Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.
Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.
Is anyone among you ill? Let them call the elders of the church
to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.
And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well;
the Lord will raise them up.
If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
(James 5: 13-16 NIVUK)
The beginning of 2018 has not been easy for many of us in Clincarthill Church. Several people have been ill; others have either spent time in hospital and are now home, while others are still in hospital. Saddest of all, a number of our church family have been bereaved over these past few weeks.
These are difficult times for many of us. I am please, however, to hear how well people feel supported and cared for in our congregation. I am grateful that we make a point to look after one another in our church family; especially as it takes me time to personally get around everyone, to see them and make sure they are supported.
The support we receive from people can be invaluable. There is, however, another avenue of support which we must not forget: that of prayer. James, when he was writing his letter, emphasised how important and all-encompassing prayer is, and how it can offer us real help and support in times of trouble.
Firstly, James encourages us to pray for our own circumstances. If we are in trouble, if we are happy, if we have a confession to make, then we are to pray. If we give these things over to God, He will help us in difficulties, celebrate with us in our happiness, and give us assurance of His forgiveness and grace.
Secondly, James highlights that we are to pray on behalf of others. James describes a very specific situation: one which, I think, we would do well to explore more and take more seriously in the Church today. The principle of this situation can be applied more broadly: as Christians, we are called to pray for one another. What an encouragement it can be to have someone pray for you!
Whether we pray for ourselves, or for others, our prayers can be both “powerful and effective”. Let’s be praying then, especially as this year is off to a difficult start for some of us.
May God bless you, and keep on praying!
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus
(1st Thessalonians 5: 16-18 NIVUK)
Change is an inevitable part of life, and in recent decades, we have seen the speed of change increase dramatically.
Even I, as a 27-year-old, have been surprised how quickly our world has changed. I remember my first games console, my first mobile phone, the early days of dial-up internet. These things, which were the pinnacle of technology just 15 years ago, are now dated and obsolete. I can, therefore, only imagine how challenging the pace of change is for some who are much older than I, especially when these things feel beyond our control.
How we respond to change is something about which we need to be incredibly careful in the church. On the one hand, it can be very easy for us to resist any kind of change: Church is familiar, something over which we can exercise control. We can, therefore, ensure that Church is kept constant, “the way we remember it”, while everything else changes.
On the other hand, the Church can fall into the trap of “change for changes sake”: in other words, thinking that the only way to share our Christian faith is to ensure we are changing as quickly as the world.
Throughout 2017, our theme of the year was asking “what kind of Church does God need us to be in this parish?” I think the answer we’ve arrived at is that God is calling us to be a Church which:
- Serves Him;
- Serves our community/parish;
- Is healthy and growing.
Achieving these things means we will need to face change. Doing things the way they are always done won’t work; but neither will change for the sake of it. Anything we do needs to be considered carefully, and in 2 ways: is it what God wants, and is it something which will help achieve one of the above?
For this reason, our theme/verse for 2018 is simple: “pray continually”. If we want to get these three things right, we need to be praying. Prayer is our way to talk to God, and His way of responding. By ensuring we have a solid foundation in prayer, we have a much higher chance of ensuring are doing things His way: i.e. the right way!
All of God’s people are called to pray. So, may I humbly ask that, as part of your prayers in 2018, you would pray for His Church? God bless you
Join the angels on Christmas Eve as they learn of God’s plan for the very first Christmas – you won’t be expecting this! Come along for our family candlelight service at 6.30pm on Sunday 24th Dec (Christmas Eve) – all ages welcome.
We invite you to join us to welcome in Christmas Day … starting at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve and continuing until just after midnight.
We have three events on Christmas Eve … the first of these is our ‘Lessons and Carols’ service at 11am when we will be singing new and traditional Christmas Carols; and hearing readings telling of the birth of Jesus.
Family Film Night – Thursday 28th December – in the small hall – doors open 6.45pm. Beat those winter blues … come along for the screening of a family film. All welcome.
A busy day is a head for us ….
11am Morning Worship – we consider the arrival of the Magi (the Wise Men) to visit Jesus.
3pm Remembering Service – We invite you along to a ‘Remembering Service’ This is a time to remember loved ones whom we have lost and a special invitation is extended to those who have lost loved ones during the year.
7pm Christmas Praise
All will be given a warm welcome at these events.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5b-8 NIVUK)
As we enter the season of Advent, I’ve been reflecting on the cost of Christmas.
I don’t just mean the cost of Christmas in commercial terms: although, it has to be said that an obscene amount of money is spent on Christmas celebrations each year. For example, in 2016, UK Christmas spending reached £77.56 billion. To put this in perspective, the estimated cost to ensuring everyone on earth has access to clean drinking water is somewhere between £7.45 – £11.31 billion.
The cost I have in mind is the cost on people. I fear that we buy into a rather sanitised image of Christmas: it is a wonderful time of good cheer, a time for catching up with friends and meeting with family, for smiling and laughing and being merry. And for some, this is Christmas.
But for others, Christmas is an intensely lonely and difficult time: it acts as a reminder of friends and family who, for whatever reason, are not present; of distant relations; of loss. While we may be inclined to celebrate, we should not forget those for whom Christmas is a very costly time.
Yet, for one, Christmas was more costly than we will ever know. Paul alludes to it in the verses above, and the same sentiments are captured in the lyrics from the song, “How Many Kings” by Downhere:
How many Kings stepped down from their thrones?
How many Lords have abandoned their homes?
How many Greats have become the least for me?
And how many Gods have poured out their hearts,
To romance a world that is torn all apart?
How many Fathers gave up their Sons for me?
Only One did that for me.
At Christmas, we remember that God the Son left His rightful place in Heaven, and entered our world: not in power and authority, but as a vulnerable baby. The God of Creation stepped into our world, and took upon Himself the form of a human being: He became one of us.
The cost of giving up His Heavenly glory to become one of us, we will never truly understand. How much more did it cost Him to take our death upon Himself: even death on a cross? It’s a cliched, I know, but Jesus truly is “the reason for the season”.
May God bless you this Christmas,