Keith Harper

“A friend in need is a friend indeed!”

My life’s become a little more complicated recently. Our car is still off the road following an accident in the snow and unavailability of parts. Generous neighbours in the congregation have kept me mobile. Despite conflicting priorities they have not passed by on the other side as the religious men in today’s parable of the Good Samaritan.

Wherever you live, there are people in need nearby. However, Jesus encourages us also to look beyond our immediate neighbours and to see that our neighbour can be anyone, anywhere, of any creed or social background.

We celebrate the baptism of Sebastian this morning and this can prompt us to consider how we model the teaching of the Good Samaritan. In their playgrounds and classrooms children will encounter those who are different to themselves or, worse, shunned or bullied by their peers. Do we model to children we know or care for, acceptance of the differences in others as well as reaching out in friendship to those in need?

Loving our ‘neighbours’ in our families, at school, at church, at work, in the local or the global community can be costly in terms of time, money or emotional commitment. It challenges our priorities, but Jesus calls us to do it. It can be transformative.

Going deeper, let us remind ourselves that our trust in God is one that is forged not through simple living, but through lives forged in the complexities of life and faith.

 

David Mace

‘Loving our Neighbours? Not a problem really; perhaps we don’t seem to see a great deal of them; but we would always be there for them if there was a problem; they probably would be for us too, hopefully.

We begin this Sunday, a mini series of sermons and thinking about ‘Loving our neighbours’, looking at Jesus’ answer to the questions ‘Which is the greatest commandment?’ and next week, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ 

The fact that Jesus included loving one’s neighbour as oneself certainly takes the issue way beyond what the relationship we have with our physical neighbours. Indeed in one of the gospel accounts, the question of loving one’s neighbours as oneself arose from an earlier question to Jesus of ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’

Jesus’ response to the greatest commandment question was not to select one of the Ten Commandments but to draw together two other commandments from the Old Testament so that we are charged with loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbours as ourselves. Clearly therefore, our responsibilities towards our neighbours (however we define them) are on a par with our responsibilities towards God.

In a book I was reading as I prepared for my talk at the 8.00am service this Sunday (the first Sunday after Easter) it said ‘It means that to God we must give a total love, a love which directs our thoughts and a love which is the dynamic of our actions.’

Loving God is clearly not just keeping an eye open for him and hoping he will do the same for us; nor, I suspect, is loving our neighbours as ourselves.

 

Simon Taylor

I'd like to give space to a UK rap artist and a German golfer this Easter Sunday. 

Their words bring sharp focus to a common cause that centres on the risen Jesus of Easter. This shared cause invites us into a deeper way of being in every part of who we are.

"To a Christian, Easter Sunday means everything, when we celebrate the resurrection
of Jesus Christ."
Langer, Golf champion

"This is God's plan, they can never stop this, like wait right there... you saved this kid and I'm not your first. It's not by blood and it's not by birth, but oh my God what a God I serve!... Lord, I've been broken although I'm not worthy. You fixed me, I'm blinded by your grace" Stormzy, Rap Artist

We serve the God who gave us Easter and we're asked to see life through this: who we are, what we do and how we live. A step in this deepening faith is to gather on Easter Sunday.

 

Peter Shaw

What does it mean to go deeper as a disciple of Christ?  It can mean different things depending on where we are in our life and faith journey. It might mean understanding the context in which scripture was written more closely.  It might mean being increasingly open to listen to how Gospel truth impacts on our attitudes and the way we engage with colleagues at work or fellow members of our local community. 

Going deeper is not about digging a hole to bury our treasure in.  Going deeper is about constructing sure foundations so that the approach we take to life is founded on clarity about what Christian discipleship means and a thought through perspective on how best to live out the presence of God in the spheres in which we are privileged to move. 

Going deeper can mean facing into tough choices and addressing difficult issues.  On Palm Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem knowing that he would meet opposition and potential death.  He did what he felt called to do, recognising that the authorities of the day did not welcome his presence or his message. 

We are called to follow Christ as Master and Lord.  This might mean entering situations where we are not always welcome and bringing insight and perspective informed by our understanding of the Gospel messages of forgiveness, reconciliation, hope and resurrection.  Sometimes we might feel in danger of being ignored or rejected.  Being betrayed three times did not stop Jesus from holding his head up high and showing remarkable courage in the face of physical pain and human rejection.

What might going deeper mean for you over Holy Week as reflect on the courage of Jesus as he faced into rejection and pain?

 

David Preece

Right at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry he declared Isaiah 61:1-2 about himself:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

We are fast approaching Easter. I was reminded recently of Jesus’ prayer in John 17. It comes after the Last Supper, on Maundy Thursday, the night before the crucifixion.

Jesus is preparing to leave the disciples. He prays for them ‘As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.’ Jesus invites the disciples to join in God’s mission.

In our year of ‘Going Deeper’ we are called to know God’s Truth, know God’s Timing and to learn to Trust in God all of which are underpinned by God’s saving mission. It’s not something we should keep to ourselves though; this is a message that must be shared!

This week across Busbridge&Hambledon it is Mission Sunday and we have people in each of our services from The Cellar to encourage and challenge us about their part in God’s mission.

Each of us has something we can do to join in God’s mission. What is God calling you to do?

 

Liz Cooke

Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent. Traditionally known as Mothering Sunday, in Surrey it was also called Refreshment Sunday or Pudding-Pie Sunday. This was a day in Lent when you could take a break from fasting. Nowadays it is more commercial, and known as Mother’s Day.

Whatever we call it, we know that today we honour our mothers and show appreciation of their love. The bond between mother and child is one of the strongest bonds there is. It is the first experience of love that a baby will have. We will often use the word mothering to express care in many other situations too – an adult might say they were mothered by a grandmother figure, a teacher or a nurse, and Mother Theresa was literally a mother  to so many abandoned children.

How is it that we can love like this? The apostle John says “we love because He first loved us” ( 1 John 4:19). The mother and child bond is a reflection of the love God has for his children, all of us, without exception.

For most, this is a day of joy but for others it is a day of grief or unfulfilled longing. Some  are yearning to have their first child. Some feel unloved by their mothers. Some are  separated from their children by marriage breakdown. Some are grieving a child who has taken a wrong turning in life.

But all of us, whatever our situation, on Mother’s Day and on every other day too, can be assured that we are loved as Gods children. Paul promises in today’s amazing reading from Ephesians “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us.”

 

Andy Spencer

As we come to the final chapter of James, what have we been learning?

We’ve learnt that:

· Trials are part of the Christian life.
· We are called to persevere.
· It is not enough to listen, we need to put into practice what we have learnt.
· We are called to be self-disciplined.
· We are called to submit to God, where submit means to sign up, to enlist and then to follow where God leads.
· We also have a corporate responsibility to look after those in the fellowship who are suffering, are ill or wandering away from the faith.
· We are called to be patient.

I’m sure there are a few points I’ve missed out!

All this is in the context of the fact that Christ will return and will expect us to be showing our faith through our deeds.

While for some James is seen as a ‘letter of straw’, I believe our studies have shown it to be far more than that. It is a call to all Christians to stand up and be counted. In this letter we have pointers to going deeper in our discipleship by being not merely hearers of God’s word but also those who do His will. This is surely part of our Lenten discipline as we strive to go deeper in our discipleship.

 

David Mace

When Jill and I were much younger we were involved in a youth club in south London. The group that I ran were pretty riotous but we tried to stick to three rules – everyone must pay 6d (old pennies) to come in, everyone must be quiet during the talk and everyone must leave at the end of the evening (and not hide in cupboards or climb on the roof). Over time these rules became condensed into six words – Pay up, Shut up and Get out. These six words had the merit of brevity but were not noticeably more effective in maintaining good behaviour.

Our passage this week in the epistle of James, is James at his no nonsense, tell it like it is, best (James chapter 4). Something seems to have provoked him to abandon his gently reasoned setting out of what practical Christian living should mean in the lives of his readers.  He does not mince his words. ‘You fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask God...when you ask, you ask with wrong motives...don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity towards God’. Strong words for his flock of Jewish Christians.

But with the strong words comes help and encouragement. In verses 7 to 9 of chapter 4 James gives his readers 10 actions, to build into their lives for a closer walk with God.  With the actions come three promises. If you have not  taken up anything very helpful for Lent, let me suggest that you could do no better than look at and ponder those three verses; identify the ten actions that James urges on us and take strength and comfort from the three promises.

‘Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up’.

 

Frances Shaw

What did you do last Wednesday? This was both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. Maybe you managed somehow to combine the two; or maybe you strategically avoided one, or the other, or both.

The dates for Easter, and thus Ash Wednesday, move around quite a lot. Easter Day is on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the spring equinox (simple really). It’s always between 22 March and 25 April. Ash Wednesday is six weeks and four days before Easter.

Ash Wednesday was last on Valentine’s Day in 1945; then 1934 and 1923, but the last time before that was 1877. We won’t have too long to wait for the next time in 2029.

The fact that these two Days fall on the same date is rather inconvenient, but then Lent isn’t intended to be convenient. In fact, convenience is probably the complete opposite of the spirit of the season. Lent is a season of sacrifice so that spiritual renewal can happen. The message of Valentine’s Day is, ‘I love you just as you are’. Ash Wednesday too says that God loves and accepts us as we are, but that we are also sinners, who have been offered the opportunity for forgiveness and change, a deep rooted transformation of our inner beings.

Two more Days fall on the same date this year: Easter Day is on April Fools’ Day. How about: ‘I’ll tell my kids to hunt for the eggs I didn’t hide’.

Now that would just be mean.

 

Clare Haddad

James  chapter 2 v 17 says “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

Reading this, one might ask the question “Did St. Paul and James disagree about the supremacy of Faith for salvation?” After all Luther’s highly influential teaching based on Paul, especially his letter to the Romans, was that we are “saved” by faith alone through God’s Grace. Actually I think both are right because people who offer their lives in faith to Christ cannot help noticing the needs of others and doing something positive. James, in his context, was a man of both faith and action. So it is not “either works OR faith” but rather “both faith AND works ( good actions)”.

Rudyard Kipling wrote:

“O England is a garden and such gardens are not made
By saying “O how beautiful” and sitting in the shade;
While better men (and women!) than we began their working lives
By digging weeds from garden paths with broken dinner knives.”

Faith in Jesus Christ is bound to overflow into action. In our world there are endless opportunities to express the love within us by “helping” others in the broadest sense. Faith is an active quality and leads Christians to do “deeds” of all kinds, quietly, one on one, and also as we work together in the context of our daily activities including work, leisure activities, charitable giving and general connectedness within our society and world. 

 

Simon Taylor

I was in town last week and popped into a shop to buy some milk but got distracted by an enormous display stand full of Easter eggs. I checked my watch to see if we were in even in February yet. I wondered what others made of the display? Then I moved on to buy… what? My mind had gone blank! All those eggs had completely distracted me and I’d forgotten my purpose for being in the shop in the first place.

I wonder if this is what James is getting at in the Bible reading this week? James is advocating activist Christianity but he’s not saying we need to simply do more and more. His message is far more important: if we are going to be active and doing things then it is important to know the purpose otherwise we could become distracted by what we do, rather than why we do it. Remember, James was Jesus’ own half-brother, a sceptic at the outset but a major Christian leader by the end. He knew why he believed what he believed and he knew why he did what he did.

‘Absence of doing’ may sound great to begin with but absence isn’t what James advocates. He points to purpose. Our purpose this year? It’s Isaiah 43:19: Going Deeper, and is about knowing God’s Truth, Living in God’s Timing and Trusting God.

That’s quite a purpose to aspire to!

 

Margot Spencer

The letter from James is full of very practical instructions, written to “all God’s people scattered over the whole world”.  That’s a fairly comprehensive reader base and it includes us!

James deals with all manner of subjects – riches and poverty, faith and actions, wisdom, guarding our speech, judging others, prayer – and he is at pains to remind us that faith and action go hand-in-hand.

He begins with the uncomfortable subject of trials and temptations.  “When trials come your way …” he says.  “When” not “if”.  Facing difficulties is a normal part of life and being a Christian does not provide immunity from that.  James points out that what we have in our armoury is the gift of prayer, which will enable us to persevere through the difficulties.  If we are unable to pray, we have friends who will pray for us and a God who cares about us, through good and bad.

At some stage in our lives, trials beset us all, and (like me) you probably marvel at the way some people deal with everything life throws at them.  Maybe a couple desperate to have children, who suffer one miscarriage after another; maybe a friend whose life seems to have lurched from crisis to crisis over many years; maybe a disabled person whose serenity and contentment is an inspiration.

James encourages us to remain faithful under duress and to remember that “every good gift comes from God … who does not change ...”

 

David Preece

January can be a bit gloomy can’t it? Presumably your Christmas decorations came down last weekend, it is still dark in the mornings and early evenings and spring feels a long way away.

In 2005 as part of a marketing campaign a travel company declared a certain Monday in January as ‘Blue Monday.’ Using a complicated (and entirely fictitious) formula it was decided that things like the weather, post-Christmas debt, failing new year’s resolutions and the time since Christmas combine to make that Monday the ‘most depressing day of the year.’ According to popular myth it is Monday 15th January this year.

We, however, have lots to celebrate: this weekend we re-launch the Classic and Contemporary services at Busbridge, work continues on the Old Rectory and Hambledon Car Park and, most importantly, God is still God.

Our reading for today declares that we are chosen by God, that apart from God there is no saviour, and that God is doing a new thing (see Isaiah 43:10, 11, 19).

We needn’t buy into the gloom of January and marketing campaigns. We can be joyful that there is life from God in us and in our churches.

In our reading from Isaiah God chooses his people ‘so that they may proclaim my praise.’ Instead of the January blues what can you praise God for today and this week?

 

Gertrud Sollars

Socrates declared that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. 1900 years later, St Ignatius (the founder of the Jesuits, 1491-1556) would have agreed with him. He recommended a daily ‘examen of consciousness’, a way of praying that looks over the day – or month, or year – that has just passed, discerning where our thoughts and actions have helped us to be in touch with God and reflect him, and where they have taken us away from God.

Try it; it is an excellent thing to do at the turn of the year.

There are 5 simple steps:

Find a quiet place; become aware of God’s presence (he is always there!). Ask him to show you what he wants to talk to you about.

Look over the past year and thank God for all that has been good.

Still thinking of the events and developments of the last year, notice how you feel about them. Have any drawn you closer to God? Were there any that made you feel far from God? Don’t judge yourself – just notice.

Thank God for the times when you have been in tune with him, and express your sorrow for the times you have not responded to him.

Look ahead to the new year; what is it you want from God in the months to come? Ask him, trusting that he will give you what is good.

Close your time of prayer by thanking God for what he has shown you and offering yourself for his service.

 

Simon Taylor

We started the carol service season last Sunday evening with the special Unplugged Christmas service.

This Sunday we have carol services across Busbridge&Hambledon, both morning and evening. As we head through Advent and into Christmas our message is that God is with us. This is a unique message. It isn’t ‘God might be with us’, nor ‘God will be with us’ or ‘God was with us’. It is God IS.

God IS God. God IS with us. God IS for us. God IS offering salvation. God IS active. God IS present.

If God IS for us, then who or what circumstance can separate us from His Love in the form of the Christ Child?

This is why we celebrate and invite family, friends and neighbours to celebrate alongside us.

 

Hilary Pettman

Only 15 days till Christmas! Are you ready? What else do you need to do? As I write this I still have so many gifts to buy, cards to write and food to prepare.

Our reading today from the prophet Isaiah set me thinking about what I would truly like to give and what would be the very best gift I could give if I only had the power. Here, it seems, is God’s preparation list; the gift he wants to bring to our world.

Justice for the poor and needy
Righteousness (goodness, honesty, faithfulness, integrity, right relationship to himself)
Wisdom and understanding
Peace and security
Rest
The Good News of his goodness and love to be known throughout the world

These surely are gifts we all long to receive. As we draw near to Christmas we praise God for the amazing gift of his dear Son, Jesus, in whom he wishes to give us all these things and much, much more. His Holy Spirit, his presence with us and the working out of all that he desires for us and for his world.

May we be those who can receive and share the Good News of all that God has prepared for us in Jesus.

 

Dudley Hilton

Christmas is coming…Somehow every year the pointers towards Christmas seem to arrive earlier and earlier in the shops, on the TV, online – tree decorations, canned carols, wrapping paper, special “Christmas offers” – you name it!  And they do, these pointers towards the Christmas of too much food, too much telly, too much spending… 

But these are Johnny-come-latelies compared with Old Testament prophecies of the birth of Christ such as this week’s passage from Isaiah. Written some 700-odd years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah is full of predictions of the birth, death and purpose of Jesus.  An early Christian writer, Jerome, said of Isaiah that “he described all of the Mysteries of the Church of Christ so vividly that you would assume he was not prophesying about the future, but rather was composing a history of past events!”

Christmas is coming…but which Christmas? The Christmas foreshadowed by more and glitzier adverts or the one prophesied and predicted in the Old Testament?  The tinsel and stuffing version, or the Christmas celebrating the most momentous birth of all time?  The Christmas of excess, or the Christmas of access as we realise with awe that through the coming of Christ God is among us, that we do have access to the God who loves us?

The reality is probably both. But this Advent season as Christmas approaches, let’s make sure to celebrate and share its true meaning even as we look forward to enjoying the turkey and crackers…

 

Bryan Silletti

This week is our last Sunday service before the season of Advent begins. Christmas may bring a mix of emotions for each of us, depending on our current situations and life experiences. For me, I love Christmas time. It is a time to spend with my wife, and our new baby daughter! The gift of a child in Jesus has a whole new meaning for me now.

In this week, Psalm 29 takes us out of our daily lives and has us look up to a different place of celebration. It is a celebration of Jesus, who is enthroned as King. I was amazed at the imagery where the “voice of the Lord…

Breaks cedars…

Strikes with flashes of lightning…

Shakes the desert…

Twists the oaks and strips the forests bare…”

I am not sure what emotions it stirs in you, but for me it stirs fear and excitement…It certainly gives me a real sense of the power of God and causes me to take a breath...Then, I am reinvigorated by the last line. Our LORD, who is enthroned as King, in all His might, does not want to break us, but wants to strengthen us and give us peace. Thank you Jesus!

As you are preparing for Christmas and whatever place it may take you, remember that the LORD who made this world, and whose voice is powerful, longs to give you peace and strength.

 

Keith Harper

What are the things that cause your heart to shout for joy?  Success at work?  A wedding?  A poem?  Autumnal colours?  A piece of art?  A newborn baby?  Choral evensong? 

I don’t know whether Psalm 98, in particular, was the inspiration but the words in verse 4 ‘Shout for joy to the Lord…’ and elsewhere brought to my mind Hillsong’s ‘Shout to the Lord’.  Darlene Zschech is said to have written it when she was struggling with money worries and the stresses of raising a young family.  She says that the line: ‘Nothing compares to the promise I have in you’ was something she could cling to when her circumstances seemed bleak.  Does that ring true for you today?

Our cares and problems daily crowd out the joy we should be feeling but surely if we could completely and consistently take in what God did for Israel and Jesus did for us, our hearts would not only ‘shout for joy to the Lord’ but also we would be led into a Life of Worship. 

Not only, of course, should we reflect on who God was and is today but also on the promise that he is yet to come; that is the basis of all the exuberant praise of Psalm 98.  It is the anticipation of the appearance of God to bring peace, justice and healing over the earth; to wipe away every tear and to produce in us a joy for which the joyful things of this earth are but an inkling.

 

Frances Shaw

 We have had quite a lot of deaths in our community recently; each person loved, cherished and remembered. Yet these numbers are small when we think of the many who have died in war. I can imagine relatives here, mostly wives and mothers, scouring the newspaper lists for news of their husbands and sons; or living in fear of the arrival of a certain telegram.

We remember those who have died. Their lives, both individually and corporately, have shaped who we are. So remembering is not just looking back, but bringing into the present all that has brought us to this point. The two central events of both Jewish and Christian practice centre on remembering: the Jewish remembering deliverance from Egypt in the Passover, and the Christian remembering Jesus’ own remembering of this, overlaid with his own death and resurrection as a new expression of it.

In the Jewish Passover, the youngest child asks, ‘Why is this night special?’ not ‘Why was this night special?’ In a similar way, when we share the bread and wine we recall Jesus’ words, ‘This is my body ... this is my blood’. Our remembering brings the past into the present and shapes the reality we inhabit.

Hear these words of Jesus (John 10.28): no one will snatch them out of my hand. No one.