Tuesday, 23 August 2011

O perfect love

On 21 August we held our "Songs of Praise" in the summertime for the first time, wondering what the support would be. In fact, we had the best turnout yet, 47 people, perhaps encouraged by the magnificent spread of cakes at the tea beforehand – so very many thanks to those who had provided these.

Among the nine magnificent hymns and songs that we sang, one was very special to Alf and Joan, two members of the congregation. The hymn was "O perfect love" and they had sung it at their wedding, 61 years ago this week.

The author of this hymn, Dorothy Gurney, is known to have written only this hymn. However she was a poet and is well-known for the quotation "One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere on earth" which comes from her poem "God's garden." When her sister was getting married the family was singing favourite hymns and regretted that the words to the bride's favourite, with the tune "Strength and Stay," were not suitable for a wedding. Could Dorothy write something? In five minutes she was back with these words. As has happened with many of the best hymns, she claimed to have sensed God's inspiration. Ironically, the tune now used is a different one – by Sir Joseph Barnby.

The hymn speaks of God’s perfect love and prays that, as the couple approach God, they may know his love and share it in their homes, whatever life may bring.

O perfect Love, all human thought transcending,
Lowly we kneel in prayer before Thy throne,
That theirs may be the love which knows no ending,
Whom Thou forevermore dost join in one.

O perfect Life, be Thou their full assurance,
Of tender charity and steadfast faith,
Of patient hope and quiet, brave endurance,
With childlike trust that fears nor pain nor death.

Grant them the joy which brightens earthly sorrow;
Grant them the peace which calms all earthly strife,
And to life’s day the glorious unknown morrow
That dawns upon eternal love and life.

Hear us, O Father, gracious and forgiving,
Through Jesus Christ, Thy coeternal Word,
Who, with the Holy Ghost, by all things living
Now and to endless ages art adored.

The miracles of Jesus – signs of love and power

In the morning services at St Paul's this month, we are looking at five of Jesus' miracles. What lies behind them? Why did Jesus bother do them? What was their significance?

On 7 August, in a sermon entitled "All you can Eat" we considered Jesus feeding the crowd of more than 5000. This was the background to Jesus' statement "I am the bread of life" and we considered how he nourishes us spiritually day by day.

Next week, 14 August, "Imaginative Faith" considered Jesus stilling of the storm raging on Lake Galilee. Following that, Peter's faith was so raised that he could imagine himself obeying Jesus invitation to come and walk with him on the water. However, that walk didn't last long before Peter’s faith dipped and he slipped below the waves. But Jesus was quick to restore him – as he does us.

And this week, on 21 August we considered Jesus healing of the blind man in John's gospel chapter 9 under the title "I see what you mean" we considered the wonder of sight and all that this man was missing. But as Jesus went on to say "I am the light of the world" we saw that his ability to heal physical blindness enabled him to claim a right to heal spiritual blindness. And the challenge to us is to now see the world in the same way that Christ sees it.

To read the transcripts of these sermons click here.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Where are you with Jesus? Now face-to-face.

Jane Marie Lillian Sawbridge
11 July 1955 – 25 July 2011

When Jane first visited St Paul's in 1992, she got into conversation with the person in the next seat. "Where are you with Jesus?" he asked. As Jane considered that question she was gradually drawn to faith in Jesus as the one who died for her and loved her and accepted her. She became a vital member of St Paul's and subsequently married another member, Jim. After that, she was deeply involved in the church's work among babies, children and teenagers. She remained a member of the music group until her death from a rapidly progressive illness. Ten days before her death she had still insisted in joining the church family at a regular Sunday morning Communion service.

On Friday 5 August St Paul's was packed for her funeral with members of the congregation, family and friends. The service was led by the vicar, the Revd Steve Bailey and the sermon was given by the Revd Brian Robertson who had worked with Jane and Jim in the youth work when he was vicar here. Brian preached from Psalm 121 showing how it was Jane's testimony that her help came from the Lord. But the psalm also challenged the rest of us: "the Lord will keep you from all evil." That is the help we need.

There was also a tribute to Jane by Dr Margaret Barnes-Davies who had known her as a co-worker in church activities and as a friend and prayer partner. Margaret had also been grateful to Jane for her services as a childminder. After the close of the service, Jane was buried alongside her three-year-old daughter, Becky Jane in Blaby Cemetery.

Many were the memories of Jane that were exchanged over the refreshments afterwards. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband, Jim, her son, Richard, her step-children and other members of the family.

We grieve our loss but we rejoice that Jane is now face-to-face with the Lord she loved.