Sunday Worship 15 November 2020 – Interfaith Sunday

Today was the last day of Inter Faith Week, a week that has focussed on increasing understanding and cooperation between our different faith communities and we were thrilled to welcome Imam Qari Asim, from Makkah Mosque Leeds, and Rabbi Paul Moses Strasko and his guitar, from Sinai Synagogue, to our 10.30am worship.

Sunday 15 November – InterFaith Week

Sunday 15 November is the last day of Inter Faith Week, a week that has focussed on increasing understanding and cooperarion between our different faith communities. This Sunday we are thrilled to be able to welcome Imam Qari Asim, from Makkah Mosque Leeds, and Rabbi Paul Moses Strasko, from Sinai Synagogue, to our 10.30am worship service on Facebook Live . If you have any questions for Heston, Qari or Paul do please send them to Heston.

The service will be followed by a socially distanced Zoom cafe meeting – details will be on the Facebook chat.

Thought for the Day : Friday 13 November

Thought for the Day by Angela Birkin (St Michael’s)

Readings: Daniel 7:1-14 and Revelation 9:1-12

As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human being
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.

Daniel 7.13-14

What is real and what is fake? What is true and what is illusion?

These are very real questions for us today as presidents cry ‘fake news’ and people deny the reality of Covid-19.

Daniel and John of Patmos were granted visions. Their lived experience was of exile, life under a totalitarian world power and persecution, but their visions showed them the truth that empires fall and that the rule of God is the ultimate reality.

Jesus during his ministry on earth appropriated the imagery of the ‘one like a human being’ or ‘Son of Man’ in the book of Daniel:

But he was silent and did not answer.
Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’

Jesus said, ‘I am; and “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power”, and “coming with the clouds of heaven.”’

Mark 14.61-62

Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God, crucified Saviour, risen Lord, Messiah, is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Whatever is happening in the world, whichever world or regional or local power is flexing its muscles, the reality is that our God reigns and that the dominion of our God will not pass away.

Love wins!

Thought for the Day : Thursday 12 November

Thought for the Day by Robin Fishwick

Readings: Daniel 6 and Revelation 8

“You have the prophets”

Darius should really have known better. He was 62 when he came to rule and should have learned a lot on the way. Yet when some of his advisers ask him to sign a law making it compulsory for him to be worshipped as a god he happily goes along with this  without thinking “Hold on, why are they doing this? Could this possibly be a trap?” Nor does he think “I’m not really a god, am I? It’s probably not a good idea to wind up any real gods there might be around”. He soon finds his limitations, bringing it home to him that he isn’t much of a god, when he realises that through his own word he has condemned his most trusted friend to death. And he has given his word, which he is powerless to rescind.

As we near the season of Advent, I am thinking about what the word means that is usually translated as “repent”. In the Greek it is “metanoia” which could also be translated as “post-thinking”, “thinking beyond” or more colloquially, “thinking outside the box”. It isn’t, however,  a call to cleverness. Darius didn’t learn anything new about himself, but he was confronted with the consequences of his sloppiness of thought. Of course, in the book of Daniel, God redeems the situation by sparing Daniel, causing Darius in the first instance to be relieved that he was spared the consequences of his folly and then to be aware that God as served by Daniel is one who does amazing things.

From this point on, the Book of Daniel goes into the realm of visions and dreams, much like a lot of the content of the Book of Revelation such as our particularly apocalyptic New Testament reading today. Dreams and visions, though,  are not mechanisms by which thoughts enter our minds, so much as they are  ways in which our minds rethink ideas which are already there. They may re-order or re-express thoughts in ways that have unexpected beauty or cogency, but they are not a hotline to God. Much damage has been done (and continues to be done) by people regarding these scriptures as encoded messages to the future reader – as if God is setting us some cryptic clues and expects us to be very clever and decypher them. Consequently, for centuries now there have been readers matching up these texts with their own current events in an attempt to predict what is about to happen next. For me this a great abuse of our sacred texts, treating them as an instrument of divination, as if some message can be found in their entrails. Because I don’t think there is anything magic about prophets and we don’t have to have any esoteric or kabbalistic knowledge to be prophets ourselves.

In mythology, the hero has to answer a riddle to continue the quest. God, however,  does not speak to us in riddles, but through the simple promptings of love and truth. We don’t need to have super powers for God to speak to us, or through us, just the ability to look at  those around us and at what is going in our world with open minds and generous hearts. Darius failed to do this, blinded by arrogance and worldly power, he developed what in these days could be  described as “a relaxed relationship with the truth”. The call to repentance, then, is not a demand to  have any special skills or knowledge we do not have. It is a call to “know better” what we already know. Wisdom and understanding will come to us, but only if we have the humility to make room for it – to make a space in our thoughts for God to enter.

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 11 November

Thought for the Day by Elizabeth Pearson (St Chad’s)

Readings: Daniel 5:13-31, Revelation 7:1-4 & 9-17 and Luke 10:25-37

Love In Action

In Luke’s gospel, the story of the Good Samaritan can help us recognise the simplicity of life, through loving God, and loving our neighbour.  The well-known story which Jesus told to a lawyer when questioned, ‘What must I do to inherit an eternal life?’ gives great insight into how important it is for us all to play our own part, whoever we are, in making a better world.

This pandemic has brought a lot of turbulence, a disruption from the normal patterns of life, which has taken away our ability to plan and control our lives and the way we want to take it forward. As the second wave persists and we begin a new national lockdown, it is now a time of really grounding ourselves and finding our feet.

In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus probed the lawyer further to discover the answer for himself, so asks, ‘What is written in the law?’. He then answers ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself’. Jesus replies, ‘You have given the right answer, do this and you shall live’.

The lawyer then asks, ‘Who is my neighbour?’. Jesus will not co-operate. The lawyer wants to talk about love and how complicated it is to be open with everyone all the time, especially in his own profession of law, acting for the needy and vulnerable. So instead, Jesus tells him a story.

In the story a man is attacked by robbers on the road to Jericho, and both a Priest, and a Levite pass him by, leaving him for dead at the side of the road. It is the action of the Samaritan, who stops and bandages the wounds, puts him on his own animal and takes him to an inn to be cared for, which saves the man. He later pays the inn keeper for taking care of him. 

Jesus asks the lawyer ‘Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’. The story shows the two religious types crossed to the other side of the road, whilst the heretical outcast was the one who took care of the beaten man.  The lawyer answers ‘The one who shows him mercy’. The Samaritan shows great mercy. He does something, and Jesus stresses, ‘Go and do likewise’. 

It is what we do about love that brings us life. Showing mercy, of being a neighbour, of doing love.  It’s about getting out of that ‘Me, me, me’ mindset and just showing up.  If we want the world to feel a better place, how can we show up, and take part, even in small ways to love and care for each other more? ‘Do’ love and ‘be’ love and ‘receive’ love. 

As poet Emmet Fox noted, ‘There is no distance that love cannot span, no illness – moral, mental, emotional, or spiritual that love cannot heal. No victory that love cannot win. Love is the most awesome force in nature, and beyond her.’

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 10 November

Thought for the Day by Gill Griggs (St. Chad’s)

Readings: Daniel 5:1-12 and Revelation 6

I would guess that most people have heard the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den’.

The book of Daniel was actually written during the time of persecution of the Jews during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes ((177-174 BC) ; but the author has set the story in a different period, when the Jews were being persecuted by Nebuchadnezzar. (around 580 BC,) when most of the leading Jews had been taken into exile in Babylon.

The first 6 chapters of the book tell the story of the trials and perils of Daniel’s life in the service of Nebuchadnezzar . The final 6 chapters tell us about the visions granted to Daniel about what would happen to successors of the king. To hear of this must have inspired the Jews who were being persecuted by Antiochus Epiphanes. To hear the triumph of Daniel over his ordeals and temptations must have fed their own faith and hope, and given them a vision of a better life to come.

Much the same can be said about some of the chapters in the book of Revelation (which are also set for today). This is a sort of writing known as apocalyptic and it was very popular in some Jewish circles at the beginning of the Christian era. It contains the author’s vision of heaven and the vindication of the Christian martyrs in the world to come. Again it was hoped that by reading this, the people’s faith and determination would be strengthened. It must have been music in their ears if they could hear references to the downfall of their enemies and those who were oppressing them..

How are people today supported or inspired at what is a very difficult time in their lives? Covid 19 threatens- affecting family life, ‘meals out’, employment opportunities, food banks, to mention just a few things.

Somebody suggested to me recently that God has wished some of these things upon us. I don’t believe that this is so, and trust that He is with us when people are tempted to despair.

Jesus himself promised us ‘I will be with you always, even until the end of the ages.’

Thought for the Day : Monday 9 November

Thought for the Day by Richard Wilson (St Chad’s)

Readings: Daniel 4:19-37 and Revelation 5

Daniel (remember, a devout Jewish exile in Babylon) has already been saved by God with the resultant conversion of King Nebuchadnezzar’s people as he has been given the power to interpret dreams. Now he is faced with another of the King’s dreams. Are you surprised that he is terrified and hesitant when he realises what the interpretation is? Encouraged to proceed by Nebuchadnezzar he gives the news and asks him to take his advice. The consequences are played out, the King loses his authority, until it is returned 7 years later when he praises the Most High with honour and glory. This is God’s will.

So is this not like a fairy tale ending! It does make very clear that our God is all powerful, merciful and kind, abhors pride and appreciates humility.

The Revelation passage shows part of another ‘dream’ – but what a difference! God has The Scroll. John weeps as he thinks there is no one is worthy to open it but he is wrong. The Lamb who was slain can. What an incredible picture John paints of the joy there is in heaven and on earth when this is revealed, joy that is beyond our understanding.

When we pray ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ perhaps we could bear in mind these readings and ask whether we are doing God’s will and praising him with honour and glory.

Why not listen to ‘Worthy is the Lamb’ from Handel’s Messiah.

This is one link:

Sunday Worship 8 November 2020 – Remembrance Sunday

Today our Remembrance Sunday worship service was led by Hayley Matthews. With apologies for the technical hiccoughs!

Sunday 8 November – Remembrance Sunday

This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday and at 10:30am via Facebook Live our remembrance service will be led by Hayley Matthews. Our readings will be from Amos 5:18-24, 1 Timothy 2:1-7 and John 15:9-17.

Unfortunately, due to the new lockdown restrictions we are unable to have anyone in church other than those who are involved in the live streaming of the service but we hope that you are able to join with us via Facebook Live and for Zoom tea or coffee afterwards – details will be in the chat during the service.

Thought for the Day : Friday 6 November

Thought for the Day by Kevin Ward (St Michael’s)

Readings: Daniel 3:19-30 and Revelation 3:14-22

THE FIERY FURNACE

The three young Jewish men  were arrested by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. Their crime – their stubborn refusal to abandon the worship of the Almighty  God and worship the gods of the Babylonians. They were unwilling to abandon their special identity as Jews. This is one of the first recorded examples of anti-Semitism: they were good, high-ranking  courtiers, valued by the king, and had committed no crime. But they became the target of abuse and envy on the basis of their ethnicity and distinctive religious practices. The Jewish people, a vulnerable minority in most societies,  have down the ages been the target of xenophobia, fear of those who are different. The holocaust, the Showa, in modern times, has shown us that such discrimination  has terrible consequences. The recent report on Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party in our own country is a stark warning of our  need to be on guard against the resurgence of discrimination against Jews in our own contemporary society.

The picture above of the three young men in the fiery furnace protected by an angelic figure (a Christlike figure) is  a fresco from a medieval Nubian cathedral in Sudan, now submerged under the waters of the Aswan dam on the River Nile.  The fresco is preserved in the national museum of Khartoum. Further up the Nile in Buganda, the story of the three young men was important when the first converts of Christianity were persecuted for their Christian witness, on the orders of the king, Kabaka Mwanga, in 1886. The majority of  the martyrs were young courtiers at the palace. They refused to compromise their faith, and literally  faced their own fiery furnace, when they were burnt to death. They remained steadfast,  confident that though the fires may destroy their bodies, they would achieve everlasting life with Christ. They are now regarded as national saints in Uganda.

The church in Laodicea, as portrayed in Revelation, is the opposite of steadfast fortitude and conviction. The angel accused them of indifference, being neither hot nor cold. They were proud and complacent: ‘I am rich and prosperous and need nothing.’  They were certainly anything but the heroes of faith represented by the three young men in Babylon, or the Uganda martyrs. Yet, remarkably, God does not cease to love even this rather unlovely, conceited, complacent congregation.  ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and share a meal with you.’  Christ does not force his way into the house. He is not an invader. He is not the ruthless dictator who forces people to conform. He is not the bigoted ideologue who puts doctrinal conformity before human compassion.

‘Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.’

‘Oh ye servants of the Lord, bless ye the Lord: praise him and magnify him for ever’ (The Benedicite, Song of the Three Children, the  Matins Canticle in the Book of Common Prayer).