his word, and to walk in the footsteps of Jesus… be open to surprise… your life will become richer and more joyful each day.”

Since then, I’ve done a lot more growing and I’m still constantly surprised; I’m surprised by what God seems to have in store for me, how much Jesus loves and supports me, and I’m surprised by how far I’ve already come in my spiritual journey.

What Pope Francis said that day really challenged me; and since then I believe it has helped me to become a more active Christian, and constantly conscious of God, whom I should trust in the face of surprise.

I was surprised when I wanted to become a Christian, I was even more surprised when I wanted to become a priest, and I was especially surprised when at 17 years old I signed myself up and became a member of the religious order of the Salesians of Don Bosco.

For me, being a Salesian comes hand in hand with being surprised. Both in myself and my abilities, and also in my spirituality.

Don Bosco, the founder of the Salesians, preaches a simple message around our mission towards the young – that we must leave everything in God’s hands, who will let us know when to change course, and that we must be ready to be surprised by the young.

Pope Francis asked me a very simple question that changed the way I understood ‘surprise’ forever, and reshaped how I understood my relationship with Jesus – and I’m going to finish on just that.

“Are you completely open to God’s surprises?”

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A Moment with God – Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday

I didn’t know

that Love is real life

and everything else

just a more or less entertaining way

of dying.

And I didn’t know

that Love is like nothing on earth.

Love isn’t what you fall in.

It’s what pulls you out

of what you fall in.

Love isn’t a good feeling.

Love is doing good

when you’re feeling bad.

Love means hanging in

when everyone else

shrugs their shoulders

and goes off to McDonalds.

Love means taking the knocks

and coming back

to try to make things better.

Love hurts.

That’s its way of telling you

that you’re alive.

And the funny thing is that after all

Love does feel good.

People say Love is weak.

But Love is tougher than Hate.

Hating’s easy.

Most of us have a gift for it.

But Love counts to ten

while Hate slams the door.

Love says you

where Hate says me.

Love is the strongest weapon

known to mankind.

Other weapons blow people up.

Only Love puts them back together again.

And everything that seems real, 

that looks smart, 

that feels good, 

has a sell-by date.

But Love has no sell-by date.

Love is Long Life.

Love is the ultimate preservative.

I don’t know too much about Love

but I know a man who does, 

up there on the cross

Loving us to death.

Love is the key 

to the door of the place

he’s prepared for you

in the kingdom of God.

If you’re beginning to understand

then welcome to the real world…

— Godfrey Rust

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A Moment with God – Good Friday

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer;

by night, but I find no rest.

YET you are the holy one;

enthroned on the praises of your people.

Our forebears trusted in you;they trusted and you delivered them.

They cried out to you and were saved;

put their trust in you and were not confounded…

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A Moment with God – Maundy Thursday

Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us that what we do

for the least of our brothers and sisters

we do also for you:

give us the will to be the servant of others

as you were the servant of all,

and gave up your life and died for us,

but are alive and reign, now and for ever.

Amen.

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A Moment with God – Wednesday in Holy Week

We proclaim Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called (both Jews and Greeks) Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength…


1 Corinthians 1

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A Moment with God – Tuesday in Holy Week

Almighty God,
as we stand at the foot of the cross of your Son,
help us to see and know your love for us,
so that, in humility love and joy,
we may place at his feet
all that we have and all that we are;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

— Common Worship: Night Prayer in Passiontide

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A Moment with God – Monday in Holy Week

Blessed are you, Lord God of our salvation,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
As a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief
your only Son was lifted up
that he might draw the whole world to himself.

May we walk this day in the way of the cross
and always be ready to share its weight,
declaring your love for all the world.

Blessed be God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.
Blessed be God for ever.

(Common Worship: Daily Prayer in Passiontide)

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Under One Roof

“Under One Roof” is the new title for our fund raising efforts for the regeneration of All Hallows building, community work, and most urgently the ROOF needed, for all our actions to take place in the safe and warm!

We are asking everyone for a very special effort, from April 2017 to April 2018, in fundraising, prayer, and work.  It’ll take longer than that to complete, but to prove to outside funders that we are a vibrant, sustainable community, able to put in the effort ourselves first, we want to show an exciting programme of fundraising and community building in this year in particular.

Dates for your Diary, some wonderful Sundays coming up:

April 15th:   Easter Sunday

Sunday 23rd April: Church Annual General Meeting during morning service. This is a great time for catching up with all that has gone on in the past year, as we listen to stories from the various groups and activities connected with the church, and pray for the future.

Sunday 30th April: Service of inspiration and commitment to our building, to launch “Under One Roof”

Sunday 7th May: our new PCC takes a special time out for lunch together after church, to get to know one another and envision the future.

So before we jump in, a time for some thought, reflection and prayer, during Lent.

WHAT DOES THE PHRASE ‘UNDER ONE ROOF’ CONJURE UP FOR YOU?  For some answers from PCC, see at the end of this email, but think of your own before you peep!!

Can you think of any stories from the Bible in which roofs feature?  A few below to start us off, but I’m sure there are more!

How could you use these for your own prayer? how could you share them with others in discussion? How can these scriptures ‘get wings’ and help recreate not just our building, but our community and relationships?

Two stories really speak to me:

Abraham and the angels Genesis 18

Read what happened when Abraham was willing to take in three complete strangers under the roof of his tent.  Many centuries later the icon painter Rublev painted this scene, in a way which depicted the strangers as the three persons of the trinity. How does this change our thoughts on the story?  See the icon in All Hallows, to the right of our altar, under the stained glass window.

As the writer of the book of Hebrews said, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained angels unawares” Hebrews 13:2

Peter and Cornelius:  Acts 10

Two men praying separately, at least one of them on a roof top; one a very Jewish Christian, one a pious Roman gentile. It’s an extraordinary story of cherished world view and prejudice being turned inside out, and the whole Christian enterprise being transformed forever in an inclusive direction: truly a parable for All Hallows as we pioneer hospitality, diversity and inter faith community.  But the household of Cornelius needed a large building, with a good roof, to give hospitality to this shocking new revival, and totally unexpected outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the excluded gentile population.

You might also like to have a look at these:

Genesis 19:8 Lot, in Sodom, had his guests “under the protection of my roof

Joshua 2:6 Rahab uses the roof as a hiding place for the spies

2 Kings 4:8-10 the Schunamite woman builds a spare room on her roof, so as to be able to give hospitality and understanding to the travelling prophet

Building Projects:

1 Kings: 5 onwards, and elsewhere – the building of Solomon’s temple: all the craftspeople, benefactors and above all workpeople, who enabled it to happen.

Nehemiah: the renovation of the walls of Jerusalem, achieved by joint communal effort, against much opposition

Ezra: the renovation of the temple itself, again with great opposition

Isaiah 54: 2-3 and here’s a promise:

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back;
lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
 your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.”

What does “Under One Roof” conjure for YOU?  Here’s some starter words from PCC:

      shelter         united     together      safe    

buckets       family       community

    inclusion      building      safety 

lengthen the stays; brace the tent pegs; prepare for the storm

      sanctuary      opportunity       conflict

different kinds of people           a variety of activity 

    a safe place         conflict         getting along in a crowd

people NOT like us          people LIKE us

           sharing        abundance

 

Pippa Woodhams

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Called by God

We are ALL called by God! Emma preached a brilliant sermon on Sunday, asking us how much we are willing and able to commit to Jesus and his wonderful way of life.

If you’ve ever wondered what exactly it is that God calls us all to, here’s a poem to inspire thoughts and prayers…

 

Lord, you call us to be story-tellers:

planting your explosive news into our defended lives;

locating us in the script of your human history.

 

You call us to be trailblazers:

living in your future that we receive only as gift;

subverting the fixed, fated world of low horizons.

 

You call us to be weavers:

tracing, stretching, connecting the knotted threads;

gathering up unravelling, disconnected lives.

 

You call us to be fools –

for Christ’s sake: bearing life’s absurdities and incongruities;

puncturing our seriousness and grandiosity.

 

You call us to be hosts:

welcomers of the sacred, intimate, transfiguring;

lavish celebrants of our communities and homecomings.

 

You call us to be poets:

artists and illuminators of inner space;

naming, invoking, heralding your ineffable presence.

 

You call us to be gardeners:

sowers, cultivators, nurturers of fragile lives;

benefactors of your gratuitous harvest.

 

You call us to be conductors

celebrating polyphony, coaxing symphony;

orchestrating the praise of your inhabited creation;

 

Lord, you lavish gifts on all whom you call.

Strengthen and sustain us and all ministers of your church,

that in the range and diversity of our vocation,

we may be catalysts of your kingdom in the world,

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Roger Spiller (1944– )

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Good Friday Reflection 7

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. (Luke 23:46)

At his most desperate, at the end, having gone through the experience of abandonment, having endured humiliation, torture, and scorn, and now facing death, the final words Luke has Jesus uttering come from a song about trust in God. ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit’ is drawn from Psalm 31.

In his pain and loneliness on the cross Jesus finds solace in the scriptures which had formed, shaped and directed his life.

For me this begs the question, what stories are we so deeply embedded within that we can find solace, strength and direction in our darkest moments?

The stories that shape us, can not only bring us much consolation in times of hardship and great need, but can also shape our responses, our reaction to situations we face. Just as athletes train their muscle memory for instinctive response in competition, we can prepare ourselves to be able to respond creatively, courageously, non-violently, and with humility and grace when we face desperate situations.

The stories around us in films, on television, in the media, too often invoke a fight or flight response to injustice, violence and hardship. By soaking ourselves in the story of Jesus we prepare ourselves to follow his example of creative response, of taking up our cross, of refusal to succumb to violence and oppression in our lives and the systems we are part of. Just as Jesus was able to find strength and trust in God from the stories that had shaped him, so too we can find strength and trust in our darkest moments.

For the times when we could easily fall into despair, for the times when we could react with violence or cowardice out of fear, for the times when God may feel absent from our lives, if we truly allow ourselves to be shaped by the stories of the life, actions, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus, if we commit ourselves with trust to God, then we too may see life come out of our own darkest moments.

Jon Dorsett

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