Friday, 28 February 2014

Called To Serve

The main body of a church building, the part where the congregation normally sits is the nave.   The term nave comes from the Latin word navis meaning ship, it is where we also get the name navy.

The reason the main body of the church is called the nave, is because the vaulting of a traditional church building often looks like the upturned hull of a ship. 

It is also because in early Christian art, the church was often portrayed as a ship or boat.  A ship is not designed to be a static object, that doesn’t go anywhere, but instead it is something that is designed to be dynamic, to travel across rivers, lakes and oceans. 

This is why the image of a boat or ship, was a good image for the church.  Because Jesus didn’t come to create an institution, which is often what we now think of when we talk about church, but a movement that would transform the world.   

For the early Christians, who faced persecution, the image of the church as a boat was a compelling one.  It was an image of the church tossed on the sea of disbelief, worldliness, and persecution, that would finally reach a safe harbour with its cargo of human souls.  They drew on the imagery of the ark saving Noah’s family during the flood, and Jesus protecting Peter’s boat and the apostles on the stormy Sea of Galilee.  The image of the boat became a great symbol during times when Christians needed to disguise the cross, since the ships mast forms a cross in many of its depictions. 

Thinking about the church as a boat, there are two images I want to explore with you today, which we could apply to the church today.  The first is the image of the cruise ship, and secondly the image of the lifeboat.

When I worked for the Mission to Seafarers in New Zealand, I had the opportunity to visit many different cruise ships whilst they were in port – I suspect it is probably the nearest I’ll ever get to going on a cruise ship holiday!

On a cruise ship, the majority of people on board are passengers, who have paid good money to sit back and enjoy the cruise while they are waited upon hand and foot by the hard working crew.  When you go on a cruise, you want to be able to relax and unwind and let others do all the work, whilst you enjoy the facilities the ship has to offer, the food and entertainment, the gym and spa facilities, whilst you watch the world slip slowly by.
Now whilst this is fine when going on a cruise holiday, it starts to become a problem when we start treating the church as if it were a cruise ship.

When we start asking questions such as:  
  •  Do I like the music they play in the ballroom?
  • Do I like the captain and his crew?
  • Is the service good?
  • Am I well fed?
  • Are my needs met promptly?
  • Is the cruise pleasant?
  •  Am I comfortable?
  •  Will I cruise with them again?

A better image of what the church should be like, would I suggest, be a lifeboat. 

A lifeboat has a very clear mission and objective.  It is there not primarily to serve the needs of the people in the boat, but to save lives.  Everything on board a life boat is stripped back to the bare essentials, so that it can fulfil its purpose.  On board a lifeboat every person has a job to do, and is equipped and trained to do this job.  Everyone is expected to pull together.  There is no room for idleness on the lifeboat, because it has a clear mission, which is to navigate lives stormy waters and rescue people.

Which of these two images, the cruise ship or the lifeboat, do you feel best represents St Martin’s? 


The problem arises when we can treat the church as if it is a cruise ship, there to serve the needs of those who have paid to join the cruise.  For example it is often said that in a typical church 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people, and that if you want something done ask a busy person.   The trouble is that this is both unhealthy and also unsustainable. 


This was a problem the church in Acts faced.  As the church grew, the demands on those in leadership also increased, until a dispute arose between the Greek speaking believers and the Hebrew speaking believers, because the Greek speaking believers said their widows were being overlooked in the daily food distribution.  The disciples could have taken on this role themselves, but they realised that to do so, would mean that they would be distracted from their primary purpose of proclaiming the Gospel.  So instead they called the church together to choose seven men, who were known to be full of the spirit and wisdom, to take on the responsibility of pastoral care within the church, so the disciples could continue to focus on prayer and ministry of the word. 


Because they equipped and encouraged people to be involved in the ministry of the church, the church continued to grow at an astonishing rate. 


I’ve talked about the image of the church as a boat, but another image used in the New Testament to describe the church is the body. 


Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 writes: ‘Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. And so the body is not made up of one part but of many…. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.’ 


We are each part of the body of Christ, the church, and therefore each have a part to play in the life of the church.  It doesn’t matter how young or old we may be, whether we’re single or married, employed or unemployed, male or female, each of us has a part to play in the life of the church, and each of us is called to serve. 


This is one of the themes picked up in our reading from Ephesians, where Paul talks about the role of prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to ‘equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.’  (Eph 4:12) One of the problems with the church today, is that we have clericalised the church, and expect a few professionally trained people to do everything.  This is no longer sustainable, and is unhealthy.  Everyone single person in the church is called to be equipped for works of service.  Paul goes on talk about how the church, the body of Christ, grows and builds itself up in love, so that ‘each part does its work’. 


So the question we need to be thinking and praying about is how does God want me to serve him in the church? As you do this, ask yourself, what are the things I am passionate about?  What is God laying on my heart?  Be open to what God might be calling you to. 


In April we will be holding our Annual Church Meeting, and we are looking to fill some important roles in the life of the church.  We are looking for a new Church Warden, people to serve on the Church Council and three new people to serve as Deanery Synod representatives.  We are also looking for more people to be involved in helping to run our children’s Sunday groups, and help in our parent and toddler group.  We also urgently need to find new leaders to help take on the running of our very successful Guides groups, and in a couple of months we will be starting a new calling out process to fill the various vacancies on the Ministry Team. 

We also recently asked the congregation in a questionnaire if there were other ways you might be able to help with pastoral care, providing lifts to church or to appointments, visiting people at home or in hospital, taking communion to people in their homes, and so forth.


A few weeks ago in the church newsletter I told the story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

I talked earlier about the image of the church as a lifeboat, which has a very clear mission and purpose, where everyone has a role to play. 


It is an important time in the life of St Martin’s as we look for people to take on various important responsibilities that help further the mission of the church.  Don’t just assume someone else will do these jobs, but instead ask God to show you how he wants you to serve him in the church, and ask yourself what can I do – what can I offer, because we can all offer something in service to God’s church?  To borrow the words of JFK, “Ask not what your church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church.”


As Rick Warren says, “Faithful servants never retire. You can retire from your career, but you will never retire from serving God.”


I leave the final words with the Apostle Peter, who wrote: ‘Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.’ (1 Peter 4:10-11)


Saturday 1st March

Today, from our church family, we pray for Janet Allchurch.

A prayer for St. David’s Day
“Almighty God, on this special day
we remember Saint David, your servant.
We give thanks for his passion for the Gospel
which helped spread Christianity;
We give thanks for his purity and simplicity of life
which enabled his pursuit of Christian perfection;
We give thanks for his gentleness, but clear spiritual leadership.
Grant that we may learn from him
And respond to the words that are thought to be his last:
“Be steadfast, and do the little things,”
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.”  (Tony Miles)

Our prayers for our town of Walsall focus today on the Health Care sector.  We pray for all those who work in our hospitals, surgeries, nursing homes or who are involved in care in the community.  Bless them with the strength and energy they need to cope with such demanding jobs.  Provide them with the cheerfulness and altruism required to cope with their patients, clients and colleagues.  Loving Lord, may they use their skills, knowledge and talents for the very best outcomes for their patients.  May all managers, administrators and financial directors ensure that resources are directed where they are needed most so that the sick and vulnerable people in our town may  receive the care and support they need quickly and effectively.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Prayer for Friday 28 February

Loving Lord, help me to learn to speak to you, to pray to you, to confess my sins and to open my life to let you in. Help me to learn to speak of you, to share my faith with those around me, to reflect your love for me in all of my life, my deeds, my thoughts and my words. Enter into my heart remove my selfishness and make me wholly yours.  (based on a hymn by C Simmonds)  Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Prayer for Thursday 27th February

We have suffered severe flooding over the last two months in many parts of the country and we pray today for all those whose homes, farms and businesses have been affected. We think especially of those who have lost everything because they could not afford high insurance premiums and of those who face months of work to restore their homes and communities.  As we head into colder weather, we pray for all those on our roads in wintry conditions and especially for the drivers of the gritting lorries, ambulance crews, fire-fighters and police, for drivers of delivery vehicles and lorries transporting goods across the country and closer to home for those who deliver our milk, post and drive our buses. We pray for their safety and for the safety of those travelling to and from work and school. Finally we pray for the elderly and vulnerable that they will be able to keep warm in their homes.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Do Not Despise The Small Things

Short Talk based on Mark 9:41

One of the greatest saints of the twentieth century was without doubt Mother Teresa.  Born in what is now Macedonia, to ethnic Albanian parents, she felt a call to the religious life at the age of 12, and six years later joined the Sisters of Loreto as a missionary.  She initially travelled to Loreto Abbey in Ireland to learn English, before arriving in 1929 in India, taking her first religious vows as a nun on 24 May 1931. 
It was on 10 September 1946, that Teresa experienced what she later described as "the call within the call" to go and leave the convent and go and live among the poor in Calcutta which she did in 1948, and helped to found a new religious community helping the "poorest among the poor" called the Missionaries of Charity, whose mission was in her own words to care for "the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone."
It is not possible to compare ourselves to Mother Theresa, and the extraordinary impact she had during her lifetime.  But it wouldn’t be right to either, as she herself said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
In our Gospel reading today Jesus said “Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.”  In saying this Jesus shows us that it is not just the big things that we do which count, but also the little things.  Jesus does not forget the small gestures of kindness and love, giving a cup of water, an act of acceptance, a kind word, a smile, taking time to bake someone a cake or write a card, sitting with someone who is unwell, so many little things which in themselves may not seem much, but which make a difference and which God notices. 
In the book of Zechariah the prophet says “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (4:10)  It tends to be the big gestures that get recognised and celebrated, but God says “Do not despise the small things.”  Just as a house is built from lots of small bricks, so the small acts of kindness matter, because they build to something much bigger.

Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference.  No act of kindness is too small. The gift of kindness may start as a small ripple that over time can turn into a tidal wave affecting the lives of many.

When we show acts of kindness and love no matter how small or insignificant they may appear, we express something of God’s love for the world, and we help to build God’s kingdom here on earth as in heaven. 
So today, look for opportunities to small acts of love and kindness to those we meet, whether they are strangers or friends, and lets not do it with any thought of reward, but simply for the joy of knowing that in helping others we are doing God’s work. 
I want to finish with the words of the French Quaker and Missionary Etienne De Grellet who died in 1855.  She said "I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

Prayer for Wednesday 26th February

On this third day of Fairtrade week:
“We pray for all those who work in factories throughout the world, manufacturing the goods that we take for granted, from Indian sweatshops to hi-tech plants in this country. Where people face lives of pitiful wages and long working hours, we ask for their liberation, and pray for their health and safety.

We pray for all those who import and sell the products we buy, that they will have a sense of their responsibilities. We ask that you grant them courage to take a stand against exploitation, and the wisdom to pay producers the true value of their work.
Finally, we pray for ourselves, that we will learn to shop responsibly. Open us to the full impact of our purchases, to the people behind the products. Make us better stewards of creation and more loyal servants of your Kingdom, where the weak are made strong; the strong, just; and the just, compassionate.” (Fairtrade worship resource) Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Prayer for Tuesday 25 February

“Tilt the scales,
O God of the mustard seed:
That the poor shall see justice.
Share the feast,
O God of Eden’s abundant garden:
That each crop may fetch a fair price.
Upset the tables,
O God of the upside-down Kingdom:
That the least can benefit from their trade.
Open our eyes,
O God of life in all its fullness:
That we may learn to walk the way of your son
tilting, sharing, upsetting this world
Not satisfied
until the products we bring to our table
Give a better deal, to all who hunger for one.
In His name, Amen.” (Fairtrade worship resource)

Please also pray for the interviews for the post of Rector of St Matthew's Walsall which are taking place today.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Monday, 24 February 2014

Genesis 45:1-15 To Live, We Must Die

Sermon preached by the Revd Phill Ball on the 23rd February 2014 at St Martin's Church Walsall

This morning we are still talking about the story of Joseph from Genesis.

The theme I suggest is ,  To Live, we must die, which sounds contradictory, and when I say, "To live, we must die," it cannot be in the physical world, for we know that in the physical world, we physical live until we physically die.

Thus, "To live, we must die," is an expression to describe what must take place spiritually for us to enter our everlasting life with Jesus, the Lord our God.

Jesus himself had to die, that we might all have an invitation to live.

But then, we may ask, "How must we die, that we may live forever?"

The answer is that we must die to our pride and to all our other many sins, and other wrong doings.

So, this morning we are going to look at some examples of this dying to self, to live anew.
The first example is from Genesis 45:1-15, when Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers, the very brothers who sold him into slavery in Egypt.

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, "Have everyone go out from me." So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers;

Remember we will have to give an account before God for our lives and wrongdoings eventually.

And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it.  

As God, and Jesus weeps when we do wrong.

Joseph had known who his brothers were for a long time, and he had been playing a game with them, to bring fear to their hearts, because of what they had done to him.

But now, Joseph can no longer do that, for his previous actions are troubling him, and he is really glad to see them.

As God and Jesus is always glad to see us, for he loves us all dearly.

Joseph was dying to self, to his office of prime minister of Egypt, and to his thoughts of revenge.

Joseph was now, literally, just their brother; who wanted a new life together as one family.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?" But his brothers could not answer him, for they were terrified in his presence. How will you feel before the throne of God, I would be speechless too, because like the brothers, I know what I deserve.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come closer to me." And they came closer. And he said, "I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.
"And now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.

Sometimes we question how much we are to forgive others.

But here, we see that there should be no limit, no matter what was done against us.
Like God, Joseph was looking at the bigger picture, and not just at the sinful act done against him.

Joseph saw the hand of God in the whole matter.

Joseph saw how God turned their evil into good, because of the way he lived before the Lord.

So he explains further to his brothers what is still to take place.

"For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.
"And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.

As God has sent Jesus to give us all an invite to Live in Christ, to confess, forgive and be forgiven, and receive eternal life.

"Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

As Jesus is the Lord and head of his household, the church which is you and me.

Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph, "God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay.

"And you shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have.

"There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, lest you and your household and all that you have be impoverished." ’ 

As God through Jesus gives us an invitation to repent be forgiven and forgive, and dwell near and with God for ever.

Joseph was acting as a type of Noah, who was there to save his family from the disaster to come. Noah came to preserve life, and the sign God gave that he would not again destroy the world, but through his love save it, was a rainbow.  Like Joseph’s coat. Makes you think doesn’t it?

Joseph, and God still now today; is not forcing them, or us, to come and be saved, but he was encouraging them, to come to him and be saved, as we should encourage others.
But the ultimate decision was theirs, and ours, to make.

They, like us, had to die to self; for they would now have to tell their father what they had done, and stand before him confessing that they knowingly brought all the past grief upon him, who mourned for his son.

We can also see in the life of Joseph, an example of God's saving grace given to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, now here not only many centuries ago.

Jesus is also telling us He has paid the price of our wrongdoings, and is willing to forgive us, and to bring us to a land of everlasting life; but we, on our own, must die to self, confessing our sins to our Father in heaven, and then willingly come to Him.

In other words, we too must die to self, if we are to live forever.

So how often should we confess and be forgiven, and how many times should we forgive others, Jesus gives the answer to both, in our other reading, to Peter; not seven times, but seven times seven times.  As many as it takes in fact; is the message.

The Good News of Gods invitation to eternal life, is the message we share, and the invitation we deliver to others, like Joseph's brothers and family, it is for them to respond to the invitation or not.

So every time we see a rainbow, let’s give thanks for the invitation to be saved , and respond to it, and shine and live forever! Amen.

Sermon on Genesis Chapter 43 & 44

Sermon preached by Penny Wheble on the 16th February 2014 at St Martin's Church in Walsall

A police officer pulls over a speeding car.

The officer says, I clocked you at 80 miles per hour, sir.

The driver says, ' sorry sir, I had it on cruise control at 60; perhaps your radar gun needs calibrating.

Not looking up from her knitting the wife says, ‘Now dont be silly dear, you know this car doesn’t have cruise control!

As the officer writes out the ticket, the driver looks over at his wife and growls, ‘Cant you please keep quiet for once??!!

The wife smiles demurely and says, You should be thankful your radar detector went off when it did.

As the officer makes out the second ticket for the illegal radar detector unit, the man looks at his wife again and says through clenched teeth, ‘Woman, cant you keep quiet?!!!!!!

The officer frowns and says, And I notice that youre not wearing your seat belt, sir. Thats an automatic £80 fine.

The driver says, ‘Yes, well, you see officer, I had it on, but took it off when you pulled me over so that I could get my licence out of my back pocket.

The wife says, Now, dear, you know very well that you didnt have your seat belt on. You never wear your seat belt when youre driving.

And as the police officer is writing out the third ticket the driver turns to his wife and barks, 

The officer looks over at the woman and asks, Does your husband always talk to you this way, 
Maam?and she said, Only when hes been drinking.

You’ve heard the saying, honesty is the best policy!

In the story of Joseph in Egypt, God taught this lesson to Josephs brothers; and I believe it's a lesson for us as well today.

God used Joseph to reconcile the family of Israel. The reconciliation of Israels family was only possible with complete honesty and humility!

And looking back at our text this morning, there are a few important things we need to note:
Remember, the Sons of Israel sold Joseph and told their father that Joseph was killed by a wild animal.

But God was with Joseph and Joseph continued to worship God even as a slave in Egypt.
Because God blessed him, Joseph became Pharaohs second hand man.
When his brothers came to Egypt to get food, Joseph recognized his brothers but his brothers didn’t recognize Joseph.

Now, as we look at Genesis 44…..

Joseph planned to trap his brothers with a lie!

Joseph secretly placed his silver cup in Benjamins sack and then accused the brothers of stealing.

Why would Joseph do that?? First of all, how did the brothers respond?

The brothers knew they were innocent and so they were willing to pay the penalty if found guilty.

The brothers thought they were as clean as can be; they were so confident about their innocence almost to the point of arrogance! They were saying, Bring it on!
But when they found out that their youngest brother Benjamin had the stolen goods, how did they respond?

Verse 13 –‘And so, they all grieved and tore their clothes and they had no choice but to go back to Egypt’.

The brothers were found guilty even though they thought they were completely innocent!
Hear again what the brothers said to Joseph in v16……

The brothers were willing to pay the penalty but what did Joseph do? V17 tells us that Joseph focused on Benjamin!

Why did Joseph try to “trick” his brothers?

The answer is in v18-34 isn’t it? ‘Judah, representing all the brothers, honestly confessed everything to Joseph and willingly sacrificed himself’!

Was that what Joseph was looking for?

If we jump forward to Genesis 45:1-6 we see that God used Joseph to reconcile the family of Israel. The reconciliation of Israels family was only possible with complete honesty and humility!

The application to our lives is simple isn’t it?

You see, we can be partially honest with God and think we are alright.

But God is looking for complete reconciliation with us! In other words, it is possible for us to think we are alright when we are actually keeping God out in many areas of our lives! Gods desire is to be with us always, full-time not part-time!

A shoplifter wrote to a Department Store which said “I’ve just become a Christian and I cant sleep at night because I feel guilty. So heres £100 that I owe youand signs his name. But he also wrote in the bottom of the letter, P.S. If I still cant sleep, I’ll send you the rest.

I ask this question, are we completely honest with God or only partially honest?
Joseph had power to do whatever he wanted with his brothers who were guilty of sinning 
against him.

Does God have the power to do whatever He wants with us sinners?? God has the power to judge us!

As hard as it may have been for Joseph, he planned a way to get the brothers to be completely honest with him.
And hard as it may be for God (God hurts when we ignore Him), God can set up a way for us to be completely honest with Him! Gods desire is for us to be in fellowship with Him all the time!

So I ask again - Are we completely honest with God? God will work on us till we are completely honest with Him! Are we hiding things from God? Let's not fool ourselves, God knows everything and He desires complete honesty from us!

Paul gives us some guidance in his letter to the Corinthians

‘Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realise that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?  And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.  Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong – not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.  For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth’. (2 Corinthians 13: 5-8)

Is Jesus Christ truly in us?

Your heart is the control room of your life; and in your control room is a throne. Always check your heart; is Jesus Christ, who we call Lord, really sitting on the throne of our hearts with every situation? Or are you or someone else or the world actually sitting on that throne and Jesus just at the side?

We must be truly honest with God about everything!

And let us not forget the GREAT NEWS that in spite of our sinfulness, God still loves us! Jesus Christ died for all our sins once and for all; there is no need to hide anything from God!

Does God know everything?? Absolutely!

Is there anything that can separate us from the love of God??

Absolutely nothing!

Why do we try and hide things from God?

Our dishonesty with God is like a veil between us and the light, we can interfere with Gods love although Gods love is always there!

And to be completely honest with God, we must Know the truth and live the truth!

The truth of course is Gods Word, the Bible!

Are we really knowing Gods Word on a daily basis?

Let us be honest, how much of Gods Word actually goes into our brains on a daily basis compared to other stuff like entertainment, mans wisdom, or simply the news? Do we read our Bibles regularly? Do we spend time with God?

To live honestly and truthfully, we must be knowledgeable of Gods Word more than anything else!

How can we truly live out the truth when we dont know it?

Please take a moment now to examine your hearts…….

Lord, you are the Word of God
and you have the word of life for us all.
You are the source of hope, joy and life for us,
Speak to our hearts those words we need to hear,

That our words and our deeds may find new life in you. Amen

Prayer for Monday 24th February

Fairtrade fortnight starts today and ends on 9th March. Its focus this year is to “Make Bananas Fair”. Bananas are the UK’s most popular fruit. One in 3 bananas sold is Fairtrade but the other 2 are subject to fierce price wars by supermarkets and suppliers to make them so cheap that they threaten farmer’s futures. Small family farms find it impossible to compete with the low prices of those grown on large plantations, where chemical use is rife and workers often face dangerous conditions, and many have abandoned their plots. Only Fairtrade guarantees growers higher prices, enabling them to feed their families and make a viable living.

Loving Lord, help us to support Fairtrade in our world by buying bananas and other products that do not exploit others and that give people a chance to support themselves, their families and communities.  Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Prayer for Sunday 23rd February

Collect for the 2nd Sunday before Lent
“Almighty God, you have created the heavens and the earth, and made us in your own image: teach us to discern your hand in all your works, and your likeness in all your children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever. Amen.”

Compassionate Father, as we enjoy the freedom to worship you in church today, we pray for your persecuted church. For those in the 50 countries in our world where it is most difficult to be a Christian. Where owning a Bible can put you in prison, where sharing your faith can lead to a beating, where going to church can even get you killed. We pray that all those who worship in fear today will feel the power of our prayers for them. Lord, give them your strength and support. Reach into the hearts and minds of their oppressors and all who preach a doctrine of hate against those holding differing views and help them find tolerance and respect for the rights of all humanity. We pray for the work of Open Doors and Barnabus Fund in supporting your persecuted church.  Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Real Love

Dear Friends,
Pity the poor postman delivering all our Valentine cards on Friday. Of course I had to turn down the offer of a romantic weekend in Paris!
Valentine day made me think of the true nature of love. Grand gestures (such as a weekend in Paris) are wonderful, but not so wonderful if they’re not backed up by a caring, a respect and an appreciation of each other.
I guess we might all enjoy being pampered and spoilt for a weekend but this doesn’t mean much if it’s not accompanied by a morning cup of tea, shared shopping and household duties, a companionship and friendship that grows with time.
It’s in the day by day, ‘nitty-gritty’ of living out our lives in a busy and ever-demanding world that we see what real love is.
How do we love God? In the once-a-week-and-I’ve-done-my-bit grand sort of way, or in the moment by moment giving of ourselves to Him, developingour relationship with Him?
How does God love us?In the Grandness of His death on the cross and in the struggle of daily life, with us, in us and through us by the Holy Spirit.
Human love isn’t the answer – it comes to an end. God’s love is eternal and I’m thankful beyond words that moment by moment, day by day, I can rely on Him being there for me.
‘For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41 v 13’  - a Valentine, just for us, from God.
Love, Jane W.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Prayer for Saturday 22nd February 2014

We pray for the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides at St Martin’s and their sisters worldwide today on World Thinking Day, when members of the Girl Guide and Girl Scout Association around the world learn about each other and reaffirm their commitment to international friendship and support. Their theme for 2014 is achieving universal primary education. Their messages for this theme are: “Every girl has the right to learning so she reaches her fullest potential” and ”Education opens doors for all girls and boys”, based on UN Millennium Development Goal 2. Father, we pray that they will be successful in fundraising to enable grants to be given to 5 new focus countries worldwide, to help towards this goal.
We pray for all children in our world longing for education: those for who walk miles to school each day, those in classes with over a hundred other children, those who do not even have basics such as pencils and paper, those who have to work instead to help support their families and for girls and sometimes boys denied education by extremists.  We pray for support from countries, organisations and individuals to give all children the right and opportunity to  attend school. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Prayer for Friday 21st February 2014

Heavenly Father, in our weekly prayers for our town of Walsall, we pray today, for its education services. That all decisions regarding the running of our schools, nurseries and colleges will be inspired by the desire to develop  learning and opportunities for our  children and young people. As they come to the end of the half term week’s holiday, we pray that the children will have  enjoyed their break and be able to return to their studies with renewed enthusiasm. That head teachers, teachers and learning support staff will have had, not only the opportunity to rest, but also to develop new ideas and plan and organise for the weeks ahead. We pray for schools, staff and students experiencing difficulties and that they will be given the right support and encouragement to remedy them.  Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Prayer for Thursday 20th February 2014

We pray for those attending the Bereavement Support Group this morning and for all those known to us who have lost loved ones recently. Compassionate Father, we ask that you will give them strength to cope as they mourn and that they will feel your presence and support. Thank you Lord for those in our church who lead this group.
We pray for those attending 9.30 Holy Communion, Tai Chi and the Coffee Bar. May the friendship and fellowship they experience provide a welcome break during these weeks of winter particularly for those who live alone. We pray for and give grateful thanks for the efforts of those who take the service and run the activities on Thursday mornings.  Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer