Sunday 18th July 2021

Next week

Rev John will be speaking on ‘The Year of the Lord’s favour’ looking at Isaiah 61 v 1.2   and  Luke 4 v 18-19, followed by communion .

A Message from the Covid Committee

With restrictions being lifted, we still want to maintain an attitude of caution and careful regard for those around us. So from 25thJuly, we will have a more flexible arrangement of seating but still giving space for those who prefer it; we will still strongly encourage mask wearing but singing as well! And coffee will be served in the garden. (If wet those who want to can stay for coffee in the church). These changes will be reviewed and modified, (if necessary), in September.

Tuesday Zoom Fellowship

The numbers were down this week due to family commitments elsewhere. Kevin led us through the passages Ellie reflected on in Isaiah and Matthew. We discussed a number of points Ellie raised and added a few more names for the attributes of God – teacher, example, healer, helper, and there must be a lot more. I don’t know how we got onto the football, but it was good to see Ruth Collins getting passionate about fair play after the Italian’s win at all cost display, while our lads did not respond in kind!! Next week we should be discussing Martin’s sermon about ‘The Return of the King’    Angus

Family News

Angus writes:
A little study I did recently was to type humility into the online program “Bible Gateway”. The verses that came up were very interesting and I thought may be helpful to us all as we seek the Lord’s guidance. I found those linking wisdom with humility were very helpful. I assume these verses could also be seen using a concordance. 

The song the Lord has laid on my heart this week is “For the joys and for the sorrows”, Graham Kendric.

  • I delivered a birthday card to Anneli Smart at the weekend and she ask me to send her greetings to everyone.
  • I also noticed on Facebook this week that Simon Farrow received his Masters degree in project managementafter studying for three years. Unusual for normal times this was awarded online, which is not so unusual at the moment.  Congratulations to Simon are in order and also to his proud parents Angie and Kevin.

BIBLE NUMBERS AGAIN  – But no Maths involved this time!

Many Bible passages have sequences of numbers: do you recognise these?
Pair them up with the stories in column 2.
The Bible references are on the right, in Bible order, in case you need to look them up.

Faith and Football.  

How much does Christianity and faith feature in the England football team?

Matt Baker is national director of Sports Chaplaincy UK – he tells Premier many more players are seeking spiritual guidance:
“I think there’s a lot more people of faith and there’s definitely more Christians. We’ve seen an influx in terms of players of faith over the last twenty years. I know that we’re seeing that up and down the country – not just at international level, but at club level as well. 
“We get told that in society people are less interested in spiritual matters and not so many people go to church, but I find it actually the reverse within football, in particular on the playing side. There’s a lot more talk about faith. 

“I work with the Premier League. I go to Premier League conferences. Faith is on the agenda now and getting spoken about. So we are in a great position as chaplains because most players are going to find it difficult to go to church for all sorts of reasons – because they’re travelling to games, because they’re coming back late on a Sunday morning having played the day before – all of that. 
“Of course, most of what we do is pastoral, but from a spiritual perspective it can be really helpful because we’re embedded in those clubs, and we can be praying with them. We can be doing the Bible studies. We can be offering that support in a non-judgemental way that understands the culture of football that they’re involved in.”

Premier asked how chaplains help when players are in the spotlight after highs and lows, such as penalty misses:

 “It’s tough to deal with because the whole pressure is on you, and you feel you’ve let people down and I think that can take some while to get over. But it shows the character of an individual if they can overcome that and move forward. We’ve got to remember that someone’s career is not defined by one kick of a ball.
“As chaplains, we are there to offer emotional support and mental support and obviously, spiritual support as well. It’s often about listening.” 
At least three of the current England team have publicly shared how much God means to them, including Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling, who says his mum taught him faith and brought him up in the Church. 

Speaking about God’s existence, he said: “Every day you wake up, you just look around and you don’t need to look any further than what you see. A lot of scientists, the cleverest people in the world tell you that there has to be a creator. And they need answers, but you just have to sometimes accept that it’s bigger than you and you have to leave it at that.”
18-year-old Bukayo Saka was raised as a Christian and attended a Church of England school. His Instagram bio reads: “God’s child”.
And a member of manager Gareth Southgate’s coaching team, Chris Powell, has also spoken of his Christian faith:
“It gives me a sort of inner-peace, a sort of well-being.” 

We have an obligation to keep fighting for the change that we want to see in the world

They say that culture comes from the top. Gareth Southgate has been rightly praised for ushering in a new era of integrity, high expectations and good behaviour. He’s led from the front and taken action when standards were not adhered to (see Sterling’s sanction after clashing with teammate Gomez in 2019). When he wrapped his arms around a broken Saka last night after his penalty was saved, my friend commented on what a beautiful image it was of God’s paternal love for us.

Sometimes, in the face of injustice (see the racial abuse levied at Saka, Rashford and Sancho), and bad behaviour (see the drunkenness, violence and bad language that permeates much of football today) it is easy to feel overwhelmed, powerless and bone soul-tired. To every single one of my friends who are not white, and who have felt so painfully let down by the behaviour of a vocal minority in the past 24 hours: I am so sorry that you feel you are here again, back to this endlessly disappointing, heart-breaking reality.

But we are all called, as Christians, to carry on standing up to injustice, bad behaviour and broken culture wherever we see them. We cannot quit. We must not. Yesterday, as I sat in church, my pastor preached from Matthew 5:13-15: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

As Christians, we are meant to be different. To illuminate the darkness around us. To be distinct. We have an obligation to keep fighting for the change that we want to see in the world, to lead by example, just like Southgate has, and to refuse to quit just because the fight is tough, and the road seems long. No matter how heartbroken I feel about the behaviour of my fellow Englishmen today, I must not allow the discouragement to immobilise me. I must, instead, turn that disappointment into fuel for the fire.

In 2019, I journeyed to Wembley Stadium with my daughter and a coachload of her teammates and their parents to watch the Lionesses play the German women’s football team. An almost-capacity stadium was marked by its lack of violence, bad language and drunkenness at a match full of women, girls and parents. It was, by far, the nicest football match I had even been to. My point is that it can happen. It is possible. We need the FA to take action, just like it did against hooliganism, to continue to stamp out racism in football. We also need our politicians to stand up and be counted, unlike Pritti Patel and Boris Johnson when they refused to condemn fans who booed players for taking the knee last week. We need to recognise that if violence, abusive language and bad behaviour are ever going to be truly eradicated from football, it will need a wholesale culture change that comes from the top down. While a culture of drinking to excess is permitted to exist within football, this behaviour will not abate. It wouldn’t be allowed at Wimbledon, so why is it OK at Wembley?

So often after a big loss, we hear footballers apologising for letting down their fans. In this instance, it’s the fans who need to apologise. Marcus, Bukayo and Jadon: you deserved better. We’re sorry. We’ll keep pressing for change. And in the meantime, we’re praying for you all. Stay safe, rest well and keep pressing on.

 Part of an article by Emma Fowle, deputy editor of Premier Christianity, the UK’s leading Christian magazine.

How many Christians are there in Afghanistan?  

It’s very hard to know precisely how many Christians there are in Afghanistan, because they must keep their faith completely secret – but only a small number from a population of over 38 million. 

It is impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan. Leaving Islam is considered shameful, and Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered. Either they have to flee the country or they will be killed.   

If a Christian’s family discovers they have converted, their family, clan or tribe has to save its ‘honour’ by disowning the believer, or even killing them. Christians from a Muslim background can also be sectioned in a psychiatric hospital, because leaving Islam is considered a sign of insanity.  

“How we survive daily only God knows. He knows because He has been kind to dwell with us. But we are tired of all the death around us.”   A SECRET AFGHAN BELIEVER

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost. 

Open Doors raises prayer support for persecuted believers in Afghanistan. 

PLEASE PRAY
Dear Lord, please protect the small number of Christians among the millions of people who live in Afghanistan. Thank You that, despite their small number, they have discovered the greatest love in the world. Please keep showing them Your wisdom, mercy and comfort, and give opportunities for believers to meet together, despite the opposition. Amen.

BIBLE NUMBERS ANSWERS

1f,     2h,     3b,     4e,     5k,     6c,     7l,     8g,     9j,     10d,     11a,     12i

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