Family Worship – Road to Emmaus

Opening Prayer
We need your presence on the long road, Lord.
The road between fear and hope,
the road between the place where all is lost and the place of resurrection.
Like the disciples walking the road to Emmaus, we are in need of your company!
Jesus, stand among us, in your risen power, let this time of worship, be a holy hour. Amen
(From Re:Worship)

Song – In Christ Alone.

Game – I Spy

Theme – If you haven’t guessed by now, our theme for today is all about seeing. We’ll have a story in a few moments about two men who couldn’t see what was right in front of them.
Sometimes we don’t see the things around us. Like our game, we needed more than one guess know what is around us.

To be able to see something, we need to look for it. That sounds simple enough, but we don’t always do it.
I remember when I bought my first car. I was looking at different styles, and even different colours. And after I’d seen a car I liked, I was surprised in the days after how many of the same car I’d seen!!!

It also happened to me in school, when we were learning about something in particular, like birds, or the project we did about litter and rubbish, you start seeing it everywhere.

We need to make a special effort to see what is around us.
Before we hear our reading for today lets (try) and sing our second song (with the words)

Song – God’s not dead.

Story – The Lion Storyteller Bible – The Road to Emmaus

Talk – It’s easy for us to look at these two men, these friends of Jesus as being very silly and stupid. How could they not see their friend?? I’d hope that if I started walking with you down the street, that you would recognise me, and not think I was a stranger. But these so called friends didn’t know they were walking with Jesus.

They thought he was dead. They’d probably seen him die, just a few days earlier. So the last thing they had been expecting was to see Jesus, alive and walking around. Jesus felt very far away for them.

Sometimes Jesus seems very far away from us as well. We know that Jesus is alive and is with us. But we don’t always feel it. And there are many things that can stop us seeing Jesus in our lives. One of the most common problems is that they are too busy.
We have lots of things in our life that keep us busy don’t we. Work, school, families, friends, tv, reading, playing, shopping, gardening, cooking, cleaning, going out, and so on and so on. There are only 24 hours in each day but we like to fill them all up.
And when we get too busy, often the first thing to go, is our time to talk and listen to God. We forget about God, and we stop seeing him around.
Selfishness can also stop us from seeing Jesus around us. When we think only about ourselves and what we want. Or when we think, ‘What can I get from God today?’ ‘What can God do for me?’

This is not the belief that we share because believing in Jesus means that our questions are not about what we can get, but rather, what can I do to give thanks for this world God has given us, and this life, with all its good things.

If we think only about ourselves, we will miss Jesus, when we talk only about ourselves, we miss Jesus, when everything is about us, we will miss Jesus.

Jesus’ friends were so busy talking, and walking, that they missed what was in front of them until they stopped that evening. It wasn’t until they stopped and shared something together that they realised Jesus had been with them the whole time. And it’s not until we stop and listen that we’ll realise that Jesus is always with us.

Jesus told us that we have to love God, and we have to love each other. And when we do these two things, we will see Jesus around us.

So what can we do?
We need to stop sometimes. We need to make time to talk and listen to God. And we need to be reminded of all the things that we have around us. We need to stop and look, and see what is in front of us. And then say thank you.
Lord, help us not to miss you. Help us to stop and open our eyes to you at work in our lives.
Amen.

Song – Open our eyes Lord

Prayers – Post it thank you.

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Song – Alleluia, alleluia

Blessing and dismissal

Jam Sul & BBC Radio Cymru, April 2014

Jam Sul, BBC Radio Cymru April
Jam Sul April

I’ve written before about Jam Sul, but this month Radio Cymru came to record and interview people in Jam Sul about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. It was really good to have them here.

Here is what they broadcast on the 18th April.

The Next Jam Sul is the 4th May
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Jam Sul – April 2014

Jam Sul poster April 2014Ok, so Jam Sul is an experiment of ‘cafe church’ that we have been trying out for the last few months. This is our third month and I think I’m safe in saying so-far-so-good. Attendance has grown with each one and the word is getting around that the church is doing something new – ‘shock’! Our intention has been to do something truly family friendly for people who would not dream of coming to an average Sunday morning service, those on the fringe of church, and those who we’ve just been able to drag in.

It’s true that at first some people came along without even knowing it is a church event. They just came to play some music, to ‘jam’. We had a lovely comment after the end of last months from one of the guitarists, he said ‘I never thought I’d be hanging around with people [Christians] like you’.

This month we had the title of ‘Alive or Dead’, which initially we thought of doing the Easter story. But on second and third thought we decided we’d like to try and get some people coming to our Holy Week events, so we shifted to the story of Lazarus which was the set gospel for this Sunday (Lent 5 Year A).

The set up is very relaxed, people sat around tables, in the location we;re currently at there is a cafe next door which people can get drinks and cake from, and there are some welcoming activities to get people talking; this time it was drawing faces with different expressions on and identifying the different emotions on drawn faces. We have some modern Christian music played by our ‘band’, usually 4 or 5 songs in the time, and a range of different activities, crafts, games and stories all based on our chosen theme. Towards the end of the hour there is usually some quiet time and space for reflection with a psalm being read out with some incidental music played in the background.

Each time has been different.

We are going to be continuing the experiment and seeing where it takes us. Watch this space……..

 

Sermon John 11. 1-45 Bound by fear, released by love.

Here is my draft reflection/ sermon for the morning. I think I’ve rambled too much in the middle, and lost concentration by the end, but I’ll look again at them before I preach it. It’s very short, but it never stays like that when I preach.

John 11.1-45

Fhew! I hope you would excuse me if I took a few breaths after reading all of that! Our gospel today is one of the longest in our lectionary. Sometimes, I don’t understand what they were thinking when long readings appear on a Sunday morning, but this week I’ll forgive them, because the story of Lazarus can’t really be divided.

“Lazarus, come out!”

And the dead live.

I don’t blame the on-lookers for being astonished when Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb, death is usually so…..final….that for someone to command the dead to walk, and the dead actually responding must have been something beyond belief, and if we’re honest, quite frightening.

But even though his is called to new life, he is still confined, and constrained by all the trappings of death.

“The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.” John 11. 44

Alive, but bound. How many of us would that describe?

There are many things in life that can bind us, that can constrain us, that can keep us [as prisoners] in darkness, and away from the true light of life.

Even when we hear Jesus calling into life, and the joy he offers us, there are many things in life that weigh us down. I wonder what are the heavy things that are trapping you today?

Maybe the expectations of others? The heavy load of work we took on because we couldn’t say ‘no’? Maybe you’re bound by the limitations you set yourself, by continuing to carry a burden from days, months, years ago? By believing the unkind words of others, or dwelling on a hasty judgment from the distant past.

Maybe you are limited by your fear of failing. Or scared of what others will think?

There are many things that can bind an individual.

What things do you think are currently binding the church?

Fear of change as we continue down the path of ministry areas? Fear of sharing the little we have with others and spreading our resources too thinly. Nostalgia for the past? To a time when church going was in the basis nature of society? Maybe it’s our fondness for our buildings, and the buildings being our property which stops us from re-imagining what church can be for those lost generations?

What about the churches fear of upsetting people, and our need to keep unity above all else?

There are so many things that bind us, that trap us, that keep us in a state that is not life. Bound in our grave clothes, unable to move, unable to see what is around us.

[There has been one passage from Isaiah 61 which has been floating around my head for the past few weeks, it’s one you should know quite well by now because it’s been read at every PCC we’ve had in the last few month.

“ to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners”]

Death, or lack of life can come in many forms.

Jesus calls us to life. We are called not just to release ourselves, but also others around us.

“Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”” John 11.35-36

Shaking off those things that bind us can be a difficult possess, but not an impossible one. Jesus brings life, not just to those who are dead, but also to those who are dying due to the things that bind them.

Love can release so many burdens, and release so many binds. It is love that can cast away the fear that holds us so tight. It is love that can “Take off the grave clothes and let [us] go.” John 11.44

On this Passion Sunday, pray that God will once again put a new life within us and that during this passion and Easter season we might be transformed to live by God’s spirit and create the kingdom of God on earth.

Cana-mi-Gei Choir, St Tanwg’s Harlech 23rd June 2013

Here are 3 snippets from last nights concert in St Tanwg’s Church, Harlech. Cana-mi-Gei are a very talented local ladies choir and as you’ll be able to hear, they are sometimes joined by one or two men. We are looking forward to their next performances.

I hope you enjoy them!

125 years of St David’s Glanadda, and my early vocation

This week I was invited to a celebratory service of 125 years of St David’s, Glanadda, Bangor, where I first found the courage to act upon my sense of calling and formally start exploring my vocation.

It was strange and wonderful to be back. The building is often likened to Marmite, you either love it or you hate it. It’s a barn of a building, tall and dark, but for me there is a warmth that welcomes you in. Your eye is pulled up to the alter and your attention is fixed.

Of course the building holds great memories for me, a lot happened over the 4 years I was there, but with any church it’s the people that are the most important. And in many ways it seemed like nothing had changed since the first time I walked through those doors, the familiar chattering before the service continues as many of the same people go about the same jobs and the faint music from the choir drifts up from the vestries down stairs.

It was strange to be back.

As well as it being the place where I first acted upon my calling, it’s the place that encouraged and nourished me in those early years. I preached my first sermon there, carried out my first home visits, led my first services, and chaired my first congregational meetings. I was able to observe the PCCs and have an active role in organising coffee mornings and fetes.

I learnt so much from my time there. And it is only now, after serving two years in curacy that I am really, truly appreciating all that they taught me and all that I learnt from them.

It was lovely to see the old faces, and really good to see some new. The church was decorated in pictures from the local school, and some of the congregation couldn’t wait to tell me about their family service, and he recent work they had been doing. Except for one funeral, at which I did not hang around to chat, I had not been in the church since I left for college in 2009 and so it was really pleasing to see them encouraged and excited by their ministry and gong out into their community. They are a small congregation, but not without hope in continuing their 125 year calling to bring Christ into the community of Glanadda.

As the ordinations this Peter-tide come closer I’ve been thinking back over the past two years since my own ordination and starting my curacy. But this visit has sent my mind back even further. I give thanks for St David’s, who, without their support and encouragement I would not be where I am today and I wish them every blessing for the next 125 years.

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The Church and Online Media 2

Just an update from my post last month. The first day of this course unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the snow. We therefore have the first course coming up this Saturday. I was disappointed (of course) but I have acquired new books and resources since then, and I’ve been able to have some good conversations with those interested, but confused by social media, and so now I think I have a better understanding of what some of the ghoulies which surround this topic for some of the older generations. Its a different way of thinking, which I think is going to be difficult to get across to some people, but I enjoy a challenge. The bottom line from my point of view is that if the church stand any chance of reaching the younger generations we need to keep up (if we can’t be ahead) of the language and means of communication. The church was so quick to acknowledge the great opportunity and advantage that came with the printing press, but we have been so slow with digital communication. So I am determined to bang this drum and bring people along side with me bring the church into the 21st century and to use the tools readably available for the spreading of the gospel to our current and future generations, for the sake of the Kingdom, for the sake of Christ.

Oh, and as a p.s. an extra date has been added so there will be a course on the 2nd March.

Disturbed into action

Today we celebrated Candlemas in many of our churches, well… The Presentation of Christ. There was no blessing of candles, but there was celebration for the end of this Christmas/ epiphany season. I am also quite grateful to be able to take down my decorations. However much I love them, they do look a little sorry at this stage of the year.

I took two services this morning, a standard Eucharist, and a family service. For the standard service I looked at the song of Simeon, how familiar it is in the evensong service and how lovely and reassuring evensong can be, especially in places like cathedrals where usually there is no participation required from the individuals in the congregation.

I posted on twitter the other day: “@sjj_poppy: We can turn worship into an escape from the world, Simeon and Anna were in the temple not to escape, but seeking God’s presence in the world”

I was thinking especially about some of the congregations we take care of, for how many of them has church become an escape? Escape from the world and all it’s troubles. We create (or try to create) for ourselves a world that appears constant and unchanging, where the old ways are the only way of doing things. John Betjeman creates this image in his poem which starts ‘Across the wet November night’.

But it’s true that these characters who live and work within the temple at Jerusalem were not there to escape the world, but to seek God’s presence in the world.

Is our worship meant to be only a reassuring retreat from the world? Is it not meant to disturb us?

If we read and reconnect with our liturgies and scriptures, we do not find a comfortable escape. We find a place that challenge us. We find a calling from God which cannot be ignored. When we are confronted with the awesomeness and wonder of God and when we consider the reality of God, are we not drawn and called to action and to actively seek out our God? Not sit back and escape these realities?

Confronting God is not always comforting experience, for Simeon he knew what this meant, hence his words to Mary “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Our image of the meek and mild Jesus does not match our knowledge of the disturbing force can be. For Simeon and Anna their disturbance was also met with joy. For others they are met with the reality of themselves.

We know the affect that Jesus has in our lives. Look at the early church in the acts of the apostles, not much comfort and retreating from the world going on there!!! These activities, and the motivation of the people came from their encounters, and experience of Jesus. They allowed themselves to be disturbed into action and their lives were never the same again.

We are called to be people of The Way, a pilgrim people, not holding onto the past, not apart from the world, but moving on and through the world.

I told my congregation that if we are not disturbed, then the church will die and if we are not moved by our encounters with God then our churches will become monuments to a past ages which our future generations will fail to understand.

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation”. Luke 2:29-30

May we be one day be blessed with Simeon’s peace, with his knowledge that he has done all that the Lord has required. May we not miss out on our opportunities to know that there is more to life then the here and now.

The Body of Christ???

I don’t know if this happens to many other priests. But occasionally after preaching, I have a line or two from the sermon I preach follow me for the week afterwards. This has been on if those weeks.

Last week we heard one of Paul’s great sections from his first letter to the Corinthians, the unity and diversity in the body. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12. I started my sermon by talking about baptism, because it had been a hot topic over the previous weeks, and there was a baptism within the benefice also, I spoke about the joy the church should feel when accepting a new member of the body of Christ “in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

I continued by exploring what that body looked like, the body of the church was similar to our own physical bodies, they are made up of different parts, but each part of them equally necessary. And it’s true, we need all our different members if we are to be the fully functioning body of Christ.

Now, it is this next part that has been haunting me.

I’m not sure that the church (both locally or internationally) behaves as if really believe this.

Do we as a church believe that each member of church is equally as important? Because we certainly don’t behave like we do a lot of the time. Between self deprecation and judgement on others, where is that belief that we are all and important part of the one body?

“There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1Corinthians 12:25)

But do we? Do we have equal concern for each other?

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of believing and behaving as if one member is more important then the other, or one member is more useful then others. I wish I had a £1 for every time I heard someone say that they are not good enough, clever enough, enough enough to do things within the church and within their own lives. Did God not give us the gifts which make us enough? Did a god not give us what we need to be enough in is eyes?

I wish I were more like…….. they are so……………….

“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:29-30)

As a church, I don’t think we do behave as if each member is of equal importance to the body, there are times and places where members do claim superiority over other members. I take some comfort that the church in Corinth fell into this trap also, which is why I am grateful for Paul’s words. We know Paul’s answer to the question he poses in verses 29 and 30.

We need to work harder in accepting all, and the variety of gifts that they bring. We need to work harder in seeing people for who God has made them. We need to work harder in seeing everyone’s role in the body.

If we are to continue Christ’s mission in the world, we need to start acting a little more like his body. Together with our brothers and sisters, both close at hand and far away, we are the Body of Christ. We are called to live that identity, and to engage in the mission that comes with it….

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12.

…..not later, when we’ve got our act together, or when it’s more convenient, when our health is better or we have more time on our hands. Not later but TODAY.