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Advent 2020

Posted by Chris Mason
on 26th November 2020

Advent is the season of hope, of expectation, of longing for the light of God in the midst of darkness.

We'd like to encourage you to look, to long, to hope.  To take some time this Advent to stop and wonder at who the light in the darkness is.  At who this baby, born in the mess of this world, was, and is - and what that means for you this christmas. 

This season of advent feels particularly different from others.  We are coming out of lockdown into strick Tier restrictions.  The season feels darker, more gloomy than usual.  "What does it mean to look for the light? It means first acknowledging the darkness, then bringing it before God and allowing his presence to illuminate our circumstances and our hearts"(1).

There are many resources available to help explore Advent, light and Jesus.  Here are just a few:

Finding Light in the Deepest Dark - published by Sanctuary

Repeat the Sounding Joy - by Christopher Ash

A Better than Anything Christmas or A Jesus Christmas - by Barbara Raeoch

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift - by Ann Voskamp

Advent for Everyone - by Tom Wright 

Finding Hope - a resource by Open Doors

 

 

(1) Finding Light in the Deepest Dark, p2.  A PDF resource by Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries

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The Earth is Yours

Posted by Methven Forbes
on 30th October 2020

For the first 19 years of my life, I grew up in my home city of Dundee. The name is derived from two celtic words: dun meaning fort, and de meaning fire – fort fire, which is fitting given that the dominant natural landmark in Dundee is the law hill, an extinct volcano right in the city centre. From the top, you can see every part of the city and beyond; from the River Tay as it empties itself into the Firth of Tay estuary all the way to Belmont Lighthouse whose light can be seen at night guiding ships as it brightening up the sky just beyond the horizon.

Despite being burnt to the ground in 1548 and then completely destroyed in 1651, my home city is rich in history and rich in its reach across the planet. In 1797, Dundee-born Adam Duncan led a battle against the Dutch; considered the greatest ever Royal Navy victory at that time. Captain Scott sailed the RSS Discovery in record-breaking expeditions to the Antarctic. Mary Slessor, inspired by David Livingston, the famous Scottish missionary who saw missionary work in Africa as the means to spreading the gospel and ending the East African Arab-Swahili slave trade, helped spread the gospel throughout West Africa, saving Children from death, and helping the sick.

I can say that I am proud to be Dundonian. Proud to be Scottish in fact. But I am conscious how much I have idealised my own nationality. The ‘Massacre of Glencoe’ takes on a romantic feel in popular culture when in fact it was anything but. The truth is, we are raised on and influenced by the stories we tell about ourselves and about where we come from: our national heroes, our national exports, our national triumphs, our national achievements. We say less about our national villains, our national injustices, our national exploitations and our national conquests. Today, out of 195 nations that exist all of them are facing disease and pandemic. 69 are actively involved in war. 20% of the world population face extreme hunger, including 30% of children under 5 facing acute malnutrition. If we go back in time, the impact of our continual carving up of the earth become unfathomable, incalculable even.

But there is a problem. The earth isn’t ours. It’s true, God did tell us to work it and keep it (Gen 2:15), call it and name it (Gen 2: 19-20). But he did not pass ownership of it. As Romans 11:36 states: ‘For from him and through him and to him are all things’. Psalm 24 puts it this way: ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers’.

I’m not sure we have done a good job on the whole ‘working it’, ‘keeping it’ front. The fall, divisions and wars. Pride, greed and selfishness. Humanity has relentlessly and continually declared independence from God, rejecting his many attempts to reach out to us with love and forgiveness. His ultimate expression was Jesus who came to earth to show us the way and reveal to us the Kingdom of God here on earth: breaking through, breaking down, breaking out. Our response? Crucifixion. His response? Resurrection. Our response? Look around.

How do we make sense of it all?

In late Autumn of 2019 I remember coming back from Geneva. I had landed in Manchester Airport on a Sunday evening and it was dark, cold, and lonesome. As I was driving through Bradford I suddenly had this sense of a melody and words: ‘The earth will know your name, the whisper of your voice, creation will again give praise. The continents in drift, the nations every change, but your glory and your power remain… the earth is yours’. Then, in Spring 2020 through a chance meeting, two others from Nashville contributed melody and lyrics: ‘You restore, you give hope, you came to earth, you are life, you are love, you set us free’ (even in song writing the body of Christ works together better than any single constituent member).

In truth, we make sense of it all by remembering that the earth is God’s. Always has been, always will be. He created it. He also knew what we would make of it. Yet He reached out to us through Jesus and made a way: a change in citizenship according to Philippians 3:20, belonging to a holy nation according to 1 Peter 2:9, if we accept Jesus as our way, our truth and our life (John 14:6). Salvation, restoration, eternity. No longer lost, but found. No longer Scottish…

That’s what I love about songs. As a means of communication and expression, they have an ability to bring together truths in such a way that it stirs us up and reminds us who we are and what our mission is. The Earth Is Yours speaks to the truth of creation and the mission of salvation. It’s both a declaration and a call to prayer, a testimony and a commission.

As we look around the world today and see endless tragedy there is only one answer. John 8:32 says ‘you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’.  We have that answer. We have the truth, and we have an audience who needs to hear it, as the opening line of the song states:  ‘The earth will know your name, the whisper of your voice…’.

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Church Family Meeting News

Posted by Chris Mason
on 11th October 2020

It has been amazing to see how, in the midst of these challenging times, our church family has clung to God and to one another. The incredible amounts of meal trains, prayer chains, zoom catch-ups and support calls have been beautiful to be a part of. These times have also been a struggle. Almost all of our church family are grieving the loss of our connection points and church rhythms, our corporate times of worship and fellowship, our children's work and ministries to the city and, whilst our God is bigger than the current crisis, we recognise the cost and the pain of this season.

As we met for our Family Meeting on Sunday 11th, we shared two big pieces of news aiming to help us move forward together, into a longer season than we had hoped, with fresh faith and places to connect with one another:

Sunday Gatherings

Sundays will continue being streamed online, and this will remain the primary way for the majority of people to connect with corporate worship. We hope that you'll continue to gather and connect the same as you have been doing up until now. We are also in a place to start to open up our building again for a few to gather. This won't be a return back to the same way we used to gather, there will be no corporate singing, no mingling and chatting to others, no refreshments and unfortunately, The Nest, Treehouse and Oak Youth won't be running. However, for those who would like to be back in the building, we'll be following a set of COVID secure guidance during our Sunday broadcasts, beginning on Sunday 25th October. Due to the current guidance, we are extremely restricted in capacity but would love to know whether you would be interested in coming along on Sundays so we can work out who can come when. Please also watch the video below about what our Sunday Gatherings at the building will look like.

Update 26/10/2020: you can now book to attend our gatherings in person from the Monday morning prior to the Sunday, please click here and follow the booking link.

Update 02/11/2020: due to the second national lockdown we'll be pausing opening our building for Sunday Gatherings - but as we have been doing since March, we'll continue joining together online.

To make our new Sundays work, and to be able to welcome guests for the first time, we are looking to build a new 'Hosting Team'. This team will welcome and check-in people entering the building, ensure the guidance is being met and help people find seats. If you'd like to join this team, please click here.

We are also able to plug our live stream into a Zoom call that you can join in on from 10:15 on a Sunday morning. This will increase the opportunity to see and worship alongside others, similar to our Fuel prayer meetings, on a Sunday morning. The link will be on the Sunday page on our website. 

Community Groups

As this season moves from weeks to months and into another year, our smaller groups are becoming ever more essential for connection, for care and for discipleship. With this in mind, we are pressing pause on our three geographical Oak Communities and starting seven new Community Groups - creating many more opportunities for connection in smaller numbers (6-12 people). We understand that for some this is a shakeup to the group you love and for others an opportunity to get plugged in where you haven't been able to in the past - but for our whole church family and for new people joining us over this season, our Community Groups are our primary place of connection and discipleship. They are THE places you get to care for others, encourage one another and bring prophetic words, and be cared for by your church family. We will be helping every member of the church to get plugged in to one of these new groups and would strongly encourage you to connect where you can. Even if you are in a regular Life Group, we would encourage you to connect with a new Community Group - your wider church family needs you.

We'd love your thoughts on a couple of questions like what day works best for you - please fill in the super short survey here.

As the early church was scattered, recorded for us in the book of Acts, the season of not being able to preach or gather seemed to stretch out almost unendingly in front of them. But during this season of scattering, God did more in their hearts and more in their cities than they had experienced when they were gathering in one place - the church spread to the whole known world as they discovered God's grace and mercy in ways they had only read about. It was not an easy time for them as it is not an easy time for us now. Many suffered. But the church grew, the cities and nations were blessed and we find ourselves here today as a result of their faithfulness to God in the midst of their suffering. May you know God's presence, his love and his power as we grow together and bless our cities in this season. May you discover the riches of His grace and kindness as, together, we join God's mission to see the world transformed through Jesus' power to change lives.

Much love and grace

Chris
On behalf of the Senior Leadership Team

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