Easter is the most important holy day of the Christian faith, and isn't just Easter Sunday; it's 50 days long! For Christians, Easter marks the discovery of the empty tomb and the return of Jesus from death; it is the liberation of all humans from the consequences of our stubborn refusal and inability to follow God.
[end of contents]
There are lots of special things happening around Easter, including these services. Everyone is welcome. The ones that are most suitable for children are marked:
Family Worship, 10.30am at Starts at the URC Centre
We will meet at the URC Centre before walking in a procession to St. Christopher's for the rest of our family service.
Family Worship with Communion, 7pm at The URC Centre
Bring & Share Supper, reflective service and Communion.
Family Worship, 10am at The URC Centre
A service reflecting on Jesus' last few days on earth.
Walk of Witness, 11.30am at St Peter's Church Cottages, Leckhampton
A walk up Leckhampton Hill with the cross, pausing to reflect.
, or 12 noon at Impertial Gardens
Round the town centre and ending with a short service in Cheltenham Minster.
Tenebrae Service, 2pm at St Christopher's
An afternoon Reflection: a service of choral music, congregational hymns, and readings.
Service of Light, 8pm at St Peter's , Leckhampton
We hear the great stories of our faith and light the Easter candle.
Family Communion, 10.30am at St Christopher's
We all gather to celebrate the most important festival of the Christian Year.
Sung Evensong, 6pm at St Christopher's
This will include more of the great Easter hymns and music.
[end of section]
Has it really been 7 months already? It only seems like yesterday when I arrived, slightly wide-eyed and full of enthusiasm! The eyes are still wide open, and the enthusiasm hasn't diminished. Thank you once again for the wonderful welcome you have given to me and my family!
Having previously 'worked' in a variety of roles before coming to South Cheltenham, I would like to share some thoughts with you about 'work' and how this might be important in our thinking at this time of year.
As we approach Easter, it is worth reminding ourselves that the majority of Jesus' ministry took place outside, much of it in being in the workplace! In fact, 45 of the 52 parables have some sort of workplace context. As a church, do we do enough to recognise, support and encourage this sort of witness? Or is our effort confined to our church buildings? I'm sure the answer is mixed.
What is 'work' though? Is it a God given gift through which we grow and flourish... or is it a burden to us, causing us to grow and flourish elsewhere? As a nation, I actually think we have become blinkered to what this word really means, especially in the light of Brexit, European working conventions and zero hour contracts.
To answer that question, we have to think about the word 'vocation'. Everyone has a vocation (or role) to play, and our vocation is part of the rhythm of life, a rhythm which is so central to us as humans. Vocation, from the Latin vocare, means calling. For me, this is how we bring our gifts, skills and passions to the needs of the world, so that it might be a better place.
The psalmist wrote, "You know me and have formed me" (Psalm 139.16). Our vocation is also, therefore, about our identity, it's about who we are... we are all known and called into a relationship with God, and it is from there which all other things flow. And as we recognise that our gifts are from God, we are able to give them back and find 'our' place in His kingdom. For some, this means working at home supporting a family, for others it means working in or out of an office, for others it is means working within the Church itself, and there are of course many other examples including the work we continue doing once retired!
Whichever one, it is the activity of 'work' (and us working) that makes the difference and denotes purpose; it is that purpose which causes something to change and enables us to be witnesses to the Gospel; what we 'do' then enables others to see the Gospel though us, which is our part in bringing in the Kingdom. As St. Paul said, "For in the one Spirit we were all baptised into the one body" (1 Cor 12.13); we are now Christ's hands and feet.
No wonder Jesus spent a lot of his time 'working' in this setting! He was of course diligent in his attendance at the synagogue, at Jewish festivals and in the Temple at Jerusalem! But much of his 'work' took place outside, in the open air, on hillsides, by the lakeside, or amidst the hustle and bustle of the marketplace. And this is particularly true of the major events of Holy Week and Easter...
On Palm Sunday, he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey! On Good Friday, he carries his cross through Jerusalem and is nailed to the cross at Golgotha. On Easter Day, he is seen alive in the garden by Mary Magdalene.
Many people keep their faith private, but Jesus' ministry was very public and visible. He observed the laws, just as we must do also, in our homes, on our streets and in our places of work; but he was also a public witness to his Father.
We are called to be likewise!
In doing so, we may then see redemption as not just about the interior state, but also about making our human world more like the world God intended. Work is therefore central to the transformation of humanity and it becomes 'the place' where God is redeeming the world he created.
I do hope you are able to find time during Holy Week and Easter, and beyond, to take part in some indoor 'and' outdoor acts of worship and witness; to be both visible and reflective. A procession on Palm Sunday, a vigil on Maundy Thursday, a walk up a hill on Good Friday, or simply joining in with the great songs of joy on Easter Day as we celebrate new life in Christ and the bringing in of the Kingdom. As you do so, recall with joy and humility God's great love for us in Christ, and how each one of us is called upon to continue his work in the world.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3.16)
Every blessing at this Easter time.
[end of section]