News Sheet August 16th

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Dear Friends,
Over the last few months I've enjoyed reading a variety of books either recommended or chosen for me.
One that I was given is "Damascus" by Christos Tsiolkas. It is a novel based around the life of Saul/Paul and uses Paul's New Testament letters along with other historical documents as a source. It is an interesting and more sympathetic interpretation than I had expected and it challenged me to go back and read Paul's letters.

I think perhaps I am not alone in finding some of them quite challenging and hard going? So, although I have not previously been a fan of it, I decided to read The Message version of the Bible and I have enjoyed it! Somehow the novel, along with the introductions to each of Paul's letters written by Eugene Peterson, have made Paul seem much more human, and the letters have come alive as I've sensed anew that they were written to real people in a real context.

In particular I was struck by a passage in Paul's letters to the Christians in Thessalonica. In his introduction Peterson writes: "The way we perceive the future sculpts the present, gives contour and tone to nearly every action and thought through the day. If our sense of future is weak, we live listlessly."
I think at a time when everything seems so uncertain and it is difficult to see how the future will unfold — perhaps I feel as if I am "living listlessly" that life is on hold.

So the interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4 struck a chord with me: "One final word, friends. We ask you — urge is more like it — that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance!

So as I reflect on putting on my spiritual dancing shoes... I know it can only be in response to the certain hope that we have in knowing Jesus is with us in the present and that he also holds our future in his hands . We sing:

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

Stuart Townend. Music Keith Getty.
Words and Music Copyright © 2001 Thankyou Music CCL Licence number: 237133

Surely this is motivation to dance?
Peterson writes: Paul...... is prodding us to continue to live forward in taut and joyful expectancy for what God will do next in Jesus.
Amen to that Lord.

Opening our churches update... We are pleased to say that the Contact Centre will begin to use Alton church again from this Sunday. The church has been thoroughly cleaned and COVID risk assessments are in place for this group. In order to ensure that we are compliant with the cleaning requirements it is therefore essential that nobody enters the church without first chatting with either Liz George or Lin Fitch.

Thanks to those of you who have returned the questionnaire as requested by Philip last week. Please do keep them coming as we need to hear your views.

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