Reflection – 03 January 2021


Here’s Martin Frost’s reflection for Sunday 03 January.

The online worship session will start at 11.00. Martin will be leading worship this week .

As it’s the first Sunday in the month we will be celebrating Holy Communion. If you wish to join us you are most welcome. You will need to provide your own bread and wine.

And we are excited to be welcoming 5 new church members this Sunday!

If you want to join via Zoom in just email me – newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com – for log in details. We’d love to see you.

Mark Taylor

London Road Congregational Church Reflection 03/01

The Light Unto the Gentiles

Call to Worship:

O come, let us worship the Lord

and consider what wondrous things God has done:

The Magi who study the heavens follow a guiding star!

O come, let us worship the Lord

and consider what wondrous things God has done:

The peoples who live in the shadows see a glorious light!

O come, let us worship the Lord

and consider what wondrous things God has done:

The Christ who embodies the Word unveils the hidden plan,

making us joint heirs of the promise of salvation through the gospel!

O come, let us worship the Lord,

for God has done wondrous things!

— from The Visit of the Magi—Epiphany Sunday, on The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

Let’s pray:

Almighty God,

who called your Church to witness

that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:

help us to proclaim the good news of your love,

that all who hear it may be drawn to you;

through him who was lifted up on the cross,

and reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

Let us say together the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Hymn: Angels from the Realm of Glory.

Angels from the realms of glory
Wing your flight through all the earth
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth

Gloria
In excelsis deo
Gloria
In excelsis deo

Shepherds, in the fields abiding
Watching o’er your flocks by night
God with man is now residing
Yonder shines the infant light

Gloria
In excelsis deo
Gloria
In excelsis deo

Sages, leave your contemplation
Brighter visions beam afar
Seek the great desire of nations
Ye have seen His natal star

Gloria
In excelsis deo
Gloria
In excelsis deo

Gloria
In excelsis deo
Gloria
In excelsis deo

Reading:

Isaiah 60:1-6

Arise, Jerusalem, and shine like the sun;
The glory of the Lord is shining on you!
Other nations will be covered by darkness,
But on you the light of the Lord will shine;
The brightness of his presence will be with you.
Nations will be drawn to your light,
And kings to the dawning of your new day.

Look around you and see what is happening:
Your people are gathering to come home!
Your sons will come from far away;
Your daughters will be carried like children.
You will see this and be filled with joy;
You will tremble with excitement.
The wealth of the nations will be brought to you;
From across the sea their riches will come.

Great caravans of camels will come, from Midian and Ephah.
They will come from Sheba, bringing gold and incense.
People will tell the good news of what the Lord has done!

Reading:

Matthew 2:1-12

Visitors from the East

Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the time when Herod was king. Soon afterward, some men who studied the stars came from the East to Jerusalemand asked, “Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star when it came up in the east, and we have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard about this, he was very upset, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the teachers of the Law and asked them, “Where will the Messiah be born?”

 “In the town of Bethlehem in Judea,” they answered. “For this is what the prophet wrote:

‘Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
    you are by no means the least of the leading cities of Judah;
for from you will come a leader
    who will guide my people Israel.’”

So Herod called the visitors from the East to a secret meeting and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem with these instructions: “Go and make a careful search for the child; and when you find him, let me know, so that I too may go and worship him.”

And so they left, and on their way they saw the same star they had seen in the East. When they saw it, how happy they were, what joy was theirs! It went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. They went into the house, and when they saw the child with his mother Mary, they knelt down and worshiped him. They brought out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and presented them to him.

Then they returned to their country by another road, since God had warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod.

Reflection:

Epiphany means ‘manifestation’. For some Christians around the world this is the Feast of the Nativity and is the main celebration rather than 25/12. Amongst other things, it recognises the visit of the Magi. For us it is the recognition that Jesus entering into the world is not just a Jewish ‘thing’, but it was God’s intention, all along, for salvation to be open to all people.

We have spent the last part of 2020 looking at what it means to be Church, how we can be Church and what is important to us as Church. All of this will be lost if it is merely for our own benefit. We are not a social club; we do not exist for ourselves. The life of Jesus that has developed amongst us, the presence of God in our midst is meant to shine out. The passage from Isaiah speaks of a society that is covered in darkness and despair. But it also speaks of God’s presence becoming manifest in those communities. Because of this people will turn and ask questions. The end of v.6 reminds us the purpose of this – to praise God.

The visit of the Magi in Matthew is our wake-up call to look at where our vision lies and where we want to sow into our community. Over the next 6 months I would like us to have made significant moves to think about our gifting, who and what God has placed on our hearts and for us to be strategic about reaching out and making it clear we have the hope that God gives us.

I would like you to pray specifically about who you feel God is calling us to serve and how we can reach out into our community.

Introduction to Church Membership

This morning we are delighted to accept into the membership of London Road Congregational Church 5 new members:

By transfer of membership from the sadly now closed Nottingham Congregational Church:

Megan Hadfield and

Paddy Morris

And by confession of faith:

Julia Gascoyne

Richard Gascoyne and

Chris Howe

We rejoice in this.

We rejoice in particular that we are able to accept 5 new people into membership on the same day. I am certain that this hasn’t happened in all the 30 plus years that I’ve been a member at London Road. I don’t know if anyone who has been a member longer than me can remember so many new members on the same day?

I think it’s interesting to reflect on how this has come to happen. I think there are two factors.

The first one is that we have found a new way of being church during the last 9 months. None of the people who are becoming members today were regular attenders at London Road before the first lockdown last March. But all have become very regular attenders at worship in the period since then because of the opportunities opened up by online worship. It may have been that some of the people we welcome today may have become members if Covid had never happened. But it’s almost certain that not all of them would have because of the distances involved from where they live to the Newark church. We’re breaking new ground here today. Geography is no longer important. What matters is that our church has a vibrant, lively and supportive worshipping community, whether we join from Newark, from Bingham, from Mapperley, from East Leake or from South Korea.

Secondly it’s worth reflecting how some of our new friends have come into contact with our church, how they have first become part of our community. And that’s not through Sunday morning worship. It’s through a mix of the other things we do as a church: Pub Theology, Film Club, Bible Book Club, the Just Sing! choir. Our church is no longer defined just by Sunday morning worship. That isn’t all that matters. There are all sorts of ways of encountering the Good News of Jesus Christ. But of course we welcome everyone into our Sunday morning worship as well.

At this point it’s worth remembering what Congregational churches are all about:

  • We trust in our Lord’s promise to be with his people who meet in his name;
  • We affirm the scripturally based right of every church to maintain independence in the ordering of its affairs according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit;
  • We share a heritage of faith with other churches and particularly with the churches of the Congregational Federation;
  • We recognise that everyone has her or his own personal relationship with Jesus, and do not seek to impose particular beliefs or creeds on anyone;
  • We worship, work and serve with all who love our Lord to realise his kingdom of justice and peace on Earth, and to help people everywhere to know the joy of its companionship.

In the light of these principles we invite all our 5 friends to make a simple declaration of faith so that, in accordance with the decision of the church meeting we may welcome them into church membership.

(To each individually by name)

Do you believe in God and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?

I do.

Now at this stage we would normally offer the right hand of fellowship to our new members, as the early church did to Paul and Barnabas. We clearly can’t do this. We couldn’t even do it if we were all in the building together (we’d have to bump elbows) and Martin and I thought that using the waving hand or thumbs up icons on Zoom lacks a certain gravitas.

So can we suggest that everyone unmutes at this point and gives a round of applause to our new members as a sign that we are all partners together in the work of Christ’s body, the Church.

May God bless you our newest members, the current members and everyone in our fellowship, whether they are present here today or not, in the life we share in Christ.

And now we’ve got you…

…something about the responsibilities of membership.

All our church members will aim to worship regularly and give time to Bible reading and prayer;

We all want to live our whole lives in the relationship of disciple and friend of Jesus Christ;

And we all accept our privilege to share in the government of the church at church meetings, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Martin and I, the Deacons and the whole fellowship look forward immensely to walking with you, growing in Jesus together and supporting you in your walk with God in our church. 

Amen.

Holy Communion

On the night he was betrayed Jesus took the elements of the Passover meal and shared them with his disciples. He took the bread and blessed it, as he would normally have done, but then he explained that from that time onwards, rather than sacrifice there would be grace through his death. Rather than the letter of the law, the would be mercy and love. His death would fulfil the requirements of the law and be sufficient for all time, from then until he comes again.

Jesus said, this is my body which will be broken for you, eat this in memory of me…

In the same way, he took the cup and blessed it. He pointed out to his disciples and us that it is symbolic of the new covenant that God had established between Him and us. Not based on the law but on his blood.

Jesus said, the is a sign of the covenant between you and God, drink this and remember God’s love and mercy towards you….

Father thank you for entering into our world so that we can enter into your kingdom. Thank you for taking our place on the cross and putting yourself there for us. Let this meal be a sign of hope and expectation that we will receive your grace and help in the coming month until we share it again. Amen.

Hymn: Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;
star of the east, the horizon adorning,
guide where our infant redeemer is laid!

Cold on his cradle the dewdrops are shining;

low lies his head with the beasts of the stall;

angels adore him in slumber reclining,

Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
vainly with gifts would his favour secure;
richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
dawn on our darkness and come to our aid;
star of the east, the horizon adorning,
guide where our infant redeemer is laid!

Blessing.

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