Your weekly update from the Benwell & Scotswood Team
Dates for your diary
Thurs 19 Jan
7pm - PCC meeting at St James
Sat 21 Jan
10.30am - 'Big conversation' at Newcastle Cathedral
Tues 24 Jan
7.30pm - Chris's licensing service at Ven Bede
Sun 29 Jan
11am - Candlemas celebration service at Ven Bede
Services this week
Sun 15 Jan
9.45am - St John's, Holy communion
11am - Ven Bede, Holy communion (parish eucharist)
4pm - St Margaret's, evening worship
Sun 22 Jan
9.45am - St Margaret's, Holy communion
11am - Ven Bede, Holy communion (parish eucharist)
Taize service at St Margaret's this Sunday 4pm
Join us at St Margaret's Scotswood at 4pm for a Taize service. This is a beautiful contemplative service based around music and singing chants from the Taize monastic community.
The Big Conversation, 21 Jan, 10.30am to 1.30pm at Newcastle Cathedral
The Big Conversation brings together conversations that have been happening across communities over the last few months. This event will include key local decision-makers to find real solutions and ways forward for our communities.
Sign up and more info here: realconvos.org
or speak to Matt Dobson.
Chris's licensing as Team Vicar for Mission, 24 Jan, 7.30pm at Ven Bede
Chris will be licensed to his new role to encourage and lead mission in the parish. Bishop Mark and Archdeacon Rachel will join us to lead the service and we will celebrate afterward with refreshments.
At the Ven Bede at 7.30pm.
Candlemas celebration service, Sun 29 Jan, 11am at Ven Bede
You are invited to a special service of celebration for all who have been baptised/christened in our churches!
40 days after Christmas (or the nearest Sunday) is when we remember the story of how Jesus' parents presented him in the temple to give thanks for his birth. Traditionally this was when candles were blessed to be used throughout the year- hence 'candlemas'!
If you still have your baptism candle bring it with you and we will light them during the service!
in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Isaiah 49.1–7 49Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. 2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. 3 And he said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’ 4 But I said, ‘I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.’ 5 And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honoured in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— 6 he says, ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’ 7 Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, ‘Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’
John 1.29–42 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ 32And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’ 35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ 39He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).
I want to begin by thanking Ibrahim very much for the fantastic work he does as our translator. I often wonder about the headaches we must cause him with our theological words and English turns of phrase. But this morning I’m making it even more challenging because I want to talk about the meaning of particular Greek words in our gospel reading. So if two languages wasn’t hard enough, I’m introducing a third – sorry Ibrahim!
If you were with us for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve you will have heard the opening words of John’s gospel: ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ The word translated here as ‘dwelt’ is ‘skenoun’ and it literally means ‘to live in a tent’. The Word of God became flesh and lived in a tent. Now John, of course, isn’t telling us something literal about Jesus’ accommodation arrangements, he didn’t necessarily live in a tent. But he is trying to tell us something that, perhaps, isn’t quite captured by the English word ‘dwelt’.
He tells us that Jesus was really here, properly living amongst us on earth. He had a home, or a serious of places to stay at least, like everyone else. He had to pay the gas bill and clean the loo and pop out for milk just like the rest of us (or whatever the 1st Century equivalents of those things are). Jesus was really here.
So I love that little bit of Greek - skenoun. And I was reminded of it when I read this morning’s gospel reading, from just a little bit further on in the first chapter of John. John the Baptist points out Jesus to two of his own disciples and calls him the Lamb of God. They follow Jesus and he turns to them, saying, ‘what are you looking for?’ and they say, ‘Rabbi, where are you staying?’, and Jesus says ‘come and see.’
Jesus is inviting them to come and visit him where he lives. He might be the lamb of God passing by, but he’s going home like anybody else. Imagine what it must have been like for the disciples to go to his home. Where was it, what sort of street? Did he fix them a drink? Did he have to sweep up piles of clutter before they could sit down or was he very neat and tidy? Does being without sin mean you never leave a mess without clearing it up? I don’t know. But Jesus lived amongst us, amongst those first disciples, in a home like the rest of us.
‘Where are you staying?’ ask the disciples. Although this surely recalls the Word living in a tent it isn’t the same word, it isn’t ‘skenoun’, this time. The word John uses here is ‘menein’, to stay, or remain, or abide. The disciples ask where he is staying, Jesus tells them to come and see and, we learn in the next verse, they stayed there that day. The same word, ‘menein’: the place where Jesus stays and the disciples staying with him. So we have, right at the beginning of John’s gospel, the idea that being with Jesus means spending time in the place where he’s made his home.
And that word, ‘menein’, is important for John. For example, in chapter 15 verse 4 Jesus tells us to ‘abide in me as I abide in you.’ Or elsewhere, when Jesus says ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them’ or ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing’ or ‘as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love’.
Abiding is really important for John. Now, we might think that is only metaphorical, a choice of language to indicate how close we should be to Jesus - abiding in him. But early in John’s gospel, we have this much more literal use of the word menein, to mean the place where Jesus is staying and the disciples staying there for the day. And this, in turn, picks up the thought expressed in verse 14, that Jesus was the word made flesh and come to make his home amongst us. John’s gospel tells us that following Jesus means abiding in him, staying with him, moving into his place.
So, I think John is telling us that we too, just like the disciples, should try to find the place where Jesus is staying, where he is abiding. And where might that be? Well, we don’t know where exactly Jesus was staying, John doesn’t tell us, but we know one thing: it wasn’t in the synagogue. Jesus no doubt spent plenty of time there but that’s not where the disciples found him staying, found him abiding. And all through his ministry he was to be found not in the special places but in the ordinary places; on the streets, in the houses of people who were called sinners. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that we will find him in the same places today?
2000 years ago, Jesus came and lived amongst us, in the flesh. He abided with us. Today, Jesus is still dwelling with us. His flesh might no longer be here but that doesn’t mean he’s only here in spirit. Today, just as then, Jesus still has a deep affinity with our flesh. And we will still find him in the places of the flesh. In people’s homes, in the shops and the charity shops and on the street, in the Foodbank and in doctor’s surgery and at the school gates.
We all long to know where Jesus is, don’t we? Not just in the bad times, when we need his comfort, but in our daily lives; we want to know that this faith, to which we have given our lives, is real and means something in this world. The disciples articulate the question we all have: Jesus, where are you staying? The Good News is that he gives us the same answer: ‘come and see’. So what are we waiting for?
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Prayers for others:
Daniel and Luda
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Christine, David, Philip, Neil and Steven
Moe and Mary
Rest in Peace:
Post Communion prayer
God of glory,
you nourish us with your Word
who is the bread of life:
fill us with your Holy Spirit
that through us the light of your glory
may shine in all the world.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.