Each month our minister writes an editorial for our Church Magazine - Church Chat. If you would like a copy just pop into MBFC to collect one. Below are a selection of previous 'Graham's Gossip' articles. You can find other articles on our Old Gossip page.
When I sat down to write this edition of Graham’s Gossip just before Easter, the major image that I had in my mind was that of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. That was before more disturbing and poignant images of the death and destruction arrived from the Easter Sunday Bombings in Sri Lanka.
This terrible atrocity committed against many who were worshipping the Risen Lord in their churches was an attempt to destroy not just the church buildings but the communities that worship in them. We may not able to understand the depth and nature of the motivation of those who committed these crimes, but we can remember in our prayers and with deep sympathy those who have died and those who have lost loved ones, asking for the comfort of God to be close to them.
Watching the news coverage from Sri Lanka, I have been moved by the dignity that the Christian Community has shown in the midst of such pain and suffering. I have heard no words of recrimination or calls for retribution I have only seen the depth of support and care being shown to each other in a time of need.
This surely is the picture of the Church that we would expect Jesus to want. A gathering of God’s people loving each other and loving their enemy.
In the case of the fire at Notre Dame , I was equally taken by the attitude of a number of those interviewed on the street who were worshippers at the Cathedral. They said that, although the building had been badly damaged and almost destroyed, the community that worshipped and served together were still intact and stronger. As they prayed and sang hymns in the street as the Cathedral burned, here was another true witness to faith and courage.
In these weeks between Easter and Pentecost we think again of the appearances of the Resurrected Jesus bringing us confidence and hope that darkness and suffering are defeated and we prepare to welcome the coming of the Holy Spirit bringing power and strength to us and the World Wide Church.
Clearly we have been shown in Sri Lanka and Paris that The Church is more than the stones of the buildings in which we meet. It is the worshipping, loving, serving body of Christ on earth which we are all part of .
Lent is upon us! March 4th is Shrove Tuesday with all of the fun of pancake making and- more importantly- Pancake Eating!
The season of Lent is one of preparation. Pancakes were made to empty the larders of fat and other rich food so that the Christian Church could concentrate on more spiritual things as we prepare to remember again the sufferings of Jesus as he was tempted in the desert and as he set his face towards Jerusalem, his betrayal, sacrificial death and resurrection.
Lent has always been intended to be a ‘different’ season. It is the season when we do things differently by giving up foods or actions or (in a more recent trend) doing something to mark each of the 40 days of Lent.
Doing something differently challenges us.
We have to keep reminding ourselves why we are doing things differently and so it is a constant reminder that brings us face to face with the enormity of what Jesus does for us on the cross. We are doing things differently because we are preparing to remember a unique, one time only event as the Son of God bears the sins of the world on his shoulders and dies but overcomes even death itself giving to us the way to eternal life with God.
We are doing things differently because our relationship with God is transformed by the actions of God through Jesus Christ both now and for eternity. This requires us to be prepared for all that this brings to us.
So what are going to do differently this Lent as part of your preparation? Here are some suggestions which go beyond giving up chocolate!
• Join a Small group looking at The Grace Course if you do not already belong to one
• Commit yourself to attending the special evening services during Lent
• Read a devotional book instead of watching TV
• Pray at a different time of day- may be with another person via social media
• Walk to church don’t drive!
Whatever you do, make sure that it is different to your normal life and allow it to speak to you of what Jesus prepared himself for and fulfilled.
You do not have to be interested in politics in order to be disturbed about the recent debates and issues in parliament surrounding Brexit.
Political history in parliament as the government has been defeated the government and new sets of constitutional problems have arisen as plans have had to be drawn up to prepare for the unknown and untested consequences of there not being an agreement reached about leaving the EU.
Like others. I have been concerned and disturbed about the pumped up and angry rhetoric that has been used by both politicians and by members of the public as the different sides have argued their case. The voices of the ‘Remainers’, the’ Leavers and the government have been heard but I have found it harder to hear the ‘Christian Voice’ within all of this.
The ‘Christian Voice’ should be the voice by which we are able to air our differences and work towards a collaborative solution. It is a tone of voice and a way of speaking that should not just apply to international politics but to family life and church life, in fact in any dispute!
What should a Christian Voice sound like? Here are some thoughts!!
It should be gentle in tone and spirit. Jesus had many differences with the leaders of the day who he disagreed with and who disagreed with him, yet he rarely raised his voice. He remained patient in discussion and teaching with them, often allowing his miracles to speak for him. Remember, he said Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth (Matt 5:5)
It should be spoken with care, wary of the power and danger of the tongue to wound and hurt: James writes ’Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body, It corrupts the whole person , sets the whole course of his life on fire’ .( James:5-6a) What we say and how we say things can have a damaging impact in ways which we never dreamt of or intended.
It should be the voice of love and reconciliation. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5: 16-21 that we should see no one from a worldly view as we have been reconciled with God through Jesus. Therefore, we too are messengers of reconciliation of God with humanity and humanity with itself. This reconciling spirit needs to be heard in our words and seen our actions and our approach to differences of opinion.
It should reflect the unity we have in Christ and which God desires for us all, excluding no one.. Jesus came to bring God’s love and forgiveness into all the world. We are all one in Him and in God the Father. Paul tells us ‘You are no longer foreigners and aliens but fellow citizens and members of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19)
It should reflect God’s loving compassionate concern for us all. The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving rebellion (Numbers 14:18) but in our disputes we are often quick to anger, holding unforgiving attitudes and positions which prevent the work of reconciliation. This has to be transformed into a Christian Voice and approach to others.
We might ask when have we heard this Christian Voice in the debates in the world? But we also need to look at ourselves and ask ‘Do we hear it in our family and church lives? Do we ever consciously use it ourselves? ‘ I do hope that we will!
New year is a time for looking forward, a time for laying out our hopes before God and committing ourselves in love and service to him.
But it is also a time for looking back, and giving thanks for all that we have experienced in the previous year, for we have much to thank God for in the blessings, strength and compassion that we have received by His grace.
As we look back as a church we are aware of prayers being answered, particularly in the recovery and dedication of Rhodri Griffiths; in the nomination and election of a new leadership team; in the joyous celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the building and the welcoming of six new members. We have been blessed with the ongoing success of Community Link and over £50,000 added to our Project50 fund. We have welcomed the arrival of a new piano to assist our worship.. All praise to God!
But there have also been challenges. Many individuals have faced problems associated with illness, age and bereavement. As a church we have faced challenges with the drop of numbers of children in Sunday club and Trash and have seen the last meeting of Friendship Knot.
But what of the New Year?
2019 will not be without it’s own particular joys and challenges as we live in times of political, economic and even personal uncertainty. However, we do know for certain that we will experience the blessings, strength and compassion of God through Jesus for He is The same yesterday, today and forever, (Hebrews 13:8) because of the Lord’s great love we are not for consumed his compassions never fail . They are new every morning,(Lamentations 3 :-22-3).
So it is with thanksgiving that we leave the old year and welcome the New Year with confidence with all that God has in store for us in it.
Have a Blessed 2019!