Archive for October, 2015

And the Word was God

Posted: October 26, 2015 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

On Sunday evening, we started a new series in response to the results of the Know Do Be activity we did last month. (If you don’t know what that is, you can read a little about it here.) One of the key things that came out of that was the importance of prayer, so we thought we would build to that by first thinking about who it is we pray to.

We started then by thinking about God, and most particularly the idea that he is revealed in Jesus. There is rumour of a video covering the main points, so this won’t be a complete summary but rather a brief reflection.

The thing that struck me most when comparing the list of characteristics we believed God must possess and the list of qualities we recognised in Jesus, was how similar they were in spite of differences in language.

We said that God was mysterious, and that Jesus was perplexing and unpredictable.

We said that God was just and engaged, and that Jesus was an activist.

We said that God was relational and responsive, and that Jesus acted with passion and compassion.

We said that God was wise, and that Jesus was a prophet and a teacher.

We said that God was queer because he didn’t fit our categories, and that Jesus was challenging and nonconformist.

We said that God was good and loving, and that Jesus gave dignity and healing.

I hope you can see the similarities between those ideas, as Jesus takes the big words we ascribe to God and shows us what they look like in our small world.

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about Christmas as I’ve started planning carol services, and the idea that God stepped out of heaven and into history never loses its power. In fact the truth of it only becomes more powerful as we look to the life of Jesus, and see all the wonder of God come to touch our lives.

Nowhere is the great mystery of this captured quite as beautifully as in the prologue to the fourth gospel, so that is what I will leave you with.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being which has come into being. In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not take hold of it.

The Importance of Sabbath

Posted: October 20, 2015 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

I learnt a very important lesson yesterday.

In terms of time spent working and studying, last week was somewhat busier than usual, and I somehow managed to spread everything out so that I didn’t have a single day off. I wasn’t too concerned about that when I was looking at my schedule last Monday, and I got to the end of it reasonably okay.

But then things fell apart yesterday morning, when a series of minor disasters, all of which could easily have been avoided if I’d been rested enough to have been properly on the ball, meant that I missed college.

I was really frustrated with myself, but on reflection I think it was just what I needed. The unexpected day off let me catch up on all the things I should have done on the day off I should have allowed myself last week, not least important of which was getting some proper rest.

It also reminded me of the need for regular downtime. Jenni Entrican spoke about this at my welcome service, and I promise I was listening, but I thought one busy week couldn’t hurt, and so I filled up my hours regardless.

The truth is that a lot of the time one busy week won’t hurt, and sometimes it can’t be avoided, but I think I needed this timely reminder that I need to take rest seriously and protect it as much as I can, or I could very easily have kept going and let Jenni’s words become nothing more than a nice idea.

I suspect we all need that reminder every now and then, because we all fill up the time and the energy we have, but we all need to rest and rest well, by which I mean without anxiety about what we could or should be doing.

Rest will likely mean something different for each of us, but that is why it is so important that we find out what it looks like for us, what it is that we need.

Sometimes that might mean saying no to things, even things we feel we need or want to say yes to. Sometimes it might mean making quite dramatic decisions, trusting that it is better to be well than to be busy. And sometimes it might mean learning new rhythms of rest, finding new ways of sustaining ourselves.

As the title of this blog post probably gave away, I couldn’t talk about rest without talking about sabbath.

In Exodus 31:15, just before he hands over the tablets of the covenant, God declares that “the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord”. And in Mark 2:27, when sabbath observance has become something of a drag, Jesus reminds his followers that “the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath”.

God tells us to build rest into the pattern of our lives, not because he wants to spoil our fun, but because he knows that it is what we need, in order to renew our minds and our bodies and our focus on him. That is why the day is not just good but holy.

And interestingly, when Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”, the Greek for ‘give rest’ is related to the Greek for ‘sabbath’, and it is also the root of our word ‘pause’.

Ultimately then, we find our sabbath in Jesus, as we walk with him and pause with him. And so I will end with some of the lyrics to a favourite song of mine, which you can also listen to if you click the link.

Come all you weary, come gather round near me, find rest for your souls.

Surviving Revive

Posted: October 13, 2015 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

I explained a few weeks ago that I have recently joined Revive as the new minister in training, and I shared a little last week about how warmly embraced I have felt ever since arriving. Well Sunday was my official welcome service, and it was a great blessing which really put the icing on the cake. (No pun intended, although there was a joyous amount cake there!)

As part of the service I was given my very own Revive Survival Kit, a wonderful array of items which contained clues about the nature of the community I have joined, and tools to help me get through the next three years. It was a great beginners guide to Revive, so I thought it might be a good insight for those of you who have stumbled across us and are wondering what we might be like.

So, here is the REVIVE SURVIVAL KIT…

Revive CDs A few years back, Revive recorded some of their own music, and I’m listening to one of the albums as I write this. Emma described it on Sunday as worship in a minor key, and I wholeheartedly agree that it is important to acknowledge the minor keys in our lives, and worship from where we are and not where we think we’re meant to be.

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals This is a book which takes the ancient tradition of daily prayer and presents it afresh. Revive may do things a little differently, but there is value in the old (Jeremiah 6:16) as well as the new (Isaiah 43:19). And I understand that a number of memebrs of Revive use this pattern of prayer, so it’s a wonderful way of walking as community even when we are apart.

Decaf Earl Grey Teabags This is the tea of choice for Revive, perhaps because we meet in the evenings, when too much caffeine would be inadvisable. I’m not sure I’ll convince my husband to get on board with this, but I rather like it.

Clock This is no ordinary clock, as it has an extra hand labeled ‘revive time’. We don’t have the best reputation for timekeeping, but then I’m pretty sure the entire Baptist Union runs on a different time zone.

Recipe for Guinness Cake Another Revive favourite. I managed to grab a slice on Sunday and it was delicious, so now I have to learn to bake it…

Ordnance Survey Map for Yorkshire Dales I’m told Revive loves a good walk, and having just moved from the Gateway to the Dales, I know there aren’t many better.

Breakfast With God Not a full English in a box, but a book by our very own Simon Hall. The blurb says it will help me see God at work without offering answers that are too simplistic. That sounds like a good motto for teaching at Revive.

Bubble Bath Because sometimes I’ll need a break. A church that values the importance of rest sounds good to me.

Notebook and Pen By their own admission, Revive hasn’t always been the most organised. I on the other hand am pretty sure I’ve dreamt in spreadsheets, so I’m hoping I can bring just the right amount of structure, without changing the shape of what is already here.

Tissues Necessary for the women’s prayer group, I am told. That speaks to me of a willingness to be open and vulnerable, and to cry with one another. That is an important thing to find in a community.

Frozen Top Trumps This represents Revive’s love of board games, something Mike and I fully approve of. It’s good to have shared joys, and we look forward to many hours of gaming.

Towel Essential for impromptu baptisms (see last week’s blog) so in the spirit of Arthur Dent I shall always know where my towel is.

There were also a couple of bits I didn’t pull out of the box yesterday, but which I think I can take a stab at interpreting…

I Love Sufjan Stevens Sticker I have already picked up on a not-so-secret love of Sufjan Stevens from a few people, so think this is another shared passion, although one I may need a little more educating in…

Nazam’s Takeaway Menu I am assuming this is the official Revive recommendation for curry, which Mike and I will soon be trying out. Although it’s only fair to warn you, our previous favourite from Skipton is going to be tough to beat.

So there you have the Revive Survival Kit. I hope it has been educational. If you want to know more about Revive, please do get in touch at reviveleeds@gmail.com.

 

Revive Goes Wild

Posted: October 7, 2015 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Okay, I’ll admit wild may be a bit of an exaggeration, but last weekend forty eight of us headed for the hills of the Peak District for a weekend away together, and I think that is well deserving of a blog.

We were joined by Marijke Hoek, who led us in teaching and discussion and contemplation, but I was otherwise engaged for two of the sessions, so I will reflect instead on some other aspects of the weekend.

It would be great to hear from some other people who were there, especially about what Marijke brought us, so if you fancy writing something, please email it to reviveleeds@gmail.com and I can get it posted here.

If I may begin on a selfish note, this weekend came at a really great time for me. Having only joined Revive a month ago, this was a brilliant opportunity to spend time with the community. I’ve felt at home with Revive ever since my first tentative visit back in May, and Mike and I have felt warmly embraced by everyone since pitching up in September, but it was really good to be able to build on that initial sense of connection. There’s no substitute for time spent climbing tors an improvising bottle openers together!

A particular highlight was spending time with the children and young people, who I’d not seen much of before the weekend. I was really taken by their enthusiasm, as the teenagers threw themselves into the photo challenge I set them, and the little ones created an abundance of plasticine flowers and animals to thank God for. I was also struck by how hard it was at times to keep track of who was related to who, as they all seem to have adopted each other as one extended family, a perfect model of church in action if ever I saw one.

I was impressed too by the inquisitiveness of the little ones, as the announcement that we were about to head back to join everyone for communion led to a host of questions about what it was and why we did it and why Jesus had to die in the first place. I think we’ve all felt our heart sink a little when faced with a big question from a little person, but my prayer for the children is that they never settle for our hesitant replies but keep asking until they find their answer in God.

And I think it was agreed by all that the teenagers did a fantastic job leading communion. Not only were the homemade dough balls and strawberry lemonade absolutely delicious, but sharing them together after praying for one another felt like a real celebration of what it means to be part of the community of God. So I pray for the young people that they continue to live out that communion.

Then to top it all off, the weekend ended with a baptism. Baptisms are always exciting, but I was really moved by the simplicity of this slightly impromptu service. A testimony, a quick dip, a favourite hymn, and a few prayers. All too often we over complicate things, but it’s really about the commitment of the person to be ‘all in’ for God, and the commitment of the church to support them, and that came across so powerfully. Learning that the water had recently been blessed with water from the Jordan, where Jesus himself was baptised, was an extra little gift to remind us all that we follow in the footsteps of the one who lived with us and for us.

So that’s my brief reflection on this past weekend, now it’s over to you…