Newsletter May 23rd

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Dear Friends,

This weekend many of our Methodist Churches around the circuit are opening their doors to welcome people back to worship.

We are still under Covid restrictions and therefore a booking system is in place along with the necessity to wear face masks, maintain social distancing and as yet, no singing.

It is a fitting day to return to collective worship as we gather to celebrate what is often called 'The Birthday of the Church' or more correctly 'Pentecost.'

The Feast of Pentecost has its origins in the Jewish festival of Shavout — One of three major Jewish festivals where families made a pilgrimage up to the temple in Jerusalem to celebrate.

Shavout means 'weeks' referring to seven weeks plus one day (50 days) following the Feast of Passover (Easter). Pentecost is a Greek word which means fifty.

The earliest celebrations of Shavout (Pentecost) marked the beginning of the harvesting season and pilgrims would bring the first fruits of their crops up to the temple to rejoice and give thanks to God for his provision.

I harvested the 'first fruits' from my allotment this week — Little Gem lettuces! The 'first fruits' always taste the best! And it was the very best of their harvest that the Israelites brought to say thank you to God.

What a lesson for us about offering to God the very best of ourselves to him out of gratitude for all that he has done for us!

I will offer up my life in spirit and truth
Pouring out the oil of love, as my worship to you
In surrender I must give my every part
Lord, receive this sacrifice of a broken heart

Jesus, what can I give, what can I bring
To so faithful a Friend, to so loving a King?
Saviour, what can be said, what can be sung
As a praise of Your name for the things
You have done?
Oh, my words could not tell, not even in part
Of the debt of love that is owed by this thankful heart

Shavout is also a Jewish holiday that celebrates the most important event in Israel's history — the giving of the Torah (The first five books of the Old Testament) to Moses at Mount Sinai.

Having celebrated Passover (The Exodus and escape from Egypt) they then give thanks for the giving of the Ten Commandments & the Law having crossed the Red Sea to safety.

More devout Jews celebrate Shavout by staying up the entire night to study and learn the Torah. At services, the Ten Commandments are read, and the people reaffirm their commitment to treasure and obey God's ways. They repeat the words 'All that the Lord says we will do.'

The book of Ruth is also read on Shavout morning because of the link to the harvest season and God's provision as well as Ruth's willingness to live as one of God's people.

It was during this Jewish Festival, with crowds filling Jerusalem that we read in Acts 2:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

As Christians today, we can pray and invite God the Holy Spirit to fill us afresh, giving us assurance of faith, comfort, guidance and help as we seek to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Edwin Hatch (1835-1889)

Spring Walk
On a beautiful Spring morning this week — before an afternoon of hailstorms and torrential rain, David and Christine Allan led us on a delightful walk beginning at Medsted.

Very soon we were admiring the Bluebells beneath a resplendent canopy of trees as we enjoyed fellowship together on this four-mile walk. Willow the dog and companion also enjoyed racing through the undergrowth whilst stopping to sniff everything of interest!
Joined by others back on the green in Medsted a picnic was enjoyed in the sun!

Worship Services
The On-Line Service this week is led by Liam Sheridan www.altonmethodist.org.uk. (Now fully Booked)
Services in Church will resume as follows:
Alton — 10am led by Liam Sheridan
Book via altonmethodist@hotmail.com or ring Liz George

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