Lambing Time

April is an exciting time on the farm. Preparation has been made months before; getting the lambing shed ready and keeping a close eye on the expecting ewes. We wait with anticipation as the lambs arrive and ensure the mum and her babies have bonded well before the little family are let out into the paddock in the warm sunshine.

It’s easy for a ewe and her lambs to be temporarily separated as she leaves her youngsters asleep under a tree while she moves around grazing on fresh spring grass. When the sleeping lambs open their eyes and realise mum is no longer next to them they feel abandoned. They call out alarms with their bleating, rushing around to locate their mother. The ewe responds and bellows for her lambs. Quickly enough, the lambs recognise their own mum’s call, distinct from all the other ewes’ bleating, and once again they are reunited. Lambs rush in directly underneath her as if they had never fed before.

Occasionally, a young lamb will need to be bottle fed, 3 times a day for 3 months. They know who is bringing them their warm milk and will rush to the side of the pen, clambering over each other as if calling out “Feed me first!”. The person who feeds them needs a calming voice, to gently settle the excitement, with each lamb called by a nickname rather than just a number. This unnatural bond becomes regular and familiar as time is spent talking to these little characters.

Months go past and all the season’s lambs are ready to be weaned off bottles and their mums. They no longer get all their nourishment from milk and so roam the fields like gangs of teenagers. When it’s time to bring them in for routine jobs like vaccinations or medications, its easy to spot the bottle-fed lambs amongst a group of a couple of hundred lambs. You only need to stand in the field and call for them and a dozen 30kg sheep come galloping, close to bowling you over. No bottles or any other enticements needed to gather this group together as they know the voice of someone who protected and nurtured them.

Just as Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me’.

by Anna Birt (Pam’s daughter)

Easter Sunday

At last the Sabbath was over.

Usually a day full of happy remembrances and gratefulness for all that YHWH had done for us in the past.  A time to be with family and celebrate together,

Not this week.

This Sabbath was full of grief, disappointment and confusion.

The man we had followed, loved and recognised as our promised Saviour

WAS DEAD

A horrible, painful, shameful death.

Strange and frightening things had happened as he died, thunder, darkness, voices. Rumours that the curtain in the Temple had been torn from top to bottom, tombs had opened and the dead were seen walking about.

All we knew was the pain of losing a loved one.

As soon as the Sabbath was over we went to purchase oil and spices to anoint and prepare the body for burial.

After a sleepless night we took the oil and spices and set off to the place where Jesus’s body had been placed.  The sun was rising; the darkness was leaving the sky to welcome another beautiful day.  We could not appreciate it; we were full of grief and questions. 

Were we strong enough to move the stone from the mouth of the cave?  We had heard that soldiers were guarding the cave, would they help us or turn us away?

All we wanted was to perform the final act of love to the body of the man who had meant everything to us.

Imagine our amazement as we reached the cave.

The stone had been rolled away, the guards were asleep, the cave was empty, and the grave clothes were folded.

A bright light shone in the cave.

It dazzled us.

A voice spoke,

“Jesus the Nazarene has risen from the dead, He is not here”

Was it an angel?

One of our group, Mary Magdalene, saw a man that she thought was a gardener, she asked him if he had been the person who had moved the body and if so, could he tell her where it had been taken to?

He looked at her, His eyes full of compassion and love and called her by her name, Mary.

It was Jesus, our Lord.

We were told to go to the Disciples and tell them what we had seen and wait with them until He came to them.

Confusion fled. Joy returned.   We remembered all that Jesus had told us and at last we understood His words.

Jesus had defeated death and was alive.  Everything he had said had been fulfilled and was true.

Amen.

By Joy Wilson.

A Letter from Gordon

Dear all.

We live, for most of us, in unprecedented times. I am aware that our Churches have people who remember World War 2 and have lived through dark and difficult times.

As Christians we are committed to doing the best we can to care for people at a time of great anxiety and uncertainty. I am reminded of this verse from Deuteronomy 31:67; ‘Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you.’

It is heart-warming to hear some real good news stories. If you have any, please do let me know and we will publish them.

At Trinity Methodist Church they have established a Facebook Group to share prayers, information and to reach out to those in need. Church families are offering to buy shopping for those who are self-isolating, and the Church building is to be open for prayer at the ‘normal’ worship time on Sunday morning. This is a good news story. Practical help is excellent and please do follow guidelines in this practice.

So, what can we make of all this? Habakkuk 3:17-19 points to scarcity yet still we can be joyful in the Lord, and Psalm 27:14 offers wise words for us all. As Church we are a sign of God’s light in this world, a symbol of hope and comfort to our communities. At this time let us try and be this sign. Phone people, skype, not just family but our neighbours too, send texts, set up What’s App and Facebook groups (and others this Luddite doesn’t understand!) Let us be there for our communities, even though we are out of sight, let us not be out of mind.

Also, on a practical and spiritual level, I take comfort in Psalm 62:1-2 leading into Philippians 4:13. There are a few of us working on how we can continue to bring the worship of God into your homes. Please do be alert to this opportunity, with our focus, at this point, being on how we can somehow celebrate the greatest festival of all we know as Easter.

There are resources for daily and Sunday worship on the internet. The Methodist Church website has these as well as many other denominations. Please do take this opportunity to grow in grace and discover more of the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer, Bible readings and meditation.

On the website is an act of worship, which I hope to send out in a similar format day-by-day. Initially, we will work our way through the Lord’s Prayer. You may wish to use this, to share this, to go onto your Facebook Group or to ignore this. I offer and know these words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Gordon

Mobile: 07570992890

The Lord is my Shepherd

I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul …

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23 (ESV)

Palm Sunday

As the day of the Great Festival drew near, it was all hustle and bustle.  Preparations to be made for friends and family to join us at the Festival.

Food to be planned, accommodation to arrange

and a whole host of other things to do.

I was busy from dawn to dusk!

Then I heard a rumour that Jesus, the teacher, who was supposed to have raised the dead, healed the sick, made blind people see and even walked on water was coming to Jerusalem with His disciples.

It was only a rumour, but I would love to see the man who had made friends with Tax collectors and prostitutes and upset the authorities!

 Perhaps he would do something spectacular?

The crowds are getting bigger

The rumours are flying around

‘He is coming’

‘No, he is not’

‘Yes, he is’

Then, one day I saw a man riding on a donkey, surrounded by a group of shabby looking men.  He did not look like a miracle worker or king, but there was something about him that drew my attention.

I do not know what it was.

He had kind eyes, the sort that smiled at you as if he knew you and cared about you.

Then

Something extraordinary happened.

People began to break branches from the trees and wave them; others laid their cloaks onto the ground for him to ride over, just as if he was a king or a hero returning from a war.

Then

A shout went up.

Alleluia

Hosanna

Welcome to the King of the Jews

The Priests and Romans will not like this.  I do hope that they will not send soldiers to break up the crowds and destroy the happy atmosphere.

I joined in the shouting and cheering.  I could not help myself.

Slowly the procession passed by and the sounds died away into the distance.  I was thrilled, confused, troubled, had many questions and did not know what to make of what had happened.

Ah well, no time to brood, back to the preparations.

But

I will never forget his eyes and the effect they had had on me.

by Joy Wilson.

A Message from Rachel

To the people of Chepstow and beyond: These are most certainly very difficult and frightening times that we are all facing. It seems there is no escape from the news, and it is particularly disheartening when we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know that we are all being forced to make hard choices; none of us could have been prepared for these horrible circumstances. It would be easy to let despair set in.

But we must continue to breathe the breath of the Holy Spirit. We must continue to extend grace, as best we can, to our neighbours, but also to ourselves. In some ways, it almost feels appropriate that this should all be happening during Lent (though obviously we’d all prefer it didn’t happen at all). The 40 days of Lent represent Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, and I think it is safe to say that we are all having our own wilderness experience right now, and probably on a scale that most of us have not seen in our lifetime and hope never to see again. Lent is normally a time for us to reflect and repent. It is a time when we attempt to sit with and try to empathise with the disciples and the pain and uncertainty that they felt on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, not knowing that the resurrection would come. Perhaps these feelings resonate with us more than they ever have before.

I don’t know if any of you are Lord of the Rings fans, but this quote is also making rounds on Facebook at the moment from a conversation between Frodo and Gandalf: “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

These are still our times. God is still in these times, and God is with all of us as we decide what we will do in the time given to us. We don’t know that our time in the wilderness will end on Easter Sunday this year, but we do know that, at the end of it all, there will be new life again. It will be yet another of those ‘little resurrections’ that we all experience in life. And it will be one that we as a society will experience together, even while we are still mourning all we have lost. Our hope comes from knowing that God is with is in all of this.

I think that the words of the last verse of ‘When we were in the Darkest Night’ by Matt Redman (in the section ‘THE FAITHFUL CHRIST: LENT AND TEMPTATION’ in Singing the Faith, 241) are incredibly fitting at this time:

So, whatever lies ahead,
whatever roads our grateful hearts will come to tread,
you’ll be there, Lord.
We will fix our eyes on you,
and know that there is grace enough to see us through.
You’ll be there, Lord.
You’ll be there in the struggle.
You’ll be there in the fight.
You’ll be there all the time.

Be well, and take care of yourselves and each other… until we can all meet again.

Blessings,
Revd. Rachel Frank