Love

by Revd Natasha Brady

February sweeps in so quickly, it seems, on the back of January. The shops have just finished their sales … and little red and pink love hearts start fluttering their way across shop windows signalling that the time for love and romance is upon us.  Valentine’s day is close at hand. That day when folk of all ages go gooey and send soppy cards, buy cute looking teddies and spend hours looking for the right words to express how they feel on the internet …

But what is love? I was reading an article recently, in a newspaper, and they had taken the time to ask a panel of experts to share with us what they thought love is …  So a Physicist said, “love is chemistry”, the Psychotherapist : “love has many guises”, the Philosopher : “love is passionate commitment”, the romantic novelist : “love drives all great stories”, and a Nun : “love is free yet binds us.”

I mused and digested these thoughts … trying to understand them.

Scientifically speaking when we form attachments, chemical bonds form in our brain, causing long term changes to how we think about a person, so yes I get that.  It’s the biggest difference between a crush and something more long term. Potentially lifelong, we hope, if it causes such huge changes… hence the immense pain and heartache when that love ends.  I presume the bonds in our brain are severed, that’s got to hurt! Or at the very least start pulling apart over time, to release us from the love that we chemically feel.

The guises of love that the psychotherapist identified broadened the meaning of what it is to love. It’s more than just the love between two people, who are ‘in love’. ‘Love’ only has four letters. It’s such a small word, yet it encompasses such a huge breadth of relationship types. There are so many ways to love … friendship, family, neighbourly, self. And we feel these types of love all at the same time, across a huge array of people. But that isn’t what love is …it’s who we love.

The Philosophist talks about passionately committing time and energy to love.  It needs nurturing, feeding, otherwise it won’t grow. The consequence of lack of nurture is that love dies. I get that completely, but that is not what love is … it is what love needs.

When love exists it can be a powerful force that motivates and causes actions to be taken, so it is the perfect emotion to use in story writing.  It moves things along and gives the writer a vehicle for driving the plot along many twisting and winding roads. But is love just a powerful force that shapes real life stories? There are so many other emotions that have that same potential and create about a good story. If love is limited to being just a plot devise in our lives then that would make it a one dimensional, flat existence really. I’m not convinced by that thought.

Then we get a Christian perspective from a Nun … ‘love is free yet binds us’. I look and I stare at her words. They are hard to take in. What does she mean? For me I see something that I can’t see quite so easily in the other viewpoints.  I see love as a complete and separate thing that exists beyond us.  It is free, so it has no-one and nothing that it has to part of to exist. It just is.  Yet this thing we call love, which doesn’t seem to need us is vital and necessary for us to be brought close to one another.  It binds, so it ties us closely to each other.  It gives us the capacity to be in relationships with one another through itself.  There doesn’t seem to be any benefit to this thing called love for doing it. Yet it does it anyway, for us. We gain so much from this love thing.  Friendships, kindness, compassion, companionship, passion.  It asks for nothing in return. I think I’ve worked out what love is … It’s Jesus.

Paraclesis: our new sermon series

We will be starting our sermon and life group series, Paraclesis: Journeying Together on 24th February. This series, developed by CWR, “encourages people to come alongside others who are struggling with life’s challenges. It offers the Church a fresh perspective on pastoral care and journeying together – the way that God journeys alongside us.”

Our aim as a Church family is to challenge ourselves afresh, grow spiritually and re-invigorate our daily lives so that they truly reflect the journey we are on with Jesus.  This season of teaching will help us to dig deeper into the gospel and give us practical, usable ways in which we can live out the life we have been inspired to live by Jesus’s story.

We all long to be fired up, passionate, caring people, shining out the love of God to all we meet, but sometimes it can be hard to know how to do so, in an appropriate way.  Therefore over the course of this six week series we intend to journey together, affirming one another, and encouraging each other’s endeavours so we can truly answer such questions as ‘Who Cares?’ with ‘We Care’; backing those words up with actions inspired by God’s heart for our community.

Each Sunday’s sermon teachings will be followed up by the Life Groups that week and there will be an Open Group at the Vicarage on Thursday evenings starting 28th Feb from 7.30-9pm. Please speak to Natasha if you would like to join in.

kids walking togetherThere are 6 sessions in the series:

24th Feb Caring
3rd March Loving
10th March Journeying
17th March Living
24th March Healing
(31st March Mothering Sunday)
7th April Connecting

To watch an introduction to the series, click here.

World Leprosy Day 27th January

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Sunday 27th January was World Leprosy Day. Our church has supported the Nepal Leprosy Trust over the last few years so we marked the occasion with a cake sale at all three services and Matthew Wetherall, who is a trustee of this Christian organisation, gave us an update on the work of the NLT:

Today is World Leprosy Day, when people across the world are encouraged to think about leprosy, with this year’s theme being ending discrimination, stigma and prejudice.

NLT’s goal is to eradicate leprosy in Nepal, and to help people affected by leprosy, their families and communities, specifically to lift their lives out of poverty and disadvantage and enjoy health, well-being & respect.

We achieve this through medical treatment, and importantly through social education and village development projects, targeting individuals, small groups and wider communities.

The hospital at Lalgadh is possibly the busiest leprosy hospital in the world with patients being seen every 30 seconds, 1 in 10 of whom have leprosy.

Our church funded the operation of the self-care training centre for a couple of years which equips people with leprosy, through a two week training programme, to look after themselves both physically and mentally when they return to their communities.

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Matthew visited Badri’s family in 2016

Just one of the families who have a new hope thanks to support from NLT: Badri Shrestha, whose hands and feet have been damaged by leprosy, and his wife Somwati have two sons with cerebral palsy. Previously they lived in a house which was poorly located: Badri and his wife had to go away from the home to bring in an income, resulting in having to leave the children at home alone or struggling to afford support, without prospects for a better future.

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September 2018 – The new house

Through help from our church and other donors, we helped support them in getting a new home by a road, whereby Somwati will be able to set up a shop at their house to earn an income whilst looking after the boys. They are truly grateful and now have a sustainable solution for the future.

The church at Lalgadh has recently celebrated their 25th anniversary. Prior to that there was one church 100km to the east and one 150km to the west. At the celebration service, 40 local pastors turned up, which is testament of how God’s love has been demonstrated in the area over these last 25 years.

Lastly a big thank you to Hilda Rabbit and Tina Edwards, who have organised support events in Stoke Poges for NLT over the last few years.

If you would like to get involved or for further information:

  • Visit www.nlt.org.uk
  • Hilda is holding prayer meetings at her house on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 8pm so the next meeting will be on Tuesday 19th February. All welcome – please let Hilda know if you plan to come.
  • Please talk to Matthew at a Sunday service if you want to find out more about NLT and how you can help.
  • And please continue to pray for the eradication of leprosy and end of discrimination. Amen!

God is good – all the time

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God’s been good to me this week. Ok, I know God is good every week, but this week, I actually noticed.

It was my turn to lead worship this week, with my trusty MP3 player. Up until now, it was a task I dreaded – the technology had me tearing my hair out, nothing was in the right key or tempo and frankly trying to find cheerful carols had me almost ready to jump ship.

However, a few things happened this week to encourage me…

Firstly, we decided to pick up a Bob Goff course in our life group – Love Does. Watching the study introduction, reading a bit about Bob’s work and the little internet trail it led to, had a good vibe. It helped me make a few decisions, turn the corner from a season of overload and shake off some dust (literally). And it’s not like I’d never heard of Bob before, but God decided it was time for me to pay attention to his message.

So with Bob’s optimistic vibe, I cracked on with planning the worship.

Then some timely resources came my way, with some positive reinforcement and encouragement attached – a heaven-sent combination. One of these was a website I had looked at before, but when I tried to create an account last time, it asked for a US land address and I gave up. This time, (God made me do it) I ignored that section and just pressed “submit” – geddit? – and it let me in! Ha! This turned out to be an amazing mine of information as well as offering free streamed music to help me decide what to use. A mini-epiphany of its own.

With approval from Natasha for the music, I decided not to fight the technology but take a couple of easier options, had a bit of a practice in my car (teen taxi) during the week and lo! the worship was sorted.

One of Bob Goff’s recommendations is to “quit something every Thursday”, which was the homework for this week. We wondered in our life group how much Bob must have had on his plate in the first place, to be able to continually quit something every Thursday. Then we thought – if he is anything like us, what he quits on Thursday he picks straight up again on Friday! Like us, he may have been working on the same things for a while. Maybe he is including “quitting” putting something off that we know we should get on with; or stopping worrying about the same thing over and over again. Maybe he is not talking about giving up chocolate, but giving up boasting or criticising others, or putting ourselves down; instead of leaving a job, giving up suffering in silence (or moaning loudly!) and asking for some help.

Over the last few sermons, God’ s signs seem to be pointing us to take stock and incubate ready for the next season; to spend time trying to hear and see what he is showing us and consider how to respond. I’m a bit worried that this will involve adding to my multiple “to do” lists but maybe I just need to add more to my new list entitled “to stop”. Then I’ll have a chance to notice that God is good – all the time.

 

 

Easter Eggs in the shops

easter eggs in shopsWe struggled with having tinsel in the shops in September and the festive pop on the radio since mid-November, then we snap our fingers after Christmas Day and there are Easter eggs in the Co-op *sigh*.

But it’s all very well for us to tut and roll our eyes at the shops having Easter eggs already – look at this week’s Bible reading. Two weeks ago, Jesus was born in a manger, last week he was a toddler being visited by magi and this week, he was a grown man, about to start his short but illustrious preaching career and being baptised in the river Jordan. Talk about moving swiftly on!

However, far from skipping straight to Easter, Archdeacon Guy Elsmore explained this Sunday that thirty years had passed “unremarkably” for Jesus whilst he grew up, learnt his earthly father’s trade and matured into the role His heavenly Father had planned for Him. He spent this time preparing for what was to come.

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If you remember or listen again to Natasha’s sermon from 6th January, she was encouraging us in this season of Epiphany, to hold on to the whole point of Christmas – God’s gift to us and the transformation this brings. Over the next few weeks, we are asking ourselves what we can give to God or to others around us, in return for this Great Gift? Later this term we will be exploring this in a sermon series called Paraclesis, but in the meantime, give yourself some preparation time and give God a chance to remind you of your gifts. If you took a treasure box home, make some notes and store them to be revealed later…

And just to keep Christmas in our hearts a little longer, here are a few photos from Christmas Eve:

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7Up: Meeting Jesus

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7Up meets on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month in the coffee shop and is growing in strength and number every term, thanks to Simon’s leadership and Natasha, Susanne and Tara’s support. They have arranged to have one hour sessions once a month, meeting for the whole of the 10.30 Family Service, to look at a subject in more depth. Simon shares a bit about their last session…

The theme for last time was Meeting Jesus. We looked at different ways in which Jesus has been portrayed in art over the centuries and on the internet more recently.

We each chose a picture showing the Jesus we would want to meet and have a selfie with, and shared why / what that picture of Jesus meant to us. Oliver chose Jesus on the cross because it showed what Jesus has done for him. Alistair, Mariam and I chose two figurative, one more abstract, of Jesus stretching out his hand or arms to us to welcome or help us.

We then chose one of those pics for us all to have a selfie with Him – did you notice he is in the picture at the top?!

It was great fun of exploring how we individually relate to Jesus.

We ended the session with creating (max 4 word) prayers to Jesus in magnetic letters on the coffee shop fridges, while listening to Jesus Be the Centre and shared more about those prayers with each other.

What a privilege!

If you or someone you know is in Year 7 or above and would like to come and join in this fun and supportive group, please contact Simon via the church office for more information, or turn up to St Andrew’s at 10.30 on a 2nd or 4th Sunday of the month.

A Christmas Day Message: Remember…

by Revd Natasha Brady

Now Christmas day is finally here, what do we do now? Do we just stay indoors, and snuggle up close to a fire or under a warm blanket, eating those Christmas chocolates we bought on special offer for the ‘big day’, or should we be plotting and planning our summer getaways for 2019? Dreaming of warmer climes and crystal blue seas.

I find the few days rest between the chaos of preparing to meet with Jesus afresh and the New Year can give us a precious moment to just remember who we are, the place we inhabit on this earth and the capacity we have within us to be the creative, gifted, people of God, Jesus came to free us to be. Yet, this gap in our calendars can be seen as dead space, the no-mans land between Christmas cheer and New Years Celebrations, where nothing much really happens. Its a dormant space, like the winter season it sits in, but I wonder if we can use this fallow time, to remember. Remember that as people we all have the capacity to feel, make, assume certain roles in life, roles that maybe even we either live up or down to … that is what others think or expect of us.

I want us to remember  that, as people, we have the capacity to see the beauty of the natural world around us and marvel at its intricacies and anomalies.  Just think of a spiders web, hanging on a door frame, on a chilly, crisp Winter morning.  It looks like lace work of the finest quality, yet it is so fragile and temporary. Isn’t it amazing how generous God has been to our little arachnid friends (and I use the term “friend” loosely, because I struggle to love spiders ) to plant within them such a gift of creativity?  And for what purpose is this creative gift for, why has he endowed them with such skills? To catch food.  What extravagance!

I want us to remember that we too have gifting and talents just laying there, as dormant as the sleeping trees of winter, waiting to be awoken.  All we need to do to reactivate them is to remember who we are.  We are the wonderful creation of our Father God …. made in his image, loved unreservedly, and called to be his lights in this dark and dusky world.  Once we have grasped that then we will have a much stronger sense of who we are and why we exist.  We will remember, why it was a so important that God sent his Son down to earth, on that first Christmas day.  We will remember that he did that to rescue us from a dormant, dead life, that leads nowhere, and inspires no vibrancy or creativity or appreciation of beauty or gives us any sense of peace.

Because it is from that renewed memory, we will remember that we are meant to be be intricately connected to God.  That connection brings with it a knowledge of and understanding of what God has given us, from before we were even knitted together in our Mother’s wombs … and that is God’s inner radiance and strength. Which sustains and renews us not just through dark nights and short days, but every day.  So let us remember, to use this opportunity of being in this fallow time, to draw closer to the source of all life, God the Father, and continue to remember the coming of his Son, whom he sent in love to save us, and be inspired by His Spirit to be all that God has created us to be.

Merry Christmas and God bless – Revd Natasha x

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