Monday, 22 December 2008

Three Wise Men?

We'd like the First Sunday Thing to be for all ages, and we'd like to include serious adult reflection as well as children's activities, so one of the groups on 4th January will be exploring the Bible story for the day. Here is some background thinking (from the sermon at Midnight Communion last year).

"... Well, there were not three of them. All St Matthew’s Gospel says is that they brought three sorts of gifts - which has led artists to represent them being carried by three men. And they were not Kings. They are called Magi - priests from what today is Iran who acted as court astrologers.

Magi appear in two other stories at this time. One comes later in the Bible. Paul was travelling through Cyprus and met the Proconsul there, a man called Sergius Paulus. Sergius’ retinue doesn’t include a Chaplain or a jester but does include a Magos, who is called Elymas. Elymas tells Sergius just what a bad idea Christianity is and tries to persuade him not to listen to Paul. The other story comes more than once in other contemporary writing. In AD 66 (two years after the Great Fire of Rome and the persecution of Christians which followed) a Magos called Tiridates is among those who come to worship Nero as a God.

So, just imagine that you are a Christian in Rome in about AD 70, keeping your head down to avoid persecution, and you receive a new book. It is the first time you have had a book which tells the full story of Jesus. You find that it begins by telling you about Jesus’ ancestry and his birth; Jesus is both of human descent and comes from God. You look to see what the very first story will be. It tells you that Magi came to worship Jesus and lay gifts at his feet.

It is hard to think of a story which would surprise you more. These Magi - the ones who try to prevent Christian preaching as awful and who honour the worst persecutor of Christians as God-like - they are the first to recognise that Jesus has been sent by God. I’ve tried to think what the modern equivalent would be and the best I could come up with would be being told today that the first three worshippers were an evolutionary biologist, a psychic, and a member of Al’Qaeda..."

Monday, 15 December 2008

A child in Ecuador

Bishop Edward King Church (BEK) on the Willows sponsored a child in Ecuador through Tear Fund, and St Michael’s has continued to do so since BEK closed and its members joined St Michael’s. This isn’t as well known in the parish as it might be, although letters arrive and are sent via Tear Fund quite regularly. So discovering something about this link will be one of the things available to those who come to the first First Sunday Thing. Keeping the church facing outwards to the concerns of the world (rather than inwards on itself) seems an imporant aim, and it is good to build this into the First Sunday Thing from the start. Her name is Delia, she is a farmer’s daughter, and she is now 13.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Prayer requests

Requests for prayers to be hung on the Christmas tree at St Michael's on 4th January can be brought on the day. But they could also be left openly as Comments on this Blog, or e-mailed confidentially (p dot m dot mullins at virgin dot net). The picture is the Walnut tree at St Nicolas' in the early morning sun yesterday; nothing at all hangs on it yet, but its limbs are lifted to the Sun expectantly.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Preparing for 4th January.

A small group has met to plan our first First Sunday Thing.

We want to do something more like our Last Saturday Thing (we ought to start a Blog about that!) and Children's Activity Mornings than our old Family Services. And we want to do something for all ages and not just children or families.

We thought we'd tackle things this way once and then get feed back before planning for February.

There will be a simple said Communion service in the Lady Chapel at 9.30 a.m. for those want to attend. Then people will be organising lifts and setting up the church.

Coffee and other refreshments will be served from 10.15 a.m. as we welcome those who arrive.

Soon after 10.30 a.m. people will be invited to move with their refeshments to any one of six areas of the church to watch or take part in activities going on there.

One group will be preparing to present the story of the Three Kings, another to make an art display of it, and another to study what it means.

One group will be hanging requests for prayer on a Christmas tree, another working at a piece of music, and another finding out about what St Michael's does sponsoring a student in South America.

Soon after 11.00 a.m. we plan to pool all of these activities in a twenty minute act of worship.