And a reminder…

For those of you planning to attend worship this Sunday, the new Wales’ Government regulations are now in force and you must wear a face-covering whilst in church, including during worship. This is, of course, in addition to the existing rules re social distancing, cleaning of hands, etc.

I thought you might like to see the view in our back garden at the moment…

Sunday Worship

This Sunday’s worship is led by me, Rev Bev Ramsden, on the theme of “The Fall” (autumn to those of us not in the US, nothing to do with Adam and Eve.) It is our harvest service.

Photo by Oliver Hihn on Unsplash

Services will be held at 10am at St David’s, Craig y Don, and 11am at St John’s, Llandudno. The service will also be live-streamed at 10am – you can find it here.

For those needing the text of the service, it can be found here.

Our charity this year is our local Conwy Food Bank. Donations of dried and tinned foodstuffs can be dropped off at either church at Sunday worship or to Sue Weir’s house, 29 Roumania Drive, Craig y Don. Donations of money can also be made at church or via me.

Loving yourself and this beautiful world

This is the fourth and final of Rev David Ray’s reflections on the Desiderata. You can find the third, last Friday 11th September, the second Friday 4th September and the first on 8th August. Thank you, David, for these helpful reflections.

Inmates who had become used to prison life were the ones who troubled me most. It seemed to me that if those in prison became too institutionalised they would struggle with life on the outside when they were released. Inmates who spent much of their energy ‘fighting the system’ had a rough time in prison. On the other hand, a certain unease about their environment protected them from becoming too comfortable with a way of life that was unreal.

Even more troubling were chaplains for whom prison became their whole world. Barry was one of my full-time colleagues in the chaplaincy team who worried me the most. All he could talk about was prison. He didn’t seem to have a life beyond the four thick walls. One day he was particularly stressed and so I decided to take him on one side and chat with him. “Barry” I said, “why don’t you and your wife go out together on your day off and jump in puddles?” I went on to explain that my wife Zoya and I did just that to get away from the pressures of ministry. By ‘jumping in puddles’ I meant getting out of the routine and doing simple child-like things. Barry listened and was very kind to me in seeming to accept what I was saying.

Imagine my utter surprise when 2 or 3 years later Barry and his wife came up to me at his farewell party and said, “Thank you, you have no idea of how your ‘jumping in puddles’ suggestion has changed our life”.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

The Desiderata says, ‘Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself’.

Why do we always think that selfishness is bad? It isn’t. There are times when we need to be selfish in order to literally save ourselves from cracking up.

I am a great believer in what I call, ‘cream cake moments’. Many times during my ministry I have encouraged others to be gentle with themselves and go out and do something purely for themselves in order to find some relief from the pressures they are experiencing.

So, if you are becoming overwhelmed by these strange times we are living through, let me encourage you to be selfish and go out and ‘jump in puddles’.

If you are troubled by this idea let me remind you of what Jesus said, “The second commandment is this, love your neighbour as yourself”. Surely that means that you cannot love others unless you love yourself. Looking after yourself is part of that loving.

This brings me to one of my favourite phrases in The Desiderata.

I wonder how many of you wake up in the morning and plan what you are going to do in the day. If you are like me, you may even get up and make a list of the things you plan to do. Then, in the evening, as you review the day, you look at the list and the things that jump out at you are the tasks that are not ticked off. At this point you could get really upset with yourself, or you could wisely take to heart these words of the Desiderata: ‘Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans’.

Look at the list again and relish thoughts of what you have done and then, if you are so minded, start a new list for tomorrow with the things not done. And then sleep like a baby!

The Desiderata ends with the words: ‘With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.’

Sometimes we are consumed with the sham, drudgery and broken dreams that litter the world and blind us to the fact that we live in a beautiful world. There are so many passages in the Bible that I could point you towards to illustrate this – let me give you two suggestions. How about reading the lovely story of Ruth in the Old Testament that speaks of the beauty of human relationships? Or how about Psalm 104 that tells of the wonder of the created world? Read and enjoy.

God bless you.

Loving God, thank you for loving me. I know that I am precious to you, accepted and forgiven just as I am. Help me to love, accept and forgive myself.

Caring God, help me to live my life to the full, appreciating what I am able to achieve and not be weighed down by those things that threaten to defeat me.

Creator God, as I look around at the wonderful world that surrounds me, may its beauty, along with the love of others, feed me and fill me with joy and thanksgiving.

I ask these prayers in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Prayers for Healing and Wholeness

At 1.45pm today a service of prayers for healing and wholeness will be held at St John’s, Llandudno, led by Richard Butler. The service is also available here online for those who cannot attend in person. Thank you, Richard, for the reflection shared in this service.

‘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:

Today we can meet together to share in prayer and worship for healing and wholeness, we live in strange, even frightening times; not knowing what the terrible virus will throw at us next, or what new and sometimes difficult to understand rules and regulations are imposed on us. We are here together to share in Gods wonderful peace; our reading is from Mark 10:46-52.

I think the story of Bartimaeus is an incredible one; Jesus with his disciples and we are told a really large crowd were leaving Jericho.   There in the dirt and dust of the roadside was a blind beggar; Bartimaeus.   He had been in the same horrible roadside conditions for many years we are told; relying on the goodness of passers by to give him food or money to sustain him!

Bartimaeus must have heard many stories about Jesus, because as soon as he heard Jesus mentioned he was up on his feet shouting “Son of David have compassion, have mercy on me”.   The crowd around him told him to shut up; be quiet Jesus didn’t have time to bother with him. Instead of shutting up, he shouted lauder, so loud that his voice was above the noise the crowd was making. Jesus heard him calling; he stopped stood still and looked around him, then said call him to me.   At this the crowd now changed; they called out to him, get up he is calling you.   Bartimaeus picked his way through the big crowd until he was stood in front of Jesus. All those years of total darkness without the hope of ever being like everyone else ; being able to see the world around him; flashing through his confused mind, here at last was his only chance to be like everyone else, but Jesus didn’t just heal him, first he asked Bartimaeus what do you want me to do for you?

At this Bartimaeus spoke up, please teacher let me be able to see. Jesus then warned him; if you are able to see, you will no longer be able to sit and beg, indeed no one will give you anything, food, money, instead you will have to work to get what at the moment is given to you freely.

Bartimaeus had no doubts of what he wanted , to be able to see would be everything that he ever wanted. Jesus said “go” your faith has made you well; immediately he was able to see. He looked at Jesus; indeed he wanted to follow him! He looked at this incredible young man who had made him see.

What must his emotions have been like, gratitude; joy; feeling of euphoria, all these things going round his head; and looking around him he could see trees, people, wonders of all kinds we all take for granted. Jesus didn’t even touch him; faith; he said, your faith has made you well.

It is through that faith and belief in Jesus we need to look too, through that faith all things become possible. By spending time in prayer, we can close our minds to all that is going on around us, in moments of quiet we get the comfort of feeling close to God, the calm we feel helps us to cope with the many trials we are faced with in our world today.

The Holy Spirit works in ways we cannot understand, but it still is working in our world today and everyday, Jesus said it would, the same Jesus who changed a blind beggars life, can help each one of us.

Bartimaeus had hope when he heard Jesus name; hope he didn’t have before, it gave him the answer to his future life.

We have that same help today, at the name of Jesus things can change, spend time in prayer; tell him your worries, your fears.

Healing comes in many different ways, when I worked as a lay worker ; a lady I knew and visited, she was elderly and in hospital ; was taken to a care home, given just a few weeks to live, prayers were said, she knew we were praying for her, she lived for nearly 4 more years, in that time she told everyone in the care home people were praying for her, she then shared prayers with others in that home, how many began to have faith and comfort in Jesus I do not know, but to me the atmosphere in the home changed, there was hope there that was not there before, the lady became part of their world, Jesus became part of their everyday lives.

Prayer still works in our world now, and it always will.  Amen

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….

Peg T
Dafydd W
Margaret B
David & Carolyn S
David B
Eva D

Take some time now to bring your concerns to God. If it helps, try saying them out loud. Feel yourself held in God’s safe hands.

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
Date of latest revision: March 2019

Wednesday Meditation

This week’s meditation is shared with us by Rev David Ray. Thank you, David, for this.

Whilst walking along the promenade at West Shore recently my wife Zoya and I were struck by what was written on the back of a woman’s T-shirt. She was sitting looking out to sea and that enabled us to read the words. I asked her if Zoya could photograph the words and make a note of the author and she very kindly agreed to our doing this – she even told us where we could buy the T-shirt!

These are the words we read:

If you only carry one thing throughout your entire life, let it be hope.
Let it be hope that better things are always ahead.
Let it be hope that you can get through even the toughest of times.
Let it be hope that you are stronger than any challenge that comes your way.
Let it be hope that you are exactly where you are meant to be right now,
and that you are on the path to where you are meant to be,
because during these times, hope will be the very thing that carries you through.
Nikki Banas.

Zoya and I were greatly helped by these words. We read them a few days after Zoya’s mother had had a severe stroke.

When we got home I said to Zoya, “I feel a reflection coming on”. And this it is.

Please read: Romans 8:18-27

In this passage we experience Paul reaching one of the highest points of his letter to the Romans with the news that God will heal the world and fill it with love and beauty. Paul paints a vivid word picture of the whole of creation in labour, longing for God’s new world to be born.

Paul says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”. Hope.

Paul says, “We, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as children of God”. Hope.

Paul says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. Hope

Paul goes on to say that this is not a dream – it’s a promise. God’s commitment to his covenant faithfulness means that one day he will put the whole world right according to his original plan.

That plan calls for human beings to take their place under God and over the world, worshipping the creator and exercising glorious stewardship over the world. God has not abandoned that plan.

This is not pie in the sky – it’s a positive, hopeful, world affirming view and within it God’s believing children – that’s us – are longing for the time when all will be fully and finally redeemed.

We may groan and sigh now because we are living in the tension between the glorious promise and the present reality. But we have hope – a hope that, like faith, is not seen – but is certain none the less. Groaning and waiting eager but patient is the right and characteristic Christian stance.

The final scene in the Bible in the Book of Revelation is not of Christians escaping from this world and going to ‘heaven’, but of the new Jerusalem renewing both heaven and earth and joining them together in a great act of healing. But we don’t have to wait passively until that day. God has already begun the project. When Jesus died on the cross, he defeated the powers of evil that keep the world enslaved to injustice and oppression. His resurrection launched the new creation. We live in the time between the beginning of that work and its glorious completion. God wants us to share in the task here and now.

There is one God, and he is the creator and redeemer of the whole world. What God did for Jesus at Easter he will do for the whole world. Those who love God, whose hearts are renewed by his Spirit, are called to work in the present time so that the powers who think they run the planet will be confronted with the joyful, exuberant, justice-bringing news that Jesus Christ is Lord.

My friends we are called to share the pain of the world and to share with the world our Christian hope. This is part of our calling, our high but important role within God’s purpose for his new creation.

God bless you.

Prayer:
Loving God, may we build our hopes on you. Though you may not prevent the storms, we ask that you will keep us firm within them.

God of Hope, you have given us the rainbow as a symbol of your faithfulness. In its colours, you have shown us the variety of human life.

The span of the rainbow between heaven and earth, reminds us that our hopes for the future are founded on your grace. Give us the faith to trust and hope in you.

Lord, hope is like oxygen to our lungs, increase our capacity to receive it and share it with others and celebrate, with thanksgiving and praise, your care, faithfulness and love.  We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday Worship

Just to let you know that last Sunday’s worship is now online. You can find it here.

Next Sunday is Harvest: 10am St David’s, Craig y Don, and 11am St John’s, Llandudno. And live-streamed, all being well.

All attendees in church will have to wear face coverings (three-layer ones). This rule applies to the leaders of worship too, so it is going to be an interesting experience for us all.

Our charity this year is the Conwy Food Bank. Donations of food and money can be made at each church. Thank you.

Listening and Valuing

This is the third of Rev David Ray’s reflections on the Desiderata. You can find the second last Friday 4th September and the first on 8th August. The fourth and final one will appear here next Friday 18th.

From ‘The Desiderata’, which you can find here.

When I was in active ministry and moved appointments I likened the experience to falling into a big hole. Leaving an area where you knew so many people in the church and community and going to a new place where you knew nobody was a daunting experience.

However, when arriving in a new place, I would look forward to finding some notes, left by my predecessor, telling me about the area, the churches and the people. Sometimes this information was sketchy and not as helpful as I would have liked but, at other times, it was very comprehensive.

I remember one comment particularly. The main church I was to look after had a Women’s Fellowship meeting every week with a membership of about 40 people. The previous minister gave me the details of the day and time of the meeting and who the contact person was and then he said something which really surprised me. He said, “Do not write these ladies off”!

What a strange thing for a minister to say, I thought. As Christians surely we should not be ‘writing anybody off’. Anticipating a meeting of 40 women of mature years, I got really excited. I reflected on the accumulated wisdom within this group. As a young man in his early thirties I thought about how much I could learn from these women.

And I did. Over the next few years, as I listened to them over tea and biscuits at the end of their meetings and when I visited them in their homes, I gathered really useful ‘stuff’ about life and faith.

The Desiderata says:

‘Listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.’

The women in the group I wrote about above were anything but dull and ignorant, but how easily we can miss out if we are not prepared to listen to other people’s stories and learn from them.

In another place the Desiderata has these wise words:

‘If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.’

Whenever I read these words I remember the sketch performed by John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett on the David Frost show. I wonder if you remember it.

It starts like this:

Cleese: (in bowler hat, black jacket and pinstriped trousers) I look down on him (indicates Barker) because I am upper-class.

Barker: (pork-pie hat and raincoat) I look up to him (Cleese) because he is upper-class; but I look down on him (Corbett) because he is lower-class. I am middle-class.

Corbett: (cloth cap and muffler) I know my place. I look up to them both. But I don’t look up to him (Barker) as much as I look up to him (Cleese), because he has got innate breeding.

The sketch is about class, but it is also about the dangers of comparing yourself with other people. As Christians we should try to avoid this, because we believe that all people are made in the image of God and that means we are all of equal importance to him.

Jesus is our yardstick and so, if we are ever tempted to look up to or down on others we should reflect on how we are doing when we compare ourselves to the way Jesus lived and loved.

As I bring these two phrases together from the Desiderata this week I want to encourage you to reflect on the importance of listening to others. Listening is not always easy, but it is something positive we can do so that our family and friends feel valued.

Valuing people also involves accepting them as they are. This is something else that is not easy. There is a danger in human relationships that we compare ourselves to others and this usually ends up making us either proud or demoralised. Be yourself and allow others to do the same – and love them.

God bless you.

Prayer
Loving God, thank you for other people.
Forgive me when I take them and their love for me for granted.
Help me to value those close to me for who they are, giving them the time and the care that they need.
As I listen to them and their stories help me to understand them better, accepting, forgiving and loving them more.
I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Discipleship Groups

I hope to restart discipleship groups in October – two as actual meetings (socially distanced and managed of course and regulations allowing) and one on the blog. The meetings are planned as follows:

Starting Wednesday 7th October, fortnightly 2.30pm in St John’s church hall.
Starting Wednesday 14th October, fortnightly 7.30pm in St David’s upper coffee lounge.
I will aim for each session to last no more than an hour.

I’m not sure when the blog version will fit in best but probably fortnightly starting Friday 16th October, so that I can include any helpful comments from the two live groups.

The theme will be prayer and the five sessions will cover:
Life: prayer as relationship,
Joy: prayer as enjoying God,
Light: prayer as listening,
Wholeness: prayer as honesty,
Love: prayer as care.

The series is based on Robert Warren and Kate Bruce’s book “Life Source – a five session course on prayer.” You can find it here.

Numbers at the meetings will be limited so I need to know if you are planning to come along. Please can you let me know by email or as a comment from this blog which session you plan to attend. That will help me organise the space and the worksheets in a safe way.

I look forward to engaging in conversation with at least some of you on this foundational faith theme.