Strangers

Saint Augustine

God speaks through strange events and strange people

August 28th is the ‘Feast Day’ of Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430).

The famous story of his conversion involves a strange experience in a garden in Milan. Torn between a calling to live a life of chastity and remembering his former life, he prayed for forgiveness and immediately heard the voice of a child singing from a neighbouring house, “Take up and read!” He picked up a book of St Paul’s epistles which had been left nearby, and the words he found there changed him forever. He moved to North Africa to pursue a monastic life, but was called to be ordained and later became bishop of Hippo, where he served for 35 years.

Augustine has been rightly criticized for some elements in his teaching, including passing on a harmful view of the human body. He was not perfect, yet his teaching and example have inspired millions of people over many centuries. He himself insisted that grace is the heart of our faith.

God uses strange events and strange people—even us—to invite us to new insights and new depths of community.

 

Storms

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 As we gather today, to discuss various things, and as we think about the storms we sometimes encounter, these words of Leslie Brandt, based on our Psalm, are encouraging:

How wonderful is our God

and how we love to sing in praise of God.

Whereas we are often frightened,

when we think about the future

and confused and disturbed by the changing events about us,

still our hearts are secured and made glad when we remember how God has cared for us throughout the past.

God has kept us through the stormy past;

God will secure and guide us through the perils of the future.

We need never be overcome by fear,

no matter how uncertain the months and years ahead of us.

 

Leslie Brandt, Psalms Now (Adapted).

 

Our community at worship

The gathering of our community in worship offers a central place to share our lives with one another and God. Each Sunday at 10am, we seek to place our lives in the context of a God-reality, so that we might learn and grow from one another and the sharing of the Scriptures.

We enjoy input from many people, including a gifted group of musicians. We draw our music from a range of sources, including the rich Celtic tradition of Iona and the contemporary music scene alongside traditional style music. We celebrate the creative arts in our worship and seek to be inclusive to people with a diversity of needs.

Mathew Series: Healing

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“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally,

impatient in everything to reach the end

without delay.

We should like to skip

the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being

on the way to something unknown,

something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress

that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability…

And that it may take a very long time…”

– T. de Chardin

Jesus once asked a man, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ (John 5. 6) It’s interesting to consider why such a question might even be asked. Isn’t it obvious, that anyone with an ailment or struggle might want to be healed?

Consider these possible variations on the question:

Do you want to be cured?

Do you want wholeness?

Do you want transformation in you life?

Today we tend to think of healing in terms of cure—and usually that means something that someone else does for us: surgery, medications, some therapy. But what is our role in our own healing? What part do we play in becoming whole? God wills that we should all grow into wholeness. This is not something achieved alone, or done for us.

Healing is God’s gift and calling, as we are becoming whole together.

Matthew Series: Food

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‘Love is like five loaves and two fish: it’s never enough until it is shared.’

‘When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.’

(Dom Helder Camara; Brazilian Archbishop)

Jesus said, ‘You give them something to eat.’  (Matthew 14. 16.)

Today we come to one of the stories that many of us will remember from Sunday School, the story of Jesus taking five small loaves of bread, and two fish, and with them somehow feeding a crowd of 5000 men plus women and children.

Now there are lots and lots of things we could say about this story, and we have only a short time, but I want to invite you to consider an approach to bible reading that many people find very helpful: and this is to imagine you are one of the people in this story, and then to think and feel your way into the story through that person.

And if we read this story today, we can see that it has meaning and challenge for us, here in this nation of ours:

First, it says to us: Don’t send them away. Don’t just pretend that it’s not our concern when people are hungry, distressed, homeless or helpless. Not everyone is hungry for food, but many are. And many others are hungry for someone to listen, someone to take them seriously, someone to have compassion.

Then we note that Jesus’ compassion calls forth a response from us. He says: ‘You give them something to eat.’

But that brings us to say that we, honestly, can’t manage. We can’t, and we shouldn’t pretend. For too long, the church has pretended that it had the resources, or the answers, for the world’s needs. Some big churches may continue this way, but we cannot. And we should not.

Honestly, Jesus, what have we got to offer? Well, the answer is: Not nothing. We do have something to offer.

We can pick up a few loaves and start handing them around. It means taking a risk: the risk of looking stupid, mostly in our own eyes.

What we have to offer is making ourselves available to whatever Jesus is going to do—and that we don’t entirely know or understand. So we have a choice, to stand back and do nothing, or get involved with however it is that Jesus is working, in our streets, in our city, in our community.

God wills that the hungry are fed.

God wills that those who are lost should be accompanied into friendship.

God wills that those hungry for dignity and someone to care are taken seriously.

God wills that the fruits of the earth, a piece of bread and small amount of wine should be offered to each and every member of the human family—the gift of fellowship and life together.

Okay, we can’t do it: not on our own. All we can do is reach out and offer it to someone. Someone, just someone, and after that it’s up to God …

 

 

Matthew Series: Word

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“How many times, God, have we been told

that you are no stranger,

remote from those who call upon you in prayer!

O let us see, and know in our lives,

that those words are true.

 

Your word is near, O Lord our God,

your grace is near.

Come to us, then, with mildness and power.

Do not let us be deaf to you,

but make us receptive and open,

to Jesus Christ you son,

who comes to look for us and save us,

today and every day.”

 

From Huub Oosterhuis, Your word is near