Your weekly update from the Benwell & Scotswood Team
Services this week
Sunday 14th Aug
9.45 at St Margaret's - Holy Communion
11am at St James - Hub Service
Thurs 18th Aug
11 at St John's - Holy Communion
Bishop of Botswana visits Benwell!
Bishop Metlha and his wife Thapelo visited Newcastle while in the UK for the Lambeth Conference. They came to visit our parish and stopped for lunch at St James on Tuesday.
Botswana is linked with the Diocese of Newcastle. Our own Revd Chris is also a member of the link committee, he will be visiting Botswana in October to celebrate 50 years since the diocese was created.
Sunday rotas for August
If you help out on Sundays please click here to check the August rota.
Please remember you can check the rota anytime by clicking on the 'Sunday Rota' button above.
If you would like to join a team, whether refreshments, reading, junior church, tech or something else, then just let us know!
Something Wonderful' art club will restart in September
The art club will take a break during August to restart in September.
In the meantime come see the exhibition at St James of all the incredible work they have made over the past months!
who sent your Holy Spirit
to be the life and light of your Church:
open our hearts to the riches of your grace,
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit
in love and joy and peace;
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.
Hebrews 11.29 – 12.2 29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. 31By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace. 32 And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— 38of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39 Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40since God had provided something better so that they would not, without us, be made perfect. 12Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Luke 12.49–56 49 ‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’ 54 He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
By Matt Dobson
This passage frightens me. This Jesus frightens me.
Because within these words Jesus is directly challenging that nice, peace-bringing, gentle, storm-calming, heart-warming and calling Christ. Challenging all those nice hymns and prayers, warm candle light flickering in a dark church, the warmth of fellowship of sharing a handshake or a hug with someone, the image of that lamb of god which takes away our sins, a life where we can become channels of peace, all that is a bit fluffy and wholesome and good. Where is nice Jesus? “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” This passage, this Jesus, these words frighten me. Because they are hard to hear. They are challenging and disrupting. Each one of us will hear Jesus’ words differently in our different contexts and cultures and lives and hold different questions and draw different conclusions.
This passage frightens me. This Jesus frightens me. Because we hear the voice of Jesus speaking of fire and division. But it is the voice of the One who will turn hearts and minds and tables and nations and even death on its head. Jesus is fully turned towards that ultimate subversion, a submersion into death, out of which comes life.
That is the reality of the God we find in Luke’s Gospel, played out time after time, from Mary’s Yes to God in the Magnificat to Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Plain, to the reality of the cross, all that comes before it and all that comes after, and continues to come after. In Jesus, everything is altered and changed.
So maybe I shouldn’t be frightened or surprised therefore by this Jesus, by this part of the Gospel’s message to us we encounter today. But, this passage still frightens me. Jesus says forget about peace; division is what is needed. But, surely I know what peace is? and I like it. I think I know what division might be and it makes me fearful.
I like to be at peace. To be still, to be without conflict, without noise, without worries. That’s the peace I think about. But what if that isn’t the kind of peace Jesus is talking about. Pax Romana is a phrase used for the time slightly before and after the time of Christ and the emergence of the early church and The Gospels. A time where in the Roman occupation of Judea there was an uneasy peace between the occupiers and the Jewish people. Peace meant puppet Kings like the many Herods, and Governors like Pilate placating and working with the Jewish religious hierarchy. For ordinary people peace meant paying taxes, subsisting rather than flourishing. Living on edge, on the edge of empire. Peace meant your attention was always being torn between the things of God and things of Rome. Peace for some could mean idolatry, selfishness, hoarding of power, status, wealth, temptation, corruption, complicity, collusion and conspiracy, it is comfortable. This kind of peace for others would mean poverty, prejudice, hunger, anger, despair and hopelessness.
This kind of peace is stillness and silence. An unwillingness to acknowledge the things that distract and move us away from the purposes God has for us. In this peace we can be distracted, our heads can at times turn away from God. In this peace our hearts could become so bitter and battered to the point where our convictions, our agency or commitment to our faith loses its power. “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?!” No, says Jesus.
So if not peace, why division? What are we being divided and separated from? And what does this mean for unity, for us being the Body of Christ bought together in love, in worship, in action?
This passage frightens me. This Jesus frightens me.
Because division scares me, because it sounds like diminishment, like something is being taken away, being made less than. As if we are going to lose something somehow if we are divided. Division sounds like there could be winners and losers, pain and hurt, anger and injustice. But division can be about re-evaluation, separating something into smaller parts so we can understand it better. Once we divide something, see it more clearly we are able to notice what things bring us joy, what things are working, where do we need to focus our attention, where have we gone wrong, where is their potential and life and hope.
We’ve been doing that. We’ve been thinking about who we are. Who we are as a parish. As a whole. Dividing so we may discern how we bring about God's Kingdom. To do that, we have had to break away occasionally into parts. Those parts have been generally divided into our buildings, our churches, four different sets of stones, four different sets of traditions, patterns, activity, communities, influences and concerns. In that division we have learnt a great deal about who we are, some of it painful, some of it exciting. In that division we have discerned where God has and is working, how each part is working towards building that Kingdom and how we are challenging the status quo in Benwell and Scotswood. how are we saying ‘Yes’ to God at St Johns, St Margarets, the Venerable Bede and St James. In that division we have been challenged, and will continue to be challenged by Christ's call. Challenged by our conceptions of who we are, how others see us. Challenged when we uncover distractions, bitterness, anxiety and pain. In division we break open our hearts and our minds to truly see the purposes God has placed on them.
Jesus says; Do you think that I have come for you to be complacent, silent or selfish, complicit in injustice?. No I tell you, but rather revaluation, searching out, rededication, honesty, humility and ultimately transformation and new life. A task done not separately but together in Christ.
My initial fear of this passage, this Jesus, this message, is a symptom of the very thing Jesus is warning us about. It is a symptom of complacency and silence. Our fears and anxieties about the future of our parish, even the Church of England, our communities, our lives will not be relieved if we remain silent or get too comfortable, if we just do the same old things, refuse to discern, to communicate, to grow and transform is the very thing Jesus is warning us about.
This nice Jesus, this safe Jesus, or even a white, straight English speaking Jesus, a Jesus that we only talk of as Prince of Peace or gentle and mild Jesus that could be easy to talk about and preach on and deal with does not exist.
It doesn’t exist because Jesus himself underwent a division, a breaking, when he entered Jerusalem, the centre of this so-called the Pax Romana in Judea. There he showed us all who he was and is. In the words he spoke, in the breaking of bread and pouring out of wine, in each wound he received in his death, through his body and his blood he revealed that which he calls us to today.
The nice things, the candles, the hymns, the friendly smiles and hand shaking, the cake and coffee, the working together as a united parish together in the gospel, mean nothing at all if they are not rooted in the transforming love of God. A love which breaks us open to new life and a Kingdom which is radical in compassion, inclusion, justice and mercy.
“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” He came and still comes to us not to bring us what is easy, familiar, comfortable. But rather, he creates an opening up of ourselves which leads to transformation, understanding and consideration, renewal of compassion for one another, of justice and action.
If I’ve gotten over my fear of this reading and this image of Jesus, still, this passage can be hard and painful stuff. Some of us may feel that pain and frustration. It is my prayer that God keeps on dividing us, breaking us, opening us up so we may know who we are, and know who we are made in the image of. I pray that we are not fearful of the challenges of calling and therefore transformed to work together for the one who was broken for us so we might find healing, wholeness and hope. Amen.
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The Riches Family
Post Communion prayer
who gathered us here around the table of your Son
to share this meal with the whole household of God:
in that new world where you reveal the fullness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord.