New Address

Hello!  Thanks for stopping by.  I have moved house and so has my blog.  If you want to continue reading my stuff, and I really hope you do, then you’ll find me at:

http://siancollins.urc.org.uk

 

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Mobile Foodbank

Say what you like about ministry, it’s not dull!  There’s always something to celebrate in church life and it usually involves cake…

Last evening we held our usual Cafe and Community event, (where we meet for tea/coffee and aforementioned cake; listen to a speaker and then open the talk up to comments and questions).  Our guest this time was Will Mansell, from our local Food Bank.  I think I can be forward enough to say that our church and Will are old friends.  Quite  a few of our folk volunteer at the Foodbank and many more of us contribute to it.  So, rather than give us an introductory talk, Will challenged us to consider the wider reasons that Food Banks exist.  He spoke about the ‘myths’ that are regularly aired in the media, as well as in pubs and other meeting places.  He based his talk on the myths about poverty from last year’s report by the  Joint Public Issues team, which in turn took its statistics from Government reports.  If you want to read it for yourself, click here.  Actually, there’s heaps of good stuff on there to get your teeth into so do go over and have a look.

As well as giving his report, Will was with us to announce that the work is expanding as our church will, from next Monday, be hosting a mobile Foodbank for our town. It seems that each week  2 or 3 families from our Town receive vouchers for the Food Bank.  The most efficient way to address this is to have a ‘mini’ bank from which volunteers can collect food and deliver directly to the family.  So, we have just installed the lovely big cupboard which will house the food.  It was my privilege to be the one who got to ‘dedicate’ it!  I know, right?  Seriously, it is a privilege and I was delighted to be able to say a prayer to commend the work and to bless the volunteers and the people that they, in turn will bless by providing the service.

Thanks to Margaret, as ever – our photographer…

FB2The photo, from left to right, shows: Siân Collins; Will Mansell, (Food Bank), and volunteers, Paul Driscoll and Stuart Radford, who will be doing the work.

 

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Moving On….

 

ChangeHello there!  I am checking in today to pass on the news that I will be closing down this blog at the end of the month.  I am leaving my current post in the Cotswolds for life in a more urban environment.

I recently wrote a short piece for the local newsletter and I’m reproducing it here because the sentiments expressed are equally meant for all you lovely people too.

Change.
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived about 500 years before the time of Jesus, is famous for saying, “No one steps into the same river twice,” or something very like it.
The idea, of course, is that nothing remains the same. A river is a flowing, ‘living’ thing that, over time channels its way through the landscape and shapes the surrounding land. Heraclitus’ observations and thoughts led him to believe that the only constant is change.
Everything changes. I wonder how you feel about that statement. You may or may not agree with it, of course, but how do you feel? If you are in difficult circumstances, you may well long for change. If you are ill, you surely want to get better. What if you’re in a comfortable, good place though? You may not welcome the idea of change. If life is good for you, change may be threatening.
Here’s an appalling joke: “How many Church-goers does it take to change a light-bulb?” answer: “Change????”
Yes, I know. The joke works because it plays on the stereotype of churches being old-fashioned, reactionary institutions that look back to the ‘good old days’ and are reluctant to embrace change in any form. The thing is though, churches do change. God may well be the same yesterday, today and forever, but God’s people are called to a life of challenge and change. If we are to be faithful to our vocation we need to grapple with the challenges that life in the 21st century throws at us.
Change is on my mind at the moment because I am about to leave Nailsworth to take up a new post in Bristol.  I face new challenges and change and so does Christ Church as it seeks a new minister.
As I leave, I would like to thank you all very much for reading my musings. It has been a privilege to be able to share with you. I have enjoyed my time in this part of the Cotswolds and to have been part of this lovely Town’s community.
May God bless you all as you continue your own life journeys of challenge and change.

 

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3 Years On – #Syria

A few days ago, a picture by the artist Banksy, started doing the rounds in order to highlight the plight of the people of Syria.  It’s three years today since the conflict began and, at present, there no clear sign of it ending.  I have a Syrian friend whose family is still based in Latakia.  Her view is that, “Syria needs more love, not weapons.”

Banksy SyriaToday, some of us joined our local Amnesty group as they met in the local High Street to, “Stand with Syria.”

Holding the bannerand

Standing With Syria 1So we stood, quietly amongst the busyness and bustle of a High Street on a Saturday morning.  Most of the passers by just ignored us; some took photos; many, (especially the children), smiled and we stood with Syria.  A relatively small act. But an act of subversion; of prophetic witness; a message to the powers and authorities of this world that conflict in a far-off country is not going unnoticed.  For those of us who follow Jesus, this was an active prayer – no words needed.  Amen.

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Have a look at this…

Just popping in to tell you a bit about the Windermere Festival which is taking place this week.  The posts, poetry and prayers from various members of the United Reformed Church, (so far – can’t speak for the whole range of folks – yet), are inspiring and thought provoking.

Well worth a look – go on, I dare you.  Click this – THIS

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3rd Sunday of Epiphany – Follow the Way

Artist : He Qi; from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of Vanderbilt Divinity Library

Artist : He Qi; from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of Vanderbilt Divinity Library

Readings: Isaiah 9:1-4 and Matthew 4:12-23

In our reading this morning we hear Matthew’s very dramatic version of Jesus’ calling of the disciples.  I say, dramatic because it seems that Jesus just says the word and instantly the men cast aside their nets and become his followers; and whilst that’s certainly one way of telling it, Matthew’s setting of the scene gives us additional information that helps fill out the story.

After his baptism and the 40 days spent in the wilderness, Jesus goes into Galilee.  His ministry begins in ‘the lion’s den,’ so to speak.  We will find out a little later on that the ruler of Galilee, Herod Antipas, (son of Herod the Great who we heard about just a few weeks ago), is the one who arrested John the Baptist.  Galilee is a dangerous place for a prophet – especially one calls upon people to ‘repent.’

Jesus makes his home in Capernaum; a small town of perhaps 1,000 people.  As it was situated on the coast, some of those who lived there became fishermen, whilst others continued the age-old tradition of farming. It wasn’t a grand place – the great and the good lived elsewhere.  Back in its history, the region had belonged to the tribe s of Zebulon and Naphtali, but by  the 1st century it had been conquered by the Romans and was even known as Galilee of the Gentiles.

That’s probably why the Romans were satisfied to put a ‘puppet’ prince in charge of it – for such was Herod.  Like his father before him, Antipas was not deemed to be properly Jewish and he already had a reputation for violence and brutality.

What chance then, does a Prince of Peace have against this so-called, ‘King of the Jews?’

Like the Baptiser before him, Jesus preaches a message of repentance.  In Hebrew the meaning is to ‘turn around’ or turn back – like Isaiah calls upon the people to do; but in Matthew, the word is the Greek, metanoia – which has more of a ‘change of mind’ meaning. Jesus then, is calling for something new – it’s not just that the people need to turn back to God, they need to change their thinking.  The old ways won’t do.  Prophet after prophet have called upon the people to turn back to God and yet, they still don’t get it.  They have to change their understanding – change their thinking.  That’s Jesus’ way.  That’s the Kingdom Way.

And what they really need to understand is that Jesus the Messiah, is not just an idea, a concept to be argued about or discussed or held; Jesus is a way of life – Jesus is the Way.

To follow Jesus is to follow a way of life.

What of the disciples then?  These ordinary fishermen, going about their work on the beach one day when Jesus calls upon them to ‘follow.’ 

Physically and figuratively they throw down their old lives and take up a completely new way of living – they literally repent.

There’s a terrific clash of cultures here.  Jesus goes first to two brothers, Simon and Andrew and then to a second set of brothers, James and John. Family life was of great importance in Jewish culture. Sons were not free to choose their own paths; they had family responsibilities sometimes with parents and siblings to look after, yet Jesus’ Way seems to overturn all that too. The Way is costly.

Now we know from other stories in the Gospels that these disciples didn’t completely desert their families or their fishing.  Later on, Jesus goes to Simon’s house and tends to Simon’s Mother-in- Law.  The disciples catch fish and sell them in the market, to name but two examples; but the emphasis is that, with Jesus, a new way has begun.

In last week’s reading from the Gospel of John, we heard how Jesus issued an invitation to ‘come and see,’ and that it was through this relational way of being that the disciples discovered more about him.  In this version, Jesus’ invitation is more demanding, more dramatic because time is short.  The dangers of this world are all too real and he must face them.  If the disciples are to play their part they must engage.  They need to change their minds – change their worlds.

In this third week of epiphany, perhaps we, too can discover a little more about the one who calls us to follow.  Jesus challenges us to make the Way, an integral part of our lifestyle. We need to change our minds and align them with the Way of the Kingdom; to think more in terms of God’s ways than our own.  As we read about the disciples in the Gospels we see that they are far from perfect; they fail, they fall asleep – they just don’t get it – but they do follow. Day after day they follow, getting covered in the dust of their rabbi, seeking to learn more – seeking to be more, following the Way.

May we be bold enough to follow too.  Amen.

Posted in Abundant Life, Disciples, Faith, God, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Matthew's Gospel, Repentance, The Way | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baptism of Our Lord – 12th January 2014

 

 

 

Scripture passage: Matthew 3:13-17

Nadia Bolz WeberMeet Nadia.  Some of you may already know her.  If you don’t you can find out more here. The reason I was talking about her in worship this morning was because of the story Nadia tells about the time she told her own parents about her call to ministry.  Nadia grew up in a denomination that doesn’t recognise women as pastors, so she wasn’t sure how they would take the news.  If you’ve got time you really need to hear her tell her story herself which you can do by following the above link to her page, clicking on media and watching the interview there.

Spoiler alert. When Nadia told her parents, her father’s first reaction was to get his bible, (oh no – a beating with the Scripture stick? – but no), and turn to the Book of Esther, chapter 4, and read, “But you were born for such a day as this…”* They prayed for Nadia and gave her blessing.  Their love and acceptance of her released, she says, her to be free to do the work that God had assigned for her.

When Jesus went to the Jordan river, he seemed to recognise that he was, ‘born for such a day as this…’ His being baptised by John, (who was, at first reluctant to baptise Jesus, saying that, really it should be the other way around), was a prophetic act.  Jesus was putting himself alongside and on the same level as,  the people he had come to redeem. In Matthew’s Gospel, there are many parallels in Jesus’ life with the history of the people of Israel – but really that’s a different sermon for another day.  “Let it be so,” says Jesus, “For in this way we fulfil all righteousness.”  As Jesus emerges from the water, the Spirit, like a dove, descends upon him and God speaks and says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

These words confirm, not just Jesus’ identity, but his divine purpose and anyone about to embark on such difficult ministry, needs to have that recognition and blessing.  You only have to consider the challenges that Jesus met along the way…. “if you are the Son of God….”  “Who are you Jesus of Nazareth, what do you want with me?” Questions that arise from forces that oppose the will of God.  Jesus identity, in God, confirmed at his Jordan baptism, allow him to fulfil his purpose; free him to do the work that God has ordained.  His identity does not come from his abilities or talents; not from his work, (it’s not this is my beloved carpenter); Jesus identity is that of a beloved child of God.

For those of us who bear Christ’s name today, we would do well to remember that our own identity is not bound up in what we do or to whom we’re related or anything else other than the fact that we, too are beloved children of God. We do well to remember this.  Imagine a world where people believed this and treated one another accordingly…

The world will happily tell you what you are and assign you a label of one sort or another.  Look at any newspaper and there, amongst the headlines, you will find people described as ‘shirkers’ or ‘strivers’ or ‘scroungers’ or another title that pits the good, (us), against the bad, (them).  Exploiting our human tendency to be self-centered, to think only of our own needs, these headlines allow us to turn away from our neighbours and forget that our own quality of life comes, not from our own efforts, but from an accident of birth that sees us born into a developed country with many opportunities.  In the Kingdom that is being proclaimed at the Jordan river, the story is different.  There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ only beloved children of God.  Brothers and sisters set free to live their lives abundantly.

* In the story of Esther, Esther is put in a position where she may be able to save her people, but she is afraid.  That is when her relative, Mordacai tells her, “But you were born for such a day as this.”

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