A CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION EVERY YEAR!
We are never very far away from a celebration this year – the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Ickenham Festival, the Olympics and Paralympics, and the bi-centenary of Dickens, just to mention a few! I know that party plans are taking shape in some parts of Ickenham for celebrating the Diamond Jubilee, although I’ve not heard about any Dickens’ events yet!
Churches throughout the UK will also be celebrating Easter this month. But have we become over-familiar with it, due to the annual pattern of the celebrations, and consequently under-familiar with the meaning of Easter? It would be hard not to know that the Olympics are coming to London, and not to be aware of the implications of that. Every day, the media carries an Olympic related news story. In the week of writing this, the BBC news reported on the home run scheme, designed to beat the overcrowding anticipated on the underground.
So, how big is Easter? How massive is the message? How far reaching are the implications? It’s been dubbed, ‘the weekend that changed the world’! That is surely bigger than eating hot-cross buns and exchanging chocolate eggs! In a recent sermon, I referred to it as the pivot point of history, by which God wants to turn everything in all creation the right way up. Through apparent defeat on a cross, God did his greatest work; he began to reverse the decay in creation, and start a process that will eventually be completed when Jesus comes again.
Our world can seem a bit like a beetle that’s on its back, kicking its legs furiously trying to turn itself over, but until someone gives it a hand, it’s doomed. God intervened at Easter to help turn our world around from certain decay to new life. Jesus’ resurrection is the evidence that the process of renewal has begun.
The historical events of Easter AD33 are affecting ordinary people today, and it is estimated that one third of the world are convinced that Jesus is alive. Christians testify to God’s power either transforming life for them, or transforming them to cope with life; in this way the process of certain decay is being reversed to bring new life.
So in amongst all the great celebrations this year, remember to celebrate ‘the weekend that changed the world’ – events are happening at a church near you!
Wishing you a very happy Easter
DROP-IN FOR THE BEREAVED. Third Monday of each month. St Giles’ Church Hall, 2pm to 3.30pm. A friendly, informal opportunity for a chat, over a cup of tea, with other bereaved people and bereavement visitors. The next meeting is on Monday 16th April (then Monday 21st May). Just come along, or ring the Rectory (622970) if you would like to talk to someone first.
FROM THE URC MINISTER
The first Friday in April this year is Good Friday. Although Jesus went through the horrors of flogging and nailing to hang on a cross, the day is called Good because he died for us. His death was for our benefit.
From hundreds of years beforehand come the words of the prophet Isaiah (53:5)
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we were healed.
Some decades after Jesus’ death, Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
For I handed on to you as of first importance
what I in turn had received:
that Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the scriptures,
and that he was buried,
and that he was raised on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures.
My mind sometimes goes to people who have died, from whom I have benefitted in significant ways in my life:
- a fellow student who led a Bible study group despite his terminal illness, and in whose memory I led the group the following year;
- the mission officers who heard my sense of call, who provided opportunities for the call to be tested, and opened the way for training at an ecumenical theological college and a cluster of international mission colleges;
- my godmother who lived in Canada but who kept in touch, and visited occasionally - most notably when I made my Christian commitment and when Gwen and I were married;
- my parents who gave me opportunities to grow in church, Cubs and Scouts, in family, in education, in other skills, in travel in this country and abroad;
- Gwen’s parents from whom I learned more about family life;
- several people with strong commitment to God in the face of great difficulty and danger.
These examples and more come to my mind, and you may be recalling people highly significant for you, who have since died. This prayer from some funerals may resonate with these thoughts: “Strengthened by the assurance of your love, may we go ahead with the duties which await us in the world, resolved to be more faithful to you and more helpful to one another, for the sake of those no longer with us upon earth.”
Celebrations of Good Friday and Easter recognise that the ultimate blessing comes from God in the generosity of Christ’s sacrificial death and the power of his risen life, forgiving, healing, guiding and inspiring.
There will be a particular opportunity to remember those who have died recently in the Memorial Service at St. Giles’ Church on Sunday 13th May, 3pm, organised by the Bereavement Support Group of the two churches.
MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR THE BEREAVED
There will be a special Memorial service at St Giles’ Church on Sunday 13th May at 3pm for those who are bereaved. The names of the departed, whose funerals were conducted at Ickenham URC or by St Giles’ Church staff between the beginning of March 2011 and the end of February 2012, will be read out during the service.
The Revd George Cobb, Chaplain at Michael Sobell House and Mount Vernon Hospital, will give a short talk and members of the Bereavement Support Group will be present. After the service, the congregation will be invited to have refreshments in St Giles’ Church Hall.
Anyone who would find this service helpful is welcome to attend.