From our Minister
As a keen, but very much beginner birdwatcher I have been trying this Spring not just to identify birds by sight, but also to begin to recognise their calls and it has been a very instructive process! Most of us are probably aware of the way that birdsong multiplies between the months of March and June and you may even have been aware of the dawn chorus getting earlier and earlier until it seems that there are birds singing throughout the night. We all delight at the wonderful melodies that we hear each time we go out and there may even be some birds that we can pick out by their distinctive song. However I have certainly found it a challenge to begin to decipher the layers of different calls in order to identify each individual song, it is taking much patience and some very careful listening.
The act of doing this has led me to reflect on how we actually listen in our day to day lives and how much we actually really take in. The world is often a very noisy place and we rely a lot on sound to communicate, but this can mean that we end up overloaded and failing to pay attention to the detail. We hear without really listening, allowing the sound to wash over us, but not taking in the message.
Jesus says to his disciples when telling them parables ‘let those who have ears hear’. He is reminding his audience that his teaching is available to all, but to really gain the benefit of it, the disciples have to listen carefully, to absorb what is being said and to respond. Without careful listening the parable remains just an interesting story, but with our spiritual ears open then we are able to learn something of the kingdom.
‘Let those who have ears hear’ is a good command for us as the Church today too. It reminds us that we need to listen carefully to what God is telling us through the scriptures, to absorb it, pray about it and discuss it before applying what we learn to our lives. More than that though, it is also a reminder to us to listen to where God is speaking in the world today, to listen for people’s pain so that we might bring comfort and healing and to listen for voices crying out for justice in order that we can join in. Our spiritual listening involves conversation with others, listening to the news and listening in quietness for the voice of God. Let’s use our ears well to distinguish the different messages that God has for us.
God bless. Ruth
Famous Church Quotes
The True Church can never fail. For it is based upon a rock. – T.S. Eliot
Prayer is a strong wall and fortress of the church; it is a goodly Christian weapon. – Martin Luther
Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man. – Dwight L. Moody
The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of. Our attention would have been on God.- C.S. Lewis
“Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, there a church of God exists, even if it swarms with many faults.”- John Calvin
I like the silence of a church, before the service begins better than any preaching. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
You can be committed to Church but not committed to Christ, but you cannot be committed to Christ and not committed to church. – Joel Osteen
I think if the church did what they were supposed to do we wouldn’t have anyone sleeping on the streets. – Michael W. Smith
“I believe there are too many practitioners in the church who are not believers.”- C. S. Lewis
“You may speak but a word to a child, and in that child there may be slumbering a noble heart which shall stir the Christian Church in years to come.”- Charles Spurgeon
“What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organisations or more and novel methods, but people whom the Holy Ghost can use — people of prayer, people mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through people. He does not come on machinery, but on people. He does not anoint plans, but people, people of prayer.”- E. M. Bounds
“I lack the fervency, vitality, life, in prayer which I long for. I know that many consider it fanaticism when they hear anything which does not conform to the conventional, sleep-inducing eulogies so often rising from Laodicean lips; but I know too that these same people can acquiescently tolerate sin in their lives and in the church without so much as tilting one hair of their eyebrows.”-Jim Eliot
“One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organisation do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team. The first requisite is life, always” – A. W. Tozer
Come, let us sing of a wonderful love
This is a hymn which is sometimes written off as a piece of Victorian sentimentality. Lots of Victorian hymns were not very good, it’s true, but this is one which quite rightly is still sung today.
It’s deeply felt rather than sentimental. It’s written out of a full heart and a profound sense of how much God has done for us.
It’s also a hymn soaked in Scripture and shows how deeply the stories of Jesus had sunk into the author, Robert Walmsley.
The first verse, which speaks of the wonderful love “streaming to me and to you” helps to recall God’s promise to “open the windows of heaven” and bless his people, while the second and third take their line from the parable of the Lost Sheep: Jesus came “seeking the lost/Saving, redeeming at measureless cost”; he is “seeking the wanderers yet/Why do they roam?”
There are echoes of the parable of the Prodigal Son too – “Love only waits to forgive and forget;/Home weary wonderers home!”
The last verse is a plea for the Spirit to come and in-dwell us, lifting us above envy, and falsehood, and pride. We cannot ask God to bring others without asking him to deal with us too. Far from being sentimental, this verse echoes the theme of the great mystics, who sought to lose themselves in God.
The hymn is metrically quite complicated and it’s a mark of the author’s skill that we don’t notice that as we sing. He doesn’t strain after rhymes and each line flows naturally, leading us further into his own experience of the love of God.
Robert Walmsley was born in Manchester in 1831, and worked as a jeweller in nearby Sale, where he died in 1905. He was involved for many years with the Manchester Sunday School Union and wrote many hymns for the annual Whitweek Festival, when the children would march through the town in procession.
Very few of them are sung now, but judging by what has survived he had considerable gifts as a writer of devotional verse.
With thanks to Bill Harber for this article