Author Archives: Sandy

Re-membering again

Dear friends,
From time to time, we reflect on a literal understanding of ‘re-membering’ as involving putting back together something that has been dis-membered. When we are ‘re-membered’, broken, damaged and dismembered aspects of our past lives are put together again; mind, body and soul in the present tense enjoy wholeness; and helplessness in the face of an unknown future gives way to resurrection hope.

Our thoughts are often linked with Jesus’ instructions to share bread and wine in remembrance of him. At this time of year they also point us towards our Remembrance Day services, marking the sacrifice of fallen servicemen. But there is another, arguably even more significant act of re-membering to be found in our Bibles. It’s found in the encounter between Jesus and the thief on the cross who pleaded with him ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23:42). Jesus’ answer, ‘today, you will be with me in Paradise’, points to the significance of the cross as the place where Jesus re-members the living; where broken lives are put back together through God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace, and through which ultimately God’s image in us is fully restored as we take our place in his kingdom. Just as we remember Jesus when we share bread and wine, so he re-membered us when he went to the cross in order to take us from our spiritually dead state and restore us to the way God intended us to be – living and active members of his family reflecting God’s image.

One way that we seek God’s grace to heal our brokenness is to offer services of remembrance in which we bring God our feelings and circumstances in the face of loss. Remembrance Sunday is one such opportunity, focusing on lives lost in the horrors of war, and pointing us to the constant need to ‘…if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ (Romans 12:18) Another opportunity is offered at our ‘Lost and Found’ service at 5pm on Sunday 1st December, when we will take time to give thanks for loved ones who we have lost in other circumstances (however long ago or however recently).

My prayer is that in remembering those we have loved and lost, we will reaffirm and give thanks for all that they mean to us; so that instead of being shaped by our loss we are shaped by the gains we still have from knowing them in the first place, which have helped us to be the people God calls us to be.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

Better together

Dear Friends,
Today we revisit the strength of taking a partnership approach, as we continue to examine love as one of our core values. Those of us who attended last Sunday evening’s celebration service at Slough, when the local cluster of Baptist churches in Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead met to worship together, heard our regional minister Joth Hunt speak on the subject. Looking at the Apostle Paul’s relationships with his co-workers as outlined in Colossians 4:7-11, he unpacked how our partnership or togetherness as Christians is strengthened by (i) the power of team, as we work together rather than in isolation; (ii) the power of news, as we share our triumphs and trials; (iii) the power of encouragement as we draw alongside each other, and (iv) the power of prayer, as we bring each other’s needs and situations to God. You can hear Joth’s full message by visiting http://www.sloughbaptistchurch.org.uk/churchbuilder/medialib.php?id=756 .

For over 400 years, the Baptist church in Britain has not only recognised the value of each individual gathered community of believers, but has also promoted mutual interdependence with our brothers and sisters in other congregations. You can read much more on the Baptist Union website, which gives interesting information on our Baptist history, and also explains the values and practices which help to make us who we are, and which alongside our own church values and practices help to identify the role which God is calling us to play in the wider Church – http://www.baptist.org.uk/ .

Of course, in addition to the relationships that we have with other Baptist churches, we recognise that we are part of the wider Church community across other Christian denominations, and so our partnerships with other churches in Windsor through the work of Churches Together in Windsor and of Windsor Christian Action are equally important.

These mutual partnerships are vital in church life, expressing as they do the covenant love and sacrificial service which God calls his people to show both inside and outside the church. Whether it’s working on one of the many teams in our own congregation; enjoying the fellowship of cluster services; joining with neighbouring churches in running holiday clubs or night shelters; supporting our link missionaries, or any number of other initiatives and callings, our primary purpose is to worship God together in fellowship, because it is through our loving concern for His people that the world recognises us as His disciples and His kingdom grows.

Let me encourage you today that each one of us is vital in this work. Never underestimate what God is calling you to do, no matter how small it seems, and take up the challenge of this shared ministry as you find your role in the body of Christ here in this church and community.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

Kingdom values

Dear Friends,
As we start a sermon series looking at some of the ‘Kingdom values’ associated with following Jesus, I am reminded of a reflection that I shared on this page last year, which bears repeating.

At a conference that Pauline and I attended in October, we were challenged to consider what our values are – in other words, what do we place most value on in life and ministry?

For some people, the answer might be something like ‘friendship’ or ‘family’. For others it might be health and strength – the ability to play sport, or to get out and enjoy God’s creation. For still others it might be peace – the opportunity to think and reflect, or to enjoy freedom from conflict.

All of those – and many more – are good things, and help to shape who we are, to form our identity and to help us understand who we are called to be, either individually or as a church. As a church over the last few months, we have responded to the challenge to consider our values, and agreed that we felt that God is calling us to particularly value his Kingdom, love, faith and integrity. These are the values that we will reflect on in the next few weeks.

Jesus told several stories, or parables, to illustrate that in his view the Kingdom of Heaven (or the Kingdom of God) is what he values above all, and that it should therefore be what we value most highly too. In Matthew 13, he likens it to ‘…treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field…’ and to ‘…a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.’ (Matt 13:44-46) In other words, God’s kingdom, which Jesus came to establish, is worth more than everything we own, everyone we love, and everything we enjoy.

That means that our highest value is to seek God’s kingdom. It’s an attitude which Jesus promises will be rewarded: – ‘…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ (Matt 6:33) It’s our way of acknowledging that ultimately, God is in charge. It’s his kingdom, and we’re his Church – whichever church (small ‘c’) we belong to.

As the writer and Baptist minister Roger Sutton puts it, we need to develop and nurture an outward-looking kingdom mentality rather than an inward-looking empire mentality. When God’s kingdom becomes our highest value, all other aspects of who God calls us to be and what he calls us to do will fall into place.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

Practise hospitality

Dear Friends,

“Practise hospitality.” (Romans 12:13)

I could end there, and that would be a helpful appeal that many of you would act upon – but I’ve got a whole page to fill…!

Someone once pointed out to me that many people find this a lonely time of year as activities such as Home Groups, which form a lifeline for them throughout the rest of the year, close down for the summer. That’s one of the reasons why we decided to run the Bible Course during the summer holidays, and perhaps one of the reasons why it is being so well attended!

We are richly blessed with being part of a church that offers a warm welcome whenever we meet together, or when other groups use our building. But I was challenged by a message that we recently received from Moorlands Bible College after we hosted a training day for children’s and youth workers here. Addressed to Wayne Dixon, the local schools worker who had organised the day, it simply said ‘Thank you for your hospitality, Wayne – great church to hold a training day in and they know how to do hospitality well.’

Thank you to those members of our hospitality team who did such a great job! But I haven’t shared that just to pat ourselves on the back… it challenged me because it gives us something to live up to!

So I want to challenge us to extend our welcome. During this summer, let’s all continue building relationships with each other in our homes over coffee or a meal; let’s take the chance to invite someone we know less well. And on Sunday mornings, why not develop the mindset that church starts when the doors open and not just when the service starts at 10.30? That way, any visitors or newcomers (who inevitably and very politely arrive in plenty of time for the service) will be met by a critical mass of DGBC regulars. And yes, tea and coffee are normally available before the service if you need something to wake you up!

Finally, whatever your plans are for the summer, may you be refreshed by someone’s act of hospitality, and may you find opportunities to refresh others in the same way. And as we continue to practise hospitality – both by giving it and by receiving it – may we all be equipped to start a new season in the life of the church in God’s strength.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

Journeying onwards….

Dear Friends,
Physical journeys often become a significant part of our spiritual journeys. At Sarah’s baptism last week, we heard her testimony about the time, last year, when she was carrying out medical work in Malawi which included treating people who had been bitten by rabid dogs. They knew that one 10-year-old boy had been bitten, but they didn’t know where to find him. It was only after Sarah had prayed – almost as a last resort – that he was found and his life was saved. And it was in
answering Sarah’s prayer that God drew her back to himself and she found her way to DGBC last September and into our baptistery last week! Her physical journey to Malawi changed the direction of her spiritual journey and became a significant part of her story.

We find the same sort of thing countless times in the Bible. On the Emmaus Road, the disciples’ encounter with the risen Jesus sent them back where they had come from so that they were ready for what God was about to do next. On the road to Damascus, Saul encountered Jesus and he was shown his true purpose in life as the apostle Paul – making disciples, instead of destroying them! Around the same time, the apostle Peter was travelling from place to place proclaiming the Gospel to Jewish people. When he was staying in a place called Joppa, he had a very timely vision from God that taught him that the Gospel was given for the whole world, not just for Jews. As soon as he emerged from that vision, he received visitors asking him to go and talk to a Roman centurion named Cornelius – someone who, just a short while earlier, he wouldn’t have dreamt of sharing the Gospel with.

On each occasion, God met in a special way with people on a journey to accomplish his purposes in and through their lives.

Summer is often a time of journeying as we travel on holiday and encounter different people, different cultures and different ideas – or simply as we rest from the busyness of daily life. None of these people were actively expecting to encounter God on their journeys. Maybe you don’t expect to either. But at the same time, don’t be surprised if you do! And be ready and willing to respond by making your physical journey part of your spiritual journey, with a story to tell of how God has been at work.

With my love and prayers,
Matthew Scott

 

 

 

Pentecostal branding – ‘Disciple of Jesus’

Dear Friends,
‘How do you identify yourself?’ That was one of the questions asked by David Coffey, as he addressed the conference that some of our deacons attended with me last week. ‘If you were a stick of rock, what word/s would run through your middle?’

He spoke as someone who has held several impressive-sounding titles, including General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and President of the Baptist World Alliance, as well as several posts as a local Baptist minister. The question is equally relevant to any role or position of responsibility that we may hold, whether it is as a parent or carer, a Chief Executive or a student… ‘How do you identify yourself?’

His point was a powerful one. As Christian believers, we should not find our identity in the role or roles that we undertake or are called into. To do so leads to serving the wrong master – in his case, the Baptist Union, or the Baptist World Alliance, or a local church. ‘Whatever other title you hold,’ he said, ‘keep hold of the title ‘disciple of Jesus’. Those should be the words that ran through your middle if you were a stick of rock, because only then are you able to serve the right master.’

He quoted Jesus’ statement in Mark 12:30, about the greatest commandment being to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’, and challenged us to reflect on the fact that if we identify ourselves first and foremost as disciples of Jesus, everything else falls into its rightful place.

If we love the Lord with all our heart, we will love him with right desires.

If we love the Lord with all our soul, we will love him with the right direction.

If we love the Lord with all our mind, we will love him with right thoughts.

And if we love the Lord with all our strength, we will love him with right actions.

As we celebrate Pentecost, we remember the day when the Holy Spirit filled the early church to enable them to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. The same Holy Spirit fills God’s people today – and the branding or identity that follows is simply this: – ‘disciple of Jesus’.

So, ‘How do you identify yourself? If you were a stick of rock, what word/s would run through your middle?’

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

Here I am… send me…’

Dear Friends,
On many occasions, Pauline and I have had the joy and encouragement of working alongside friends who have had a real sense that God was calling them to do something new for him. It has been inspirational to see how often these experiences have taken them (and sometimes us!) out of their comfort zones, as they sensed God challenging them to start work that in many cases they would not have chosen to do themselves.

On each occasion, common qualities of character shown by our friends have been an availability to serve God’s agenda and purposes and a willingness to do things his way and not theirs. The Bible has many examples of such attitudes.

Perhaps availability is rarely expressed more clearly than Isaiah’s response to God’s call, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ ‘…Here am I; send me!’ (Isaiah 6:8). And in 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat faces the incredibly scary challenge of being told simply to ‘stand firm’ in the middle of the battlefield and allow God to fight the battle for him, because ‘the battle is not yours, but God’s’ (2 Chronicles 20:15).

Jesus himself embodies these attitudes in his availability to be sent to rescue a needy world from the consequences of our sin as, for our sakes, he ‘…became poor, so that [we] through his poverty might become rich.’ (2 Corinthians 8:9) And, as we have once again remembered over Easter, he demonstrated a willingness to do things God’s way and not his as in the face of the most extreme pressure he prayed ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ (Luke 22:42)

Isaiah, Jehoshaphat and many others, but most significantly, Jesus, show us that the way to see God at work is to make ourselves available to him, and to be prepared to stand firm as he does things his way. So, in what way is God calling you to make yourself available today? And in what area of your life is he asking you to let go of your agenda and allow him to do things his way because ‘the battle is not yours, but God’s’?

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

‘One new humanity’

Dear Friends,
The theme of the recent regional conference for ministers and leaders that Pauline and I attended in Cheltenham last month was ‘one new humanity’ – a phrase taken from Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:15), where he writes about Jewish and Gentile believers becoming united in their shared faith in Jesus.

The keynote speakers, Dr Kang-San Tan, who is General Director of BMS World Mission, and his wife Laun Tan, shared their experience of churches around the world. They observed – indeed, warned – that all too often, churches become in some way monocultural. Even though they may include people from many ethnic backgrounds, they still manage to be from the same socio-economic class, or attract people of similar ages and generally be filled with people who are all very comfortable with each other. In other words, they begin to resemble clubs of people just like themselves – comfortable places where you are not challenged too much by the differing opinions and experiences of your neighbour because they are very likely to agree with everything you already think. We were challenged to see this sort of gathering as being very different from God’s desire to create a new humanity, where Jew and Gentile came together, ate together, debated together and became something new – a diverse culture, united but not uniform.

The problem with being monocultural in this way is that it leads to a ‘consumer church’ attitude, in which we look for what our church can offer us, instead of a servant-hearted attitude in which we look for what God can give our church through our unique gifting and calling. As Pauline reminded us last Sunday, no calling is too unimportant to be taken seriously, and no service we can offer is too minor to give God pleasure, or too unimportant for the life of his church.

From his worldwide experience with BMS and his reading of the early church’s experience in the New Testament, Kang-San Tan observes that Christianity expands by crossing cultural boundaries, but shrinks when it becomes monocultural. I wonder what cultural boundaries God is calling us to cross at this time? Those between young and old? Rich and poor? Male and female? British and overseas? Brexiteer and remainer? The list goes on… so I pray that we will develop a culture that shows God’s love by our acceptance of and love for each other, whoever we are.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

God’s unexpected ways

Dear Friends,
Reading Mark chapter 5 recently, I was deeply struck by three words that stood out in verse 19. A demon-possessed man had just been healed by Jesus (and his many demons had been allowed to enter a herd of pigs, which had then spectacularly thrown themselves off a cliff into the sea).

Understandably, the man who had been healed wanted to follow Jesus as he departed for his next destination. That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? You or I would want to do exactly that! But then we read Jesus’ response, and it sounds like a complete rejection: – ‘But Jesus refused…’

So, why would Jesus refuse the man’s request to go with him? Reading on, we’re told that he then said ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…’ and that the man did just that, to the amazement of everyone who heard his testimony. In doing so, he discovered Jesus’ call and purpose for his life.

Because he knows what’s best far better than we do, God does not always live up to our expectations. Instead, he exceeds them. Isaiah 55:8-9 puts it like this: –

‘…my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.’

So, next time we find ourselves disappointed by Jesus’ apparent refusal for us to do what we think is good, it’s worth listening to what he says next. His rejection of our apparently perfectly reasonable request might actually turn out to be his call to our most significant ministry in life.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

New Year – New beginnings

Dear Friends,

In reflecting on the New Year, the author of The Alpha Course, Nicky Gumbel, writes: – ‘I belong to a squash club, which is also a gym. Each year on 1 January they bring in extra gym equipment. The place is packed out. By about 7 January, they move out all the extra equipment, as most people have given up their New Year’s resolution, and the club returns to normal!

Get fit… Lose weight… Reduce drinking… Stop smoking… Get out of debt… There is nothing wrong with making these common New Year’s resolutions. Of course, all of us make resolutions that we fail to keep.

The good news is that each year is an opportunity for a fresh start. But then so is each week. Every Sunday is the first day of the week – a new beginning. Actually, every day is an opportunity for a new beginning.’

The Bible is full of stories of people’s new beginnings from the most challenging of circumstances, because it is the account of how God redeems us from the situations – large and small – that we find ourselves in (and get ourselves into!) Just think of the new beginnings that God brought about for Abraham, Moses, Nehemiah, David, Mary & Joseph, Peter, Paul and countless other characters from biblical history. Now think of the new beginnings that God has brought about in your life, and give thanks for his faithfulness. But, as the ‘works in progress’ that we inevitably are, we know that there is both the potential and the need for more new beginnings ahead of us. Some of them may take the form of New Year resolutions.

‘I want to read the Bible more’ – Why not use a resource that helps you read it in one year? (It’s not too late to start!)

‘I want to learn to pray more effectively’ – How about keeping a journal of your prayer requests, and perhaps more importantly, of what God says to you?

‘I want to be more available for other people’ – Perhaps you could start by spending time with them over a cup of coffee?

‘I want to rediscover who God made me to be’ – Sometimes we need to give up some of the things that we couldn’t say ‘no’ to, in order to recapture a good rhythm of work and rest.

Whatever your desire or need for a new beginning is at the start of 2019, remember that every day throughout the year is an opportunity for God to continue his redemptive work in your life. This year, may you find that he continues to bring about the new beginnings that you most need so that, by his grace, you can live for Him.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

Advent – announcing that the invisible will be revealed

Dear Friends,
When our daughter and son-in-law announced to us back in March that they were expecting a baby, there was no visible sign of the joy to come – apart, that is, from a rather blurry scan photo which looked more like a teddy bear floating in space than a tiny human being!

Over the following months the evidence gradually became clearer as Rachel sent us weekly photos of her growing bump, until finally, at 10pm on October 6th, the little bundle of joy that is our granddaughter Ava, entered into this world. If Pauline and I have seemed a little distracted since then, we hope you will understand and forgive us!

Our experience of the invisible becoming visible reminds me that the same principle lies at the heart of Advent and Christmas. Our invisible God chose to make himself visible to us in the form of a tiny child – Jesus – who would grow up to teach us how to live and love; who would demonstrate the depth of true sacrificial love by dying on a cross so that our broken relationship with God could be restored; and who would prove that he had power over death, by rising back to life again. For 2,000 years, that has been the core of the Christian faith. The apostle John puts it like this, at the start of his Gospel: – ‘No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.’ (John 1:18)

Today, we can see still see God through the body of Jesus – but now his body is not that of a tiny child, or a young man; his body is his Church, scattered throughout the world and tasked with showing God’s love wherever we are. So, this advent season, may you see God in a new way as you reflect again on the Christmas story; and may you be ready to show God’s love in a new way as you respond to his continuing call to make him visible to our broken world.

With our love and prayers
Matthew & Pauline Scott

Remembering – a bittersweet experience

Dear Friends,
Remembering forms a significant part of our lives each November. It ranges from our light-hearted ‘remember, remember the 5th of November…’ celebrations of bonfire night, to the deeply serious remembrance services of next weekend as we join with the other churches in Dedworth at the memorial in Dedworth Road (opposite Winton House) at 10.45am, to mark the Centenary of Armistice Day in 1918 and remember those who have given their lives for others.

Remembering is a powerful part of being human. We use birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate the good things we have enjoyed, while funerals and thanksgiving services are important ways of acknowledging the place that loved ones have had in our lives. But it can be a bittersweet experience, a two-edged sword, bringing us the pain and vulnerability of recalling losses, hurts and failures as well as the joy of celebrating blessings, growth and success.

Special days and seasons in the Church calendar remind us of the depth of God’s love for us, and of the pain and vulnerability that he shared with us so that we could share his joy. At Christmas we remember that he came to this world as a human baby 2,000 years ago; on Good Friday and in Communion services we recall Jesus’ sacrificial love as he practised what he preached in laying down his life for his friends (us!) so that our sins could be forgiven; and on Easter Day and every Sunday we remember that in defeating the power of death he paved the way for us to share in his new life.

So this coming Remembrance Day, pray for those who are nursing the wounds of the untimely loss of family, friends and colleagues. Pray that God will defeat the power of their experience of death and that he would use the good memories of their loved ones to heal their wounds. And pray that He will comfort them.

And if the loss of loved ones has been (or remained) a significant part of your experience this year, why not join us at 5pm on Sunday 2nd December as we hold a special service to help you find God’s comfort, peace and strength as you remember the past, struggle with the present and seek hope for the future.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

What do you value?

Dear Friends,
At the conference that Pauline and I attended last week, we were challenged to consider what our values are – in other words, what do we place most value on in life and ministry?

For some people, the answer might be something like ‘friendship’ or ‘family’. For others it might be health and strength – the ability to play sport, or to get out and enjoy God’s creation. For still others it might be peace – the opportunity to think and reflect, or to enjoy freedom from conflict.

All of those – and many more – are good things, and help to shape who we are, to form our identity and to help us understand who we are called to be, either individually or as a church.

Jesus told several stories, or parables, to illustrate that in his view the Kingdom of Heaven (or the Kingdom of God) is what he values above all, and that it should therefore be what we value most highly too. In Matthew 13, he likens it to ‘…treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field…’ and to ‘…a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.’ (Matt 13:44-46) In other words, God’s kingdom, which Jesus came to establish, is worth more than everything we own, everyone we love, and everything we enjoy. It is our highest value.

The Bishop of Reading alluded to this in his address at last Monday evening’s induction service for Nigel Richards, the new vicar at All Saints Church. He reminded us all that, although we may appoint people to serve us; and although we rightly have plans to grow our churches and do wonderful things in our community, ultimately God is still in charge. It’s his kingdom, and we’re his Church – whichever church (small ‘c’) we belong to. That means that our highest value is to seek God’s kingdom. It’s an attitude which Jesus promises will be rewarded: – ‘…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ (Matt 6:33)

As the writer and Baptist minister Roger Sutton puts it, we need to develop and nurture an outward-looking kingdom mentality rather than an inward-looking empire mentality. When God’s kingdom becomes our highest value, all other aspects of who God calls us to be and what he calls us to do will fall into place.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

Moving on… growing up!

Dear Friends,
At this time of year, many people make transitions from one phase of life to the next. Children move up a year at school; many of them embark on new GCSE and A-level courses, or start at a new school. Older students start to make the break from home as they head off to university, or leave school and get their first full-time job. In order to minimise disruption to their children’s education, parents often time the start of new jobs and house moves to coincide with these transitions in their children’s lives, with the result that churches often see an influx of new worshippers around this time of year (and the departure of others).

Life is full of transitions, and the Christian life is no different. Early church leaders focussed their ministry on those transitions by helping people to come to faith, to grow in their faith, and to discover and use their gifts for the good of others.

Think of Peter at Pentecost urging the crowds in Jerusalem to ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…’ (Acts 2:38)

Or think of the writer to the Hebrews rebuking their readers for their lack of spiritual maturity in an effort to encourage them to grow in their faith:- ‘You [still] need milk, not solid food…’ (Hebrews 5:12)

And think of Paul mentoring the young Timothy to become an effective leader:- ‘Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.’ (1 Timothy 4:14)

At our away day earlier this summer, we identified some very similar transition points that we need to focus on in order to help people to come to faith and to grow in faith. As we continue to work out what that means in practise, it’s worth asking ourselves two questions:- ‘What am I doing to help other people grow in their faith?’ and ‘Am I growing in my own faith?’ To quote Mike Pilavachi, speaking to thousands of young people at the start of the Soul Survivor festival to which we took  a youth group from Slough and Dedworth last week: – ‘My desire is that you go home closer to Jesus than when you arrived.’

That is my desire for you; and I hope it is our shared desire for each other, every time we meet.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

Becoming like children… growing more like Christ

Dear Friends,
Pauline and I spent part of our day off last week looking after a friend’s two-year-old son while they were involved in running a children’s holiday club.

Spending time with him caused me to reflect again on what Jesus might have meant when, in answer to the question, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’, Jesus placed a child amongst them and replied ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’ (Matt 18:1-5)

Small children know that they need help from others to do the things they want to do.

–      ‘Can I have lunch now?’ – ‘No, it’s only 10 o’clock!’ (Well, it’s worth asking, isn’t it?)

–      ‘Look! What’s that?’ – ‘It’s a lorry / pigeon / tree…’ / whatever the appropriate answer is. It’s amazing just how much information a young mind is keen to soak up.

–      And of course, the main role of adult carers is to keep the children in their charge safe and well, as they learn the boundaries of what’s good for them… and what’s not!

Like small children needing the help of their parents or carers, we need to recognise our need for God’s help if we are to grow as Christians. We need to be willing to ask, even if the answer might sometimes be ‘no’; we need to be ready to learn throughout life; and we need to accept that as it’s God’s kingdom that we’re invited to be part of, we need to let him be King.

Amongst the signs of doing that well are the way we value our children and young people as part of our church communities, and the way that we develop an attitude of interdependence upon each other, both within congregations and between congregations.

We have an opportunity to develop both of those attitudes this week as, in partnership with All Saints Church and Kerith Church in Dedworth, we run a Holiday Club for children from the local community. Please pray that these children will learn that they are loved by God, and pray that relationships between the churches will deepen as we work together to build God’s kingdom here.

Meanwhile, I’m quite sure that our babysitting duties were excellent practice for our impending new role as grandparents!

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

‘Stewardship Prayer’ – Fridge magnet wisdom!

Dear Friends,
At our deacons’ Away Day this week, one of our deacons shared the following prayer which she had seen on a friend’s fridge: –

My church is composed of people like me.
I help make it what it is.
It will be friendly, if I am.
Its pews will be filled, if I help fill them.
It will do great work, if I work.
It will make generous gifts to many causes,
if I am a generous giver.
It will bring other people into
its worship and fellowship,
if I invite and bring them.
It will be a church of loyalty and love,
of fearlessness and faith,
and a church with a noble spirit,
if I, who make it what it is,
am filled with these same things.
Therefore, with the help of God,
I shall dedicate myself
to the task of being all the things
that I want my church to be.
Amen

It’s remarkable what wisdom can be found attached by magnets to other people’s fridges!

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

Who’s mission is it anyway?

Dear Friends,
As Pauline and I attended the Baptist Assembly in Peterborough last weekend, on several occasions we heard a phrase that has become very familiar to us over the last fifteen years. Speaker after speaker pointed out, in one way or another, that Christian mission is about discerning what God is doing and joining him in it.

Revd Mark Ord, director of BMS World Mission explained that at the start of the 20th century, theologians and churches typically talked about ‘the Church’s mission’. Nobody talked about ‘God’s mission’.

By 1950, we weren’t so sure. Two world wars had undermined the Church’s confidence in its mission, and theologians started talking about ‘Missio Dei’ – Latin for ‘the mission of God’.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and that has become the emphasis of most key Christian thinkers and leaders.

Mark argued, however, that modern-day secularism and consumerism often hinders us from recognising when God is at work. As a result, we still talk about mission as if it’s something that the Church does and asks God to join in with, rather than being about what God does in his world, which he invites us to join him in.

As we prepare for our church Awayday on June 16th, it’s worth remembering the example of Jesus. He had a mission, which he expressed in Luke 4 as ‘bringing good news to the poor… proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour.’

But even Jesus said that he only did what his Father told him to do. Even Jesus’ mission was directed by his Father. Surely that is an example that we should follow.

Today we celebrate Pentecost – the day that God’s Holy Spirit came upon the Church to empower us for God’s work in a broken world. It marks the day, not when God’s Church was given a mission, but when – to borrow Mark Ord’s closing reflection on the subject – God’s mission was given the Church!

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

Partners in community (2)

Dear Friends,
About 2,600 years ago, God encouraged a group of people living in exile to ‘…seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’ You will find the story in Jeremiah chapter 29. It is a principle of sacrificial generosity that is arguably more important than ever in today’s individualistic society.

In challenging times, when our resources of time or money are stretched, it can be so easy to say, what can I do that will bless me / my family / our church?

The Easter story shows us that that is not the way of the Gospel. If we are to be true followers of Jesus, our mission cannot be about what benefits or blesses us. It must be about joining God in doing what benefits or blesses the place where we live, and the people amongst whom we live. After all, that is the example of Jesus, who lived ‘in exile’ amongst us and who, in going to the cross, sought only to bless us by bringing us peace with God. Nevertheless, in rising from the grave and enabling us to have a new start in life as part of his family, he too ‘prospered’ as a result of his sacrifice.

As we continue to reflect on who God is calling us to be, and what he is calling us to do, let’s be guided and motivated by a genuinely sacrificial generosity that says simply ‘what can I / we do to bless those around me / us?’ What happens after that is up to God!

May the risen Christ bless you this Easter with the riches of his new life for you, for those you love, and for the workplaces and communities that you are part of.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

Partners in community….

Dear Friends,

As we started our reflections on the subject of ‘Gospel Partnerships’ last month, we recognised that our relationships with each other, with other congregations and above all with God all point to the importance of inter-dependence – dependence upon each other – to finding our place in God’s family and our role in church and community life.

That principle was powerfully illustrated during the recent cold spell of weather. Whilst Windsor may have got away relatively lightly with the impact of the ‘beast from the east’, others were not so fortunate. As I write, a week on from the worst of the weather, I’m watching a report from a community in Cumbria that was cut off for several days. People were trapped in their houses by snow drifts covering their doors; they had to ration food, and power was lost for a while – there was even mention of some having to burn their furniture to stay warm.

In the midst of that crisis, the community pulled together to help each other. Farmers cleared the minor roads that councils could not prioritise; many phone calls were made to ensure that neighbours were safe; others made contact with the local authorities and even managed to organise a helicopter drop of food and supplies.

Often it’s in times of crisis that the strength of any family or community shines through in their concern for one another. As we approach Easter once more, I am reminded that God sent his son Jesus into this world because we had become cut off from him by choosing to do things our way instead of his. As human beings, made in his image, we are part of his creation; his children. We were made to be in community with him. So, in our time of crisis, he could not ignore our need. Jesus gave his life on the cross so that we need no longer be cut off from God, and he rose from death to demonstrate that he had dealt with our problem once and for all. He did it to show that we can have a new start in community with God and with each other, instead of, as it were, being ‘snowed in’ on our own.

Whatever challenges you may face at the moment, may you know the power of the risen Jesus giving you hope for a new start; and may you know the encouragement and help of others as a sign of the community that we’re called to be.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

Partners in time…

Dear Friends,
We have just started a sermon series based on the book of Ephesians aimed at helping us to build on our sabbatical reflections on the subject of ‘Gospel Partnerships’.

Last week, Pauline pointed out that the basis of any partnership for the sake of the Gospel is God himself. He is the blueprint for working together because he works in relationship with himself – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If we are not in step – or in time – with him (I’m reminded of my parade ground drill practices as a young police officer), then our efforts will be an unsightly shambles! That is why it is so important that one of the main conclusions from our Church Day last month was a developing consensus that we need to draw our strength from the Holy Spirit – from God himself – if we are to walk In step with him.

It’s only as we each walk in step with God individually that we stand a chance of walking in step with each other. We’ve reflected on this principle in the past. In an age where independence is so highly valued, the counter-cultural idea of interdependence – dependence upon each other – is such an important principle for us to grasp. If we are made in the image of an interdependent God, then surely that means we were made to be interdependent, not totally independent (nor totally dependent!) That is why it is so important to find our place in God’s family and to play our part in church life by using the gifts, talents and insights that God gives us. It is also why it is important as an individual congregation that we work in partnership with other churches and organisations to bring God’s love to a needy world.

Today’s service recognises that our Gospel Partnerships do not just take place within our congregation, or between congregations in our town. We play a small but significant part in sharing the good news of Jesus around the world. Today is an opportunity to remember our mission link partners serving with BMS in other nations. The financial and prayer support that we and other churches give enables people like our friend Annie Brown in Nepal to share God’s love in places that we could not otherwise reach.

And as we walk in step – or in time – with God and with his Church both locally and around the world, we find that we also take our place walking in step with Christian believers over time, as we continue to share the timeless good news that ‘God loves the world so much that he gave his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). Let’s keep in time together with that wonderful news!

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott