THOUGHT OF THE DAY DIARY
Thought for today, Wednesday 6th May 2020
Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.
A tricky one this, forgiveness. It is essential to our daily lives, another aspect of our life in Christ to be considered today, and every day.
We sometimes just do not see how centrally important some of the things we say in the Lord's Prayer really are. When we ask for daily bread (see yesterday's thought) we are agreeing that we just cannot be followers of Christ without His grace, He gives us freely all that we need each day to live on earth and to live as His people. We depend of Him at every step of the way, at every turn in our lives.
So it is with forgiveness: it is not something we can work through by ourselves, we need God at work in us to sort it out properly. And yet we do not always give it a great deal of attention. Partly, I think, this is because we think it is just too hard to forgive someone who has done us serious wrong. On the other hand, it is often too difficult to face up to the wrongs we have done others and to admit that we too are in need of forgiveness. We ignore, we forget, we leave unresolved and relationships suffer.
Now of course we do not face major forgiveness issues every day, but there are for most of us, even in (or more probably in?) lockdown; plenty of reasons to get annoyed with other people, and maybe even times when we ourselves were less than we might have been towards them. We do need to be sensitive to such things on a daily basis; small things can undermine relationship and can develop into bigger things if left unattended.
What do we make of this linking our forgiveness of others to God's forgiveness of ourselves? Does it read like we need to forgive others before He will forgive us? See Matthew 6:14,15. Not at all. We need to know that God forgives us before we can be released to forgive others. The two are intimately connected. It has been likened to breathing: we need to breathe both in and out; try neglecting either one and see where it gets you! So with forgiveness: it is never complete unless it has been both received and given out. This is how things are: if we fail to forgive others at least two harmful things follow. We are hampered by our grievance, our anger, we cannot let it go; even more seriously our experience of God's forgiveness is undermined. We live as followers of Christ on the basis that we have received the forgiveness of God, which comes to us through the death of Christ on the cross; how can we then proceed to live a full and satisfying life in Christ if we hold in our hearts a refusal to forgive others. We are forgiven completely, without remainder; how can we then hold on to grievances against each other?
And remember this applies not only to active wrongs done to each other but to the many ways in which we let each other down, when we just do not do as much as we could in any given situation. Potentially very radical stuff this! Might involve lists, resolutions, difficult conversations.
'It is our birthright, as followers of Jesus, to breathe in true divine forgiveness day by day as the cool, clean air which our spiritual lungs need...And once we start inhaling God's fresh air, there is a good chance that we will start to breathe it out too. As we learn what it is like to be forgiven, we begin to discover that it is possible, and indeed joyful, to forgive others.' Tom Wright
Thought for today, Tuesday 5th May 2020
Give us today our daily bread. Matthew 6:11
The Lord's Prayer moves from addressing our God to considering our needs. Hard isn't it, to get the force of this today. Who needs God to give us bread each day? We have it in abundance in the shops, even in lockdown (although the flour might be in short supply!).
Well, one thing to notice is that there are plenty of places in the world where this prayer carries its full force, where daily bread is a scarce commodity. Go in your mind, or online, to East Africa: locust infestation a few months back, coronavirus looming, locusts coming back with greater destructive force, decades of violent and unpredictable death, famine a constant threat. The people there really mean it when they ask for food, so what will go through our minds as we pray these words alongside them? Well, we might remember that the prayer asks for God to give us our bread, not to give me mine! We are not praying for ourselves alone but for each other in our needs, and in the end for all people everywhere. And so perhaps the idea that I have more than enough will lead us to share more of what I have so that they will have something more? Give them this day their daily bread? If we pray that we are saying we want to do something to make sure they do.
A second thing that we realise is that this request for bread is asking God to fulfil our basic needs each day; not a shopping list of wants but what we need to sustain us physically and spiritually. And it's not a long-term list of wants or needs for the next month or year either. We are looking for God to be with us this day, to meet us where we need Him today, to know His provision this day.
C.S.Lewis wrote a book called The Screwtape Letters; the idea is that a senior devil is instructing a junior demon on how to tempt a new Christian away from his faith. In one letter Screwtape advises tempting the believer to focus on the future, to sow doubts and encourage fears about what might happen, what challenges will come that will be too hard to overcome. He will be so worried that he will lose his grasp on God's presence here and now, on His love at work for him today.
Jesus has a sharply realistic take on this, Matthew 6:34:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
None of us can block out the future and nor is that at all desirable; we need to be forward looking in so many ways, towards the end of lockdown for example. But we can sometimes let the future have too much of a hold. How long before things get better in this crisis? Why does God not do something now? Doubts, worries, anger can creep in and these things do not enable relationships to flourish! Our hold on our trust in God today can be weakened. Patience is virtue possess it if you can. Well, not always, we need to be impatient with the chaos and suffering we see across the world, and to be wanting to do something about it. But we do need to give our attention to our life in Christ as it is working out today; we need to trust Him for what we need now, and with reverence lay the future before Him, and to grow trust in Him for that, whatever it may bring.
Anxiety and prayer are more opposed to each other than fire and water. J.P. de Caussade
(Let's be careful that the prayer puts out the anxiety and not the other way round!)
Thought for today, Monday 4th May 2020
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, you will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9,10.
I have three days to go at this week, so I thought I would say a few things about prayer based in the Lord's Prayer. Now I know there is a problem here, and that is that everybody knows this prayer backwards, forwards and upside down. We say it that often. On the other hand we do not always have the leisure to reflect on what we are saying and it may be helpful to some to stop and think for a moment or two. We do, most of us, have a bit more time for prayer and meditation just now. Perhaps you could spend some time saying the Lord's Prayer, slowly and thinking through, meditating, on each line and how it speaks to you today.
The first lines are all about God. He is our Father. Although we say the prayer so often, one writer felt the need to call one of his books, The Forgotten Father. One of the things, he says, that many in the Church have forgotten, is that our heavenly Father holds us in His fatherly love, knows us intimately and wants us to know Him and cry out to Him with the words 'Abba, Father' as the Spirit assures us that we are indeed children of God our Father. He yearns over us with a father's love. But also we need to remember that in the society of Jesus' time, the father in a family held absolute authority; to rejoice that God loves us does not mean we can treat Him as a parent who never really got His child-rearing act to-gether, so we can run rings round Him. To call God Father is to recognise the respect and obedience we owe Him as He shares His very self and His own Son with us.
God is present to us here and now but is also, as we pray, in heaven. No local little deity this, but God, Sovereign over all, in the place of His glory. It is good to notice that heaven is not some ethereal misty mountain somewhere over the rainbow; a pretty place where we hope we might end up sometime. It is where God Himself dwells, enveloped in glory; and this God-location is no great distance away from us, as close as the breath within us. Speaking to God in heaven is an immensely reassuring and intimate thing to do. There is a very evocative line in a song by Runrig, the Scottish electric folk rock band:
For there's silence and there's blindness in a raging world
But the healer in your heart is only a moment away
It is from heaven that the promised blessings of the kingdom of God here on earth are released to us in Christ. We are praying for His kingdom to arrive among us on earth. The process started with Jesus of course, Mark 1:15, who is in person God's ruling power and love on earth. The kingdom is not a place but a relationship, it is wherever God is acknowledged as King, Sovereign Lord. It is also a calling, sounding out to us even as we pray. We are called to give first place to the purposes of the King: justice, peace, forgiveness and so much more. We are asking God to set us to work in the world so that His love and His glory should be received and enjoyed in ever wider circles. Powerful stuff this praying business.
Before we can pray 'THY kingdom come', we must be prepared to pray, 'MY kingdom go'. Alan Redpath
Thought for today, 3rd of May
'Make allowances for one another' (Colossians 3v13a)
The theme for today in our Gospel from John and Psalm 23 set for today is 'Jesus The Good Shepherd'. My homily for today's service (on our You Tube channel link above) is about how similar we are to sheep and why Jesus uses that imagery to communicate something about His purpose in our lives. We are in the flock and that means being with others. Let's look at the implications of being in close proximity to others in another way.
Remember when we could go out to the shops? Department stores had sections with 'seconds', items 'slightly irregular' in them. There's a stain that won't come out, a missing handle, a wobbly leg, something wrong with the stitching. Now, they don't tell you where the flaw is, you have to look for it. Once you buy it there is a no return policy. Well it's like your living in that part of the department. Think about those you know and love. Aren't they 'slightly irregular'? A flaw here, a streak of deception there, a hot temper, a passive/aggressive attitude? If you've been looking for perfection, you have walked down the wrong aisle! The only way to have a relationship with anybody is to love and accept them 'as is'.
Thomas Merton, poet and Trappist Monk. wrote 'Love is letting those we love be perfectly themselves, and not twisting them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we see in them.' One hallmark of maturity is acknowledging that nobody is perfect and loving them despite their shortcomings. Paul says, 'Make allowances for each other's faults' so that when you discover them, and you will, you will not be disillusioned. But above all there is a far more important lesson in all this, which is something most of us don't like to admit and that is 'You belong in the 'slightly irregular' department too.Rev Philip
I am very grateful to Reverend Alan Byrom who has agreed to write a few more 'thoughts for the day' for our website. He will be writing some 'thoughts' on the Lord's Prayer from Monday to Thursday this week and I will be back with my contributions on Friday.
Thought for today, 2nd May 2020
New Christians are not the only ones who struggle with doubt; sometimes seasoned believers do too. One Christian author calls them 'doubt storms', turbulent days when the enemy is too big, the task too great, the future too bleak and the answers too few. Thomas remarked, "unless I put my finger where the nails where I will not believe." Jesus said at a later point "Reach out your hand, stop doubting and believe." Thomas asks the questions most of us ask when we are struggling, "If God is so good, why do I feel so bad? If His message is so clear, why am I confused? If He's in control, why do good people wrestle with gut-wrenching problems? Perhaps you would rather be a cynic than a hypocrite so you end up praying with one eye open and wonder about the starving children, the power of prayer, the depth of grace, people with cancer looking for treatment, the numbers of deaths from COVID-19 and who are you to ask such questions anyway.
Elizabeth Elliot, the acclaimed Missionary and Christian writer lost her husband at an early age, to a south American tribe that he was searching for. She went to that tribe herself and lived with them for two years to understand them and bring them to Christ. She wrote 'True faith only goes into operation when there are no answers.' God says. 'My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways (Isaiah 55 v8). The truth is, God doesn't think like us. He sees the big picture and works toward a specific end. In a conversation with his disciples Jesus said, 'I have many more things to say but they are too much for you now.' (John 16 v12)
When you find yourself doubting and questioning God, pray the prayer for today opposite.
Thought for today, 1st of May 2020
'They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." (John 12 v21)
Today we celebrate the lives of Philip and James, Apostles. Both Philip and James are celebrated together today because the church in Rome, where their relics rest, was dedicated on this day in 560 ad.
I have always been interested in Philip because he is my name sake and I was Baptized in a church dedicated to St Philip. Not a great deal is mentioned about what Philip or James did during Jesus' earthly ministry. Philip is mentioned more and seems to have the job of introducing people to Jesus. He introduces his friend Nathanial and in the Gospel of John it says that some Greeks came to Philip and asked to see Jesus (as quoted at the top of the page) and he does. Pointing to Jesus, introducing Jesus to others is a fundamental part of being a Christian. I suppose that is the most important thing I have learned from the Apostle Philip. He does have an important role in Acts and in Acts 8 v26- 40 he is instructed by the Spirit to speak to an Ethiopian official who was travelling to Jerusalem. Here in this post resurrection story he introduces Jesus again in his new role of evangelist.
James, said to be the son of Alphaeus, is often known as James the Less or James the younger to distinguish him from the other disciple called James, known as the son of Zebedee or James the Great. James the Less was hand-picked by Jesus Christ to be a disciple. He was present with the 11 apostles in the upper room of Jerusalem after Christ ascended into heaven. Although most of his accomplishments remain unknown to us today, James the 'Less' may simply have been overshadowed by the more prominent apostles. Still, being named among the twelve was no small achievement.
We can't overlook the fact that both Philip and James sacrificed everything to follow the Lord. In Luke, their spokesman Peter said, "We have left all we had to follow you!" (Luke 18 v12)
They gave up family, friends, homes, jobs, and all things familiar to answer Christ's call. These ordinary men who did extraordinary things for God set the example for us. They formed the foundation of the Christian church, initiating a movement that steadily spread across the face of the earth. We are part of that movement today.
Philip and James 'the Less' are unsung heroes of faith. Evidently, they did not seek recognition or fame, for they received no glory or credit for their service to Christ. Perhaps the thought we can take from the lives of Philip and James is reflected in this Psalm:
'Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory'
Thought for today, 30th April
'But you, my friends, must make your most sacred faith the foundation of your lives. Continue to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.' (Jude v20)
The letter of Jude isn't a part of scripture that is visited often, probably because it is so short tucked in between 1 John and Revelation. It opens with the words 'from Jude, servant of Jesus and brother of James.' (Verse1)
It is a letter about encouragement to keep strong in faith no matter what the world might throw at you. I like to think of faith as being like a shield, which of course is the Apostle Paul's description of it. In Paul and Jude's life and times shields where a regular sight. Every Roman soldier and other soldiers of the day carried shields especially into battle. The Roman soldier's shield protected him from the head down to below the knee.
The Roman shield was known as a 'scutum' and made from two planks of wood glued together, which measured two and a half feet in width and four feet in length, the outer surface being covered first with canvas and then with calf-skin. Its upper and lower rims were strengthened with iron edging which protected it from descending blows and from damage when rested on the ground. It also had an iron shield boss fixed to it which protected the handle and was used to turned aside the most formidable blows of stones, pikes, and heavy missiles in general. In some campaigns the shield was covered with a quilted material that was saturated with water before a battle, which meant the flaming arrows of the enemy fizzled out on contact. Perhaps that is what Paul is referring to when he says 'At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the evil one.' (Ephesians 6 v 16)
We must press on, shielded by our faith and trust that all will be well because God wishes it to be well. As Jude finishes his letter he says "To him who is able to keep us from falling and to bring you faultless and joyful before his glorious presence. To the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, might and authority, from all ages past, now and forever! Amen." (Jude v 24)
Below is a link to Bishop Philip's latest words of encouragement on YouTube.
Thought for today, 29th April 2020
'Let those who wept as they sowed their seed, gather the harvest with joy'. (Psalm 126 v5)
It was very moving yesterday at 11.00am during the one-minute silence, as we remembered all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice by caring for the sick at the expense of their own lives or by doing other necessary jobs for the benefit of society during this corona virus. At the beginning of all this, as we went into lock down, in my thoughts for the day, I considered Jeremiah weeping over Jerusalem as it fell into disrepair during the Exile into Babylon. I thought about what it is to lament. Another prophet Nehemiah was also moved to tears over the ruin of Jerusalem so he sought God, developed a plan, put together a team and rebuilt the city. The following verse to the one above reads 'He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with joy carrying the sheaves with him.' (Psalm 126 v 6) Those who have given of themselves for the benefit of others I am sure will receive joy in abundance in God's nearer presence. It is their relatives, dependents and friends that we must continue to pray for.
Everything in life has a season, you only need to read Ecclesiastes to see how factual that is. Another important focus of prayer must be for our national government and the devolved assemblies, so that like Nehemiah, they will first of all seek God's help and then form a plan and start to rebuild a safe, just, fair, even-handed society with a strong economy. We should also pray for our Bishop's and those in authority in our churches that they may be creative in formulating a safe environment for us to renew our worship. We must recognize that the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem took a long time but God was with His people throughout. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 28th April 2020
Paul writes in his Letter to the Galatians "The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)
We are being given all sorts of self-help pointers on television about how to keep healthy and mentally stable throughout this period of lock down. Some you may have found helpful and some not so. The big night in last week brought a little light relief, resulting in helpful giving for good causes, in this difficult time. We are all appreciative and inspired by the likes of Captain Tom Moore and his valiant walk around his garden 100 times in his 100th year and the remarkable fundraising he has achieved for the NHS. It is heartening to also see the graphs depicting a plateau in COVID-19 cases and an indication that all the hard work is coming to some sort of fruition. But we are still a long way from getting back to any sort of normality.
The Christian can't get any better support than asking the Spirit to provide the fruits that the Apostle Paul talks about. Everyone of those fruits as mentioned above has the power to see us through this crisis and any crisis we might face. As Paul went on to write,
'Those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. The Spirit has given us life.' (Galatians 5 v24,25)
Let us always endeavour to personify those fruits of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 27th April 2020
'Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to the end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of the cross, and he is now seated at the right-hand side of God's throne.' (Hebrews 12 v2)
God doesn't give us lengthy explanations on how He works; He's used to creating worlds with a single sentence. If you don't find an immediate answer in His Word or through prayer or counsel of others, you may be left wondering. You wouldn't be the first or the last. David repeatedly asks why in the psalms and yet God still called him 'a man after my own heart' (Acts 13 v22). Endurance is part of the answer because endurance isn't just the ability to bear a hard thing, but also the ability to use it for your growth and for God's glory.
Today, among other things, is the commemoration of Christina Rossetti, Christian spiritual poet. Christina was born in 1830 and was heavily involved with the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Being a 'true Victorian' she was fascinated with life and at the same time fixated on death. Many of her poems focus on loss and deep emotion. One of her poems 'Remember' is still used often today at funerals. She also wrote many sonnets and hymns, the Christmas Carols 'In the bleak mid-winter' and 'Love came down at Christmas' are amongst the best known. To me she is very good at articulating something of the Divine. Poetry and prose can touch the heart and therefore give comfort in trying and difficult times. Perhaps during this time of lock down you could spend some time reading some poetry or even writing your own. Below is a brief poem by Christina Rossetti.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by. (C Rossetti 1872)
Thought for today, 26th April 2020
One of my favorite sayings and indeed prayers used in my prayers of intercession is asking God to help us to, 'become what we are capable of becoming in Christ Jesus. To become what God wants us to become. And I suppose that means ultimately to 'become like the One who made us' (ref Colossians 3 v10).
I know our society is changing right at this moment and we do not yet know how things will turn out. During this time of isolation, mental health and people's well-being is being tested. Before this period started many people suffered from anxiety brought about by running themselves down about personal issues before they even engaged with the world around them. If you are the sort of person that tells yourself that you are too fat, no good, you never do anything right, all you are doing is verifying your negative attributes. All you are doing is reinforcing your imperfections by placing unnecessary attention and energy on everything that's wrong, rather than what is right with you. Why would you do this knowing the only possible result is a negative outlook, more negative feelings and less appreciation for the gift of life? Everyone has aspects of themselves they would like to improve, but this doesn't mean you should run yourself down. Here on earth none of us are ever going to be perfect but putting yourself down isn't the answer.
It says in Hebrews 10 v14 'So by one offering he has made perfect for ever those who are made holy by it.' The thing to do here is to underline the word perfect. Note, this word isn't better, it isn't improving. God doesn't improve he perfects. He doesn't enhance He completes. We are still human, there is a sense in that we are imperfect. We still stumble. We still do exactly what we don't want to do. Ultimately through Jesus' sacrifice that part of us is being made holy. When it comes to our position before God, we are perfect. When He sees each of us, He sees someone who has been made perfect through the One who is perfect, Jesus Christ.
Thought for today, 25th April 2020
'When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry before hand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak. But the Holy Spirit.' (Mark chapter 13 v11)
Thanks to Rev Alan Byrom who has provided the thought provoking messages over the past two days. It has given me a little bit of time to collect my thoughts and resume the 'thought for the day' slot. At the beginning of the week I mentioned the fact that there were a few saint's days this week and of course Alan particularly wrote about St George on Thursday which was St Georges Day. Today we think about St Mark the writer of the gospel bearing his name.
What we do know about Mark was that he accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Afterwards, he went to Cyprus with Barnabas and to Rome with first Paul and then Peter. Mark's gospel is generally regarded as the earliest and was most likely written whilst in Rome. It was probably based as much on Peter's preaching of the good news as on Mark's own memory. Mark's gospel has a sharpness and an immediacy about it. He does not spare the apostles in noting their weaknesses and lack of understanding that Jesus Christ would have to suffer for the world's redemption. (ref: Exciting holiness)
Destiny and/or providence are two very interesting words that books have been written upon over generations. So not to be summed up in a thought for the day. But in Marks gospel an interesting observation is made. At Jesus' arrest in the garden of Gethsemane it reads 'A certain young man, dressed only in a linen cloth, was following Jesus. They tried to arrest him, but he ran away naked, leaving the cloth behind.' (Mark 14 verse 51)
No one knows the identity of the young man but it is only recorded in Mark's gospel so many have thought it to be Mark himself. Several of the early Church fathers came to the conclusion that the young man was Mark, who is known to have been a resident in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) This theory says that the Last Supper was observed inside the house of Mark's parents who were reasonably wealthy. After Jesus and the disciples went to Gethsemane Mark followed them and had grabbed whatever he had close to him to wrap himself in. Because it was a loosely fitted garment, he was able to struggle away from arrest himself. A lucky escape perhaps.
Whether it was Mark or not, for that young man it would have been a significant life event. If it was Mark, you could imagine it sparking a life of devotion to the cause. Being there at the demise of Jesus and then a witness to the Resurrection. Mark had a destiny to fulfil and as the writer of the first gospel he achieved it.
As Christians we also have a destiny, a purpose to fulfil in the world for the greater glory of God and His Kingdom. Rev Philip
Friday 24th April
Jesus is the Good Shepherd, John 10:2-4.
He who enters by the door (of the sheepfold) is the shepherd of
the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens.
The sheep hear his voice,
and he calls his own sheep by name
and leads them out.
When he has brought out all his own,
he goes before them,
and the sheep follow him,
for they know his voice.
From dragons and jackals we turn to gentler sort of animal today, sheep and their need to follow the shepherd. The jury is out on how intelligent sheep are. They are sometimes seen as a byword for silliness and unthinking herd mentality (well not only sheep perhaps). Yet I have heard a Cumbrian farmer explaining that they are often quite thoughtful in their behaviours. One thing is fairly clear: they do tend to stray and they do need shepherding to be kept safe and fed and watered. Perhaps you saw the 'slow TV' programme recently; it showed the gathering of the sheep by shepherds and sheepdogs from the slopes of Sca Fell; well worth a relaxing couple of hours. It takes a deal of skill and effort to make sure the sheep are all gathered and kept from running off on their own.
Jesus makes great play on the need of the sheep to respond to the voice of the shepherd. He is speaking against the background of the sheep farming society of Galilee at that time. Many people kept one or two sheep in their own homes, but richer farmers would have larger herds and they would be kept in communal sheep pens for security, where all the flocks would intermingle. In the morning the shepherds would come to take their sheep out to pasture; how did they manage to retrieve their own sheep from the crowd? Well they stood around the pen as the gate was opened and when the sheep came out each shepherd would give out his own call, varied according to pitch, sound and timbre. The sheep would respond to the call they had been trained to recognise (not so daft after all these sheep!) and they would separate from the others and seek out their own shepherd. He would then move off and they would follow on behind him.
Jesus claims the title of Good Shepherd for Himself. He calls out to us so that we can follow Him; His voice is a distinctive one amid all the other noises and voices around us in the world. If He is the one to call, we are the ones who follow. We find it easy enough to miss that voice in the press of a busy and distracting world; we are often disposed to pretend that we did not hear it and go off in our own direction.
Just at the moment many of us in lockdown have more time and more quietness in our lives so maybe it is a good time to tune in and listen a bit more attentively. Who knows what deeper reassurance, what greater understanding, what more searching challenge might come our way as we read, pray and open up to Him more and more.
It is a bit of an all-encompassing lifestyle, this following Jesus business. There is always more to learn, more to receive more to experience; there is always room for growth, for an increase in love and service, for a deeper relationship with our Shepherd, our Guide, our Saviour. And remember, if we know Him, He knows us so much more, and cares for us with a love that reaches us through the Cross and the Resurrection.
The sheep hear his voice....and follow Him for they know his voice.
Thursday 23rd April St George's Day
Our patron saint is perhaps best known for spearing a fire-breathing dragon, which was no doubt a useful piece of superhero social care for the local population. Thinking about this put me in mind of a book I read very early in my Christian journey; it sits on my bookshelves still. It is called 'Habitation of dragons' and is a series of daily reflections. The title comes from Isaiah 35:7 in the old translation:
And the parched ground will become a pool
And the thirsty land springs of water.
In the habitation of dragons, where each lay,
shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
Modern translations have gone off dragons and talk about jackals instead. Dangerous creatures all the same!
The basic idea of the book is that we all face our own dragons, seemingly invincible threats to our life in Christ and to our assurance that God loves us. The dragons he speaks of are, for example, fear of failure, unwelcome change, times of spiritual dryness. Well, some of these issues are perhaps more of threat to us in the uncertain times we live in just now, in these strange times, as we are being taught to call them. The book offers lots of practical advice and help from the Bible, and from many Christian thinkers, to help us see the reality of our Father's love and the power of His Spirit to enable us to focus on Christ and encourage us in our daily discipleship.
Isaiah 35 is a wonderful promise, offered to His people under enormous pressure, that the wilderness that seems to make up their lives at the moment will be a place of refreshing and rejoicing; the threats that appear so frightening will be overcome, by God's action.
Waters will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert. (v6)
We can know that reassurance as we face our daily challenges in the love of God working for us in our life in Christ our Saviour who is present with us each day by His Spirit. What seems to be a desert can become a fertile and refreshing oasis as we follow Him and bring all our concerns to Him day by day.
A couple of examples of reassurance from Christians who have gone ahead of us in the Way.
What matters supremely is not the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it - the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hand. I am never out of His mind....there is no moment when His eye is off me or when His care falters.
Much as I long to be out of here (a Nazi prison), I don't believe a single day has been wasted. What will come out of my time here it is too early to say. But something is bound to come out of it.
Thought for today, 22nd April 2020
I am enjoying writing my 'thoughts for the day' for the website, although it would be better if it was under more pleasant circumstances. I really do hope that you find some value in them. My intention is to carry on, but I am mindful that to continuously write from my own perspective is not necessarily helpful or constructive. I have asked Reverend Alan Byrom to assist in the thoughts for the day on the website and he has very kindly agreed. Rev Alan and his wife have been worshipping with us at Wrea Green since his retirement from full time ministry for over a year now. He has recently decided to renew his 'permission to officiate' in the diocese and he would like to work with us in Wrea Green, Alleluia!! Rev Alan will be posting his thoughts for the day on Thursday and Friday this week and I will resume from Saturday.
Yesterday I wrote about Anselm Archbishop of Canterbury 1093-1109 because it was his day in the cycle of prayer. One of his predecessors Alphege 953-1012 and Archbishop from 1006-1012 was remembered on Sunday the 19th of April because it was the anniversary of his martyrdom. Both these men are remembered over a thousand years later because of their extraordinary resilience and faith in the face of danger. Alphege was captured by Vikings during the second major period of Viking raids in England. The Vikings asked for a ransom from his diocese but Alphege insisted that they didn't pay it because it would have impoverished the poor, after he had spent his life looking out for them. Anselm was renowned for his remarkable mind whereas Alphege for his piety and compassion. Perhaps in this difficult time we could pray for a small portion of the same gifts for all of us. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 21st April 2020
Jesus "opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45).
This week we mark a few significant saint's days. Today in the Anglican cycle of prayer we think about Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury 1093-1109. Anselm is a great influential figure in both Philosophy and Theology not only upon the 11th and 12th century Christian thinkers but upon theologians of today. He coined the phrase and definition of theology as being "Faith seeking understanding."
"Faith seeking understanding" means that faith in God revealed in Jesus Christ prompts a questioning search for a deeper understanding.Before Anselm, Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) coined a similar phrase, "Believe that you may understand." Augustine believed that knowledge of God comes before faith in Him, but faith in God brings with it a constant desire for deeper understanding. To phrase it simply, Christians really want to understand what they believe.Anselm agreed with Augustine. He believed that faith is required for understanding, but also that reason is essential to understanding. To Anselm, Christian faith sets in motion a quest to know and understand God and what we believe about Him. Faith, according to Anselm, causes believers to seek understanding for the joy of knowing God and loving Him.The Bible promotes the idea of faith seeking understanding. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment tells us to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). Jesus speaking to the disciples in one of His post-resurrection appearances, "opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45). Faith is what overcomes the world (1 John 5:4), because that faith is accompanied by an understanding of God: "We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true" (1 John verse 20).
In these Easter days let us use our time wisely and search for a greater understanding of God so that we may rejoice in His presence. (Rev Philip)
Thought for today, 20th April 2020
'Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the Lord comes. See how patient a farmer is as he waits for his land to produce precious crops. He waits patiently for the autumn and spring rains. You also must be patient. Keep your hopes high, for the day of the Lord's coming is near.' (James 5 v7)
Before I say something about this quote from the letter of James I would like to mention that there will be a page on our events and organizations link at the top of our home page to an 'In memoriam' page. There have been one or two funerals taking place that should have taken place in church. My intention is to record those parihioners names on this page so we can pray for them and for their families. The page will go live later this week.
Patience is a virtue because it requires self-control. It requires you to have the insight to think about other people and their happiness. In this trying time patience is a key virtue that we must endeavour to possess. If we all adhere to the plan laid down by the Government, until they say otherwise, we will have every chance of coming out of this crisis with as little damage as possible.
When looking abroad and reading the news about Donald Trump and his attempts at subverting various state governors decisions about isolation and social distancing, I find extremely alarming. He seems set upon driving a wedge between people for his own political ends meanwhile disregarding the corona virus as if it doesn't matter. Of course we only get the news from the perspective of those who report it. It will only be in retrospect that we will see the full picture.
In the letter of James he appeals to the early Church to be patient. They must not blame one another for the troubles of the situation in which they find themselves and above all they must not judge each other.
Thought for today, 19th April 2020
'Who is like you, God? You take away guilt and you forgive the sins of the remnant of your people. You do not let your anger rage forever, for to be merciful is your true delight.' Micah 7 v18
This first Sunday after Easter Sunday has a variety of names. Traditionally known as Low Sunday and sometimes known as St Thomas' Sunday, because of the Gospel reading from John, which I speak about on today's YouTube service and is always set for today. But did you know that increasingly across the Christian traditions today is celebrated as 'Divine Mercy Sunday?
There was a Polish nun called Faustina Kowalska who in the early 1930's had a vision of the Risen Christ. He came to her dressed in a white robe with his right hand outstretched giving blessing and the other touching his chest from which emanated two rays of light one red and the other white. This vision of Jesus spoke to her asking her to paint what she saw. So she painted a picture of her vision. Jesus also said to her
"Humanity will never find peace until it turns with trust to Divine Mercy". This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity. He also said to her that this was a message for the End time and what will come next will be the day of judgement. Faustina had quite a few visions from 1930 to 1938 and of course from that point on in Poland it must have seemed like the End time was upon them - perhaps it still is on all of us.
Faustina was canonised by John Paul the second in the year 2000 and given the title The Secretary of Mercy. This theme of Divine Mercy is becoming more crucial in the World today. Pope Francis decreed that every Catholic Cathedral should have an open door to be known as 'the door of mercy'. Some Anglican Cathedrals have opened them up to. Our Church of course is always open (when we are not in the middle of a virus pandemic) and I hope that people find mercy when they come in. St Faustina wrote the three main themes of the devotion are to ask for and obtain the mercy of God, to trust in Christ's abundant mercy, and finally to show mercy to others and act as a conduit for God's mercy towards them.
'The quality of mercy is not strained it drops as a gentle rain from heaven upon its place beneath. It is twice blessed, it blesses him that gives and him that receives.' (William Shakespeare. Merchant of Venice) Rev Philip
Thought for today, 18th April 2020
'Blessed are those who find wisdom.' (Proverbs 3 v13)
Every stage of life presents lessons to be learned. Most of us feel restricted during this crisis, our liberty is seriously compromised but our freedom isn't. We can choose to use our time wisely remaining open to new ideas and be willing to learn new skills or not. The first option has to be better than remaining static and succumbing to the monotony of isolation and/or social distancing. We are being told regularly to maintain our mental health and wellbeing.
The Apostle Paul whilst confined to a dungeon wrote to Timothy and asked him to bring a) writing paper in other words. 'I still have something to say' b) books. 'I still have more to learn' (2 Timothy 4 v13)
The Roman scholar Cato started to study Greek when he was 80. When asked why he was tackling such a difficult task at his age he replied. "It's the earliest age I have left!"
Unlike Cato too many of us regard learning as an event instead of a process. It is estimated that only one third of all adults read an entire book once they have left formal education. I suppose they do this because they view education as a period of life rather than a way of life. So learning new things is an activity that is not restricted by age. Have a go at something new, read that book that you were always going to read. Do some creative writing, that poem you were always going to write or that play or that book. Try craft or painting but whatever you do let us know so we can put it on our website. Please send in to Liam at email@example.com Rev Philip
Thought for today, 17th April 2020
I have been thinking about what it is to be a 'Spiritual House' as the Apostle Peter put it. The body of Christ in the World and for the World. A few weeks ago the Kirkham clergy chapter had a zoom meeting. At that time we were struggling with how we could continue to do our job properly with all the restrictions that have been placed upon us. Of course the main tool we have is technology. We are able to use websites and/or social media or upload things to YouTube etc. The problem is of course we are not all young hip 'Influencers' and so our attempts are a bit uninspiring, like Archbishop Justin's backdrop on Easter Sunday of his breakfast toaster. When we had our emergency PCC meeting at the beginning of this crisis I suggested posting a thought for the day on our website which I have done gladly. In truth I enjoy doing it, but it's not about me and what I think. If we are to be the body of Christ we need all members to contribute.
Sandy Harris our magazine editor has asked for a whole cross section of interesting things to publish in May's parish magazine. Her contact details are on our contacts page. As Sandy and I talked on the telephone she mentioned the possibility of us having a page on our website where contributions can be made on a daily basis by all our people. Liam our webmaster is going to put up a page to incorporate these things. His email address is on the contact page too, so please send him your thoughts, poems, pictures, posts, jokes, blogs and 2020 experiences. My thought for the day will go up on the site as it has done on the home page but the 'thought of the day' back catalogue will be on its own page so our home page isn't clogged up with 'words' but current.
Christians are a people for God to possess. Often the value of a thing lies in the fact that someone has possessed it. A very ordinary thing can acquire a new value if it has been possessed by some famous person. In any museum we will find quite ordinary things like clothes, a walking stick, a pen, books, pieces of furniture which are only of value because they were once possessed and used by some great person. It is the ownership which brings them worth. A Christian may be a very ordinary person, but he or she acquires a new value and dignity and even greatness because they belong to God. So working together we could achieve wonderful things and reach great heights. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 16th April 2020
One of the daily events that takes place in this crisis is the briefing we get from the Government spokesperson for the day and a couple of scientific and health experts from Westminster. However horrific the numbers that we are told of the deaths and those infected by the corona virus might be, at least we are being told how things are progressing, or not. They give the current statistics and we are told time and time again to stay indoors and only go out if you work in a designated profession or for exercise and essential supplies. When we come to any questions, from the journalists that are lined up via video link, they all ask the same question every day, "When will the restrictions be lifted?" I know that it is a journalist's job to ask the questions that we might want to ask. They should be constructive questions that take the Government to task when needed. They get the same answer every day. "The time is not right to be talking about that."
The Government know that if they say anything about the process of lifting the restrictions thousands of people would start to lift them straight away, which is not what is needed in this particular crisis before things are under control. People are people. We have had the same nature since Adam and Eve. They did precisely what they were told not to do. All the way through history people have been difficult to manage. It has a lot to do with free will I suppose. When we look at the graph of different nations' management of this crisis all the free and democratic nations' death toll is far higher than China or South Korea, meanwhile America's plot on the graph has gone off like a rocket.
In the story of Noah we read about how God had become exasperated by people and the world. He sends the great flood but not until Noah, his family and all the different animals had got safely into the Ark two by two. An Ark is something that carries someone or something to a place of safety. Afterwards God set a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his Covenant with creation and the human race.
This is the first of a series of covenants that God makes with His people including the sacrifice of His Son as atonement for all our sins. The result of which He formed His Church. I have made quite a few links between The Old Testament and the New in my thoughts for the day. For me one of the most beautiful and perfect links is that the Church of which we are members is the 'Ark of Salvation'. However difficult things might be now or in the future we are in God's hands and will be brought to a place of safety in this world or the next.Rev Philip
Thought for today, April 15th 2020
Yesterday I mentioned the exile of the Israelites into Babylon. There are lots of stories about the reasons why God felt it necessary to exile them from Jerusalem. In essence they had become a materialistic greedy people who had failed to put God at the centre of their lives and worship. Their experiences in exile enabled them to realize that people are only really complete when they put God at the centre. The Israelites re-engaged with their faithfulness through many a trial and tribulation with characters like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (the book of Daniel). God was able to work through his people again in new and creative ways.
I also wrote yesterday about Christians being a spiritual house. The Apostle Peter tells us that a Christian is like a living stone and the Church is like a living edifice into which he or she is built. This clearly means that Christianity is Community, so being exiled from our church buildings does not diminish us in anyway. As long as we are faithful and look out for one another we shall remain strong.
There is a famous ancient story from Sparta. A Spartan king boasted to a visiting monarch about the walls of Sparta. The visiting monarch looked around and he could see no walls. He said to the Spartan king, "Where are these walls?" The Spartan king pointed to his body guard of Spartan troops and said "These are the walls of Sparta and everyone is a brick!" Rev Philip
Thought for today, 14th April 2020
'You are being built into a spiritual house.' (1 Peter 2v5)
It has been good to be able to come to the cross on the green throughout this period of exile from our church buildings. We have tried to recreate Holy Week and Easter in a digital way, considering our churches have been closed to the public. The cross on the green has been something physical for people to visit which has helped many of our parishioners to focus their prayers and even speak to one another, although at a distance.
The whole concept of being in exile from a place you love is very Biblical. The Israelites went into exile from Jerusalem for around 70 years after they had been conquered by the Babylonians. "By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept as we remembered Zion" (Psalm 137 v1). Of course we hope and pray that our exile from our church buildings won't last as long as that!
We don't yet know how long it will be before we can return to our church buildings and worship together but it will happen. We just need to trust in God and carry on focussing upon being a Spiritual House. Perhaps this exile period is giving us a good opportunity to discover what being a spiritual house can be like.
My hope is, for us to be able to use the space on the green where the cross currently stands for other creative visual Christian symbols at Ascension tide and Pentecost. Over the next few days let's think about what we can learn from the Israelites exile in Babylon. Even though they left their beloved city behind God was still with them. Rev Philip
"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John chapter 20 v29b).
Happy Easter Monday! The flowers by early evening yesterday looked glorious on our cross that is outside the walls of the church and placed on the small green. The cross has been out for the wider community to see throughout this COVID-19 crisis. Of course it is a strong symbol to people whether they are practising Christians or not of something of the Divine. Christ out in the world, vulnerable yet powerful. The changes that we have made to the cross over recent weeks from the red ribbons demonstrating Christ's suffering for the world, to the palm leaves for Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the emptiness of Good Friday to the flowers placed there yesterday to celebrate His Resurrection, show the wider community that our faith and our resolve do not reside behind church walls. The Glory of the Risen Christ dwells within His people in the various lives we lead.
In my earlier thoughts for the day I wrote about the Shekinah, the Glory, the Personality of God residing in the Temple in Jerusalem in the Holy of Holies. The veil in the temple was torn in two at Jesus' death but now dwells in the hearts of all those who believe in His Resurrection. How blessed are we who have not seen and yet believe? Rev Philip
Thought for today, 12th April 2020, Easter Sunday
In yesterday's thought for the day for Holy Saturday I mentioned that Holy Saturday is known by some as the Great Sabbath and wrote about the direct connection with the Jewish faith. Friday evening through to Saturday evening is the Jewish Sabbath. As a Christian I believe that Jews and Christians are all descendents of Abraham and our roots and histories are tightly entwined.
The great Elie Wiesel a holocaust survivor and Jewish theologian wrote about the difference between Judaism and Christianity by comparing the two mountains that rise high in each one. For Judasim it is Mount Moriah, where Abraham bound his only son Isaac, whom he loved and laid him on a bed of kindling wood (Genesis 22 9-12). And for Christianity the mountain is Golgotha, where another father bound his son to a deadly piece of wood. The difference between the two religions, Weisel says, is that in the Jewish story the father does not kill the son, but in the Christian story he does. For the Jew, Wiesel says, all truth must spring from life, never from death. Some may say he has a good point, I say he is missing it completely. It was humanity that was the accuser, judge and executioner. It was our falleness, waywardness and disorder that put Jesus there not God - it was God's goodness that triumphed.
Jesus has broken the barrier of death in order that we may have life and have it in abundance. In Jesus we need not have any fear of death, we have already died with him through the waters of baptism and we now live with him. Above all we know that when this world finishes for us our life carries on with Him and all of those gone before us. Friends, now that's something to celebrate - we are all Easter people, we are people of the Resurrection. He is Risen, He is Risen indeed Alleluia! Rev Philip
Thought for today, April 11th 2020
Today is known across the Christian world by a variety of names, Holy Saturday, Great Saturday and Joyous Saturday among others. It is also known as the Great Sabbath in some parts of the world because it was on this day Jesus rested in the tomb.
"Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God," the fourth Commandment. (Exodus 20 v9-10b)
Jesus began His Passover week on Palm Sunday and so today is the seventh day. Besides which Saturday, in the Jewish world, is Shabbat, the Sabbath, from night fall on Friday to night fall on Saturday is their day of rest.
In the Anglican Book of Common Prayer today is just referred to as Easter Eve but for many churches this evening across the UK they would normally hold an Easter Vigil. You may have participated in one of these vigils in the past, although I know we haven't practised this in recent years at St Nicholas or St Matthews.
It is at this service after night falls the new paschal candle (Easter candle) is prepared for the coming year. A fire is lit at the gate of the church and the candle is dressed with five studs containing grains of incense. They represent the wounds of Christ. The candle bears the year date and is lit from the fire at the gate. Other members of the congregation light their own candles from it and the paschal candle is processed into church with everyone else following bearing their candles. The light progressing into church is a representation of the light of Christ that can never be extinguished. The proclamation of Easter is made and there are many that get baptised or confirmed in this service if the bishop is present. The paschal candle is placed in its own stand by the altar and remains there to be lit in every service until Pentecost after which it will stand by the font and be lit at every baptism.
After the loneliness of Good Friday it is good to know that we are never in the shade from the Light of Christ. Rev Philip
Thought for today, April 10th Good Friday.
'The problem with pain'
'On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent double with pain and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.' (Luke 13 10-11)
I remember conducting a funeral of a 21 year old young man who had killed himself in his car one Boxing day. He had crashed into a bridge in Chorley. His mother said to me, as she walked from the grave, why did God take him away? How do you answer that? God wasn't driving the car went through my mind at the time although that wasn't the answer she was looking for. This was a woman who was bent double pain, the pain of grief that would probably stay with her for longer than 18 years - probably for the rest of her life.
C S Lewis the writer of the children's book series on Narnia wrote many books that were influenced by his Christian faith. Among one of his books is one called 'the problem with pain'. His wife suffered for a long time with cancer and this caused him to really grapple with his faith. In the end in this book 'the problem with pain' he writes,
'Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills evolve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.' In other words if we were to live in a world without pain, then it wouldn't be a world worth living in. Quite simply we would have nothing to measure the good things by.
The woman I have just mentioned full of the pain of grief was in so much pain because of how much she loved her son. The lesser the love the lesser the pain, the greater the love the greater the pain.
We think very much today about Jesus' pain on the cross but let us also think about God's pain that He felt about what was happening to His Son. In the Old Testament we have Job. Now Job was a man that suffered much - he had his friends that tried to bring consolation but that wasn't good enough for Job - He wanted an answer from God.... He hurls his questions in the face of God, only to be met by the Divine Silence. In his own heart he begins to wonder whether he will understand God, even if God were to answer. Can it be that the whole thing is only make-believe and that the truth is simply that there is no God? Jobs answer to that is, yes there is, despite his suffering.. 'I know, he says.' I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth'. (Job 19 v25)
There are no explanations that really explain. There are no consolations that really consol. There are no answers that come to the questions which are asked. But still God Remains...And I know that here and now, in the midst of my situation whatever it be, I shall find Him as my Redeemer. 'He will stand upon the earth.'
God is concerned with human kind. It grieves him when we go off the rails - it grieves him when in the freedom He has given us we choose not to follow Him - it grieves Him when we grieve. The pain of God is more than pain on account of humankind. He is involved with us humans - involved with us in our struggle with sin, in our contest with evil, in our cry for wholeness. God participates in the whole movement of life. In fact there would be no movement but for Him. The leaves on the trees would like to be still but the wind keeps on blowing. God engages us and is engaged with us in the pilgrimage of life. He knows what it is to suffer! He knows this through His son Jesus Christ, who is the Redeemer and the one that will make us whole. Rev Philip
Thought for today, 9th April Maundy Thursday
'I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.'(John 13 v34)
Jesus laid down this farewell commandment to his disciples just after the last supper. Jesus is about to go on a Journey on which no one may accompany him, the journey to Calvary. Jesus is taking a road that he had to walk down alone and so he leaves his disciples with his final commandment that they should love one another as he has loved them.
Of course, what does that mean for us? And what did it mean for his disciples? Sometimes people say that relationships are all about give and take. I say that the most successful relationships especially in a marriage are where both give to each other rather than take. It's about being selfless.
Jesus loved his disciples selflessly, sacrificially and understandingly. Jesus never thought about himself. His one desire was to give Himself and all He had for those He loved. His one desire was to do something for them. There was no limit to what his love would give, and to where his love would go. No demand that was made upon it was too much. If love meant the cross, Jesus was prepared to go to the cross. Sometimes we make a mistake. We think that love is there to bring us happiness alone. In the end it may, but before that it could also give us much pain - love for us may demand a cross. Jesus loved his disciples understandingly. He knew his disciples through and through. He knew all their weaknesses and yet he still loved them. Those who really love us are the people who know us at our worst and yet still love us. It is true that we never really know a person until we have lived with them. When we see them occasionally, we see them at their best. It is when we live with them that we find out their moods and irritabilities and their weaknesses. And others have the same experience with us. Jesus lived with his disciples day in and day out for two or three years. He knew all there was to know about them but still loved them. There is a saying that love is blind, but that's not true, because love that is blind can only end in utter disillusionment. Real love is open-eyed. It loves, not what it imagines the person to be, but the person as he or she is. It loves not a part of the person but the whole person. It takes the other person, not only for better, but also for worse. The real message to take from today's Gospel reading is that Jesus not only loved his disciples but he also loves us and that the Heart of Jesus is big enough to love us selflessly, sacrificially and understandingly, in short to love us as we really are. The real challenge of course is for us to reflect that love to one another, however unlovely or un-loveable we maybe. Rev Philip
Thought for today, April 8th 2020
'They stripped Him of His clothes and put a soldiers purple cloak upon Him; and they wove a crown of thorns and put it on His head.....(Mathew 27 v28-29a)
As we have been getting nearer to Good Friday and the Cross I have been particularly drawn to the crown of thorns this year. I think the reason is because of the generic title that COVID-19 has of being a corona virus. Under a microscope it looks like a crown with spikes that stick out of it to lock onto its host. Of course corona is the word for crown in Spanish but I also remember that it is another name given to the crown of thorns. Above the altar in Blackburn Cathedral is a huge wrought iron sculpture of the crown of thorns. I remember as a small child when the lantern tower in the cathedral was completed in the late 60's and the whole altar with its crown of thorns above it was unveiled. I was in awe of it. The wrought iron artwork was called the Corona. People just refer to it as being a depiction of the crown of thorns today but to me it will always be the Corona. It is encrusted with large white crystals and suspended from it are perpetual red lights depicting the blood of Christ.
Of course the crown of thorns is a reminder of two things, that of Christ being both King of Kings and Suffering Servant. But there is further symbolism. When Adam and Eve fell from grace and committed original sin, part of the the curse that was put on humanity included, working the earth through toil. Soil produces weeds and thorns that make it all the more difficult. As illustrated in Jesus' parable of the Sower. The Roman soldiers unknowingly took an object of the curse and fashioned it into a crown for the one who would deliver us from that curse. Christ, in His perfect atoning sacrifice, has delivered us from the curse of sin, of which a thorn is a symbol. While intended to be a mockery, the crown of thorns was, in fact, an excellent symbol of who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish. Rev Philip
Prayer for today
The love of God uphold us, the Peace of God enfold us.
The life of Jesus heal us, the word of Jesus lead us.
The Fire of the Spirit purify us,
the wind of the Spirit drive us forward. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord of creation,
whose glory is around and within us:
open our eyes to your wonders,
that we may serve you with reverence
and know your peace at our lives' end,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for today
deliver us from a world without justice
and a future without mercy;
in your mercy, establish justice,
and in your justice, remember the mercy
revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer for today
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 to give courage and comfort to Christians in countries like China, India, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan and Iran. We ask that their governments fulfil their duty to protect all of their citizens and for all world leaders to govern with wisdom and mercy - and do what is right in your eyes.
Lord we ask for your help to treat and guide all those who suffer and those at risk from the corona virus. We pray that your holy spirit guide and help scientists to find a cure. During this lockdown period may we all learn again the importance of community and in helping our neighbour. Help us to remember that we cannot be locked or separated from your love.
Holy Lord may our lives bear witness to your Spirit, Your unconditional love and Your Grace so that others will draw closer to you. Amen
Prayers written by Frank Andrews, today's Intercessor
Prayer for today
Lord, believing isn't easy when I am hurt and confused and you are silent. Like Thomas, I want proof that you love me. Help me see beyond my desire for peace and comfort, beyond my doubts and unanswered questions, and grasp the truth of Your unfailing love and grace. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord God, our heavenly Father, we give thanks for the lives and witness of Philip and James. We ask that we might play our part in sharing our faith and introducing Jesus to those who do not yet know him. We also pray for your church trying to minister here in Lancashire, during this difficult time. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord Jesus, we are vulnerable in every way, so we thank you for winning for us the armour of God. Build up our strength with truth as our belt, righteousness as our breast plate and faith as our shield. Amen
Prayer for today
Heavenly Father, we pray for all those who have lost their lives to COVID-19, especially those who put themselves at risk by caring for others. We pray for their relatives and friends as they come to terms with their loss. We also ask for wisdom for our governments as they plan a way forward so that this virus is conquered. Above all we pray that lessons may be learned about how we care for your world in the future. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord Jesus, we thank you for these Easter days in which we can reflect upon your Saving Grace. We know your Spirit is always with us and we give thanks for the gifts and the fruits your Spirit provides. Make each one of us a conduit of your Grace. Amen.
Prayer for today
Lord Jesus you faced your trials and even death with steadfast endurance. Help us to focus upon you 'The Perfecter' of our lives and faith. Give us opportunities to use our time wisely, that your Church may shine as a beacon of your Glory. Amen
Prayers for today
Heavenly Father, you are my ever-present help in times of trouble. Speak with me now as I spend this time with you. May your presence be peace to me, your promise fuel faith in me and your purpose be fulfilled in me today and every day.
Psalm 103: 8-12
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour His anger for ever. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us
2 Chronicles 7: 13 - 14
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Father God, we pray for healing in our land from the devastation done by Covid-19. Lord, send strength to frontline medical workers, bring comfort to those whose hearts are broken, give wisdom to our political and business leaders as they seek to rebuild our broken economy , give us compassion for those for whom lockdown is dreadful burden. We pray especially for those who are at risk of domestic violence, the homeless and those who are wracked with financial worries and those whose livelihoods are under threat.
Amen (Today's prayers by Rachel Rosser)
Prayer for today
Lord Jesus risen in our hearts. We pray for the ability and gifts to achieve our destiny in your name. We also pray for willingness and determination to see things through. At this time of uncertainty, we ask that we can be a beacon of your care and an example of your love to those we are close to us and to the communities we find ourselves in. Amen
No prayer today
No prayer today
Prayer for today
Jesus Son of God, through your life, death and resurrection you demonstrated wisdom beyond all measure, showing compassion and pureness of heart. We pray that we may always endeavour to strive toward you by being 'Christ like' in our lives. Especially in the way we deal with others and the way we approach your throne in prayer. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord God Almighty, to know you is to love you. Strengthen our faith so that we may understand you and through that understanding grow to love you more. We thank you that all of this is possible through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer for today
Lord our heavenly Father we pray for the gift of patience. Patience in the current situation we find ourselves in and patience with each other. We recognise that all is in your hands and you love your people and your creation. We thank you for the blessings that we see at this time of year in the new life that blooms around us. Amen
Prayer for today
Jesus, we thank you for your risen presence. At this trying time we pray that your glorious mercy may be present in the works of all who labour in your name. Be with those who are suffering loss at this time that they may know that through you, death is not the end but a new beginning. Amen
Prayer for today
O God, whose Spirit in our hearts teaches us to desire your perfection, to seek for truth and to rejoice in beauty: enlighten and inspire us in whatever is true, pure and lovely, that your name may be honoured and your will be done on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord Jesus send your Spirit into our hearts at this difficult time in our history. Help us to use our time constructively in prayer, study of your Holy Word and caring for those in need. Whatever we do we ask that it will be for the edification of your Kingdom and for your Glory. Amen
Prayer for today
Almighty God our heavenly Father we thank you for your patience. We also thank you for the times you have reached out to us in love. In this season of Easter and springtime help us to appreciate the promise of new life. We also pray that you will bring all nations to a place of safety and peace. Amen
Prayer for today
O Lord and heavenly Father we pray that you will continue to enable us to put you at the centre of our lives. We thank you that you have made us members of Christ's body in the World. Help us to remain resolute in our calling to be your church, reaching out into our wider communities with absolute certainty that we are doing your will. Amen
Prayer for today
Heavenly Father we give thanks for all our brothers and sisters in Christ. As people of the Resurrection may we always remember that renewal and transformation is the way you bring about your purpose for our lives and for the World. Help us to share in your creative nature and be a good example of what a spiritual house can be. Amen
Prayer for today
O God our King, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ on the first day of the week, you conquered sin, put death to flight, and gave us the assurance of everlasting life. Redeem all our days by this victory; forgive our sins, banish our fears, and make us bold to praise you and to do your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord of all life and power, who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him: grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ, may reign with him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen
Prayer for today
Dear Lord, there is no better time than the present for us to be your light extended to those around us. Help us to become open vessels through which your light can shine. Amen
Prayer for Today
We adore and magnify you, O Lord our God, that in Christ crucified you reveal the fact that the very essence of your nature is a Love that will go to the uttermost lengths for everyone: for the lost, the lowest and the least; for each and every one of us as we kneel at the foot of the cross. Amen
Prayer for today
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I give all my relationships to you and ask that you be in charge of them. May your Spirit of unity reign in each, Amen.
Prayer for today
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I give all my relationships to you and ask that you be in charge of them. May your Spirit of unity reign in each, Amen.
Prayer for today
Lord we wait upon you this day. We put our hope in your Word and ask that you will fill us afresh with your Holy Spirit and wash away all our anxiety and doubt. Amen
Thought for today, 7th April 2020
Jesus said "Now my soul is in turmoil, and what am I to say?" "Father save me from this hour?" No, it was for this that I came to this hour." (John 12 v27)
Everything points to the Cross for Jesus - he knows what the outcome is to be. He knows what his obligation is - what his responsibility is - to go to the cross - ultimately to suffer and then to die.
It raises the question. Are we taking seriously the crosses that we have to bear?
We are all special in the eyes of God and we all have gifts. Knowing these things should give us direction and purpose. When looking at the saints down the years they all have used their gifts and sometimes disabilities for the advantage of the Gospel.
We, as ordinary as we are, should take hold of the batten from the saints and move on into the future. Whatever our circumstances - whatever our context and take a leap of faith.
Tentative and safe living generally makes for regrets later on. We are all given talents and dreams. Sometimes the two don't seem to match. But usually we compromise both before ever finding out. Later on, we find ourselves looking back longingly to that time when we should have chased our true dreams and our true talents for all they were worth. Don't let yourself be pressured into thinking that your dreams or your talents are not prudent or sensible. They were never meant to be. They were meant to bring joy and fulfilment into your life. If a caterpillar refuses to get into its cocoon it'll never transform and will forever be relegated to crawling on the ground, even though it had the potential to fly.
Jesus was faced with the cross - he didn't shy away from it because he knew that his ultimate purpose was to shatter the perceived boundaries of this world - transforming our hope and understanding that all things must go through death to life.
If you think you are beaten you are, if you think you dare not, you don't. If you'd like to win but you think you can't, you won't. Life's battles don't always go to the stronger or faster person, but sooner or later the person who wins, is the one who believes they can. Amen
Prayer for today
Lord, we ask for your mighty intervention to show us what is right when often we can only see what is wrong. Help us not to be blinded by our own fears and doubts. Help us to bravely strive to become what we are capable of becoming in your name. Amen
Thought for today, 6th April 2020
After Jesus' triumphant entrance into Jerusalem he goes first of all to the temple. He loved that temple and had a long association with it. If you remember as a young boy of just twelve years old he was asking questions of the elders and they were all astonished at his understanding. In Luke's gospel when Mary and Joseph found him he said "Didn't you know I would be in my Father's House?" (Luke 2 v 49)
So it is no wonder His first port of call, after entering the city, would be His Father's House. Of course when He gets there He overturns the money changers tables and vents some steam. Yesterday I talked about Jesus in our service on-line and how He rode into the city on a donkey, symbolically the mount of peace. Throughout Jesus' Ministry up to this point He had exhibited gentleness, compassion and peace. Here He is now presenting an emotion that seems contrary to what He stood for, Anger!
On one level this demonstrates that Jesus was truly human. Anger can be born out of frustration. Anger can be like a 'red mist' where serious damage can be done to the self as well as to others but Jesus demonstrates a measured anger. He is not out of control but directing His anger to those who make it impossible for simple people to worship in God's House. Isaiah said 'God's House was a House of Prayer for all the nations' (Isaiah 56 v7).
This event took place in the Court of the Gentiles which was the only part of the Temple complex that the Gentiles were allowed come. Not every Gentile would have come here to sight-see but wanted to come to pray. The market stall atmosphere prevented prayer to take place. "It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers." (Matt 21 v13)
Immediately after Jesus had vented His Wrath he proceeded to heal the blind and the lame in the very same place. The poor and the vulnerable were not put off by Jesus' anger but encouraged by it. There is anger at those who exploit the simple and bar the seeker; but there is love for those whose need is great."
Prayer for today
Almighty God, Jesus taught us to call you Father. As Jesus came to the temple to be near you when he first came into the city, we are frustrated that we can't come to our church buildings to worship you today. Come and dwell in our hearts as we go through Holy Week. So we may discover a greater understanding of the Passion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
Thought for today, 5th April 2020, Palm Sunday
Today we think about Jesus' triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Earlier in the year the worship planning group discussed the possibility of walking around the green waving our palm crosses and palm leaves and making a noise to try and recreate that important event in the life of Jesus' earthly Ministry. We even made enquiries about someone bringing a donkey. Alas circumstances have prevented us from doing most things this Holy Week. Instead we are trying to be as creative as possible within the restrictions that have been placed upon us.
It is in our nature and culture to interact with one another. Everything we normally rely on and the creative activities we do mostly revolve around physical interaction. Being isolated is a bit like bobbing for apples with your hands tied behind your back which is just about as impossible. At least bobbing for apples is fun!
Nevertheless on today's web post and all through Holy Week there is an attempt at trying to create something of the familiar. Below is a picture of our altar in St Nicholas's Church looking spectacular? The cross on the small green outside the church grounds has also been dressed in palm branches for all those who pass by.
One forward notice is
about Easter Sunday itself. Normally at the main Easter Sunday service the
cross outside is covered with flowers that the congregation place upon it
during the service. The cross on the small green this year will have the wire
on it for flowers to be put on throughout the day on Easter Sunday. So if you
are on your daily walk then please put a flower on it to demonstrate to the
wider public that 'He is Risen' for them as well as for us. Please avoid a
group forming at the cross. If there is anyone already there please wait at a
Prayer for today
Lord God in majesty, true King of heaven and earth, it is in people's hearts that you wish to reign. Help us to give ourselves without reserve to the one who entered Jerusalem on a donkey and received a crown of thorns; for he is now seated with you in glory, to reign with you to the end of time. Amen
Thought for today, 4th April 2020
I thought today is a good day to tell you what is going to happen throughout Holy week, both here at St Nicholas Church with Ballam and what is planned by the Diocese. Stanley is very kindly changing the altar frontals in St Nicholas church as he would normally throughout Holy Week. Photographs will be uploaded so you can see something of the familiar at this significant time.
Wrea Green YouTube channel. A short Palm Sunday service will be uploaded tomorrow from the vicarage and will be available in the morning by clicking the link at the top of the home page on our website. I would like to encourage you to have a cross with you when you do. The cross could be a palm cross or any other cross you might have in the home. If you don't have one then have a go at making one out of card or paper. More details about this below from Bishop Julian. We will then bless our crosses during tomorrow mornings service.
My hope is to film other services for Good Friday and Easter Sunday with thoughts for the day relevant to the other days uploaded throughout the week, as I have done since the beginning of our isolation. There are more links below to what the Bishop's have planned regarding services throughout Holy Week.
A Cross in the Window. Bishop Julian has spoken about the Diocese's current impromptu campaign to encourage people to put crosses in their windows from Palm Sunday and through Holy Week. You can read about our campaign here including a link in the story to a little video to watch and share with family, friends, neighbours and other connections. Once your cross is in the window, take a picture and upload it to social media if you can, using the handles @cofelancs and #holyweekcross and you can also tag @churchofengland
This Sunday. From 9am on the Diocesan YouTube channel, Bishop Julian will lead a short service from Bishop's House for Palm Sunday. More services are also being recorded for uploading to YouTube during Holy Week, including one featuring all three of our Bishops for Easter Sunday. There are also service sheets for services at home all week available on this page alongside many other prayer resources for Holy Week from the Diocese and also the national church.
Prayer for Today (from the Diocese)
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Thought for today, 3rd of April 2020
'To be a light to lighten the gentiles and to be the glory of His people Israel.' (Luke 2 v 32)
Yesterday I pondered the word glory. I presented the idea that true glory is the very presence of God, the personality of God. The quote this morning is taken from the Song of Simeon. Jesus is presented to Simeon in the temple, as was the Jewish custom of the time. As priest Simeon represented God and he took him in his arms and made his proclamation.
In the last sentence of his song Simeon proclaims a great deal. Up to this point the temple was where God's glory resided but from this point on it resided in this child Jesus. The important part of this statement for us as gentiles and as Christians is the first part. This personality of God would now be able to reside, to dwell in us. The Shekinah (that which resides) is now within us because we are enlightened by Him and through Him.
I wrote yesterday that the Shekinah of God was said to reside in the Holy of holies in the temple, hidden by a veil that could only be entered into once a year by the high priest. As we read the passion narratives this passion tide, and come to the death of Jesus, we read 'At that very moment the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.' Matthew 27 v51, Mark 15 v38, Luke 23 v45,
I think everyone of whatever faith should stand in awe of that fact!
Almighty God our Saviour and Redeemer, we thank you for the way you have revealed yourself through the Scriptures and the way you have worked among the generations before us. Help us to become good instruments of your Grace and to be able to demonstrate your Glory in our lives. Amen
Thought for today, 2nd April 2020
'But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.' (Psalm 3 v3 KJV)
I think we would all agree that the hardest part of being in isolation is the lack of social interaction. Not being able to meet friends, relatives and colleagues or able to come together to worship.
In my thought for the day yesterday I mentioned that God is with us and love is our bond. 'In the heart where love is abiding God is in that heart'. No one can put restrictions on that. You can imprison the body but not the soul. You can restrict movement but not the imagination. Christians recognise that love is of God and very often love is an attempt at describing God.
Today I am thinking about glory. The definition of glory in the dictionary reads 'Glory; exultation, praise or honour. It can also mean thanksgiving, adoration or worship, as in glory to God.' In the Hebrew context it means much more. Glory means the very personality of God. The Hebrew word is Shekinah and its definition is 'that which dwells.' To the Israelites the 'Ark of the Covenant' represented the very presence of God on earth. The tent that housed it and ultimately the Temple (built by Solomon to house it) were known as the tent of God's presence and in the temple complex where it resided the 'Holy of Holies.'
Of course the Christian understanding is that the very personality of God came in human form, in Jesus of Nazareth. By His Life, Teaching, Death and Resurrection we get to know the very Personality of God and by that share in His Glory.
Yesterday I gave a link to a traditional piece of music that we were going to sing on Maundy Thursday in church. My text for today is Psalm 3 verse 3. Today's link is to a performance by Graham Kendrick of one of his latest songs based on that verse. The song is called 'Holy overshadowing'.
Prayer for today
Heavenly Father, shield us with your love and your glory. Though the storms may rage about us we will be safe within your holy overshadowing. Amen
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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)
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
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
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
'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)