Sunday, March 26, 2017

Who am I? At-one-ment with self

Text of the Week: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. Luke 4:1-2

Welcome to our services today and a special welcome to any worshipping with us for the first time. Today we reach the mid-point of Lent when tradition has it that you can have a break from your fast and a mini-celebration! What better way to do that than to celebrate the one who brought us into the world this Mothers Day! Jesus did not have a break from his fast. Today’s reading from Fresh from the Word is Luke’s account of the temptations. It marks the start of the fourth week of readings on at-one-ment. We began with a look at the human dilemma, recognising how much brokenness there is in the human condition. At the heart of our Christian faith is the conviction that Jesus Christ puts us together again and puts us together with God. In the last three weeks we have explored what that at-one-ment means as we have looked at being At One with God, At One with Others, and At One with Creation. Our final set of readings takes us back to the human dilemma of brokenness and makes it very much more personal: at the heart of our Christian faith is the conviction that Jesus Christ puts us together again as we accept that we are accepted by God and At One with Self.

Welcome and Call to Worship
Praise and Worship with Hy-Spirit
Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
Saying Thank You

Mothers day theme – thank you to Mothers – those who have been mother to us

Paul commends Timothy to be thankful to his grandmother and to his mother,

What’s in a name … ?

What’s your mother’s name – is there a meaning to it?

Timothy’s grandmother was Lois and his mother was Eunice.

Eunice - The name Eunice is a Greek baby name. In Greek the meaning of the name Eunice is: Good victory, joyous victory. she conquers. Famous bearer: In the bible Eunice was a woman noted for being without hypocrisy.

Possibly derived from Greek λωιων (loion) meaning "more desirable" or "better". Lois is mentioned in the New Testament as the mother of Eunice and the grandmother of Timothy. As an English name, it came into use after the Protestant Reformation.

English form of the Greek name Τιμοθεος (Timotheos) meaning "honouring God", derived from τιμαω (timao) "to honour" and θεος (theos) "god". Saint Timothy was a companion of Paul on his missionary journeys and was the recipient of two of Paul's epistles that appear in the New Testament.

Reading 2 Timothy 1:1-7

1 1-2 I, Paul, am on special assignment for Christ, carrying out God’s plan laid out in the Message of Life by Jesus. I write this to you, Timothy, the son I love so much. All the best from our God and Christ be yours!

To Be Bold with God’s Gifts
3-4 Every time I say your name in prayer—which is practically all the time—I thank God for you, the God I worship with my whole life in the tradition of my ancestors. I miss you a lot, especially when I remember that last tearful good-bye, and I look forward to a joy-packed reunion.

5-7 That precious memory triggers another: your honest faith—and what a rich faith it is, handed down from your grandmother Lois to your mother Eunice, and now to you! And the special gift of ministry you received when I laid hands on you and prayedkeep that ablaze! God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.

The Message

A Hy-Spirit Song
Activities for all over 3

It’s been a thought-provoking Lent series in Fresh from the word –

Today’s reading from Fresh from the Word is Luke’s account of the temptations. It marks the start of the fourth week of readings on atonement that great Christian doctrine that is the simplest of words to understand when it’s broken up into its constituent parts as it is in the headings to the readings from Fresh from the Word.


We began with a look at the human dilemma, recognising how much brokenness there is in the human condition. At the heart of our Christian faith is the conviction that Jesus Christ puts us together again and puts us together with God.

In the last three weeks we have explored what that at-one-ment means as we have looked at being At One with God, At One with Others, and At One with Creation.

Our final set of readings takes us back to the human dilemma of brokenness and makes it very much more personal: at the heart of our Christian faith is the conviction that Jesus Christ puts us together again as we accept that we are accepted by God and At One with Self.

What do you do with your ‘self’?

We can sometimes be so  taken with the challenges of the Christian faith to put others first that we forget the second of the commandments

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength

And you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Do you love yourself.

What about that inner self.

The self that no one else knows.

Last Sunday I did as I usually do and joined in the last quarter of an hour of Hy-Tec here in church. It’s a lovely way to finish a Sunday with their time of worship.

I often find it moving singing a worship song and then gathering around the table, linking hands and sharing prayers. Often very moving and very powerful prayers from the heart – in amongst the fun and the laughter too.

As I came in everyone was sat quietly watching a video – it was clearly a video reflection on the temptations.

I arrived at day 23.  I quickly worked out that each day was a different picture – and as each day passed Jesus in the wilderness got more and more haggard in appearance as he faced the awfulness of that wilderness experience.

The fast taking its toll then as the days reached the late 30’s the black and white pencil drawings there in the distance was a figure, coloured, looking real – it was the tempter – who held up a stone with the temptation to turn the stone to bread,

A high vantage point with the temptation to worship the devil and take charge of the world in all his power

And the high point of the temple with the temptation to throw yourself down.

Then came the question Adrian asked of the youngsters.

When you heard the Bible passage read earlier how did you visualize the devil?

How do you visualize the devil when you hear the reading read?

Let’s try …

Reading: Luke 4:1-13

Is it with a cloak and horns?

A traditional figure?

How did the artist visualize the devil?

The youngsters got it/ They noticed. Adrian then drew attention to it.

The figure that comes to tempt Jesus is drawn by the artist as the figure of Jesus himself from the very start on day 1 when all was well and he was fine and he was great.

The suggestion was that the temptation is from within ourselves.

It’s that part of ourselves that draws us to do the very things that God does not want us to do.

That’s the awful reality of temptation.

Think of the temptations in that way and there is a struggle going on within ourselves.

In that struggle we often put on masks.  We give the impression to others all is well.

The very last pictures were of jesus being cared for by the angels – being cared for by God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was passionate about his Christian faith. When the nazi regime took over in Germany and began the Nazification of the German church Bonhoeffer became a leading figure in the Confessing Church.

But they had to go underground. He wrote a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, the Cost of Discipleship and elxplored how important it was to keep to the teaching of Jesus – love for God, love for neighbor, love for enemy too.

He joined the official state civil service which gave himt he right to travel around the county – secretly he visited churches, taught, prayed and preached among them.

he grappled with his conscience and came to the conclusion that while he remained true to his pacificst convitions he felt it important to seek to assassinate Hitler.

He was involved in the so-called bomb plot. The bomb went off. But Hitler was unharmed.

Bonhoeffer  was among many who were rounded up and imprisoned.

In the last week of the war when many were released, the order went out that all who had been involved in the bomb plot should be executed. So it ws that Bonhoeffer was executed.

But he had continued to write and reflect and teach from prison.

Soon after the end of the way the first edition of his Letters and Papers from Prison was published.

It quickly became a best seller and his thinking on Chriswtian faith and the need to seek social justice and work foir peace inspired a generation and still inspires many to this day.

As the Letters and Papers from Prison were re-issued they were expanded. Among them were powerful hyumns and prayers and poems in which he studied himself and reflected on himself.

One of his finest poems grapples with this very sense  of inner temptation, struggling with ‘self’.

Who am I by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Who Am I? by Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As thought it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectations of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!

This is the brokenness of self.

This is the at-one-ment with self that is so important.

By the end of the temptations Jesus is surrounded by the love of God in that ministry of angels – he knows through that struggle inner struggle that he is accepted by God, that he is within the love of God and he can therefore being his ministry.

The good news of the faith is thast through such struggles we are surrounded by the love of God – through the inner struggles we are accepted by God.

Maybe as Lent unfolds that sense of peace that comes from accepting that we are accepted goes to the heart of the faith that can transform our lives.

28 Amazing grace

Whoever I am …

Prayer and Worship with Hy-Spirit

Prayers of Concern led by Janet P

Holy God,

When terror strikes at the heart of our community,
You are there.
When individuals turn against others in misunderstanding and hatred,
You are there.
When we put aside all thoughts of our own safety and well-being to help others,
You are there.

In the times of starvation and want,
You are there.
In the times of confusion and doubt,
You are there.
In the times when all hope seems lost and we don't know which way to turn,
You are there.

When the frail and lost find comfort,
You are there.
When the young and eager find learning,
You are there.
When our daily lives shine the light of love on those around us,
You are there.

Holy God,

Whatever our age and ability,
Whatever our need and skill,
Whatever situations come our way,
Help us to remember
You are there.


A Hy-Spirit song

Words of blessing

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sanctuary Sunday - Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees

Welcome and Call to Worship

The churches of Cheltenham have been invited to mark today as Sanctuary Sunday as we join with others to say, Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees.

As Jesus came to the end of telling the story of the Good Samaritan he had a question to ask. It’s a question he asks of us today.

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

Let us pray …

Storytelling Lord, give us ears to hear,
and to not only be hearers but also doers of the word,

to not only ask who our neighbour is
but also ask how we might be a neighbour.

May we never ever pass by on the other side,
no matter what it costs us.

May we only ever be the one who shows mercy
to those robbed of all life held dear.

May we always go and do likewise.

So help us, God.

Let’s join in singing the first of our hymns …

MTS 10 I the Lord of sea and sky

Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

Little things make a big difference

Talk about the little things we can do to help other people – and then show video clip

Reading: Matthew 25:31-40

We are a community of faith that has been created by the love of God.

We are the people who have been set free by the world of forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and are therefore a people called to reach out to those who have travelled across the world fleeing war and persecution and are now in our midst and far from home, people whose lives cry out for the warm embrace of fellowship and friendship.

We have come not to exalt our own goodness, but to praise the holiness of God

We have come not to boast of what we have done, but to proclaim the redeeming work of Jesus Christ by extending the hand of community to refugees, displaced persons and asylum seekers.

With all our being, we will praise God and tell of God's goodness in our acts of kindness and love toward the "least" among us in our times.

A Hy-Spirit Song

Activities for all over 3

At the heart of the Bible

It’s there in the story of the People of Israel at the heart of the Bible.

Abraham and Sarah
Isaac and Rebekah
Jacob and Rachel

All travelled far from their home and found a home far away and became a people, the people of Israel.

For a while they settled but famine forced them to flee from their homes, they found refuge in Egypt. But as the generations passed the people of Israel were treated harshly, oppressed and turned into slaves.

And so it was that Moses led them out of bondage in Egypt towards a land of promise … and each year at Passover the people remember that once they were enslaved, that once they fled their homes … and at every turn they made a commitment – never to forget that once they had been foreigners in an alien land – always to care for the foreigner in their midst.

It’s there in the story of the People of Israel at the heart of the Bible.

It is there in the Covenant Code.
"Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner; remember that you were foreigners in Egypt.” Exodus 22:21

It is there in the Holiness Code

Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land.
Treat them as you would an Israelite,
and love them as you love yourselves.
Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:33-34

It is there in the Justice Code

"Do not deprive foreigners and orphans of their rights;
and do not take a widow's garment as security for a loan.
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt
and that the Lord your God set you free;
that is why I have given you this command.

"When you gather your crops
and fail to bring in some of the grain that you have cut,
do not go back for it;
it is to be left for the foreigners, orphans, and widows,
so that the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.

When you have picked your olives once,
do not go back and get those that are left;
they are for the foreigners, orphans, and widows.

When you have gathered your grapes once,
do not go back over the vines a second time;
the grapes that are left are for the foreigners, orphans, and widows.

Never forget that you were slaves in Egypt;
that is why I have given you this command.   Deuteronomy 24:17-22

This is the Law of the Lord
‘For the Lord your God…
executes justice for the orphan and the widow,
and who loves the strangers, the foreigners
providing them with food and clothing.
You shall also love the stranger, the foreigner,
for you were strangers, you were foreigners, in the land of Egypt.’

Deuteronomy 10:18-19

And in the promised land they built a great kingdom only to have it split in two.

First the northern kingdom and then the southern kingdom too fell to the Assyrians and then to the Babylonians and the people found themselves in a strange and foreign land.

By the rivers of Babylon—
   there we sat down and there we wept
   when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
   we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
   asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
   ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’

How could we sing the Lord’s song
   in a foreign land?

They returned and didn’t forget that once they had been strangers in a foreign land, seeking refuge far away.

It’s there in the story of the People of Israel at the heart of the Bible.

It is there in the story of Jesus, at the heart of the Bible.

And in the fullness of time one was born in a manger for there was no room for them in the inn.

And wise men from the East came
and saw the child with Mary his mother;
and they knelt down and paid him homage.

Then, opening their treasure-chests,
they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they left for their own country by another road.

Now after they had left,
an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,

‘Get up, take the child and his mother,
 and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you;
for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night,
and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men,
he was infuriated,
and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem
who were two years old or under,
according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.

Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
   wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
   she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’  Matthew 2

It is there in the story of Jesus, at the heart of the Bible.

Jesus knew what it was to be far from home.

Jesus knew what it was to receive help from the foreigner.

When did we see you a stranger and welcome you?
Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these
who are members of my family, you did it to me.

Which of these three, do you think,
was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?

He said,

‘The one who showed him mercy.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ Luke 10:36

And if it is there in the story of the People of Israel
If it is there in the story of Jesus
If it is there at the heart of the Bible

That means we have to do something about it.

Let mutual love continue.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Remember those who are in prison,
as though you were in prison with them;
those who are being tortured,
as though you yourselves were being tortured.

So we can say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper;
   I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?’

Prayer with a Response

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
provide for all seeking refuge from famine.

God of Hagar, Joseph and Moses,
liberate all seeking refuge from slavery.

God of Esther, Naomi and Ruth,
strengthen all seeking refuge as families.

God of David, Elijah, and Jeremiah,
protect all seeking refuge from conflict.

God of Ezekiel, Ezra and Nehemiah,
comfort all who are longing for home.

God of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
journey with all seeking refuge today.
In the name of the One who was
both refuge and refugee.

Christian Aid’s Video with Susan Durber Love the Stranger

MTS 3 Brother, sister

That’s why we have joined with churches, with people of other faith communities and with people of no faith here in Cheltenham to offer a welcome to refugees in our town. We have supported Gloucestershire Action for Asylum Seekers And Refugees, GARAS. And we have been involved in setting up Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees.

We need to understand who refugees and asylum seekers are. The following is drawn from Churches Together in Merseyside Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants – a Guide – Welcoming the Stranger

What is Asylum?

Asylum is the protection granted by a country to someone who has left their own country to find safety. If a country gives such protection that person becomes a refugee.

What is an Asylum Seeker

An asylum seeker is someone who has made application for protection in line with the UN 1951 Refugee Convention, and the 1967 European Convention on Human Rights. A person applies for asylum on the grounds of having a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political belief or membership of a particular social group.

Once they have officially applied for asylum, the asylum seeker can claim support, until their application is dealt with, and their request is
agreed or refused.

They have to live in designated accommodation provided by G4S, SERCO or Clearel, they have £5-00 a day and they are not allowed to work, to train, to have education, to drive, or to have council housing. The accommodation allocated to asylum seekers is not paid for by the local council. It is nearly always ‘hard to let’ properties, where other
people do not want to live.

If their application for asylum is agreed they have refugee status, their support from the home office ends, they have to vacate their accommodation, and have 28 days to access benefits and find accommodation. They are now permitted to live and work as they are able.

What is a refugee?

A person given refugee status is normally granted leave to remain in the UK for 5 years. At the end of that period they can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

If the request for asylum is denied they become a ‘refused asylum seeker’. They are returned to their home country. However some refused asylum seekers cannot be returned to their country of origin if that country is subject to a level 2 or 3 humanitarian crisis as defined by
UNCHR e.g. Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Eritrea. Some countries refuse to accept returning asylum claimants e.g. Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

What can refused asylum seekers do?

All are given the right to appeal. Each has to travel at their own expense to Liverpool where they make their appeal in person. During this appeal process Asylum seekers whose applications havebeen refused are able to apply for, but may not receive, a basic support package known as “hard case” or “Section 4” support. There is no cash support. The
support consists of accommodation, on a no choice basis, and board in the form of an ‘Azure card’, pre-loaded with £35.39 a week for a single asylum seeker. It can only be used in specific supermarkets and shops. The Azure card does not cover any travel costs, so no financial support is provided for even local travel costs. In order to receive this support the applicant must agree to return to their country of origin. If they cannot destitution follows.

30% of appeals are granted.

The Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees group continues to grow and be active not only supporting the Syrian refugee families in Cheltenham but also raising awareness about the plight of those refugees that come to Great Britain from Syria and elsewhere and specifically towards those that come to the Cheltenham area.

At the moment the focus of the CWR group is around


English lessons:

The Community Cafe that is led by C3 Church is ongoing; the third café has just happened; by all accounts was really good last month, the Syrians apparently had asked to use the time for some more English conversation with volunteers (rather than just a chance to get together and socialise with each other), so there might be some activities to give English practice this time too. This is a closed event and a chance for families to get together and also for members of the welcome group to come and everyone to meet each other.

What is needed more than anything else is a heart of welcome.

Almighty and merciful God,
whose son became a refugee
and had no place to call his own.
Look with mercy on those who today
are fleeing from danger,
homeless and hungry.
Bless those who work to bring them relief;
inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts,
and guide the nations of the world towards that day
when all will rejoice in your Kingdom of justice and of peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Hymn: Longing for light

Prayers of Concern
led by Neil

Quiet time by Susan Lenzkes
There is a place 
Where human strength can 
rest beside still water ;
A wondrous place 
Where searching ends and 
Souls can cease to hunger ;
A tranquil place 
Of sweet release where 
Sorrow finds surrender ;
For Christ our Shepherd 
Tends us there and 
Holds us close forever

Let us pray ,  for the starving millions in Yemen and East Africa 

Let us pray ,that the port blockades are lifted to allow the ships to deliver the cranes to lift the sacks of grain to feed the starving millions 

We pray for the parents that have lost and will lose children and children who will lose parents ,lord give them the strength to find their peace and sanctuary 

We pray for all those who have been uprooted from their homes and families because of conflict within their countries and that they find their peace and sanctuary . 

We pray that in America the President stops his anti immigration quest and realises the damaging implications and knock on affect of his actions and decisions and instead utilises his  power to help ,share ,include , welcome and not reject .

We pray that they open their borders their doors their minds and their hearts to all immigrants .

We pray for our prime minister to give her the strength when challenged and under pressure and that she finds her quiet time to be able to do what's best for the country and all who find refuge here 

As Spring approaches we pray for those less fortunate than ourselves who are homeless and have been living on the streets for them Spring and Summer just means warmer nights but they are still sleeping on cold hard stone . We pray for shelter food and friendship 

We pray for all the care workers and Social services who are providing continuous support whilst battling against financial constraints 

WE pray for the emergency services who are also under pressure daily without the funds and resources to support 

We remember families under pressure for all sorts of reasons, that tensions and conflicts be resolved peacefully and bring healing to hurting people, for those suffering in the workplace with unfair loads .

 We pray for our own church family 


A Hy-Spirit Song

The Lord’s Supper

Communion Offering & Dedication

MTS 24 Will you come and follow me

Words of Blessing

So much to pass on at Highbury

If you give a little love you can get a little love of your own

A blessing shared at Highbury

Now and the Future at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions

Darkness into Light