Early Christians often gathered on the name day of a saint – usually the date of his/her death. Originally held at a shrine or gravesite, many of these gatherings eventually evolved into festivals in honour of the saint, thus becoming known as feast days.
Churches, towns, and guilds all had patron saints and held celebrations on their saint’s feast day. In Greece and other predominantly Eastern Orthodox countries, few people celebrate their birthdays, but almost everyone celebrates their name day (the name they are baptized with). Honouring a particular saint and the spirit and values he/she represents can be a creative way to connect with family and friends.
No one was more shunned by the Jews than publicans, (tax collectors) who were Jews working for the Roman enemy by robbing their own people and making a large personal profit. Publicans were not allowed to trade, eat, or even pray with other Jews.
One day, while Matthew was seated at his table of books and money, Jesus looked at him and said two words: “Follow me.” This was all that was needed to make Matthew rise, leaving his pieces of silver, to follow Christ. His original name, Levi, signifies “adhesion” in Hebrew, while his new name in Christ, Matthew, means “gift of God.” Matthew would have been at the dinner party for Christ and his companions to which he invited his fellow tax-collectors. The Jews were surprised to see Jesus with a publican, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
St. Matthew is known to us principally as an Evangelist, with his Gospel being the first in the New Testament. His Gospel was written in Aramaic, the language that our Lord spoke and was written to convince the Jews that their
anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus.
Matthew the tax collector,
Left all his worldly gain
To rise and follow Jesus
He tells us ‘Do the same!’
The good news of our Saviour
His gospel words declare;
May we forsake what’s passing,
His risen life to share
A verse from on old hymn
A collect for St. Matthew’s Day
We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Saviour; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to
follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
You may have noticed that the hangings in St Matthew’s Church have been changed and are now green. Look at the pulpit, the lectern and on the front of the communion table. In times of celebration these are changed to white and gold, in times of repentance or mourning we use purple, and for celebrating the life of a martyred saint or celebrating the Holy Spirit we use red. The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that the priest might wear a matching colour stole too. Currently we use the colour green – what is all that about then?
The church calendar is now in “Ordinary Time”, indicated by the colour green. It is the period of the year between Trinity Sunday and Advent when there are no festivals (like Christmas, Easter and Pentecost) and few special days (except, of course, St Matthew’s Day – look out for the red hangings). However, I think that this time of year is far from ordinary! We are called to live out the Christian life. Day by day we are Jesus’ witnesses to our neighbours and friends. That is far from ordinary – it is an extraordinary life that we learn to live in the power of God the Holy Spirit.
The Book of Acts documents how the early church lived after Easter and Pentecost and it is full of miracles, healings,
salvation and new life; also spiritual struggle, prayer and fasting and religious persecution. Let us pray for an Acts-type living during this “Ordinary Time” at St Matthew’s. Bring on the extraordinary!
Rev Sara-Jane Stevens
July 4, 2017
Posted by: Angela Pursey
Posted In: Latest News
Sunday 11th June started when the set-up team arrived at Ashington Community Centre at about 8am. We got the keys, were shown the ropes and plugged in the projector. As more people arrived tables and chairs were set out, the band warmed up, the welcome table was set up, the kitchen sprang into life and the centre was soon filled with the sweet smell of coffee and warm croissants.
Then came the really important task of the day, we prayed. For 15 minutes everything stopped – there were still things to prepare – we just had something more important to do, to pray. People prayed for God’s presence in the centre for the day, safe travel for the church family and especially for Jesus to speak to every one, because we were here to listen.
The Away Day was all about sitting at Jesus’ feet and letting Him teach us. Starting from our 2017 verse, “The disciples came to Jesus, and He began to teach them” (Matt 5:1-2), we explored how we might hear what Jesus is saying to us. There were some really useful examples of past experience shared in the room, how Jesus had spoken to others. We also thought about what we could change in our lives to make more space to deliberately listen to Jesus. And a rather personal reflection followed of what would my life look like if I spent more time with Jesus?
After a huge bring and share lunch, which was up to the usual St Matthew’s standard, we put what we had learned into practice. There was a 30min slot where people were encouraged to find a quiet spot and listen.
We ended the day with a narrated service of Communion, looking afresh at when in this very familiar service we might hear from Jesus. The children had spent some of their day in their own group tackling the same theme as, Stop, Listen & Respond, and they responded beautifully – with service – bringing communion bread & wine to the tables. They had been live-wires all day, with their heads in Bibles and writing psalms. Thanks to Clive for inspiring our young people.
Did I miss anything? Ah yes, the Table v Table games and challenges. Six packets of Haribo and one Cadbury fun pack later, all scores were settled. Nothing like a little healthy competition!
Please do keep making space for Jesus to speak to you, and keep on listening for His teaching. You may be the one to bring an important word of encouragement to St Matthew’s in this difficult time of interregnum. See me if you want to pass something on.
On Sunday June 11th there will be an 8.45am service but no 10.30am service. Yes, you heard right… there will be no 10.30am service. Instead, like last year, the whole church family will be meeting together for a day of fellowship, teaching, worship and fun at Ashington Community Centre. There will be much cake (as is to be expected at a St Matthew’s event), a delicious shared lunch, and, hopefully, good weather so that we can socialise and chat in the summer sun over our lunch. But most importantly, there will be teaching and time to reflect on our theme.
At St Matthew’s, our vision is to “be disciples and make disciples”, and our 2017 verse of the year helps us think about how we can achieve this.
His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. (Matt 5:1,2)
The job of a disciple is to learn from their teacher, to spend all the time they can in the presence of their teacher, to listen to the wisdom given and learn how to live like their teacher. How often do we sit in Jesus’ presence and really listen to his wisdom? The Away Day in June is an opportunity for us to do just that, and in the good company of our fellow disciples, too.
The Bible tells us that we “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). We know that Jesus kept his mind sharp by studying the scriptures so that he could interpret them for others (Luke 4:16) and for his own comfort and strength (Matt 4:1-11). He also spent time away from the crowds listening to God the Father (Luke 5:16, Mark 1:35, Luke 22:42,43). How can we listen to Jesus, our teacher? On Sunday 11th June we will use Mark’s Gospel to think about just those things.
As last year, the day will take place at Ashington Community Centre in Ashington (!), which is just off the A24, north of the Washington roundabout. Please ask for a map if you’re not sure where it is. Also, we will hopefully put signs out. If you don’t have transport, please indicate on the sign-up sheet and we will make sure you can get a lift. Similarly, if you have space in your car, please could you add this to the same sheet.
As this is St. Matthew’s, there will be plenty to eat and drink during the day. Coffee/tea and pastries, cake and a shared picnic lunch. Please sign up for food contributions on the sheet at the back. God willing, the sun will shine on us, so bring a rug or some picnic chairs, and garden games, if you have any, so we can have some fun (watching or taking part) after lunch.
The day is shaping up to be a practical, challenging and encouraging day for all the church family (seasoned scholars as well as spiritual seekers!). Please come along, even if only for part of the day. As the advertising says, “Bring your yourself, bring your Bible, bring your family, bring your house group, and bring your ears”.
Rev. Sara-Jane, Al & Su Pitcher and the team
How can the church compassionately support those with mental illness?
In John 9, as well as healing, we see Jesus confront a community’s attitude toward its outcasts. He addresses two kinds of blindness. First and obvious, he gives sight to a blind man. But another and important miracle happens as he exposes and begins to heal the blinding darkness of stigma borne by the man’s family and neighbours. In Jesus’ day, illnesses were often attributed to sin. So the disciples’ question was not, “How did this happen?” because they thought they already knew that the answer was sin. They just wanted Jesus to help them ascribe blame to the right party. Their question was, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” Jesus would have none of it. “You are asking the wrong question,” he responded. He knew the question arose from wrong assumptions—presumptions based on ignorance and stigma.
A similar area of blindness in our community is how we view those dealing with mental illnesses. Like the disciples, our assumptions are often based on ignorance and stigma, and our wrong questions reveal that. What would help us clarify the confusion still existing around the issue of “mental illness?” that’s easy – learning more about mental illness! With the internet, we have access to more information, now more than ever. Don’t have the internet? – read books, ask professionals, or ask those living with mental illness themselves. I speak as someone who lives with mental illness, and as one training to be a Mental Health Nurse – I would much rather people ask me those questions about mental illness than judge and treat me according to what they ‘think’ mental illness is or the behaviours that come with it. There are so many types of mental illness; we can’t just paint everyone with the same brush – some mental illnesses are long term, and some are short term; some can be treated and cured with medication and talking therapies, some can’t. Some people may be psychotic, other people with mental illness may not. Mental illness is as complicated and vast as physical illness – the difference is there isn’t an unnecessary stigma around physical illness and so people are willing to listen and learn about it.
Once our awareness of mental illness is challenged, there are some compassionate and practical ways in which a church can help overcome stigma and reach out to those who are mentally ill and their families:
Make our church a safe place for those who suffer. To do that, a church body needs to be transparent about brokenness and acknowledge that all of us struggle with weak areas in our lives.
Equip our church with the tools it needs to serve those with mental illnesses and their families. Develop or identify our congregation’s theology of suffering. Train clergy and staff. Offer support groups. Create alliances with local mental health professionals.
Treat hurting people like people. Be a friend. Include them in gatherings. Invite them when groups are going to lunch. As needed, refer them on to professional help, but don’t pass them on. At the same time, set healthy boundaries in your relationships. Don’t expect them to be able to do that.
Address the stigma of mental illness by talking about it openly. Include general prayers for the mentally ill in congregational praying. Highlight and financially support local ministries who serve the homeless, the incarcerated and destitute mentally ill populations.
Treat those with mental illnesses and their families as you would any who have physical pain in their lives or are lifelong caregivers. Pray for and with them. Give them space to talk about what is going on in their lives. Attend to practical needs such as transportation to medical appointments; assist, when appropriate, with extraordinary expenses.
In the story of the blind man, what if the community had not been so concerned with assigning blame but instead had been consumed by administering love? What if their question, instead of, “Who sinned?” was, “How can we help?” Perhaps, instead of investigating the healing, they would have been participating in it.
It seems everyone is talking about it. Even Royalty. Mental Health. I must admit I’m very glad. And May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s been observed in the U.S. since 1949, amazingly, and has reached many millions with its message. But what does it mean for us?
I suffered my first major episode of depression when I was 28, when I was carrying my first child, and afterwards. It was a horrifying situation, because we were due to go overseas with Feba Radio when Timothy was about 6 months, and now it seemed we might never go. By my collapse into depression, I had destroyed my future as a missionary, something I’d been committed to since the age of 5. And I’d destroyed Peter’s future too! And it was very clear in some quarters (thank God, not all) that I was at fault for not trusting God properly, not having faith, and so on. It was devastating.
I often say that depression has 4 components: anger, grief, guilt and despair. That’s just my take – it doesn’t come from the medical profession – but it seems to be about right. And, for a Christian, sometimes the guilt is uppermost. In the non-Christian world, the stigma is hard enough to bear (perhaps especially for a man): the idea that you’re weak; that you should pull yourself together… but in the Christian world you face the added burden of the expectations of Christians who’ve apparently never been depressed with the indication that if your faith was stronger, if you just trusted, if you prayed harder, you’d be OK. Any Christian who has suffered depression can tell you that prayer is about the last thing you can do.
And that’s what makes it so important for us to recognise and support each other at times like this. We need others who will do our praying for us when we’re stumped, angry at life, angry at God, guilt-ridden, grieving the loss of the life we thought we had, and sometimes in a kind of terminal despair. We need to know how to touch and bring healing, how to reassure people that they haven’t backed down on God, nor God on them, because of the way they feel.
Remember Elijah? He goes up Mount Carmel and takes on single-handed the entire 450 false prophets of the Baal religion (and another 400 for another religion!) supported by a king who should have been worshipping the true God. He stages this extraordinary event in which, in the end, God sends down fire from heaven on the
sacrifice which Elijah has put on the altar. Read it, if you don’t know it – I Kings 18:16-46. And in the next chapter he’s cowering in a cave, hiding from the wicked queen who’s out for his blood, wailing at God, crying out for death. Depression – big-time, and it’s one of the great men of God in the Old Testament. Jeremiah is another who knew depression; so did Job. And I have always suspected that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) may have been a mental health condition, rather than the suggestions made by most commentators.
And have you ever considered the mental and emotional and spiritual anguish of our Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? He knows what it’s like to hit rock bottom – knows better than any of us.
I’m glad that we do talk about this things a little in St Matthew’s, and I believe it would be good to do so more. Our mental health is as important to God as our physical health; our minds matter as much as our bodies. And we should look out for one another and be able to offer the right kind of support to each other at times of need in this area as much as in any other.
We’re planning to hold a couple of Sunday evening sessions on this subject – called something like Hearts and Minds – not just for those who get depressed, and certainly not in order to depress anyone further! but to try and get a grip on this, see what the Bible has to say, and learn how to live with depression (if we are those who have to do that) and how to support our partners, other close family members, and each one in the family of God. In other words, it’s for us all.
Many years ago, I wrote this:
When I am in darkness
I do not seek
one who will say,
“Come to me! See, I am in light!”
Rather, I seek
one who will say,
“I have brought this little candle.
Let us walk together
until the sunrise”.
Or is it? “Here we go again. Another Christian festival kidnapped and rebranded by the evils of the secular world. When are they going to let us worship in peace?” I can see where that sentiment comes from. The ‘world’ has indeed taken Easter, the most important Christian festival, and turned it into a world of chocolate and fluffy bunnies – another Hallmark holiday, but this time sponsored by Cadbury and Thornton (other chocolatiers are available). Christians can rightly get upset that the core event of their faith, God’s greatest act of love, is reduced to confectionary in a foil wrapping. However, let us not be defeatist and let us be defiant – tell the story!
Maybe it is time to bring a little Acts 17 to Worthing—time to go out into our market place and speaking to our neighbours about the good news of Jesus.
Why not go to the supermarket and ask the staff where “The Real Easter Egg” is, the one that tells the story of the first Easter? You could comment on the significance of the hot cross buns in your basket to the employee on the checkout, how a cross was meant for death but actually brings us all life. You might joke to a friend about how few fluffy bunnies were mentioned in the event on the first Easter day. You could give an Easter card to your neighbour, wishing them joy of the resurrection.
The world is talking about Easter – maybe not as a festival of faith, but it is being talked about nonetheless … there is our opportunity right there! Easter is being celebrated in our land. Let’s join in and start a conversation about how Easter began.
We may be the only Gospel some people hear.
“How can they put their trust in Him if they have not heard of Him? And how can they hear of Him unless someone tells them?”
Jesus is alive, hallelujah!