Reflection and Prayers – Claire Hughes
Prayers of thanksgiving, confession and absolution
Loving God, maker of all things, giver of life, we praise and worship you. We thank you for your gracious love and for blessing us each and every day of our lives.
God of justice and forgiveness, in a world where there is so much inequality, injustice and suffering, we confess that in our own lives we do not always do what is right or turn away from what is wrong.
Though our actions may not be worthy of your love, yet you love us still. However far we stray from you, you keep faith with us and your love is always there to welcome us home.
We ask your forgiveness, we claim your love and mercy, and we rely on you for the courage to make a new beginning, with each new day.
Help us and guide us to be better examples of your love in the world.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen
Reading: Luke 9:51-62
When I read today’s passage from Luke, I thought, ‘Oh dear! Another toughy! But, then again, it occurred to me that every passage in which we encounter Jesus is a challenge – and rightly so, because that is what His intention was, always.
Following Him was never going to be plain sailing every day, but, boy, would it be rewarding.
I reminded myself, ‘remember what your mother told you: “Nothing in life that is worthy is ever too hard to achieve, if you have the courage to try it and you have the faith to succeed”’.
The story we have just heard is the Lectionary reading for today and tells of when Jesus isn’t welcomed by the village in Samaria. The disciples are displeased by the rejection and want to bring vengeance down upon the village. Jesus is having none of it.
Jesus does not condemn the village, merely acknowledges that not everyone will see things the same way that He does by quietly moving on to another area.
Such tolerance, as shown by Jesus, can seem to be lacking in our world today. Wars still rage, inequity of wealth is the commonplace and, as we learned in our service celebrating Pentecost and Pride, led by Ray earlier this month, there is still prejudice shown to our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ+ community.
I am glad that we proclaim ourselves to be an inclusive church and, for the most, part, I believe we ’walk the walk’ as well as ‘talk the talk’ in that respect.
Let us all remember that affirmation that we will welcome and serve all people, in the name of Jesus Christ, both within the church and without, particularly in the months ahead, when we turn our attention to the future of our own community and how we use – or don’t use – this building.
We are all very different people and, though we each are made to be children of God, we will not all agree with everyone else: there is not consensus of opinion, with regard to this building’s future, and, quite understandably, some among us have very strong feelings regarding what the fate of our spiritual home should be.
Let us seek to listen, with a kind ear and with patience, to all sides of the debate regarding the Gelliwastad Road building….and I ask for this forbearance today as I am about to voice my thoughts on the matter.
I had some difficulty in interpreting the second part of this morning’s reading and I am grateful to our
friends in the Worship Group for the discussion we had, which helped me to make sense of the passage we just heard.
I must stress, though, that the following is MY opinion and not necessarily the opinion of those with whom said discussion took place.
I started attending Pontypridd United Church, as it then was, when I was about 7 years old. I had joined Pilots, the church-based organisation for young boys and girls, and, so, was asked to attend church, as part of my commitment to Pilots.
I grew into faith and, on Easter Day in 1981, I was baptised here: a very moving and memorable experience. I attended Youth Club and Youth Fellowship here.
I was married here and both my sons were christened here: they used to run around the sanctuary during services, as small children. They came to the playgroup here.
My mother was also married here. Many of my life-long friendships were formed here: you are my second family. I have, in the distant past, held the offices of Treasurer and, briefly, Secretary, here.
After my marriage break-up, I took some time away: MY choice – but, when I walked back through those doors, I felt immediately ‘at home’ and was welcomed with open arms. You’ve been stuck with me ever since!
Why the Brief History of Claire and St David’s Uniting? I tell you all this just to emphasise that this place has been special to me for most of my life. As I just mentioned, many of the significant moments of my life took place within its walls. I know its layout, its aroma, its ambience, its creaks and sounds.
And yet…….I realise that all good things must come to an end and, with a heavy heart, I must say that I believe it is now time for us to bid farewell to this beautiful place.
When I started attending here, my cousin and I used to wait on Graigwen Hill to catch the church coach, supervised lovingly by Mr & Mrs Longstaff. The reality is that there were more people on that one coach (which formed only a part of the then teeming congregation) than there are sat here in the sanctuary today.
As Jesus suggested, in the words of today’s reading, we cannot look back and hold on to the old ways: we must keep looking forward. If we are to serve Him in today’s world, we must find a way of doing so that works for the future.
This building has been a good and faithful servant to us – and to God, but perhaps its time has passed. I don’t need to address the elephant in the room, being our dwindling numbers and ability to finance the building’s upkeep: that is obvious.
Perhaps a more contentious opinion is that I believe that the younger generation – that is, the FUTURE generation – who might be curious about Christ, inquisitive about God, are seemingly not attracted to the traditional buildings and patterns of worship, even if these ways are familiar and dear to many of us, like a spiritual comfort blanket. After all, we don’t see them coming through our door.
And if we don’t have younger people joining our church community, then funding the upkeep of a building will be a moot point: in a relatively short space of time, there won’t be anyone here to use it.
It is ironic that, when another church in the area closed recently, the local community was appalled at the loss of the building, which, it seems, was so dear to them. Yet, they weren’t there using it week in week out: I wonder how they imagined that it could be sustained by a handful of people which formed its small, if dedicated, congregation?
Jesus was peripatetic and maybe we will be so, too, though I hope we will find a suitable base to call
‘home’: I believe this is important and vital, so we can survive as a church community.
To lose a place, a centre, altogether would leave us adrift, without a compass. We need somewhere where we BELONG.
However, Jesus was free of the burdens of buildings maintenance. It is sad to acknowledge but our beautiful church has become a yoke around our necks, which, in my opinion, slows us down and stifles our ability to ‘be church’ in the best sense – that is, being out there, living with our communities and helping them.
I don’t have all the answers and bright ideas as to how that might be achieved – that will take much prayerful thought by all of us – but it seems to me that a new way of ‘doing church’ is needed because the traditional way, though much loved by many of us – including ME – is unsustainable.
Of course, not everyone here will agree with my viewpoint and that is only natural and it doesn’t mean that I’m right and they’re wrong. Nor do we have to fall out because we hold differing opinions.
In our recent evening meeting, discussing the importance of Jerusalem to the different faiths of Judaism, Islam & Christianity, we learned that there exist more similarities and common ground in our faiths than some might imagine. We are all journeying towards the same God, albeit by different paths, which do converge quite often.
So may it be here: though we share one faith, we each have our individual path to God. If we gather together in love, with patience and hope and a listening ear, I hope that we will find a way forward which will embrace all of us and keep us in the love and light of God, Christ and each other. Let’s be gentle with each other, respect all opinions and consider all ideas and suggestions for our future. For myself, my own opinion is not set in stone and I am very happy for it to be challenged and an alternative solution found.
Our journey is not going to be a smooth road but, should any of us stumble along the way, then there will be others amongst us to pick them up and carry them forward in love.
May we listen for the voice of God speaking to us in our hearts and discern the best resolution to all issues we face, in our forthcoming church meeting and beyond.
I pray God’s grace upon us during the difficult discussions which we will have in the months ahead. Most importantly for me is that, whatever we do, however we decide to move forward, let it be together, united and uniting, in the love of Christ. AMEN
Prayers of Intercession:
We come before you as a Fellowship in Christ, a fellowship full of love. Bestow your Grace upon us, that we may demonstrate that love in our lives, both within and outside our church community.
Hold this world in your arms and grant wisdom to the politicians across the globe, that they may carry out their duties ethically and honestly, for the benefit of the people they serve and mankind as a whole.
We pray for all war-torn nations, for those countries where freedom of speech is suppressed and people live in fear. We pray for the poor, the hungry, the sick, and long for the day when the bounty of this beautiful planet is shared equitably and responsibly among all people and species.
Let us remember those who mourn and pray that they may know your love and take comfort in the promise of a home in your company in the hereafter.
In a few moments of silence, we think of those we know, who are suffering ill health, grief, financial struggles, anxiety and stress from the pressure of life.
We bring all our prayers together in the pattern of prayer that Jesus taught us, saying in your preferred
With peace rippling on all around us, we gather round a table, as members of one family – as children of God; siblings in Christ. And like all brothers and sisters, we might sometimes disagree.
We might sometimes squabble or get grumpy with one another but here we’re once again welcomed whatever our failures and foibles.
We’re once again united as one weird and wonderful family around one table. We’re once again called to be a community of love.
On the night of his betrayal and arrest, Jesus borrowed a room and gathered his closest friends around him.
As he picked up some bread, he said a prayer, then he broke it and said ‘when you eat bread think about me, because just as this bread is broken, my body will be broken.’
Without really understanding what he meant, Jesus’ friends took the bread and ate it.
Then, He picked up a goblet of wine and said ‘when you drink wine, think about me, because just as this wine has been poured out, so my blood will be poured out, and there will be a new bond between people and God.’
Jesus’ friends didn’t understand again but they took the cup of wine and drank from it.
We, too, don’t pretend to understand the mystery of your presence, so we sit quietly and remember your words: ‘Be still and know that I am God’, remembering that, wherever two or more gather in your name, you will be also …
You call us into communities of faith, where we can learn the way of love. Your breath continues to stir us. Your Spirit moves all around us.
So we pray that you will infuse these gifts of the earth, bread and wine and us, with your love and power.
May our eating in faith and expectation equip us to walk over all the earth, bringing the good news of peace. Amen.
This bread, earth formed and heaven blessed, is for us the bread of life.
This cup, cradled by his hands in love and drunk in courage is for us the cup of salvation.
‘So let us eat, drink, and give thanks.’
We sit, eat and drink.
Prayer after Communion:c
God our maker, we thank you for the nourishment of bread and wine, words and friends.
Jesus our brother, we thank you for the Way you walk with us, past comfort, toward connection.
Spirit, our breath, we thank you that you gather us together and send us out with courage and joy.
May our thanksgiving be not just on our lips, but in our living. Amen
We pray the Grace with and for each other.