Fletcher of Madeley (1729 – 1785), a great friend of John Wesley (1703 – 1791), was, at a time during his life, able to help government in a special way.
Anxious to rewards Fletcher for his service, they sent a representative to his home to ask him if there was anything that he wanted.
His reply was something of a surprise, “I want nothing” he said “except more grace”.
There was nothing more that the government had that Fletcher wanted. All that he longed for was more of God and his love.
I wonder what we would say if we were put in a similar situation.
Another associate of Mr Wesley was John Newton (1725 – 1807), the former slave trader, turned vicar, abolitionist and hymn-writer, who through his changed life, preaching, teaching and writing, was able to give expression to this grace that Fletcher so longed for. He called it amazing, sweet, saving, seeing, strengthening, onward leading, fear relieving, home bringing, through the writing of one of the best known hymns ever. The words of this hymn can be found in Singing the Faith 440.
A later contemporary of Fletcher, Wesley and Newton was the novelist Jane Austen (1775 – 1819), who wrote this prayer asking for grace.
Grant us grace
To address You with our heart as well as our life
To find You
In strange places, as well as the expected
And to wait for you
In the secret sigh
As much as the song of praise. Amen
The need to ask for, or desiring for God’s amazing grace is as strong today as it was then.
Amazing grace — how sweet the sound --
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.
God’s grace has taught my heart to fear,
his grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
God's grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.
And, when this heart and flesh shall fail
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil
a life of joy and peace.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
than when we first begun.
(John Newton, Singing the Faith 440)
Members of Frodsham Methodist Church were asked about their favourite readings and prayer.
Rhona wrote ...
My favourite Bible reading is, Revelation 21 v4: 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things have passed away'. There’s my hope that’s the desire of my heart. To be with the Lord (eventually), just a pilgrim passing through. As my grandpa would say, there’s a good day coming!
My favourite hymn is, 'I the Lord of sea and sky'. First heard on Songs of Praise from Glamis Castle (1990s). I was greatly moved especially with the chorus, 'Whom shall I send? Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord, I have heard you calling in the night, I will go Lord, if You lead me, I will hold your people in my heart'.
One of our members has suggested this prayer for all of us in support of each other at this time.
With the arms of my spirit I am holding you up
In the silence of my prayers I am sending you strength
and here in my heart I am hurting with you waiting with you and believing with you .....
...... in a RAINBOW
Gracious God, you walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death.
We pray that those who suffer and are overwhelmed by the COVID-19 virus, by hunger or poverty, by fear or
grief, be surrounded by the incarnate presence of the crucified and risen, ascended one.
May every human being be reminded of the precious gift of life you entered to share with us.
May our hearts be pierced with compassion for those who suffer, for those who live daily on the frontlines of
the pandemic, for your love is the only healing balm we know.
May the dying and the dead be received into your enfolding arms, and may your friends show the grieving
who must walk alone, that they are not alone as they walk this vale of tears.
All this we pray in the name of the one who walked the road to Calvary. Amen.
(Adapted from a prayer by Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori extracted from the World Methodist Council First Friday Letter for July 2020)
Steve Baker is a headteacher and lives in Kingsley with his wife and their two young daughters.
Steve previously worked for the International Criminal Court investigating war crimes, including the genocide in Srebrenica where more than 8,000 mainly Muslim men and boys were murdered. This had a profound effect on him and changed his life.
He became a teacher to help young people and is also a board member of the charity Remembering Srebrenica. The charity focuses on tackling hatred, discrimination and prejudice, working with different faith and community groups on projects to bring people together. As part of the charity’s Never Again programme Steve speaks in schools and prisons about the consequences of hatred and intolerance and the importance of community cohesion.
11th July is the 25th anniversary of this massacre and Steve should have been taking a delegation to Bosnia to mark this. Obviously this was not possible so instead Steve is running 1007 miles – equivalent to the distance from London to Sarajevo to raise funds for and awareness of the charity.
Recent events have I believe shown how important this work is and how we can create a safer and stronger society by working together and discovering that we have “more in common”. You can sponsor Steve here and you can find out more about work of the charity here.
Proverbs 10:12 says: Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.
We pray to You,
Almighty God, may grievance become hope,
May revenge become justice
May mothers’ tears become prayers
That Srebrenica never happens again
To no one and nowhere. - The Srebrenica Prayer
Members of Frodsham Methodist Church were asked about their favourite readings and prayers.
Caryn wrote ...
My favourite Bible reading is 1 Corinthians Chapter 13.
My father- in- law read this at our wedding. We have recently celebrated (at thw time of writing) our 25th Silver Anniversary and this definition of Love, I believe, is the foundation of a strong relationship.
I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains — but if I have no love, I am nothing.
I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burnt— but if I have no love, this does me no good.
Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.
Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass. For our gifts of knowledge and of inspired messages are only partial; but when what is perfect comes, then what is partial will disappear.
When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I have grown up, I have no more use for childish ways. What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete — as complete as God's knowledge of me.
Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.
I have so many favourites hymns but have cheekily picked two!
Shine Jesus Shine for times of Celebration:
and Be still for the Presence of the Lord in quiet times of prayer:
Members of Frodsham Methodist Church were asked about their favourite readings and prayer.
Alan wrote ...
My favourite Bible reading is Psalm 21. As a keen rambler and one-time fell walker, it was verses 1 and 2 that first drew me to this reading. It offers words of comfort in times of loneliness, trial and difficulty.
The king is glad, O LORD, because you gave him strength; he rejoices because you made him victorious.
You have given him his heart's desire;
you have answered his request.
You came to him with great blessings
and set a crown of gold on his head.
He asked for life, and you gave it,
a long and lasting life.
His glory is great because of your help;
you have given him fame and majesty.
Your blessings are with him for ever
and your presence fills him with joy.
The king trusts in the LORD Almighty;
and because of the LORD's constant love
he will always be secure.
The king will capture all his enemies;
he will capture everyone who hates him.
He will destroy them like a blazing fire
when he appears.
The LORD will devour them in his anger,
and fire will consume them.
None of their descendants will survive;
the king will kill them all.
They make their plans, and plot against him,
but they will not succeed.
He will shoot his arrows at them
and make them turn and run.
We praise you, LORD, for your great strength!
We will sing and praise your power.
And my favourite hymn is ‘Guide me, o Thou great Redeemer’ to the tune Cwm Rhondda and sung by a Welsh Male Voice Choir……..Wonderful!
The poet Michael Rosen wrote this poem in celebration of the NHS back in April before he was taken seriously ill with COVID-19 himself. One of our members has suggested this poem for sharing here.
Michael Rosen has also written the forward to a collection of poems entitled These Are The Hands: Poems from the Heart of the NHS, the profits from the sale of which are being given to NHS Charities. Leading UK poets have donated poems to this anthology including Michael Rosen, Roger McGough, Lemn Sissay, Sabrina Mahfouz, Kate Clanchy, Sam Guglani, Charly Cox, Molly Case, Wendy Cope and the estates of UA Fanthorpe, Dannie Abse and Julia Darling
Fountains Abbey, situated just outside Ripon in North Yorkshire is a marvellous monastic ruin. Now a recognised World Heritage Site, here rose a great abbey from a small valley to the glory of God and a religious community grew, which regarded itself as the centre of community life.
Within the abbey there were two types of monks, the ordinary lay brothers and the choir monks. The choir monks are the ones who would have the tonsure, the shaved head, and their job would be to remain in the abbey and to pray almost twenty four hours a day. From early morning to late night as one followed the other, perhaps a bit like lockdown!
As a choir monk the more you worshipped and the more you prayed the more chance you were believed to have of reaching heaven. As a lay person, the more you were prayed for by the choir monks, then the more chance you had of reaching heaven. Even if you didn’t have time to pray yourself you could pay the choir monks to pray for you and there was always hope, because even if you were dead already and were in purgatory, the choir monks would still pray for your eventual ascent to heaven.
The choir monks were the Holy Men. The whole purpose of their life was to be religious, to pray, to worship and to find a way to heaven.
Today many people you speak to will see Jesus as a Holy Man. One who knew God, one who did good, one whose life was about devotion and prayer, one who would intercede for others and speed their way to God.
Whilst all of this is right, it still doesn’t adequately describe who Jesus is or what he did for us. You see religion and all that it represents can be empty in itself, it only comes alive when we realise that at the centre is Jesus himself.
In his Gospel, St John writes:
“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also. You know where I go, and you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him.”
(John 14 verses 1-7, WEB)
This song asks Jesus to be at the centre of all we do:
English artist, illustrator and author Kit Williams was born in 1946. He acquired almost unwanted fame in 1979, when he launched his book Masquerade, a picture book that sparked a national treasure hunt by concealing clues to the location of a jewelled golden hare, created and hidden somewhere in Britain by Williams. In fact it became almost a national scandal.
Even in those pre-internet and pre-geo-cache days, people became so obsessed with finding the treasure that they went around the countryside digging up lawns and flower beds hoping to just find something!
The hare was buried in Ampthill in Bedfordshire and the only witness was Bamber Gascoigne, the former host of University Challenge who went with Williams at night to bury the jewel. Bamber Gascoigne described how he took with him a cow pat in a Tupperware box to pour over the site to disguise it!
The original winner of the competition, who called himself Ken Thomas, turned out to be a fake, as he had found out the location from Kit Williams former girlfriend. Two physics teachers were later acknowledged as the real solvers of the puzzle.
The solution is complex, in each painting lines have to be drawn on the page through the eyes of each animal in the picture and then through their longest digits, leading to a letter in the border of the page. The letters lead to a final acrostic which says, “close by Ampthill”. The precise location was the spot at the edge of the shadow of the cross-shaped monument of Catherine of Aragon in Ampthill Park, at noon on the date of either the vernal or autumnal equinox.
Those who looked for the treasure had studied the book. They had watched the times and the seasons and even the stars. Those who looked had understood the riddles. They believed that if they followed what they had been told they would find a treasure hidden in a field.
St Matthew records the words of Jesus:
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field,
Which a man found and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a merchant
seeking fine pearls, who having found one pearl of great price, he
went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13, verses 44-46, WEB)
The man “found” and the merchant “was seeking”. Beyond the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” each of the parables that Jesus tells details the work of individual human beings. God calls his people to join in the work of advancing the kingdom in the here and now, not in big, loud ways, but through small and seemingly insignificant acts.
Perhaps the kingdom of heaven is like the conversation you had with your neighbour when you rang to check if they needed anything, or the socially distanced conversation you have now been able to have with your grandchild? Maybe it’s shown in the support for members of your family who are keyworkers, or those who gave a word of comfort when someone close to you fell ill.
The kingdom of heaven is like …
How would you answer this today?
A song from the Taize community:
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Frodsham Methodist Church Sunday 10am Worship on YouTube.
North Cheshire Circuit Thursday 7pm Worship on YouTube.
The reflections here are written by members of our congregation.