Thy Kingdom Come

Season of Prayer

In Matthew 16 13-19, Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is.  All the people they think he is – John the Baptist, Elijah or Jeremiah – are good people to be.  However, it is only when Simon Peter says that he is ‘the Messiah, the Son of the Living God’ that things shift in the passage.  At this moment Simon Peter has seen the glory of God revealed in Jesus. When this happens, Jesus tells them that the way that God will continue to reveal His glory, after he has gone, is through the Church.

There is a dilemma when we look back in history – sometimes we would like to eliminate the Church as the chosen vehicle to tell people about the gospel.  For, after all, hasn’t the Church embarrassed us all in some shape or form?  The Church seems to have given Jesus a bad reputation, from the Crusades to the Inquisition, from the defense of slavery through scripture to the Westboro Baptists who picket service men and women’s funerals declaring God’s judgment on them, and even the child abuse in our own Diocese.  At each stage the Church has taken the blame, the stain, and has to live with it – one could be forgiven for thinking that the Church has little reputation or right to speak up.

We can either pretend that we are not the Church, so that we don’t have to carry the baggage of lots of bad decisions by lots of people, or we can take on and re-claim the name for all those people who don’t know what the Church should actually be.  As we pray ‘thy kingdom come’ let us keep in mind that Jesus is the hope of the world and the Church is how God has chosen to bring in His kingdom and make Jesus known.

And Jesus himself tells us that God’s kingdom comes in unexpected ways; it doesn’t just come with a great clap of thunder at the end of time, it grows in our midst, secretly.  It comes through in quirky little moments when people do extraordinary things, take extraordinary risks and leads you to think “Ah yes, that’s a life in which God is real”.

You may have seen the story this week that prompted a mother to post this on Facebook:

 ‘I would like to say a massive thank you to the lady in the photo (sorry didn’t see her name) who helped me today at Morrisons in Basingstoke.  I have two children that are both registered blind and are also autistic.  As you can imagine shopping is not an easy thing for me to do, at the checkout both girls decided to go into meltdown and this very kind lady decided to help instead of judge.  It doesn’t happen very often!  She distracted my daughter by letting her scan all my shopping.  A dream come true for Holly who loves playing ‘shops’.  It melts my heart to come across people that are prepared to go the extra mile, and little acts of kindness makes a massive difference to my world.  I hope this gets back to her and she knows how much we appreciate it. Amanda xxx’.

These acts of love and service are what should define the Church.  Imagine a Church doing that – Jesus did!

Please pray that Jesus may be made known in the area of Pound Hill and Worth to the north of Worth Road & Turners Hill Road and south of Worth Park Avenue/A2220 which includes the Church of St Barnabas and Pound Hill Junior School.  As you pray for the School please remember the year 5 children that are on a residential trip to the Isle of Wight, the Headteacher, Anthony White, and all those who work or study at the school.

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Season of Prayer
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.    Psalm 19 v 1

Before I became a Christian I was barely aware of the use of God’s and Jesus’s name as profanities.  There were far worse words out there being used.  It has only been since I have become a Christian that it bothers me, not in a legalistic way – that we are breaking the rules and will be punished – but because I have learnt to love God and his Son deeply and when someone does not ‘hallow’ his name I feel that they ignore and even shun God’s beauty.  By saying we ‘hallow’ God’s name we are saying that this is serious, for ‘hallowed’ means holy or sacred.

bluebellsSome days are easier to ‘hallow’ God’s name than others.  Yesterday, I was with my family in Tilgate and the sun was shining and the bluebells were out in abundance.  You could feel God’s glory and I could easily praise Him.  On other days when the news of an earthquake or terrible crime is reported or a young child is snatched away from loving parents too early it is hard to ‘hallow’ God’s name.  Why?  Because here he seems absent.  But he is not.  I think God can relate to suffering because he suffered too, on the cross in the person of his Son, Jesus, the Christ. So in the good and the bad times God’s name is to be hallowed.  It is not easy and has to come through practice and forming habits.

How?  By always hallowing His name, by seeing Him in the small things and praising Him for them.  For a good cup of tea, for a bluebell, for family, for till receipts (I did a sermon once on that, so you will have to ask me!) and for lazy afternoons.  For if we see His Glory in the small stuff and name it, we will see it at times when it is almost impossible to see – in the times of hardship.

Matt and Beth Redman wrote a song “Blessed be Your Name”, about blessing God’s name no matter what. They wrote the song after the pain of a miscarriage.  It has helped me, when things have been bad, to remember to praise God in the ups and downs of life.

So today, no matter how you feel, praise God.  Maybe all you can do is praise God for the air that you breathe or maybe you can pray and thank God for all God’s children who live and work in the areas of Pound Hill and Worth, south of Worth Road and Turners Hill Road and east of the B2036/Balcombe Road.  Amongst our schools we ask you particularly to pray for the children and staff of the Pound Hill Infant Academy and their families, for Julie Knock-Bravery the Executive Principal and the work the school does as part of the Southern Collaborative Learning Partnership (SCLP) Alliance.

Steve Burston

Who Art in Heaven

Season of Prayer

When, in the Lord’s Prayer, we go on to say “who art in heaven”, we’re saying Heaven, God’s place, God’s home, is also our home. “Our citizenship”, says St Paul in one of his letters, “is in heaven”; that is, heaven is where we belong.  And the kind of relationship that exists in God’s presence in heaven is a relationship of love and trust and intimacy and praise that can be ours here and now.  Short, simple words, and yet they tell us that heaven is here on earth because of Jesus, and we can enter into that. For some heaven is up there, we are somewhere in the middle and down below is hell. Well, Heaven and Hell are realities today.

When people use the word hell, what do they mean?  Probably something like a place, an event, a situation devoid of how God desires things to be.  Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter–they are all hell on earth.  Jesus’ desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth. As Christians we should want to do what we can to resist hell coming to earth, by loving our neighbour.  When that happens without an agenda or a transaction, just out of love, then we have each time a glimpse of heaven.

As a Church this is our most important witness to our faith.  An outward expression of love.  An example: a group of Christian students went out into their neighbourhood, they looked around and saw the homeless on their streets.  They wanted to walk alongside them.  What did they do?  They went out and bought lots of cigarettes and handed them out and chatted to them.  Their Church leaders said, “What on earth are you doing?”  They said, “Well, this is the thing.  What we found is that the homeless don’t get to die of lung cancer.  They die from drugs and alcohol and loneliness long before that.  The brief time we give them a cigarette we give them company and we say we are not judging you.  We’re with you.  We don’t then try to convert them, but if they ask why we are doing this we say, “because God loves us” and “we want you know he loves you too, no matter what”.  A small glimpse of heaven.

A quote from Mother Teresa shows us what our attitude should be:

mumteresa

So, our God “who art in heaven” – isn’t a distance and unreachable God, but a close, intimate God. We just have to reveal Him.

In our novena of prayer for the evangelisation of the nation, today we are praying for the area of Maidenbower to the west of Billington Drive and all the roads off Matthews Drive and Harper Drive (plus Mercer Close and Proctor Close) – an area which includes Oriel High School.  Our youth face a difficult environment today with so many more challenges, temptation and expectations.  As you pray for the School, please pray that they experience a glimpse of heaven, especially those just starting GCSE, A/S and A Level exams.

Novena Prayer

Almighty God

who in your Son Jesus Christ,

declared the coming of your Kingdom,

strengthen us in the ways of righteousness

and peace, that our brothers and sisters may

know the healing power of the gospel,

and that you will be done on earth,

as it is in heaven;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Our Father

Season of Prayer
On the remaining days until Pentecost, we will reflect each day on a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer.  Each phrase is so rich in meaning and is steeped in the history of Jewish people and can be found in the Old Testament.  However, what are absolutely unique are the words with which we are encouraged by Jesus to address God– “Our Father”.
The prayer begins with no grand title, only the address as to the father of a family.  The prayer we say every Sunday – sometimes without even thinking of the words – was in fact a radical departure from the normal way of praying.  Nowadays we have lost the sense of just how radical it is in its call to intimacy with God.  As Rowan Williams notes, “This is the prayer which you address to God in the most intimate of terms, not telling him how wonderful he is, not grovelling in any way before him, but just coming with complete confidence”.
In the first century world, such a concept was shocking and strange.  It was not a one-off comment: Jesus continues the theme when speaking to Mary Magdalene saying, “I’m ascending to my father and your father”.
hugThis image of father can be problematic for those amongst us that have had far from ideal relationships with our own fathers.  However, the best example of the ‘father’ Jesus pictured when saying this prayer or when he cried out on the cross to His father, was the image of the forgiving father in the parable of the prodigal son, a father who is always ready to love, forgive, allow us to wipe the slate clean and begin again even when we are ’still far off’.
It is this intimate and transforming personal relationship with God which is at the heart of the Gospel.  It is the very words with which we start our most well-known prayer that tell us a huge amount about who we are as Christians, about our Christian belief.
So please read again Luke 15:11-32.  Today we pray for evangelization in the area of Maidenbower bounded by Maidenbower Drive, Billinton Drive and Laud Drive/Tudor Close and, amongst the schools in the parish, for Maidenbower Infant School – please pray for families, for the head, Sarah and her staff and all the children that go to the School.  Also pray for the Messy Church that meets monthly in the school and for the trip to Worth Church by Year 2 children this term.  And please lift up our Parish Vision Day, being held today, that the Father’s love will be seen and experienced.
Novena Prayer
Almighty God
Who in your Son Jesus Christ,
Declared the coming of your Kingdom,
Strengthen us in the ways of righteousness
And peace, that our brothers and sisters may
Know the healing power of the gospel,
And that you will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

Prayer Matters

Season of Prayer

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.                  Matthew 28 19

Prayer matters – it mattered to Jesus and it mattered to the early Church and so it should matter to us.  If we are really honest, no one can boast a perfect prayer life.   Life is busy and sometimes our prayers can be missed or we are so busy with our own demands that we don’t allow God in.  Prayer is how we have communion with God our creator, who made us in His image to have an intimate relationship with him. A relationship so intimate that Jesus asks us to call God ‘Abba’ – Father – Daddy; ‘Our Father who art in heaven’.  So prayer is important, intimate and finally, it makes a difference.  We may not see the answer to prayer and at time God may seem silent, but as Rowan Williams explained at a lecture at my Theological College in Cambridge, prayer is like sunbathing – as you pray, you feel different, warm, but not aware of change going on in you, but at the end you have changed – in the case of sunbathing you have tanned, in the case of prayer, you have melted your heart a little in communion with God.

So with the importance, intimacy and power of prayer in mind, our Archbishops Justin and Setamu have called on all in the Church of England to begin today nine days of prayer for the spreading of the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ across this country.

As our Parish’s response – we (the clergy) will be posting each day on our website and Facebook and via email,  a specific area of the Parish to pray for, a suggestion of what to pray for and a short reflection.

The Church used to be the heart of the community, but with vastness of Parishes, in many ways, schools have replaced churches as centres. Therefore, on each of the nine days, we will focus closely on an area of our Parish and the school that serves it. If we are to continue to fulfil the great commission of going to baptize and make disciples, the work of our Parish and the Lighthouse project in schools is a vital part of our ministry and deserving of our prayers.

Worth_School_and_AbbeyToday’s area for prayer is the part of the Parish which is across the M23.  At the heart of this area is Worth School and Worth Abbey.  Founded in 1933, the Abbey and Independent School has its Catholic Faith at its heart.  Recently, a group of young people in their thirties called the Forerunners have joined the school to assist in the making of Christian disciples in the school, with the backing of the new Headmaster Stuart McPherson and head Chaplain Fr. Peter.  As over a third of the pupils are not Catholic, our Rector, Anthony, plays a crucial role as the Anglican Chaplain for the school.  Please pray for Worth school, its staff, pupils and all those involved in the proclaiming the Gospel in that place.  Also pray for the area of our Parish, often forgotten by us, on the other side of the M23.

Thank You.

 

Novena Prayer

Almighty God

Who in your Son Jesus Christ,

Declared the coming of your Kingdom,

Strengthen us in the ways of righteousness

And peace, that our brothers and sisters may

Know the healing power of the gospel,

And that you will be done on earth,

as it is in heaven;

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

From the Curate…

Pewsheets

As we approach the Parish Vision Day and in the wake of the Annual Parish Church Meeting, I paused to reflect in my study at St Barnabas’ about the importance of prayer and the prayer life of the Parish.

In a few weeks, we have been challenged by our Archbishops, Justin and Sentamu, to enter with all other churches into a season of prayer between Ascension Day (5th May) and Pentecost Sunday (15th May).  We (the clergy) are going to pray at Morning Prayer each day for a specific geographical area of our Parish and send an email/post on Facebook a daily reflection that we hope will enable those amongst our congregations to engage also in this season of prayer.

As is always the case with God, this initiative has coincided with a parallel – renewed interest in the prayer life of the Parish that has emerged from the Home Groups looking into the spiritual gifting amongst us.  From this, a small prayer group has committed to meet in the Upper Room at St Barnabas’ at 9.30am each Sunday to pray together for such things as the parish, the Parish Vision Day and the service that follows.  If you would like to join them then please do ask me and I will point you in the right direction.  Prayer matters and makes a difference.

Blessings, Steve

The Rector Writes…

Clergy

Do you believe in the transforming power Jesus can have for people’s lives?  Paul’s life changed in the moment we read about in our Acts reading.  So has Peter’s – a fortnight ago he was denying Jesus three times before the cock crowed, today he has answered “yes” three times to the question we are each asked by Jesus – “Do you love me?”  John’s Gospel records Jesus’ final words to Peter: “Follow me” – Matthew tells us Jesus’ first words to Peter: “Follow me”.

As the new edition of the Parish Magazine (thank you Elizabeth!) makes clear the next month or so of our common life will have a significant focus on discerning what it will mean for us to follow Jesus as individuals and as a parish.  This week the first sessions of the “Everybody Welcome” course will be held.   If you want to come along, please do so – details here.

Whether or not you are able to take part in the sessions, it would be wonderful (and potentially transforming!) if the whole church community could be praying daily:

Heavenly Father, you have welcomed us into your kingdom and your heart’s desire is to draw every human being to yourself.  Grant us clear eyes to see people as you see them, sensitive feet to stand in their shoes, and warm smiles to welcome them in your name.  Give us such generous hearts that our church becomes a foretaste of heaven where every soul you send us finds a loving home in the community of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.