God is giving us new opportunities

‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.’
(C.S. Lewis: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe)

Dear Friends,
On Monday we both attended an online seminar held by the Southern Counties Baptist Association (SCBA), which was intended to help us all reflect on what God is saying to our churches through the Covid-19 crisis. The fifty or so participants found it very helpful to think, pray and talk together on this theme. Along with the rest of our deacons (or trustees) we are prayerfully considering what God is saying to us at DGBC, and will be planning to what extent we can open the building in the coming weeks, as the government eases the restrictions on lockdown. As you know, the sanctuary is currently being used by Foodshare, through which God is mightily blessing the most needy members of our community, and we are very grateful that He has used our building in this way. Foodshare hopes soon to return to a collection rather than delivery model of distributing food, which will involve changes to the way they use the building, and they have relevant plans in place.

However, before we make any other practical changes, we will need to be sure that we can keep people safe. You will have heard that the government is gradually allowing churches to open in some ways if they feel able to be ‘Covid secure’. For example, in the hope that this will be true for us at some point, we are installing hand sanitiser dispensers throughout the building. We will be carrying out risk assessments, so we will have to be wise and discerning in what we can and cannot do. Please understand that if we do not feel we can implement the government’s advice, we will have to make tough decisions about which groups and services we can continue to offer, and how often we will be ‘open for business’.* This will unfold over many months, so please do not be impatient for things to get back to normal – the reality is that there will probably be no going back to the way things were before.

We are not alone, as every other participant in Monday’s meeting was dealing with the same decisions and problems, but there was one theme which came out of all the discussions: namely, that God is giving us new opportunities for Him to do more than we can ask or imagine. We have already found that most of us can access home groups, our regular Sunday service and even Messy Church through online technology – who would have guessed we would be doing that at the beginning of this year? This has meant that we have visitors from around the country joining us on Sunday mornings, so our ministry has grown. We have also kept a constant presence in the lives of our Messy Church and Noah’s Ark families through social media. Who knows how God will continue to enlarge upon these resources so that many more lives are impacted? We don’t know what’s ahead, but we do know that He has plans to give us hope and a future, and that He will finish the work He has started. So let us not be afraid, or anxious to return to the safety of what we have known before, because, to quote CS Lewis, God, the King of kings, the great lion, ‘is on the move and He is not safe…but He is good.’

With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline

Your Kingdom Come

Dear friends,
For ten days before Pentecost, many of us engaged with the Thy Kingdom Come annual campaign, which encourages us to pray for five friends every day, in the prayerful hope that they will come to know God’s love and salvation for themselves. We found it helpful to listen to the podcasts and watch the videos which were provided for us every day, not least because they helped to focus our minds on the task of praying very specifically for the people we felt God was calling us to bring before Him, and to ask that His Kingdom would come into their lives.
We were struck by the words of one participant in the videos, Teresa Carvalho, Home Mission Officer of the Catholic Bishops Conference. She said, ‘when we pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, it’s a chance for us to come out of our own little bubbles, of looking at my world, my kingdom, my will, what I want to do, and to say to God, you know what, I think I can trust you more than I can trust myself, so let me pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.’  Roy Crowne from Hope International then went on to say, ‘It all flows out of Jesus … so when I pray ‘Your Kingdom Come’ for an individual, for a situation, I’mpraying Your Kingly rule, all of the great things that you bring, I want you to bring that into this situation.
’What does Jesus’ Kingly rule look like? He tells us Himself, in the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“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,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
(Luke 4:18-19)
So when we pray ‘Your Kingdom Come’, we are asking that God will proclaim
His good news of salvation and freedom to the people we are praying for; that they may be released from whatever holds them in chains, and that they will clearly see and experience the love and plans that God has for them. When we pray that they will know His favour, we are crying out to God for the whole of their lives, present and future, temporal as well as eternal, so that from this day forward they will live in trust and security, safe in the knowledge that He will never let them go.
The campaign may be over for another year, but the praying still goes on. And what we pray for others, we need to pray for ourselves, no matter how long we have been Christians, as the reality of Kingdom living can so often become  overwhelmed by the difficulties of everyday life. God does not promise us an  easy ride, but he does assure us that His never-ending Kingdom of freedom, good news and favour starts right here, right now, whatever situation we find ourselves in today, so that He is never far from us, and is easily found when we seek Him. Our prayer for all of us this week, this month, this year and  beyond is ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, so that we may experience and trust His compassionate rule in every aspect of our lives.
With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline

Ruthlessly eliminating hurry

Dear Friends,

Recently we have been blessed by a book with an interesting title: The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to stay emotionally healthy and spiritually alive in the chaos of the modern world. Published last October, it was written because the author longed for a quieter, more Christ-like way to live. The premise is intriguing, and captured our imagination: Who are you becoming? That was the question nagging pastor and author John Mark Comer. By outward metrics, everything appeared successful. But inwardly, things weren’t pretty. So he turned to a trusted mentor for guidance and heard these words: ‘Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life.’ It wasn’t the response he expected, but it continues to be the answer he needs.’

Comer talks about the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude, sabbath, simplicity and slowing, which are all designed to bring us into the presence of God throughout the whole of our day, every day. The book unpacks all these themes, but the experience of silence and solitude may well be the one which we feel we’ve had enough of by now. We need people and company – after all, the Bible says that it’s not good for us to be alone, so we are aware that too much of it is not always a good thing. And yet…

‘In our ears we sense his voice cut through the cacophony of all the other voices, which slowly fade to the deafening roar of silence. In that silence we hear God speak his love over us. Speak our identities and calling into being. We get his perspective on life and our humble, good places in it. And we come to a place of freedom… In silence and solitude our souls finally come home.’

We have such a strong tendency to see our purpose in terms of busyness, so that in our own minds we believe ourselves useful only if we are caught up in a whirlwind of activity. Pentecost can seem to buy into that, as the disciples were overflowing with the Spirit and Peter did a lot of preaching so that many people were converted. Added to this, Jesus said ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ not ‘stay where you are and slow down’! But we forget that first century culture meant you couldn’t hurry (walking, not running… and sea travel took time) and Pentecost was followed by a period of just living and growing and worshipping together – not a mission to the ends of the earth straight away. That was going to take time, lots of time. Instead the people were being moulded into the sacrificial way of Jesus – and that is a slow process.

So don’t despair if you have no choice but to be at home, in stillness. You are not useless, and you are not failing in the Great Commission. This is an opportunity to reconnect with God and hear him in ways you haven’t before, or at least not for a long time. We are forced to slow down, to be still and silent, often in solitude but the message is still getting through – perhaps to more people than ever through modern technological marvels. The church’s birthday might be celebrated in more isolated ways than we are used to, but in the silence we can still have a party with God.

With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline

God is working His purpose out…

Dear Friends,
We love taking holidays in Scotland, as the highland scenery is spectacularly beautiful. On a few occasions we have visited Eilean Donan Castle, on the north west coast, not far from the bridge over to Skye. On a clear day, there are very few places which can match it for beauty and location, as it sits peacefully surrounded by mountains, with its walls reflected in the still water of the loch. We have seen it at its very best, with blue skies and warm sunshine, and even the ice-cream was exceptional. Below is a link to its website, so you can see it for yourselves.
On our last visit to that region we booked a few nights in a hotel near the castle, with the intention of taking lots of photos, and also of crossing the bridge for a day on Skye. Unfortunately, Scotland had other ideas. As we drove north the glorious heatwave gradually petered out, until the fabulous landscape had completely disappeared behind a curtain of rain and mist. The castle was no more than a vague shadow with a few battlements occasionally making a fleeting appearance, and Skye was similarly lost to view. To say we were disappointed was an understatement. We knew the beautiful scenery was there in front of us, so close we could almost see it, but apparently lost to us in the clouds. We gave up the attempt, crossed the bridge again and went back to our hotel to sulk.
We have a large print of the castle and its landscape on our living room wall, which shows it bathed in sunshine, with gentle clouds and ripples on the surface of the loch. Looking at it the other day, we were reminded of our last experience of that landscape and the way we felt. There had been a deep sense of frustration and loss, as we had wanted so much to recapture the peace and freedom of our previous visits. We had travelled a long way and waited a long time to be there again, and we felt let down by the weather, the atmosphere and the whole situation.
And yet, how could we complain? Scotland’s wildly impressive landscape is shaped by its weather, and its timeless atmosphere is created by rain and mists just as much as by sunshine and blue skies. We had now seen the places we loved in a different, unwanted light, and our enjoyment of them had certainly been curtailed, but if we wanted to know them truly in all their variety, we had to see them at their darkest and most elusive, as well as at their most welcoming.
We wonder if that is a message for all of us right now. We might not clearly see how God is going to use this crisis, but we do know that His beauty, love, justice, welcome and power are still there, sometimes hidden by the mist which surrounds His purposes, but always solid and real. There will be times when all we see are the present difficulties and frustrations, and our experience of God will seem empty and futile, but these difficult days are still valid and life-shaping, bringing insights we might never have known if each season brought only the fulfilment of our dreams and plans. We all look forward to brighter days, but in the meantime let us hold fast to the truth that our God does not change with the weather, and is working His purposes out, as He always has.

With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline


We’ll meet again…

On May 8th 1945, more than one million people celebrated in the streets throughout the UK to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by the Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds.
Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations. Nobody had heard of social distancing, and social togetherness was most definitely the order of the day. The people of the UK had been singing along with Vera Lynn for six long years, and at last they really could meet again.
Very few of us now remember that day with great clarity, as the years have taken their toll. The planned 75th anniversary celebrations have certainly been muted by our current situation, though many of us sat on our lawns and ate cake in the sunshine on Friday afternoon in an act of solidarity and celebration. And yet, it seems more appropriate than ever to commemorate a day when the things that really mattered were getting together, giving grateful thanks that the worst was almost over (the victory in Japan had yet to be secured), and appreciating the freedom that had been won at such great cost. In a moving poem by Matt Kelly
(read on The One Show by Christopher Ecclestone on Tuesday evening), tribute was paid to the ‘soldiers in blue’, the NHS, who now battle on our behalf against a different enemy, and there is no doubt that the heroism which we remembered on Friday is alive and still fighting every day in our hospitals. Add to this the army of key workers and volunteers who are keeping the country going – some of whom go out from our own Church building every Thursday as Windsor Foodshare helps feed those most in need in our community – and we can see that self-sacrifice and the desire to bring good out of chaos has come to the forefront in these days.
We have a Saviour who is the ultimate role model for this self-sacrifice.‘ He had equal status with God but didn’ t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honoured
him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth – even those long ago dead and buried –
will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honour ofGod the Father.’ Phil 2: 5-11 (The Message)
How wonderful to know that all our best desires to help others, and to release them from bondage, comes from our Creator God. We love because he first loved us and gave himself up for us, so that we could be freed from everything that gets between us and God. Because of the self -sacrifice of Jesus we can know victory over sin and death, and be assured of a future with him. That is worth celebrating, whatever our circumstances, as we wait to meet again.
With our love and prayers,
Matthew & Pauline

Tomorrow will be a good day

On April 30 Captain Tom Moore celebrated his 100th birthday at home with his family. It was also commemorated by (amongst other things) the BBC, an RAF fly-past with a Spitfire and a Hurricane, a Number One hit record, an England cricket cap, approximately 140,000 birthday cards, including one from the Queen, the good wishes of the entire country, and an honorary promotion to Colonel of the Army Foundation College in Harrogate. We suppose we could say that it was a good day for Captain Tom – and for the NHS, for which he had raised over £30,000,000. But one tribute which seemed particularly powerful was paid to him by the Prime Minister, himself very lately recovered from the virus which has taken so many lives. He said that every day the Prime Minister’s Points of Light award is given to outstanding individual volunteers, and that Captain Tom was ‘a point of light in all our lives.’

Points of light are most clearly seen when the darkness is at its most overwhelming, so Captain Tom’s simple walk of thanks, given in gratitude for the services he had himself received from the NHS, was far more powerful in our current circumstances than it might have been at any other time. There is no doubt that for many of us these are very dark days, perhaps the most difficult we have experienced for many years, and certainly the strangest. After six weeks of lockdown, when we have been separated from those we love, deprived of physical touch and battling with loneliness, we may well have come to a point where we feel we have had enough. Some of us cannot even access the marvels of technology, so that the four walls of our houses might seem to shrink and smother us, even though we are grateful for the safety they provide.

So at this time we must recognize the sufferings of those of us who are locked in depression, anxiety and addiction, or ravaged by domestic abuse, bereavement and the sheer terror of not knowing if a loved one will survive. Our friend Peter Morden has written an article on his own experiences of depression after bereavement, and we include the link below – we recommend it whether or not you are struggling. As the church of the Saviour who made Himself vulnerable to all that the world could throw at Him, we cannot tell others to ‘pull themselves together’, or to ‘keep praising and smiling’. Jesus wept because He loved us, so how can we do otherwise? And Yet … as Christians we know for a certainty, that whatever happens, the love and light of our Lord Jesus will never fail us, even when we cannot feel or experience it. Faith as an act of the will, practised through gritted teeth and tears, is still faith. With the true spirit of his generation, Captain Tom has said that ‘tomorrow will be a good day, ’and for us this is not just positive thinking – it is truth. May the light that shines in the darkness be at its brightest for you, and may God keep us all in the hollow of His hand until we meet again.

With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline

Discipleship & Darkness
Peter Morden

A Timeless Word for the times

Dear Friends,

On at least a couple of occasions this week, our current circumstances have shed new light onto our daily Bible readings as the scriptures resonated with strength and relevance.

One of our readings took us to Colossians 2, where Paul writes: – ‘…I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face.’(Col 2:1) Sound familiar? Paul’s circumstances were different from ours in that he was facing the might of the Roman legal system and had been put under house arrest, but the consequences were in many ways similar. Unable to visit the people who he loved and ministered to, he had to find new ways of maintaining the relationship – pen and ink in his case, rather than a phone call or social media, and a courier, spending weeks travelling hundreds of miles over land and sea, rather than a telephone line or WiFi connection conveying our messages in microseconds!

The encouragement is that, in some ways, our situation is not new at all.God’s timeless Word, written hundreds of years ago, has something to say to us today as, like Paul, we struggle to help the friends, neighbours and family who we simply cannot see face to face at this time. A significant part of his struggle for them took the form of prayer – which we can also do for our friends, neighbours and family. Another part of his efforts for them was to take the time to maintain his relationship with them – keeping human contact and relationship is so important when we are apart, whether it is by letter, phone or the latest social media. And we can also learn from his motive in writing, as he goes on to say: – ‘I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself…’ (Col 2:2)

Later in the week, our readings took us into the Psalms, where we find these words of encouragement and hope in Psalm 57:1-2: – ‘Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for my soul takes refuge in you; in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge, until the storm of destruction has passed by.’ The Psalmist also experienced the most difficult of times. In faith, he turned to God for refuge, even while whatever ‘storm’ he was facing was at its height. He looked forward to the time when the ‘storm of destruction’ was over, by holding firmly to God. At a time of despair, he found hope for the future by trusting in God.

We would be interested to know what scriptures you are reading in a new light at this time your new understanding of them may well help others!Meanwhile, our prayer is that, as we maintain contact with each other in whatever ways we can, we will all be encouraged; we will be united in love; and we will hold on to hope for the future.

With our love and prayers
Matthew and Pauline

A reminder that our prayers and reflections for this week will appear on this page on Sunday morning, with additional resources available in our weekly ‘Keeping Connected’ bulletin which will be available on the home page.

You may also view the video recording on our Facebook page on Sunday morning.

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

Jesus, Light of the World

We pray for every leader, every family, every individual feeling their way in the darkness at this time. May we know that Jesus is still the Light of the World. And may we find the ways in which we are called to be the light of the world, too.Psalm25 v4

The priority of God’s Kingdom

Dear Friends,
Last month, Pauline and I attended the Southern Counties Baptist Association Ministers’ and Leaders’ annual conference in Cheltenham, where the keynote speaker was Glen Marshall, Principal of the Northern Baptist College in Manchester.

Often, when God wants to confirm something that is settled in his mind, he will speak to us two or three times on the same subject. So my ears pricked up when, in his final session, Glen Marshall said that when we commit ourselves to God’s mission in the world, the ‘great priority’ is to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’ (Matthew 6:33). After all, it was Jesus’ priority during three years of ministry and during 40 days of preparation after his resurrection.

As we are exploring what it means to seek God’s kingdom first in our current sermon series, it seemed a timely confirmation that this is what God wants us to be looking at right now. Not only that, but several colleagues attending the conference said that their churches are also currently studying this subject.

So, let’s be encouraged that we are not alone in being prompted to focus on kingdom-seeking at the moment! A few of Glen Marshall’s observations are therefore worth repeating here, as we continue our reflections.

Firstly, he pointed out that in Matthew’s gospel we’re called to seek and pray for the kingdom, but never to deliver it. Our commitment is to faithfulness. Success or failure is in God’s hands. That confirms something that we realised as we discussed our church values last year. Glen argued that this liberates us for Christian service by liberating us from ultimate responsibility.

He went on to point out that God can use whoever he wants to pursue the kingdom – the Church is not the only agent of the kingdom. So we need to discern which individuals and agencies God is calling us to work alongside in our local community for the sake of his kingdom. For example, we are able to show God’s love through the Carers’ group and through Windsor Foodshare, partly because local authority agencies refer those in need to us.

And finally, the real challenge! People should be able to get a taste of the kingdom from our church. We’re not perfect, so they’ll probably get a few unhelpful additives as well… but overall, does our presence in Dedworth give Dedworth a taste of God’s kingdom? Because that should be our priority.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

The battle for God’s Kingdom

Dear Friends,
As we aim to prioritise the values of God’s kingdom, I am reminded that on several occasions in recent years we have been reminded of Jesus’ challenge in Matthew 6:33 to ‘…seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness…’

Jesus knows just how difficult a challenge this is – earlier in Matthew 6 he says that our giving, our prayers and our fasting should be seen only by God because he knows that our motive is often to draw attention to ourselves rather than God. He tells us to store up ‘treasures in heaven’, describing the impossibility of serving both God and wealth, because he knows that the temporary benefits of material things make us self-sufficient rather than dependent on God. He goes on to tell us not to worry about how to provide for our needs, precisely because we are prone to worry! Yet, in a world damaged by the sin of selfishness and greed, many people are very understandably anxious about where their next meal will come from, or how they will stay warm.

Jesus’ solution to these common issues – to ‘…seek first [God’s] kingdom…’ is both simple and radical. But sometimes the ‘simplest’ things in life are the hardest to do. The gentle tune of the old song ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God’ masks the fact that as this is about the battle to gain ground for the Kingdom of God, this task is more like trench warfare than a stroll in the park! The modern translation strive first for the kingdom of God…’ highlights the challenges we face in restoring God to his rightful place. It is a battle to keep our motives pure. The attraction of wealth or self-sufficiency is alluring; the worries of day to day life are overwhelming; even the burdens of church responsibilities can easily suppress God’s calling on our lives, although of course ideally they should be very closely aligned!

Jesus’ call to ‘…strive first for the kingdom of God…’ is a call to join him in the battle to introduce God’s kingdom on earth. So our latest sermon series will look at what God’s kingdom looks like, and what it means to strive for it. Thankfully we don’t strive in our own strength – the Holy Spirit equips us for this battle. And Jesus promises that when we put God’s kingdom first, then we will not lose out – all the things we need in life will be given to us as well.

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

2020 vision

Last Sunday morning, we learnt from the wise men following the star that led them to Jesus, and challenged ourselves to be ‘stars’ that point people to him.

Entering another New Year presents us with an opportunity to reflect on the events of 2019 in order to allow God to shape our thinking and actions as we aim to point people to Jesus in 2020.

Pauline occasionally reminds me that knowing our history can prevent us from repeating past mistakes and help us learn from past successes. That principle is no less relevant in personal and church life than it is in national and international relationships!

So, what have we done in 2019 that we need to build on in 2020?

If I had to single out one significant development, it would be our values statement, which reflects something of who we are and who we want to be as a church community. The idea that we want to prioritise God’s Kingdom ways by expressing our faith through acts and attitudes of love, and to do so with integrity, is summarised in our text for 2020, ‘The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.’ (Galatians 5:6)

As we do so, I believe God will lead us further into his vision for our future together. We do not yet have every piece of that vision in place, but 2019 also showed us that God unfolds his vision for us as we worship and serve him through the year. As we realised last week, we did not start 2019 knowing that the single most significant area of growth in our ministry would be Messy Zone. But as we responded to what God was already doing in Messy Church, it became clear that Messy Zone was something that we could offer as a new way to point families in our community to Jesus.

So, as we continue to focus on God’s Kingdom priorities in 2020, may he give us 20:20 vision to see the ways in which he wants us to show love as an expression of our faith in Jesus this year. And may we act with integrity by being true to his calling, by becoming increasingly responsive to God’s leading through the Holy Spirit as he works in us and through us day by day.

With my love and prayers for a happy and peaceful New Year

Matthew Scott

Advent – a two-way relationship

Our Advent messages this year focus on the idea that Jesus coming into this world is a past, present and future event. We are used to reflecting on the fact that Jesus came to us 2,000 years ago in the person of a tiny baby, born to be the Saviour of the world. And Advent is equally an opportunity, which we sometimes neglect, to look forward to the time when he will come again and gather all of creation to himself (Ephesians 1:10) and restore things to the way they ought to be.

But we live in between those times, so I wonder whether Advent is for the ‘here and now’, as well as being an opportunity to remember the events leading up to Jesus’ incarnation and to anticipate his second coming? In what way does Jesus ‘come to us’ now?

The obvious answer is that he sends his Holy Spirit to help us live for God today. Jesus told his disciples on several occasions that after he had left them, he would send the Holy Spirit to help them – and us – to continue his work. And if we, the Church, are continuing Jesus’ work then, as the body of Christ, we have a daily opportunity to bring Jesus into the lives of everyone we encounter, and into each other’s lives.

However, although Jesus takes the initiative in coming to us, he does not impose himself on us. He invites us to accept his offer to be ‘Immanuel – God with us’. We therefore need to respond. James encourages us to ‘Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.’ (James 4:8), and the great passage in Hebrews 10 makes it clear that we are able to draw near to God because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

So the initiative is now with us. If advent means ‘waiting’, perhaps in these ‘in-between times’ God waits for our response to his first coming, just as much as we wait for his second coming? This Advent season, why not take the opportunity to draw close to God again, so that you may experience the joy of him drawing close to you in a new way?

With my love and prayers
Matthew Scott

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