Jubilee

Are you attending a street party to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee? For a monarch to reign for 60 years is a remarkable achievement and it is hard to imagine this being repeated by any of her living successors. Many of you reading this will remember her Golden and Silver Jubilees and some will even remember her Coronation in 1952.There will also no doubt be many of you who will be celebrating your own special anniversaries in the coming weeks.

The word Jubilee has its origins in the Hebrew Scriptures where it referred to a year of rest to be observed by the Israelites every 50th year. During the year of Jubilee, slaves were to be set free, alienated property restored to the former owners, and the lands left untilled. This process was designed to ensure that no one in the community became too rich and no one became too poor. Sadly in most societies, human selfishness leads to a widening gap between those who have and those who have not.

Living as we do in Hook, we enjoy a standard of living that is the envy of many, yet remarkably there are people living in our village who struggle to make ends meet. For a number of years Life Church has operated a food bank which has provided basic food supplies to help local families and individuals who are experiencing shortages. Food is donated by individuals and packaged up to tide people over for a couple of days while they try to find more permanent solutions. In order to make this service more efficient we will shortly be joining forces with the Hart Foodbank www.fleetmethodist.org.uk/foodbank.html which is one of a number of such centres up and down the country that are affiliated to the Trussell Trust.

If you are attending a Jubilee party this summer, I hope that you have a great celebration! At the same time why not consider supporting those less fortunate than yourselves by ‘Bringing a Tin’ to your event (see www.trusselltrust.org/big-lunch). You can drop any donations off at the Life Church Centre and we will make sure that they get to the right people.

This blog post featured in the June 2012 edition of Hook Focus

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Looking Forward

We use thousands of words on a daily basis but I wonder how often we think about where they come from.  For example the names of our calendar months date back to the Julian calendar which began in 45BC as a result of a reform by Julius Caesar. January is strongly associated with Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, who is frequently represented as having a head with two faces – one facing forward and one facing back.  The tradition of reviewing the year that has just past and anticipating the year that is to come derives from this Roman origin.

For our nation looking forward, 2012 brings a number of challenges as we continue to ride the economic roller coaster. It also promises celebration as we rejoice at our Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – a remarkable milestone regardless of your views of the monarchy; and excitement as the Olympic Games come to these shores for what will almost certainly be a once in a lifetime experience. No doubt you will also have things you personally are looking forward to.

The Christian faith gives us great hope and expectation for a future where the pain and suffering, failure and disappointment of this current world will be swept away and replaced with a new, perfect, eternal world. This is the hope of all who have placed their trust in Jesus. This is the hope we will celebrate when the churches of Hook, Odiham and North Warnborough gather together at 6:30pm in the Elizabeth Hall on Sunday 22nd January at our joint expression of faith during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I do hope that you will come and join us that evening and stay for refreshments afterwards.

This blog post featured in the January 2012 edition of Hook Focus

Welcome to 2012!

I wonder what you are looking forward to during this coming year. If you are into sport perhaps you are excited by the prospect of the Olympics coming to London. Another big event will be the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – a remarkable achievement! There is also a sizeable cohort of us in Life Church who will be celebrating our 50th birthdays – 1962 was a great year. Congratulations to those of you transitioning with me into the Saga era (ouch!)

I also wonder what 2012 will hold in store for us as a church. At the start of this New Year rather than making resolutions that we will break before the end of January why not ask God to give you big dreams. We have been praying for many years to see growth in our membership which has hovered around 60 people since 2004. Praise God in 2011 we reached a new maximum of 73. Will you join us in praying that we will continue to grow in size during 2012 – a similar percentage growth would see us reach 85 people, it would be great to break through the 80 mark.

Another encouragement this year has been to see 10 people baptised. That means there are 10 people who have taken a visible, significant step forward in being a disciple of Jesus. Will you join us in praying that we see at least that number of people baptised in 2012? Even better if that figure was also matched by a similar number of people making a decision to follow Jesus.

You may be aware that the Welcome Team helps me to track Sunday morning attendance (numbers not names!) Our best morning attendance was 108 on Easter Day, closely followed by 100 at our Carol Service. The average main meeting attendances in 2011 were 74 which is 22% increase on the 2010 average of 58 (for the Sundays for which I have data). A similar percentage growth in 2012 would see us reach an average of 90. Will you join us in praying that we achieve this during the coming year?

Less easy to monitor quantitatively  but of greater importance is our personal and corporate spiritual walk with God. My prayer for the church is to echo Paul:

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit — not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength — that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (The Message)

May 2012 be a breakthrough year when all of us experience more of God’s lavish grace and mercy in our lives.

This blog post featured in the January 2012 edition of Lifelines