30 Days with the Gospel of Mark – Bible Month 2021 – week 2

Elizabeth Pass continues her reflections on the gospel of Mark, using Bible Month’s resources as her start point. Thank you, Elizabeth.

Mark 4:1-8:21Mission and Boundaries

As I started to read this section of Mark’s gospel, I found myself picking up a pen and marking in the margins of my Bible one of three words: Story, Picture, Event

The parable of the sower told an agricultural story

The image of a lamp hidden under a bed was a picture as were the parables of the growing seed and the mustard seed.

Jesus stilling the lake storm was an event – God’s power enacted through Jesus.  It’s followed in chapters 5 and 6 by several other events including the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus walking on the lake and several healings.  Jesus making a change to a bad situation.

In between are passages recounting incidents in Jesus’ life: his rejection at Nazareth (6:1-6) and the horrific death of his cousin John (6:14-29).  There are discussions with his disciples (8:14-21) and with the Pharisees (7:7-13) when Jesus explains, teaches and challenges.  

Mission and Boundaries.  How clear it is that with the general public Jesus uses stories, pictures and actions to explain or demonstrate his mission. No theologising or pontificating in Mark’s gospel!  We need to turn to John’s gospel for the more reflective theology.  But there are no boundaries to people with whom he is willing to engage, from demented madman or outcast woman to erudite Pharisees.

That covers the Bible Month title, Mission and Boundaries.  But I found myself drawn more closely to chapter 5 which records three different accounts of healings.

A woman reaches out – secretly – to touch and be restored by Jesus after being an impure outcast for 12 years because of her condition.   A madman approaches Jesus – openly; he must have been a terrifying sight, ‘howling and bruising himself with stones’; you can imagine how terrified of him the locals must have been.  Jesus reaches out – his initiative – to touch and restore a dead child, breaking the taboo of touching a corpse.

Interactions with Jesus vary.  What have been your own experiences of Jesus?  Were there times when Jesus has surprised you by reaching out to you unasked, either for your own benefit or someone else’s?  Or do you remember reaching out to Jesus in moments of special need – perhaps even now needing him to draw close?

In response to the challenge ending session one here are my responses.

  • Instruction: what does God want us to know?

            How Jesus used story, picture and event to communicate.

  • Thanksgiving: what in this story makes us grateful to the Lord?

            That Jesus really can make a difference – to the situation or with me.

  • Confession: what encourages me to repent?

            Times when I have failed to expect God’s power to be enacted today.

  • Supplication: how do these passages encourage me to pray?

            With confidence that Jesus reaches out still to heal, teach, challenge. 

On this week to session three: Mark 8:22 – 10:52 ‘On The Way’, with the same four challenges to consider!

Food Bank

As many of you know, I opened my porch as a local Conwy food Bank drop off point when Covid rules restricted us to only walking within our local area and other drop off points were forced to close.

As lock down regulations continue to ease, more and more of our community buildings, including our churches, have reopened. Yay! The availability of places to leave food items for the Conwy FoodBank has now increased, and therefore I am closing the drop off location in my porch (29 Roumania Drive) on June 25th.

Hopefully people will continue to give generously, and leave items in the box at church or other local drop off points. Items can also be taken direct to the food bank at Rhiw Road, Colwyn Bay, Mon – Fri, 10 – 2.

Thank you for the huge amount of donations given over the past 15 months, you really have made a difference.

Sue Weir

Sunday worship

This Sunday, 13th June, worship at St David’s, Craig y Don, is at 10am and at St John’s, Llandudno, at 11am. The service from St David’s will be livestreamed here (and available later as a recording). Worship at St David’s will be led by me, Rev Bev and worship at St John’s will be led by local preacher, Richard Butler.

The service at St David’s will be followed by the general church meeting. There will be a short break and then a new livestream will start so that people at home can share in the meeting (which will be very short).

For those not able to attend in worship in person or access the livestream worship, a text version of the service at St David’s is available below. It ties in with the general church meeting that follows. Note that the same service will be used at St John’s next Sunday (20th) because that is their general church meeting day.

Prayers for healing and wholeness

Today’s service of prayers for healing and wholeness takes place at St John’s, Llandudno, at 1.45pm and is led by Rev Chris Gray. The text of the service is available here for those who wish to join in from home.

‘My grace is sufficient for you,
For my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9)

In the ministry of Christ healing was a sign of the presence of God’s kingdom, bringing renewal and wholeness of life to those who turned to God in their need.  Jesus commissioned his disciples to proclaim the kingdom and heal the sick (Luke 9:2).  The Church believes that the healing power of Christ is exercised through medical and related professions, through faith and prayer, and the care of the Christian community. 

God desires wholeness for all people. We bring to God our frailty and brokenness  –  felt not only in physical illness, but in guilt, anxiety, and all the burdens which weigh us down.  We also bring our concerns for others and for the world. We come to God who knows our needs before we ask, and whose love revealed in Jesus Christ is stronger than suffering and death.

To start, take some time to bring yourself into an awareness of the presence of God. If it helps, imagine yourself sitting in your church alone, resting in the prayerful atmosphere.

Jesus said:  ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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 souls.’ Matt 11:28-30

Jesus said:  ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’ John 10:10

Loving God,
in whom all things are made whole,
you sent your Son our Saviour to heal a broken world.
Visit us with your salvation,
that we may be blessed in body, mind and spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
‘Anyone who comes to me I will never turn away.’ (John 6:37)

In the presence of God, let us confess our sins.

Lord Jesus, you came to reconcile us to God and to one another.
Lord Jesus, you heal the wounds of sin and division.
Lord Jesus, you offer us a new beginning.
Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

God is love.  Through Jesus our sins are forgiven.
Let us live in the power of the Spirit.  Amen.

Holy God, you give life to all;
you meet us in our need
and bring hope to those who look to you.
Give peace to our hearts and minds as we pray to you with confidence;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Reflection:

Romans 5: 1-8

In his letter to the Romans Paul explains to his readers and hearers the gospel, the good news of Jesus. In this particular chapter, chapter 5, Paul is talking about the death of Jesus and the significance of the cross. He stresses that Christ has died for us. Those who have faith in Jesus can now therefore have peace with God.

Paul is also wanting to encourage his readers. He has experienced enough suffering to know that persecution, distress and hardship may well be the norm for those who own the name of Jesus. So in verses 3 and 4 Paul stresses what he sees as the positive side of the experience of suffering:

“… we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)

I am sure that we can see what Paul is getting at. Many people do speak of suffering or hardship as being the making of them. I watched on television a couple of weeks ago a former Royal Marine and triple amputee, Mark Ormrod, swim a kilometre in Plymouth Sound to raise £400,000 for a charity that he helps to run which supports ex-servicemen who have been physically or psychologically traumatized. It was truly inspirational. This man had no legs and just one arm. His suffering had produced perseverance, character and hope in abundance.

Perhaps too we are reminded of someone like Nelson Mandela, whose years of imprisonment under the apartheid regime in South Africa did not produce bitterness or vengefulness, but an increased stature, authority and wisdom. Suffering can indeed produce perseverance, character and hope – for people of faith and, under God’s grace, for  people of little or no faith.

So Paul is encouraging his hearers in times of suffering. But what about those who struggle in their suffering? What about those who are simply ground down by it? Who cannot see any light in their darkness? Those for whom words about perseverance, character and hope just do not cut it? Is there anything else that can be said to them?

I have found these words from “Seeds of Hope” by Henri Nouwen, the Dutch Catholic priest and writer to be enormously helpful:

When we say, “Christ has died”, we express the truth that all human suffering in time and place has been suffered by the Son of God… There is no suffering – no guilt, shame, loneliness, hunger, oppression, or exploitation, no torture, imprisonment, or murder, no violence – that has not been suffered by God. There can be no human beings who are completely alone in their sufferings, since God, in and through Jesus, has become Emmanuel, God with us. The Good News of the gospel, therefore, is not that God came to take our suffering away, but that God wanted to become part of it.

So when Paul says in Romans 5:8 that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”, he is not only saying that Christ “paid the price” so that we can be redeemed. He is also saying that, whether we can rejoice in our sufferings or not, whether we feel in a pit of hopeless despair or not, whatever our circumstances, we do not have a God who is far off, but one who shares in our sufferings, who is with us in them.

And so we turn to pray for others who may need to know God’s healing in their lives or who may simply need to experience the comforting presence of God in whatever situation they are in.

………………..

We continue in prayer:

Christ our Saviour, born for us,
bring healing and peace to all people….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, baptized in the Jordan,
give hope to all who come to you….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, tested in the desert,
give courage to those who are tempted….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, who comforted and healed,
bring wholeness to all who are broken….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, who hung in agony on the cross,
bring strength to those who suffer….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, who died to save us,
give peace to all who face death….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, raised from the tomb,
bring light and life to all the world….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, present among your disciples,
unite all your people in love….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

We thank you, gracious God.
You have loved us from the beginning of time
and remembered us when we were in trouble.
Your mercy endures for ever.

We thank you, redeeming God.
You have come to us in Jesus Christ
to save us from our sins.
Your mercy endures for ever.

We thank you, holy God.
You have sent us your Spirit
to comfort us and lead us into all truth.
Your mercy endures for ever.

Gracious, redeeming and Holy God,
glory and praise be yours, now and for ever.  Amen

Together, let us bring to the Lord those for whom we have been asked to pray. You may well have others you wish to pray for too…

Peg T
Margaret B
David & Carolyn S
David B
Aidan J

We say the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples:

Our Father in Heaven
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil,
For the kingdom, the
power and the glory are yours,
now and for ever.  Amen

Almighty God,
you have made us for yourself
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.
Teach us to offer ourselves to your service,
that here we may have your peace,
and in the world to come we may see you face to face;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord look on you with kindness
and give you peace.  Amen.

Go in peace to rejoice in God’s love
and to reflect his glory.
May the Lord go with us and grant us the joy of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Some material included in this service is copyright © 1989 National Council of Churches USA

Some material included in this service is copyright ©1999 Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes

Wednesday Meditation

I (Rev Bev) am leading the meditation at St David’s at 11.30am this Wednesday (9th June). I particularly encourage you to come in person if you can for this session as it involves instructions and movement (in our seats). We are going to do Biblical Yoga!

Don’t worry, this is not some eastern religious or meditation method, it is simply a term used to describe a spiritual exercise discipline that has been developed and is in use at MHA Homes. Keith Tewkesbury told us about it at the Local Preachers’ meeting on Monday and I was really taken with the idea, so we are going to give it a go this Wednesday morning.

Come along and join us!

If you are unable to do so, here is what we are going to use. Join in from home if you can.

30 Days with the Gospel of Mark – Bible Month 2021

The discipleship groups are looking at the gospel of Mark, using the Bible Month materials. Elizabeth Pass is offering us her reflections as she goes through the resource. Thank you, Elizabeth.

Each year the Methodist Church chooses a book of the Bible for us all to focus on for a month (hence ’30 days with’) and this year the chosen book is the gospel of Mark. Many churches slot it into the month of June, although it can fit whichever month best suits them. Quite a number of people in our circuit have received a copy of the Bible Month booklet to guide us through the gospel so here are some thoughts from the first week’s readings, chapters 1-3.

These opening chapters are like a whirlwind! They whizz us through Jesus’s baptism, 40 wilderness days, the arrest of John the Baptist, the calling of the first disciples, healings galore, praying, first conflict with the Pharisees and scribes, becoming famous throughout the whole region (without the help of social media!) and concerns for his mental health from his family.

Kent Bower says in his booklet comment for week one, ‘In these chapters, Mark establishes Jesus’ identity and mission, and that of his followers.’ Here is the start of Mark’s account of the person and work of his Lord. The booklet poses an interesting question: ‘Who is Jesus to the people you live and work with?’ I wonder what you find amongst your family, friends, neighbours, colleagues?

Have you noticed, as we have, how much more often now in a TV drama – or in everyday conversation – the name of Jesus Christ is used for swearing? I don’t think that the person speaking is actually referring to Jesus as a person – for them it’s just a phrase. The name has become separated from the person. ‘Jesus’ is just an expletive.

Or maybe you’ve heard Jesus admired for his good works, morals and character. He’s someone whose ideals when followed make you a Christian.

‘What is your testimony about who Jesus is?’

You can’t help noticing in these opening gospel chapters that the reason the name of Jesus spread like wildfire was twofold. The number and effectiveness of the healings was remarkable, and what Jesus taught about himself and the Scriptures astounded listeners with its authority and power.

Here’s the challenge for me from chapters 1-3: I wonder what would cause the name of Jesus to spread like that along our coastline this year? Did you find yourself challenged by something in these chapters this week, and is it something you could share with us all to challenge or encourage us too?

This week we move on through chapters 4 – 8:22 entitled in Bible Month, ‘Mission and Boundaries’ which includes Mark’s first parable. The small group resource section invites us to consider four things as we read:

• Instruction: what does God want us to know?

• Thanksgiving: what in this story makes us grateful to the Lord?

• Confession: what encourages me to repent?

• Supplication: how do these passages encourage me to pray?

Be inspired!

All We Can – 2

Below is the second of Arline Griffiths’ blog posts on All We Can, the Methodist development and relief charity. Thanks for sharing this, Arline.

When I went to church a few weeks ago, I was asked by two people what my lapel brooch was, and was pleased to explain that this was the All We Can badge.  Based on Ecclesiastes 4:12, which in NIV reads, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three stands is not quickly broken,” it represents the change that occurs when we all work together.  It consists of three coloured strands, one each of green, red and blue, which join together to become one energetic yellow strand – visually demonstrating that when people across the globe pool their collective energies, enthusiasm, talents and skills, real transformation can occur.

The ribbon is symbolic of a movement of people committed to walking alongside their global neighbours in love, solidarity and support. It sends a vital message – that people are not alone in their struggle against poverty and injustice, and that we are there, standing alongside them, working together to inspire lasting change.

This badge is typically sent to anyone that signs up as an All Together Regular Giver – part of the movement of people who make a regular gift to All We Can, enabling them to commit to long term support for our local partners working in some of the world’s most marginalised communities.   In addition to the badge, Givers are sent regular updates of the projects currently in hand, and the uniting ribbon logo flows across each page of the report.  Naturally, “one-off” donations are equally eagerly accepted.

You can find more about All We Can here.

Sunday worship

Hi everyone, I’m just back from almost two weeks’ holiday and have just written tomorrow’s worship service. I’m sorry it’s later than usual for those who usually give out printed copies.

The theme of the service is “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) and we also have Holy Communion.

For those joining us from home, here is the link to the service, which will be livestreamed at 10am (available as a recording later in the day).

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash