Thought for the Day 01/06/2020 - 17/06/2020
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
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
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
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
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