come and see

John 1:46 “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked.“Come and see,” answered Philip.


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Guidance from the Holy Spirit – a service for Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2: 1-4)

The Message for our Pentecost service this year was a very personal one. Vanessa has had some health issues recently and has at times struggled with accepting these challenges from a faith perspective. Whilst preparing for the service we looked at aspects of the Holy Spirit, and Vanessa brought us this powerful message of faith and trust. Members of the congregation took the various “parts” of the Holy Spirit and read the Bible verses.

Pentecost
Recently I have had to face I am not physically perfect and I can’t do anything about it. The term birth defect was used and it shocked me. I have an extra part in my heart which ends up short circuiting and makes my heart beat a bit quick, sometimes way too fast. A month ago I went to hospital again to get it slowed down, but what had worked in the past didn’t work this time. They finally got it sorted, but it wasn’t nice and it changed how I felt about things.

COUNSELOR:
Please help me I need a counselor to guide and help me. I don’t know what is happening to me. I am not afraid of dying because I know I will go to heaven and be with God – that’s something to look forward to really. But I don’t want to go now, not just yet. Will it be OK?
Don’t be afraid, for the Lord will go before you and will be with you. He will never leave you.(Deuteronomy 31:8)
Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

PRAYER PARTNER/INTERCESSOR:
Please help me I don’t know how to put this into words. I have questions I don’t know how to ask. I have feelings I don’t know how to express. How can I pray to God when I don’t know what to say?
God’s Spirit is right alongside you helping. If you don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does your praying for you, making prayers out of your wordless sighs and your aching groans. He knows you far better than you know yourself, and keeps you present before God. (Romans 8:26-27)

STRENGTH:
But life is always more just one thing. There are other things going on in life besides my heart. Sometimes I want to go to bed, pull the covers over my head and pretend this isn’t happening or get in the car and drive until it all goes away.
You have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives you. (Philippians 4:13)
God is faithful to His Word and to His compassionate nature, and He can be trusted not to test you beyond your ability and strength, not to give you more than you can handle. He will provide you the way to handle this, to endure this patiently. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

PEACE:
OK I’ll be honest – Sometimes I get angry and frustrated. I want to be well; I am tired of being tired. Why did I have to have this and why now? And sometimes I start to worry about what might happen. It just goes round and round getting worse and worse especially when I wake in the middle of the night.
Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Talk to him, and give thanks to him. Then God’s peace will watch over your heart and your mind. He will do this because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood. (Philipians 4:7)

COMFORTER:
I forgot to mention I get scared. There are days when I have tears ready to fall, days when I cry. Sometimes I know why I cry, others I don’t. I get afraid.
God did not give you a spirit of fear, but one of power and of love and of calm. (2 Timothy 1:7)

GOD WITH ME:
And then I go quiet inside and feel God’s presence. Whatever this is about, or how it will turn out, it is in God’s hands, I am in God’s hands. He is a God of love
Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

At Easter Jesus died on the cross, and they thought he had gone. But he rose from the dead, the greatest sacrifice on our behalf, so that we could all have a personal relationship with God. Jesus was not gone.
Jesus stayed for another 40 days. And then the last thing he said, as told in Acts 1, was to wait for the promised gift of God. He then rose in the sky to be with God in heaven. This time he was gone.

The promised gift was the Holy Spirit. We heard in the reading about its arrival: all wind and fire. I have been a Christian for many years, and had a relationship with Jesus but I didn’t know the Holy Spirit – to be honest I wasn’t sure about the wind and fire. However, over the last year I have intentionally and purposefully been asking the Spirit of God into my daily life.

The main thing it has done has changed the things I knew in my head into things I have experienced in my heart. The Holy Spirit is a counselor to help and guide you; helps you pray when you can’t; gives you strength and power; gives you a peace beyond all understanding; comforts you. And the Holy Spirit brings the gift of God’s presence into every situation you face right here, right now every day – if you ask.
(Vanessa)

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A game for Pentecost

 
Bearing in mind that one of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit is wind, we decided to get the kids blowing these lovely red plastic cups around. The twist was that each cup had a part of the verse for today on it, and they then had to put it all together on a board so that it could be read out.
 
 
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Pentecost Streamers
These streamers were really quick and easy to make. I found a pack of cheap girls bangles – 16 for $3! – to use as the base, then bought flame coloured parka nylon fabric (because it wouldn’t fray) and cut it into 1cm wide strips. Fold the strips in half, thread them through the bangles and tie them off. Everyone had fun making them, and even more fun waving them around in our last song!

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A Helping Hand – Luke 10: 25-37

When we looked at the Parable of the Good Samaritan a couple of weeks ago, we thought bandaging people up might be a good game. Well, large quantities of bandages can be a bit hard to get hold of, so we settled for toilet paper. We made it into a bit of a competition too, to see which team could cover their victim patient up most thoroughly in the shortest time. I think the idea is pretty self-explanatory, so go ahead and have fun. Thanks to our “volunteers” for submitting themselves to this!

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The Prayers:
Loving God,
When we talk of our neighbours we think of those who live next door to us.

But when you talk of neighbour you extend our neighbourhood,
to the whole world,to all kinds of people –
the young and the old, the good and the bad.
All those who come from other places,
and from backgrounds different to our own.

Today as we gather here and pray for your blessing on our families and our neighbourhood of St Cuthbert’s Parish, we also think of our brothers and sisters from all over the world thinking especially of your teachings of acceptance and love as you help us to live lives free of prejudice.

Rowena

The Message:
Luke 10: 25-37
A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?”
The man answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’”
“You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.”
But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”
Jesus answered, “There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead.
 It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity. He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he told the innkeeper, ‘and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.’”
And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbour toward the man attacked by the robbers?”
The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who was kind to him.”
Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”

As I was looking into different commentaries on this well known parable, I acknowledge the Bible Org for much of the following insight:

Jesus was getting a reputation of having the answers to the big questions, and sometimes he gave answers that were not expected, just as in this reading. A lawyer thought he would go up against Jesus with two questions, but it didn’t go quite as he had planned.

Jesus answers the first question with a question. To “What must I do to receive eternal life” Jesus asks him “What does the Law say?” The Jewish lawyer cleverly sums up the 10 commandments into two: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’” Jesus wanted him to see what he knew. Jesus does not condemn anyone for what they do not understand. He condemns  for what they understand, but do not do.

But the lawyer keeps on going, wanting to justify himself, and asks “Who is my neighbour.” He wasn’t asking who lived next door. He was asking, “Who do I have the responsibility to care for?” as well as “Who can I avoid caring about?” In the next verse Jesus replied  – the Greek word used here means to “take up”; Jesus had been thrown a challenge and Jesus took him up on it. And so here comes the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was very steep and it was dangerous because of the many places for robbers to hide. In fact the name for the road was the Way of Blood. So this is a very believable story for those listening. Although Jesus does not identify the man going down to Jericho, since this was a Jewish audience they more than likely imagined a Jewish person. The man is robbed,wounded and left for dead.

And now onto the Priest and the Levite. A Levite is someone from the tribe of Levi and they held special positions and responsibilities in the temples. In the culture of that time, anyone who touched a dead person would be unclean. The Priest and Levite could have used the excuse that they didn’t want to touch the man because he might have been dead, and that would have kept them from serving God in the temple. BUT, the Priest and Levite were going “down the road.” Jerusalem, where the temple was, is on a hill. They were leaving Jerusalem and going home. They had just been to worship God but did not stop to help the wounded man. They understood about love but they did not show any love. Their refusal to love their neighbour casts doubt on their love for God.  1 John 4:20 “If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen.”

And now to the Samaritan. Samaritans were seen as an inferior mixed race in the Jewish mind. The listeners would have thought he would pass by too, but look at his actions – he showed compassion. While the Jewish Priest and Levite passed by on the other side of the road, the Samaritan doesn’t. He moved towards the injured man. You must move toward someone in order to love, in order to build relationships. It doesn’t just happen and it isn’t convenient. The Samaritan is moving toward someone who would despise him and may not do the same if the situation were reversed.

When you feel like you want a relationship, maybe even a better or deeper relationship with someone, perhaps it is because you are waiting for something to happen. You are waiting for them to move toward you. Perhaps you need to take the initiative and move toward them. You can’t build relationships unless you do. The Samaritan stopped and took care of his wounds (oil and wine were the traveling first aid kit of the day). He put him on his own donkey and the Samaritan walked. He took the wounded man to an inn. He took the time to take care of him. In our society we are all so busy, that do we take time to reach out and help someone else. Even something small.

He also gave money to the innkeeper to take care of him, and put no limit on how much he would spend to see that the wounded man was taken care of. Remember that this is a Samaritan in enemy territory. He has just told one of his enemies (a Jewish landlord), “Here is my credit card. Do whatever you need to do to take care of him.” Talk about trust and vulnerability!!! This is also significant because both trust and vulnerability are also essential for loving others.

Which of these “proved to be a neighbour?” The obvious answer is that the Samaritan proved to be the “neighbour” to the wounded man. But the lawyer couldn’t even bring himself to say the word Samaritan, so he answered, “The one who showed mercy toward him.”

What did the man ask? “Who is my neighbour?” He was asking who and how much do I have to do to love. Love does not ask how far do I have to go. Love asks, “What can I do?”

And Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”

Vanessa

 

 


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Missing Pieces

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)

We are doing a series of services on Parables that Jesus told and started with the story of the Lost Coin. In our reading and research we discovered theories that this might relate to the headdress of coins that respectable Jewish women would have had at that time, and decided to use this as the basis for our craft. We played a visual game with pictures of everyday things, and asked what was missing. Yes, they were all rather obvious, but it was fun to do. Click on the title below the picture for the .pdf file with all four pictures in it.
What's Missing

What’s Missing

After the Bible reading we used this retelling of the story from the point of view of the woman, which was written by Gail.

The Story
“Let me tell you a story.
Now you all know that I am married. My husband is not wealthy, but he is a considerate man and takes good care of me and the children.

My father wasn’t wealthy either, but he provided me with a fair dowry, enabling me to have my headband of silver coins – only 10, which is the minimum for a respectable woman – but as I said, he wasn’t wealthy.

Last Thursday was a bad day. I got up at the usual time, got dressed and went to put on my veil and headdress. But there was something wrong – there were only 9 coins there – one had come loose somehow! Well I searched through my clothes chest, but couldn’t find it there. Then I looked all over the floor, but still couldn’t see it.

I’m sure you can guess that I was by now panicking. My husband is a reasonable man, but even he would have had several words to say at the loss of such a thing – not to mention how people would look at me if I went around with a 9-coin headdress!

Well, after a while (and a few tears, I must confess) I took a deep breath and decided that I had to deal with this in a methodical way.

Firstly I went through my clothes chest again – took everything out and shook it, then felt in all the corners. No luck there, so it must be on the floor somewhere. I’d only put fresh straw down a couple of days before, but never mind that – it all had to be swept up. I lit a lamp so that I could see better, then I started in the far corner and swept out each area separately, shook out all the straw by hand and then replaced it. Two hours it took me – but I found my coin! It had rolled under the table. Must have been when I was clearing up after the meal the night before.

Well, I’m sure you can guess how happy – and relieved – I was! In fact I was so pleased I called my neighbours, Anna and Naomi, in to celebrate with me. That was a time of great rejoicing.”

 

The Craft
Coin Headdress 1For our craft we made “crown” headdresses and attached 10 silver coins to each one:

  • Take two strips of card and staple them at right angles to each other at either end (see picture). If you prefer you could make the shape a circle, which would just need one long strip of card.
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  • We used self-adhesive book cover to decorate the card; leave it as a roll, then cut a thin piece of the end through all the thicknesses to make long strips, which are then wrapped around the “crown”.
  • Coin headdress
     

  • The thread for hanging the coins off can either be attached as you wrap the shiny strips around, which will make it stick in place, or tied around afterwards. The second method is less fiddly, so a bit better for younger children.
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  • We used a round punch to make coins out of silver card. If you can’t get silver card – or it is a bit too expensive – you could use the self-adhesive book cover on both sides of thin card instead, and then punch out the circles.
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  • Use a normal hole punch to make a small hole in each coin, and then hang ten from each “crown”

 

 

The Message
Isn’t it terrible to lose something – not like a rubber band, but something important, a treasure. I know what I do, you go back to the last place you remember having it …. so then why do I end up looking in the silliest places in the hope of finding it? I mean are my glasses really going to be in the freezer?

Do you know what is worse? Losing someone. I lost Luke once. It’s OK I found him!. Heart rate up, trying to stay calm wanting to panic, trying not to cry – just talking about it brings back how I felt.
I have also been lost. It’s OK I was found— similar feelings to be honest.

Jesus wanted to tell us about being lost and found, not in the way we think of, but about being lost and found to God.

The start of Luke 15 in the Amplified Bible goes like this: “Now the tax collectors and the notorious and especially wicked sinners were all coming near to Jesus to listen to Him.”

That’s right, the really naughty people sought out Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the church leaders were not happy about this, complaining that Jesus accepts, welcomes, and even eats with, these people.

So he told them a parable, which is a simple everyday story with a moral or spiritual lesson. The reading we had today was that parable.

The lesson Jesus was trying to teach to those he spoke to then and to us today, was that God and the angels rejoice and celebrate when one person who is lost is found. When one person who has been doing wrong, realises this and seeks God to do better.

Jesus thought those he was talking to just didn’t get it, so he also told them about the lost sheep – when a shepherd has 100 sheep and one is lost so the shepherd goes out and finds it, then celebrates with this friends and neighbours over finding his one lost sheep.
AND he also told them about the lost son – when a son asks his father for his share of the estate, leaves his family and spends it all, ending up looking after pigs and even eating some of their food, before returning home empty and empty-handed. The father welcomes him home with arms wide open saying “My son was lost and now is found” and then throws a big party to celebrate.

Lost coin; maybe the ladies will get that one. Lost sheep; maybe the men will get that one. Lost son; maybe parents and children will get that one.

When did we get lost? It all started back at the very beginning with Adam and Eve when they ate from the tree God had told them not to. Right back to that first act of disobedience followed by the first feelings of guilt and shame. And that evening when God came into the garden he called out to them “Where are you?”

And God has been calling that out to us ever since.

Let me tell you a true story about how God can find the lost….
His name was John. When he started work he joined with his Dad working on boats. When his Dad retired, he had lined him up another job, working on the land, but John had sea salt in his blood and carried on sailing the seven seas. However, things start to go pretty bad for John. He was captured and forced to join the Navy and he hated it. John gets the chance to change ships and so goes to work on another ship. A slave ship – trading goods for slaves, and slaves for goods. But the crew on this new ship don’t like John and leave him with a slave dealer who treats him like a slave. John was lost, a free man, but treated like a slave in Africa.

But he is found and rescued by a sea captain who had been asked by John’s father to look out for him and bring him home. On the way they encounter a terrific storm, the ship begins to sink, and at that moment John calls out to God to save him. And his life is changed. The ship moves again, the cargo shifts blocking up the gaping hole and the ship drifts to safety.

Later John becomes an Anglican priest having a direct impact on Thomas Scott who set up CMS -Church Missionary Society and William Wilbourforce, a politician whom John encouraged to stay in parliament and serve God where he was. William Wilberforce was instrumental in getting a law passed that ended slavery.

During his time as a priest John Newton wrote many hymns, including one where it tells of being lost and found. Saved by God’s Amazing Grace.

(Vanessa)


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Blurred Vision- John 9: 1-12

This week our service was about Jesus healing the man who had been blind from birth – the one in John 9 where Jesus puts mud on the man’s eyes and tells him to go and wash. We thought about how hard it can be to tell what things are when we can’t use out eyes – for example, how do you describe the colour yellow?

So our GAME was “guess the object”. We made two sets of six canvas bags and had different things in each one. Our two teams then had to work out what was in there just by touch – no cheating and pulling anything out to see what it was. We used:

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  • Sandpaper
  • Wet Wipes
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Feathers
  • Lego
  • Rice

But, of course, there are a huge variety of other tactile things you could use.

 

THE CRAFT:
For this we had cardboard glasses to be decorated. The “glasses” were already cut out, but if you have older children, or more time, you may want them to cut them out themselves. It can be a wee bit fiddly though. I have an oval hole punch which I used for the eye holes. You can download our template for these here:Glasses template

To make the glasses fit, wrap the arms around the child’s head, mark where they overlap, then cut a small, wedge-shaped slit on each arm – at the top on one arm, and the bottom on the other. When you put the glasses back on, lap the slits into each other, and the glasses will stay put.

We had glitter glue, feathers, paper stickers, foam stickers, and sticky paper to use to personalise our glasses – and don’t we all look gorgeous!
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THE MESSAGE:
(Verse 1-2) As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parent’s sin?”

Back in the time of Jesus, it was believed if someone did something wrong (especially really wrong) it would affect themselves, their children, their children’s children  – and so on. That also meant you could be affected by something wrong that your parents did, your grandparents did and so on as well. It went both ways in the family line.

I wonder if this blind man’s family looked at each other wondering what they’d done to cause his blindness. I wonder if they looked at themselves and felt it something they had done, and lived with the shame and guilt.

What a thought. I couldn’t bear the idea that something I could do would adversely affect Luke, or his children. What a lot of responsibility to bear  – what a cloud to live under if you believed that.

As I stand in front of you I have not lived a saintly life, and there was a time that I didn’t do what God would want me to. There are things I have done that were really wrong, sins I have committed that now lay at the foot of the cross, and not over my life – or my family’s.

Verse 3: Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with this man’s sins or his parent’s sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.”
God is a miracle worker. He has the power to make a blind man see – he changed this man’s life. This blind man would be able to work now, he could find himself a wife and have a family, he would no longer be reliant on begging for his daily food. His life was radically turned around. God is a miracle worker – his power can be seen in your life. He can radically turn your life around.

Sometimes we do not see what Jesus is trying to show us. Let us take a moment and ask for Jesus to reveal something to us. Open our eyes, open our minds, open our hearts, open our Spirit to receive what God would like us to see.

Vanessa

 

 


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A Wet Walk – Matthew 14:22-33

This week we were looking at the story of Jesus walking on water – and of Peter trying to do so too.

THE GAME:
We thought a game about crossing water was a good idea, so we designated the carpet area as “water” and distributed three “stepping stones” (made out of cardboard) to each team so that they could get across. So, three “stepping stones” – but there were four people in each team!

IMG_0836This is how the game is played:

  • First person puts down a “stepping stone” and stands on it, then puts down a second one in front of that and moves forward.
  • Second person moves onto the “stones”, passing forward the last “stone” so that it can go down at the front.
  • Now first two people stand on the front “stone”, next two people stand on the middle “stone”, and the last “stone” gets passed forward to become the front one.
  • Repeat the above step until everyone has reached the other side of the “water”!

Much of the fun of this comes in making the “stepping stones” only just big enough for two people. You can adjust the number of “stepping stones” you have, depending on how many people you have in each team, but never have enough so that you can have only one person on each “stone”. So, for three or four people, have three “stones”, for 5 people have four stones, and so on. To make it more challenging – perhaps where all the players are a bit older (we had a big mix of ages) – get the last person to carry the “stepping stone” forward, squeezing past their team mates on the front “stones”.

IMG_0840THE CRAFT:
Later on in the service we made boats out of walnut shells, with toothpick masts and paper sails. On the sails we had our memory verse:

“We must keep our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2)

The masts were held in place with Blu-Tak, and several of the children drew eyes or stick figures on the sails.

 

THE MESSAGE:
Peter walks on water

Earlier that day Jesus had preached and performed the miracle of feeding 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish. I would call that “a big day in the office.” Afterwards Jesus needed some time alone with God to pray. Take note, if you have had “a big day in the office”, before your next appointment recharge your batteries and have time in prayer –  Jesus did it, and so must we.

Now back to the story, Jesus sent the disciples out on the lake to go on before him. A big storm came up, a frighteningly scary storm, and then, while all this is raging around them, they see someone walking towards the boat, and they think it’s a ghost. Now I would be like “Seriously could this night get any worse.”

Then Jesus spoke: “It’s me,” and out of all the disciples, Peter was the one who called back. “If it is you, command me to come.” Peter didn’t want to asked and be given the option to say no, he wanted to be told, and so Jesus said “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and walked on water to Jesus. He had his eyes fixed on Jesus and he was walking on water with the storm raging around him. When Peter obeyed Jesus and moved out in faith, he walked on water.

The others stayed in the safety of the boat, they had faith in the boat.
What’s your boat? When life gets stormy, where or what do you put your faith in?

Peter had to leave the safety of the boat, step out of his comfort zone, and do the impossible. Peter had his eyes fixed firmly on Jesus to the exclusion of everything that was happening around him – the wind and the waves – and he walked on water towards Jesus, to the one who had called him to come.

Jesus knew about the storm coming and yet he told the disciples to go out on the lake. In the midst of the storm, Jesus walked out to them. And Peter went to meet him – with his eyes on Jesus. But then he noticed the waves, he felt the wind and thought “what am I doing,” and when his focus shifted, he started to sink and cried out in fear. Instantly, just like that, Jesus reached out and held Peter and said “You of little faith – why did you doubt?”  And for this failure, many who have read this have given Peter a hard time.

But there is such a positive truth about this story; when we fail, when we are in the middle of a storm and call out to Jesus, instantly and immediately he is there holding our hand. We are never alone – even if it looks and feels like it.

Peter experienced a miracle – he was the only one to have walked on water. He experienced the joy of being saved by Jesus in his moment of fear. Peter shared a moment and a connection the others didn’t – they never left the boat.

Had there been no storm, none of this would have happened. Peter’s faith wouldn’t have been tested. Growth and fear go together. It is always scary to do something new. Growth requires us to take on new challenges, and it is our faith that conquers the fear and doubts. If Jesus has called you, don’t worry about sinking. Remember, keep your eyes on Jesus and call out for his hand when you need him. He will be there instantly.

 Vanessa

THE PRAYERS:

Lord, we come before You this morning, reaching for Your outstretched hand, crying “Lord, save me!”
You hear.

When we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

We pray that the eyes of all in authority and power may become focused on You, lord, that they may work with honesty and integrity for the good of those that they lead. Lead them to know that –
when we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

We pray for Your church in this world, and particularly in this place. Let us be lights for others, that they may be led into the light of Your grace, and come to focus their eyes on You. For,
when we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

We pray for all who suffer, in body, mind or spirit, that they may know Your healing touch in their lives. We bring to you especially ……(name those whose suffering we wish to bring to God)
when we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

We commend to you those who have died, and we pray for those who mourn, who seek answers to the losses they have suffered. In all that we think we have lost,
when we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

Lord, we come before You this morning, reaching for Your outstretched hand, crying “Lord, save me!”

You hear.

Amen

Gail


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Mansions

The service at the beginning of this month was inspired by the following quote from C S Lewis:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.”

Readings we used were from Jeremiah 29:11 ““For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And Ephesians 3:20 “With God’s power working in us, God can do much much more than anything we can ask or imagine.”

IMG_0599IMG_0598For a game we used a sets of cards which, when put together properly, showed a picture of a house, giving one set each to small groups of 3 or 4 people. The twist here is that we didn’t give them a guide picture, but left them to put it together as well as they could manage, using this to reinforce the theme that what is being built in us is more than we can ask or imagine. The cards we used are an old set that I have had in my household for many years, but it would be easy enough to make your own version by printing off pictures of houses and cutting them into squares.

Vanessa started her message by reading the quote from C S Lewis, and then continued:
“Imagine yourself as a living house.”
In the Bible our body is talked about as a temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of God and that God’s Spirit lives within you?”

That’s right we have our very own builder, the Holy Spirit, living in us 24/7, every hour of every day. When we become Christians, we accept and realise there are parts of us that are not right with God – as C S Lewis put it “the leaky roof and drains.”  My building jobs: the works in progress or the things on the to-do list will be different to yours. What God is hammering out with me at the moment, will be different to you. That’s because I am special …… and so are you. The important thing is to accept and embrace that we are a building site that gets a bit messy, uncertain, and certainly painful. And also please remember that we are the building, a living house, a temple – NOT the project manager or the architect.

Life is challenging – that’s life. Christians don’t have it easy. Change can be hard.  Letting go of things we are familiar and comfortable with, even if these things hurt us, can be scary. The only thing I know stronger than fear is faith. Have faith in God. He loves you and His plans for you are for good. And to quote C S Lewis again: “I would rather be what God chose to make than the most glorious creature that I could think of. For to have been thought about, born in God’s thought and then made by God is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.”

But wait – there’s more. Our God is an amazing overflowing God. “I came so you could have life in all its abundance.” (John 10:10) “Jesus told the men to cast their net on the other side of the boat and it overflowed.” (John 21:1-14).

And so in closing let’s once again hear and dwell on these words from Ephesians 3:20  “With God’s power working in us, God can do much much more than anything we can ask or imagine.”
The Amplified Bible version says “God is able to do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare, ask or think, infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams.”


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I am the Way, the Truth and the Life – John 14: 6

We had a fun game this week on the theme of “I am the Way”. You know those maze type pictures where you have to choose which of several strings/paths/fishing lines actually lead to the desired object at the end of the maze? Well, we did it life size! Although there appeared to be five strings to follow, there were actually two really long pieces of string, and one not so long. The two longer strings wound round and through the rows of chairs, but ultimately just led back to the start. Only one string actually led anywhere – and that was to a Bible.

John 14:6 game
IMG_0536 IMG_0537And to help the kids to remember the verse we got them to make these wall plaques. We used an old map book, card to stick the maps to, and either paper fasteners (as shown) or stickers to decorate when finished. They then wrote on the front in marker pen “Jesus said: I am the way, the truth and the life.” John 14:6

(Gail)

This Week’s Message:
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life
First of all I decide where I do want to go?- what’s my destination?  Let’s say town. How do I get to town? I have to know the way. I could use a GPS that gives me directions all the way and if I get it wrong, it recalculates and redirects me back to the way to my destination, into town.

What about life – where do I want to go? What’s my destination? Let’s say heaven? How do I get to heaven? I have to know the way. I could use a GPS but it doesn’t know the way. Any ideas?…. The Bible is our GPS it also redirects me if I get it wrong and start going the wrong way.

“As long as you believe in God and try to be a good person, your religion doesn’t matter.”  “There are different paths up the same mountain, but they all lead to the same peak.”
Have you heard that before? – it is a common thought, politically correct, tolerant … and wrong.

Jesus said to his disciples (on the last night He had with them) “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no-one comes to the Father except through me.” The very next day He would be betrayed and then die. Jesus was preparing them for what He knew lay ahead – but what they had absolutely no idea of what was about to happen. As Jesus began speaking, after the Last Supper, it led to questions from His disciples as they tried to understand what He was saying. Jesus said “You know the way to the place where I am going.” The disciples were confused about where He was going, and how they could follow. Thomas asked “How can we know the way?” and it was to this question that Jesus answered “I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me.”

THE WAY
Jesus is the only way to be able to have a relationship with God and the only way to heaven.

Thomas asked an age-old question, asked since the beginning of time “How can we know the way?”  There have been many ways offered as an answer to the question of life and how to fulfill it. However these gave a false hope that if you did them they would work and complete you.

Bill Subritzky worded them like this:
Greece said …..Be wise, know yourself
Rome said…….Be strong, discipline yourself
Judaism said …Be holy, conform yourself
Epicureanism says…..Be sensuous, enjoy yourself
Education says ….Be resourceful, expand yourself
Materialism says….Buy things and please yourself
Pride says….Be superior, promote yourself

Yet none of these ways has brought about ultimate fulfillment or time with God, now or forever. How do we fill the void, the emptiness we feel sometimes? Honestly sometimes I retract and shut myself down, sometimes I reach for the biscuit tin, a cup of tea, or later in the day maybe a glass of wine. And yet who I should be reaching for at these times is Jesus – the only way we can fill any void or emptiness or any depth or darkness we experience.

THE TRUTH
Luke was telling me something recently and at the end of his story said “and Mummy it is real,” I said “yes dear” Then he said with seriousness and emphasis (get the hands on the hips) “BUT MUMMY IT IS REAL” I thought about it carefully and asked “are you telling me the truth” to which he responded with a sigh “YES”. And yes, the truth is real.

Jesus is the only truth, the only real truth. In fact, Jesus said He came to fulfill the laws and prophets written in the Old Testament. He is not just some of the truth but the entire truth. There is a modern saying that we all have our own truth and that is what is important. What this means is that our experiences, what we have seen and done, our feelings and what we believe is important. And it is, but it is not the truth – it is our life and our way of looking at life. There is only one real truth and it is Jesus.

THE LIFE
Jesus had just been telling His disciples about His death, and now He was claiming to be the source of all life. In John 10: 17-18 Jesus declared that He was going to lay down His life for His sheep, and then take it back again. He spoke of His authority over life and death as being given to Him by God, the Father. In John 14: 19 He gave the promise that “because I live, you also will live.” Jesus because He is perfect (which none of us is or ever will be). Because Jesus is free from all sin, all the things that keep us separated from God, we can come to know God ourselves through Jesus. What a privilege and honour to have our vey own relationship with God – the God who created this world and who loved us so much He gave his only son, Jesus to provide a way back to Him and a way to have a forever spiritual life together with Him in heaven.

Jesus was trying to prepare the disciples so that they would be able to face the dark days ahead and carry on the mission of declaring the gospel to the world. Of course we know from The Bible that they still didn’t understand, and it took several visits from the risen Lord to shake them out of their disbelief. Once they understood the truth of His words, they became changed people, and the world has never been the same. Just like today – once we understand the truth of his words, we will become changed people and the world will never be the same again.

(Vanessa)


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Branching Out

True Vine

At this service we looked a the reading from John 15: 1-10 “I am the true vine”. Well of course we had to illustrate it with a giant size bunch of grapes. This takes a bit of time to prepare, but it was worth the effort. I attached the balloons to an old towel by sewing through the neck, and it did provide quite a talking point. However, we didn’t leave it there – what is one of the things you get from grapes, and how do you get it? Juice, of course, and how about treading the grapes to get the juice? That is what we did towards the end of the service. The twist being that inside each of the balloons was a small piece of paper with a Bible verse on it appropriate for the topic we were talking about. Everyone had great fun with this game, with enthusiastic participation from a 5 year old up to an 80 year old eagerly treading the “grapes” to get the “juice” of God’s word!

True Vine treading 2True Vine treading 1

True Vine word puzzle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the other activity we did was to get the children to decipher this message, which we had written on our white board:

Gail

I am the True Vine: John 15:1-10

How did God create each one of us unique, special and different to anyone else in the world? How can God hear all our prayers? How can He love us so much He gave His only son for us? I can’t answer that, I can’t understand that,  I can’t even comprehend the extent, the wonder and awe of God.

Jesus used the everyday to explain himself. He said “I am the bread of life”, “I am the Good Shepherd” and “ I am the true vine.” These are all things we understand. We understand bread feeding and nourishing us. We understand how a shepherd takes care of his flock. We understand how a vine flows life out to its branches so that they grow and produce fruit. Those are things we understand and the joy of the Lord is that He made it easy for us to understand.

Spring is here, blossoms are bursting into flower and a new season with all it’s new life is beginning again. Over winter I looked at the trees in my garden and the maintenance I needed to do, such as cutting off diseased branches before it spread. I also pruned healthy trees. The plum tree that I pruned last year was healthy. The year before it gave us 5 kilos of fruit, but after pruning its branches in a certain way, this year it gave us 30 kilos. It fruited much more abundantly , simply because of the way I pruned. God looks at us the same way – what part of us is diseased and needs to be removed before it spreads, or what part can be pruned so that we produce more fruit – such as those known as the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). These times can be painful but necessary none the less.

Another verse that spoke to me is v4: “Remain united in me and I remain united in you. You can not bear fruit unless you remain in me“. Since the last service, Luke has started school. He has been to preschool, he has been apart from me before, so that’s nothing new. But him starting school, wow, that brought up a whole new feeling for me. I felt lost and a bit disconnected. And as I wondered what all this meant I realised that, as a parent, at some point I want him to be independent, leave home and make his way in the world, become a man, a husband and father. Independent of me. He needs to stand alone – and yet there is and always will be a connection between us. And so it is with God. He respects us enough that He allows us to be our own person, to give us our own will, and in a kind-of way stand alone. and yet He asks that we still remain connected to him. I find God challenges me, not just to be connected with Him on Sunday but every day. The result of keeping in touch with God is what allows the life, His love, to flow in me, not in a sudden burst, but a continual stream. I most certainly get challenged in remaining more in Him, because I want to be  in control. I struggle with that fruit of the spirit – self-control. I want my own control and to do it my way and in my time, and there is at times a difficulty for me to remain open to receive the Lord – whether I deliberately ignore Him or unintentionally forget about spending time with Him. It is staying connected at all times that can be hard but allows us to grow strong, healthy and to fruit more abundantly.

Vanessa


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Game/Puzzle for The Bread of Life

We searched and searched for a game/puzzle/object lesson for the bread of life, but could not find anything that we liked that was suitable for our particular group and meeting place, so we made one up. It’s fairly basic, but maybe of use or inspiration to someone else.

We took a picture which had on it the quote from John 6 – Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall never hunger and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” This was cut into six pieces, each of which was placed inside a toilet roll tube. We then wrapped the tubes with illustrations of the various ingredients needed to make bread – using, where possible, actual packaging from the ingredients. The packages were hidden around our worship space.

We started by talking through what was needed to make bread, and then got the children to search for the hidden “ingredients” and, once found, to make up the picture hidden inside.


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Fruit of the Spirit (3) – Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control

And so we reach the conclusion of our Trilogy on the Fruit of the Spirit.

Now, we wanted the youngsters to understand how the Fruit could be applied in their everyday life, so we played a version of the “Good Fruit, Bad Fruit” game. You will see from the picture that we drew a good and a bad apple on a whiteboard, then taped clearfiles at the bottom to hold pieces of paper. On the paper were a variety of actions which had to be classified as “Good Fruit” or “Bad Fruit” – some of the examples we used were: “hitting your brother or sister”; “taking turns when playing games”; “sharing your toys”; “getting angry when things don’t go your way”. We helped the younger ones with the reading, and they then chose which “apple” to put each one with. I am pleased to say that they got them all right!!

IMG_0334

FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS AND SELF-CONTROL – FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT 3
7 July 2013

This is the last instalment of our trilogy on the Fruit of the Spirit. So here’s a quick recap on the two previous ones:

Love: 1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love as perfect love drives out fear. The place to get love is from God, for God is love. We need to fill that moment of fear, anger, hate or frustration with the love of God.

Joy: Happiness is not the same as joy. Happiness depends on our circumstances and is momentary. Joy is deep-rooted and constant and comes from the Holy Spirit.

Peace: 2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of Peace himself grant you His peace at all times, and in all ways whatever comes. Peace is with and of God. We can’t have the peace of God until we have a piece of God,  and that comes from having a personal relationship with God.

Patience: True patience is quiet, peaceful, unwavering and strong. Patience reveals our faith in God’s timing, almighty power and love. Patience does not develop overnight . James 1:3-4 encourages us to know that trials are His way of perfecting our patience.

Kindness: Kindness is a verb, a doing word. You need to act to be kind, you need to do or even in some cases not do –  to be kind. No small act of kindness is ever wasted.

Goodness: Feeling good and being good are not the same thing. There are things that make us feel good that are not good for us. Goodness is not a quality we can manufacture on our own. James 1:17 says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.”

And so finally we reach the last three: faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

FAITHFULNESS
When I started this I wondered what the actual definition of faith is.

According to Webster’s Dictionary faith is “an unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence.” Or  from the Bible in Hebrews 11: 1 “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” You know, I like the Bible’s version better  … Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

A few verses later it says “whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists”. So at the very very beginning of any of us knowing God, that first step in having a personal relationship with Him, is that first moment of faith that it takes to acknowledge Him, and  believe He exists.

Indeed faith is essential as Christians:

We are saved by faith (Eph 2:8-9)

We live by faith (Rom 1:7)

We become right with God by faith (Rom 4:13)

We walk by faith not by sight (2 Cor 5:7)

We receive the promise of the Spirit by faith (Gal 3:14)

We wait for the return of Christ by faith (Gal 5:5) and

We stand firm in our belief by faith (2 Cor 1:24).

Standing firm in our belief by faith is what brings me from faith to faithfulness. It is the constancy of faith through time, through good times and bad times. God never said that it would be ALL smooth sailing when we became Christians, what he did say was “I will be there with you in the midst of the storm”.  Faithfulness  in the times of joy and plenty, when life is easy,  it is all going your way,  green lights on your journey of life. Faithfulness  in the times of doubt, despair and disaster, when life is hard, it‘s all going against you, when it’s red lights and roadblocks on your journey of life.

I think it is harder to have faith in times of good when you can start to think you need no-one, rather in the times when we cry out for help. Whatever season or time each one of us are in, the only way we can have a constant faithfulness is by the Holy Spirit’s influence.

GENTLENESS
Gentleness, translated in some Bibles as “meekness,” does not mean weakness. Rather, it is polite, restrained behaviour toward others.

Everyone is powerful . Every one of us has power.  We can say things and act in ways that hurt others. Sometimes it is what we say and do that hurts others. Sometimes it is what we don’t  say and what we don’t do that hurts others.

Gentleness is knowing we have the power to hurt, but choosing to do what is right, choosing to do what Jesus would do. It is mind-blowingly hard to be gentle when we get aggravated, frustrated or angry, when we want to react in a very natural human way. When our very essence aches to retaliate, it can take all our strength not to show our strength.

Gentleness is placing our strength under God’s guidance and the Spirit is the one who guides us. The Spirit is the one who gives us the wisdom to see how and when we can be gentle. And the Spirit is the one who gives us the strength to be gentle, because sometimes it is hard to bite our tongue or keep our arms by our sides.

SELF-CONTROL
When Gail and I decided  to follow on from Pentecost with the Fruit of the Spirit, I laughed  when I learnt what they all were: (sorry I now do this in song form): Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Why did I laugh – it was that last one. The one we are up to now: self-control. I could say I have nothing to say because I have none. Honestly I struggle to have just one chocolate biscuit, when shopping I struggle to leave what I think I need, when really it is only something I want and honestly, sometimes I just like being naughty.

Self-control is, of course, the ability to control oneself. It involves constraint, and the ability to say “no” to our desires.  You never need self-control for something we don’t like, don’t  want and don’t desire. Seriously who needs self-control when eating  brussel sprouts – I can easily leave one on the plate and not even raise a sweat! Now a hokey pokey squiggle top chocolate biscuit – that is a whole different story.

So how is self-control a fruit of the Spirit? Who else can make us aware that we are on automatic pilot and over-indulging; who else can give us the strength to say no or to walk away?

So the fruit of the Spirit is

LOVE including difficult people

JOY in trying times

PEACE in all circumstances

PATIENCE when busy

KINDNESS to all around you

GOODNESS by helping others

FAITHFULNESS is constant

GENTLENESS and not harsh

SELF CONTROL in daily choices

So finally we want these qualities now – but it is fruit we are talking about. Some things we pray for come instantly, but fruit doesn’t. A seed needs to be planted in the right soil, shoots appear, it blossoms and then fruit forms and ripens as it matures. It’s a process. When we appreciate and wonder at the marvel of God’s love for us by the gift of his son Jesus so that we can all have our very own relationship with Him,  then we are motivated to respond in ways that please Him, the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to walk in ways we previously thought impossible. We shall stumble and fall at times, of course, but remember we are on a journey of spiritual growth.

Once again I tell us it’s a process – as we are tested we grow.

(Vanessa)

You may may also want to check out this video presentation on the Fruit of the Spirit, available on the Godtube website: