Dear Church Family
We hope you are well and encouraged by the gradual arrival of Spring. I have attached three pictures from the churchyard. Two of these show some beautiful spring flowers in the early morning sun and the third shows you that work is going forward on the tower. Thank you again for the generosity of all who have contributed financially and for the generous grants from various bodies (thanks also to Norma who has worked so hard on this). Gifts are still welcome, from all sources, as we close the gap between what we have and what we need.
We are just a few days away from the next step on the road map back to greater normality, with schools reopening on Monday. Please pray for teachers, children and parents during this transitioning time.
The PCC meet (via Zoom) on March 16th to talk about our own path forward and when we hope to return to meeting in church for Sunday worship.
The improving COVID statistics are encouraging. It is important to continue to pray for our key workers, many of whom are totally exhausted, and for all those living with employment uncertainty. Norma has forwarded a link from ‘The Friary’ (one of our support links) about the excellent work they are doing and I have attached it. If you would like to further support their work the link is www.justgiving.com/campaign/friarywinterappeal2020
In Start the Day this week, Bishop Paul and Sarah speak about David’s complaint in Psalm 64 and how to pray when you experience cruel words spoken against you – hear me, hide me, hold me!
Preachers are constantly on the look out for good stories and there are always new ones to discover even if you have been preaching for 45 years! The two I want to share with you today emerged from the ‘Bible in a Year’ programme that Carol and I have been following during Lockdown 3. The first story picks up on the bible passage from last week.
(Mark 8:34) Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
(35) For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
(36) What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
An awesome story about self-denial comes from a book by Shane Claiborne from his book about Mother Theresa called ‘The Irresistible Revolution’
He writes ‘People often ask me what Mother Teresa was like. Sometimes it’s like they wonder if she glowed in the dark or had a halo. She was short, wrinkled, and precious, maybe even a little ornery, like a beautiful, wise old granny. But there is one thing I will never forget – her feet. Her feet were deformed.
Each morning I would stare at them. I wondered if she had contracted leprosy. One day a Sister explained, “Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds them. And years of doing that have deformed her feet.” Years of loving her neighbour as herself deformed her feet.’
When people are asked about the person whose life they most admire, so often the answer is ‘Mother Teresa’. She made the most of her life. It is a paradox, because her life was a life of self-denial, taking up her cross and following Jesus.
Life is an extraordinary and wonderful gift. In the Bible we are constantly urged not to waste this gift, but instead to make the most of our lives.
The next story is also about having an attitude that inspires and brings about transformation.
This story is a wonderful illustration of the following verses.
(Mark 9:35) Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
(36) He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them,
(37) “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
This story of the faith and example of a little child moved me to tears.
Hattie May Wiatt, a six-year-old girl, lived near Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia, USA. The Sunday school was very crowded. Russell H. Conwell, the minister, told her that one day they would have buildings big enough to allow everyone to attend. She said, ‘I hope you will. It is so crowded I am afraid to go there alone.’ He replied, ‘When we get the money we will construct one large enough to get all the children in.’
Two years later, in 1886, Hattie May died. After the funeral Hattie’s mother gave the minister a little bag they had found under their daughter’s pillow containing 57 cents in change that she had saved up. Alongside it was a note in her handwriting: ‘To help build bigger so that more children can go to Sunday school.’
The minister changed all the money into pennies and offered each one for sale. He received $250 – and 54 of the cents were given back. The $250 was itself changed into pennies and sold by the newly formed ‘Wiatt Mite Society’. In this way, her 57 cents *kept on multiplying. *
Twenty-six years later, in a talk entitled, ‘The history of the 57 cents’, the minister explained the results of her 57-cent donation: a church with a membership of over 5,600 people, a hospital where tens of thousands of people had been treated, 80,000 young people going through university, 2,000 people going out to preach the gospel – all this happened ‘because Hattie May Wiatt invested her 57 cents’.
I hope these two stories encourage you as much as they did me.
May God bless us all as we continue on through this strange Lent and hold the ‘Easter hope’ of ‘new beginnings’ and ‘new life’ ever before us.
Yours in Christ