Your weekly update from the Benwell & Scotswood Team
Dates for your diary
Wed 14th Sept
7.30pm, St John's
Sun 25th Sept
11am, St James
(celebration service, no other services in the team)
Services this week
Sunday 4th Sept
9.45 at St John's - Holy Communion
11am at St James - Hub Service
4pm at St Margaret's - Evening worship
Harvest Festival, 11am, Sun 25th Sept
at St James, NE15 6RS
Our Harvest Festival is when we celebrate and give thanks for God's abundance on earth and pray for the healing and protection of our world. We will have lunch together after the service.
Donations - please bring donations of non-perishable food (tins, packets, and dry goods) which will be donated to a local charity.
Flowers - would you like to help with the flower displays for Harvest? Please speak with Elspeth. We would also welcome cash donations to help pay for the flowers.
Almighty and everlasting God,
you are always more ready to hear than we to pray
and to give more than either we desire or deserve:
pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid
and giving us those good things
which we are not worthy to ask
but through the merits and mediation
of 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.
Deuteronomy 30.15–20 15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Luke 14.25–33 25 Now large crowds were travelling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
By Revd Chris
What are traditional ‘Christian family values’? I often hear a call for a ‘return to family values’. Many try to suggest that the Christian way of life is best expressed by our family units. Much of the focus of mission and ministry is based on ‘families’ – toddler’s groups, baptisms, and weddings are seen as the bread-and-butter of the parish church. More often than not, church leaders make it into the news because of their views on marriage, lamenting the breakdown of solid family units. Marriage should always between a man and a woman, sex only for procreation, and families should be wholesome, meeting for Sunday lunch in a comfortable home, and with a comfortable income.
However, this is not ever the picture of a Christian life presented by Jesus. He says in his own words: “‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”
In one sentence he destroys the building blocks of society. And it is an incredibly strange thing to say! As far as I understood it, there was no place for hate in Christianity. It is a shocking statement to us now, but it was even more shocking to his audience then. For his contemporaries the aim and hope which their religion offered was family, ancestors and descendants, prosperity and the continuation of one’s name.
In our first reading it says:
“Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, … for that means life to you and length of days, …so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors”
In a precarious and dangerous world where death and suffering were never far away, the idea of one’s family flourishing and growing forever more was the only hope you could have that your life mattered. That you walked this earth and were not forgotten. It is the story of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that they would be given children and land, and their descendants would be as many as grains of sand in the desert and the stars in the sky.
Everything that Jesus followers have considered to be the reward, the aim, and the method, of their religion, long life and prospering of one’s descendants. Jesus tears that form of religion apart.
How strange then, that Christians are so well known for ‘family values’. It is incredible how different our ideas are to the life Jesus lived and promoted. An unmarried man with no fixed abode and no income, wandering and teaching, spending all his time with weirdos, misfits, unclean people, broken people, sinful people, and never visiting his mother.
He tells us to ‘count the cost’ of discipleship, he is saying that following him is not about what suits you in life. He is taking the most precious aspect of his followers lives and saying that even that comes after God. I do think he is exaggerating for effect when he says ‘hate’, but Jesus is not there to preserve your family units and life as you want, he is calling you to a greater heavenly home and family.
Jesus is making the point that we can never fulfil our earthly expectations no matter how hard we try. The truth is, no family is perfect, no marriage, no parent or child, no life is perfect. None. Because there is no way that we could be so close to another person without our brokenness being revealed. To pretend otherwise just becomes a cover up, and it becomes oppressive to those around us by holding them to impossible standards.
Jesus is asking his followers to reset our compasses. He is asking you what is your true aim in life? What is your identity truly based on? What is your motivation?
In Christianity we are more than our successes and possessions. You are not valuable because of who you are married to. You are not worthwhile because you have had children. You are not successful if you have a home and steady income. You do not stop mattering even if you are lonely. You do not have to build a life around fear of missing out on these things, because you are offered an eternal family and home. You matter because God has made you, he loves you with or without these things.
By all means celebrate and enjoy your families if you have them. I don’t think Jesus can ever see that as a bad thing. But being baptised as a Christian means becoming part of a family without limits on its love and care. We are called to love strangers as we love our own children. Jesus words aren’t a call to destroy families, but, with the strength and power of God, a call to extend that love beyond our own hopes and create an even greater family. This is what true family values are, a wonderful, broken, diverse, eternal family in which we all matter, held together by the unconditional and eternal power and love of God.
If you would like to add someone to the prayer list please email email@example.com
The name will stay on the list for 1 month unless requested to be long-term.
Prayers for others:
Moe and Mary
The Riches Family
Post Communion prayer
God of all mercy,
in this eucharist you have set aside our sins
and given us your healing:
grant that we who are made whole in Christ
may bring that healing to this broken world,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.