See Bishop Jullian's latest video via the link below
Warmly invite you to join us on the village green on Tuesday 4 August 2.30- 4pm to celebrate community
We can play games, sing with live music, enjoy a craft activity
With time for thoughts and reflection for the older young adults
We will adhere to social distancing in our bubbles
Please bring a drink and a few nibbles for a mini picnic and any props you may need to make you comfortable
Contact Cheryl 07778 734719, Annie 07967 822830 or simply come along, everyone, any age, welcome
The intention is to hold our morning service on the Green again this coming Sunday the 2nd of August at 10.00am weather permitting. Thursday 10.30am Communion services have now resumed.
Advance notice: On Sunday the 9th of August the morning service will incorporate the dedication/blessing of the Memorial Wood in Wrea Green. Bishop Jill will be joining us on that day.
Prayers for Sunday 26th July
Intercession 40 - 26 th July 2020
Lord Jesus we know that you sit on the right-hand side of God the Father, and we ask that you hear our prayers and intercede for us.
Please strengthen and encourage all persecuted Christians and help them to know that they are loved by you; remind them that you are their strength and shield. We ask you today to give courage and comfort especially to Christians in countries like China, Eritra, and Iran. Lord, be close to our persecuted brothers and sisters. Help them to know that you are lord and that you have a plan for their lives. May they find rest, joy and hope. Thank you that you are close to the broken hearted and thatyou will save those who are crushed in spirit. May they and all of us learn to trust you in all things.
We pray for the world leaders and ask that they govern with wisdom, mercy and truthfulness especially at the moment the leaders of Russia and China. We pray that they will do what is right in your eyes We also ask you to guide us on the important decisions regarding the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union. We ask that in your infinite wisdom the Holy Spirit will guide all our MPs to make fair, honourable and wise decisions.......
Please remind us all here at St Nicholas of the importance of supporting your church and your work and your people financially. Lord we know that that everything wehave comes from you and of your own do give you. Remind us of the need tosupport this your church and of the joy of helping others and demonstrating the lovethat you so readily show us.
We ask for your help to treat and guide all those who suffer and those at risk from the corona virus. We ask that your holy spirit will guide and help scientists find a cure and we ask you be close to and protect medical staff who treat those affected. We thank you for the progress that has been made and ask for your continued help to eradicate this disease.
Lord we want our friends and family to know you. We pray that our lives will bear witness to your Spirit, Your unconditional love and Your Grace so that others will draw closer to you.
We also ask you to comfort the family friends of all those who have recently died. Lord please comfort and heal them and may they, their families and friends feel the warmth of your love.
Lord we ask for discernment in all our daily decisions that we will know Your leading and Your guidance so that we live and work as you would have us do.
Prayers written by Frank Andrews
More details can be found on our COVID - 19 page
Thought for the day diary
Thought for today, 4th July 2020
For many years today has been a significant day for North American's because today is their Independence Day. This year the 4th of July is a significant day for England and other parts of the Union because the next phase of relaxing 'lockdown' is taking place. Hairdressers, pubs and restaurants are reopening today after more than 100 days. Whether or not it is a wise decision remains to be seen, but we must keep trying to regenerate our economy at the same time as protecting ourselves from COVID-19.
The House of Bishop's, with guidance from the Government's scientific advisors, have decided to re-open our churches from tomorrow. Tomorrow, weather permitting, at 10.00am St Nicholas's Church will hold their service on the Green. We hope to start to open the Church building for mid-week services from Thursday the 9th of July at 10.30am with a virus safe system and procedures. Once we are happy with our system the church will be open for Sunday Worship possibly from the 19th of July. St Michael's Weeton will be open for morning prayer from this Sunday the 5th and St Matthew's Ballam from the 19th.
Considering things are beginning to change, this will be the last 'thought for the day post' I hope you have found them to be a good resource over the last 100 or more days.
Thank you to Rev Alan Byrom for his 'thoughts for the day' throughout this week. I am very grateful to Alan for helping with this important contribution to our daily routine and I hope all of our daily contributions have been helpful to you during this difficult time.
I would also like to thank Liam who has been dedicated to updating the website with daily posts since the beginning of the lockdown. Liam will continue to manage the website and keep our notices up to date in the future. Rev Philip
Friday 3rd July 2020 Meeting Jesus when it matters
Thomas John 20:24-29
It is fascinating when we gain a glimpse of the characters of those first disciples. Peter for example, headstrong and with too big a picture of his own strength; Andrew who introduces others to Jesus. And today, Thomas, often called the doubter, but perhaps more accurately the questioner. He it is who, true northern grit, says, 'Let's go with Jesus, so we can die with Him'. (John11:16). He it is who blunders into Jesus's final words of reassurance by saying, 'How can we know the way?' (John14:50) He receives there an answer of mind blowing magnitude and endless implications for life here and hereafter: Jesus says, 'I am the way the truth and the life'.
Perhaps we will want to say that Thomas' no-nonsense approach to life can be a bit of a liability as well as a strength. For some reason when the risen Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room, Thomas is not there. We might think that the united testimony of all the brothers he has served with and learnt with for years might convince him that Jesus was alive and had appeared to His followers. But on the other hand, it is a massive thing to take on board. 'No', says Thomas, 'I cannot believe that Jesus is alive until I see Him and not only that but I want to inspect His wounds, so I know it is the same man!' Not so much doubt as inability to take it all in. Reasonable enough.
And so when Jesus does appear before him a week later, it is then that Thomas is faced with the risen Jesus and the invitation to touch His wounds. I don't suppose he actually did this as his immediate response is one of the most direct and heartfelt declarations of faith: My Lord and my God.
Jesus comments that he believed after he saw; what of us who have not seen and yet have believed in Jesus, crucified, dead and buried, and risen again? We are blessed indeed Jesus says. May we each one, as we meditate on the cross and the resurrection, be able to respond with that cry of commitment and joy, My Lord and my God!
We have seen several people in one to one situations with Jesus. One had religious problems, another was morally compromised, Martha was in the throes of bereavement, Mary Magdalene was overcome with sadness, Thomas could not let things rest, he had to experience for himself. Whatever our issues and however we come whether trusting, questioning, troubled, Jesus stands ready to receive us and address us one to one at our point of worry, need, interest, not knowing. Be sure to speak to Him about anything at all and listen out for what He might say to you!
'We do not know... how can we know the way?'
Courageous master of the awkward question,
You spoke the words the others dared not say
And cut through their evasion and abstraction.
Because He loved your awkward counter-point
The Word has heard and granted you your wish.
Oh place my hands with yours, help me divine
The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine. Malcom Guite
Thursday 2nd July 2020 Meeting Jesus when it matters
Mary Magdalene John 20:11-18
Mary Magdalene has a bit of a mixed press in the minds of some people; just what her background was is not really very clear, although it does seem that Jesus delivered her from some kind of oppression/possession. This really does not matter that much. What is important is that she became a follower of Jesus, and after His death and burial she was one of the first to visit the tomb and discover that is was empty. She, as John tells us, then ran to tell Peter, who then went to see, along with another disciple (John himself?). From the other accounts it would seem that other disciples and followers were around as well. At some point, however, Mary finds herself alone and outside the tomb, heart-broken, utterly confused and not a little apprehensive; who after all would raid a tomb and steal a body? What might happen to the followers of a man executed for the goodness of His life and so horribly desecrated in His death?
It is at this point that Mary has her encounter with the Risen Lord. So far we have thought about people who met Jesus in the flesh, and found rebuke and challenge, promise and life in those encounters. Here we see what it means to meet Jesus, Lord over life and now over death itself.
Mary is softened up for this meeting by a vision of angels with whom she has a somewhat inconclusive conversation, and she turns and sees Jesus, and does not realise that is who it is. We might wonder why: the blur of her tears obscuring her view, confusion of mind and heaviness of heart blunting her vision? Well, in any case she really was not expecting to see Him there!
The crucial point is that she does come to recognise the living Lord standing before her. And how? By the hearing of her name as Jesus calls to her. Her response is to try to grasp hold of Him and she is told not to; now is the time for the life of faith, the risen Lord is already on His way to His throne at the side of the Father, His earth-bound life is over.
We are like Mary: we come to Jesus after the Resurrection; ours is a life of faith. We do not see Jesus in person, but we do experience Him by faith, in the power and presence of His Holy Spirit.
And so often, like Mary, we do not see Him standing before us. Yet He is always there. The name of each one of us is on His lips. Ours is to tune in to His voice, to catch His word of acceptance and love, to listen to His call on our lives. So that we can go forward with Him in the joy of His risen life abroad in our lives; with the longing to know Him and follow Him where He leads in our life as His disciples, in this world and beyond it.
When Mary through the garden went,
Her eyes for weeping long, were dim,
The grass beneath her footsteps bent,
The solemn lilies, white and slim,
These also stood and wept for Him.
When Mary through the garden went,
She sought, within the garden ground,
One for whom her heart was rent,
One who for her sake was bound,
One who sought and she was found. (Mary Coleridge)
Wednesday 1st July 2020 Meeting Jesus when it matters
Martha John 11:21-27
Quite a forthright lady, Martha. When we see her in Luke's gospel she is berating Jesus for letting her sister Mary sit and listen to Him while there are jobs to be done. Here, as He arrives at her home in Bethany she comes out to meet Him with another reproach.
Her brother Lazarus had become seriously ill and Martha and Mary sent for Jesus to come, hoping no doubt for healing; but Jesus did not arrive, He delayed, knowing, it appears, that Lazarus had already died. This may well speak to many of us when faced with and experiencing bereavement: we prayed for healing, that all might be well, but it was not so. Where was our Lord when we asked for Him? This is Martha's conflict: Jesus loved Lazarus, she knows this, but He did not come at once when he was ill. How can this be so? One thing we need to grasp at some point about our life with Jesus is that it can sometimes be a hard discipline; things just will not be as we want them to be.
In the case of Lazarus, we see that Jesus has a purpose in not going to see the sisters immediately. He knows that through their sadness God will be glorified; that He Himself, will also be glorified. He knows that He will bring Lazarus back to life; he is in effect only asleep, as He tells the disciples. The joy of having their brother restored to his sisters will soon be outweighing their grief now. He knows He will have to deal with a distressed Martha and Mary, but He will use this and the subsequent miracle to bring home to them not only His power, what He can do (bring healing), but His person, Who He really is (God the Son).
Lazarus will come back to life, he tells Martha, he will be raised, and she knows this, it will happen in the end. But then Jesus confronts her with His claim: I am the resurrection. It is through Him that those who face death will live, passing through death itself. And He makes good His claim by going to the tomb and calling Lazarus the dead man to walk out from it.
Did Martha really grasp what Jesus was saying about Himself? She does confess Him as Messiah, Son of God; which is not quite the same thing. It all became so much clearer after the Resurrection itself.
When times seem to be needlessly hard and we feel conflicted in our faith, we do well to remember Martha and her interaction with Jesus. He is in control, He has a loving purpose and He enables us to grasp more and more of who He is; all this through the pains that life throws at us so often.
Tuesday 30th June 2020 Meeting Jesus when it matters
An unnamed woman John 4-14
Yesterday we saw Jesus interacting with a man of some importance in the community; they speak pretty much as social equals although Jesus soon takes the leading role in the conversation, pointing Nicodemus to the need for a completely new kind of life.
Today's encounter is very different. Here Jesus speaks with a woman isolated within her community, and they cannot talk as equals in that social context. Indeed, everyone else would say Jesus had no business talking to this woman at all. In a public space like the village well, no Jewish man would ever engage a woman in conversation, but here Jesus starts it all off, much to the astonishment of the woman. In any case, they are both aware that Jesus is a Jew and that she is a Samaritan; these two groups were bitterly hostile to each other for all sorts of historical and religious reasons. How could a Jew ask her for water? Furthermore, the woman is clearly of bad reputation or she would not be drawing water in the heat of the day, by herself, when no-one else would consider doing it. Social distancing with a vengeance.
These are important considerations but in order to reach this woman, Jesus ignores them all. So what do they talk about? Once more Jesus is directing the conversation from the first moment. Just as with Nicodemus He is provoking her to respond to His claims as Messiah. To her He offers to give living water, the life of the Holy Spirit to flow over and through her, bringing cleansing and a refreshing life, freed from all that afflicts her now. This new life is the beginning of something that will take her beyond the confines of her existence here and now and see her safely into the new age of eternal life. A good offer!
The woman is not convinced; she makes a joke of it, this living water. Is it too good to be true; is it just some untrustworthy spin from a Jewish stranger? It is when Jesus tells her something of her immoral way of life that she takes Him more seriously. He is a prophet perhaps, although one from the wrong religion. But Jesus presses on: We must all worship in the Spirit and in the truth; I am the one who will bring this truth to bear in your life, I am Messiah, the one sent from God. It is that claim which strikes home; she goes off to tell other people about this encounter: it is possible that He is the Messiah?
The woman's life may not have been perfect before she met Jesus, but it is in the meeting with Him that she becomes aware of a deeper conflict with God in her living and thinking. This is a spiritual need and she begins to wonder if Jesus can satisfy that longing. When we come face to face with Jesus, we undergo that same probing questioning about ourselves and we come up against the central issue: how will I respond to Him and His claims on my life?
Monday 29th June 2020 Meeting Jesus when it matters
Nicodemus John 3:1-8
For the next few days I am going to eavesdrop on conversations Jesus had with a few people in John's gospel. It might be handy to read the verses from the Bible before the thought for the day.
To be a Christian is to know a lot about our Father God and what He has done for us in Christ, but it is even more a matter of meeting Jesus personally, getting to know Him, opening up to Him when we have things on our hearts that bother us, when we have questions that we would like Jesus to say something about. In each of the people we will be observing this week we find there is a conflict within themselves; how will Jesus speak into their difficulty? Maybe we will find this helpful in our own relationship with Jesus.
Right then, Nicodemus was a Jewish leader, a Pharisee, so very devout in religion and a member of the ruling council, so with some political clout. He is an important man, but he comes to Jesus at night, we do not know why. We can sense that there is in this man a conflict between the Jewish faith he has always been committed to and the challenge that Jesus seems to pose to that faith, to the way things have always been taught. He comes to find out more and Jesus immediately begins to stretch his understanding in a way that Nicodemus may well not have expected.
'You want to know what it means to know God as King?', Jesus asks, v3; 'well you must be born again!' Meaning what precisely? It might be better to say, 'born from above', the word used means both things. To know God the Father through Jesus Christ is so great a revolution in living and thinking and believing that it can be said to be the birth into an entirely new quality of life and way of living. The Apostle Paul says something similar: it is like taking off an old coat, the old life, and putting on a completely new life.
Faith in Christ is radical because it calls us back to the very roots of our lives and challenges us to make life-changing, life-enhancing decisions to follow Christ as His disciple. Exhilarating and risky both at once! A life reborn by the action of the Spirit bringing joy and growth in a life of discipleship. No bad thing, to be born a new person, from above, by the Spirit of God!! Just how that works out in practice, well that is the job of a lifetime.
Thought for today, 28th June 2020
Jesus said in John's Gospel "I am the door," (John 10 v7)
When Jesus' words and actions are recorded in John's gospel there is an accent on simplicity. Once you have read or heard them, they begin to invite you into something far deeper. Jesus says things like, I am the gateway to the sheep, I am the good Shepherd, I am the vine you are the branches, I am the bread of life. These are the 'I am' declarations but where or what do these declarations of Jesus lead us to?
Each one leads us to a Sacrament. They lead us to Baptism and to Communion and to the other sacraments like marriage and reconciliation. Now the word sacrament is often used in church but not necessarily a word that is fully understood. It is a Latin word in origin 'sacramentum' and it means an oath or a pledge. It is a word that is ascribed to something that is actually indescribable because it is trying to describe the point in which God meets His people. The word Sacrament is trying to describe something that is beautiful yet poignant, tearful yet joyful, anxious yet full of relief, moving yet comfortable, energizing and sustaining, in this world, yet somehow touching the next. How can a word describe all those things? Well sacrament is a human attempt at articulating something about it. In my homily for the day, in the service link above, I try to illustrate what the word sacrament is trying to communicate a little bit more. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 27th June 2020
'Consider it all joy even when you encounter various trials.' (James 1 v2)
God can certainly use our mistakes to teach us, but I don't think that is what James means by the above quote. Some of our trials come from 'life in general'. Things don't go right. Usually it's not one big thing but a lot of little things. We encounter physical, financial, relational or emotional trials that knock us for six. Peter calls this 'the trial of your faith' (1 Peter 1v7). Whatever the size or length of our trial, there is nowhere we can go to escape the trial of our faith. It is like facing a driving test. A pass is a pass and a fail a fail. It doesn't matter how many different instructors you try. The hurdle will never go away or seem easier, if you want a license to drive, you have to reach a certain standard in order to overcome it, you can't 'wing it'. Likewise, you can't outrun God-ordained trials. He knows where to find you!
The good news is, there's no such thing as a purposeless trial! Each trial is designed to launch us to a new spiritual level. The interesting thing about our trials are, they're custom made; they have our name on them. Paul discovered two things about his trials. Firstly, the reason. 'To keep me from becoming conceited' (2 Corinth 12 v7) and secondly, in order for the result 'That Christ' power may rest on me' (2 Corinth 12 v9). Like a tailor measuring you for a suit that will fit perfectly well, the Holy Spirit customizes the trials we encounter to meet our spiritual need, to mold us, and to make us more like Jesus! Rev Philip
Rev Alan Byrom will be returning with his 'thoughts for the day' next week from Monday to Friday.
Thought for today, 26th June 2020
'We should make plans - counting on God to direct us.' (Proverbs 16 v9)
Yesterday we looked briefly at this proverb, here are a few more reflections upon it. There must be a balance between faith and careful planning. For example, if you were unemployed, there is no point in saying. "I am just waiting for the Lord to provide a job." You still have to contribute by sharpening up your skills and sending out your CV. We have to play our part. It's like the old soldier's motto. 'Trust in God, but keep your powder dry! Place your life in God's hands, but stay at the ready. You must do all you can to prepare yourself, understanding that the favour you need comes from the Lord.'
To walk by faith does not mean you stop thinking, planning, taking advice, and self-correcting. We trust God for safety when on a car journey, but we wouldn't pass on a blind curve. We should trust God for our health, but we wouldn't chain smoke, stay up all night and subsist on crisps and fizzy drinks. Acting foolishly, expecting God to bail you out when things go amiss, isn't faith, it's presumption. Wisdom says do all you can, then trust in God to do what you cannot do. Faith and careful planning go hand in hand. They always have and they always will.
With that in mind we are going to hold our open-air service on the Green on Sunday the 5th of July. The Government and Diocese have said worship can resume from the 4th. The planning for indoor worship is coming together, but still needs some refinement. Meeting outside and maintaining social distancing is far easier and far safer for the time being. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 25th June 2020
'The wise man looks ahead...' (Proverbs 14 v8)
Yesterday I wrote a little bit about the anxiety of not being able to look ahead, illustrated with a little story of being on a runaway train without any control over it. Remember what Jesus said to Peter, "Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." (John 21 v18).
The limitations that have been placed upon all of us, so we cannot act in the way we would naturally act, is really problematic. On Monday I was told by the diocese to postpone our outside service on the Green and then the latest announcement from the Government is to allow worship to take place back in the Church building from the 4th of July, with a lot of caveats and systems to put in place.
Solomon says "We should make plans counting on God to direct us" (Proverbs 16 v90). It is God's will for all of us to ultimately succeed because He delights in our success. There is a long check list for the PCC to go through to make our church as COVID safe as possible. The PCC will thoroughly go through the check list before any service takes place in or outdoors. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 24th June 2020
"Even though I walk through the deepest and darkest valley, I shall fear no harm, for You are with me." (Psalm 23v4)
In the Summer of 1982, my friend and I set off from London Euston on the late train back to the northwest. That meant we had to change trains at Crewe for the last leg to Preston. The first leg went fine. We were very tired and looking forward to getting home. A train pulled into Crewe station and even though the signage was poor, we clambered aboard one of the coaches. To our surprise it was a very old coach, very much in the style of a Harry Potter steam railway coach. We weren't all that bothered, being tired and just sat down. The train started to rumble out of the station. Looking around the coach it seemed poorly lit with a strong smell of diesel. I started to feel uncomfortable. There was no one else on board that coach so I decided to go on a walkabout. I slid the door open to the corridor only to be hit with the wind blowing through the coach door window that was still partially open. It was stuck and wouldn't close, I walked down the corridor to find the door shut to the next coach and there was no light in there. I walked to the other coach to find that door locked and no one in sight. Basically, we were moving ever forward into the darkness not knowing if we were on the right train. The train kept increasing in speed, which was disconcerting to say the least. Just to heighten the tension our coach light kept flickering which seemed very reminiscent of a gas mantle. Our imaginations started to run riot. Was there a driver? Was this a ghost train? Where were we going? When will we stop? Will we ever stop? The main problem was the lack of control over direction, speed and destiny.
The direction of travel for the country in the light of COVID-19 and all the problems that entails, both for the health of the nation and the economy, feels to me rather like being on that train. Decisions are being made too soon or not soon enough, but you don't have a say. Vision of what is in front is veiled in a fog and your hands aren't on the controls or the brakes.
What I do know is, even though that train journey back in 1982 felt really long, we did eventually roll into Preston station, familiarity was restored in the end. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 23rd June 2020
Unfortunately, the planned service on the Green this coming Sunday, the 28th, is having to be postponed. This is due to the advice from the Diocese. Having stated that, they recognize the advantages of worshipping outside and hope that we can proceed in the not too distant future. I know that many of you will be disappointed but there are also a considerable number of you that were uncomfortable about going ahead too soon. Taking all this into consideration I believe the decision to postpone is the right one. We will monitor the situation regularly.
Below is an extract from the Diocesan Coronavirus Team to my email, asking if we could go ahead with an outside service.
'It is likely that the number of people allowed to gather outside will be higher than the number of people allowed to gather inside, which will make outside worship more attractive and viable. To sum it up in one sentence:
It's not allowed now, we don't know when it will be, but hope it will be soon, and we do not know on what terms it will be allowed.' (Sam Cheeseman on behalf of the coronavirus team)
'Many waters cannot quench love neither can the floods drown it.' (Song of Songs 8 v7)
Today is Audrey's day! Also known as Etheldreda, Abbess of Ely. A daughter of a king, she desired to commit her life to prayer and chastity. She founded a religious house at Ely for both men and women, over which she ruled as Abbess. At her death on this day in 678, she was revered a s a woman of austerity, prayer, prophecy, an encourager, with concern for those in her care.
Thought for today, 22nd June
Today is St Alban's Day, the first Christian Martyr of Britain. You may already know the story, which was first recorded by the Venerable Bede, which tells of Alban who was a Roman Soldier in the city of Verulamium (now St Albans in Herefordshire). Christians were going through a period of persecution at this time during the reign of Emperor Diocletian and Alban came across a Christian priest who was on the run from the authorities. Alban sheltered him for several days and was very impressed with the priest's devotion in prayer and undeniable faith.
Alban received instruction from the priest and was converted. When the priest's hiding place was discovered, Alban dressed himself in the priest's cloak, to allow the priest to escape and was arrested in his place. Tortured by the Roman authorities, Alban refused to renounce his faith. He was beheaded on this day, probably in the year 250, and so became the first British martyr. His shrine stands today as a place of pilgrimage in the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban.
It says in Paul's second letter to Timothy. "Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ. No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier's aim is to please the enlisting officer. In the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules.......'Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things."
To Alban, the enlisting officer that he wished to please was Jesus Christ himself. For Alban that meant sharing in the suffering of Christ as one of His good soldiers.
Thought for today, 21st June 2020
'Saul was David's enemy from that time forward' (1 Samuel 18 v29)
Dr. Seuss wrote hundreds of children's stories. Some of his most famous are of course about The Grinch. Stories like, the day he stole Christmas, were among my children's favourites when they were growing up. The Grinch had some strange traits. When he got really jealous about someone, he would bite himself! Envy does that; it makes you target others but ends up consuming you instead.
In the Old Testament God blessed King Saul and elevated him to the highest position in Israel. But when David's great military accomplishments were recognized by the people, Saul became insecure and threatened. Instead of rejoicing that God had sent David to help him fight the enemy, Saul grew resentful and became 'David's enemy from that time forward.'
Envy is destructive and poisons a person's life. It causes a person to compare themself unfavourably with others. This forces them to forfeit their joy and contentment. They can become ungrateful and self-centered. We should always be able to rejoice in the success of others. We must remember that God made all of us His children, when none of us deserved it. Let's ask God to remind us of the many times He has blessed us when we didn't really deserve it!
Thought for today, 20th June 2020
'This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it' (Psalm 118 v24)
There is a phrase in the Bible that is used hundreds of times and that phrase is, 'It came to pass.' It is something that registered with me as a small child in Sunday school. Not 'once upon a time' but 'it came to pass'. We should take those words literally, once upon a time leads us very much into a fairy tale or a legend. 'It came to pass' means precisely what says, things in life both good or bad, are not permanent. They were real for sure but not permanent. Life is a continuum of change. Accepting that will not only help you handle the bad times but stop you clinging so tightly to the good ones. There are three principles to help you enjoy the roller coaster of life.
Remember, every day is a gift. Find enjoyment in it and not just some of it. Even though you are always moving toward another goal or objective, learn to squeeze every ounce of joy out of the present. Don't let life slip away while you are waiting for the next big event.
Appreciate the little things. They are all around you- the delight on a child's face, the love of a friend, a good night's sleep, a kind deed, a fresh insight. When you appreciate what you have, it multiplies. So be grateful for the little things and God will give you even more to appreciate.
There are two lies you should never buy into. One is the forever lie, which says your situation will never improve. The other is 'the never lie', which says that if things get worse, you will never be able to handle them. Both are distortions. God's Word says that everything 'comes to pass'. It says in Ecclesiastes, 'To everything there is a season'. Endings bring new beginnings! So, keep trusting God and the cloud you are under right now will give way to sunshine. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 19th June 2020
Job said 'I beg God for help, but there is no answer...' (Job 30 v20)
Sometimes it may feel as though your prayers are not being answered and you wonder if He is listening. What does it mean if He doesn't seem to respond? Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from His silence.
The first thing to remember is that silence isn't the same as absence. King David said in his psalms 'Where can I go to escape your spirit? Where can I go to escape your presence? If I go up to heaven you are there, if I go down into the pit you are there also. (Psalm139)
You have to be very secure with somebody to just sit in silence and be peace with them. Silence takes the emphasis off words and builds an intimacy where words are no longer necessary. If you want to be that comfortable around God, then learn to enter into silence with Him without panic.
Silence also tests your trust level! How much trust is actually involved, if somebody is coaching your every step. It's like a parent running alongside a child who is trying to learn how to ride a bike. At this stage the child lacks confidence but she is going to look strange if at 18 her dad is still trotting beside her. At some point God takes his hands off the handle bars to see how far you have progressed. Your ride might get a bit wobbly for a while but it demonstrates how far you have come and allows your confidence to grow. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 18th June 2020
'Live not as people who do not know the meaning of life, but as those who do' (Ephesians 5 v15)
Before the virus came, a woman, recognizing her advancing years, wrote a letter to her friend: Dear Margaret, I am reading more and dusting less, admiring the garden more and fussing less about the weeds. I'm spending more time with loved ones and less time working. Since life's meant to be enjoyed, not endured, I'm no longer postponing the things that add joy and laughter. I'm using my best china to celebrate 'special events' like the first crocus, or losing a pound, I wear my new jacket to the supermarket and I'm not saving my expensive perfume, I wear it for supermarket workers and bank clerks. The word 'someday' no longer is part of my vocabulary. If it's worth doing its worth doing now!
Don't you wonder what some people might have done differently if they had known they wouldn't be around for the tomorrow we all take for granted? Hugged their loved ones more? Contacted estranged friends to mend fences? Pursued the opportunities they always talked about? I guess we'll never know. But we do know this: realizing our time here is limited, it's the little things that make us regretful: the unwritten letters, the unspoken 'I love you,' the unshared testimonies, the times we forgot to thank God for His blessings.
Each morning you should remind yourself that every minute and every breath is a gift. Maybe life's not the party you hoped for, but it is precious and you should make the most of it. Don't wait till tragedy reorders your priorities. So, start to live as a person who knows the meaning of life.' (Ephesians 5 v15) Rev Philip
Thought for today, 17th June 2020
'Sing to the Lord, all around the world! Worship the Lord with joy; come before him with happy songs!' (Psalm 100 v1-2)
There has been a lot of media coverage and talk about the opening of places of worship. Some opened their doors on the 15th of June for private prayer only. You may have seen Bishop Julian on television opening our Cathedral Church. The Parochial Church Council and I discussed the matter over Zoom and we have decided not to open St Nicholas Church yet but have an open-air service on 'The Green' instead on Sunday the 28th of June at 10.00am, where social distancing will be expected, with as safe a system as possible designed for coming together. Plenty of hand wash and safe distancing. The reason for this decision is as follows.
a) The government decided to move the date forward to open churches from the beginning of July to the 15th of June. All this at a time when Blackpool and Preston were at the epicentre of the virus in the UK. Of course, because the government has said that churches can open, it puts pressure on us as a PCC to open at a time that is not right for the Fylde Coast (in our opinion)
b) In order to fulfil COVID-19 planning for the opening of buildings to the public, we would have to spend endless hours cleaning, meanwhile being selective on who can come through the door of our church. As far as I am concerned, if we let one person into church, we let everybody in. If we can't do that safely, then let's think of something different.
c) If it is OK for people to maraud around our city centres, paying no attention to social distancing, because of something they feel strongly about, or stand in a queue outside a non-essential shop, then why can't we meet on the Green, respecting social distance, to pray and sing a few hymns? When it comes to safeguarding and leadership on this issue, the PCC and I would much prefer to go about things this way. It is far safer than any indoor strategy.
Admittedly some people will still feel they can't attend, due to shielding which is understood and we will pray for you at this service. We will endeavour to put as much as we can on the website either during or just after the service. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 16th June 2020
'Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of His body' (Romans 12 v5)
When my children were small, they used to enjoy watching a TV series called 'The Raggy Dolls'. The cartoon series originally aired on ITV from 1986 until 1994. The series is set in Mr Grimes' Toy Factory, where imperfect dolls are thrown into a reject bin. While unobserved by human eyes, the dolls come to life and climb out of the reject bin to have adventures. The series was designed to encourage children to think positively about disability and difference.
I often think about that series when I think about what it is to be human. Very often individuals recognise they have many imperfections and often that prevents them from reaching their full potential. In fact, we are all raggy dolls really. But when you look at the characters in the Old and New Testament you recognise that they were raggy dolls too. None of them were perfect apart from Jesus, but all of them had an important part to play in God's Revelation.
Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was co dependant, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair resulting in all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed , Jonah was reluctant, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least. Peter was impulsive, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zacchaeus was crooked, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health and Timothy was timid. That's quite a variety of misfits, yet God used each one of them. As we serve God's purpose, our lives take on eternal importance. Paul writes 'all this makes you more significant, not less... because of what you are part of (1 Corinthians 12 v14&19) Rev Philip
Thought for today, 15th June 2020
I am fascinated with history. In particular I am fascinated with British history. The Church of course has threaded its way through the last two millennia and has adapted to the changing times. Some would say that is wrong, the Church should remain the same and society should be dictated to by the Church and its Doctrine. I would say that the fundamental fact of the Gospel doesn't change, but how it is communicated and how it is received has to. We have ruins of beautiful Abbey's dotted around our countryside, but I am sure there aren't many people that would still want huge wealthy abbeys dictating to each and everyone of us what we should do with our time and money. Especially, when the Abbeys did function, their objective was to take more money from those living around them to increase their own wealth. Without going through the complexities of the dissolution of the abbeys, I would say we are happy to just enjoy the ruins and the nostalgia instead.
Today in the Anglican Church we remember Richard Baxter, Puritan Divine. He lived between 1615 and 1691. Quite a time of upheaval. In 1633 he found himself at the court of the king. He was so disgusted with the low moral standards there that he returned home to study Divinity. He then took a parish in the Midlands. After the civil war and the restoration of the monarchy he was offered the post of Bishop of Hereford. He was so dissatisfied with the way the church was ordered especially the episcopacy (the bishops) he refused. He continued in the life of the church and became a prolific hymn writer.
One of his most well-loved and long-lived hymns is 'Ye Holy angels bright.'
bear thou thy part,
Triumph in God above,
And with a well-tuned heart
thou the songs of love.
And all my days let no distress
Nor fears suppress His joyful praise.
(One verse from 'Ye holy angels bright!' Richard Baxter)
Thought for today, 14th June 2020
The words for 'Be thou my vision was written by Saint Dallan Forgaill. He lived in the 6th Century in Ireland and it is said that he lost his sight as a small boy. He was very studious and had a very strong faith. It was through his experience he wrote this hymn. As a result, he regained his sight and became an eminent teacher and preacher.
The entire poem was first translated into English in 1905 by Mary Byrne, in Dublin. Eleanor Hull versified the text into what is now the well-loved hymn and prayer suitable for every moment of our lives. That God would be our vision above all else. The earnest prayer is enhanced by such quaint but tender phrases as, Lord of my heart, Thy presence my light, and heart of my own heart. The text states that when we allow God to have first place in our lives, He becomes our treasure. And we will no longer care for the pursuit of riches or man's praise.
The tune that is used mainly for this hymn is called Slane and is the same tune that is used for 'Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all Joy'. The beauty of 'Be thou my Vision' for me is, its spiritual depth. I know that the PC brigade have messed about with some of the words in some modern hymn books, particularly on verse two by changing the word Son to something else. Really, they are missing the point of that verse in my opinion. To me this hymn is a prayer that we can use. It also aligns itself with the Trinity and the second verse particularly identifies with God the Father and God the Son. All four verses resonate with Jesus' life and ministry culminating in the last verse, 'High King of heaven, my victory won'. Oh, that we could say that for ourselves one day!
Thought for today, 13th June 2020
'Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy.' (Exodus 20 v8)
Yesterday I began to look at what keeping the Sabbath might look like. I suppose most us would agree that the main instruction is to keep a day of rest. There is a story of a man that went to see his GP because he felt he was suffering from burnout. Of course, the doctor told him to slow down. "Doctor", he replied, "I didn't come for a lecture on the burning the candle at both ends, I came for more wax!"
God meant life to have a definite rhythm which requires work, worship, labour, rest. Because the bow that is always bent will eventually break. So, the Sabbath is firstly a day of rest but it is also a day of remembering. William Barclay, who is one of my favourite Biblical commentary writers, said towards the end of his life,
"I'm old, and I've learned that there are very few things in life that really matter, but those few things matter intensely! Worshipping with other believers matters because it reminds you of these important things about God: His Word, His Will, His ways, His promises, His call, His Grace and His family.
The Sabbath for the Christian is also a day of resurrection. For Christians every Sunday is a mini Easter, A time to celebrate new beginnings. It is a symbol of God's love, designed to renew your spirit before taking on the cares of another week. Even though, as yet we cannot come together to worship, we can still keep each and everyone of us in our prayers. If we forget or haven't the time throughout the week, as long as we take time out on this particular day to remember each other, it is still a way to keep the Sabbath. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 12th June 2020
'Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy' (Exodus 20 v8)
One church was organizing a trip to the Holy Land. One of the fellow travelers, at one of the preparation meetings, said,
"When I get to read the ten commandments on Mt. Sinai, I'll feel close to God."
Because there were some at that meeting that were not able to go, the vicar quickly responded, "If you want to feel close to God, you could always stay at home and just keep them!"
The 10 commandments are straight forward simple instructions but it is amazing how human beings have complicated them down the centuries. Let's consider the Commandment 'Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy'. On the one hand people have made it heavy. In fact, by Jesus' time there were over 1,500 things you couldn't do on the Sabbath, like bathing, walking too far or even scratching a flea bite! The Sabbath is for rest and celebration; a time to recharge your spiritual battery, not drain it. It should be a milestone, not a millstone of your week!
On the other hand, it is not supposed to be a day where anything goes. These days very often people go anywhere on the Sabbath, except God's house, and will excuse it by saying. 'I'll be there in spirit,' or 'I'm closer to God in the Lake District.
One of the most difficult things that have tested us in recent months is the closure of our Church buildings. There is a void and a feeling of guilt that we cannot worship together in God's house. Having stated that God knows the intentions of the heart. We have tried to be creative in 'being church' in the community and we have more ideas coming up. Please watch this space for more information about what those ideas might be. Tomorrow the 'thought for the day' will focus again on 'keeping the Sabbath Holy'. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 11th June 2020, Barnabas.
Barnabas was sent to Antioch. 'When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.' (Acts v23-24)
Though not named among the twelve apostles, Barnabas emerges in the Acts of the Apostles as one of the most significant of their number. Barnabas was Jewish, with a Greek background, who was from Cyprus and was originally known as Joseph. He sold some property he owned and gave the proceeds to the church when he became a Christian. He was then renamed Barnabas by his fellow Christians. The name means son of encouragement or son of consolation.
There is a lot about Barnabas written in the Acts of the Apostles and of course he is also mentioned in some of Paul's Epistles. What we know is that Barnabas was sent to Antioch by the Church at Jerusalem to teach and preach the Gospel. After a while he returns to collect Paul to help him with this endeavour. Barnabas already knew Paul. There are some Biblical scholars think that both Barnabas and Paul had both trained to be Pharisees in Jerusalem under the tutelage of Gamaliel. Whether that is true or not they both worked well together in the way they evangelized both Jews the gentiles alike. It was Barnabas that introduced Paul to the Apostles in Jerusalem.
Barnabas was a key figure in the early church, perhaps not as eloquent and as gifted in communication as Paul but he was certainly an enabler. He unlocked doors to allow the work of the early church to continue. He is the sort of person that the church needs today. To be prepared to go wherever the Holy Spirit wills and to enable the church to grow in faith and in numbers.
Thought for today, 10th June 2020
'...There is going to be a lot of frantic running around...' (Daniel 12 v4)
I feel a certain amount of unease at the latest development of the removal of statues. I acknowledge that the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, due to the way he gained his wealth, no longer should have occupied that plinth. Having stated that, for that statue to be toppled by a mob and thrown into the river on Saturday was a wanton act of vandalism. Will the next thing be to burn books? Historically that has been the herald of disaster for any society. The process of removing statues should be done through discussion and due process. It would seem that there is a purging of statues going on up and down the country right now without such discussion taking place.
When Daniel said that in the last day's there is going to be a lot of frantic running around, he painted an amazingly accurate picture of our day. There is an invisible pandemic that we are aware of COVID-19, but here is another pandemic raging around the world right now called stress. It is as though isolation and worry about jobs and debt has allowed this second epidemic of stress to take hold. It has filled the void left by the closing of, schools, colleges, universities as well as industry etc. Its symptoms are frustration, anxiety and a yearning for some sort of perfection that doesn't exist. We should strive for progress and not perfectionism. Louis Fontanes said, 'The desire of perfection is the worst disease that ever afflicted the human mind.' Perfectionists aren't just their own worst critics they are hard on anyone else who can't maintain their impossible standards. We should all learn to live with loose ends and trust God more. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 9th June 2020
'But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like an ever-rolling stream.' (Amos 5 v24)
Yesterday I mentioned that, until people from different backgrounds realize that we all share in one common humanity, then there will always be confrontation. We have seen in recent days, people from all backgrounds rise up at the injustice wrought upon George Floyd. It was appalling to see what happened to him and quite rightly it has triggered protests.
Whether or not the timing of mass gatherings is a good idea in the middle of a pandemic remains to be seen, it was an understandable response to the horror of the act committed against a defenceless man.
Having stated that, the struggle against injustice is not just a colour related thing. Black lives matter, in my opinion all lives matter! Injustice is injustice, lack of mercy is lack of mercy, regardless of who is the suffering party. I know many will say, yes but it always seems to be black people that suffer at the hands of authority than most. Often in recent times that seems to be true, but everyone must be mindful that human nature has always tried to repress minorities at whatever age and time. It is more to do with power than colour or ethnicity. We must always be mindful, whoever we are, not to fall into that trap.
Like Jesus said, "Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but pay no attention to the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Please, brother, let me take that speck out of your eye, yet you cannot even see the log sticking out of your own? (Luke 6 v41-42a) Rev Philip
Thought for today, 8th June 2020
The Apostle Peter writes 'Clothe yourselves with humility towards one another.' (1Peter 5 v5)
Peter's expression, 'clothe yourselves with humility' referred to a white scarf or apron typically worn by servants in his time. He was implying that we should be servants and not celebrities. We should all stand before the cross on an equal footing.
I studied with the eminent black theologian, Robert Beckford, when I was at Queen's Birmingham. He is a charismatic man and at the time was in the process of writing one of his first books 'Jesus is Dread' on Theology and Black Culture. I wanted to immerse myself in the multi-cultural city of Birmingham to try to understand what it might be like to minister in a typical inner-city context in the late 20th Century in the UK. Of course, now we are well and truly ensconced in the 21st century, things haven't really changed much in terms of inter cultural and interfaith understanding.
One of the most memorable experiences I had whilst studying there, was one lecture on ethnic diversity. This particular course was led by a Black professor from Nottingham and an Asian lecturer from Aston University. They talked about Race Relations and put the point forward that this was a contradiction in terms. They said until we understand that the World comprises just 'The Human Race', which is 'one people', with different ethnicities and cultures, rather than a world comprising different races, we will never be able to move forward. If you start to think that people from different parts of the world or people of a different colour are from a different race than there will always be trouble. We all stand before the cross on an equal footing, 'The Human Race'. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Peter goes on to say 'God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Those who are self-centered find themselves at odds with God, while the humble enjoy His blessings. And then Peter finishes by saying 'Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you.' (1Peter v6-7) Rev Philip
Thought for today, Trinity Sunday, 7th June 2020
'You have stayed long enough at this mountain.' (Deuteronomy 1 v6)
A teenager was telling a senior citizen why the older generation doesn't understand the younger. "You grew up in a primitive world," he said. "We've got space travel, computers, smart phones and social media." Smiling the old man replied, "You're right, we didn't have those things that's why we invented them!"
One of the blessings that have come out of this lock down period has been the opportunity to do things differently. It has been a challenge to the Church to think out of the box with regard to teaching and preaching and how to engage people in prayer and worship. One of the issues that churches have had in the past has been the statement "Well we have always done it that way!" Somehow that has been a good enough reason not to try new things and not to be able to grow. In one sense that is human nature.
When God delivered Israel and they headed for the Promised Land, a journey that should have taken a few months, they ended up taking 40 years instead. They ended up circling the same mountain repeatedly, because they had been oppressed for so long, that mentally they couldn't grasp what God had prepared for them. Finally, He told them, "You have stayed long enough at this mountain...take possession of the land...the Lord swore He would give to your descendants (Deuteronomy 1 v6-8).
Let us take the opportunity, when the restrictions are lifted, to try new things more willingly, jettison things that are slowing us down, and to try to become what God wants us to become.
Thought for today, 6th June 2020
Thank you to Rev Alan Byrom for his insightful reflections over the last five days on the Holy Spirit. It has been good to think about the various aspects of what the Spirit means to us. Of course, like Alan implied, the subject is vast and there are many examples of how the Holy Spirit has influenced the lives of Christians down the centuries.
In my thoughts for the day, if there has been a significant saint or Christian thinker mentioned in the Anglican cycle of prayer for the day, I have referred to them. Even though there isn't anybody ascribed for today I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention Boniface, Apostle of Germany. It was his day yesterday. He was British, born in Devon in around the year 675 and was firstly named Winfrith. He entered the monastery in Exeter as a young man and it was there, he took the name Boniface. He became a Latin scholar and poet and was ordained when he was thirty years old. He rejected a safe ecclesiastical career in England, and in the year 716, became a missionary to Frisia, following in the steps of Willibrord. He eventually was commissioned by the Pope to work in Hesse and Bavaria where he went after consecration as bishop in the year 722. He courageously felled a sacred oak at Geismar and, since the pagan gods did not come to the rescue, widespread conversion followed. He was the founder of a string of monasteries across southern Germany and made sure that they were places of learning, so that evangelizing could continue. He was made Archbishop of Mainz in the year 732, where he consecrated many missionary bishops. He worked assiduously for the reform of the Church in France and managed to ensure that the more stable Rule of St Benedict was adhered to in her monasteries. He crowned Pepin as the Frankish King in 751. While waiting for some new Christians to arrive for confirmation, he was murdered by a band of pagans on the 5th of June 754. Boniface has been judged as having a deeper influence on European history than any other Englishman.
As we come to Trinity Sunday, which we will celebrate tomorrow, we should see that day as the day of our recommissioning as evangelists for our own time. Let's not forget Jesus' last words to us in Matthews gospel, which is our gospel reading set for tomorrow.
"Go therefore to all nations and make disciples; baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirt, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. I will be with you always, to the end of time." Matt 28 v19-20
Friday 5th June 2020
...the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Romans 8:15,16
With the Spirit it is personal, see yesterday; it is also intimate, and this is what we think about today. There is no handy name for today's thought; in these verses the Spirit is acting more as an adoption agency than anything else. The Spirit introduces us to our true Father in heaven.
Paul is writing to Christian believers and we notice that something has happened in the past and something is still going on. In the past they, and I hope we, did receive the Spirit. The Holy Spirit indwells those who turn to Christ in repentance and faith for salvation, in fact the Holy Spirit enables us to turn to Christ in the first place. Also, as we received the Spirit, so the Spirit enabled our adoption as children of our heavenly Father. The Spirit brings us into the family, along with our elder brother Jesus, God the Son. We enter into a relationship with the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit; and this is a relationship of acceptance, love and empowering for Christian life and witness.
But it does not stop there. The Christian life is an ongoing experience of the Holy Spirit within us. In the present He testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. This is a constant reassurance at all times and at any time in our daily walk with Jesus. We all of us have times of spiritual difficulty, perhaps it all seems too hard to believe, perhaps life is throwing an undue amount of bad stuff at us and we wonder where God is in it all, perhaps we are tempted to give it up and take on a less demanding life. In any circumstance we can turn to the Holy Spirit and ask for His reassurance that we are indeed the children of our heavenly Father, that He loves us, has brought us into a living relationship with Himself, through the work of Christ on the Cross.
There may well be glorious times when the Spirit ministers to us in ways that seem almost overwhelming, when we do know ourselves, in spite of sin, doubt, worry, to be one with our Heavenly Father, bound to Him by His unshakeable love. Wonderful times these can be! What will it be like to have that more immediate knowledge of God, the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, when we live in the new Heaven and the new Earth which awaits us when Christ appears!! The Spirit is a down payment, a first instalment and our experience of Him here and now points us in a small way to what it will be there and then.
So much we have not touched upon in thinking about the Holy Spirit; there is plenty more to be discovered in the Bible and the writings of believers through the ages. Let's be aware of the Spirit who fills, guides, directs and testifies with our spirit, day on day, throughout the year.
Thursday 4th June 2020
And I will ask the Father and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. John 14:16
So far we have been thinking about the Holy Spirit in the ways that He appears to the disciples in the New Testament and how He can be present and active in our own lives. Today we are remembering and reflecting on the fact that the Holy Spirit is a person, we are not talking about a Stars Wars kind of disembodied force.
It is obvious that the Holy Spirit, as one of the persons of the Trinity relates to us personally just as much as the Father and the Son, but we do not have a human name or title for the Spirit and so there is always the danger of downgrading Him to a something that the Father or the Son uses as a tool. The Holy Spirit is a someone, someone indeed whom we can grieve by our sin; and in Him we can flourish with His fruits of love and joy and peace as He is given free access to grow holiness in our lives. We can walk in step with the Spirit, matching our living to His love and life working within us.
In today's verse we find that the Spirit is called by Jesus an advocate. Now this is a very rich word with several different facets to its meaning; hard to capture it in one word. Some translations say 'helper', others 'comforter', some people prefer to avoid tying down the meaning by using the original Greek word, paraclete, although you still have to explain it! (Literally that means, 'called alongside')
So, the Spirit is a helper, He comes alongside to give to the people of God the strength and the energy to live for God and to witness to His love. He is not our servant of course, under our control; it is the Father and the Son who send Him to us so that He can apply the truths of the Gospel to our lives, so that He can work in us to bring us into an ever increasing conformity to the life God has for us.
The Spirit is comforter; He comes alongside in times of sorrow, to comfort and reassure when life is being very hard for whatever reason; He comes to give that extra measure of strength that is needed in suffering, sadness, bereavement.
The Spirit is advocate; He comes alongside us to put our case. The Spirit is our defence lawyer in times of pressure or persecution for our faith; do not worry what to say, Jesus reassured His disciples, the Spirit will give you the words to say. The Spirit stands with us as we face our Father in heaven aware of our weakness and sin, doubting His love: Look, the Spirit says to the Father, at our beloved children; we must wash through them with the love we have for them released by the Son who loved them to the death, on the Cross.
So much more to say, but for now we come to a rest with these words of Jesus:
The advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Wednesday 3rd June 2020
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. Acts 2:3
From the power of the Spirit yesterday to the purity of Spirit today. The Spirit came on those first disciples as a mighty rushing wind, and also as tongues of fire. They were all anointed as it were with fire. Well, if wind blows things about, fire burns things up, so what are we to make of this?
We can look back to the people of God gathered at Sinai way back in the Old Testament. God appears to them in mighty ways, Exodus 19:18, and He descends in fire on the mountain and this indicates His purity and holiness, so that the people cannot approach the mountain, they just do not have the purity or the holiness that would allow it.
When John the Baptist came to announce the coming of Christ, he was pretty forthright in his denunciation of the faith leaders of his time and his call to them to repent. His was a baptism of water, but the one coming after him would baptise in the Holy Spirit and fire. With the image of threshing corn, John talks about the wheat being gathered and the chaff being burnt up, Matthew 3:11,12.
So there we have it, the Holy Spirit is associated with fire, and comes from Christ. The work of the Spirit is to purify, to burn up the impurities in the hearts of the disciples of Christ. We take to heart the fact that this is the Holy Spirit, this is God at work in us in love, in reassurance, in salvation but also to grow holiness in us, in thought and word and deed.
Holiness is a hard one to define. We are all aware of the dangers of being 'holier than thou', of judging the lives of others from the standpoint of some presumed moral or spiritual high ground. As if that could ever be the case. Who can claim to be holy as God is holy? This is what we are called to be, what we must actively seek to become in Christ.
How does that cash out for us day by day? How are we going to discern and live out His goodness and His love and His faithfulness in all the complexities, frustrations and demanding relationships of life? Well, it does require knowing about God, what He is like, how He deals with humanity. A tall order, but the Holy Spirit indwells us, He teaches us, points us to Christ, and as we yield to His promptings, He purifies thought and action. If we let Him. And remember this work of purifying is also a work of liberating at the deepest levels of our living.
If we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25.
Tuesday 2nd June 2020
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a mighty wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. Acts 2:2
A very different perspective on the Holy Spirit today; not a fluttering dove, but a powerful wind. As the first disciples are waiting in the upper room after the ascending of Christ into the heavens, they experience the Pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit moving amongst them, pictured by wind and fire (of which more tomorrow).
As we know the wind blows over us in many different ways, sometimes a cooling breeze on a hot day, welcome for the relief it brings, sometimes a blustery force that turns the umbrella inside out, sometimes an overwhelming power that brings destruction in its wake. What can we gain from thinking about the picture of the Holy Spirit as the wind?
Well, in the upper room the disciples experienced the wind of the Spirit as power, the sound of it was all about them, they were aware that something disturbing and awe inspiring was happening. This is the wind that impels forward, that gets behind you and pushes you on. After the experience came the activity: they went out and began to proclaim the good news of Christ. The Spirit is the one who can overwhelm, who can empower the weak and unwilling for witness, ministry, mission. The Spirit who challenges us to be the followers of Christ in an energetic, effective way.
On the other hand, some time before this, when the Risen Jesus first appeared to His disciples in the upper room, He said to them, Peace be with you; receive the Spirit, and He breathed over them. A very different kind of experience of the Spirit, moving over them, breathed in by them. This is the Spirit who comes to us in much more peaceful way, a way of reassurance and a deep abiding sense of the love of God with us. This love that is demonstrated for us in Jesus and comes to us through our faith in Him. The idea of mission is still there, As the Father sent me, so I send you, Jesus says at this same time.
Believers in Jesus are always called and equipped to be witnesses to His power for salvation and His love for all, to be actively living for Him filled with the power and the peace of the Holy Spirit.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me,
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me,
Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me,
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Monday 1st June 2020 Thinking about the Holy Spirit
Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. Mark 1:10
There are many good things about following the church's cycle of events each year, but there is one snag. The temptation is to file things away into the time of year where they are slotted in and then not think about them much for the rest of the year. That is true of the ascension for many Christians, and also the Holy Spirit, who is our focus at Pentecost. So here are some thoughts about the Holy Spirit to take with us continually as we live for Christ. The range of different names for the Holy Spirit is very wide and gives us an idea of the many facets of the Spirit's life and work.
First off then, when Jesus was baptised, he experienced the Holy Spirit coming down on Him as a dove. At the beginning of His ministry on earth we find God the Father communicating with Jesus: You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased. (Mark 1:11). At the same time, God the Holy Spirit comes down upon Him. God the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are intimately involved with each other at the outset of the saving work of the Son on earth. Both the words and the action are for Jesus but are shared with those who are witnessing what is going on.
Doves flit about the pages of the Bible mainly in the Old Testament. They appear as timorous, and sometimes a bit silly, with a cooing call that can sound quite mournful. The dominant image however takes us right back to the very beginning, Genesis 1:2, where we see the Spirit hovering over the waters, and this is a dove-like picture of the Spirit of God moving over the chaos, supervising the creation as it comes to be. And when Jesus is baptised, at the beginning of the work of new creation, we find the Spirit hovering, like a dove over the act of commissioning of Jesus for His ministry of bringing the Kingdom of God to the world.
And so our first thought about the person of the Holy Spirit is His dove-like gentleness, but at the same time engaged in the massive tasks of bringing peace as chaos is formed into creative order and peace as the alienation of humanity from God is remedied in and through the ministry, the death, the resurrection of Jesus.
One of the ways that the Bible speaks of our experience of God is that we can find peace with Him. As we come to Christ in repentance and faith, trusting in the Cross we can enter this experience as the Holy Spirit ministers to us the peace that Christ has gained for us. If the Father sends the Son to open up salvation to us, it is the Spirit that applies that salvation, that peace with God, in our lives.
So free, so bright, so beautiful and fair,
The holy dove flies through the mortal air:
always there descending,
always there ascending,
it brings the Glory that all we may share.
John Bennett, 'Pentecost', C20
Prayer for today
Almighty and glorious Father God of infinite grace and love, we know that you are listening to us and know our needs. In these difficult times, we are comforted by your constant presence and peace, and the knowledge that you are in control. We ask that you continue to guide, through Your Holy Spirit, those whom you have ordained to lead us forward, so that we can soon safely assemble again in worship.
We pray that the coronavirus will soon be defeated and ask for wisdom and guidance to those seeking a cure and a vaccine, and to the government and authorities in managing the economy, behaviour and health of the nation.
We thank you for the sacrificial work of key workers and ask for their and our protection from the virus. We thank you also for the kindness and community spirit shown in our neighbourhood, especially to the vulnerable and lonely.
We pray for the education, welfare and spiritual needs of our country's young people, and thank you for the work in the schools of our area.
And we also ask for a just and fair outcome to the ongoing Brexit negotiations, and for the trade negotiations with other countries.
Merciful Father, we ask that you heal those who are sick or in pain from the virus or other causes, give strength to the weak, joy to those in sadness, comfort to the lonely or bereaved, and encouragement to those in fear of the future, and help us also to be sensitive and responsive to their needs.
Lord, we bring things to you through your Son, our Saviour - Jesus Christ.
Almighty and eternal God,
who for the firmer foundation of the faith
allowed your holy apostle Thomas
to doubt the resurrection of your Son
until word and sight convinced him:
grant to us, who have not seen,
that we also may believe
and so confess Christ as our Lord and our God;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen
Collect for Thomas, 3rd July
whose Son restored Mary Magdalene
to health of mind and body
and called her to be a witness to His resurrection:
forgive our sins and heal us by your grace,
that we may serve you in the power of His risen life;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
Collect for Mary Magdalene
A poem about the Resurrection
Light's glittering morn bedecks the sky;
Heaven thunders forth its victor cry;
The glad earth shouts her triumph high,
And groaning hell makes wild reply,
While He, the King, the mighty King,
Despoiling death of all its sting,
And, trampling down the powers of night,
Brings forth his ransomed saints to light.
His tomb of late the threefold guard
Of watch and stone and seal had barred;
But now, in pomp and triumph high,
He comes from death to victory.
The pains of hell are loosed at last;
The days of mourning now are past;
An angel robed in light hath said,
'The Lord is risen from the dead.' J.M.Neale
God of all peoples,
may we also be like the Samaritan woman:
examine our lives in Jesus' presence
that we may be worshippers of the Father
in spirit and in truth,
that we may share with those we know
what it is like to meet with Jesus....
The truth revealed her faults,
yet liberated this unnamed woman.
May your truth reveal us to ourselves
and set us free in you.
Give us and all who thirst for you
that living water of your Spirit:
water of refreshment, water of healing,
water of cleansing, water of life.
Brian McKinley (adapted)
I always felt quite confident,
'till Jesus came along,
that we, the Pharisees, were right,
and all the rest were wrong.But Jesus, though a rabbi,
has a disconcerting gift
for showing the familiar
with an unfamiliar drift.At first I was quite certain, as
I heard what Jesus said,
unravelling the Torah,
that he turned it on its head.Yet every time, some slant of truth
that we had buried, grew
alive and relevant -- emerged
as though being born anew.I went to him for guidance,
could no longer stand the strain.
"It isn't just the teaching, Nic,
you must be born again!" Dennis Donald
Prayer for today
Heavenly Father we come to you today with confidence because we know you are good and have our best interests at heart.
We look at the problems around us and can lose heart but when we look beyond them to you, we know you are still in control.
You asked us to represent you here on earth and we ask your Holy Spirit to help us demonstrate what you are like to the people around us.
You are using the internet to reach people who are seeking you yet would never come near a church building. We ask you to inspire and skill all those Christians expanding this powerful initiative.
None of us have ever faced such a shaking of all the institutions and organisations people have come to rely on. We pray for everyone involved in logistics, medical care and research. Grant them resilience in weariness, discernment in diagnosis and clarity in problem solving.
Help us to show compassion and encouragement to people who are ill or bereaved.
Thank you for your promise in Hebrews 13 "Never to leave you, never will I forsake you" so our future with you is secure.
Prayer for today
Lord, I wait for the tide to turn. Until the distant becomes close, Until the far off becomes near, Until the outside is within, Until the ebb flows.
Lord, I wait for the tide to turn Until weakness is made strong, Until, blindness turns to sight, Until the fractured is made whole, Until the ebb flows.
Lord, I wait until the tide turns, Until the ordinary becomes strange, Until the empty is Presence full, Until the two become one. Until the ebb flows.
Taken from Tides and Seasons
Prayer for today
Heavenly Father, as we plan and organize our worship over the next few weeks, help us to play our part in robust arrangements and planning. We pray that our safety measures will be effective at all times and where we may be lacking in anything, you will step in and shore them up with your grace. Amen
Prayer for today
Heavenly Father, as we plan our way forward, we place ourselves into your hands. Give our PCC and church officers wisdom and sound guidance, that all our people will be safe when we Worship you in our church building or outside through the coming months. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord, you are always with us, through both dark valleys and bright sunshine. You guide us with your staff and you are in control. At this difficult time, when people are uncertain about their future in both health and wealth, give us the assurance of your presence and your joy. Amen
Prayer for today
Help us Lord, to rejoice in each other's successes. Help us also to endeavour to bring out the best in each other. At this time when social interaction is difficult, unite us in prayer, that we will always pray with one mind and with one voice, to Your Glory and for the Glory of Your Kingdom. Amen
Prayer for today
Eternal Father, when the gospel of Christ first came to our land you gloriously confirmed the faith of Alban by making him the first to win a martyr's crown: grant that , following his example, in the fellowship of the saints we may worship you, the living God, and give true witness to Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Prayers for Today
Faithful God, we pray today O Lord for your blessing to be upon this congregation, upon this church and upon our Diocese, and for your presence to be seen vividly in what we do and say each day. We pray that your joy and your love will flow freely in and through us.
Merciful Lord, In these troubled times we pray and give thanks for the health workers tending the seriously ill, for the scientists working on a vaccine, for the researchers analysing data and identifying trends, for the media outlets working to communicate reality, for the supermarket workers, hygiene and sanitation providers, for the good news stories of recoveries and effective planning, for the recognition that isolation doesn't need to mean loneliness, for the notes through letterboxes offering help and support, for the internet and telephones and technology that connects, for the awakened appreciation of what is truly important.
Loving Lord, we give thanks for all who have warm and loving relationships with their fathers and children and we pray for those who for whatever reason did not know their fathers, we will try to remember that this can be an uncomfortable day for you and others. And for those whose relationships with their fathers or children is painful or complicated, we support you. This Father's Day, we lift up our gratitude for all kinds of fathers, and for the amazing ways fatherly love transcends blood lines and legal categories.
Holy God, your love reaches beyond the grave. At the end of our days on earth be with us and with those we love and with those whom we love and have gone before us. We pray now for those who have recently died both Corona related and from other causes and for those bereaved by their passing.
Gracious God, we thank you for hearing our prayers and as we move into the coming week help us to remember our Saviour's words as he sent his disciples out into the world "As you go, proclaim the good news, the Kingdom of Heaven has come near". Amen
Prayer for today
May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours! Amen
Old Irish Blessing
Prayer for today
Lord God help us to appreciate your presence with us at all times. Even when you are still and there is silence, help us to trust that you are always there. We ask for guidance in all things and we thank you for our independence. Even though we have free will, we pray our decision-making processes will always be founded upon your nature and your nurture. Amen
Prayer for today
Dear Father, help us to live life in the moment. Sometimes we can wait for tomorrow before doing the things we could clearly do today. In spite of the restrictions we have in this current time, help us to enjoy what is meaningful rather than just focusing upon the mundane. Amen
Prayer for today
Heavenly Father, you know the intentions of the heart. At this difficult time of treading carefully through this period of the lifting of the lockdown. We pray that you will give us wisdom and insight, so that we can be the Church you want us to be. We pray that you will also bless our endeavours over the coming months and that no one will be put in danger through our actions. Amen.
Prayer for today
Lord Jesus our friend and Saviour, we recognise that you saved us in spite of our failings and imperfections. Help us to be your body in the world and use our gifts as well as our disabilities in the building of your kingdom. Amen.
Prayer for today
Almighty God, who enlightened your Church by the teaching of your servant Richard Baxter. Enrich it evermore with your heavenly grace and raise up faithful witnesses who, by their life and teaching, may proclaim the truth of your salvation; through Jesus Christ you Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Prayer for today
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art -
thou my best thought, by day or by night;
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord.
Thou my great Father; and I thy true Son
thou in me dwelling and I one with thee.
Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise;
thou mine inheritance, now and always;
thou and thou only first in my heart,
high King of heaven, my treasure thou art.
High King of heaven, my victory won,
may I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
Saint Dallan Forgaill.
Prayer for today
Lord, we pray for all who are missing their regular pattern of worship. We yearn to be able to come together as your body in the world for spiritual nourishment. Help us to understand that your Spirit is with us wherever we are and that one day we will be united under one roof all in unity with You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Prayer for today
Almighty God you are awesome, and yet you come close to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Whose Spirit enables us be what you would want us to be. At this time when our worship is private and reflective help us to focus on the edifying of your Church in new and creative ways. That our worship, when we can come together, will be fluid and full of vitality. Amen
Prayer for today
Bountiful God, giver of all gifts, who poured your Spirit upon your servant Barnabas and gave him grace to encourage others: help us, by his example, to be generous in our judgements and unselfish in our service; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Prayer for today
Teach us, dear Lord, to number our days;
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy,
that we may rejoice and be glad all of our days.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us;
and establish the work of our hands. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord, it is hard to make any sense out of recent events. We are struggling to fight a virus that has changed all of our lives. Give us all the will to work together to overcome it and to overcome injustice and intolerance. Amen
Prayer for today
Heavenly Father, in these uncertain times, we know that we are in your hands. We pray for a good outcome with regard to the progress made on a vaccine for COVID-19 and a more tolerant world where people can come together in mutual friendship and care for one another. Amen
Prayer for today
God of heaven and earth, in these times of isolation, apart from loved ones, distant from friends, away from neighbours, thank you that there is nothing in all creation, not even Coronavirus that is able to separate us from your love.
May your love that never fails continue to be shown through the kindness of strangers looking out for each other, for neighbours near and far all recognising our shared vulnerability, each of us grateful for every breath, and willing everyone to know the gift of a full and healthy life.
We give thanks for everyone who has played any part in the fight against this virus. We pray for the families and friends who grieve the loss of a loved one and give thanks for those who are recovering in hospital or at home.
Lord we give you thanks for being with us every step of our journey and
ask that you keep us and those we love safe in the coming days.
Prayer for today
Almighty and eternal God, you have revealed yourself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and live and reign in the perfect unity of love: hold us firm in this faith, that we may know you in all your ways and evermore rejoice in your eternal glory, who are three Persons yet one God, now and forever. Amen (Common Worship)
I share and share and share again
sometimes with a new language
which, if you are so open
will take you behind the sky
and award you cartwheels across the sun
I give and give and give again
not restricted to the church calendar
or concocted ritual
I have no need of anniversaries
for I have always been
I speak and speak and speak again
with the sting of purity
that can only be Me
causing joyous earthquakes in the mourning soul of man
I am I am I am again
Pentecost is Every Day, Stewart Henderson
Breathe on me breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I have one will
To do and to endure.
Breathe on me breath of God
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.
Enter my heart O Holy Spirit,
come in blessed mercy and set me free.
Throw open O Lord, the locked doors of my mind;
cleanse the chambers of my thought for Thy dwelling:
light there the fires of thine own holy brightness
in new understandings of truth,
O Holy Spirit, whose presence is liberty,
grant me the perfect freedom
to be Thy servant,
today, tomorrow and evermore. Amen.
Wind of God keep on blowing.
Sail over the barriers that we build
to divide ourselves from each other.
Pick up your seeds of freedom and truth
wherever they flourish,
carry them across frontiers
to be planted in other soil,
to begin fresh growth and new forms.
Show us good Lord,
the peace we should seek,
the peace we must give,
the peace we can keep,
the peace we must forego,
and the peace you have given
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Caryl Micklem, used by Corrymeela Community
10 ways to worship together even if not gathered
Today, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu called for all Church of England churches to suspend public worship to help stem the spread of Coronavirus.In light of today's announcement, we have created a list of 10 ways churches can worship even if they cannot be gathered together. Click here for the list of ideas.
Let us pray for one another during this difficult time.
"Cast all your cares on to Him, for He cares for you."
1 Peter 5:7
Child Friendly Church Award
St Nicholas is proud to be a Child Friendly Church.
The church first received this award at a special Education Sunday service at Blackburn Cathedral on Sunday 31 January 2010.
The award has been renewed since that date.