Monday, January 09, 2017

Happy Plough Monday

Today is Plough Monday, the first Monday after the feast of the Epiphany, when traditionally work started again after the twelve days of the Christmas feast. It was the start of the agricultural year, and people would follow a plough around their area looking for work, or asking for money if there was none. king for money if there was no work, sometimes dragging a plough with them. They might sing, dance or act out mummers plays hoping to gather enough contributions to take them through the hard times when the ground was frozen or too wet to work. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plough_Monday

For many of us work is getting back into full swing at this point too. Life is returning to "normal", whatever that is!

For me that means tackling the annual returns to the  C of E of attendances, baptisms, weddings and funerals etc. which is always more complicated than it seems, and tedious beyond belief. There's a pile of paperwork to sort through, and I really need to get down to writing the Lent course we're going to do in more detail...(Sing to the Lord - something based around hymns - watch this space!) ...

What does your Plough Monday hold? Whatever it is, let's look for God in it! He's there in the boring things as well as the candlelight and glitter of Christmas (in fact that's really the point of Christmas - the Word becomes Flesh in the everyday things of life).

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

Howard Thurman (Howard Thurman, an African-American theologian, educator, and civil rights leader.)

And here's a song (two actually), from Magpie Lane to speed your "ploughing" along whatever it consists of... (It's an ancient and rather dark video, but the music is good!)


And here's a film about the Plough Monday celebrations in Maldon, which include the plough blessing in church and the procession with Molly Dancers. The cross-dressing and blacking up of faces was an ancient way of disguising your identity - you might not want your employers to know you were looking for "moonlighting" work. It's not related to the later "black-face minstrel" tradition in which white people imitates (and often mocked) people of colour, but a much older form of camouflage!

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The bad news and the good news...

Happy New Year to you.
My year didn't start brilliantly, when I went into the church hall on Wednesday Jan 4 to find this...
Vandals had broken into the hall, probably on the afternoon of Jan 2, and made quite a mess. A lot of crockery had been broken - we were storing it on the stage while the kitchen was being refurbished. The police found some fingerprints which might identify the culprits of the damage if they are already on their radar, which they might well be. If you saw or heard anything on Monday afternoon, though, please let me know so I can pass on the information to the police. 

Yes, that is the remains of the tea urn on the floor - not much of it left. The wine bottle was empty (unsurprisingly)  as was another which had been broken - there was glass everywhere. 


They had broken in through the back room window.

They had had less success trying to break the toughened glass in the inner doors, but they were extensively cracked. 



Mercifully the new kitchen was undamaged, except for the plate of spaghetti hoops which they had thrown at the wall...



So what is the good news...? It is these folk, who came in on Thursday  morning  and laboured long and hard to clear up.  Many thanks to Marion, Jill, Nicky, Sally and Rosemary (not in this photo), to Jenny, who came along with fortifying home baked cookies, and to Martin Clews who liaised with the insurance company and the glaziers very promptly and efficiently with the result that...

The hall is now back in good order. We have swept and hoovered and sorted, and the glaziers came very promptly to replace the glass. 



We even discovered that spaghetti hoops in tomato sauce CAN be washed off walls without leaving a stain - I really thought we'd have to repaint the wall, but Marion applied detergent and elbow grease and all is now well.

And here's a sneak peek at the refurbished kitchen, which we are going to officially declare open tomorrow at 12 noon , at the end of the Friday Group. Come along if you'd like to have a look for yourself.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

One Word: Love

Love

God’s love was revealed among us in this way; God sent his only son in to the world so that we might live through him. 1 John 4.9
  • God gave us Jesus because he loved us, pure and simple; no strings, no conditions, no hidden agendas. Who has shown you love in your life? What has your response been to that love?
  • How did people at the time see God’s love revealed in Jesus?
  • The writer of the first letter of John says that God’s love enabled us to “live through him”. What effect does it have on us when we know we are loved?
  • God’s love is perfect; ours isn’t Are there any relationships you need to mend this Christmas?


Friday, December 23, 2016

One Word: Gift

Gift
A child has been born for us, a son given to us. Isaiah 9.6
God so loved the world that he gave his only son. John 3.16

  • How do you feel about the “gift-giving” element of Christmas? Do you enjoy choosing gifts for people, or is it stressful or fraught with complications for you?
  • Are there people you feel you have to give gifts to, even if you don’t like them, or they you?
  • Do you find it easy to receive gifts, or do you tend to say “you shouldn’t have”?
  • Jesus is described as God’s gift to us – unearned and undeserved. What do you think of this and what is your response to it?



Thursday, December 22, 2016

One Word: Light

Light

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1.5
The true light which enlightens everyone was coming into the world. John 1.9
  • Why do you think John described Jesus as being like a light? How did he light up people’s lives? Do you feel he is a light to you?
  • How do you feel about darkness? Have you ever been frightened of it? If so, why?
  • What is the deepest darkness (physical or emotional) you have known?
  • What or who has lit up your darkness? 


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

One Word: Favoured

Favoured

The angel said to Mary, “Greetings favoured one, the Lord is with you.” Luke 1.28

  • “Favoured” can also be translated as “graced”. (“Hail Mary, full of grace,”is the traditional translation of this verse.) Grace is the unearned gift of love, approval and goodwill given by someone with power to someone without it. What do you think Mary might have felt when she heard the angel’s words?
  • If Mary remembered these words when she watched Jesus die on the cross, what do you think she might have made of them then? Do you think she still felt “favoured”?
  • Have you ever felt favoured (or favourite) Was it a good feeling, or did it bring problems with it?
  • Do you feel favoured/graced by God? If so, how?


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

One Word: Disgrace

Disgrace

Mary’s husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. Matthew 1.19

  • When Mary was found to be pregnant before she and Joseph started living together, she was at great risk. The punishment for adultery was stoning to death. At the very least she would bring lasting shame on herself and her family. How might it have felt to be Joseph, in this position? How might it have felt to be Mary?
  • Have you ever felt in disgrace, justly or unjustly? What was it like and how did you deal with it?
  • Are there people you regard as a disgrace or of whom you feel ashamed? What can you do about this? Can “grace” be restored to them and to your relationship with them?


Monday, December 19, 2016

One Word: Glory

Glory

We have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son. John 1.14
An angel of the Lord stood before [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them. 
Luke 2.9 
  • In Hebrew thought the glory of the Lord – kabod – was visualised as a shining, weighty thing like gold. What is the most glorious thing you have ever seen?
  • How do you think people saw God’s glory in Jesus?
  • Have you ever felt glorious or been treated by others as if you were? What did it feel like?




Sunday, December 18, 2016

One Word: Flesh

Flesh

The Word became flesh and lived among us.
John 1.14

  • It was really important for the early church to proclaim theat God had come to them in real flesh and blood, in a completely human person, who ate and drank, suffered and died. Why do you think this matters so much? What difference does it make to Christian faith?
  • How do you feel about your own flesh, your body? Have you ever not liked your body?
  • What difference should it make to us that God has blessed flesh with his presence?




Saturday, December 17, 2016

One Word: Bethlehem

Bethlehem

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.
Matthew 2.6, quoting Micah 5.2

  • Bethlehem was a small, insignificant village about 5 miles from Jerusalem, the kind of place no one expected anything significant to happen yet it had been the birthplace of King David, which was why prophecies said that the Messiah would be born there. What do you think it would feel like to be a long-term resident of Bethlehem?
  • We are often surprised when something newsworthy happens in our own backyard. Why do you think that feel like that?
  • It’s good to feel proud of and love the place we live in , but that pride and love can easily become destructive, exclusive nationalism. How do we get the balance right?


Friday, December 16, 2016

One Word: Emmanuel

Emmanuel

Look the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel.
Matthew 1.23, quoting Isaiah 7.14

  • Emmanuel means "God is with us". Jesus’ first followers believed that in him, God was with them in a new and special way. Why do you think they thought that? What did they see of God in him?
  • How do you think God is with you now (if you do)?
  • Where have you seen God’s presence in your life, if you have?
  • How might you look for God’s presence in your daily life today?


Thursday, December 15, 2016

One Word: Message

Message

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth.
Luke 1.26

  • The nativity story is full of messengers, the literal meaning of the word translated as “angel” in the Bible (angellos). What would it feel like to be entrusted with the messages the angels bring?
  • Have you ever had to be a “messenger” taking news, good or bad, on someone else’s behalf? What happened and what did it feel like?
  • What is the message of Christmas for you? Is there more than one message? Has that message changed for you over time?


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

One Word: Joy

Joy

The angel said to the shepherds, “I am bringing you good news of great joy.” Luke 2.10

  • The angels announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds as “good news of great joy”. Why do you think the shepherds might have found joy in this news?
  • When have you had joyful news in your life?
  • Jesus’ birth, in the midst of fear and danger, led to a life of hardship and eventual crucifixion. How could this be called “joy”? Is there a difference between joy and happiness?
  • How joyful do you feel today? How might you find joy in your life today, and bring joy to someone else?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

One Word: King

King

The wise men asked Herod, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?”
Matthew 2.2

  • The wise men’s question to King Herod sent him into a panic, which turned to murderous rage. Have you ever felt threatened by someone you thought had their eye on “your” job or position? What did you do? 
  • What images does the word “king” create in your mind?
  • Who has authority over you in your daily life? How do you feel about their “rule” over you?
  • What does it mean to you to call Jesus “king”? How is his rule seen in your life?


Monday, December 12, 2016

One Word: Chosen

Chosen

Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.” Luke 1.46-48
  • Mary was astonished to have been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. Have you ever been surprised to be chosen for a special role?
  • Have you ever wanted to be chosen, but not been?
  • Have you ever had to do the choosing – making a job appointment, choosing a life partner etc.? How did you make the choice and how did it feel? What were you looking for, and how did you know you’d found it?
  • Mary says that God has “looked with favour on her lowliness”. Are the qualifications we look for always the right ones? Do we overlook people who don’t push themselves forward?


Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Children's Society

Glad to be supporting the Children's Society at our #Christingle service this morning. 

http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk

There's no sermon to share, as I spoke off the cuff at this, but we thought about the importance of listening and being listened to. Mary, a teenage mother who no one would have thought was important, found that God had taken notice of her when the angel came to her. He had listened to her and people like her, who needed his help in a world where they were at the mercy of powerful people. She listened to God and understood that, though she might be frightened at the thought of bearing God's son, God loved her and was doing something good for her.
Listening is at the heart of the Children's Society's work - listening to children and young people, refugees and migrants, children who have run away from home or care, children who have disabilities or problems. If you don't listen, you can't help. The Christingle too, speaks to us (not literally - that would be rather worrying!) but through its symbolism. The orange reminds us that the world is in God's hands. The cocktail sticks tell us that whatever season of life, or corner of the world we are in (interpretations vary!) God is with us in them. The sweets remind us that God is the giver of all good things. The red ribbon reminds us that helping others, as Christ did, comes at a cost, but that suffering isn't a sign that something has gone wrong - God can be with us in that too. The candle tells us that God can shine in the darkness, however deep it is.


One Word: Room

Room

..there was no room for them at the inn.
Luke 2.7

  • Biblical commentators argue about why there was “no room”, and what exactly the “inn” was – a guest room in a relative’s house?  a public lodging place? – but the outcome is the same. There was no room for Mary, Joseph and their new-born son. Why do you think this detail in Luke’s story is important?
  • Have you ever felt squeezed out or excluded? What did it feel like and what did you do?
  • Where do you feel you really “belong” – the place where when you go there, you know there will always be room for you?
  • Who might we treat as if there is “no room” for them, in our families, workplaces, communities and world? What might that feel like?


Saturday, December 10, 2016

One Word: Journey

Journey

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…to be registered with Mary. Luke 2.3-4

  • There are many journeys in the nativity story. Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, when she hears she is pregnant. She and Joseph travel to Bethlehem. The wise men come from the east, following the star. Joseph , Mary and Jesus flee to Egypt to escape Herod. How might it have felt to make these journeys?
  • Do you like travelling, or do you prefer to stay at home? Why?
  • Have you ever had to make a journey you didn’t want to make? Why was that, and what happened?


Friday, December 09, 2016

One Word: Born

Born
…to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
Luke 2.11

  • Have you given birth or been present at, or shortly after a birth. What was it like to greet a new-born child? What did you think and feel? 
  • What stories do you know about your own birth – maybe there are some photos? What do you know about how others felt about your birth?
  • If you could say one thing to a new-born child today, what would it be?
  • John’s Gospel says “what has come into being in Christ, is life, and the life is the light of all people” John 1.4. What do you think this means? What came into being through your birth? 


Thursday, December 08, 2016

One Word: Manger

Manger

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger… Luke 2.7

  • Where do you sleep best? Have you ever fallen asleep in an unlikely place?
  • Where did you sleep as a child, and what was your sleep like?
  • What would it be like to sleep in a manger, or to put your child to sleep in a manger?
  • What do you think the animals, and those who looked after the animals, thought of this?

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

One Word: Fear

Fear

Then an angel of the Lord stood before the shepherds and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said, “do not be afraid, for see- I am bringing you good news of great joy.
 Luke 2.9-10.
[When King Herod heard that the Wise Men had arrived] he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him. Matthew 2.3

  • When were you last afraid, and why?
  • What helps you to deal with your fears?
  • Have you ever been afraid of something it turned out you didn’t need to fear?
  • Fear can be a warning, and a necessary challenge (as it is to King Herod). Can you think of a time when it has been good that you were afraid, or when you should have been, but weren’t?


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

One Word: Peace

Peace

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’                        Luke 2.13-14


  • How would you define peace? What does it mean to you?
  • When in your life have you felt most deeply at peace? When have you felt furthest from it?
  • The peace the angels promised to the shepherds wasn’t an absence of trouble; there was plenty of that in the lives of Jesus and his followers, including his painful death on the cross. It was the knowledge that they were securely held in the love of God, whatever happened. How secure do you feel in God’s love?


Monday, December 05, 2016

Christingle service this Sunday at 10am


One Word: Danger

Danger

 Now after the Magi had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Matthew 2.13

  • Jesus was born into danger. In Matthew’s Gospel, he is at risk from King Herod; in Luke’s Gospel he is born homeless, as a result of the decision of the far-off Roman Emperor who orders a census which necessitates a long journey away from home.
  • What dangers do you think he and his family faced?
  • What dangers do you think the world today faces? Which do you think is our greatest danger?
  • Are you good in a crisis? What lessons has your life taught you to help you cope with danger?

Sunday, December 04, 2016

One Word: Child

Child

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11.6

  • Children were symbols of vulnerability and powerlessness in the times of the Bible, because that was the reality of their lives. What words or phrases do you associate with the word “child”?
  • If you could describe your childhood in three words, what would they be?
  • “A little child shall lead them”. Jesus didn’t come as a mighty warrior, but as a little child. What difference should that make to Christian faith?
  • What lead might the children in our lives and our world be trying to give us today? How can we listen to them better?