“The Holy Spirit is described as ‘wind’ and ‘fire’ in Acts. In John, Jesus uses the analogy of water. All three of these elements can be unpredictable, disruptive and hard to control. In some churches, there may be a tension between encouraging spontaneity and freedom (of the Spirit), while ensuring that there is still order and continuity in what takes place. How can we maintain a healthy balance in ways that enable God to work in the lives of all those in our church?
Those who experienced what was taking place in Jerusalem were taken aback, despite the prophet Joel and Jesus predicting the Holy Spirit’s arrival. Peter, who preached what was arguably the first sermon, used the Scriptures to explain what was taking place. How good is our knowledge of the Bible when it comes to speaking about our faith? And in terms of reading it, do we tend to ignore those portions that make uncomfortable reading, or are ‘difficult’ to understand? What prophecies might be fulfilled in our time?
Those who heard the believers speaking in ‘other languages’ were from every part of the known world of the time. It was a clear sign of the Holy Spirit’s unifying power – bringing together people from different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities. Today we extol the merits of having diverse congregations in our churches, but in practice many local congregations struggle to make the ideal of unity (and equality) a reality. What is it that holds us back, and how might we overcome such barriers? How can we work to ensure our churches are as inclusive and unified as possible?”
Extracts have been taken from Roots with permission.
This article was found in the November 1950 copy of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church. It was written by R. A. Newman
The Ninety and Nine
Here is a story by Sankey the famous evangelist: - It was in the year 1874 that the poem "The Ninety and the Nine" was discovered, set to music, and sent out upon its world wide mission. Its discovery seemed as if by chance. Mr. Moody and I were travelling from Glasgow to Edinburgh. He busy, and I reading the daily newspaper hoping to see some news from America. My eyes fell upon a little pieces of poetry in a corner of the paper and I read it over carefully, at once making up my mind that it would make a great hymn for evangelistic work, if it had a tune. I called Moody's attention to it, and read it over to him, but he was so engrossed with correspondence that he paid no heed, but I kept it. At the noon meeting the following day, held at the Free Assembly Hall, Mr. Moody after his address on "The Good Shepherd" turned to me and said, "Have you a suitable solo appropriate for the subject with which to close the service?" I had only the 23rd Psalm in mind, and it had been sung several times at the meeting, and I knew I could never sing it as a solo for every Scotsman in the audience would be sure to join in. At this moment a voice seemed to say, sing the hymn found in the train, but I thought - Impossible as there is no music to it. The voice, however, was insisted, so I just lifted my heart in prayer, asking God to help me so to sing that the people might hear and understand. Laying my hands upon the organ I struck the chord of A flat and began to sing. Note by note, the tune was given, and the first verse sung, and then I wondered whether I could repeat it for the second. I succeeded with the five verses. Moody came down the pulpit in tears demanding "Sankey where did you get that hymn? I have never heard the like." I replied "Mr. Moody that's the hymn I read in the train to you yesterday which you did not hear."
Thus Ninety and Nine was born. The author was Elizabeth Clephane of Melrose, born in Edinburgh in 1830 and died in 1869.
One Sunday morning in August, 1875, the Rev. E. H. Bickersteth, Vicar of Christ Church, Hampstead, heard Canon Gibbon at Harrogate preach from Isaiah 26 verse 3 "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee". The words Perfect peace lingered in his mind, and shortly afterwards he went to visit a dying relative, Archdeacon Hill, and finding him somewhat troubled in mind, he took a sheet of paper, and there and then wrote that beautiful hymn
Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
And which he read to his dying friend. Have you noticed that the first line of each verse (except the last) is really a question, with the answer in the second line. Upon taking the poem home, and reading it to his family, one of his sisters drew attention to the fact that it contained no reference to the trial of physical suffering. "That's soon remedied" he replied, and taking an old envelope wrote on the back: -
Peace, perfect peace, mid sufferings sharpest throes?
The sympathy of Jesus breathes repose.
Again you notice question and answer, but this verse is not, for some reason, included in our hymnary.
Another of our well loved hymns was written under great mental distress.
O Love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul on Thee.
George Matheson, the author of this hymn, was born in Glasgow in 1842. His University career was most brilliant, but at the age of 20 he became blind. Nevertheless he carried his heart's purpose and became a minister, first in his native city, then at Inellan, near Dunoon, and subsequently at Edinburgh. He died in 1906.
The hymn was written at Inellan on an evening in June, 1882. Dr. Matheson said "It was composed with extreme rapidity, I felt myself in the position of one being dictated to, rather than in that of an original artist. I had suffered a severe loss, and was in extreme mental distress, and the hymn was the fruit of pain." It has been stated that his distress of mind, was caused by his sweetheart breaking off the engagement on account of his blindness.
If that is true, it gives poignancy to the poem and illuminates its meaning. Each verse has a central thought in illustration of the doctrines of self realisation through self annihilation.
The poet Tennyson was not really a hymn writer. His life ranged from 1809 to 1892. We have two of his compositions in our book, the first being in fact a portion of that great poem "In Memorium" Strong Son of God, immortal Love. The second is treated as an Anthem Crossing the Bar.
Dr. Butler of Trinity College, Cambridge, once asked Tennyson how he came to write "Crossing the Bar." Pointing to a nurse who had been with him 18 months, and who exercises great influence over him, the old poet replied: - "That nurse was the cause, she asked me to write a hymn, and I told her hymns were such dull things, and I compose so slowly - however, I knocked it off in 10 minutes."
Shortly before his death, he called his son, and told him that it was his desire that "Crossing the Bar" should appear at the end of all future editions of his works, an injunction which has been faithfully fulfilled. May we like the poet have the hope and faith to see our Pilot face to face when we cross the bar.
I will finish this month with another of Sankey's stories - At Chicago at one of Moody and Sankey's great temperance meetings in 1876 a convert gave the following testimony: -
"At the outbreak of war in 1861 I enlisted and was soon a first lieutenant. I was 18 and had never before been away from home. Unfortunately I took to drink, and a constant card player with fellow officers, and by 1870 was a physical wreck.
I abandoned myself to the wildest debauchery. In anticipation of sudden death I destroyed all evidence of my identity, so that my friends should never know of my end. One day I wandered into one of your meetings and sat under the gallery in a drunken dazed condition. I got up to go out whilst the meeting was singing "What shall the Harvest be". The words and the music stirred me with a strong emotion. I listened to the 3rd verse:
Sowing the seed of a lingering pain
Sowing the seed of a maddened brain
Sowing the seed of a tarnished name
Sowing the seed of eternal shame
Oh, what shall the harvest be?
I rushed out in desperation and soon found a saloon and called for liquor to drown my sorrow, but everywhere in the bar room, even in my glass, I could read "What shall the Harvest be." I dashed the glass to the floor and went out. Two weeks afterwards I returned to the Tabernacle again, and in the Inquiry room, found peace."
Sankey says - a week later the man returned and showed him a letter from his little daughter. As follows: - Dear papa
"Mama and I saw in the Chicago papers that a man had been saved in the meetings there, who once was a lieutenant in the army, and I told Mama I thought it was my Papa. Please write to us soon as Mama cannot believe it was you."
The man received his letters at the G.P.O., and Mr. Moody took steps to restore him to his family. With the help of friends he studied for the ministry, and for some years was pastor of a large Church in the North West where he died in 1899. The man's name was W.O. Lattimore.
It is just another one of thousands of illustrations of the power of Divine Song. That hymn - "What shall the Harvest be" was a great favourite in my young days, and one could often hear it whistled in the street, or sung at Sunday evening hymn singing round the piano after Church service, in family gatherings, with friends. A custom, I fear, that has died out, in these days of wireless music.
Come, Holy Spirit; fill us with your peace.
Come, Holy Spirit; unite us in our worship.
Come, Holy Spirit; raise us by your power.
Come, Holy Spirit; come now.
The main reading for today comes from Acts 2: 1-21
In these opening words, we ask that the Holy Spirit, fills us with peace, unity, power. I am including the last part of a Vinod Shemron’s words from Fresh from the Word (31stMay): “Every day we, too, create our own world based on the way we use our tongues. Do we use our tongues to make life better for us and the people around us, or are we just using the tongue just to make us feel comfortable? This is the question that this passage asks. Our answers live in our daily deeds.”
I am writing this Blog on Wednesday 20thMay, it is a normal day, well as normal as things can be at this time, let’s call it a new normal. It was interesting to listen to the interview with Captain Sir Tom Moore on the BBC this morning, when asked what simple thing we can do he replied, give a little smile & you may get a little smile back, kindness to others is what we all need to express at this time, in simple actions, how we use our tongues and the gifts we have been given is a simple message but a strong and uplifting one!
Acts 2: 1-21
“On the day of Pentecost Jesus’ disciple’s experience being filled dramatically with God’s Holy Spirit, the culmination of many centuries of waiting for the fulfilment of God’s promise, made known through Old Testament prophets.
While some believers understood what was being said (by the power of the Holy Spirit), others in the crowd could not comprehend what was happening, and argued that the only ‘spirit’ present was of an alcoholic nature.
Pentecost witnessed God moving in a new, dynamic way in the lives of those believers. When God chooses to do a similar thing in our church (perhaps in the way we conduct our worship, or engage with the community around us), are we as dismissive as those naysayers in Jerusalem? “
The above point is of interest to all of us at this time, the way we conduct our worship & how we engage with our local community, this has always been a core principal of our Church & for all Churches & places of worship across the country and in the wider world, numbers may be shrinking but the message still has to be expressed in whatever way we can, the current times have made us think about worship in a very different way & as times progress we may have to change the way we worship, as we continue to strive to spread the message.
Extracts have been taken from Roots with permission.
This article was found in the October 1950 issue of Progress, the monthly magazine of Romford Congregational Church.
It is not such a very long time ago when the only method we knew of what the weather was going to be like was by consulting some man, much older than ourselves, who, after studying the sky gave a solemn opinion that it was either going to blow before morning and if the wind didn't change we should have rain before a certain time, etc., etc. In due time we got to know the difference between "red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning, and red sky at night, shepherd's delight". Or think we did!
But Aunt Eliza could always let us know without that because of her "rheumatics" or grandfather's favourite corn. If that wasn't enough there was, in most country cottages, a little wooden house, with two doorways out of which popped a little man, if it was going to fine, or a little old woman, complete with umbrella, if it was going to be wet. If both stood in the doorway together it was a bit of a gamble - like the man who wanted to be buried with a harp and an asbestos suit.
Then came the period when a barometer was hung in the hall and solemnly tapped each morning.
This in time has largely given way to the practice of listening to the weather forecast on the wireless each morning.
This year, however, I have come across a new one. I asked the lady of the house where we were staying on holiday what the forecast was and she replied that she hadn't listened but "her spider had been out and that was a sure sign of a good day", Well, well. That was a fresh one to me so, naturally, I wanted to know more about it.
Outside the kitchen window there was a tiny crevice in which a fairly large-sized spider made his home - he must have just about filled it. From the top corners of the frame he suspended his web and at a rough measurement I should say it was about three feet square. Sure enough Bruce (obviously that's what I christened him) would come out if the morning promised to be fair, and after repairing the web from any damage during the night would hang patiently in the centre waiting for the small flies to get caught. If the morning was wet he didn't come out.
The lady also told me that if a wasp got caught in the web, Bruce would cut all round until the wasp could get free, afterwards repairing the damage.
Now, I'm not very partial to spiders. I don't know why, exactly, but they never seem to me to be the sort of thing on which I could lavish affection, but I am intrigued at what I saw and heard.
If, therefore, any reader can supply information on the habits and antics of our ordinary English spiders it will be gratefully received.
Notes from an address preached by the Rev. Ronald M. Ward, B.D. Originally published in the September 1950 issue of Progress, the monthly magazine for Romford Congregational Church.
“Shall not God avenge His elect, which cry to Him day and night …?“ (Luke 18:7)
“Vengence is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
In the story which we read for our lesson (Luke 18:1-8), a widow, a helpless and insignificant person, receives her justice from the hands of a judge. But the judge satisfies her for quite base and trivial reasons. He is not interested in the rights and wrongs of her case. He has no fear of God, caring nothing for eternal laws. He has no respect for man, and is unconcerned with what we should call human rights. But he becomes thoroughly bored with the woman’s tedious request, and he does what she asks to save himself unnecessary trouble.
Jesus concludes His parable with the words, “Shall not God avenge His elect?, meaning that justice, which in this case is wrung from the reluctant hands of a sinful human being, is always backed by the determined will and infinite resources of God.
This story is a reminder of important facts.
Thus Communism is a great evil. Its leaders neither fear God nor respect man, and are guided by selfish and brutal impulses. But God is not defeated by Communists. It may even be that some of His purposes are being worked out in history through their activities. The present regime in China, for instance, is not totally evil in all its effects. It is reckoned to be far less corrupt than its predecessor, and we need not hesitate to admit that a certain measure of justice has been achieved by it.
This, of course, does not justify Communism, any more than our Lord’s parable justifies the employment of judges who despise the law. Neither does it mean that we are at liberty to sit back and let evil men govern the world, hoping that God will make the best of things for us. But it does mean that righteousness must ultimately prevail, if not in this world then in the next. And we shall be wrong if we look for the fulfilment of God’s laws only through specifically Christian or “good” media. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee” (Psalm 76:10).
But justice means more than the achievement of the good. It also means the punishment of the wicked. The unjust judge stands under the wrath of God, in spite of the service which he unconsciously renders to God’s purpose. The Communist system is most certainly doomed because it sets itself against Divine law, and must therefore be ultimately crushed by it. How God will do this we do not know. But He most certainly will do it. “Vengeance is mine, said the Lord.”
All this is very comforting. But danger is hidden in such thoughts. The word vengeance suggests an angry person getting his own back. And “getting one’s own back” is very far indeed from the vindication of Divine righteousness. Unfortunately, however, justice and revenge, two very different things, are so involved together in our minds that it is difficult to distinguish between them. This is particularly well illustrated in the Greek language, where the words for vengeance and justice have a common root. In an attempt to escape this unfortunate confusion, our text, translated in the Revised Version “Shall not God avenge His elect”, becomes in Moffat’s translation, “Will not God see justice done to His elect”. Ronald Knox translates it, “Will not God give redress to His elect”.
The difficulty, however, is more than linguistic. it is psychological as well. The most primitive notion of morality is identical with that of revenge. Injury must be paid for in blood, not only the blood of the person who inflicted the injury but perhaps that of his family and tribe as well.
These ideas become rationalised in the laws of a civilised State, but even there the same element persists. Capital punishment, for example, may become a sort of blood revenge. Criminals are sent to prison partly as a preventive measure, partly as a remedial measure and partly to uphold the law. But who can deny that people get a certain satisfaction out of the thought that a man who has been a nuisance and a source of fear now has to “pay” for his misdeeds. How easy it is to point a finger at the evil doer and say with immense satisfaction, “I told you so”, or “Serves you right”.
The same feeling has been projected into religion, and here it becomes most harmful of all. The belief that God will avenge His elect may become a source of satisfaction to those who have suffered at the hands of wickedness and are too weak to do anything about it. And in the moment when that happens the Christian spirit is banished from our hearts. We should rejoice that God’s righteousness can never be defeated. But we must never be glad in suffering which is the result of sin. In the Old Testament the idea that religious men may enjoy, in anticipation, the punishment of the wicked, is too clear to need illustration. “Just wait until God has finished with you” is the theme which persists through many a Psalm. But remember that the Psalmist lived before Christ, and we do not.
Confusion between vengeance and justice finds supreme expression in wrong ideas about hell. As soon as we begin to think about hell as a place where God “gets His own back” we are imagining something which does not exist. The thought that the blessed will enjoy the spectacle of the torments of the damned has actually been expressed by Christian writers in ancient times. No wonder Origen made his heretical protest that Christ remains on His cross so long as a single soul remains in hell. I do not believe this. But the spirit of the heresy is much more Christian than the spirit of orthodoxy has sometimes been. The text, “Vengeance is mine”, appears in the context of Paul’s pleading that we should do all in our power to do good to enemies; that is, to keep them out of hell, not to lock them in and put the key in our pocket with an expression of triumph!
Punishment and retribution are always in harmony with righteousness and love. It is impossible to understand this with the mind, but it must be so if God is God. Retribution is not the expression of something vindictive in God, it is the result of the perilous gift of freedom with which we are endowed. Hell is real, both in time and in eternity, but it is always something chosen. The pangs of hell are the result of evil choices, and thus vindicate the righteousness of a Holy God of Love. Hell is chosen isolation from God. Everyone has tasted it, if only in nightmare, when unredeemed depths of nature take control and thrust us out into irrational loneliness and despair.
We know that evil men who drag the world into misery to satisfy their own wretched ambitions must suffer unless the grace of God rescues them from themselves. But this should never cause rejoicing. This must never be an outlet for resentment. Still more must we apply the rule to personal relationships. Nothing is more unchristian than the notion that God will “take it out” of someone who has injured us. Satisfaction in the thought that God will cause the wicked to suffer is a ruse of the devil, the great unconscious blasphemy which endangers us all. Remember that the foundation of religions is this commandment: “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength”. How often do we commit sin of worshipping not one God, but two? A God of love for ourselves. And a God of revenge for our enemies.
This is part three of Keith Finch's thoughts for Sunday 24th May 2020
Many churches say prayers for those who are leaving – perhaps they are moving away from the area, or going on a long journey overseas. But, most of the time, it is the person who is leaving that these prayers are about. But Jesus is the one going away, and he is the one who did the praying – for those who were staying! Jesus wanted them to know they were not being abandoned, and that he would always be with them – and he said this in his prayer. What do you think Jesus’ prayer for us might be?
In the current climate I think like all of us Jesus would be praying for understanding for hope for shared love & respect for others,
Roots refers to dance as a way of getting closer to God, sometimes this is referred to as “ praise dancing” this is something we definitely do not do at Nelmes, for myself I would find it so hard to let go, I know that at least two of my cousins have in the past worshiped in part in this way. As I say it is not for everyone, but I have noted among many other projects on our televisions during lockdown that “dancing” has been performed via ZOOM and other media outlets, along with sing-alongs, ballet, opera, pop music & keep-fit & sport at home, the purpose of all the before mentioned is to lift our spirits, just as we ask God though Jesus Christ to lift our spirits.
Below you will see a picture, what are the people doing in this picture, we may not dance in our Church but we do hopefully found other ways of glorifying God in our daily lives, and maybe even if were not brave enough to dance in Church we could dance at home in the spirit of the Lord.
A sending our Prayer
Christ the Giver
If Christ be in your heart
Glory fills your days
For he is the King of Glory
If Christ be in your mind
Peace is in all your ways
For he is the prince of peace.
If Christ be in your deeds
Joy your life will raise
For he is the giver of joy.
If Chris be in your will
Strength of purpose stays
For he is the sender of strength.
Taken from Tides & Seasons by David Adam
Other extracts have been taken from ROOTS with permission
This article was found in the October 1950 copy of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church. It was written by R. A. Newman
The Rev. Christopher Wordsworth (nephew of the poet Wordsworth), first and only parochial charge was a little country living in Berkshire, with the curious name of "Stanford-in-the-vale-cum-Goosey." On settling down he was much troubled on finding that the villagers had never been taught the duty of giving. Their idea of religion was to receive all the church doles, by way of coal, soup, blankets, etc., and to give nothing. The vicar was a poet of no mean order, a talent probably inherited, and he decided, instead of appeals from the pulpit, that he would try to inculcate the duty of giving to God by writing a hymn, and having it sung in the church at intervals of about a month. The method proved most effective, and the people became really generous givers. It is therefore to this one-time niggardly congregation that the Church of Christ generally owes this most beautiful hymn:
O Lord of heaven and earth and sea,
To Thee all praise and glory be;
How shall we show our love to Thee
Giver of all?
If you have a hymn-book at home read this poem at your leisure, for it does really bring home to all hearts what a debt we owe to the giver of all. The Rev. Wordsworth was subsequently Bishop of Lincoln - and died in 1885.
The most popular of all Missionary hymns was written by Bishop Heber at Wrexham in 1819, when staying at the Vicarage. He had gone on a visit really to hear his father-in-law Dr. Shipely, the Dean of St. Asaph, preach in aid of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts on Whitsunday. It was on the Saturday evening that a few clerical friends gathered in the Vicarage library, that the Dean asked Heber to write something for them to sing on the morrow - appropriate for the occasion. Heber retired to a quiet corner of the room and after fifteen minutes, produced the first three verses of the hymn From Greenland's icy mountains.
His friends were delighted, but Heber felt it was not completed in its proper sense, and with five minutes more silence he wrote the last verse Waft, waft, ye winds His story.
He gave it to the Dean, and the hymn was sung for the first time in the Wrexham Church the following morning.
It is said to be one of the finest examples of spontaneous writing we possess. In a total of twenty minutes, i.e. five minutes to each verse of eight lines.
At the age of 40 he became Bishop of Calcutta, and is reputed to have ordained the first native to become a Minister of the Church. Other hymns of his composition are Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty and The Son of God forth to war.
At the age of 43 he passed on to his rest, in 1826.
Robert Robinson, born at Swaffham, in the county of Norfolk, in 1735, is our next author. He was destined for the Established Church, but the requisite means could not be obtained. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a hairdresser in London, who often found fault with him for giving more attention to books than to business. At the age of 17 it is recorded that he and other lads one Sunday got playing tricks with a fortune-telling old woman. They rendered her intoxicated, that they might amuse themselves with her predictions. He afterwards went out of curiosity one night to hear the great evangelist George Whitfield, and was so impressed, that he became a preacher at Mildenhall, and wrote the hymn Come, Thou Fount of every blessing.
He passed through many changes and was connected in turn with Wesleyans, Independents, Baptists, and finally a follower of Faustus Socinus, his joy and peace ending in depression and darkness. The following story is told of him -
He was travelling in a stage coach with a lady sitting opposite to him deeply engrossed in reading a little book. Neither of them knew who the other was, but she perceived that he was acquainted with religion, and asked for his opinion on a hymn she had been reading: Come, Thou Fount of every blessing.
He waived the subject, turning to some other topic, but she contrived to return to the subject, describing the benefits she had derived from the hymn, and her strong admiration for its sentiments.
She observed Robinson was strongly agitated, but did not suspect the cause, and woman-like carried on of the good it had done her, and asked him, "Don't you feel it is good?"
At length, entirely overcome by the power of his feelings, bursting in to tears he said, "Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who composed that hymn years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I then had."
It has been said that the most beautiful resignation hymn ever penned was Richard Baxter's Lord it belongs not to my care.
He is also of course known to most people as the author of the "Saints Everlasting Rest." At one time he was chaplain to the merry monarch, Charles II, and one can scarcely wonder why he should write such a hymn. He had a rough time, being much troubled by the Independents under Cromwell, and by the Royalists after the Restoration, who ejected him, and then Judge Jeffreys bullied and abused him.
It was Baxter, who, when greeted by the terrible Jeffreys with the remark, "Richard, I see the rogue in thy face," replied "I had not known before that my face was a mirror."
The history of those times are well worth the study of all Free Churchmen today, but space in "Progress" is limited.
One of the most curious places to write a hymn was on a pane of glass, with a diamond, where it remained for many years. One Whitsunday at Hoddesdon near Broxbourne and Ware, in Hertfordshire, Miss Harriet Auber was sitting in her bedroom, thinking over the sermon she had heard that morning in church - when she wrote the words of that hymn, which has found its way into nearly every collection ever written:
Our blest Redeemer ere He breathed
His tender last farewell,
A Guide, a Comforter bequeathed
With us to dwell.
She died in 1862 at the age of 89, but that pane of glass has disappeared from the house, which afterwards became a place of business.
I think more parents at the christening service of their children appreciate the two verses sung of Saviour, now this infant bless, written by Thomas Toke Lynch, who lived from 1818 to 1871.
I was amused at a recent service to hear a lady say, "What a pity, that makes three boys - never mind, next year maybe it will be a girl."
Viscount Templewood (formerly Sir Samuel Hoare) in his book The Unbroken Thread, speaks of the sporting clergy of the 19th century, particularly in the country districts, and quotes the following story -
"Can I have my baby christened on Saturday?" asked a parishioner of those days of the parish clerk.
"No," answered the clerk, "you can't, the Reverend is pike fishing on Saturday." "Can I have it then before Saturday?" queried the parent. "No, you can't neither, the Reverend has left a live bait in the font," said the clerk. Templewood adds there were many similar stories in those days; he came from a very old Norfolk stock.
This is part two of Keith Finch's thoughts for Sunday 24th May 2020
I wonder if that Glory shines in your life, I always attempt to reflect my Christian belief in my everyday actions, I imagine that we would all say the same, that is why we try our very best to behave in a way that we believe God though his son Jesus wants us to. We have over the last few weeks been asked to express our thanks to all those that are committed to helping us through this crisis, some of us do that with on-line messages, some of us clap for the NHS & all those people out there that are doing so much for us. But I would like to reflect on whether we think we have somehow done enough, just as I would say if spending time in worship on a Sunday is not IT, the action itself allows us to gather together so we can go out of those doors refreshed with Gods spirit to be active Christians in our community, in a way it is a catalyst that enables us to reach out with that strength of purpose that enables us!
Gods Glory is everywhere but not always visible, sometimes Glory is hard to recognise, as it did for the disciples on the mountain top. Sometimes Glory is hidden, as it was for the suffering Christians. But the Glory of God persists (this message is magnified in these times we are living in and through)
And as I mentioned at the start, do we attempt in some small way to reflect God though Jesus into our lives and the way we behave day to day?
In another of the lectionary readings for this Sunday: Acts 1: 6-14, here Jesus says goodbye to his disciples, reminding them that the next major thing to happen to them will be when they receive the Holy Spirit, not his next resurrection appearance , not the liberation of the nation. We have all said goodbye to someone in our lives in fact we are doing this all the time, on some occasions that “saying goodbye” stirs up deep emotions, a young person going off to University, going off on their Gap Year, the day your son or daughter gets married. How do we say goodbye, it depends on the circumstances. I remember the day my daughter got married I was a very proud father, but at the same time both my wife & I were well aware that in some ways we were saying goodbye. There are a thousand other examples we could use.
In this week’s reading from Acts, Jesus is about to go away. How do you think the disciples and their friends were feeling? In fact, the words we heard today were part of Jesus’ prayer for the disciples before going away. Can you recall any of the things he prayed for?
This is part one of Keith Finch's thoughts for Sunday 24th May 2020
Mighty God, we gather in humility to worship you.
Caring God, we bring to you our concerns.
Glorious God, we exalt your holy name.
Unite us – make us one in you,
that your love may strengthen and empower us.
Don’t they look alike!
Have you ever been to visit a new baby? Have you heard people say that the baby looks just like its mum (or dad, or brother, or sister)’? As we grow up, do people still identify characteristics of our family in us? Have you ever told someone they have similar characteristics to a member of their family? I wonder how people feel when they are told they look ‘just like their mum’, or that they have a similar mannerism to their dad, or that they sound just like someone else in their family. Has it happened to you – how did you feel? I wonder if, in a way, we are sometimes quietly happy that a son or daughter is seen to be a little bit like us, especially if the characteristic is a good one. And, even when we are not related, I wonder if we like to find similarities with people we admire, or love, or care about. Maybe this will come into today’s worship.
Gospel: John 17.1-11
“John’s Gospel does have a prayer offered by Jesus that resembles the anguish of the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane in the Synoptics, but it is back in chapter 12 (12.27-36). This prayer has a quite different quality. Jesus looks up to heaven and says, ‘Glorify your Son.’ We often think of glory as dazzling light, the spiritual equivalent of some heavenly bling, but when the term is used in this passage several other meanings emerge. The crucifixion, for all its horror and darkness, will be the hour in which Jesus is glorified (v.1). Jesus has also glorified his Father by finishing the work he was sent to do (v.4). Jesus even says that he has been glorified in his disciples (v.10). Glory, like knowledge, is deeply relational and mutual: Jesus requests that the Father glorify the Son, so that the Son may glorify the Father. Glory is something to bestow on another, and knowledge is about knowing someone, not knowing something (vv.3, 6). The spirals of meaning in John’s Gospel take on their widest curve yet: right back to the prologue of the Gospel (John 1.1-3), and so back to before the time that the world itself existed. Jesus is not asking here for a return to a heavenly status quo where he can forget that the experiment of the incarnation ever happened; he is praying for a new situation of increased knowledge and glory, where his disciples are included in the relationship between Father and Son, caught up in this mutual giving of glory, like so many mirrors reflecting the eternal light.”
This article was found in the September 1950 copy of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church. It was written by R. A. Newman
Until I started writing these short articles for "Progress", it never dawned on me that we, Free Church men, owe to Roman Catholicism some of the sweetest and best of the hymns in our own Hymnary. Apart from Cardinal Newman's "Lead Kindly Light" and "Praise to the holiest in the Height", to which I have previously referred, I feel we should not overlook Bernard of Clairvaux - a twelfth century monk - who gave us Jesus, the very thought of Thee and Jesus, Thou Joy of loving hearts.
David Livingstone, the great African Missionary and explorer, in his journal, tells us how he crooned them to himself, how they rang through his ears as he wandered across the wilds of Africa. Bernard was a great theologian and a very eloquent preacher. He died in 1153, and eleven years afterwards was canonised by Poe Alexander III.
Then there was Bernard of Cluny, another 12th century monk, who gave us Jerusalem the golden, For thee, O dead, dear Country, and Brief life is here our portion.
I am not overlooking the fact that these great hymns of both the Bernards were originally in Latin and we also owe a debt to the translators into English which our Hymnary indicate at the end of each poem.
Cluny was of English parentage, but born in Brittany.
We cannot pass notice of Frederick Wm. Faber, born in 1814 at Calverly Vicarage, Yorks, who after his Oxford career was appointed Rector of Elton (Hunts), but influenced by Newman joined the Church of Rome, after only three years as an Anglican priest. He wrote 150 hymns, and we enjoy singing Sweat Saviour, bless us ere we go, My God how wonderful Thou art, Souls of men! why will ye scatter, and Hark, hark, my soul! Angelic songs are swelling.
It appears Faber had been particularly attracted to the Olney hymns, by Cowper and Newton, and was anxious that the English Catholics should enjoy hymns of similar simplicity and fervour.
Faber ministered at Brompton Oratory until his death in 1863 at the age of 49.
There are others which can be identified by the notes at the foot of our hymns stating they were translated from the Latin. Perhaps the greatest of all Martin Luther's renowned hymn A safe stronghold our God is still translated by the famous Scot, Thomas Carlyle. It was founded on the 46th Psalm: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
Martin Luther was the son of a miner born on 10th November 1483, at Eisenach. His father hoped he would become a lawyer, but while at the University he came across the Scriptures in Latin, which resulted in his becoming a monk. A visit to Rome in 1510 opened his eyes to the evils permeating the clergy. In 1517 the Pope appointed a monk to sell indulgences for sins and releases from purgatory, which roused the fiery spirit of Luther, who drew up his famous protests of 95 theses, or propositions, and nailed them to the door of his Church at Wittenberg. He was denounced by the Pope, and the Emperor Charles V summoned him to appear before him at the Diet of Worms on April 15th, 1521. His friends tried to persuade him from attending, but he declared he would go, "Although as many devils should set at me as there are tiles on the house tops".
He was commanded to recant; refused, and was imprisoned. He spent his time translating the Bible into German, and thus was born the great Reformation.
Luther in 1524 renounced his priestly office, and married Catherina-von-Bora, an emancipated nun who had been influenced by his teaching, resulting in the issue of six children.
He wrote 37 hymns, was both poet and musician, fond of singing and playing the lute. He died in 1546.
We will pass from R.C. to C. of E. to finish this month with a word or two on Bishop Ken who lived from 1637 to 1711. He gave us two of our hymns: Glory to Thee, my God, this night and Awake, my soul, and with the sun.
He was born at Berkhamsyead (Herts), and became a Rector of Little Easton, Essex. Afterwards became Chaplain to Princess Mary, wife of William of Orange, at The Hague, but could not agree with the royal couple and was dismissed. He became Chaplain to Charles II, who was very fond of him. On one occasion when the gay monarch was visiting Winchester (where Ken was dean) accompanied by Nell Gwynne, the King asked Ken to give Nell accommodation at his house, but Ken refused. The king admired him, and was amused. He afterwards made him Bishop of Bath and Wells and said he must go and hear "little Ken to tell him his faults".
He was one of seven Bishops tried at Westminster in 1688 for refusing to order the clergy to read the "Declaration of Indulgence" introduced by James II in favour of his Catholic friends. Although brought in "Not Guilty", Ken resigned his Bishopric and retired into private life. Queen Anne wanted to reinstate him, but he refused and she granted him a pension of £200 a year. For years, Ken carried his shroud about with him, and put it on with his own hands when the doctor told him he had only a few hours to live.
Writing on R.C. and C. of E. hymn writers reminds me of a story told by Archbishop Lang in his autobiography. At Portadown, in Ulster, the R.C. Priest and the Presbyterian Minister lived within sight of each other for years but never spoke. One day they found themselves alone in a 3rd class carriage bound for Belfast, and, their native courtesy overcoming their religious inhibitions, they entered into conversation. Each found the other a good fellow, and by the time they reached Belfast were firm friends.
Shaking the Priest warmly by the hand the Minister said" "Well goodbye Father, we have had a lovely talk, and must have many another in the future. After all aren't we both trying to do God's work, you in your way, and I in His".