Monthly Archives: May 2014

St. James’ Ashton-under-Lyne, Art Exhibition

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Those florentines at the bottom right were fantastic!

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Ron and Jack

IMAG0352St. James’ Church held its 6th Annual Art Exhibition on Saturday 10th May. WEA Art Classes meet at St. James’ Church on Tuesdays and Thursdays through much of the year and once a year the Church and the Art Classes put on an excellent single day exhibition, with plenty of good food to eat for those who attended. If you missed it, you missed a treat!

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Kath and Janet

All of the food on offer was home cooked or prepared, all the art work was done in classes in the church.IMAG0367

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Olive and Beryl

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Barbara and Olive

We had a great day on Saturday!

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Luke 24:13-35 – The Emmaus Road

How have these past few weeks left you feeling? Easter – looking into the blackness of Good Friday – then the celebrations of Easter Sunday and the resurrection. Children off school for 2 or 3 weeks. The relief when they went back to school! Then there’s all the personal issues that we each face day by day. …… It has been a chaotic time. There’s been enough of a cocktail of different things to leave us all exhausted, or confused.

In our Gospel reading two people are struggling to get on with their lives amid the confusion of that first few days after the first Easter. Good Friday’s sense of despair has been turned on its head by strange rumours of resurrection. People running backwards and forwards, rumour and counter-rumour, no one sure just what to believe.

And as they walk on the road to Emmaus, weary, sad and confused,  perhaps we can feel some sympathy for them. As they trudge along they are trying between them to make some sense of what has happened. … And then we read these words. “While they were talking Jesus himself came near and went with them.”

And as the story unfolds and as their journey progresses we read that their hearts begin to burn within them as they listen to him talk. At first he is a stranger to them, they don’t recognise him, but then, just before he leaves them they see him break bread and in an instant their eyes are opened and they see the risen Lord Jesus for who he is.

Some of us might recognise something of the story reflected in our own lives. We feel drawn to faith but at the same time it all seems a bit of a mystery. Then we are on the road with these two people. … Others of us might see the confusion and depression of the two travellers as part of our story, we too are on the road with them. … … Some of us know the story of faith quite well, but the journey we’re on has become long and tedious and it is so hard to see the destination. We too are on the road with those two disciples.

Others of us are struggling with what is happening around us, the pace of change, the seeming lack of real direction, trouble in our relationships, vandalism on our estates, our fear which at times threatens to overwhelm us. Yes, we too are on that same road with those two men.

Whether because we are in this together or because it is true for us as an individual – all of us in some way are on this journey with the two friends going to Emmaus.

In the midst of everything – before we are even sure who it is, there is someone walking along the road with us – a seeming stranger – if we knew the end of our story we’d know who it was – but now we cannot recognise him. As we talk together or as we sit quietly; as we have coffee after our service; as we worship together; as we go out into the world or sit at home unable to go out; as we pray with faith or as we struggle to believe. Jesus himself comes near and goes with us.

And as we continue on our journey of life, unsure what the future holds, even if we don’t recognise him, Jesus himself walks with us. And just as those friends on the road to Emmaus discovered him in the breaking of bread – so we have the opportunity each Sunday to encounter Jesus not only as the unknown friend on the road – but as the one who welcomes us with nail torn hands into  the warm embrace of God’s love. And in the Communion in which we share, we take him, in some mysterious unfathomable way, into our lives and he becomes one with us in soul and body..

Take a few moments now in silence to imagine yourself walking on a journey. ……………………….. See the stranger approach you and walk quietly alongside you on the road. ……………………….. Walk with him, enjoy in your imagination talking to him as you walk. ……………………….. And now as you move on with your life, but particularly when you next take Communion, say these words to him. “Lord, make yourself known to me in the bread and the wine today.”

The Good Shepherd

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Belonging is important. We want to feel that we belong. Even those of us who are introverts still want to feel that we have a place in society. And so many of us join different clubs and societies. So, we belong to things like Soroptimists, Rotary, Round Table, the Bowling Club, the Needlework Group, a Fan Club, a Football Team, we engage in other sports, and nowadays we join on-line groups – we have a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, some of us even have a blog. Even on-line, we belong!

Yet, as adults we like to believe that we a strong enough to make our own decisions, to be our own people. For some of us acknowledging that we need others, that we need to belong can be quite difficult. But we have to accept that it is true when we look at teenage culture over the past 50 years – the need to belong to the ‘in-crowd’, to wear the ‘right’ clothes, to listen to the ‘right’ music, to have the ‘right’ attitudes. All so very obvious and never more so that during the 1970s when I was a teenager. And those of us who are now in our 30s, 40s, 50s ….etc…. have to admit that when we were young we felt the possibility of rejection quite keenly. Indeed it is one of the main causes of serious teenage problems – eating disorders, drug/solvent abuse, delinquency. The need to belong often overcomes all other priorities – it can become more critical than right/wrong. And if we’re honest we’ll admit that it is true for all of us, whatever age we claim to be. The need to belong is so very important.

It’s not just peer groups/clubs/societies – we’re part of families – I’m a Farnworth – I couldn’t be anything else – I’ve habits that I recognise in my father, I’ve got the same concern for neatness and detail that my mother has. I inherit my baldness from my mother’s father. No matter how much I might have wanted to rebel against it in the past, I’m a Farnworth. I belong.

Then there’s our work. Before I went to college to train for the ministry I was a Civil Engineer, a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, something that I’d worked hard to achieve. I was a manager in Stockport Council – with 120 staff. I had a definite place in society – I belonged. Leaving all that and going back to college was surprisingly disorientating. The way I defined myself, and the sense of place and belonging had suddenly been taken away. Who was I now? How was I going to make my mark? Would I be accepted in this new world? If you’ve changed jobs, or perhaps left work to raise children, or gone back to work after raising children you’ll perhaps know what I mean. Not the end of the world by any means – actually a really positive challenge – but still a need to establish a new identity, a new sense of belonging.

This month the Parish of the Good Shepherd, Ashton-under-Lyne celebrates its Patronal Festival on the 4th Sunday of Easter (11th May). On the 4th Sunday of Easter we always read something from the 10th chapter of John’s Gospel, a chapter where Jesus talks of himself as the Good Shepherd.  In that chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus talks of belonging. “You do not belong to my sheep,” he says to his adversaries in the temple. “You do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

There are at least three things that Jesus is saying about those who belong to him:

Firstly – “My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me.” Those who belong to Jesus have been ‘called’ by him – they’ve heard his call and have answered that call. We’ve been chosen – we’ve not just muscled our way into the club, we’ve been selected to play on the team. We have been called by Jesus and we follow his call. But not only are we called, we are known – nothing is hidden from him, he knows us inside out – and even knowing all the things we like to keep hidden, he has still chosen us! …  And why are we chosen? … To follow him – to live differently, to try to be like him, his attitudes/actions – to follow him.

Secondly – ‘I give them eternal life.’ Those who belong to Jesus have been given eternal life. All equal, all loved, all given the greatest of gifts – eternal life. Life lived now in friendship with God, life which is no longer purely part of a world which passes away. We often say that it is quality not quantity which counts – but here in Jesus gift of eternal life we get both – life to be enjoyed beyond our imagining, life which continues beyond the grave, both quality and quantity!

Thirdly – ‘No one will snatch them out of my hand.’ The best news of all. Those who belong to Jesus are safe, secure. Jesus is committed to them, no matter how tentative their commitment to him. Belonging depends on his love, not our faithfulness! No matter how black things seem, no matter how rebellious we are. He has hold of us with a grip that he will not release. If we wander away he will draw us back, if we stumble he will pick us up and set us back on our feet.

Belonging to Jesus is real belonging – its for keeps. It gives us the strength we need to cope when all other certainties have gone. We are at home, we’re safe. But don’t just take my word for it, listen to Jesus:

“My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

(John 10:27-28)