Psalm 131—Quiet our souls

First, as on normal Sundays, here is the (DIY) All-Age part of the service from John.

Church Re-Imagined

If the links don’t work then here are The Stopwatch and the song God’s Not Dead.

Now, over to Ian…

A reflection by Rev Ian Tomkins—Sunday March 29th 2020

Hello. It’s good to be sharing these thoughts with you. How are you? This is such a difficult and challenging time, and we are missing seeing each other. But I have been so encouraged this week by the messages received, conversations I have had and things I have heard from others—about love and care for each other as we discover new and different ways of being Christ’s Church.

In a letter to Church of England clergy last week, our archbishop’s said,

“Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead. Our life is going to be less characterised by attendance at church on Sunday, and more characterised by the prayer and service we offer each day”…

“Are we truly a church for all, or just the church for ourselves? We urge you sisters and brothers to become a different sort of church in these coming months: hopeful and rooted in the offering of prayer and praise and overflowing in service to the world.”

Prayer, Praise and loving service to others—a vision of Christ’s Church for this age, the Body of Christ—you, me and millions of individuals praying for each other and the world, praising God in our lives of faith, and creatively and generously reaching out to our families, friends and neighbours in new and different ways.

This vision of Christ’s church is not one which is over dependant on top-down leadership and feeding, but one in which all parts of the Body of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, reach out in prayer, praise and loving service to the world, and our families and communities are transformed by this tender and generous love.

Our ‘Psalm for Lent’ this week is Psalm 131Open Link in New Window. It has just three verses.

In verse 1, David tells us that he is rejecting pride, personal ambition and self-importance.

In verse 2, David tells us where he is at now in his life—that he ‘stilled and quietened his soul.’ He illustrates this by comparing himself to a weaned child with its mother. The child no longer frets and cries out for what it used to need and depend on all the time, but is now content, just simply to be with his mother. Infantile dependency is no more.

Finally in verse 3, having described the place of contentment where he has come to in his life, David encourages others to know this contentment themselves, by finding it in the same place he did. ‘Put your hope in the Lord both now and forever more.’

David was a man just like us, whose life was a mix of goodness and brokenness. There were times when he soared for the Lord, and other times when he sank as low as you could go. There by the grace of God go all of us.

But David finally found true contentment. This is the testimony of a sinner who knows he is truly forgiven. He is humbled by the mercy of God in his life.

Because he has peace with God, David has peace in his life.

Eugene Peterson said, “Christian faith is not a neurotic dependency, but a childlike trust. We do not have a God who forever indulges our whims but a God whom we trust with our destinies.”… This means no longer resting in ourselves, but in God.

This is a beautiful picture of the Christian believer who has learned simply to desire God more than just desiring things from God.

Remember that lovely Noel Richards song?

To be in your presence
To sit at your feet
When your love surrounds me
And makes me complete

This is my desire, O Lord
This is my desire
This is my desire, O Lord
This is my desire

To rest in your presence
Not rushing away
To cherish each moment
Here I would stay
This is my desire, O Lord
This is my desire…

Charles Spurgeon wrote of Psalm 131Open Link in New Window that it was “One of the shortest psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.” Why is that? Well, if I look at my on life, I understand how we do often live as though it is for others to fulfil what we think we need. Living like this can mean discontent and anxiety. Life is a journey. But this journey needn’t take forever.

At this particular moment in our lives, in our nation and the world’s history, humanly there is much that could mean we feel more needy and anxious than ever.

But by God’s grace, there is so much more which leads to a ‘stilled and quietened soul’.

Jesus said, ‘Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

Matthew 11.28-29Open Link in New Window

When we do this, we can truly be a church – a Body of Christians, whose lives are ‘hopeful and rooted in the offering of prayer and praise and overflowing in service to the world.

This is contentment. Amen.

There is a podcast of the Sunday Sermon based on this reflection.

There is a video Morning Worship/a> Conducted by Revd Ian Tomkins.

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Psalm 22—The Psalm of the Cross

A reflection by Revd Ian Tomkins—Sunday March 22nd 2020

Hello Dear Friends

This Sunday, we are continuing our sermon series, ‘Psalms for Lent’. Today’s is Psalm 22Open Link in New Window, usually called the ‘Psalm of the Cross’. When we read the first verse, the reason for this is clear, as this psalm of David opens with the words, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, and we are vividly confronted with the crucifixion.

It is in Matthew’s Gospel where we read that, moments before his death on the cross, ‘About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”? (Matthew 27:46Open Link in New Window).

And then as we read on, further significant and familiar narrative…
‘All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads;’ (verse 8), ‘Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.’ (verse 16), ‘They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.’ (verse 18).

Sound familiar? Reading the verses in between too, we realise the magnitude of these cries. This Psalm was written around 1000 years before Jesus was born. Yet Jesus seemed to know, in some way, that it was about him. It seems to be a narrative about his death—but written by David all those years before.

There has been much research and speculation into David’s possible reasons for writing these words. Commentaries on this psalm tell us that there was no incident recorded about David’s life which could explain such a cry. David faced many trials and difficulties, but this is of a different scale. This is not the description of someone who is, for example, very ill. It is the description of someone whose life is ending, who is being subjected to the most brutal of treatment.

The language of the psalm would seem to defy any natural explanation. Perhaps the best explanation is found in Peter’s word about David in Acts, ‘But he was a prophet… Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ…’ (Acts 2:30,31Open Link in New Window) Prophetic words spoken by a man ‘after God’s own heart’ (1 Samuel 13,14Open Link in New Window), foretelling the coming of a Messiah, who would carry the burdens of the world, who would die for the world he loved, who would rescue and deliver us from darkness, who would rise again to new life, with the promise of restoration and of being with God forever.

I wonder how you are feeling today. With a pandemic gripping our world, huge changes to how we are being asked to live, all usual contact with each other being curtailed, I think perhaps like me and everyone else, you are living with a mix of emotions, which can be buffeted around hour by hour. There has been a palpable sense of fear. We all have so much to process and work out.

But in the middle of all of this, I have been struck by the acts of love, grace, thoughtfulness and kindness which I am hearing about and encountering; so many people actively looking out for each other, and for the vulnerable, the lonely, the confused, the sick. We are witnessing the complete opposite of fear, and that is HOPE.

In Psalm 22Open Link in New Window, David’s prophetic foretelling of the saviour to come takes us to the heart of our God of love, who cries out in utter desolation at the weight of the burdens he carries on our behalf—in his sense of being utterly forsaken, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ And yet David ends the psalm with words of deliverance, rescue, and then praise.
Our loving saviour is someone who ‘has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from (us), but has listened to (their) cry for help.’ (Verse 24).

A turning point in the psalm comes in verse 21 and the following verses, where cries of desolation and prayer are replaced by praise and a vision of God’s perfect rule. ‘Then poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the Lord will praise him—may your hearts live forever!’ (Verse 26).

In my own confusion, weariness and concern, I too have had my moments this week of crying out at the trials around us. But I have also been able to give thanks and praise God, for the hope He brings to my life every day. We can count on this hope through the power and filling of God’s Holy Spirit.

Remember the psalm Richard spoke about last week, ‘My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2Open Link in New Window).

We can continue to build our lives on Him and share His love in abundance, with our families, friends and communities in new and beautiful ways.

At the heart of the cross is Jesus—the one who endured the greatest trials that anyone has ever suffered. But Jesus trusted utterly in the love and grace of God, and rose from death—even death on a cross. Easter beckons.

With our love and prayers, as we journey together in faith and trust.

There is a podcast of the Sunday Sermon based on this reflection.

Light a candle of hope: A national call to prayer

This Sunday 22nd March, pray with Christians throughout the country, and light a candle at 7pm, and place it in your window as a sign and witness of Jesus, the Light of the world.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. from St Patrick’s Breastplate

Radio 4 Sunday Worship at 8.10am. The Archbishop of Canterbury is to lead the first national virtual Church of England service on Radio 4 this Sunday. It will include prayers, hymns and a short sermon.

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Bulletin for Sunday 22 March 2020

In Today’s Bulletin:

1. Letter from our vicar, Ian Tomkins
2. Mothering Sunday Power Point service
3. Resources to encourage your faith
4. Copies of Morning Prayer and Holy Communion Services

1. Letter from our Vicar, Ian Tomkins

Dear Friends

We are living in uncertain and unprecedented times. But there is one steady constant—the grace of love of God for each one of us. Bristol Cathedral put out an encouraging statement in which they said, ‘The Church is not closed. The Church is changing’. And this is absolutely right. We are the church, the Body of Christ, wherever we live and work. The ways in which we care for each other over these coming months—our families, friends, neighbours, those who are vulnerable, those in great need, will give witness to the truth of the love of Jesus Christ in new and beautiful ways.

Together with you, I shall be working and ministering in this changed reality, and we shall be doing all we can to support, encourage and resource you and your faith journey. I think the old fashioned way of using the telephone to have lots of conversations will come back into fashion again in a wonderful way! Who can you ring today, to see how they are, to offer a friendly voice, to see how we can help?

And pray. This is a time and opportunity as never before, to pray and to go deeper into our relationship with God as we intercede for His world.

On Sunday morning when you would have been in church, pray for each other, and you can use the resources attached. WE shall be praying for you and for our country.

Also this Sunday, March 22nd, Mothering Sunday, we are called to a national day of prayer & action. At 7pm, light a ‘candle of hope’ and put it in your window as a sign to our communities of our prayer and Jesus, the Light of the world (and take a picture, if you can, to email to me, for me to post on sites).

Please know that Richard, John and I and our staff team are thinking of you and praying for you every day. We welcome your prayers for us too, as we seek to re-imagine Church.

‘My soul finds rest in God alone: my salvation comes form him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall never be shaken.’

Psalm 32:1-2Open Link in New Window
With our love and prayers
Ian (Vicar, St Matthew's)

2. Mothering Sunday All Age Service

Do it yourself with the aid of these slides.
All age mother’s day service
At the end we suggest you sing Big Family of God.

3. Resources to help encourage your faith

A. Church of England Apps

Create space in your day for prayer, praise and Bible reading with this simple daily service. Free to use.

Join the Church of England in prayer with daily services for Morning, Evening and Night Prayer. Free for online use (click one of the download buttons not the blue icon), or £2.99 subscription for use offline (in app purchase).

The Church of England’s Lent campaign for 2020, helping you protect and care for creation. Free to use.

Church of England Apps: See all of these Church of England Apps.

B. Church of England Daily Prayer: Resources for Prayer During the Day

4. Copies of St Matthew's Morning Worship and Holy Communion

Holy Communion for Lent
Morning Worship for Lent

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