Everyone is welcome

This is just a reminder that EVERYONE is welcome to the churches in our parish. God does not discriminate. God loves and welcomes all of us, whoever we are. Sometimes the church doesn’t appear to offer that welcome, particularly to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary or intersex, but all are welcome in this parish, and we work to challenge discrimination and exclusion.

Our inclusive values mean that we extend this challenge to all areas of discrimination and we belong to Inclusive Church, a network of churches, groups and individuals uniting around a shared vision:

We believe in inclusive Church – a church which celebrates and affirms every person and does not discriminate. We will continue to challenge the church where it continues to discriminate against people on grounds of disability, economic power, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, learning disability, mental health, neurodiversity, or sexuality. We believe in a Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.”

We will get it wrong. If you feel excluded or discriminated against, tell us. But let’s work together to offer God’s welcome.

 

Picture by Cecilie Johnsen on Unsplash.

Some of the Sermon on the Mount!

This Sunday in church we are reading Matthew 5:13-20.  Here are some thoughts which will form the basis of my sermon.

I am particularly interested in vv17-20.  There seems to be some form of contradiction in these verses.  Jesus tells us that he has not come to abolish the law, and seems to make dire threats against those who teach otherwise.  And yet Peter abolishes kosher law (Acts 10:9-23) and Paul argues that following the law is a problem (Galatians 5:4-6).

There are some logical solutions to this!

“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished”… If Jesus incarnation, death and/or resurrection have caused heaven and earth to pass away, or if they have caused all to be accomplished…

What “law” is Jesus talking about?  Traditionally “law or the prophets” refer to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, and the prophets writings.  However, this includes Leviticus which contains the kosher laws.  If we look at the vv that follow this weeks reading then we may see that they are a commentary on the 10 commandments.  Or on the commandments which Jesus is about to give – where he interprets the 10 commandments in a harder, but more loving way.

Alternatively we might see the law as Jesus expounds it in Matthew 22:34-40 as fulfilling the law and yet at the same time as undermining the “law” as taught by the Pharisees which created additional laws, just to be on the safe side!  God’s laws were broad principles.  Jewish laws defined the principles in fine detail.  After all the passage ends: On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Another approach is to look at who Matthew is writing for – which is the Jews.  If you are writing to the Jews, it would be sensible to emphasise the continuity with Judaism with its emphasis on the Law and Prophets – Jesus is not doing anything that does away with the Law and the Prophets – even though later disciples do.

Why this questioning?  Personally I find a conflict between the Two Great Commandments and some of the others (I am not arguing for us to ignore the 10 commandments – perhaps even to extend them to not coveting our neighbours husband!).

A couple of the commentaries I read say that this is the hardest passage if scripture to interpret (trust me to pick it!).

If this passage worries you, what you have to do is figure it out for yourself – although you can also accept that you can’t make sense of it.

A baptismal welcome

We love a baptism and we’ve celebrated quite a number recently, welcoming children and their families into the church. Baptisms take place at all three churches – St George’s, St John’s and St Mark’s – and always in the main service as baptism means becoming part of the whole church and the congregation is an important part of that.

Recently we also had a special celebration of thanksgiving for the baptism of little Lewis who was baptized in Romania but whose family wanted a service here in Farnham too. Baptism families are given a candle to mark the occasion and Lewis’s Romanian one was pretty impressive. Lesley Crawley even prayed in Romanian.

On Sunday Maximus was baptized and, at five years old, was able to declare fervently that he wanted to be baptized and later lead the congregation out of the church, holding his candle before him.

Welcome all.

Pictured top: Families and godparents with Lesley after the thanksgiving for Lewis (far left) and baptism of Lillie-Rose (centre).
Below: Maximus is baptized.
Lewis’s Romanian baptismal candle.