AN OPEN MIND
This page is intended to provide some resources for you to use however and whenever you feel appropriate. Whilst we may not be able to meet together in one place, the church lives on! We worship, we encourage, we praise, we serve as the scattered church.
Hymns and Songs
In this section you will find some of the songs we often sing together, as well as some new ones which are fitting for this time.
Colours of Day
This song goes with the Road to Emmaus talk found further down the page. This reminds us that Jesus' presence and our faith is ever present and this is of great comfort to us at this time.
I Watch the Sunrise
This song was suggested by Sam. It is a very calming and peaceful song which reminds us of God's presence throughout our lives and at all times. It has that rare quality of being both a song inspiring reflection and at the same time a song of inspiration and encouragement.
There is a Hope
This is a song we have learnt more recently at St Andrew's. It conveys a strong message of hope to a lovely tune. I think this song really speaks to us in the current global situation, particularly with the words: 'Through present sufferings, future's fear, He whispers 'courage' in my ear. For I am safe in everlasting arms, and they will lead me home'. What a wonderful message of love, hope and encouragement at a time when it is most needed.
I have specifically added a version of the song with the lyrics above so that you can sing along if you feel encouraged to do so, and make this a prayer of hope.
Now the Green Blade Rises
The Church's One Foundation
Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean
I am the Church
Lord of the Church
Come People of the Risen King
Forty Days and Forty Nights
Prayers and Reflections
Use the following prayers and reflections as you see helpful. They may provide a starting point for a deeper individual reflection that you wish to undertake.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You are the name above every other name. Your name is like a fortified tower in which I can find safety and security. When I am troubled, I can find peace in your name. When I feel weak, I can find strength in your name. When I feel overwhelmed, I can find rest in your name. When I feel surrounded by pressures on every side, I can find stability in your name. Your name is beautiful, Lord, help me to rely on you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
You have never left my side. Although I have often wandered from you, you have always remained beside me. With you at my side, I will not be shaken, whatever life throws at me. Help me to always place you at the centre, guiding my path and protecting me from my fears. As I experience the brokenness of this world would you refresh my soul to continue praising you. There is no God like you, you are worthy of all my praise. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Almighty and Eternal God,
Please grant us your peace, so that nothing may disturb us or frighten us. Help us to know that all things are passing and that you remain the same forever. Please grant us patience, humility and honesty in our inner most selves. Please grant us resilience, no matter what we may be asked to face. Knowing that you are within us and around us, we shall lack nothing. You bring contentment and are sufficient for all our needs. We place our trust in you and we ask for your strength and your guidance. We offer all our prayers, spoken and unspoken, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Redeemer. Amen.
Bible Verses and Readings
This section contains a small selection of Bible verses / readings that you may wish to read, reflect and think upon.
Just a few collections of ideas that may provide you with some ideas, pose some questions and help you in your journey of faith.
This talk is based upon the story of the first Pentecost, which can be found in the beginning of Acts 2.
The Road to Emmaus (26.04.2020)
This is based on the New Testament Reading: Luke 24: 13 – 35
Strangers are commonly held with great suspicion and are to be avoided in modern society. One of the first messages we ensure young people are familiar with is that they are to stay away from strangers. Even more so in this time – where if we are walking down the street or in the shops and someone approaches someone has to either turn the other way or cross to the other side of the road.
When Jesus joins the travellers on the road to Emmaus we see the stranger who is in fact no stranger. But to Cleopas and his companion on the road, Jesus is a stranger. The real stranger is the second companion, but we needn’t worry about who that is – we’re not here to dissect the story in a literary or historical sense.
What we gain from this story is a message of opening ourselves up to Jesus. We are an Easter people who should, as Jesus taught on the road, in the unfamiliar and unexpected, learn to see the face of God. If through what we have lived already and the remainder of our lives we know no other time of individual unfamiliarity and strangeness, now is one which we can all share. We are living in unfamiliar circumstances. Like so many readings and verses in the Bible, we are encouraged to look for God in the unfamiliar, in the unexpected and are reminded that he doesn’t leave us.
We may feel lost, whether it be spiritually, mentally or any other way at this present time. But our faith and our God is not one which should be lost. The beauty is that it should not take us to come back together as a family in church and celebrate communion to remind us that God is with us. We have our faith as strong now as it is when we are able to meet together.
Sometimes it is important to take stock of what we have got. We are able to stay connected – many businesses are using Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Social Media is being utilised truly for its main purpose – to keep people connected. We live in a connected world. We have technology, even if it’s only in the form of a telephone, or even just Royal Mail. We use these technologies, these means to keep us going in our current social situation. In the same way we have our faith and the resources we use to help inspire us at this time, and all the time.
In the same way, we read that Jesus spent a great deal of his teaching warning about the time when he is no longer around, preparing those around him for a time when he is not there in person. He knew his presence on earth was time limited. He therefore equipped the early church with the tools for spreading the word of God, encouraging each other and living the values he demonstrated.
In their insular solitude and individual sorrow we see the travellers on the road to Emmaus blinded to the extent where they do not recognise Jesus – the very person whose life they are mourning.
Sorrow and mourning are often very private and secluded experiences. Even in this story it is the celebration of Jesus having disappeared from the tomb and being celebrated as alive that has been shared and passed around. Even the travellers on the road are aware of this shock discovery. But of course, seeing is believing. They are unable to believe that there is hope amongst the despair which fills their existence.
The two companions on the road to Emmaus have first-hand witnessed the horrific events of Good Friday. Therefore it is unsurprising they are not hopeful. However, they have not looked beyond this. I’d dare to say they feel betrayed – their Lord and saviour, the one who was held in such high regard and had promised so much was now, as far as they were concerned, dead. A very final fate.
They were in the same sort of spirits, albeit at a deeper level, as those who are returning home after a bad result at a football game. Although this is a somewhat facetious comparison it’s the high expectations and great anticipation that have reached a very sudden and very real anti-climax.
In our lives, we have to wonder whether sometimes our expectations are aligned with reality. It doesn’t make it any easier, or any less hard when things don’t go well. But we have to live in the real human world in which we belong. This is why I take great issue with the mantra ‘Pray until Something Happens’ (often shortened to ‘PUSH’). Praying cannot equate to wishing. This is not at all to devalue or dismiss the value of prayer when used constructively and helpfully. What we must do in situations that present themselves to us is: instead of simply praying for our desired outcome, we should seek to see and witness the face of God. Don’t look for an easy answer, instead we should open ourselves up. We should assess the situation within our faith and seek to understand it better in the values and understandings that our faith instils in us.
God is not always easy to identify – particularly sometimes when we are actively looking. Our God can be subtle, discreet, understated and not always what we expect. But amongst it all there is that ‘still small voice of calm’ we sing of in one of our favourite hymns: Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. Listen for this voice. It may not be where, when or what we expect, but it is there. And once we hear it, once we begin to look at the situation within the realms of our faith the voice of God may get louder and more apparent. But this is only once we’ve taken the time to think about it.
It’s highly symbolic that the act of the breaking of the bread: communion was the act in which the living Christ was recognised. It is what I would like to refer to as a ‘touching point’. An act or experience that connected with those who were there to witness it – almost a light bulb moment in faith if you will. We all have them: it may be a particular reading, a prayer, a song, a place, an experience where we feel our faith is most alive. This is where I would encourage you to turn when sometimes you, like those on the road to Emmaus are unable to recognise or discern the face of God in a situation.
We are an Easter people. It is important that we remember this. The original purpose of the journey to Emmaus is very much one of retreat and return. Good Friday had happened – there was a despondence in the air. It was very much a case of go back to ‘how things were’. Bringing this into the experience we are currently surrounded by: maybe one thing we can all take from this time we have away from ‘normal life’ is to think and reflect and prevent ourselves from ‘going back to normal’ once life does resume somewhat as we know it. In the same way that the visitation from Jesus encouraged those Cleopas and his companion not to ‘give up’ and go back to normal – in this time is there something we can do, a resolution we can make to ensure that we don’t just ‘go back to normal’ when the time is right? We have an opportunity to better ourselves, build our faith and encourage ourselves in some way. Be the Easter people – inspired by the story of the resurrection moving forward with the greatest event in the church year – rather than simply ‘moving on’. Move forward WITH the risen Christ, don’t move on FROM the Easter story.
The risen Christ who was a stranger to those on the road to Emmaus is no stranger at all to us. He presents himself in the great work of the NHS, he presents himself in the hospital with the sick, he presents himself in our homes, he presents himself to the anxious, the fearful and the lonely. He may be unnoticed. He may not be the most obvious presence – but he is never absent. The risen Christ is the ‘cherry on the cake’ of the Easter story, the long awaited fruit borne by the plant which has been so long growing. So I encourage you today, and always going forward – know your Emmaus experience: know when you need to take stock and realise that through your faith the risen Christ is journeying with you. The risen Christ walks with YOU every day. This is a comforting thought which we should cherish as the pinnacle of our faith.
An Easter Like No Other (12.04.2020)
Christ is Risen: Hallelujah!
I take this opportunity to wish all a very Happy Easter!
I saw a newspaper article with a title advocating ‘sacrificing’ this Easter for the good of the country. I’m sure it’s not unintentional, or even coincidental that this ‘biblical’ parallel is being used here. It doesn’t take much intelligence to know that whilst most news stories are rooted at least in truth, they are adapted, enhanced and altered. Facts, statistics, quotations and ideas are often taken out of context to fit the main message of the article.
And straight away with a headline like that, I think this particular newspaper had missed the point.
We celebrate Easter. We don’t commiserate it. We don’t focus on the crucifixion as an end. If we did, then Easter would be a very dismal occasion indeed. But to celebrate a sacrifice almost seems like a paradox; two ideas we cannot logically put together?
Again, we’ve not quite reached the ‘point’ of Easter…. We all know that we celebrate the resurrection. One of the hymns in the hymn book (number 247) begins with the words: ‘Come and sing of the springtime God’s pledge of new birth’. This captures more aptly the true message of Easter. But it doesn’t end there – it’s the hope that this provides, the encouragement that we can take from this.
I’d like to overlay the news story I alluded to in my opening lines with this new message. Instead of ‘sacrificing your Easter’, let’s think about the waiting we are currently experiencing – the waiting for the rebirth of normal life. Things will return to normal. The current experience of having to remain at home will come to an end. We will meet together in church. We will socialise with friends. This is something to look forward to.
I appreciate that this outlook does seem exceptionally optimistic and perhaps naïve. It doesn’t take into account the suffering of some, any loss of loved ones experienced during this hard time. But these experiences are those which we have our faith for. We don’t simply look at ‘good’ situations and ‘bad’ situations. We have a faith which lifts us during the bad situations, it sees us through. Whilst it doesn’t make them feel any less heart wrenching or difficult, it does allow us to know that this terrible suffering is not the end. The story of Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection to new life reminds us that our faith does not meet an abrupt end at the foot of the cross. When we feel like we have reached that point. When we feel like there is no further to go in our journey, we can find hope.
I’d like to explore Jesus’ death on the cross and hopefully somewhere in this exploration of the image with which we are presented you may find at least some element of hope. Firstly, Jesus on the cross as often depicted was not alone.
Luke 23:33 reminds us: “When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left”. Jesus’ suffering and pain was not solitary. Others surrounded him. May I suggest that when we suffer, when we experience loss, when we grieve… others experience feelings such as these also. We are not alone. One of the things I always advocate is our church family. We don’t call it a family because we have no other words to express the gathering. We are not a crowd at a festival, or on a packed tube carriage. We are a collection of people who share a faith. And through sharing that faith we open ourselves to each other – we acknowledge each other’s faults, each other’s hurting and each other’s jubilation. We want to share that with each other. So when grief and sorry come your way, do not suffer alone. We, together, are the embodiment of the faith that lifts us up through the bad times and back into the good.
Furthermore, even in death, Jesus was not alone. Neither are we. The finding of the empty tomb reminds us that Jesus was not outcast and forgotten by all. Luke 24:1 tells us: “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb”. At the earliest opportunity, Jesus’ friends were there. We may not all be Jesus, but again, in our family of friends we have those who want to support us at our earliest opportunity. We are not forgotten and left to get on with it when the going gets tough. Remember that we are in others’ thoughts. Back to the idea – we are not a crowd of individuals gathered on a Sunday morning. When we pray together, when we have our notices we are told about others’ friends and families. We are among a group of people who care about us and those around us. This is a really lovely privilege. This is something we must not forget.
In both of these situations we are reminded that hope springs eternal. We are not left to suffer. Through our faith and through our enriched life in the church we have hope. It is this sentiment of joy that I would like to pass on to you today. Empower yourself, whatever your struggle may be, in the knowledge that we are not a body of people who allow each other to fall by the wayside and become forgotten. The parable of the lost sheep is a lovely story which illustrates this very point – not only are we all important to God, but also to each other – we are all shepherds and we are all sheep to illustrate in the same terms as the story.
Furthermore, during this time when things are extremely different to usual, we must not feel like our faith should be shut away and repressed a little like some are feeling because of physical restrictions on our movement. A church that I have some links with which normally gets a congregation of around 100 people on an average Sunday morning has been providing video link services during the current situation. Would you believe that it has had in excess of 400 people logging on to view the service? That’s quite a staggering number. Whether this is a result of some people who couldn’t usually attend church because of other commitments, frailty and mobile impairments being able to access the services, or even just people who are curious and want to ‘try’ church, this is still an encouraging reminder as to the potential of faith.
Returning to the original sentiments of sacrifice this Easter, the extremely well known verse: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16: 24) reminds us that whilst there is a great message of hope and encouragement, it does come at some cost. Lent – the period of waiting and reflection that precedes Easter reminds us of this. The image of ‘before the rainbow must come the rain’ is a more general, perhaps more secular way to look at this. Whilst we have a lot to celebrate, look forward to and be thankful for; we must also be patient and understand that there is a transcending need to wait. Patience and even acceptance of a timescale outside of our control is important. Sacrifice is defined quite often with the sentiments of ‘giving up’ or ‘foregoing’. But again, let’s finish the picture. Let’s not leave it on the negative and ‘half empty’ precipice: by waiting, by ‘sacrificing’ now, we simply wait for the positive to come later. Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t terminal. The resurrection story reminds us that the greatest sacrifice was not an ending, but a new beginning. The means leading to the new beginning may not have been the most obvious or the most likely. This is something of which we have to be mindful: the positive outcomes may not seem immediately clear or obvious from the experience we live.
Jesus’ dying words on the cross are powerful inspiration: ‘Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”’ (Luke 23: 34) and ‘Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last’ (Luke 23: 46). These are not cries of selfish despair. The first statement is a selfless call to a greater authority. Jesus calls to his father above at this moment of despair and suffering. He speaks of life beyond his impending death; of the life of others beyond his sacrifice. Jesus calls finally upon God and places his trust and his destiny in the hands of God the father. The creator, the life giver, the source of all power and knowledge in whom he trusts. And like this we can take comfort in this idea of a presence, a being which is beyond our understanding, but in which we can take refuge, comfort and strength. This is the power of a true faith; a faith which helps us through troubling times and sees us through to the future beyond that which we know and can see ourselves. Take comfort, find solace and rest in the knowledge that this is our faith. This is the faith that we hold onto in times of trouble and we trust will see us through to better times.
This Easter know that God is with you, now and always. Remember that Easter is about joy, hope, beginnings and the joy of life to come. On this Easter Day, an Easter like none known to us before and, for many, hopefully unlike any to come, we remember that our faith is more important now than ever. We take this time at the pinnacle of the Christian calendar to revitalise and be encouraged and inspired like never before. Take good care and remember to draw inspiration where needed from your faith, share with each other the positive experiences and thoughts that lift you and remain resilient looking forward to the time when we can all meet together again as a church family. Despite our physical separation we remain together in spirit.
Some activities and ideas for our young people.
Activity 1: Bible Illustrated
Find 5 Bible verses which you like - they could be from stories that you have heard / read in church.
Write them onto a piece of paper and make them colourful and pretty with designs, patterns, pictures.
You could even make a cartoon strip of a well known Bible story.
We can then look at these when we come back together at church.
Activity 2: Balloon Bible Verses
Write or type a Bible verse on a sheet of paper, using fairly small print.
Cut the words or phrases apart.
Carefully roll or fold each word / phrase out and insert it into a balloon opening.
Blow up the balloons and tie them.
Place the balloons in a mixed up pile.
Pop the balloons, get the words / phrases, and put them in order.
Activity 3: Bible Quiz
Read through one of your favourite Bible stories and then create a 10 question quiz about the story.
When we come back to church you can share your quiz with other people in Junior church, or even with the adults and test their knowledge!
Activity 4: Rainbow Verses
It's become common for young people to spread encouragement through designing rainbows. Why not design a large rainbow, and in each colour segment, include a Bible verse of hope / encouragement? This will remind us of the love of God demonstrated in the Bible.
Genesis 9: 13 - 17 would be a good passage to include above your rainbow! I'd love to see these when we get back to church, we could even create a display of rainbows so that we can see all the different verses that everyone has found.
Activity 5: Bottle Flowers
The other day when I was out walking, I walked past a local church. I was really confused as in the garden outside they had a lot of very tall flowers which looked beautiful... but they were not there the previous week. I took a closer look and they were actually made from bottles on sticks - they looked great.
Here's what to do: cut all the way around the bottom 3cm of a bottle and then paint it a bright colour of your choice. Do as many of these as you can. Make sure you paint both sides. Then fix a long stick to the part you have painted. You could write a Bible verse that praises God - our creator, our hope and our Heavenly Father. Let me know how you get on! We could collect them all together when we come back to church and have a lovely 'garden' of flowers with Bible verses.
- CHURCH ROAD
- E17 6AR