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  • A New Adventure

    We are about to begin a new journey. It will feel familiar because it is a journey that many of us have been on before, yet we will find that it is not quite as we remember and we may spot something new, something we haven't noticed before; we may find ourselves taking that little detour we have sometimes wondered about or we may find that a diversion is in place. We might spend part of the journey in conversation with someone new and so provoke a different point of view, we might spend some of the journey with someone very familiar yet learn something fresh and exciting - if we really engage in the journey we should finish in an unexpected place - so let's see where this new adventure might take us...

    At the heart of Luke's gospel is a journey that will take us from Galilee to Jerusalem and then out into the world. The story is driven forward by the Holy Spirit, we will meet around the table with people who don't have a voice elsewhere, we will hear some of the great parables, we will see Jesus proclaimed as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, as the bringer of God's reign, as salvation for the poor, the pained, the lost, the weary, the dis-eased and the despairing. We shall be confronted by grace, by blessings and we will be invited to join in, to be part of the pilgrimage, the mission, to be disciples, to sit at the feet of the teacher and learn.

    For the next year the lectionary will lead us through Luke's gospel and we will be invited to join the journey, engage in the conversations, celebrate God's grace. You can do this in many ways:-

    1 By joining with us Sunday by Sunday to worship and to explore

    2 By becoming part of the web-based community that seeks a place where the speechless sing. I know plenty of you read but your comments would be welcome as well.

    3 By joining in the various small groups that are offered by both churches and are open to anyone who wishes to join - 
    • Sunday Connection will be a new group meeting at Hallfold on either the third or fourth Sunday evening each month making connections between the sermon, the texts, our lives and our faith. 
    • Monday Fellowship will meet at a members house (usually) on the first Monday in the month looking ahead to the texts for the following Sunday. 
    • Monday Housegroup meets at  (usually) on the last Monday in the month looking at various issues that arise from our faith journeys.
    • Sharing Stories meet at St. Andrew's at 1pm on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday's of each month. As a group we decide which stories we want to share, but for December and January at the very least we will be exploring Luke.
    • We will look to re-introduce After Words the after service discussions at St. Andrew's (and at Hallfold if there is a wish to do so)
    4 I will try to introduce some ideas in the newsletters and on the website  that might help you prepare for Sunday and reflect upon your own adventure. My sermon notes will continue to appear on the website and your comments will always be welcome there - we have to be in conversation so that we can each learn of God's purposes for us from one another.

    We want to see real growth in our churches over the next couple of years and that will only come from each of us engaging seriously in the challenge to be involved in whatever God has in store for us, our tradition is one in which we seek that purpose together - we discuss theology - that is God talk, people in conversation about God and with God. Luke's people do that in formal meetings and around the dinner table - we must do the same.
    In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

    Shepherds watch and wise men wonder,
    Monarchs scorn and angels sing;
    Such a place as none would reckon
    Hosts a holy helpless thing;
    Stable beasts and by-passed stranger
    Watch a baby laid in hay:
    God surprises earth with heaven
    Coming here on Christmas Day.

    John L Bell & Graham Maule

    So let's head out on this new adventure, prepared to be surprised by God talk.

    Be blessed

  • Faith Adventure

    What's the difference between belief and faith?

    My dictionary says:-
    belief: 1. a principle accepted as true or real especially without proof; 2. opinion, conviction 3. religious faith; 4. trust or confidence - as in a person's abilities.
    faith: 1 strong or unshakable belief in something especially without proof; 2. a specific system of religious belief; 3. Christianity trust in God and in his actions and promises; 4. a conviction of the truth of certain doctrines of religion; 5.complete confidence or trust in a person, remedy etc.
    - which would seem to suggest that belief and faith are dependent upon one another, in fact those of us living within a religious system need faith in order to believe these things for which we have no proof!

    Mark Oakley in his essay Reclaiming Faith in Spirituality in the City (SPCK 2005) wants to understand faith in different terms, "people believe in order to find assurance, a solution, a system of ideas. Faith, especially biblical faith, is completely different. The purpose of revelation is not to supply us with explanations or propositions, but to get us to listen to questions, radical addresses to ourselves and the world we are making. Belief talks and wallows in words, takes the initiative; faith waits, remains on guard, picks up signs, seeks to discern complex parables, listens to a silence poised for God. Belief looks for regimentation. Faith can be lonely: it knows that holiness means being separated somehow. Belief is reassuring, makes you feel safe. Faith is forever placing you on the razor's edge. Belief can order God and normalize. Faith knows this can't be done and, as it were, puts the odd back into God. Belief relates to ideas. Faith knows that ideas can get in the way; it embraces paradox and silence and lives with city-like confusion."

    I know that we will react to those views in different ways, but I am intrigued by his description of faith. I love the way that faith is an exciting adventure, whose outcome must remain unknown - open to the wonder of God and the potential of the human spirit. I seem to share a discomfort with belief as something that can be written and controlled and enforced and quantified. When Jesus says, "follow me" - he doesn't ask anyone to sign up to a well argued well scripted doctrine but to experience the adventure and learn about God's reign. The first disciples knew that there lives would be changed but not the way in which it was changed, they expect glory but not the way it is achieved. And so today's disciples are also invited to experience the adventure of faith with all it's uncertainties, fear, excitement and opportunities.

    I hope your enjoying the walk.

  • St. Andrew's Newsletter September 06

    I've been quiet on here - the summer services have been a little bit different and did not involve sermons that could be noted very easily - so I didn't. And then I've been on holiday - another Greenbelt giving sustenance for the year to come, don't know what I'd do without it!

    So to get me back in the posting habit, and for a slight diversion  - a newsletter article - quickly written after the editors deadline (I was on holiday!)

    So is Joseph a good guy or a bad guy?

    Joseph is the character who brings the Book of Genesis to an end, he is the favoured son of Jacob; he has the coat of many colours;  dreams about his brothers, father, mother bowing down before him;  sold into slavery; unfairly accused of rape; imprisoned; his interpretation of dreams leads him before Pharaoh and he emerges as the Vizier charged with controlling all Egypt's resources and sure enough the brothers who sent him into slavery bow down before him; he has time to trick them all before Surprise! Surprise! the family are reunited - and they all live happily ever after.

    It is often told as an heroic story of  courage, perseverance, faithfulness, blessing, forgiveness. We can be encouraged to follow our dreams, to use our power and ability for the greater good, to see God's blessing in our personal success. Many will tell it as a story of salvation - for through Joseph his family are preserved and God's promise to Abraham is maintained. Hence, Joseph is the ultimate good guy - overcoming every obstacle to emerge triumphant.

    Or maybe there is another way to see Joseph - as the bad guy whose ambition always thrusts him forward stepping on anybody who gets in his way. It causes him problems but in the end he gets revenge on his brothers and all embracing power for himself. In the beginning God is centre stage, vocal, creative, generous, abundant - 50 chapters later God is marginalised and silenced, and the chosen people have been led out of the promised land into slavery.  It could be argued that Joseph plays a major role in that process.

    In Sharing Stories on  Wednesday afternoons we are following Joseph's story, and asking ourselves, is he a good guy or a bad guy? Does his story speak to our story? Who are our heroes and villians? Come and join us (1.30pm in the Church Office) share in the Joseph story and the story of all who participate.

    September 6th - Joseph & Mrs Potiphar
    September 20th - The Cupbearer and the Baker
    October 4th - Pharaoh's dreams
    October 18th - Joseph in charge

    Be blessed