Surprised by Joy
Life is ‘normal’ no longer. Or is it more normal than you ever imagined?!
Jesus is alive, risen from the dead!
But before we go there, take a step in your imagination to that first Easter Sunday morning – the first day of a new week. Those first disciples, men and women, followers of Jesus, had seen the most horrendous events take place just that Thursday and Friday – happening to the one they had loved and followed, in whom they’d placed so much hope. And what’s more someone who knew and loved them more than anyone they’d ever known. And all this compounded by how they’d let him down over those days, even betrayed him.
I struggle to imagine where they were in their grief that Sunday morning! But Jesus is his own man, he holds none of this against them. Piece by piece, event by event, he appears and shows them his nail-pierced hands and his feet, he explains. He calls the first to see him by name, “Mary”; he comes among them in a locked room and says, “Peace be with you”; he asks one of them, “Do you love me?”, knowing that this disciple does indeed love Jesus with all his heart despite how he’d let him down. Here is a man, the man, who knows all we can throw at him, and loves us still! He opens new doors to a life that, even with many hardships to come, is full of joy, of hope, of love beyond all loves. Such is the joy every new Christian is surprised by and, for someone like me who’s been a Christian nearly 50 years, takes my breath away fairly frequently as I am once more surprised by his joy over me, those around me, and indeed his world.
When Jesus speaks how do you answer?
In the Jungle book the nice snake Kaa sings a song to Mowgli:- Trust in me – Just in me – Shut your eyes – Trust in me – You can sleep – Safe and sound – Knowing I Am around…… Now of course you should not ever trust the snake but this song came to mind when I was thinking about this week’s talk. Do we treat God’s words to us as though they come from Kaa or Bagheera, as something we can take notice of or not?
Mowgli didn’t always know who to trust and listen too, so got into difficult situations. We however have Jesus to guide us, but do we trust Him enough to obey?
If we trust God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit then why wouldn’t we do as He asks? His disciples learnt to trust Jesus and went to get somebody’s donkey when asked to do so. Maybe that’s the question for each of us today: Do we trust Jesus? Do we believe God when He says I will only bring good things to you?
Generosity and Equality
Today, for the first time in a while, we look at the New Testament attitude to the giving of our money. It’s very interesting how little Jesus says about it! What he does speak a lot about is generosity of heart, and how what we are like inside reflects on what we do on the outside! So, yes, this is about our hearts! The other word in our readings that struck me today is ‘equality’. St Paul writes, ‘I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality.’1 As you read more, you’ll find he’s certainly not talking about everyone giving the same – no, he says, ‘Give in proportion to what you have.’2 But I sense he means all of us as Christians are called to bear the load of what is needed for the ministry of the Church and for those in need, together. So the need for generosity of heart and each responding in their own way is something we all share – as he famously goes on to say, ‘for God loves a cheerful giver’3We all need to find that cheerfulness in our hearts that only comes from a heart set free towards God and towards our neighbour. This is a wisdom found among us which I believe is in itself a gift to those around when times seem to be shaking. For as the New Testament affirms, ‘for we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken; solet us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe’4 May you discover the Lord’s grace to you, and build the house that is your life on the rock that is Christ.
1 2 Corinthians 8.13 2 8.11 3 9.7 4 Hebrews 12.28
Discovering a new joy
Today we want to affirm the care and tenderness that can be found in families, especially in the Lodder and Bell families as they bring Ash with great thankfulness for Baptism (it’s OK guys, we know it’s not always perfect!). In a world of much difficulty, troubles, indeed suffering we wonder how this can be?! And yet this care and tenderness is found among us, and not just in married families, but between friends and in many places – and very much so among the family of God’s people which is absolutely open to anyone – as Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” 
Now many people ask, in this world of so much suffering, how can there possibly be a God, let alone a God of love? Well, here’s something strange to think about – that God really does know all our sufferings (think of Jesus ordeal on the Cross for starters!), but He also has a care and tenderness towards us that is not defeated or in any way falls short of what we need in any struggle. It is a remarkable revelation when you discover this care, and full of a joy that is far more than you ever expected. But let me finish by saying, at root many of us feel forgotten – “what you’ve said may be something others have found, but could never be for me.” On this Mothering Sunday let me end with the Lord’s words from one of our readings: ‘Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.’
 Matthew 11.28  Isaiah 49.15-16
April Activities at Ascension
Sunday 31st March 10:30am All Age Mothering Sunday Parade and Baptism Service with bacon butties from 9:45am in hall (clocks also go forward…!) Link to more Info
Sunday 7th 10:30am Church with EPIC
Thursday 11th 10-12 Activity Cafe in Church – all welcome (cafe plus craft, toys, games, puppet show etc.)
Sunday 14th 10:30am Church with EPIC
Thursday 18th 10-12 Activity Cafe in Church – all welcome (cafe plus craft, toys, games, puppet show etc.)
Good Friday 19th April 10am United Worship at St Bartholomew’s, King Edward Road followed by Cross Walk to top of Twerton Roundhill for 12.15 pm
Easter Sunday 21st 10:30am Church with baptism and egg hunt
Sunday 28th 10:30am Church Annual General Meeting with activity tables
Every Thursday (except 11th&18th) 8:30-11:30 Ascension Springs Cafe in church – coffee, cake, toasted sandwiches etc.
Keep up to date on Facebook: Ascension Gateway More details contact Sarah: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07779 781465
(EPIC – is our name for children’s church – usually includes lively songs, games, stories and craft to get to know God)
Please click on the link to see the poster
Mothering Sunday Poster 2019
What’s worrying You?
Do you ever lay awake at night worrying? Jesus tells us, ‘not to worry about everyday life.’  That’s hard especially if you’re struggling to make ends meet – think of the growing numbers of people reliant upon foodbanks. Even if we’re financially solvent there’s still plenty to worry about our families, our future, our career success, what others think of us, are we popular (how many likes do we get on social media) – the list is endless. We can become so hooked on worrying, that we worry about having nothing to worry about. What did Jesus mean when he told his followers not to worry about tomorrow?
Tom Wright says, ‘We must assume he led them by example. He wasn’t always looking ahead
anxiously, making the present moment count only because of what might come next. No: he seems to have had the skill of living totally in the present, giving attention totally to the present task, celebrating the goodness of God here and now.’  Jesus’ answer to worrying, ‘Seek the
Kingdom of God above all else’  , that should be our top priority, as it was for Jesus himself. When we put that first, praying the Lord’s Prayer and living according to the pattern he sets out here, food and drink and clothes look after themselves. So when you next find yourself worrying remember the advice of Peter, ‘Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.’ 
 Matthew 6.25,  Matthew for Everyone. Tom Wright,  Matthew 6.33,  1Peter 5.7
This doesn’t sound like very good news! Deserts and wilderness, trial through lack of food and drink (or anything else for that matter!), penetrating temptations that are hard to resist! Our modern world prefers not to think about these things, we just want a peaceful life without
discomfort. The trouble is, there’s a bit of a fight on, or sometimes more than a bit! But watch what Jesus does, what he says as he replies to the devil: ‘People do not live by bread alone’; ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him’; ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’
We’ll unpack those replies a bit today, but they speak of a different way – a way of truth, compassion, and of a different Kingdom where love, justice and mercy are everything (and a Kingdom that we pray may come). And all Jesus’ replies are from His Father in Heaven’s heart, indeed direct from Scripture. I know deep down which I prefer, what I really want in my life
and heart, ways that are really Good News. How about you?
Pancake Party – Tuesday 5th March 3.30-6pm
On Tuesday 5th March it’s Shrove Tuesday and we will be having our pancake party! It’s drop in between 3.30-6pm, for pancakes, activities and fundraising for Send a Cow. Suggested donation £1 per child. Do spread the word and if you are free please do come along to help – again we need your support to run this well! (it would be great if you could let Sarah know as well!).
Sunday 3rd March
– Film in the Crypt – This Sunday a film will be showing in the crypt at 4pm. Do come and join us. Children to be accompanied. (Popcorn included!)
Monday 6th March
Pastoral Visitors meet in the Prayer Room 6.45 pm. If you know anyone who would appreciate a visit, or prayer, please let Robert or Clare know
Tuesday 5th March – Shrove Tuesday
Pancake Party at Church 3.30-6 pm see Here
Prayer for Bath in the Abbey 7.30 pm. Christians from across the city and its surrounds meet to pray for the life of our city.
Wednesday 6th March – Ash Wednesday
– Ascension Knitting Group – 10am – 12 noon in the main church. Do come and join in the good company as well as the knitting and refreshments.
– Ash Wednesday Holy Communion at 7.30pm here jointly with St Michael’s & St Barnabas
– Best Foot Forward Line Dancing – the group meets weekly on a Wednesday 8.00-9.30pm in the hall. A great way to keep fit!
Thursday 7th March Ascension Springs
– Every Thursday during term time 8:30 – 11:30 am in the main church. Wonderful atmosphere with yummy food, toys for babies & toddlers. Very much open to all ages. Come with a friend or 2 and relax together (for more details contact Sarah).
Listening to God
The sun has come out and it feels like spring (whether we get more snow we’ll have to see!) With spring comes new life – flowers, butterflies, baby animals, for a few in the church new babies, and hope. The spring and the sun, somehow lifts us up, makes life easier. On Sunday we are looking at how God’s voice brings life. When we spend time to hear what God says,
situations that seem hopeless, difficult and hard, change. What seems impossible become possible. Sometimes the situation changes and other times it’s that our perspective changes – instead of our perspective it becomes His perspective. We can hear God in many ways: while we pray, reading the bible, a dream, a word from a friend, a feeling etc. On Sunday we are going to
spend time listening to the hope that God brings in creative ways, so be ready to be surprised by the life in God’s voice!