Reflection – 11 July 2021

Here’s Julie’s reflection for Sunday 11 July.

If you’d like to join in our online worship follow this Zoom link. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85061262911?pwd=SjFoODcvOVdFZUhTengxRVRkNzJPUT09

Our worship session starts at 11.00 British Summer Time.

Mark

Reflection – Sunday 11 July 2021

Call to worship

Our call to worship is from Matthew
For where two or three are gathered in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.       

Let’s pray together:     

     
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!Ecclesiastes
Jesus, stand among us, in your risen power,
let this time of worship, be a hallowed hour.

Lord’s Prayer

Lord of all hopefulness

Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy,
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord,
At the break of the day. 

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe,
Be there at our labours and give us, we pray,
Your strength in our hearts, Lord,
At the noon of the day.

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
Your hands swift to welcome, Your arms to embrace.
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
Your love in our hearts, Lord,
At the eve of the day.

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
Whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord,
At the end of the day.

Readings

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him. If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.

John 15:12-15

My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. And you are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 

When I was preparing this service, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say.  The reading from John was familiar to me and seemed to speak to me but you all know the feeling when you are in a situation when you are searching for the right thing to say and it’s not until afterwards that you think ahhh I should have said that.   So I looked for inspiration and found it in Dave Tomlinson.  We have read 2 of his books at Bible Book Club and the man is a revelation!  He’s made me think about what I believe in a completely different way.  When someone used to ask me why I believed in God, what it meant to me, I was always stuck for the right words.  When reading Dave’s books and then discussing them at Book Club it’s like having a eureka moment – yes that’s what it’s about, yes that’s what it means to me.  Not everyone will agree with Mr Tomlinson’s point of view but it certainly gives you food for thought. 

Dave Tomlinson – Pause for thought 25 July 2017 – friendship is arguably the greatest feature of all human existence

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p059njth

You’ve got a friend – sung by Sara Bareilles

When you’re down and troubled
And you need some lovin’ care
And nothin’, nothin’ is goin’ right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name
And you know, wherever I am
I’ll come runnin’
To see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

If the sky above you
Grows dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind begins to blow
Keep your head together
And call my name out loud
Soon you’ll hear me knockin’ at your door

You just call out my name
And you know, wherever I am
I’ll come runnin’, runnin’, yeah, yeah
To see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there, yes, I will

Now, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend
When people can be so cold?
They’ll hurt you, yes, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them
Oh, but don’t you let them

You just call out my name
And you know, wherever I am
I’ll come runnin’, runnin’, yeah, yeah
To see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there, yes, I will
You’ve got a friend
You’ve got a friend

Prayers of Intercession

Now I was going to put Dave Tomlinson’s Pause for Thought after me, as I didn’t want to peak too soon but he spoke so eloquently I couldn’t deny him. 

When my husband Neil and I moved to Newark in 1991 we did not know anybody in the town.  All our family still lived up North, over 100 miles away and with a 9 month old daughter I knew that I would have to open my front door, go out and meet people and make friends.  Having a baby made the job slightly easier.  I joined the local parents and toddlers and the young mums I got to know there are still my friends today.  We have all gone through the joy and sometimes heartache of bringing up children, sharing experiences, laughing and crying together.  I was lucky, having a young child gave me a door through which to go and meet people.  Some people aren’t so lucky and find it difficult to make friends.  It’s not easy walking into a roomful of strangers and saying ‘here I am, I want to be your friend’.

One of the nicest things you can give someone is the gift of an invitation.  Be it to a meal, a party or a wedding.  When Mark and Deborah invited me to come to London Road Congregational Church I’ve got to admit I was a little apprehensive.  How I should act, what should I say.  It had been quite a while since I had come to worship.  I shouldn’t have worried.  It was easy, everyone was welcoming and I felt a strong fellowship.

The past 18 months have been difficult for everyone.  Not seeing family and friends for periods of time but throughout the pandemic we as a fellowship have managed to come together every Sunday via Zoom.  Some of us have never met face to face during this period and it’s been a bit like being a newsreader – you only see the top half.  It’s strange though because although I’ve only ever seen Paddy or Megan on a screen I think of them now as friends and I think that’s what this fellowship is.  I know that if I needed something – advice, a listening ear, a cup of sugar – that I could call on any one of you and you would be there.  This kind of friendship is what we need in church.  When we demonstrate this kind of friendship toward each other we’ll see good things happen here.  People will see our fellowship and what to be part of it just as I did.

Look at fellowship this way – we are on the same ship.  We are all passengers.  We have the same destination.  The relationship that we have with Jesus puts us in the same boat.  We have a purpose for living.  We have the same goals to worship God, to learn more about and to share the good news.  Fellowship builds friendships but it takes time, energy and effort. 

The reading we heard from John said ‘My commandment is this, love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them.  And you are my friends, if you do what I command you.  I do not call you servants any longer because servants do not know what their master is doing.  Instead I call you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

This verse in the Gospel of John tells us a lot about revealing God’s love: Laying down our life for others means putting them first and making their need more important than our own. When we go out of our way to meet a friend’s need, when we are willing to spend time, resources and energy with someone and to give ourselves up for others, we are laying down our life, a part of it at least, for that person.

The verse is about being selfless and sacrificial in our actions towards others.  Jesus was committed to his disciples and to those He was trying to save.  He served them throughout His ministry.  Part of being a good friend is thinking of others before yourself.  Even though you may not realise it by coming to our fellowship and being there for each other you are being a friend.

What is a friend?  Friends are people with whom you dare to be yourself.  They ask you only to be what you are.  They do not want you to be better or worse.  When you are with them you feel happy.  You do not have to be on your guard.  You can say what you think, as long as it is genuinely you.  Friends understand those contradictions in your nature that lead others to misjudge you.  They seek to understand you.  They like you.  You can cry with them, sing with them, laugh with them, pray with them. 

To each of us friendship has a different meaning.  For all of us it is a gift.  Friendship needs to be cherished and nurtured, like a garden where we make sure our flowers, fruit and vegetables have everything they need to grow strong, healthy and beautiful.  Nurturing means providing for, caring for, taking care of and helping to grow.  Emotional responses to nurturing are a feeling of calm, warmth, peace, relaxation, being soothed.  There are times in your life where you may come across someone who gives you advice, makes you feel better about life and sets you on the right path.  You might wonder if that person is a friend, mentor or both.  Whatever that person is it is about helping others to grow, whether its developing life skills, learning how to deal with tough situations or just sharing experiences with someone who can listen and understand.  During my time at LRCC, and particularly in the past 18 months, I have discovered the value of true friendship, not just with people but with Jesus Christ.  He is always there day or night when I need help or advice.  He never judges me but guides me to do the right thing. 

Jesus loved people.  He was a friend to the individual.  He said to his Apostles ‘No longer will I call you my servants, but my friend’.  How we long for a good friend in this troubled world.  We are so busy that sometimes we don’t take the time to cultivate friendships.  It takes time.  It also takes time to build our friendship with Jesus.  We all need to make that time.

Time is a precious gift you can give a friend.  It is important to find time to talk and listen to a friend’s insights, experiences, sentiments and problems.  In this way we build a strong bond among our friends and a deeper understanding of each other’s personality and peculiarities.  We learn to accept the individual uniqueness of each other and see it as a strength not a weakness.  We learn to accept people’s bad sides because we take them as they are.  Some would turn away, others would try to change them and look for improvement.  I try to find the good in everyone I meet, none of us are perfect and there may be many reasons why a person may behave in a certain way, who are we to judge? 

One of the positive things to come out of the Pandemic and lockdown for me and for a lot of people, is the realisation of what is important – being able to see family and friends, making someone smile, giving someone a hug, enjoying the garden, walking around the village and by the river, spending time with Neil.  All things we always had, but somehow taken for granted and not really appreciated.  And people have helped each other – swapping plants, seeds, recipes, jigsaws, books, freecycling, baking cakes for people, cooking meals.   Neil and I have been delivering takeaway fish and chips to a couple and on occasion have sat in the garden with them, eating our chips with a glass of wine.  This couple are the same age as my parents and during Lockdown and I think because of Lockdown they have both become very good friends, friendship shouldn’t have any barriers – anyone can be a friend to someone. 

During this difficult time people have lost loved ones, suffered from loneliness and mental anguish but it has also shown people’s resilience.  Local communities have come together, buddy systems set up, neighbours looking out for each other, supporting local businesses.  We have, as a society, supported, listened, befriended and helped each other and surely that it what Jesus would want us to do.  It is sad that it has taken a global pandemic to do this but going forward I hope the good things will continue.

I said at the beginning I moved to Newark in 1991.  When Neil and I moved here we left family and friends behind.  This was in the days before mobile phones, WhatsApp, Facetime and Zoom so maintaining friendships was tricky.  When friends are separated by distance you have to work at it a little harder.  Although I have not lived in Yorkshire, God’s own country by the way,  for over 30 years, I still have the accent, what can I say, you can take the girl out of Yorkshire but not take Yorkshire out of the girl, I still keep in touch with the friends I left behind.  It doesn’t matter if we don’t speak every week or if we don’t see each other for a few months, good friends just pick up where they left off. 

Jerusalem – I have picked this hymn for a couple of reasons.  One, it was played at my wedding and two at the start of every WI meeting we sing it.  I love being a member of the WI – no I can make jam and I’m not that good at baking but like our fellowship it is a group of people who want to make the world a better place. 

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountain green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

I end today’s service with this –

For attractive lips, speak with words of kindness

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone

People, even  more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arms.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ

and the love of God

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us now and for evermore.

Amen

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