One of my children’s soft toys has been looking a little worse for wear lately. Indeed it is getting so bad that she decided to take matters into her own hands. She ‘subtlety’ affixed a sticky post-it to the toy with the words ‘Repair me!’ Okay, we get the picture!!
Those words, ‘repair me’ are something as a Christian which represent my daily conversations with God but maybe they also sum up the times we are in at the moment. Maybe they even express the words that should speak to our hearts in these turbulent days.
As the news has constantly being reported on the outbreak and the effects of the Coronovirus over the past days and weeks. In the midst of the struggle and the difficulty there have been slight moments of positivity, stories to warm our hearts. A recent article on the BBC looked at the water in Venice and found that as the boats have stopped so the people have begin to see that the waters have become clearer. Alongside that they have begin to see fish again!
Also reports have been circulating that as China has tragically been caught up in the difficulties so too they have seen a fall in air pollution. There are clearer skies and better air to breathe. So too the people have begin to hear the birds singing again.
As the people remain stuck in their houses, we have witnessed singing in the windows as Italian people joined in their National Anthem and embraced their identity and togetherness.
As we have been forced to slow down, to refrain from much of what makes up our everyday lives is it possible that we have found more of the free time (some of us) that we have always sought?, Is there now a greater chance to spend time with children, a greater urge to stay in contact and connect with more people? While we certainly wouldn't want what is happening to us now and this won’t be good for everyone - is this nevertheless an opportunity while it lasts to consider in our thoughts and prayers the words, ‘Repair me’.
What is there about our way of life that we can now see is so fragile that need fixing. What are the relationships that need repair, how are the communities we live in broken and damaged? Who are the isolated and the lonely that we now need to speak to and take notice of. Is this a moment for many of our towns and cities and people in them to see what needs changing.
And so is this a time in our solitude and the increasing need to ‘social (physical) distance’ from one another the perfect moment to find the time to ‘repair’ our relationship with God. Is this a time to make our homes a place of retreat and prayer? Is this a time to start a plan to read the Bible all the way through, or to set a plan to pray for the people we know? Is this the time to learn to pray? Is it a time to focus on what is the most important that we now realise we miss.
Is this a time where as ask God, ‘Repair me’ and finally even in these dark moments to take the opportunity to make it happen!
When we met together on the 8th July we asked each group to write their own psalm inspired by the past year together! Here is what they came up with.....
O Lord You are, praise be the hope of heaven and salvation for you save us.
When life is difficult and you forgive us
When life is good you give us your mercy, your love, your goodness through all our days.
you bless us god
You are the greatest artist
We look around at creation and see the awe and majesty of your hands
You make all things beautiful
Lord you are an awesome God
who loves me just as I am
When darkness comes you comfort us
and let us enjoy what we have.
Oh Lord you are
With us all the time
In everything we do and say
You are all around us while we play
When we are afraid you are near
O Lord you take away all our fears
You are my hope in you I trust
You are my friend
You are my Saviour
You God are my everything
Oh loving god I care for thee
For making me whole and free
I see thee as all divine
Into my life you make all things sublime
Thank you Lord for always being with me
I call out to you in my pain and in my pleasure
For you are my loving Father
My trust is in you
Praise the Lord in everything
All you create is good
You are holy, pure and merciful
Forgive us when we stray
We are your children in the good times and the bad
Let all the world hear the praise that we sing
Let them see the Lord through the homage we bring
Very often we hear that Christmas is not the same as it used to be!
Certainly now being a grown-up (most of the time) it is different than in my younger days. The choice of presents has changed. The quantity of presents has changed. The choice of presents has now changed too.
But I wonder if our children and grandchildren will be saying exactly the same thing when they are older? Have we seen a genuine change or is it just a natural response to the changes we have lived and living through?
Whatever our view on this subject maybe we can agree that the true meaning of Christmas is all about Jesus. That has always been the case and always will be however we change. Maybe this proves that it’s just ourselves that has changed and we yearn more than ever for some sense of a story to re-enter our Christmas experience.
So then we are left with another question.
How can we put more Christmas back into Christmas?
And some more questions to think about (and maybe respond to)?
What are the special memories of your Christmas days as child? What will you be doing to make this Christmas be more significant and meaningful than ever before?
How do keep talking about Christmas and celebrate it every year but still keep it fresh and relevant?
The festivities may be over but it will be a question that will be at the heart of every Church leader up and down the country and beyond, including everyone here at Cafe church at some point this year!
We could try a number of approaches to this.
Maybe to look at the nativity in greater detail and see if we have missed anything from before. Stories always give us something new each time we look at them.
We could also try to see the story from the perspective of the different characters. What did a Shepherd feel like, what about Mary, or Joseph, or what about the animals (many school nativities have done this one – bumblebee anyone?).
Alternatively we could set the story in the modern day and ask what it might look like today?.
an alternative option may be to just step back and see the bigger picture? Ask ourselves as we embrace the story: Why is this happening?
Throughout much of last year and continuing into this, we at Riverbank Cafe Church have been going through the ‘Bible in 50 words’. Some easy and some not so (‘Saul peaked’ a bit tricky!!!). One of the great things about this way of looking at the Bible is it helps us to see all the stories together – The Big Picture!
Maybe we need to step back and say why do we need Jesus? Why in a poor family and humble circumstances is a baby coming as a great King and Saviour?
Maybe because when we look at our big picture we will always need someone willing to make themselves vulnerable for others, even at great cost to themselves. Someone who finds humility even in a place of great status. Someone who reminds us a kingdom is there for the least as well as the greatest. Someone who will inspire us in a story that makes us think about family and being part of a single humanity.
These are questions not for just for Christmas time but for life!
We all have a story, which makes us who we are and part of a family and community. At the start of this new series we looked at ourselves and our community by thinking about our own traditions we implement at Christmas and the gifts we received and whether we knew our neighbours.
Here’s another story which caught our imagination
St. Andrew’s Church Congsresbury in Somerset (see picture) has celebrated 800 random acts of kindness one to mark each year since the parish church was founded.
The project was part of its 800 birthday celebrations.
Kind acts were recorded anonymously on cards posted into a good deeds box and ranged from: Delivering aid to refugees in Calais to telling someone they were special.
The organiser said “It didn’t matter how large or small the act was, it was the fact someone took the time to help another person.”
Well Cafe curch has an ongoing story! Who do we think we are?
Riverbank Cafe Church started in March 2006 and so is 10years old in March 2016. We have different chairs than when we started, 50% more people and three meetings together and not one!
so as part of our anniversary celebrations we wondered if the story of St.Andrews could help us celebrate ours? So we asked.
Q1. What is an act of random Kindness and how does it make us feel?
Answers included: Something out of the ordinary, can be spontaneous or actively going out of our way to do something. There is no pay back, it’s free. It’s about connecting with people. It makes us feel glad and valued and probably makes the giver feel good too. Creating community is one of our values and all the small acts of kindness add up to something bigger , which makes our community stronger and better and there is something good and godly about it.
Q2. How could we as part of our 10th Birthday Celebrations make a similar project work in Moss Bank?
Answers included: all try for 10 acts by our birthday – record and share. Open the idea up to the wider community for them to record acts of kindness done to them. Observe and record acts of kindness done by other cafe church members. Record acts of kindness we receive.
We will post on here all the acts that we hear of.
Usually when we think of miracles we have thoughts of the dramatic, or lack thereof? You may or may not have witnessed this but you and I can very often be witnesses without giving it such a name.
I remember in childhood as both my parents were caught up in the Miner’s Strike in the 1980s. For a number of months they had very little income in which to pay the bills and feed two children (my sister and I). Not only that but very quickly on the horizon it was going to be Christmas. What were they going to do? I remember the conversation (even though it is thirty years ago!) when they sat my sister and I down to tell us that we may not get very much that year. Incredibly over those months we survived on the generosity of the local Church and also relative through food parcels, donations, and odd jobs. When Christmas arrived I came down stairs to find all these wrapped up presents that had been donated by those people – it was my favourite Christmas Day ever! It was a miracle time for me.
I remember at the birth of our child many years later and watching as the morning after birth she was taken in to theatre at Alder Hey Children’s hospital for surgery. It was a very surreal experience but the whole process, including all the care afterwards reminded me of the incredible miracle of life that we can take for granted until its security and comfort is seemingly threatened. In this ‘miracle’ story I will always remember one or two of the staff who looked after this baby (as they do others) with all the care as if it was their own. Another miracle!
Every day when we wake up and go outside there are miracles surrounding us. We never give our surrounding environment, or even the air we breathe much thought but a miracle it is. As sometimes God grants us the privilege to share in ‘supernatural’ miracles, God sometimes gives us the ‘privilege’ of seeing the ‘miracles’ that take place all the time.
What are the miracles that surround you?
How do we know it’s Christmas?
One way might be the adverts on TV although that might mean Christmas now starts in October. Or maybe it is certain adverts such as the Coca Cola one (it certainly makes me think of Christmas) or maybe the now celebrated John Lewis adverts. This year of course it is all about Monty the Penguin and I’m certain there will be a few Penguin soft toys around after Christmas.
Many speculate as to why the John Lewis adverts work so well and one of the main reasons put forward is that it has very little to do with what it is advertising but that it just catches people’s attention and gets them talking. At the heart of the message though is this desire for companionship as the Monty the Penguin wishes he too could find ‘real love’. Yes, it is a little sentimental but it is a lovely advert!
The other way we might know it is Christmas is the introduction of the new Band Aid song to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Clearly it will be no 1 this Christmas and will raise a significant amount towards helping people suffering from horrible effects of the Ebola virus. Clear too is that it is not the greatest song ever written but it asks another important question, ‘Do they know it’s Christmas..
So when is it Christmas?
The answer possibly is that we need to be reminded that it is about being Christmas everyday (maybe the Wizzard song was an inspired one – or maybe not!). Reminding ourselves that Christmas is about Christ with us and Christ with others. Maybe too we truly know it is Christmas when others see and feel Christ in and through us. The Band Aid song changed the famous lyric from ‘feed the world’ to ‘feel the world’ but maybe Jesus has always been about both and more.
What is Christmas to you? And just as importantly how do you know it is Christmas?
At Cafe church 26th January we looked at some principles of Celtic Worship. Each ‘table’ had a go at writing a blessing. The following is what we came up with.
FOR EACH NEW DAY
May the sunshine of God’s face look upon you each day. Leave your old baggage in God’s hands. Take God’s new clothing with you every day.
May you be blessed walking with God in the environment today.
Keep our families fit and well. May our friendship spread to people we know and expect to meet.
Thank-you for all the blessings of our families and the love we share.
May we bless God for friends. May we never be without them and never be in isolation. May we always know the company of friends, their love, their prayers, their understanding, their patience. May Moss Bank Mission continue to be a place of blessing, company and friendship and the place of meeting and being together, the making of new friends, hobbies and activities and the place of meeting God in all we do.
In the depths of your sorrow God is with you and alongside you catching your tears. Be comforted by Christ for he has died to take awayall grief and pain.
May the wild goose of change breathe on you and blow away your sadness.
Place in God’s kingdom every day, everyone, every situation. Know Acceptance, Contentment. Enjoy the moment.
This is my selfie.
Now I have something in common with Obama, Cameron and that other person who insisted on taking a picture of the three of them and caused more attention than she bargained for.
It is funny that so many people took offense at this picture being taken (allegedly – surely the press would not exaggerate a reaction). Do they not realise that this was not a funeral but a memorial service, an act of celebration of a life worth honouring. They must also have missed the ‘vuvuzela’s’ going off and the singing. All though I have never met him I get the impression he would not have minded!
Another picture that also appeared though and got some news from that event was far more profound. It was this one. President Obama shaking hands with the Paul Castro, President of Cuba. The first U.S. President to do so in public for fifty years (the last time it was behind closed doors and they denied it happened). It was only a small gesture but an incredible one in significance and so fitting for the event.
In just that moment it told me that Obama gets it. He may or may not fully understand the lessons from the MandelA story or bring about a lasting change but he clearly gets the lesson of Mandela/South Africa in all its imperfections is one of grace and forgiveness and how that only comes from one’s own selfie!
It’s interesting that this picture was quickly overshadowed by a ‘selfie’ and a man waving his arms about in a random fashion – for a genuine reason or not. Is it maybe that the world can’t get grace even when it is before their eyes! The transforming effect through God doesn’t really make sense? Maybe we struggle to truly honour it because it points too much to our own ‘selfie’?
Christmas however (Christ with us) may be should inspire us not to look at ourselves too much and become so absorbed in our time that we point everything at our self but instead we turn our focus the other way around. Pointing the camera the wrong way round may miss the main event!
Have a lovely Christmas and God’s grace be with you and inspire you to a New Year!
why cafe church?
Riverbank Café Church was, in many ways, a natural development within a community of people who had engaged with one another for many years.
They had enjoyed social events, arts and crafts, gala days, musical evenings, formal church services and much more.
A group of these folk had met for some years as a house group as part of a cell church and this core of people were the nucleus of what was to become Café Church.
Riverbank Café Church started seven years ago and is attended by about thirty to forty people who have had either very much
or very little previous connection with established church.
The focus has constantly been upon taking the opportunity to further develop relationships with one another within an easy going framework where God is the centre.
Journeys of faith are chatted about in a true café setting. Good quality tea, coffee and delicious pastries are available the whole time.
It’s been tricky trying to discover ways in which faith can be expressed without defaulting to “let’s sing a hymn” or “let’s have some ‘proper’ prayers” It’s actually very spiritually energising to consider the Christian life without defaulting to the well worn clichés that died-in-the-wool-evangelicals like me can trot out with hardly any thought at all.
Maybe Riverbank is great for anyone who’s just jaded with standard church or else someone who is new to all this “God” stuff and wants to explore further….with coffee in one hand and a Danish Pastry in the other!!!!!