Thoughts 02.06.20

The big picture?
One of the most difficult things we all face in the faith part of our lives is making sense of it all.  Now maybe that doesn’t bother you.  It bothers me lots.  I can’t bear contradictions or things that only make sense so long as they are never mentioned at the same time.  Like why God is so horrible in the Old Testament and yet so completely the opposite in the New Testament.  Why can the Bible tell us that God only has plans to prosper us and not to harm us and yet terrible things happen to people?  Why is God only described as good when we pass the exam or get a clear scan result or win that contract?

Anyway, the contradictions and un-thought-out mysteries could go on and on.  Some of them are quite good fun to consider and even interesting to discuss.  But some are downright serious and can’t be ignored.  We can never be content to mutter, “God works in mysterious ways…” as if that gets us all off the hook.

So, let’s exercise the mind for a few minutes.  Coronavirus19.  Did God send it?  Did he just let it?  Does he not care?  Is it some sort of punishment from God?  The internet has exploded with theories and ideas on all of these.  We all know about financial scams – watch out for those emails that look like they come from your bank!  Could I be so bold as to suggest that there are theological scams all around us.  Most are nothing worse than a sweet play on our emotions to make us feel better in the dark days of the virus.  Many are a very loose use of scripture (with little harm done).  Many are from sources and churches not accountable to us.  Are they consistent with the whole revelation of God in the Bible or are they just sound-bites, designed for effect?  Internet/fake news/exaggeration/unaccountability/no sources given????

You won’t have received many WhatsApp pictures of a respirator and the verse Romans 8:17, “We are the children of God…if we share in his sufferings.”   Who wouldn’t rather receive the picture of footprints walking across the beach.  Seriously, why would I want to embrace suffering with Christ, even if it is the path to my inheritance.  One of those contradictions we would rather not have to struggle with.

Did God send it?  Well, he certainly created it.  Nothing came from nothing.  Everything has a source, in whatever way we understand the creation idea (more next week on why He made it).

Here is another question.  Is God powerful enough to wipe out all evil, but chooses not to?  Or would God like to wipe out all evil, but does not have the power to do it?  Either lands us with a very disturbing image of God.  Here it is again: Is God powerful enough to wipe out all evil, but doesn’t want to, OR He does want to but does not have the power to do it?  Oh, I can hear the mutterings, “God moves in mysterious ways…”

We can’t leave these questions hanging like that.  It is not fair on those around us who doubt our faith because they think we don’t take it seriously.

Here is a possible answer.  God is powerful enough to wipe out all evil and He wants to.  In fact, He wants to wipe it out so much that He has already done it.  And it cost Him life.  These three must fit together.

  1. Creation; many throughout the centuries have understood it to be a much longer process than a week.  Thinking like this does not undermine our faith, or the Bible, or our wonder at the Creator God.  So, let’s put a huge timescale for God’s plans onto the desktop of our minds.  Remember in His timings a thousand years is but a blink of an eye.
  2.  The temptations in the wilderness.   Jesus was tempted by Satan to take the shortcut to sorting the world out.  “Bow down and worship me.  Throw yourself off the temple roof.  Either way we can get the world sorted out pronto.”  Is that what we are asking God to do – sort out our world pronto?  Has it ever occurred to us that we may be echoing the taunting of Satan when we pray that God does it all for me right now?
  3.  Jesus chooses the better and longer path to recovery and redemption, giving us dignity and partnership in the receiving of it and becoming part of it.  All our prayers for healing and miraculous intervention have been answered.  Jesus does have the power to wipe out all evil and does want to do it.  “It is completed” was his cry from the cross.  Just like the creation of the world may not have been shrunk into days of a week, so we must allow our minds to see that from the first century until the revealing of the new heaven and the new earth, God is recreating, just as carefully and powerfully as He once created.  And we are part of it!!!!!!!  Get the BIG PICTURE.

Coronavirus, you can struggle with humanity all you want, but you will never be more powerful than our God’s redemptive healing plan.   History’s conclusion is already sealed with victory.  Coronavirus nil, Corona-thorns won (that isn’t a mistake).  Long live Messiah Jesus!

MORE QUESTIONS ON THE WAY –
Why does God not do all the miracles and healings that would prove it?
How can God say He is love and allow terrible evil to exist?
What is judgement?
Is there a heaven and a hell?
How can we change the world?
Why are there so many churches?
What did Jesus come to do?
Did he do what He came to do?
Where do I fit in?
What is normal for a Christian – I am not sure if I am?

Lots of love
Adrian

Thoughts 19.05.20

Dear Belvoir family

Re-act
Ignore the theatre, movie and TV meaning; to act means to do something, to react means to do something in response.

There is a very curious moment in John chapter 11 when Jesus appears to not react, or maybe does react but not in the way we would imagine he should.  The moment is when he hears from Mary and Martha, two of his dearest friends, that their brother Lazarus is very ill.

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more daysand then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

Can you imagine having that depth of peace and certainty about the purposes of God?  The risk involved in waiting.  Jesus really is the best.

Back to you and me.  Do you remember when the rumour of pandemic was interpreted as a worldwide shortage of toilet paper?  Reaction.  I have never met anyone who rushed to Tesco, but mysteriously every shelf except the birthday cards was emptied.  Even the couscous went.  Are people plastering their walls with it?  Best thing for it, in my humble opinion, but I digress.  Last Sunday on the news there was a beach with thousands of people on it and one interviewee said how disappointed they were that so many people were here.  We don’t seem able to include ourselves in the herd-thinking.  It is like we are doing the right thing and everyone else is the herd.  Yesterday there were people who had never been in a garden centre before queued up outside garden centres to get in, just because we had been told we could.  Or what about taking a flask of tea and a picnic and sitting outside a recycling centre for a day out?

It makes you think that this is why the government spokespeople are so reluctant to tell us what we can do at every 0.1 movement of the mysterious R, because we will react immediately (or even sooner) to every hint of possibility to rush back to where we were before.

So, what is it with Jesus and his ability to wait?  I think it may have had something to do with his lockdown in the wilderness.  He had conquered his fears and weaknesses.  Remember those “temptations”?  One of them was to take shortcuts, to rush to success, to clutch at the next thing.  But he had it licked and was now driven by patience.  Now there is a cute idea, driven by patience…waiting intentionally for God’s purposes to unfold.

Back to you and me again.  The government has helpfully told us we can do drive-in church.  I am not sure when the government suddenly became all spiritual and worship-centred?  I believe they have and should have total control of restrictions and the lifting of those restrictions for the sake of public health.  They are completely within what we expect of them to tell us about use of our buildings, but style of worship????  They can tell fishing people the limits on space while fishing, but they can’t tell them what bait to use.  That is the skill of a fisher-person, not a public health official statement.  I am not talking revolution here, just common sense, and a wariness of setting the herd into a stampede (remember Lion King).

Like Jesus I think the church needs to be learning more about itself in the present situation and its role in the herd.  We follow Jesus, which means that at times we have to stand out from the herd, promoting grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, healing, generosity, and spiritual reality.  We must not be swerved from our call.  Living or organising right to the limits of the restrictions is herd-mentality, not the prayerful shalom-filled seeking after God.  I know this sounds ridiculous, but within the restrictions we could meet along riverbanks at two-metre intervals, or, if we could get a load of Lairds rowing boats, we could have an open-air service in Bangor Marina.  I wonder where we could get the boats…. Let us once again settle ourselves to seek after God in these precious moments of pain and struggle.  There is yet more to learn about our future.  The present is a gift.

Could I make a comment about R?  R is a mathematical value that measures the rate at which we infect one another.  If it goes up we infect each other faster, more people get ill, more people have to wait for other procedures, more people have to worry about their jobs and businesses, more people have to work in dangerous situations and more people die.  R is the rate at which we infect one another – infect one another.  Covid19 does not have feet or wings – it requires us to infect one another.  The herd wants to turn R into the green light for how much fun we can now have.  R could become a measure of how shallow we have become, both society and church.

Let’s turn our hearts again to the possibility of

  • a renewed Adrian (feel free to enter your own name) rather than a patched-up old one.
  • a renewed herd rather than a patched-up old one.
  • a renewed church rather than a lifted-restriction-driven one.

God of the prayerful, shalom-filled reaction, please give us your patience to wait for those now moments rather than grasp for the most immediate.

Lazarus could have been healed if Jesus had rushed.  He was raised from the dead because Jesus waited.

True freedom is not found doing what we want, it is found doing what we ought. 

Lots of love
Adrian

Belvoir Craft and Food Virtual Fair

Belvoir Creative Arts
See the Belvoir Creative Arts Festival page for the latest news.

Press Release 16.05.20

The annual Belvoir Creative Arts Festival Weekend is almost upon us. A major part of this celebration is the Belvoir Craft and Food Fair which usually was the centrepiece of the weekend and occupies most of the Saturday. This year we are hoping to celebrate the same wonders and skills and beauty, but in a slightly different way. It will be online, featuring our stallholders and maybe even seeing some of what they do and how they do it.
As a church we want to celebrate all of this creativity because we believe it is what is described in the early chapters of the Bible as “made in the image of God”. Creativity is the motivation behind creation (however we interpret that) and has historically been at the heart of what it means to be church – take a quick google around your own mind about cathedrals, stained glass, music, art, architecture, writing, crafts… In the week leading up to Pentecost (24-31 May) let’s keep the creative tradition alive and allow the inspiration of others to keep our hopes up and our souls alive.
Belvoir Parish Craft and Food Virtual Fair 2020
Belvoir Creative Arts Festival Weekend
Saturday 30th May 9am-4pm Belvoir Craft and Food Virtual Fair Facebook event page.
Sunday 31st May 11am Scattered Together
7pm Worship and Prayer
Some of our lovely Stallholders:
The Lighthouse Drawing Rooms Hand painted cards, personalised keepsake gift frames for all occasions
Lisette Watson Ceramics Bowls, platters, jugs and ceramic jewellery
Table Sweet Treats – Truffles, Celebration cakes, Cupcake, Granola, Cashew Cheesecake and more. Bespoke Orders and Savoury Orders also welcomed.
Baked in Belfast Quirky hand-painted Pottery and award winning Jam, Marmalade & Relish with a twist
The Quirky Flamingo Co Handmade jewellery from real flowers
ArtWork by Lyn Pictures …Acrylic on multi-layered canvas
The Honey Pot Handmade key rings, Roadsigns and door toppers
Popsie And Co (formerly Little Bow Geek) Handmade hair accessories using only the finest materials
Paper & Tweed Items made from tweed and liberty print fabric-for example cushions, brooches, keyrings. Some decoupaged items.
Linsay’s Quirky Crafts Hand painted wooden items, printed clothing and personalised items.
Belfast Candle Co. Candles, melts, diffusers, room sprays, body lotion, liquid soap, electric warmers
Weecat Glass Art Hand painted glass items – tumblers, wine glasses, tea light holders, coasters
New Creation Crafts Handcrafted cushions, quilts & handbags
Making Memories by Emma Personalised frames and other items
Anteaque Bird Feeders Repurposing antique & vintage china tea cups, saucers & glassware into unique & beautiful bird feeders
Everything is created locally. Normally products could be viewed, tasted, touched and purchased, but this fair the touch and taste will need to come after the purchase!
To note: Each Stallholder will be managing the sale of their own products and they
will arrange delivery. Please contact them directly to make a purchase. Delivery charges may apply. Given the current COVID-19 Lockdown status, in some cases it may suit better to arrange delivery/collection after the Lockdown eases.
Belvoir Church of Ireland (opposite Newtownbreda Tesco on the ring road) is a developing community of faith, embracing a style of worship and discipleship that is creative, involving theatre, writing, art, crafts, food, music, dance… The church through the centuries has often expressed the beauty and wonder of God in its architecture, its words, its art and its music. We are trying to rediscover some of this in a contemporary setting.

_______________________

It is a difficult time for everyone, especially for small businesses so this is our opportunity to show them some support. 🙌 #supportlocal #supportcreatives

Please Like, Comment, Share and Invite to get the word out! The event will be hosted on our Facebook page.

Thoughts 12.05.20

Dear Belvoir family

EXILE is a state of enforced absence from country or home (that is the dictionary definition).
OK, we are not exactly in exile, but we are in a state of enforced absence from our previous way of life.

Once upon a time…about 700 years before Christ, the nation of Israel suffered an invasion from a neighbouring nation called Assyria. Over the next 150 years this invasion was repeated twice more by even bigger more powerful nations/empires. These decades of conflict brought the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, the economic infrastructure, the agriculture, the pillaging of wealth and ultimately the deportation of skill, energy and youth. About seventy years after this deportation, thawing of hostilities led to a warming of new possibilities. In this time frame you will find Daniel and the lions’ den, Meshach, Shadrach, Abednego and Queen Esther. The Jewish exiles are now in a bit of a lockdown and a small minority in the Persian Empire (which stretched from Greece to the borders of India, Russia and Egypt).

We pick up the story in the Old Testament book of Ezra around 530 BC. Ezra is given permission to leave exile, restrictions were being lifted, and return to Jerusalem to start work on the temple (Ezra 2). Five years on a second wave of restriction is lifted, and they begin to re-shape their culture and religious festivals. The next phase includes the re-development of their agriculture with new plantations and plant species being brought in to revive a collapsed system (Ezra 3). Ezra 4 tells the story of opposition and the whole renewal process goes into reverse; fear and threat reign again. Nonetheless the candle of hope continues to flicker. A few years later and we see another wave of exiles returning and the re-building continues (Nehemiah).

Some things worth noting in all of this.
There is an underlying faith story going on here. This is God’s people rebuilding God’s life here on planet earth. We too are in a faith story – an upsurge of prayer and concern is all around us. Lists of NHS staff are stuck to our fridge doors. Rainbows are on our windows. Hahahahah: exercise has become compulsory! Fear has surrounded us and driven us to changed lifestyles in ways we would never have believed possible. Good stories abound – I was disheartened this morning by a news report that we, in Northern Ireland, did not actually need the numbers of gowns and masks produced on the kitchen tables of our homes. Then someone rang in and suggested that we could send the whole lot to a less fortunate country. Now that sounds like a God-idea. The atmosphere is alive at the minute with the possibilities of faith and the incoming Kingdom. I don’t want to go back to being embarrassed about telling someone I will pray for them. I have a new-found pride in belonging to that crowd of people who deliver all the food and make all those phone calls and make all those masks.

The reconstruction also interests me – they built in the same places as before, but they were building for a new era. That historic period has become known as “Second Temple Judaism” and covered the period leading to Jesus Christ. During this period, the Old Testament was translated into Greek for the first time and became an international text. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written, re-interpreting faith and life, and new movements such as the Pharisees and the Sadducees were forming and shaping their society. The timescales were so vast that we can barely get our heads around them – things moved slower in those days. Nonetheless…could we grab an opportunity and build for a new era rather than a return to the past? There will not be a moment when church services will suddenly be available again. But we could try to build within the government guidelines as they develop, taking every opportunity to shape and re-shape in every way possible. Some of you can remember living in post-bomb Belvoir in caravans and shipping containers, meeting in community buildings and in the open-air. Let’s capture that same spirit of innovation and apply it to parish life, not just services of worship. Remember a church is not a meeting or a service. Church is something we are, and with a joint purpose and a reason. There may be lots we can be and do long before we ever gather again.

They built for the whole of life, not just for religion OR culture OR economics. They recognised the interlocking nature of human existence and went for the whole caboodle. Virus-free food banks? Crowded airports and poisoned airspace? Re-opened operating theatres with 18 month waiting lists? Churches open for those who like that kind of thing? I listened to a podcast yesterday where a Lutheran minister called Nadia Bolz-Weber suggested that we need to re-calibrate. Recalibrate? When a ship is blown off course by a storm the navigator eventually has to recalibrate from some new landmarks so that a new course can be plotted. What might be the new landmarks of the church?

How about reflecting on recalibrating our personal landmarks. I would suggest a new (or, maybe, very old) set of landmarks –
My relationship with the Jesus of the gospels. I have just finished reading “Simply Jesus” – it is like a bomb has gone off in my head.
My commitment to promoting the Kingdom of God through my work, leisure, finance and family – a re-appreciation of the tapestry that is life.
My street, my new-found neighbours, and my place in the human race – local and global.

The landmarks of a new society, what might they be?
The landmarks of a newly energised church family, what might they be?

Lots of love
Adrian

Thoughts 05.05.20

Thoughts to get you Thinking

Dear Belvoir family,

Our media love to not just record the story but direct the story, don’t they?  As soon as they are weary of one aspect of something, they pursue the next thing, setting the agenda for the nation and its decision-makers, usually by a phone-in and then quoting those calls as if they are the Thoughts to get you thinking - Belvoir Parishnews.  Well, there is one aspect of the agenda that they can’t set nor control.  The inside of my head!  I can mess that up all on my own.

Coming out of lockdown is their latest big story.  How soon can I get a cappuccino and a haircut?
Coming out of lockdown seems to be mostly about how we can keep space between us and do everything just like we did before.   The issue is driven by getting back to normal, whatever we believe that was.  I have written recently about the need to consider going forwards rather than back and how positively different that could be.  

So, the assumption is that Government will give us space guidelines and we will try to set up school, business, church services, waiting areas in A&E, beds in corridors, roads jammed with cars, queues in airports, pumping poisonous gas everywhere, just the way it was before.  Then we will all be happy again (did you detect that hint of disbelief?)

I can’t change anybody or anything very much, but I can at least consider how I might want to be different (the inside of my head), and how we (our church and the inside of our corporate head) might want to be different together.  I know this next thought isn’t in the Bible, but the idea isn’t far from it.  In the last few weeks we have been watching the complete Star Wars trilogy of trilogies.  Yoda is just brilliant.  Like him I would love to talk.  “Young Skywalker, of your thoughts be mindful.”  Is it possible to actually take control of my own attitudes and thoughts?  (There is at least one Bible verse for that.)

Consider a bit of the Bible, Luke 4.  Lockdown for Jesus.  “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.”  The word for “led by” has a number of meanings that are all very similar.  The primary meaning is its use with regard to animals – the leading of an animal to pasture or to work, something like that.  Some translations use words like “driven by the Holy Spirit” or “compelled by the Holy Spirit”.  There is no suggestion that Jesus was resistant, but clearly this was not going to be a holiday experience.  This was immediately after his very public baptism and the announcement by John the Baptist that he was the one.  Jesus could be excused for imagining that some sort of celebration or opening ceremony could have been organised, rather than being “driven into the wilderness”.  None of us would have chosen this present wilderness either.

The experience of wilderness for Jesus is captured in a very few short verses.  He was isolated.  He did not need to measure two metres from anyone.  There may have been several miles between him and the next person.  So alone was he that Matthew’s version (4:11) tells us that angels came and attended him.  How could we ever know (and don’t start making it up for your next post) how many people may have had the comfort of angels in their isolation?  Then Luke tells us that for forty days – six weeks – he ate nothing and that he was hungry.  Have you ever fasted?  Goodness, we send apologies about not attending an event/meeting because we haven’t had our dinner.  We’re a hardy lot, aren’t we?  The most explicit description of these isolated days was the attack by Satan on him personally.  Don’t imagine these “temptations” were momentary thoughts during a quiet afternoon sitting at the pool-side.  These were day after day, night after night, while hiding from wild animals, starving, weary, cold, sweltered, alone, wondering…wondering…wondering…

  1. Starving…I could make bread from rocks, I am God after all…what if I tried and couldn’t…maybe I am not god after all…who am I…can I be sure…what is this all about…
  2. Purpose…take over the world…how… and who…me, a carpenter’s son from Galilee…the kingdoms of the world…Roman Empire, seriously…does it matter how I achieve it, so long as we get the job done…who would ever know if the dark side and I play along together out here in the wilderness?
  3. The means…everyone else rules by might and status and power…why can’t I…I have the power…I could make it work…a bit of drama like Moses…a miracle or two, give them time to get their phones out…a procession through the streets on a white horse…a few well-orchestrated rallies…publicity, popularity, media attention, a good management team… Alone? Hated? Rejected? A donkey? Despised? Tortured? Crucified? Unknown? I can choose, can’t I?

Look at the result.  Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit (before wilderness) becomes Luke 4:14 Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

How much I yearn to not just be filled with the Holy Spirit but to live and move in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Now, just in case you imagine I mean a miracle-working-celebrity-preacher, I actually mean the same changes as those that Jesus went through in his wilderness – discovering more fully who I am (my identity as child of God), discovering my purpose in being here (it seriously can’t be about cappuccinos and haircuts), and having genuine Godly attitudes to how I achieve that purpose (humility, servant-heart, sacrifice, no interest in popularity, free from pressure to be successful…the Jesus stuff).  He was one in a million, wasn’t he?

In fact, his hope was to be the first one in many millions…so

We have a few weeks more of lockdown or at least a few weeks of graduated unlocking.  Could we spend some time in this wilderness considering (before and perhaps instead of getting all caught up with spacing ourselves in restaurants, cinemas and churches) –

  • What sort of a person do I want to be?  UP
  • What sort of faith community do we want to be?  IN
  • How do we want to serve and influence the surrounding community (locally) and the environment (globally)?  OUT
  • How do we address the still-unsolved issues of our society and world?   OF

Lots of love,
Adrian

Huddles

Huddles meet online via Zoom. Would you like to join one?

Contact office@belvoirparish.co.uk for further info.

Virtual Sunday School

Join us for our very first Sunday Club Scattered starting this Sunday at 12pm !! 🥳

We will be having Virtual Sunday Club for primary-aged children. And the 11-14’s are having their own gathering too. All on Zoom. You don’t need to download anything you just to make sure that you have sent an email to catherine@belvoirparish.co.uk giving parental consent and contact details, then you’ll receive instructions of how to join the Zoom meeting.

⭐️ Sunday Club will be talking about Paul and Silas; why don’t you watch this video and find out more about them.

🌈 Keep sending in the painted pictures, we still have loads of church windows to fill! Perhaps this week we can do some A4/A3 paintings on the theme of Love (Philios and Agape). ❤️
📸 Feel free to upload a photo of the artwork to this post as well or post it in our Belvoir Parish Church Family.

 

Worship and Prayer

Join us for an informal time set aside for worship and prayer on the last Sunday of each month. This is a space to engage in whatever way works for you with some gentle leading in a flow of worship and prayer. All welcome. Come as you are. You’ll be able to join in here.

Reaching Out

R E A C H I N G   O U T
Even though our doors are closed we continue our mission to bring help and support to our local Belvoir and surrounding communities with three focused practical activities.
 
Shopping and messages support to the elderly and vulnerable.
This is when we receive a call from someone who asks for help to get essential groceries or prescriptions while they are self-isolating.
Food package deliveries.
This is when we receive a call from someone who does not h
ave the funds for food for themselves/family. We will help by providing and food package that has been put together by the South Belfast Foodbank.
The Larder Foodbank
We are continuing to support The Larder at St Christopher’s Mersey Street. During Covid-19 there has been a significant rise in the demand for food support. Although there is good food stock currently, this stock will quickly be depleted. You can help by continuing to drop your food donations to church so that we can move on to the Larder when needed.
Although the Church is closed we have made temporary provision for your food drop off by opening up the front porch area from the hrs 10am to 5pm Mon through Sat. There is also provision for drop off outside these times by leaving your food into a new brown bin located at the rear of the church building beside the office.
Current need:
▪️ Tinned Meals
▪️ Tinned Meat
▪️ Tinned Fish
▪️ Tinned Fruit
▪️ Tinned Potatoes
▪️ Tinned Deserts
▪️ Tinned Vegetables

A R T W O R K
Feel free to send us your paintings and artwork(A4 or A3) for our church windows – to brighten up and give hope and life through the church building. We have lots and lots of windows to fill !! They can be also be posted into the church through the gap in the front doors while out shopping. ❤️
 
B I G  T H A N K  Y O U to Carson Bell who is organising the Food Bank and deliveries !!
 
#foodbank #outreach #community #local #belvoirparish