Jesus says ‘come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest’.
God is just as happy for us to enjoy being in His love as busying ourselves ‘doing’ love. The 4th century church father, Augustine, wrote about experiencing God’s embrace when he was feeling troubled and stressed. He said he was a burden to himself but God ‘caressed his head, closed his eyes and lulled him to sleep’ from which he awoke to discover himself calmed and healed.
Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to accept God’s invitation to rest in the Lord. It takes effort. But it proves to be enjoyable and worthwhile. And it allows us to let God into our lives, which is exactly where God wants to be.
Here is a suggestion if you are out and about this summer.
Find a historic church, maybe just a local parish church, that is open. Go in and sit quietly on a pew. Look around at the architecture of the church. It’s designed to open your eyes to God. For example, the windows are symbolic of God’s light, full of truth and knowledge. Some windows may portray Biblical stories, or events, in stained glass. Decorative features in a church are often meant to symbolise the richness of heaven – look closely at the floor, ceiling and doors. Elaborate choir stalls enable singers to be set apart as they send God’s praises heavenwards. The altar and communion table represent the community of God, a coming together of believers - past, present and future.
As you sit and look around, reflect on the people that have worshipped in that church over the years, maybe over centuries, keeping the faith in that place. Listen for any sounds, perhaps music, voices, footsteps. Perhaps silence. Reflect on your place in the great cycle of praise and worship that continues unabated around the world and know that you belong. And in the stillness enjoy God’s presence. Just be.
Of course, that is only a suggestion. You can rest in the Lord in all sorts of places, indoors and outdoors. The important thing is to allow ourselves time for being with God without distraction or interruption. And the long days of summer are just right when you want to just be.
Jill Nugent @ Cheshunt
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Journeying through Lent
‘I wandered lonely as a cloud, That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of golden daffodils’…
Familiar words from William Wordsworth’s famous poem, written after taking a walk with his sister around Ullswater in the Lake District. And perhaps a familiar sight too. Daffodils accompany us throughout the time of Lent; appearing in gardens, parks and byways at the beginning of spring; gifted to mums on Mothering Sunday; planted in Easter gardens on Good Friday and then decorating an empty cross on Easter Sunday.
Daffodils are beautiful, reflecting as all flowers do, the beauty of God the creator. Flowers evolved 140 million years ago. Fossil flowers found in Portugal show the initial stages of evolution, since when flowers have diversified into the many species we see today. However, the reason plants evolved to produce flowers is not for our benefit, but in order to reproduce, by transferring pollen from one to another. Beauty and practicality combined.
As we journey through Lent towards Easter daffodils can symbolise for us those two aspects of God’s character – beauty and practicality. In the book of Deuteronomy the Israelites are reminded by Moses that – ‘the Lord your God is God’. God is glorious and holy. God is our God, beyond our imagining, quite beautiful. God is also a practical God, working out the best for creation, of which we are a part. That is why the Easter story, though harrowing in parts, culminates in the beauty of the resurrection.
As the season moves on daffodils fade and their beauty returns to the bulbs, hidden in the ground. But come next spring that beauty will be on display yet again, adding a sparkle to life – in words from the poem
…‘my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.'
In the same way we reconnect to the Easter story every year, rediscovering the core of the Christian faith. Luke in his Gospel tells the story of Emmaus, when disciples of Jesus had their ‘eyes opened’ to the meaning of the resurrection and, in a sense, began transferring pollen - the seeds of the good news - to others, a process that continues unabated today. From tiny seeds God enables eyes, hearts and minds to be opened to the beauty of faith.
Happy Easter ! Jill
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We have been awarded a Bronze Award for our work, as a church, to promote care for God's earth.
Now we plan to work towards a silver award!
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For the whole of this year, Advent 2018 - Advent 2019, the Lectionary (the preaching programme that takes us through the Bible) has as its focus the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of Luke is in many ways unique amongst the four Gospels. It is sometimes known as the Gospel of Amazement, because many people in the Gospel accounts were amazed at what Jesus did. In fact Luke uses five different Greek words to describe their amazement.
Luke was a doctor and you’ll also find many references to medical ailments and miraculous healings. It’s possible Luke came from the slave community. He shows great concern for the marginalised people in society, including women and children. Perhaps most importantly, Luke was a Gentile, not a Jew. So he writes from the perspective of one who came to faith by another route.
Luke includes various songs in his Gospel and obviously believed in the power of prayer. He writes about Jesus praying, often, and has a notably short Lord’s Prayer, often known as the Lukan Lord’s Prayer. Luke understood the spiritual life as a journey and his Gospel can be seen as merely the story of a journey for Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem. But it was a fascinating journey!
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Walking the way of Jesus, as we are encouraged to do more actively and more positively, is a lifetime journey. The Bible can help us find the right way. In the Old Testament, the leaders of the faith gave the Israelites three instructions – as you journey remember what God has done, make a choice to stick close to God and be a witness for God. There are always distractions along the way, obstacles to get around and cross ways, where decisions need to be made. But the important thing is to recognise that, in difficult places, we learn and eventually come through to a better place. Then we have much to tell about God.
In the new Testament, Paul reminds us to keep our eyes on Jesus. He is the way. If we stray he brings us back. His is a way of love, justice and peace, a way that we should all take care to follow closely. It is a way that encourages us to serve and to witness too. As we follow his way we grow closer to God. We might stop growing physically, but we continue growing in our relationship with God. That never stops. And the more people we can encourage to walk with us, the more enjoyable and blessed our walk becomes.
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