Lent - a time of transition

lentsquare2After his baptism, just as Jesus was about to set out on his ministry, the Spirit of God took him into the desert for a period of 40 days. During this time Jesus went without food and company. Embracing silence and solitude he pressed into the resources of his Father and found that God's grace was made perfect in his weakness. Trained and equipped by God through this experience Jesus resisted the temptations of the devil and found himself totally reliant on the grace and love of his father.  All of us face periods of testing and each year Christians intentionally embrace a discipleship program called 'LENT' to restore and reset our hearts in line with our heavenly father. Deliberately setting aside things such as food, or time, or money, we take up disciplines that produce fruit in our lives. Lent is a period of transition for us. It is an essential part of the journey. It is a beginning and it is an end. Join with us as we walk together into this period of 40 days between ASH WEDNESDAY (18th February) and GOOD FRIDAY (3rd April).


ROSE COTTAGE HUB

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Rose Cottage HUB is thriving.  With the church office relocated upstairs, a new prayer space, and the re-launch of the cafe under Nathan's leadership, the place is  buzzing.  Mark Lawrence, mission and worship leader, has been working hard with Nathan and many different activities are now happening during the week. The local community have enjoyed the good food served at the cafe on Wednesdays and Thursdays and also during the holidays.  Nathan and the team are always open to welcoming new volunteers so if you are keen to be involved get in touch. The Prayer Space upstairs is available for folks to use and the office space is working well.

The hub is also available for church groups to use so Contact Mark if you have an idea or a request.  Community groups already use the hub each week and we hope to see new groups get involved. If you hear of any way that we can help with a community issue, do let Mark know.

These are exciting days and I am mindful that underlying all these goals and dreams are about connecting with people in real and fresh ways, inviting them into the life we have in Christ - being and making disciples.  We continue to pray for it all and ask God's blessing on it all.


IMPORTANT DAYS

Important MessageHi everyone.

Not many of us may care so much that it’s a new football season but for those of us who meet at the House of Football it’s becoming a little more all-consuming all over again. It can be like this with church life too – our interest and connection ebbing and flowing as time passes by – some of us loving it – being engrossed in it – others less so, less connected. Well, in church terms it definitely feels like the beginning of a new season. My sense is that these are important days for us as a church family and there is so much going on and so much needing prayer right now that I have felt that I needed to get in touch with you all – by video, by facebook, by email, by letter… whichever was the best way for you to connect with you about it all…

A few Sundays ago I handed out a flyer with a vision of what the church would be like in 2019 – five years from now – I hope that you have had a chance to read it. It’s not a fixed thing – it’s not a prophecy – it’s not a manifesto – it’s just what I can imagine and what I can hope for… It tells a story of how we have grown – in number and in strength and in maturity. It tells a story of how we have joined together around a shared mission and how everyone has played a part to bring it about... a story of new families, new men and new young people and children. A story of new people of all ages who have found a way back to the father that created them. It’s a story of salvation and forgiveness and healing. It’s a story of rescue. It’s what I live for.

If I am honest it’s been a challenging summer for us. Summer is great for a break but it can also fragment our community life for a while as numbers fluctuate on Sundays and mid-week meetings and activities take a breather. With Barrie and Ruth leaving Rose Cottage after an amazing four and half year stint we have had to regroup and take stock. With me making the decision to cut the number of early morning services back to one a month I know that there have been feelings of sadness about it all. With changes to the building needing to become firmed up anxieties can grow about the changes that are going to take place. With people being taken ill and needing hospital care, with anniversaries of loved ones having to be faced, and with the ongoing challenge of doing life and mission in Twerton we have felt stretched and vulnerable. Behind the scenes many of us are facing major decisions, important life choices and difficult personal challenges.

All this has left its mark on us and we have had to hold on. Which we are doing… just…

What is God saying to us in all this? What is he wanting to remind us of?

We know that God knows it all. And that he is utterly interested in it all. There isn’t a moment of our day, a hair on our head that he isn’t concerned with. He loves more than the sparrows – this we know. And we know that he has called us here – not to die in the desert but to find life – life in all its rich fullness. We know that he aches for our community, for the locality and we know that Bath will not be healed until Twerton is healed, Bath will not be free until Twerton is free. We know this. He has not forgotten us. He is ahead of us. He is providing for us. He is fighting for us and he who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it…

And it is with this hope that I want to invite you to join me in praying for the churc, for the community, for each other once again. Of course we already pray for each other but let’s recommit ourselves to this task. Let’s recommit ourselves to interceding and for digging deep into God’s storehouses of grace and seeking God for his blessing on us and our community. My goodness we need it.

Can you pray for Rose Cottage?

I am so excited about the future of Rose Cottage as we make it a St Michael’s Hub – all freshly painted upstairs and down – ready for hospitality and welcome, for prayer and ministry, for serving and listening, for discipleship and worship. Pray for the new kitchen manager being appointed this week – and for the team they will need to draw around them. Pray for the staff team relocating the office to the upstairs which is going to be so great for us – connecting us to everyone and everything. Pray for the other ideas we have – for family days, for youth groups, for the art group, for ‘house groups’ using the centre.

One exciting thing we are doing is to turn one of the rooms upstairs into a prayer space – open for everyone to use – to connect and to reach out – right in the heart of the High Street. Of course you are all welcome to come and use it!

Pray for Mark and he oversees the work and for the new Mission Committee that we are drawing together in October to shape and bless the church in its mission and disciple-making. Pray a blessing over the Rec House and all that happens there.

It’s been a great Summer at the Rec and with Andrew Lawrence appointed for 6 months as a Community Musician it looks like the place with continue to buzz. Pray for the resources to come to expand and extend his work.

And pray for the young people. Luke and the team have built up incredible life-changing relationships with them and it has been so amazing to see the work mature and develop with the creation of the two new chaplaincy posts – Laura and Gwen. Luke’s passion to see these families and young people find life in Christ is so infectious and it really is amazing that the school has contributed to funding part of a post for the next two years. Do pray for the new team as they get their feet under the ground and begin to make connections. Do pray for Luke, Mark, Louise and myself as Governors at St Michael’s Junior school – looking to build on the success of last year’s SAT’s results and deepen the Christian ethos of the place.

Of course it’s also a new term at the infant school too so pray for – George as deputy and for Kate and Nathan as governors and for Ann and the team at First Steps.

Any day now the city will be swelled with thousands of new Students returning to the city or arriving here for the first time. We may not have had many Students join us in the past but with so many of them living locally I am sure that God is going to bring a number to us this year. There is an organisation called Fusion that we are connected to that helps student’s get rooted into local churches. There are over 50 on the list who we are inviting to a come and taste our community and hospitality on the last day of Fresher’s week on Sunday 28th September when we are having a church lunch after the service. Pray for the new students moving into the area and that God will protect and enliven any young Christians as they take their first steps away from home.

In a few weeks’ time the PCC are meeting and this month we will be hearing back from the Architect who we have commissioned to produce some outlying plans to take forward. Considerable time has gone into thinking everything through and together we will need to begin to discern the right steps forward. This will include all of us and will require us to discern from God a vision for his future for the church here. Prayer will be fundamental to this.

For a number of years we have had the idea of being a ‘house of prayer’ and have encouraged one another to convene ‘houses of prayer’ in each other’s homes and at the church each week. If you are free on Tuesday’s at 7-8pm then join us in the church each week to pray and seek God together. If not, consider forming your own ‘house of prayer’ for an hour each week to join with others in circling all these concerns in prayer.

In all these things, especially after the disruption of the summer months, I am particularly mindful of the importance for us to meet together – on Sundays as a larger gathering and midweek in smaller home groups or formation groups. I believe this is vital for us as a church family and I would like to encourage everyone to recommit to these times together. We not only miss out on being blessed ourselves when we are miss out on these but we are unable to be a blessing to others who need us. Part of our purpose for gathering together is to pray for and minister to one another. I long for us to grown in confidence in doing this for each other each week as I know just how much stuff we all carry. Can I encourage you to make the most of any opportunity to receive or to offer prayer when it comes. I am convinced God will act the more we ask.

Lastly – a couple of other more random points…

The first is having a new bell ringer group. Over the last few years Sharon Bradley has been pulling together a group of novice bell ringers who have been ‘learning the ropes’ for ringing at weddings. Recently they offered to ring on Sundays and am delighted that a new group will be ringing every fortnight at 10am to call Twerton to church… Just to say, when you see them in the tower the best way in is through the porch door instead!

And lastly I am grateful that the Diocese have offered me the opportunity of having a three month Sabbatical. Vicars are usually only offered a sabbatical once in their ministry so it is an important time for me. Their purpose is to give a minster the chance to take a step back, to rest, to reflect and to recharge their batteries – spiritual, physical and emotional – ready for the next phase of ministry. It is a good time to take one when there is a Curate in post and I am delighted that Kate has been so encouraging to me about it all as she will be taking up much of the weight of my absence. But, of course, I am by no means indispensable and I am excited not only of the idea of seeing how I will grow through this time away but also how the church will grow without me being around. I am going to be taking mine in November and coming back in February which means that you will be celebrating Christmas without Tory or I. Kate, the church wardens, the PCC and the staff team have all begun preparing for my time away and I value your prayers for me, and Tory, as we take the time to go deeper into the life of Jesus and rest in him for a while.

In all this I am more and more aware that everything we do as a church is a community thing. Christianity is often presented as it’s about God and me – about us individually. It is but it is about far more than that. What really matters is how we live as a community. This is what will be what matters most over the next five years.

Let us recommit to picking up the towel, sharing meals centred on Jesus’ own last supper and loving one another as Christ has loved us.

These three remain. Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


A NEW SEASON

blackberryThe summer is almost over… not quite… but we can feel it ebbing away. Autumn is on its way and the nights are getting colder and conversations are beginning about the heating.

We are used to this rhythm of change each year and yet we still in some ways find it hard. Coming to terms with the fact that nothing stays the same for ever is one of life’s hardest tasks. September (my birth month) always brings new beginnings. Every child and young person moves up a year at school or college and everything from new pencil cases to new uniforms to new friends are acquired. It can be an exciting time of change.

Here in our community, just like nature, we are entering into a new season of life together and while daunting there is much to anticipate. Luke has been able to fund, recruit and appoint a new team to join him in the work of LIFE365 deepening our connection with families through the children and young people of the area. We are excited about the new chaplaincy posts that have been created and pray for Laura and Gwen. Mark has helped us evaluate and plan for the next stage of life at Rose Cottage and we are looking to appoint a new Kitchen Manager from October. Over the last few weeks work has begun on redecorating the upstairs of Rose Cottage in readiness for us to relocate the staff offices there and for the centre to become a stronger hub for us as a church. Connections and relationships through the Rec House are blossoming and Andrew Lawrence (Mark’s brother) has run an amazing project this summer helping young people write, perform and record their own songs.

As we look further forward we know that we need to complete the redevelopment and renewal of the building that we have been gifted. Much has been happening behind the scenes on this regard and we are going to be entering a new season of fundraising and development as we finalise our plans together and take our next steps.

In all these areas of life we can see that we are entering a new season of life as a church. Exciting. Daunting. New. Like the feeling you get at the beginning of a new term.

All new things bring loss with them too. A new child takes away those evenings when it was ‘just the two of us’. A new house means new problems to solve, new decorating to take on and new neighbours in exchange for old. A new job means leaving your old familiar workplace and embracing a new team, a new task, a new community.

It will be the same for us in our changing situation. It is inevitable. We won’t be able to avoid it. Entering a new season will inevitably mean some old things will be left behind. Over many months I have been reflecting and praying about our Sunday services (I’m always doing this actually) and I believe it is the right time to draw us back together to one main service each week and only having one early morning service a month. I know that this is hard, that it is a loss, but am convinced that we need each other more than ever at this time of change.

What matters in all this is us having a shared goal, a shared vision. ‘Being united with one heart and mind’ – just as the early church were. Jesus has always been the glue that holds us together as a church rather than social background or age or class but in these days ahead our unity will be challenged even more as we walk together into a new season. We will have to work hard at being united around him. We will be tempted to give up on each other.

As well as Jesus, it will be a shared sensed of mission and purpose that will hold us together through this time. I am unashamed about reminding us all that the reason we exist as a church community – the reason St Michael’s exists – is to participate in God’s mission to the people who live here. As a church we are caught up in God’s story (HIS-story), not ours, and we have been commissioned by Jesus to make disciples, embodying, proclaiming and demonstrating his message of good news.

Our context is Twerton and our goal is to see more and more men, women and children in Twerton find Life in Christ. This is our mission, our purpose, our reason for existence.

We are mindful that we are an Anglican Church and this gives us a history, a liturgy, and a tradition to start from, it gives us a specific role in the community and offers us numerous opportunities. It also brings with it various obligations, expectations and responsibilities, and it also brings with it a number of challenges.

All this is good. It is who we are. Who God has called us to be.

I believe God is leading us into a new future – linked to the past, but different from it. Our future is to be a church of new Christians, to be a growing church, and a younger church. Our future is to be a church that is rooted in the locality with a mission to the locality. Our future is to be a church of small groups, a church of deep relationships and strong connections. Our future is to be a church that is outward looking, reaching out to 100’s of people every week whether through LIFE365, the REC HOUSE, ROSE COTTAGE or through our own natural relationships with our neighbours.

I believe our future is to be a church that trains and equips people - interns/students/new Christians/future leaders. I believe it is to be a church that expresses itself in vibrant, charismatic and engaged worship with a deep spirituality. Our future is to be a church that models reconciliation and forgiveness, a maturing church that is committed to supporting one another in our discipleship, and which communicates strong and relevant teaching. Our future is to be a diverse church of wounded sinners – open to all but seeking transformation of all. A community of both invitation and challenge.

In all this I believe it is important to know that it is God’s desire for this to happen through us. Not despite us, but through us. God wants to grow his church here in Twerton through us, small and vulnerable though we are. His desire is to grow his family through his family. He wants to use us, the poor in spirit, the weak, the vulnerable, the broken. He wants to grow his family through us, his family here. Brothers and sisters, we are entering a new season together, a new term. Of course we are feeling the mix of emotions that come with any new season – trepidation, excitement, nervousness – all mixed together.

Let us hold firm together, walk together, re-unite ourselves around our shared Master and around our shared vision. Let us recommit ourselves to build, to work, to pray, to give, for this vision to come about. Let us enter this new season with hope and confidence. For God is with us. We may face challenges on every side, but the one who has overcome the world is with us and will never leave us or forsake us. And in him we are more than conquerors.


AUGUST RESTORATION

joufulsquareIt's been a beautiful summer weather-wise so far this year and we are all so grateful. August is a different month. It goes a bit quieter here in Twerton. Holidays are good for us. We need them and the kids need them. We may rest, but God doesn't - his love never fails, never runs out, never runs out on me. He is always working his purposes out for us - working for the good of those who love him. We live in his gift of life. Over the next few weeks a team will be running a family day each Friday at Rose Cottage. Head on down to enjoy the fun. Summer is also a time of weddings and we will be celebrating with a number of couples over the next few weeks. Pray for them. Summer is also a time of reflection - a chance to look back and look ahead. There are lots of changes taking place for us as a church at the moment. Mark is taking responsibility for Rose Cottage and we will be looking to appoint a new Kitchen Manager to run two cafe days very soon. Luke's work as LIFE365 is growing and we are delighted that GWEN and LAURA are joining the team. The Rec House creative arts centre is blossoming too and ANDREW is joining the team to bring an added dimension to the project running a pilot for the next six months. Mark and Luke have worked behind the scenes to fund-raise for these new posts and we are so grateful to God for the provision of resources. The ideas for the building developments continue to take shape and the Architects, PCC and planners are meeting with the next few months and this is a key time in the planning process.

On Sundays, over August, we will be turning our attention to JESUS and retracing his steps through John's gospel. Each encounter is beautiful and powerful and I am excited about how Jesus' life will impact us today. Come ready to worship, open up your hearts, receive from him and give to him your best.

One other thing - Richard has been offered a three month Sabbatical by the diocese between November and February after 13 years of ministry and Kate will be leading us through many of these new times and changes. There is much happening and much to give thanks for. Pray for each other. Serve each other. Bless one-another. And above all love one-another.


EASTER SERVICES

eastersquareWe can't do it on our own. That's why we need EASTER... All of it. Maundy Thursday. Good Friday. Resurrection Sunday. We need it all. And it's all on offer! Join us as we walk through these stories and get our hearts reborn.
Maundy Thursday - 7.30pm - LAST SUPPER
Good Friday - 2pm - CRUCIFIXION
Easter Morning - 10.30am - EMPTY TOMB


MAKING THE MOST OF LENT

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It's that time of year once again when we embrace the traditions of LENT. LENT is a period of 40 days (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter. It takes us on a journey of reflection and discipline that not only reconnects us to the story of Jesus but also plays a part in forming Jesus' character in us. Millions of people from around the world participate in it letting God reshape them into his image. Here at St Michael's we always start LENT in prayer with others from across the city at the Abbey enjoying a pancake together. The next evening, ASH WEDNESDAY, we break bread together and enter the season for real with an act of ASHING - being marked with the sign of the cross on our foreheads. Many of us fast or chose another discipline to participate in. We do this because we find that disciplines are things we can do that help us to do things we can't do.

Join us as we seek more of God this LENT and invite his Spirit to reform and shape our lives.


GRACE AND PEACE

graceandpeaceLiving out of grace and peace

Christmas is one thing, New Year is quite another. Which one do you prefer? This year, with Gus home for Tory’s birthday on a surprise visit, I loved putting up the tree and watching the kids hang their memories and treasures on the tip of the branches. We went to bed late that night but happy. That was the 16th December – still over a week to go – and there was much to do, much to get ready for, much to organise. And on the day itself, for us as a family, with Tory’s mum down to stay, finding it hard to ‘say no to a crisp’ and commenting amusingly on ‘call the midwife’, we took our time and let things emerge. Of course, now Angus and Hebe are older, the pace has changed and the conversation has deepened. The weather’s been variable and it’s on days like this that it’s both good and bad to have a dog. They get you out – no matter what the rain is like – and it’s not unusual to find the walks strangely refreshing.

For me, I find praying, listening and sitting still hard at Christmas. At other times too, but especially at Christmas. Too many things to do, conversations to have, miles to travel. In my ideal version of Christmas I find God again and again, I rest in him, I read about his son, I still myself. In reality I find myself distracted by countless things – mostly screens.

Christmas is one thing but as the week passes and we approach New Year a whole new set of issues arise. Already tired from the getting ready for Christmas, I find myself staying up a bit later than I ought and I find it hard to refresh myself. And then, ‘Crash!’, in comes New Year – not just another late night but a whole set of concerns and thoughts and resolutions.

Jesus Christ may not be at the centre of our cultural life but we find it hard to completely shake off the religious and spiritual behaviours that seem hardwired into our DNA. At Christmas time countless thousands find themselves contradicting their normal belief and behaviour, singing ‘Glory’ to the son of David and, ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven’. At New Year the talk is all about resolutions, making a new start, turning the page. Every paper, every radio station, every magazine has something to say on the subject. We are all longing for more, for better, for thinner.

The Christian word for resolution is repentance – thinking again, rethinking everything, turning around – and although that is not such a popular word, that is what we all engage in.

At New Year everyone has a go at reviewing their lives. We can’t help it. We rethink our eating, our bodies, our time management, our goals, our ambitions, our money, our relationships, our work. And of course, all this thinking is hard for any of us whose life is hard, or bleak, or difficult, anyone whose life is unlikely to ‘just improve’. Christmas covers over our concerns but New Year brings back into the light all over again and sometimes this can be as overwhelming as coming out of the cinema one afternoon. It is no wonder that doctors report that depression is highest in January, because January is the month of honesty and review, and when things aren’t all that good depression can be a natural response.

For some, I guess, New Year is a moment of freshness, newness and optimism. This year, they hope, things will get better. This year I live the way I want to. This year I will lose a few pounds, make a few pounds, lift a few pounds. This year I will get the balance right.

How is New Year for you? Have you been caught up in the narrative of reflection and renewal once again? And if so, how has that left you feeling?

As Christians, as beloved children of God, as followers of Jesus, as Spirit filled sons and daughters, as disciples, we live our lives in a good story, a story that gives us much hope, much joy and much peace. And it goes like this.

I am loved
I am chosen
I am forgiven
I am filled
I am equipped
I am safe

God has loved us, chosen us, forgiven us, filled us, equipped us, and saved us. As we approach a new year we must let this story fill our minds and hearts. We must let this worldview direct our thinking and dominate our feelings and emotions.

In response to every worry, every dream, every doubt, every fear, every task, every conflict around the corner, every plan, every complexity, every hope, every turn, God says to our hearts the same things, again and again.

You are loved
You are chosen
You are forgiven
You are filled
You are equipped
You are safe

or this

I love you
I choose you
I forgive you
I will fill you
I will equip you
I will protect you

Why do we find these things so hard to hear?
Why do we find it hard to rest into this story?

The world around us tells us another story. It tells us, again and again, that we will not be loved unless we succeed, be beautiful, achieve, win, or impress. It tells us that only the best are chosen, only the slim, only the good, only the perfect. It tells us that only the good are forgiven, only the deserving. It tells us that there isn’t enough to go around so we’d better take stuff when it comes past, grab it, drink it, eat it, spend it, indulge it. It tells us that we need to work harder, train harder, push more, rest less. It tells us that we are vulnerable, in danger, that a crisis is just around the corner.

Jesus’s existence, his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, his spirit sending and his return all tell us that there is another place to live from – a place of acceptance, of calling, of forgiveness, of plenty, of blessing and of security. The New Testament calls living in this place, “living in Christ”. In Christ we have everything we need for living joyful, peaceful, anxiety free, content, loving, beautiful and fruitful lives. Everything. Everything.

If you don’t believe this you will know. You will be searching for the answer somewhere else. Searching for love, for significance, for forgiveness, for satisfaction, for strength and for refuge, somewhere else, someone else, something else. It may be your work, your role, your family, your money, a relationship, a place in church life. It could be anything. For we are desperate until we find these things.

The good news we have to offer, the good news we have the chance of experiencing, is that this life is available to us in Christ.

Repentance isn’t just feeling bad about the old way of doing something, it is about feeling attracted to a completely new way of living. That’s why Jesus always linked repentance and belief. “Repent and believe the good news,” he said. Because to live in Christ means believing that Christ really is the source of all grace and all truth. Living in him means completely trusting him with everything. Seeing him as the source of all good things and the end to which all good things point.

This is what we have on offer to us every day! Life in Christ.
Again and again and again and again.
Every new year Christ comes and offers us this life once again.
His love is endless, his forgiveness complete, his desire is limitless.

Of course trusting Jesus means rethinking everything. Everything.
It means letting him be the way, the truth and the life. It means letting him direct our behaviour, our language, our emotions, our way of thinking, our approach to food, to sex, to money, to power, to relationships. It means really letting him shape us, mould us, hold us, define us. It means letting his will be done on earth, in us, as perfectly as his will is expressed in heaven.

This New Year, Jesus comes and stands in front of us and offers us himself – completely. He offers us his life, his hope, his peace, his love. He offers us his strength, his courage, his determination. He offers us his power in weakness, his contentment in poverty, his joyfulness in the midst of pain. He offers us his life. Right here. Right now. No matter the circumstances, the present reality of your life, Jesus comes and says I can offer you life, my life, right here, right now. You don’t need to go anywhere, say anything, do anything, pretend anything, look good, act good, sound good. You don’t need to do anything other than believe. Rethink your life again this year! Yes, rethink it, resolve to live differently – but not out of fear, but out of grace, out of love – my love for you. Repent and believe the good news which is available for you, and your family, and your heart, right here, right now. Rest. Stop. Trust.

Listen to Paul’s words to his precious family in Ephesus. Written from a prison cell Paul is not confined by the walls that surround him. Instead he is caught up in what it means to be alive in Christ.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. (chosen) 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen (strength) you with power through his Spirit in your inner being (filling and equipping your heart and mind), 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (trust). And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ (loved), 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (filled and equipped),21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

We need to live our lives out of this love, out of this place of acceptance and forgiveness and calling and security and purpose. We need to live our lives out of the life of Christ.

And as we do this individually we will do this collectively, communally, corporately. We will be the body of Christ, the bride of Christ. Together we will be a sign and agent and a foretaste of the kingdom of God that is coming.

Jesus is not dead. He is alive.
And he offers alive-life to us today, right here, right now.

He calls us back out of fear and into a place of love
Out of work into a place of grace

How shall we respond?
Let us believe. Let us trust. Let us relax again into this love. Let us remind our souls that we are indeed loved, chosen, forgiven, filled, equipped, and safe. Let us agree with these truths.

And then let us co-operate with these truths.

We are saved by grace, not by works, through faith - trust. But faith without works is dead. Faith that doesn’t express itself in some kind of action lacks meaning, lacks reality. After we believe, we need to co-operate with the life of Christ in us, with the Spirit of God that lives with us. We need to let him rule over our thoughts, our actions, our words and our beliefs. We need to let him renew our minds. We need to let him determine the shape of our lives.

This means submitting to him, relaxing into him, letting him own us. Becoming his slave, not out of fear, but out of choice, out of love. Letting him govern us. This is repentance. Not resolution, but repentance. This is letting him have everything.

These two things are needed for us to have his life.
Repentance and belief.

Why not let’s give that a go, not just today, but every day this year.


SEVEN SACRED SPACES

sacredspaces


New years bring new hopes and new opportunities. Last year was a significant one for our church but the year ahead promises to be even more so. Facing our biggest challenge of our lifetime we are going to be working together to rebuild, reorder, renew and refresh our church buildings so that they can help us be the people God has called us to be - a sign, a foretaste and an agent of the kingdom of God - a sign of hope in the heart of Twerton.  Our best days are ahead of us and together we are going to have to recommit ourselves to one another as we seek to give ourselves away for the sake of our community.

To help us think through it all, to help us reflect on our discipleship, our community life, our worship and our mission, we will be starting a new series on Sunday mornings called SEVEN SACRED SPACES. Christians down the years have discovered that their communal life together is deepened by living in richly committed lives - dedicated to God and to each other - and the spaces that they built to help them to do this reflect these deep ambitions.  Looking back it is possible to discern SEVEN types of building or space that they created - the chapel, the cloister, the cell, the chapter, the garden, the refectory and the library. Each one has something to tell us about how to structure a powerful community life that is missional in outlook. Through this series we will be looking at each one in turn and asking God to learn from the past and to reinterpret this wisdom for our own age and our own locality.

I am excited about what we will learn together and where this will be leading us as a community centred around Jesus , his life, death and resurrection.

To help us journey together there will also be the opportunity to be get together with others in a small group to discuss it all further and apply the ideas to our lives and I will be producing material to help shape these discussions.

Happy NEW year!


CAROLS AND WORSHIP

carols2013Christmas draws out of us so many different emotions and it can be hard to handle them as they wash over us or take us by surprise. And it connects us to our deepest longings - longings for family, for belonging, for being recognised, longings for peace, for reconciliation for relationship, longings for a future, for a hope, for a destiny. All these desires are known by God, most perfectly presented to us in Jesus from Nazareth, and each of them in some way find their fulfilment in him. The carol "O little town of Bethlehem" put it like this, "The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."

Each year we gather to light candles, sing songs and sip mulled wine, each warming the heart and reminding us that God has not forgotten us but loves us completely. I'm really looking forward to this Sunday evening when we will be holding our Carol Service by Candlelight. Come and join in if you can. Everyone is welcome!

Carols by Candlight - 7pm - St Michael's Church.