Author Archives: Editorial Team

Who do we sound like?

As we continue through our sermon series based on Pete Greig’s book ‘How to hear God – a simple guide for normal people’, we’ve reached the point where we’re looking at how God sometimes speaks to us through other people – and indeed, how he speaks to others through us. We’ve seen that apparently ordinary conversations or communications can have a ‘prophetic edge’ to them as someone injects just the right sort of inspired Godly wisdom, insight, knowledge or plain old common sense into a situation at just the right time. That is so often the way that God speaks to us.
In noting that the most important way that God speaks to us is through Jesus, Pete Greig writes: – ‘If I desire to hear God, the first thing that I need to realise is that it begins and ends with hearing Jesus… Jesus is what God sounds like. ‘He’s literally the “living Word of God”. Hearing his voice is not so much a skill [I] must master, therefore, as a master [I] must meet. All the other ways that God communicates – through the Bible, prophecy, dreams, visions and so on – come through Jesus and point back to him too.’
That presents us with a challenge. If God wants to speak through us as well as through Jesus, who do we sound like? We can often be identified – at least in part – by our voice; for example, Pauline’s accent reveals her Welsh heritage; Matthew’s his southern English upbringing. Our voice says something about the communities in which we grew up. Often, someone might sound as well as look just like their mother or father, because we adopt our parents’ speech patterns as our own.
So if Jesus is what God sounds like, and God chooses also to speak through us, do we sound like Jesus? Not in terms of accent, but in terms of tone. Does the way we talk to others convey attitudes of kindness, patience, respect, humility and love? Can we imagine Jesus talking to our friends, family, colleagues and neighbours in the way that we are talking to them? If not, what needs to change? Because every conversation is an opportunity for another person to hear the voice of Jesus – the voice of God – through us, if only we will spend time meeting with our master, learning to imitate how he spoke to others.
With our love and prayers
Matthew and Pauline

Practise Hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

We could end there, and that would be a helpful exhortation that many of you would act upon – but we’ve got a page or two to fill…!
Someone once pointed out to us that, whilst many of us are enjoying our summer holidays with a much-needed break from work or even from some church responsibilities, others find this a lonely time of year as their Home Groups or other activities, which form a lifeline for them throughout the rest of the year, close down for the summer.
Part of the privilege of belonging to any church family is the opportunity to build friendships and share fellowship together as we practise hospitality. We see it working well every Sunday morning as we serve coffee after our services. We see it as we share a full meal with local families at our monthly Messy Church service; and more recently we’ve seen it as our Renew Wellbeing team extends a warm welcome to those attending The WellSpring every Tuesday morning. Good hospitality is part of what makes The WellSpring ‘a safe place, where it’s okay not to be okay’ – and it’s part of what makes a church a church!
So during this summer season, we would encourage us all to continue to build relationships with each other by practising hospitality, whether it’s in our homes, in the church building or at a local coffee shop. Even inviting someone for a walk in the park or along the river bank is a form of hospitality, because it’s a way of making ourselves available to them. This summer in particular, after all the social restrictions of the last two years, why not take the chance to reconnect with those who perhaps we’ve seen less of in that time?
Whatever your plans are, 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 give and receive hospitality, may we all be equipped to start a new season in the life of the church in God’s strength.
And finally – if your Home Group is not meeting during the coming weeks – why not drop in to The WellSpring at the church for a while on Tuesday mornings? That is one thing that will not be shutting down for the summer, and you can be sure of a warm welcome there!
With our love and prayers
Matthew and Pauline

It shall be a jubilee for you… and is to be holy for you

Dear friends,
The combination of the Jubilee weekend and Pentecost seems to us to be a
particularly special one, as it draws together the Biblical themes of redemption,
freedom, empowering and celebration. Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee gives us a
reason to recall her many years of faithful service and personal sacrifice, and
many of us will share the celebrations with friends and family. But jubilees are not
just for reigning monarchs and their people – God originally designed them as a
gift that restored lost freedoms to his people every fifty years.
We can read God’s instructions to Moses in Leviticus 25: – ‘Consecrate the fiftieth
year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be
a jubilee for you… and is to be holy for you… Even if someone is not redeemed in
any (other) way, they and their children are to be released in the Year of Jubilee.’ In
jubilee years, slaves were to be released, property returned to its original owners,
and everyone was to go back to their homes and families in peace and safety.
Interestingly, there are few other references to jubilee in the scriptures – all in
Leviticus and Deuteronomy – so perhaps the concept was never really embraced,
and God’s wonderful intention was lost.
That brings us to the other significant event we are celebrating today – the Day of
Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, ten days after his ascension, and
the beginning of a whole new era. The Holy Spirit came upon those who were
obediently waiting for him – people who remembered Jesus’ promise that: ‘The
Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to
the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of
sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s
favour.’ No wonder Jesus’ friend Peter could proclaim with such authority to
thousands of listeners “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of
Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy
Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all
whom the Lord our God will call.”
The promise is still the same today. This is the Year of Jubilee, and through the
gift of his Spirit, we are freed to be the redeemed people of God – Hallelujah!
With our love and prayers
Matthew and Pauline

Easter – From the way things used to be…. to the way things ought to be

Dear friends,
Someone once asked Matthew what Jesus meant when he said that ‘no-one sews a (new) patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment… (or) pours new wine into old wineskins.’ (Mark 2:21-22).
We often lose the immediate meaning of Jesus’ illustrations that would have been blindingly obvious to his first-century listeners, so we are always grateful for the wisdom of those who write Bible commentaries or the footnotes in Study Bibles! They point out that Jesus used the people’s knowledge of repairing clothes and wine-making to point out that their old way of doing things was not flexible enough to accommodate his new way.
By the time you read this, Matthew will have led our deacons’ awayday. The plan is to take the opportunity given by the gradual return to a fuller church life, to reflect on whether we should be going back to ‘the way things used to be’, or whether, in some ways at least, we should look for a new way of doing things and discover ‘the way things ought to be.’
As we celebrate Easter, we remember that on Good Friday, Jesus took on himself all the consequences of our ‘old ways’ – the selfish nature that separates us from God – and found himself separated from his Father on our behalf. But we also remember the Good News of Easter Day, when he defeated death and rose again, to show that our ‘old ways’ can be replaced by a new way, and a new life with him. In other words, Easter is the moment in time through which Jesus gives us the opportunity to become part of God’s family and be transformed from ‘the way things used to be’ to ‘the way things ought to be’.
God still wants to do new things in all of our lives. So this Easter, it is worth reflecting on the opportunities that his new life presents us with today. Does my life reflect his new life, or have I slipped back into old, inflexible, comfortable ways of doing things? Am I flexible enough to accommodate the changes he wants to bring? We know what our answer often is – and what it should be… and the two aren’t always the same! How about you?
Thank God that a new start in life is always possible with him, because…
…Christ is risen!
…He is risen indeed!
…Hallelujah!
With our love and prayers
Matthew & Pauline

They have turned the world upside down

Dear friends,
Events in the Ukraine over the last ten days have shown us just how easy it is for our world to be turned upside-down. At the time of writing, over a million Ukrainian women and children have been displaced from their homes, jobs and schools and are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Millions more are sheltering in basements, waiting and praying. Lawyers, teachers and binmen are taking up arms to defend their country. None of them know whether life will ever return to normal, or even whether they will see their loved ones again. Their world has been turned upside-down in an instant, and politicians, leaders and businesses around the world have been forced to take steps to prevent the crisis from deepening even further.
As we continue our current series in 2 Corinthians, we are frequently reminded that the Apostle Paul and his colleagues often faced such times of uncertainty. He recalls being in danger wherever he went – suffering hunger and thirst; being cold and naked; imprisoned, flogged, stoned and shipwrecked (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Reflecting on these experiences, he described these troubles as being ‘…far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.’ But as they experienced God at work in their upside-down world, they learned by faith to recognise that ‘…this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.’ (2 Cor 1:8-9)
Paul’s life and faith in the power of God who raised Jesus from the dead is an invaluable example to follow when we are faced with a world turned upside-down, whether that turmoil is seen in world events or in our own personal experiences of sudden bereavement or illness, injury or job loss.
As we move through Lent towards Easter, we will increasingly focus on the central truth of the Christian faith, which is that God raised Jesus from the dead so that we could find new life in him. It was such earth-shattering news that those first Christians who proclaimed the Good News were themselves accused of ‘…turning the world upside-down…’ (Acts 17:6) Perhaps that should be our response to current events? After all, if like Paul, we put all our energy into the task of turning this world upside-down by praying and working towards the way things ought to be and by showing God’s love… then surely we will be turning this upside-down world the right way up?
With our love and prayers
Matthew and Pauline

Attentive to the rhythms of grace

Eugene Peterson, in ‘The Message’ version of the Bible offers us a beautiful interpretation of the familiar words of Matthew 11:28-30, which he writes as “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
We have just returned from the Southern Counties Baptist Association Ministers’ and Leaders’ Conference, where the keynote speaker was the current president of the Baptist Union, Geoff Colmer. He spoke on the subject of being ‘attentive to the rhythms of grace’ – in other words, watching out for and noticing the unexpected gifts from God that we receive as we go through life. For him, examples varied from longed-for sighting of kingfishers to the kindness of nurses caring for him at a time when even his wife couldn’t visit him in hospital due to the pandemic. Our own minds were drawn to the amazing starling murmurations that we witnessed five times during our sabbatical in 2017, and which we received as a picture of the way that Christians and churches should work together to create something beautiful for God.
Geoff pointed out, though, that all too often we are so busy with life that we miss these signs of God’s love and grace, and that we need to be attentive to what God is doing. Quoting Peterson again, he suggested that being attentive means ‘giving your entire attention to what God is doing right now.’ That’s a real challenge for most of us.
It’s a challenge that is accompanied by the encouragement that God himself first gives his entire attention to us, in the beauty of creation; in the life, ministry and example of Jesus; and in the gift of his Holy Spirit to help us live for him and for each other.
Perhaps it’s appropriate this week, when we celebrate Valentine’s Day, that we reflect personally on the fact that God shows his love for us by giving us his entire attention… and that we respond to his love with ours, by giving him our entire attention so that we start to learn more about his unforced rhythms of grace.
With our love and prayers
Matthew and Pauline

‘…do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!’

The text that we have chosen for the church’s 2022 text card comes from the ancient words of Isaiah 43:18-19: – ‘…do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! …I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’
As we leave behind another year ravaged by the Covid pandemic, with its associated loss of freedoms and of loved ones, it can be easy to want to forget most of the past two years. Of course, in many ways, it’s important to let go of the past if we are to venture freely into the future of a New Year.
But the irony of Isaiah’s words is that the preceding two verses contain specific reminders of what God had done in this ‘past’ that his readers were apparently meant to forget! In other words, whilst there are aspects of our past lives that it is helpful to forget and not to dwell upon, at the same time it is important to remember what God has done in the past, because that reminds us of his capability to work in the future.
One of the blessings of the last two years has been that we have seen God do new things in the life of the church which might not have happened without the pandemic. We have learnt new skills in making our services available to those who cannot attend in person. Our recent Carol Service was for the first time aimed specifically at our Noah’s Ark (toddler group) families and so was done in a new way, much to the delight of the children and the appreciation of their parents. And the way that Covid restrictions forced us to do Messy Church when it returned in the autumn turned out to be something that was particularly helpful to children with special needs – so we saw God do something new, which we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
As we enter this New Year, let’s not dwell on the past, other than to remind ourselves of what God can do… and let’s look out for the new things that he wants to do in our life together, and resolve to join him in those things.
With our love and prayers for God’s blessing throughout 2022,
Matthew and Pauline

A Message From Matthew

A short bit of news about how we are doing church together, whilst apart. Tomorrow morning, we will post a further pre-recorded video of prayers and reflections to help us worship together in our homes. Watch out for our weekly bulletin, to be circulated today, which will include suggested additional prayers and resources to use alongside those prayers and reflections.
With our love and prayers
Matthew & Pauline Scott

Finding God in the mess….

Dear Friends,

Our ‘Messy Church’ service is so named because its founder recognised that people often seek God in the midst of a messy life – whether that is the mess of broken relationships or heart-breaking loss; failed ventures or challenging health issues; low self-esteem or arrogant pride; wilful sin or unfortunate circumstances. It is to some extent incidental that Messy Church explores who God is through the mess of various craft activities. Nevertheless, it was entirely appropriate that one of those activities – the child-like colouring in of the word ‘LOVE’ – led one of our Messy Church congregation just before Christmas to observe ‘Look! Love is shining

Love is Shining Through The Mess

through the mess!’ For us, it came to represent and describe the story of Christmas, of how Jesus entered this world not in the splendour of a palace, but in the squalour of a stable, to bring God’s love to us.

Now, as we approach Easter, we are faced once more with the reality of God’s love shining through the mess – through the messy anguish of Gethsemane, as Jesus wrestled with the harsh reality of his calling; through the messy injustice of multiple trials as those in authority contrived to sentence him to death; and through the messy violence of cruel beatings and an agonising execution, as Jesus went to the cross for us.

As he did so, Jesus showed what he meant when he said ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ (John 15:13) – so God’s sacrificial love shone through the mess on that first Good Friday. And the power of God’s love shone through the mess when, on the first Easter Day, Jesus rose to show that death was defeated. That is the message of Easter, and it is the redemptive heart of the Christian faith that enables us to know God’s forgiveness and new life.

Soon after Easter, we will start a sermon series that looks at how various Bible characters found God’s love in the mess of their lives, and how they made a new start with his help. If you have your own stories that you are happy to share, of how God rescued you from any mess that you have faced, it would be good to include some personal testimonies alongside those messages, to reinforce the Christian hope that God’s love shines through the mess.

Happy Easter!

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

Lent Reflections

Dear Friends,

So, the big news this week is… that the Prime Minister has given up crisps for Lent! As a typical non-conformist Christian, I have often wondered what all the fuss is about Lent… why give up chocolate, social media or crisps for a few weeks, only to return to them afterwards? Actually, if I’m honest, I’ve never even given it that much thought.

Over recent months we have spent time reflecting on the changes that God wants to make in us and on the spiritual disciplines that help us to focus on our call to love God, to love people and to keep going in the Christian walk. Interestingly, fasting (going without something for a season) was not one of the disciplines that we considered. Continue reading