Northumberland Preachers and Worship Leaders’ Autumn Gathering 2019
On 26 October, seventeen preachers, worship group members and friends met in Widdrington URC hall to explore the book of Matthew. After the welcome & introductions Wendy Garvey led the opening worship and we shared news, including greetings from Ann, the Synod Commissioner and an encouraging message from Margery Tate who was unable to join us as she was still recovering from a spell in hospital.
Carol Dixon led the first session on the background to Matthew’s Gospel, posing questions such as ‘Who was Matthew? ‘ ‘When and where was the Gospel written?’ ‘ Who was his target audience?’ and ‘What was Matthew trying to achieve in his version of the life of Jesus?’ We explored passages that were unique to Matthew’s Gospel and, after reading a short article ‘Matthew in a nutshell’ by Marilyn Mellowes, Carol concluded by drawing attention to maps of the area and an approximate timeline of the place of Matthew in relation to the other gospels and the letters of Paul.
The second session was led by Fiona Middlemist who invited everyone to look at three ‘calls’ in the Gospel – the call of the first disciples, the call of Matthew, and the ‘ call’ of the rich young man. Fiona asked us to imagine ourselves in one of the scenes. How would we respond? We were given a choice to write a reflection from the person’s point of view, or discuss the situation in a small group, after which we came together again to share our thoughts and reflections. There were some excellent meditations from characters in each of the stories and Hannah Walden, a teenager from Widdrington URC, vividly encapsulated all three stories in pictures.
The final session included sharing some items on the relevance of the gospel for today’s world and the afternoon concluded with closing worship based on the passage ‘Consider the lilies’ in the Sermon on the Mount, ending with a blessing based on the Great Commission from Matthew 28 verses 16-20, followed by a tasty pooled tea.
A Rich Old Man reflects
That day I met Jesus could have changed my life –
But it didn’t. I dare not take that first step towards such freedom.
I may need money for my old age,
I might have to provide for a family.
How could I make such a commitment – give everything I owned away
And change my life so radically?
I’ve always played by the rules, kept the Commandments,
LIved as a generous Jew, living by the Law.
Yet now I’m older I feel there’s a gap in my life
Perhaps if I had say ‘Yes’ that day
Would I have felt so empty now.
I’ll never know.
Lord, give me the courage
To step out in faith with you
Before it’s too late,
To go beyond my comfort zone
And then I will truly enter
The Kingdom of God.
Matthew 9 v 9 – 11
It was just another run – of – the – mill sort of day. I’d walked to my so- called office, having called in to a number of my clients on the way, to remind them that they owed me money — in some cases , considerable amounts.
Further down the road was a small crowd of people – I guessed they were gathered to listen to that itinerant preacher guy who seemed to be making a name for himself. From what I’d heard from other people, he had performed some miraculous things – healing people they said, from life – time afflictions, collecting odd, unrespectable people around him — all a bit unsavoury really; and telling stories to anyone who would listen, about hoe to live their lives. What does he know about who we are, and what we do?
Jesus, that’s what they called him, led the small crowds past me – right past where I sat working om my books. He looked at me, looked into my eyes, and said “Follow me”
And I did. I got up, joined the little crowd, and just left everything behind. I cannot explain it – all that money, so important to me up to now –I gave it no thought. I just knew I had to do as Jesus “commanded” me – he didn’t even ask – he commanded me to. Who ever told ME what to do?
Neither did I think of my bosses. The authority I now wanted to hear, to follow, and to become part of, was this man Jesus.
At last I felt as though I belonged with like – minded people; whoever we had been we were now, as one, following this man, Jesus, and doing our utmost to be like him.
Jessica St Mark’s URC, Amble