|At the end of April, on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th April, we will be having a
‘Parish Weekend At Home.’ It is a time to celebrate together. There will be a
special service on Sunday Morning followed by a ‘bring and share lunch’
and a time of fellowship in the Gatty Hall.
On the Saturday morning we will meet in Church to begin to discover what God
has been placing on our hearts; to discover what God is calling us to do and
to be as the Body of Christ in this time and place.
This is a meeting that is not just for the PCC but for any and every member of
St Mary’s, including children.
For the next couple of months we are all challenged to ask God to speak to us,
to show us His vision for St Mary’s. There will be opportunities to meet together
to worship and pray and listen for God’s voice (details in the First Words).
There is a prayer leaflet for every member of Church to help us to pray through
these weeks either as individuals of families or in groups.
How we pray does not matter, what is important is that we pray, every one of us,
with the expectation that God does speak and that He will speak to us if we listen.
The God of the Bible is a God who speaks, who communicates. Not only through
specially anointed individuals, but to and through any one of His people.
We are all a royal priesthood and a holy temple. We are all God’s beloved children
and He is our Father. He has plan for us, for our lives and for
His Church here in Ecclesfield.
In the first of our meetings to seek God’s word for us at this time we were challenged
not to dream too small. I believe that if our vision truly comes from God it will
surprise us and it will challenge us. It will not be something that we can achieve or
accomplish in our own wisdom and strength. We will have to depend on
God and not on ourselves.
On our own we can achieve a little; if we follow God’s call, if we work in the strength of the
Holy Spirit and under the authority of Jesus then there is nothing that we cannot do. We can
change the world.
Two thousand years ago the disciples, ordinary fishermen and tax collectors
from Galilee began to transform lives and change the world. They had learned in
their three years with Jesus, as they walked with Him to the Cross and met Him
at the empty tomb, that without Him they could do nothing, but that if they
abide in Him there is nothing that they cannot do.
I do not believe that God or Jesus has changed. God wants to transform lives with
the hope and promise of His kingdom and He wants to change the world so that
it looks a little more like His kingdom. And I believe that the reason that Jesus has
called His Church and has called us into His Church is because we, like those
first disciples, are the people through whom He will fulfil His kingdom vision.
So put the weekend of the 29th April into your calendar. And above all pray whether
you can make the meeting in April or not. Pray in church and at home, pray
together and pray when alone. Trust that God is a God who speaks to those who
are willing to listen and follow.
God has a vision for St Mary’s.
We are here to help people love and worship God.
We aim to be, and encourage others to become, committed and active disciples of Jesus,
who love God and worship him, who know the power of the Holy Spirit and who show
God’s love in every part of their lives.
|Prayer for the month
|Thought for the month
|Below you will find extracts from this month's Parish Magazine
First Words..., A Prayer for the Month & A Thought for the Month
|This month, not so much a prayer but a spiritual practice which goes alongside prayer:
Fasting (see Matthew 6:16-18).
Lent is a time to reflect on our relationship with God and to give particular attention
to those things which get in the way of that relationship or which prevent us from
being the people that God is calling us to be. It is also a time to focus on the
things which help us to grow closer to God and to our ‘true selves’.
This is why Lent is a season for prayer and fasting: prayer is easy to see the value of,
but fasting is a little more alien to us. It seems to belong to a past world.
It seems to be about inflicting suffering on ourselves as if suffering is some
sort of virtue in itself.
There seems to be very little of the Gospel in it!
In Lent many of us will give something up - chocolate or alcohol are probably
the most popular. I once tried to give up coffee and after two weeks of head-ache
I put the percolator back on!
There are at least five good reasons to practice fasting. Firstly Jesus expects that
His followers will fast. In Matthew 6:16 He says to the disciples “when you fast,”
not “if you fast”!
The second reason, the negative reason is that it can be a way of correcting some
over-indulgence, a way of saying that I am in control of my appetites and
not controlled by them. This is why I give up chocolate every Lent.
Chocolate is a great gift of God through creation, but eating too much of it is
not good for me!
The third reason for fasting is that it strengthens our will power.
We learn to say ‘No’ to ourselves. Perhaps the thing that we are fasting from
is something that is actively harming our relationship with God or with others.
I have heard of people giving up social media for a season, and using the time
that is gained to pray, to read the Bible and to communicate with others face to face.
I have heard of others who decide to ‘give up’ listening to gossip at work,
refusing to join in with pulling others down.
A fourth good reason for fasting is that it can be a radical witness in society.
At a time when alcohol abuse was causing great social problems Methodists were
known for being teetotal. It was a great witness in its day.
Sometimes I think that it might be a witness that God is calling some of us to once again.
Alcohol is not wrong or bad in itself, but our inability to use it responsibly is harmful.
Regular fasting is a spiritual habit that Christians have followed for most of the past
two thousand years. It is only in recent decades that it is no longer practiced.
The testimony of Christians who fast regularly, at Lent and throughout the year,
is that it teaches a deeper dependence on God.
This fifth reason is perhaps the most important.
I encourage you to search the scriptures, look at examples of fasting in the Bible -
Daniel is a good place to start - and maybe ask God if this is something for you.
God bless you this Lent. I pray that it will be a time when every one of us grows closer to
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|Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, 1st March.
We will start the season with Communion at 7.30pm with the option of
having ashes made from past years’ palm crosses ‘imposed’ on our foreheads.
The ashes remind us that we come from dust and we will return to dust.
This reminder of mortality is not to make us depressed but to remind us that we
were made for eternity with the Father, and our true home is in God’s kingdom.
During Lent we will be following Paula Gooder’s Everyday God. Gooder writes,
“Here we discover how to celebrate the ordinary in all its forms and find majesty in
mundane routine as much as in regal splendour.”
The Lent course will be on Wednesday evenings starting at 7.30pm to 9pm
and ending with Night Prayer.
There will be time to meet together for prayer seeking God’s vision for our Church.
The Prayer Breakfast on Saturday 11th March and the Prayer and Praise
on Sunday 26th March will be times to pray together, listening to and
sharing what God is saying to us.
Whether or not you can make the Prayer Breakfast or the Prayer and Praise,
please take one of the green ‘Prayer for Vision’ leaflets in Church
and open time this Lent praying for our Church and listening to God.
St Mary’s is not my Church or yours; it is not the bishop’s Church or the Diocese’s.
It is Jesus’ Church and we are only truly the Church when Jesus is at
the centre of our life and worship and mission.
Finally on Palm Sunday (9th April) we will be hosting concert of Charles Wesley’s
hymns at 6.30pm in place of our usual evening service. Please put this date into
your diaries and watch out for more information.
Details of the special services for Holy Week and Easter will be in April’s magazine.