Thought for the day diary
Thought for today, 1st of April 2020
I was looking forward to sharing in the build up to Easter with you both at St Nicholas's Church and at St Matthew's Ballam this year. As Lent progresses the 'greatest story ever told' is read out, dramatised and reflected upon in church, especially when we come to Holy Week. This begins this Sunday, Palm Sunday. Of course we can't go through Holy Week in our usual way but we are going to try to communicate as much as we can through our website.
Earlier this year I was thinking about how I go through Holy Week. Even though I love modern worship music and none traditional worship from time to time, when it comes to Holy Week I am rather a traditionalist. Everything begins on the up with Jesus' triumphant ride into Jerusalem and then as the week progresses we descend into the abyss with Him. Of course we look forward to Easter Sunday but we should never arrive there without experiencing the depth and sorrow of late Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. On Maundy Thursday I was looking forward to celebrating Holy Communion in the evening and then stripping the altar. I asked the St Nicholas Singers if they would sing an anthem during that service. They were very happy to do so and began to rehearse it. The piece I had chosen was 'In the heart where love is abiding' by Barnard. It is a setting to Ubi Caritas.
Ubi Caritas is one of the oldest hymns of the
early church. Dating from as early as the 4th century, settings of Ubi Caritas are frequently
included as part of the Eucharist story, reminding us of Christ's great love
for us. But more than simple remembrance, the first line of text calls us to be and
demonstrate love to others: God is with us and love is our bond.
The first line of Barnard's setting is. 'In the heart where love is abiding God is in that heart.' You can listen to it by clicking the link above where it is sung by the Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 31st March 2020
Do you remember the story at the River Jordan when Jesus is baptised. As He comes up out of the water He hears the incredible voice and others hear it around him too (they hear it like thunder). "You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased" And the voice belonged to God. (Luke 3 v22)
This vision is not just about Jesus. It is also about you and me. Jesus came to share his identity with you and to tell you that you are the beloved sons and daughters of God. Just for a moment try to understand that you like Jesus are the beloved daughter or the beloved son of God and what is more you were loved even before you were born.
The Psalmist put it like this, - 'You knew me before I was born, you knew me before you knitted me in my mother's womb. Your eyes foresaw my deeds and they were all recorded in your book.' (Psalm 139) You were loved before your father, mother, brother sister, or church loved you or hurt you. You are the beloved because you belong to God from all eternity.
That is what this life is for - what this life is about. While you are here in this world you have an opportunity to tell God that you love him too, and to do that out of your own free will. Once a person realises that life is not about the self but about God, then true repentance can take place. Repentance means to turn around - it means, drop all that leads to self and self indulgence and turn to God who loves you and wants you to love Him back.
Rev Philip. (Inspiration for this piece comes from the writings of Henri Nouwen)
Thought for today, 30th March 2020
Luke Chapter 15. In this one chapter Jesus tells us three parables all within 32 verses. They are the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son (or the prodigal son, as that story is usually known).
Jesus tells us on numerous occasions throughout the gospels that God doesn't want to lose anyone. These parables tell of the rejoicing when the sheep is brought back to the fold, when the coin turns up and further on in the chapter when the lost son returns home. God goes the extra mile to find those that are lost to bring them home to bring them back in union with Him. You may ask why? The answer is because we are all the beloved of God, and that's not just those of us who go to church but the whole of humanity.
I spend a lot of my time (when not isolating) with people who do not come to Church, they may be baptised, they may not, they may be of a different faith or of no faith at all - they are still the beloved of God. You may say, "Well that's all very well and good vicar but if that's the case why do we come to church on a regular basis if we can stop at home and still be the beloved of God?" The answer to that question is that you who do come to church know that you are the beloved of God, or at least you should.
Imagine trying to get through life not knowing that, for when you know that you are the beloved of God your reaction is to come to Worship Him - the God that created everything that there is - knows you and loves you, personally and intimately. He has given you everything and wants to give you even more. Now when you know that God loves you so deeply it creates (or should create) a worshipful response. Rev Philip
Sunday the 29th of March fifth Sunday in Lent
Today being Sunday my thought for today is more like a homily or short sermon on the Gospel reading.
Today's Gospel reading is John 11 v1-45. It is the story of Jesus raising Lazarus, his friend, from the dead. You may remember the story. Jesus hears that his friend Lazarus (Mary and Martha's brother) is very ill. Being a long way off when he hears of this, Jesus takes some time to come to their aid. He is told he is too late and Lazarus is dead. In short Jesus goes to the tomb and raises Lazarus from the dead.
This story of the raising of Lazarus can only be found in the gospel of John, the other Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke do not give an account of it.
The Gospel of Luke does hold a parable that Jesus told about a guy, also called Lazarus, who dies and goes to heaven. You may remember it - Luke 16 v19-31.
A rich man called Dives. The name Dives means a man that is incredibly rich (as in divers colours, many, in abundance). In this parable another man called Lazarus was very poor and sat begging at the rich man's gate but of course the rich man does not care for him and Lazarus only eats whatever is thrown out. Both Lazarus and Dives die and Lazarus ends up in heaven (well the phrase in Luke reads 'Lazarus rests in the bosom of Abraham') and Dives in hell. Dives sees Lazarus across the great divide and calls out to Abraham and says "Tell Lazarus to dip his finger in the water and come and cool my tongue." Abraham replies that no one can pass between heaven and hell. So Dives asks Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn the rich man's brothers so that they might change their ways rather than end up in hell like him. "If someone were to return from the dead then they are bound to believe" Dives said. But Abraham said "They have Moses and the Prophets. If they don't pay any heed to them, then they wouldn't even if someone came to them from the dead."
In today's story from John's gospel, Jesus' friend Lazarus does return from the dead but still some of the Pharisees didn't believe. Incidentally the name Lazarus means 'God is my help'.
It came to me one day that the job of a Priest is to have his or her feet firmly rooted in this world but at the same time always be pointing to the next. As we go through our ministry we walk the periphery of this physical dimension and catch glimpses of the next. Sometimes people have said to me "Well it would be alright if someone would come back and tell us what it's like on the other side". I just think to myself, well they already have - Jairus' daughter, the widow of Nain's son, Lazarus and of course ultimately the Glorious Resurrection of Jesus Himself. Jesus demonstrated power over life and death in all of those just mentioned. If it were to happen on a regular basis, for all generations to see, the purpose of this life would become meaningless.
Remember Jesus was human too. He understood the loss Mary and Martha were feeling, after all their brother Lazarus was one of His friends. To the poignancy of the human condition comes the compassion of Christ. When Jesus saw the situation He had compassion for his friends and raised Lazarus from the dead. He knew that
Lazarus would rise in the next world but in order to prove the unbelief of some
he made it happen in this. Poor old
Lazarus! And even when it happened some still didn't believe. I guess the
saddest thing of all is that poor old Lazarus would have to die again sometime
later in order to inherit eternal life. Perhaps having experienced it all once
and knowing the outcome, it might not have been all that bad.
Please join our prayers today at 7.00pm and light a candle in your window. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 28th of March 2020
'We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.' (Psalm 100 v3)
Like sheep, most of our wounds come from living in the pasture. Thorns prick. Rocks cut. Heads butt. Mosquitoes bite. So our Shepherd regularly inspects His sheep searching for wounds. That is because He doesn't want today's wounds to become tomorrow's infection. That is why king David wrote in his psalms ....'We are His people, the sheep He tends.' David would relate to that image of God because David's first profession was shepherding his father's sheep. The sheep would come to David for protection and that is how he saw God. Even though David was King of all Israel he knew that the ultimate Shepherd was God. Others may guide us to God but no one does the work of God, for only God can heal. As in psalm 147 v3 'He heals the broken hearted.'
So the first step is to go to the right person; go to God. Your second step is to assume the right posture; bow before God. When being anointed with the oil that heals and protects the sheep must stand still, lower its head and let the shepherd do his work. The Apostle Peter wrote, 'Be humble under God's powerful hand so He will lift you up when the right time comes (1 Peter 5 v6). When we come to God we make requests, not demands. We state what we want, but we pray for what is right.
Now the sheep don't understand how the oil repels mosquitoes or heals wounds. In fact, all the sheep know is that something happens in the presence of their shepherd, that doesn't happen anywhere else. And that's all we really need to know. Rev Philip
Thought for today, Friday 27th of March
'The Joy of the Lord is your strength' (Nehemiah 8 v10)
C.S. Lewis wrote down a lot of interesting discourses about his faith and his experience of the church and of God. He came to the conclusion that 'Joy is more than earthly pleasure and more than what we call happiness.' Joy is the enjoyment of God and the good things that come from Him. Think of composing a song. If the Bible provides us with the words of life then joy supplies the music. If the way to heaven is an arduous climb, joy sets up the chair lift. Joy is the fuel God intends us to run on. The thing is very often Christians can feel guilty about experiencing joy. C.S. Lewis wrote 'There is too much rigidity in dealing with sacred matters and too much speaking in 'holy tones.' It is as though Christians are not supposed to enjoy themselves!??'
Ever notice how some people go through incredible difficulties yet still have joy, while others who don't go through half as much barely keep their heads above water? What is the difference? These people have a deep well of joy within themselves that they draw from daily; a well that cannot be drained by what is going on around them. Nehemiah was saying "The joy of the Lord (the joy that comes from knowing that He is Lord of every situation) He is your strength." And so as the Apostle Paul put it 'May the God of hope fill you with all joy (Romans 15 v13)
Thought for today, Thursday 26th of March
It is good that we should wait quietly*
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good to bear the yoke in our youth,*
to sit alone in silence when it is laid upon us.
For the Lord will not reject forever,*
though he causes grief, he will have compassion.
According to the abundance of his steadfast love,*
for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.
(Lamentations 1 v31-33)
These lamentations are the second part of the canticle 'O vos omnes' (O all you) that I highlighted yesterday from the morning office as laid out in the book 'Celebrating Common Prayer SSF'.
Many of us are waiting quietly for an end to the virus, while others are working flat out to save those affected the most by it. It has also fallen mainly (but not exclusively) to the younger generations to keep the food supply going and the economy ticking over. Mean while a huge percentage of the population feel they are sitting in silence because it has been laid upon them. Of course what we do know is, in our silence and waiting we should call upon the Lord because His compassion does not fail.
I am reminded that theology is talking, writing and thinking about God but prayer most importantly is talking with God. In conversation with someone it is as important to listen as it is to speak. So in our silence try to see it as a sacred time and who knows we might be able to hear clearly what is on God's heart.
Thought for today, 25th March 2020
A big thank you to Roy who has placed the cross out on the grass verge opposite St Nicholas's church. It is a symbol of Christ's vulnerability, being at the mercy of the wider community rather than the safety of the church grounds. We have placed red ribbons and a crown of thorns on it to remind us of Christ's suffering in the world and for the world. The door to the church building may be closed to the public but the saving grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ surpasses all boundaries of time and space.
One of the duties and indeed privileges of being a priest is praying the daily office. We do this in order to pray for our flock and for the world, especially when the world is generally too busy with its own concerns rather than thinking about God.
I was struck by one of the reports that came through yesterday on television that many of the NHS nursing staff and doctors are increasingly saying their prayers before they take up their shift. Those critical workers must of course be high on our prayer list, as they battle with the effects of this virus, and pray for their families too. When I say my morning prayers, when I say the office of the day, I often use 'Celebrating Common Prayer' which is a version of the daily office used by the Society of St Francis. It has a great variety of canticles that can be said or sung. One my favourites especially at this season of the 'Passion' is the O vos omnes (O all you). When reading it the other morning in church the words seemed to come alive. Please read them below.
There are a few more verses that I will consider in more depth tomorrow, but for now please read these verses as you look on the picture of our Wrea Green Cross to lead you in your prayer today. Rev Philip
'Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?* Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow;
For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears,*
For a comforter is far from me, one to revive my courage;
Remember my affliction and my bitterness,*
The wormwood and the gall!
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,* his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning,*
Great is thy faithfulness.
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,*
To the soul that seeks him.'
Lamentations chapter 1 v12, 16
Chapter 3 v19, 22-28
Thought for today, 24th of March 2020
The latest instruction from the church authorities, along with the tightening up of the rules for everyone issued by our national government yesterday, mean, we can no longer keep our church door open to the general public for prayer and contemplation throughout this COVID-19 crisis. This is a sad but understandable ruling under the circumstances.
The most important thing we can do as a church, apart from looking out for one another is to sustain our prayer life. On Sunday we lit a candle in the vicarage at 7.00pm as many Christian homes in the parish and the nation did. Because of the latest decision to close the church Janice and I are going to light our candle at 7.00pm every evening until we can open the church once more.
We lit our candle again last night and it reminded me of the Jewish story as it has been played out through millennia. That whenever persecution has taken place their focus is always upon hope. They recognise that a human being can last three weeks without food, three days without water but no more than three hours or even three minutes without hope. This is because of our human condition and our ultimate reliance upon God for everything. Of course we are not being persecuted -yet- but the uncertainty is still very real.
The Cross of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is a symbol of the human condition but at the same time a symbol of Divine Grace. Another way of describing Divine Grace is the undeserved gift of God to humanity. We as Christians know this and it is what eternally keeps our hope alive.
Thought for today, 23rd of March 2020
Jesus said "You are like a light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead he puts it on a lamp stand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people..." (Matthew 5 v14-16a)
Janice and I lit a candle last night in the vicarage porch as an act of solidarity with all those who were able to light candles in their windows up and down the parish and indeed the nation at 7.00pm on Mothering Sunday. Even if you couldn't join in or hadn't read about doing this, then that was OK, just remember, we and many others did it on your behalf. We are going to do this at 7.00pm every Sunday throughout this period of isolation. This was also an ecumenical act, done by all our brothers and sisters in Christ, to show that the light of Christ can never be extinguished. It was extremely hard to go through a Sunday without coming together to worship. I went into church early in the morning and said prayers for the parish and for the world and I took a great deal of comfort from that. I hope you will take comfort from the knowledge that the Church hasn't gone away but is powerful in prayer.
Mr Paul 'Tommy' Taylor has returned from repatriating 'Brits' from various places around the globe and is now rested and well. He will start to ring the church chimes from the bell tower every day at 12.00 noon from today. This is another act to remind everyone that we are praying for each other. Please remember to telephone me or other people for a chat and support if you need it. Rev Philip
Thought for the Day 'Mothering Sunday' the 22nd of March
Mothering Sunday, Mothers Day, refreshment Sunday all rolled into one. Today we think about Mother Church and we think about our own mothers too. On this strange and surreal Mothering Sunday let us look to Jesus' mother Mary for comfort and direction.
Throughout the 'Christian Church Universal' Mary is held up in varying degrees of importance. The Theotokos they call her in the Orthodox Church in other words the God bearer. The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Roman Catholic Church and indeed in the Anglican Church. We get the best perspective on Mary when we read her song of praise in the Luke chapter 1 verses 46 to 55. The words she speaks are revolutionary and pertinent to what is happening today.
Her words are calling for a moral revolution. She said 'God scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts.' That is a moral revolution. It means that in this new order, in this new way of being, in this new world of Christianity that her child would bring, there will be the death of pride. You see if you are in Christ He will enable you to see yourself as you really are.
'God has filled those who are hungry and the rich He has sent empty away' an economic revolution. If we were living in a truly Christian society we wouldn't be living in an acquisitive one if you know what I mean? A society where everyone is out to amass as much as they can get, a society of greed. This I guess has been demonstrated by a proportion of society in the current crisis with all the stockpiling and looking out for themselves. One lesson that is being learned very quickly is being selfish is not very cool.
You see we should all aim for Mary's ideal of a Christian society where no one would dare to have too much while others have too little and everyone would get in order to give it away. This is what Mary had to say - that each one of us needs to have a revolution within ourselves and to endeavour to reach out to others with acts of kindness which would change the world for the better.
Thought for the day 21st March 2020
Troubles produce patience and patience produces character (Romans 5 v3-4)
Storms in life come for a reason but they only come for a season. Sometimes we need to address the other side of Christian life, if for no other reason than to uphold reality. We need to accept that difficulty and pressure are par for the course. No amount of Biblical input, deeper meaningful theological discussions will exempt any of us from struggle. We only need to consider the stories and lives of Job, Joseph, Daniel and Paul and how they held to the conviction that perseverance will always prevail. It is in the tough times that true character is forged and the life of Christ is forged in us. Our flimsy theology is exchanged for a set of convictions that enable us to handle things rather than trying to escape them. It is when the storms of life hit us and life tries to pound you into corner of doubt and unbelief that you need what perseverance produces: a) a willingness to accept whatever comes, knowing that by God's grace you will win and come out stronger b) a determination to stand firm c) insight to see the character-developing hand of God in it all, and finally with it, we survive and conquer and by that God is glorified.
Thought for the day (day 2) 20th March 2020 Rev Philip
'The Lord is my Shepherd: I have everything I need' (psalm23 v1)
This is probably the best know psalm of King David and of course many of the psalms are attributed to him. He somehow expresses very well our need of God and is good at showing us how to open up to the majesty of God. In another one of his psalms he says 'From everlasting to everlasting You are God' (psalm 90 v2)
Counsellors may comfort us in the storm. But we need God, Who can still the storm. Friends may hold our hands in times of difficulty but ultimately we need the One who defeated the grave to lead us through the 'valley of dark shadows'.
Remember the Wizard of Oz? Dorothy followed the Yellow Brick Road only to discover that the Wizard was a wimp! All smoke and mirrors. That isn't what God is like. God is the One who placed a hundred billion stars in our galaxy and a hundred billion galaxies in our universe. God Who, while so mind numbingly mighty, can come and touch us with the tenderness of a mother's hand. We need a Lord and a Shepherd. Both strength and tenderness; and that is what we have in God in Jesus Christ.
Thought for the day (day 1) 19th March 2020
Jesus spent more time with people than in any other action. Though he only had three and a half years to train 12 men to change the world, he spent most of his time meeting the needs and helping people amid the unbearable pressure to perform tasks. That is the model he left us. At the end of one of his busiest days it is recorded that, 'When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sicknesses and he laid his hands on each of them.'
It seems strange at this time when our biggest calling is to be with people, we are being asked to keep apart. In many ways this whole process will be painful. Of course the directives from the government are to protect us, especially the vulnerable. So we must be sensible and abide by their strong advice.
At least with modern communication systems we can still speak to one another either on the telephone or digital formats like facetime or skype. I am finding myself inundated with paperwork and emails etc and at the same time receiving phone calls from friends and parishioners. Just as I settle down to typing the telephone goes off.
It reminds me of a story that Henri Nouwen used to tell. 'A few years ago I met an old professor at the University of Notre Dame. Looking back on his long life of teaching, he said, with a funny twinkle in his eyes. "I have always been complaining that my work is constantly being interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions are actually my work." Rev Philip
Prayer for today
Thank you Lord, that because we are with you, we don't have to fear the dark. Even in the blackest night. As we prepare to go through Holy Week help us to walk with you and understand more deeply your love for us. So we shall share in your Resurrection. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord, shine the light of your word on the path of life today. Make it a lamp for my feet so that I do not stumble. Pour your light into my spirit and illuminate my mind and my soul. Amen
Prayer for today
Heavenly Father, we commit this day to walk your way. We thank you that, even if we become weak and stumble you will help us to rise and continue. We thank you that however far we may wander we are always in your presence. Amen
Prayers for today
Written by Rob Langford, Intercessor and prayer team coordinator at St Nicholas Wrea Green
Heavenly FatherWe can come to you with confidence through Jesus to thank you for your love and tell you about issues that concern us.
We are confronted by a tiny organic virus that is ripping through the world regardless of the damage it is doing as it seeks to replicate itself and pursue its own way.
Sadly, from your view that sounds just like many humans! You allow us freedom of action yet all creation is ultimately under your control. We don't understand how this all works but we trust you because you are good and care deeply for us whether we follow you or not.
When you were on earth people asked you to help their child or servant seriously ill with fever. You rebuked the fever and healed the people. You showed practical help and support to those people.
We ask you to show the same help and support to all the people seeking to care for sick people and those trying to find remedies to combat the impact of this pandemic.
Give them wisdom to produce the antidotes and medications needed.
A consequence of this pandemic has been to significantly reduce air pollution and green house gases that are damaging this planet.
Help us to recognise the part we and governments can play in protecting the environment in a less destructive way.
Another consequence has been to bring out the best in people. A great deal of help and support is being shown to people who are struggling to cope with the restriction, demands and isolation that we are having to experience.
Give us courage and energy to do what we can to help those around us to come through this trial.
We ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ
Prayer for today
Thank you Lord that you are our Defender and our Shepherd. You are more powerful than any adversary. We thank you that you will never leave or forsake us, for we are your people in the flocks of your pasture. Amen.
Prayer for today
As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you. You alone are my heart's desire and I long to worship you.
I want you more than gold or silver, only you can satisfy. You alone are the real joy giver and the apple of my eye.
You alone are my strength, my shield, to you alone may my spirit yield. You alone are my heart's desire and I long to worship you. Amen
Prayer for today
Heavenly Father, thank you that we can walk each moment with you and know you are there, even in the dark and lonely times. Help us to listen in our silent times to hear your voice and to be clear about what you want to say to us. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord, we believe in you and know that you have lifted us out of the darkness of hopelessness, futility and fear. We confess any time we have chosen to walk in the darkness of doubt, disobedience, or blaming you for our circumstances. Forgive us. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord we lift to you the deepest struggles in our lives. We trust you to open our eyes to see all you have for us in them. Reveal to us the fullness of your Glory. Thank you that we can be filled with the hope and joy of your presence in every step we take. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord, open my eyes to see new treasure every time I read or hear Your Word. Speak to me and comfort my heart. Make Your Word come alive in me and use it to nourish my soul and spirit. Amen
Prayer for today
Thank You, Lord, that because You never change, Your light is constant in our lives no matter what is going on around us. Shine Your light through us as we walk with our hands in Yours. Amen
Prayer for the day
Lord, I want to live my life the way You want me to every day. Help me not to be stuck in my past, or so geared toward the future that I miss the richness of the present. Help me to experience the wealth in each moment. Amen (Stormie Omartian)
Prayer for today
Give me wisdom, strength and clarity of mind, Lord, to hear what You are saying to me in the midst of any dark or overwhelming situation. May my life be a testimony of the power of Your glory made manifest as I walk in the light You have given me. Amen
'The Greatest Power.'
Lord, while there are many things that can happen in life that are frightening or overwhelming, I know that Your power is greater than all of them. Amen (by Stormie Omartian)
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.