In these dark days here is a reminder of happier times.
It is two weeks since I last wrote to you, and it feels like a long time. It is too early to talk about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but some things have happened for which I am very thankful, and which suggest that such a light does exist, and we will soon begin to see it.
Following a barrage of bad news it was good to hear of the birth of the Prime Minister’s son. Life goes on and it will go on. People have died, but children will be born. The blossom is on the trees so the fruit will be there to pick in Autumn. Hope is stronger than despair. It was also encouraging to hear and see that we are over the peak of the pandemic and on the home stretch. Our sense of helplessness is less than it was, and linked with that is the encouraging news about the reaction of the virus to certain drugs. All in all we have much to be hopeful about.
The theme of our worship this week is “Jesus the Good Shepherd”. As I reflected on those words, I came to see how within them is a comprehensive promise about the grace and love of God. It seems that in ancient Palestine the biggest part of the shepherd’s role was protecting his sheep from danger and threat. We look to God for a similar assurance today.
I was saddened to hear of the death of our second oldest member at Norwood Methodist Church this week. Arthur Drew was 98 years old and he was “called to higher service” on the last day of April. Arthur was a faithful servant of God at Norwood Methodist Church for more years than I’ve been alive on the planet. Our Methodist language is quaint, but very true. He continues his service in the presence of God and in the company of his beloved wife who died many years ago. Our thoughts and prayers are with Arthur’s family. When the lock down is lifted, there will be a rousing thanksgiving service in his memory.
Here is the link for our Sunday Worship. I remain eternally grateful to Graham Johnson who has expertly edited the video and uploaded it to Youtube. Can I also commend the Norwood Facebook page where you can join in a live act of worship at 10.45am on Sunday morning. I have also included a link to the worship from Beverley Minster. Finally there are a few written resources to help you focus on God which can be used whenever you wish.
Keep well and keep safe
Beverley Minster Worship
Beverley Methodist Circuit
Holy Week Meditations
Based on “Seven words from the Cross”
By Revd David Spriggs
Published by BRF as part of the Bible Study notes “Guidelines” April 2020
Holy week is the most special and sacred time in the Christian Calendar. These days marked the climax of Jesus’ earthly ministry as he entered the Holy City for the last time inviting the crowds to accept or reject his message. They chose to reject him and by Friday night, he was dead. Christians have come to believe this was the only way that sinful humanity could be reconciled to God, and the only way that the full extent of God’s love could be seen: that in Jesus God took upon himself the full consequence of the evil that humankind had unleashed and defeated it, at the price of his life.
In our churches we had planned a programme of quiet reflection each day but in the current time of crisis, meeting together is not possible. The purpose of these reflections is to enable us to be together in spirit even though separated physically. I invite you to take some time each day, perhaps at the beginning or the end of the day, find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed, perhaps play some quiet music, (I’ve suggested a YouTube link) maybe light a candle and use these prayers, bible readings and short reflections to remember and focus on the God who loves you so much that he was prepared to do all this for you.
Our thoughts are centred on four of the short sayings that Jesus spoke from the Cross as his life gradually slipped away.
Monday: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”
Tuesday: “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”
Wednesday: “I am Thirsty…It is finished!”
Thursday: “Father into your hands I commend my spirit”
Wednesday 8th April 2020
I am thirsty…It is finished
Prayer of Approach
Jesus, you commanded the waves to be still and calmed a stormy sea. Quieten now our restless hearts that they may find rest in you.
We recognise the noise inside us and the noises around us. We acknowledge them, but seek here to know your presence in the midst of all that might distract us.
So now we surrender for these moments, our speech, knowing that beneath the silence is a deeper Word, and that even when we say nothing, you are still listening.
From the Iona Abbey Worship book © the Iona Community
Keep a time of Silence
Read John 19:28-37
28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus’ Side Is Pierced
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ 37 And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’
Keep a time of Silence or listen to some quiet music
It is finished
There is more than one way to hear these words. They could be heard with a sense of failure and disillusionment. “It’s over! It’s done! Is this how my life’s work is to come to an end, in rejection failure and death? Father, why did you not intervene in the way I expected you would?” Did Jesus really give up thinking that all his work had come to nothing and there was nothing more to do? I don’t think so.
There is another way to hear these words, a very different and positive way. It is complete! The Father’s plan has been carried out in full, nothing can now thwart or derail the victory of good over evil, love over hate.
The word Jesus uses for “finished is often used in the context of financial transactions to indicate that a bill has been paid in full. In that sense, these words indicate that the price has been paid for the sin of the world. Any debt has been settled in full and the “Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world!” as foreseen by John the Baptist (John 1:29).
“I am thirsty!” can also be understood in more than one way. It can be taken at face value, and clearly that is how the bystanders at the cross took it as they tried to sort out a drink for him. At this level, the ink is with Psalm 69:21
They gave me poison for food
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink
But by this time, Jesus would surely not just be concerned with physical thirst. In John’s Gospel, Jesus often talks of his forthcoming death as being his return to the Father. And he refers to the cross, the manner of his death as his glorification. It makes sense therefore to look for a deeper significance to this cry of thirst. John says that the words were spoken to fulfil Scripture. That Scripture could be Psalm 42
As the deer longs for flowing streams
so my soul longs for you O God.
My soul thirsts for God
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
Psalm 42 is rather like Psalm 22 quoted in earlier words from the Cross. It begins with the despair of the Psalmist, crying out to find an elusive God but then it moves to end on a profound note of hope.
Why are you cast down, o my soul
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God: for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.
Psalm 42 also contains the words, which seem to foresee the Cross
As with a deadly wound in my body
my adversaries taunt me
while they say to me continually
“Where is your God?”
When Jesus cries “I Thirst!” if Psalm 42 is in his mind, then he cries out, not for water, but for God and in this case, “It is Finished!” becomes the answer to his prayer: The work is complete, the suffering is over, his thirst for God is about to be satisfied as he enters God’s presence to behold His face.
In a time of quiet, pray for those who struggle to know God’s presence with them through hardship, or pain or just the everyday stress of life.
Hot dry air burns his parched mouth and throat
with every laboured breath.
Cracked lips barely move,
scarcely enough breath
to make the words audible,
For an end to this.
Hot desert winds lift the dust of the cracked, parched earth.
The living Water is dry,
The living Water is dry,
and we struggle to watch, to stay.
We want to run from here, or raise our fists and fight
Give us the courage to still our feet,
to lower our fists, and stay with you,
where you already are,
in the places where you suffer still.
© Wild Goose Publications
Maundy Thursday 9th April
Father into your hands I commend my spirit
God within and beyond us all,
teach us the silence of humility,
the silence of wisdom,
the silence of faith,
the silence that enables reflection
and speaks without words.
Teach us God, to silence our own hearts and minds that we may listen for the movement of your Spirit within us and treasure your presence in the depths of our being. Amen
Keep a time of Silence
Read Luke 23:44-49
The Death of Jesus
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land[l] until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. 47 When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ 48 And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Keep a time of Silence or listen to quiet music
For Luke, these are Jesus final words, and they bring us clear insight into the reality and the integrity of Jesus’ faith in his Father under the most extreme conditions of suffering. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded that the cup of suffering be removed from him, but he said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) The cup he spoke of was the death by crucifixion that he anticipated and measure of God’s anger and judgement against his sinful and disobedient people which Jesus had to drink to the dregs. As he felt the anger of God and bore the judgment, he felt abandoned, rejected and separated from the Father. Having gone through all that, Jesus is still able to entrust his spirit to his Father. Even against all the odds, he believes that vindication will come. That God will, indeed be there for him.
Jesus final words here recall a daily prayer of the Jews, used at the end of a day’s labour. It comes from Psalm 31. Underneath and behind these words lie a deep sense of tranquillity and trust. Jesus inserted the word “Father” before he quoted the Psalm. This was his unique signature to prayer and reflected the intimacy of his relationship with God and here it becomes an expression of courageous commitment.
Psalm 31 expresses confidence in God’s dependability, protection and, in particular, God acting to vindicate the wrongly accused. Psalm 31:22 has deep significance for one who felt abandoned by God:
I said in my alarm
‘I am cut off from your sight’
but you heard my supplications
when I cried out to you for help.
The Psalm ends with a message for the disciples and for us as we struggle with the thought of our Lord crucified
Be strong and let your heart take courage
All you who wait for the Lord
This echoes the charge given to Joshua by Moses as he handed over the leadership of God’s people just before they entered the Promised Land. AS we think on these words it strongly suggests that Jesus is somehow handing on his earthly work – to his disciples in the first place, but also to all who would follow on after them.
In one way the job that Jesus came to do is finished. Evil is defeated. Love has won! Jesus will shortly return to the Father and receive the glory due but the work of spreading the news is about to begin. As Jesus entrusted his Spirit to his loving Father, so he entrusted the work to his followers. We carry a message of hope for all the world.
Keep a time of silence
Father, into your hands I place my spirit
we are still:
we pause again:
we look around,
we move on –
and ready to begin again
to celebrate the miracle of life.
Your life in us.
See here how Toll Gavel has been awarded silver Eco-Church status!
Given the unprecedented situation around the Corona Virus pandemic, and the resultant closure of churches, we felt that we had to find a way to communicate with people in the local and wider communities.
Therefore we made a video in the empty Toll Gavel church using the consumer video technology that we had at hand, edited it and uploaded it to YouTube. Here it is:
Watchmen Warriors is a new initiative that is designed to connect the praying power of churches across the East Riding with specific prayer needs supplied to us by the Police and other Emergency services.
If you don’t want to receive these bi-monthly newsletters, please reply with unsubscribe in the subject line.
The initiative was inspired by a city-wide prayer movement in Liverpool which has seen measurable change in their city through targeted prayer, combating areas like drugs, human trafficking, anti-social behaviour, poverty and crime. Watchmen Warriors will send out a bi-monthly prayer bulletin which will then be publicised around the churches and prayer groups of the East Riding.
1) Mental Health
Police officers have to live with an incredible amount of personal pressure, due to the nature of their work. Mental health issues are on the increase among police officers. The need to develop a support group for men and women within the forces has become very evident. PC Carl Osler is currently looking, with others, at setting up such a group. Please pray for wisdom for Carl, that he would be able to make the right connections and obtain any resources which are needed to see this vital help established.
2) Issues relating to the Christmas season
1. “Black Friday” for the police is Friday 20th of December. This is the day when lots of companies finish work for Christmas, bringing a significant spike in drunken behaviour and violence (both domestic and on the streets). This has a huge impact on both the police and ambulance services and puts tremendous pressure on the NHS and all resources. Why not make a diary note to specifically pray for the Police and Emergency services on this day.
2. Over the holiday season, drink-driving and driving whilst under the influence of drugs is also a big issue. Pray that God would influence people to be responsible in this area. Pray also for protection for the public, for passengers and for any drivers involved, for those whose policing provides a deterrent and for the emergency services involved in any incidents.
3. Loneliness, especially over the Christmas holiday period, leads to an increase in suicides. Pray for those who are at risk.
4. There is also a greater risk of domestic violence at this time of the year, which can be fuelled by alcohol, financial pressures or relationship issues.
5. There is often an increase in incidents on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Prolonged drinking celebrations can easily spill over into anti-social behaviour and violence.
“The issue of Brexit has played a part in an increase in hate crimes, with both families and communities becoming deeply polarised by the referendum vote of June 2016. Illegal migration and human trafficking also remain important issues. Pray for peace on our streets and in communities, and that any protests would remain peaceful and respectful.
Let’s stand together as Christian believers and pray that we see a measurable reduction in the crime statistics across the East Riding. And let’s not forget to pray for the welfare of all of the Police and other emergency services personal who make such a positive contribution to our communities.
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6, 12)
“Watchmen Warriors” is a part of the “Pursuing His Presence” regional prayer movement. It is managed by Julie Burton (Pocklington) and Steph Murray (Driffield), overseen by John Beynon (Beverley) and administered by King’s Church Beverley, with information supplied by Carl Osler, the Community Cohesion Police Constable for the East Riding
Here is a PDF of the proceedings of the day.
The ‘How to Go Greener Day’ on Saturday 30th March was a great success with many attendees, and everyone agreed that the quality of the speakers was outstanding. The speakers were drawn from a wide range of environmental campaign groups.
The day started with coffee and an introduction by Rev’d Peter Cross.
At 10:15 a rousing talk by Hilary Blake of ‘Joy in Enough’, a Christian sustainability group.
Then a talk by Rachel Curry which examined the very complex science behind the climate change arguments. With a background in science, and currently studying chemistry at York University, it was nice to hear from someone with expertise in climate chemistry.
Then a coffee break, which featured vegan milk, fair trade tea and coffee and locally sourced cakes – from volunteers.
Suitably refreshed, everyone then listened to a talk by former MEP Philip Bennison, now the owner of a small arable farm, on how farmers can help feed Britain and the world with better crop yields and sustainable farming practices.
Next, David Hughes, a founder of the Climate Stewards organisation, gave a talk about how we can all help to reduce human impact on the environment.
At 12:15 Kallum Nicholson took the podium and talked about the looming disaster of discarded plastic in the environment, especially the oceans. Plastic particles are now found in the bodies of creatures throughout the oceanic food chain, from shrimps to the great whales.
Finally, local circuit preacher Linda Johnson talked about the joys of veganism and how, conversely, modern industrial livestock farming is having a dramatic adverse effect on the environment.
After a tasty locally sourced vegan lunch there were afternoon workshops where green activists, green organisations and green businesses talked about their campaigns, ideas and products.