Newsletter 13th Dec 2020

Message from our Minister

It seems that this year Christmas trees and decorations have been put up much earlier than before, with many houses being adorned with all kinds of festive flashing lights, bringing a welcome brightness and cheer. I am sure that these displays somehow pierce the gloom of the darkest of days, giving some hope and joy.  It is worth noting that John the Baptist, who pointed the way to Jesus, was never concerned with a showy outward appearance.  He cut a very strange figure; wearing camel’s hair, a leather belt round his waist and eating locusts and wild honey! It was John’s message however, that was important.  His message proclaimed the need for repentance and a turning back to God.  It drew the crowds beyond their curiosity to a point of repentance and re-commitment.  John was much more interested in what was on the inside of a person than their outside appearance.  He urged them to live a life which honoured God in every way.

This Advent season gives us an opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out, so that we too might get right with God and reflect his light from within us.

God’s richest blessings to you all as you journey in this Advent Season,

Rev John Izzard

DON’T MISS OUT!   Only 20 places left!

We will be having an exciting Christmas Eve carol service where we will celebrate the meaning of Christmas in original and innovative ways (despite limitations caused by covid).  We start at 4 p.m and finish at 4.45 p.m.

BOOK YOUR PLACE BY RINGING LINDA on 523948

(Priority will be given to those who cannot access the internet)

CD available of Ellie’s talk 

 Hear her excellent talk from first Sundy in Advent. It contains many ‘tips’ about how we can maintain unity. Ask Paul if you would like a copy

Martin’s puzzle

SOME OF US MIGHT REMEMBER THE COUPLE IN THIS NEWSPAPER CLIPPING!!

God at Work in the World

When Nader left his rural life to find work in a nearby city, he had no idea that God would use him to bring the Gospel to his remote, tiny village.
A few months ago, Nader became friends with a Christian whom he met after moving to the city. Convinced by what his friend said about Jesus, Nader became a believer and was discipled, learning about God’s love, principles and ways, and committing his life to Jesus
Nader soon returned home and began sharing the Gospel with family members one by one.
Today, 12 residents of the tiny village – which has a population of fewer than 100 – have professed faith in Christ. Most of these new believers are being discipled and meet regularly for fellowship.
Nader hopes to take part in a discipleship course soon, to equip him for ministry. And Nader and his mentors are praying that one day the whole village will be Christian.

Margaret Lee was fair-skinned and shy, gentle yet determined, and though her face was often serious, she always had twinkling eyes. 

In her gentle Scottish brogue she told us one day that she had been diagnosed with throat cancer. The cells multiplied fast. A tube was inserted into Margaret’s throat to enable her to swallow. When this tube also began to constrict under the cancerous pressure, Margaret chose not to have another one inserted. “I’m not scared of dying”, she whispered. “But I do get scared about the implications once my throat finally closes up.”

Many people went to visit Margaret, and when they did, they would often express great sadness for her predicament. “You’ve had such a tough life,” they would say, “and now this…..” as if ‘this’ (by which they meant the cancer in the throat) was the worst thing imaginable. Margaret soon got so used to this well-meaning assessment of her situation that she wrote her standard response on a piece of scrap paper. I think it’s probably one of the most courageous declarations of faith in Jesus that I have ever seen.

This is not the worst thing to ever happen! Cancer is so limited. It cannot cripple love, shatter hope, corrode faith, eat away peace, destroy confidence, kill friendship, shut out memories, silence courage, quench the Spirit, or lessen the power of Jesus.

Isn’t that extraordinary? Cancer was strangling Margaret, and yet she was able to list its many limitations. She could barely speak or swallow, her body was emaciated, and the pain was insistent, but the cancer had not – and could not – consume Margaret Lee. To all outward appearances, she had become a grim testament to the corruption of nature and the limitations of Christ’s power. Yet in reality her life and her death bore eloquent witness to the power of prayer for those who believe

Margaret’s body was buried in a meadow on a hillside in the Scottish borders. Around her grave stood those whose lives had been changed by her courageous and consistent witness. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (see Daniel chapter 3), Margaret knew that God can and does miracles in answer to prayer. But she was also prepared to trust Him if the miracle did not materialise.

(from the latest edition of ‘God on Mute’, by Pete Greig. “Over the years we’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve recommended ‘God on Mute’ to people who are wrestling with doubts and struggling to contact with God in seasons of pain and confusion. It’s achingly honest, beautifully crafted and theologically deep – an absolute classic”: Tim and Rachel Hughes, Gas Street, Birmingham, UK and Worship Central International)

Opinion. –  Why the Covid-19 vaccine won’t save us

If we are honest with ourselves, we don’t only want a vaccine only for the health and protection of ourselves and loved ones. We also want to get back the routine and predictability of life: meetings with friends, meals in restaurants, talking to people without a mask or a glass partition. We are looking for a vaccine to signal the end of life as it is.

But maybe that is asking too much of a vaccine. And maybe a return to “normal life” is impossible. Maybe returning to normal life isn’t what is best for our world. Not everyone will benefit from returning to the way things were. So perhaps it is better to see this as an opportunity for change. Maybe a new way forward should be the only way forward.

What we have learned about the spiritual health of the world in the wake of the pandemic is seriously concerning. It is something all of us, including the UK must deal with. And as helpful as a vaccine will be in moving us forward, the world needs more than a vaccine to save us.

A spiritual awakening

A Covid-19 vaccine may bring the gift of immunity and a lifting of restrictions, but it will not rescue us from the many social injustices and communal sins that seemed inevitable or before this virus. The world still needs a spiritual awakening. Christians, now more than ever, should be loudly proclaiming that a better way is possible – because this is one of those rare moments in history when moving to a better way is a practical possibility.

The Corona crisis proved to us that things we took for granted can in fact change. Renters were protected from eviction. Workers were saved from unemployment for a while by furlough schemes. All of society showed that it was willing to sacrifice comfort and convenience for the sake of protecting the most vulnerable. In our haste to go back to ‘normal’ – to go to concerts and sporting events, to shop when and where we want to, and even to join physically to worship – we should not rush back into collective sin.

Let’s not go back to a world where work-life balance is sacrificed to the idol of productivity. Let’s use the advances in remote and flexible working that lockdown proved were possible to entrench a culture that values family at least as much as profit. (And Christian companies, we’re looking at you: can you lead the way in the flexibility we now know to be possible?)

Let’s not go back to a world where markets rule over us – so many economic ‘laws’ have been suspended during lockdown that they have been proven to be a choice, not laws at all. We’ve seen our own government do wonderful things like the furlough system, mortgage holidays and eviction amnesties. We’ve seen that we can find extra money to help people (and not just for wars), so let’s keep doing that. Let’s have Christians calling for a war on poverty and suffering, setting aside fake ‘laws’ imposed by markets because we now know that in an emergency they can be set aside. And when one child in a country as rich as this goes hungry, when one mum who works two jobs still can’t afford heating and rent – an emergency is what it is.

Let’s confront our own sins of indifference, selfishness and pride. Let’s keep pushing our government to give foreign aid in the Jesus way of helping – without strings attached, aimed only at helping the poor. Let’s donate our time and wealth to charities making a difference. But let’s also challenge our own prideful resentment of mercy that doesn’t come with a personal thank you letter from a sponsored child. Let’s pay taxes willingly and let’s push for them to be used to help everyone – not just those we judge to be ‘deserving’. Let’s stop seeing some human beings as less than images of the living God – be they immigrants, heretics, addicts, liberals, sinners, Muslims, conservatives or children. And let’s work towards a world that treats them with the love God wants lavished on them.

Let’s push to go back to everything that was good about the world pre-Covid when it’s safe to do so. A world where we hug and gather en masse and move away from our screens more. But if the world we return to is as unjust as it was before, Christians will have failed to be Christ’s hands and feet.

A Covid-19 vaccine may save us from physical disease, but it won’t change what the pandemic revealed about our world’s spiritual state. Our inherent condition to rebel against truth, justice and mercy, and to propagate rather than fight injustice, is not the result of a virus, but a sinful condition — the only remedy for which is Jesus Christ. Fortunately, his remedy for our sin was provided a long time ago. The question is, how will we respond to him?

Mario A. Russo is the director of The Dortmund Center for Science and Faith. He holds degrees in both the sciences and theology. He also actively works as a church planter with his wife and two children in in Dortmund, Germany. Follow him on Twitter: @Mario_A_Russo. Jonty Langley is a writer, former DJ and recovering Philosophy major. By day he works at a Christian mission agency, by night he argues with people on the internet. He also hosts the newly launched Beer Christianity podcast. Find it on Twitter: @beerxianity (Article from Premier Christianity)

Please send any contributions that might be published by next Tuesday morning to  andy