A Daily Reflection

Theological Reflection of Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis for Saturday 8th August 2020

This is my final fling of a reflection. It is time to say Good-Bye. At 5pm tomorrow I shall be licensed to the LMA Bro Dyfri, an area in northern Carmarthenshire stretching from Caio to Myddfai, including Talley, Llandyfry and Llanfair-ar-y-bryn, where the mortal remains of William Williams Pantycelyn are buried. These are the village Churches where I cut my teeth as a Reader in the 1980’s and grew in to Welsh language Ministry in the 1990’s.

This is the area where my ancestor Revd Leyson Lewis served as Curate and then as Vicar in Caio and Llansawel between 1755 and 1784, during the heady days of the Evangelical awakening in Wales which followed the Circulating Schools movement set up by Revd Griffith Jones of Llanddowror, of which William Williams became the great hymnist, Howell Harris of Brecon the exhorter and Evangelist, and Revd Daniel Rowland Langeitho the moderator.

My “patch” will be the Talley group, including Caio and Llansawel, and the Cefn Gwlad of Abergorlech. The beautiful Abbey in Talley was one of the victims of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538. What spiritual work of grace and truth was cut short there, I wonder, and to what extent has the Talley Parish Church been able to carry on that Christian community? My own house, Capel Isaf, used to be the Chapel of Ease and Guesthouse to Talley Abbey for the use of pilgrims travelling between Canterbury and St Davids. I am hopeful of being able to create some elements of Christian community at Capel Isaf, to maintain a work of grace within the community and a place of hospitality, especially as entrance to Church buildings will be rigidly controlled for some time to come.

As I look back at our years at Stradey and in the LMA I have many people to thank. Canon Sian Jones gave her consent to my creation of the Men’s Breakfast, of which Ted Nicholas became our main stay; and to the Lent Course which we pioneered seven years ago, and which grew in to the St Peter’s Church Bible Reading Group; and also to the monthly Ministry of healing there. Thanks to those who shared with me in those Ministries at St Peter’s, and to those in the St Peter’s Prayer Group who gave house room and offered intercession for the Christian Ministry in Llanelli; to all my colleagues, both lay and ordained, in the Ministry team who have shared and supported each of us in our Ministries; and especially to our LMA Dean Canon Huw, with whom it has been such a pleasure and privilege to carry out ministry and mission in the benevolent, gracious and welcoming atmosphere which he has brought to this LMA.

Yn derfynol ond nid y lleiaf, diolch yn fawr i’r cynulleidfa Gymraeg sy’n cwrdd yn Eglwys Elli Sant am eu croeso, cyfeillgarwch a chefnogaeth trwy’r amser. Da bo’ch pawb.

 

Theological Reflection of Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis for Saturday 1st August 2020

Joseph of Arimathea is a name which sounds rather important. He has an attachment to the town of Arimathea (Ramatheim in the Hebrew) about 25 miles North West of Jerusalem. Presumably he had achieved a position in Jewish society which justified his identification as being more than merely a man called Joseph. We know that he had either amassed or inherited some wealth (perhaps both), and that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Counsel which pronounced upon legal, political and theological issues of its time. Saint Luke tells us (23:50-52) that he had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s decision to arrest Jesus and to subject him to trial and to ask Pontius Pilate for the death sentence. To oppose himself to his colleagues and friends in the council at such a turbulent time must have demanded great sense of purpose and determination. When Jesus died Joseph immediately went to see Pontius Pilate (who by then would have been bitterly fed up with the Jews) and requested the body of Jesus. That in itself is quite remarkable. The Sanhedrin had succeeded in controlling Pontius Pilate in the morning. Would they not have wanted him to dispose of the corpse in the most dismissive manner possible? So Joseph had to act quickly. Presumably he presented himself as being agent for Mary, the mother of the deceased, and one who would relieve the Roman occupying power of the responsibility of disposing of the body. This must have infuriated the Sanhedrin, but the Gospel records tell us nothing about that aspect of the story.

 

Then, still ministering to the dignity and grief of Mary and her family, Joseph conferred upon the family’s severed connection with their beloved son the highly personal honour of dedicating his own prepared tomb to the body of Jesus.

Joseph’s behaviour throughout demonstrates real consistency and integrity in a very aggressive and intimidating atmosphere in which the Jewish leaders were manipulating everyone they could. No wonder Saint Luke describes Joseph as being “a good and upright man”, with the inference of being one who does not bend under pressure. He was furthermore, Luke tells us, “waiting for the kingdom of God”. For Luke the kingdom of God was always about God’s holiness, compassion and spiritual power transforming attitudes and behaviour of both individuals and society. Undoubtedly Joseph was a man after Luke’s heart.

The collect dedicated to Joseph on 31st July seeks to embrace the essence of his story. The Church fathers hold that it was by God’s grace that Joseph “overcame fear and anxiety to bury the body of his Lord”

Grace obviously played a significant part in the life and character of Joseph. We use the word grace a lot in Church services and meetings. How much grace do we receive from God? What difference has that grace made to our lives? In receiving grace only one thing is necessary. It is the capacity to trust God, our Heavenly Father. If we can do that God will pour his grace upon us, much more than is suggested by the secular negative line “There but by the grace of God go I”. In personal and practical matters, in the protection and restoration of human relationships, for help in hard times, in personal spiritual growth, and in the fulfilment of ministerial vocations, God gives grace generously and unconditionally to all who seek his face.

 

Daily Reflection 31st July 2020 – Ezekiel 20:21–38

21 kBut the children lrebelled against me. mThey did not walk in my statutes and were not careful to obey my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; they profaned my Sabbaths.

n“Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the wilderness. 22 oBut I withheld my hand pand acted for the sake of my name, qthat it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. 23 rMoreover, sI swore to them in the wilderness tthat I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them through the countries, 24 because they had not obeyed my rules, but had rejected my statutes and profaned my Sabbaths, uand their eyes were set on their fathers’ idols. 25 vMoreover, I gave them statutes that were not good and rules by which they could not have life, 26 and I defiled them through wtheir very gifts win their offering up all their firstborn, that I might devastate them. I did it xthat they might know that I am the Lord.

27 “Therefore, yson of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: In this also your fathers blasphemed me, by zdealing treacherously with me. 28 For when I had brought them into the land that aI swore to give them, then wherever they saw bany high hill or any leafy tree, there they offered their sacrifices and there they presented cthe provocation of their offering; there they sent up their pleasing aromas, and there they poured out their drink offerings. 29 (I said to them, d‘What is the high place to which you go?’ So its name is called Bamah2 to this day.)

30 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: eWill you defile yourselves after the manner of your fathers and go fwhoring after their detestable things? 31 When you present your gifts and goffer up your children in fire,3 you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And hshall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? iAs I live, declares the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you.

32 j“What is in your mind shall never happen—the thought, k‘Let us be like the nations, like the tribes of the countries, land worship wood and stone.’

The Lord Will Restore Israel

33 i“As I live, declares the Lord God, msurely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and nwith wrath poured out I will be king over you. 34 oI will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out. 35 pAnd I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, qand there I will enter into judgment with you rface to face. 36 sAs I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you, declares the Lord God. 37 I will make you tpass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. 38 uI will purge out the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against me. vI will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, wbut they shall not enter the land of Israel. xThen you will know that I am the Lord.

When we read the old testament it becomes clear that the children of Israel never really learn their lesson. Many times they found themselves at odd with what God expected of them and suffered terrible consequences. There were times when all seemed to repent, when all was good again, but within a few generations it had all fallen apart again.

Today’s passage from Ezekiel reminded us of their many failings and historically how they had failed God. But is it important to note that God never gives up on them and gives them chance upon chance to redeem themselves. This culminates with the coming of Christ for the salvation of all. Again and again, the chance is offered and time after time many people ignored it. It appears that Ezekiel in telling this has grasped the circular nature of human existence. Human history seems to become like a wheel with the same mistakes and the persistence of moral and spiritual failings.

It becomes clear that as the history of the Israelites progressed that things could not always be blamed on the wheel of history turning, set in motion by the failures of those who went before.  The wheel kept (and keeps) turning because of each generation adds to its momentum. This is as true today as it was 2000 years ago.

History is sometimes less valuable in explaining the past as it is indicting a direction for the future. It is one thing to know where we have come from, but another to know what to do to move in another direction. As we look at returning to our churches, we may want to consider how we can use the lessons learned in the distant past and perhaps more importantly in recent years to consider where we go now, how are we going to change the direction of the wheel and actually put into practice the lessons of the past to create a new history.

But what ever happens, we can be sure that God will be with us on our journey, perhaps we might try not to disappoint him yet again.

 

Reflection on the Feast of St Silas – Rev’d Glenys Payne

Acts 16 25-31   Paul and Silas in Prison

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer[e] called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

My Chains are gone – I’ve been set free! We find these words often in hymns. The modern version of Amazing Grace has a chorus beginning with these words. Yet again another one of my favourite hymns! It always reminds me of the story above when St. Paul was on his second missionary journey, a well-known story! But if you’d asked me before this week who was with him, I may have struggled to remember.

Many people know St. Paul and the many other well-known saints; a person can’t read the New Testament without getting to know them. But how many people have heard of St. Silas? While it’s easy to find information about the well-known saints like Paul, there are hundreds of lesser-known saints about whom we know very little.

We don’t know much about Silas, whose feast we celebrate today, but the information we do have comes from the Acts of the Apostles. Silas was a highly regarded member of the Christian community in Jerusalem. Paul chose Silas to accompany him on what we now know as his “Second Missionary Journey” (Acts 15:40). In Philippi, Paul and Silas were charged with causing a disturbance, flogged, and imprisoned. During the night, they were freed from prison by an earthquake. After baptizing their jailer and his family, they fled to Berea and Paul eventually made his way to Athens; Silas and Timothy later joined him in Corinth (Acts 17:13-15; 8:5). Other than references to Silas (referenced in various epistles under his Roman name, Silvanus), we don’t hear more about Silas in Scripture. Various traditions from the Early Church claim that he died in Macedonia after serving as bishop of Corinth.

We can learn a lot from the lesser saints about the important role that nearly all of us play in the life of the Church: working “behind the scenes,” very few of us, clergy or laity, will ever really hold any far-reaching authority. This work behind the scenes doesn’t mean that the gifts, we have aren’t important. Quite the opposite is true—they are essential. The Church can really only be healthy when each member—like Saint Silas—does his part and gives their best.

Saint Paul tells us: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all for them in everyone” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).

May Saint Silas and all the countless ‘behind-the-scenes’ saints whose names are known only to God guide us as we discern how to best use our individual gifts for the good of our communities, especially in these difficult times that we find ourselves in today.

 

Daily Reflection 29th July 2020 – Matthew 13. 44-46

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Two of the shortest parables in the gospels, both with similar endings but with different ways of getting there. We know that the kingdom of heaven is the ultimate goal, but the man with a field stumbles across it and the merchant with the pearl has spent his lifetime looking for it.

These are two opposing ways that people come to faith, some stumble upon it but some spend their lives seeking wholeness and spiritual satisfaction. Each one of us will have our own variation on how we came to faith. Today the church remembers social reformers and William Wilberforce in particular and we might want to consider how many people have come to follow Christ through the examples of others. Wilberforce saw that slavery was abhorrent, and while he was not alone in thinking that way, it was not a widely held belief at the time. His dislike of the practice stemmed from a strong faith and a desire for justice and respect for all.

Many other campaigners and activists for social justice and reform have followed this path because of a faith in Christ that leads them to pursue and agenda that promotes fairness to all, this comes from a love for Christ and an understanding that what we do for one another we do for Him. No true Christian should stand by and be silent when people are truly being repressed and suffering indignity and injustice. The examples we set as Christians, be they good or bad, will be noticed by those around us. By setting a bad example we obviously do nobody any favours, ourselves included. But, when we set a good example, not only are we helping others.  We may be helping someone in their long search for the kingdom of heaven or inspiring them to start looking.

 

Daily Reflection 28th July 2020 – 2 Corinthians 11. 16-33

Paul’s Sufferings as an Apostle

16 I repeat, let no one think that I am a fool; but if you do, then accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying in regard to this boastful confidence, I am saying not with the Lord’s authority, but as a fool; 18 since many boast according to human standards,[a] I will also boast. 19 For you gladly put up with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you put up with it when someone makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or gives you a slap in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

But whatever anyone dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. 24 Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters;[b] 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. 28 And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant?

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus (blessed be he forever!) knows that I do not lie. 32 In Damascus, the governor[c] under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to[d] seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall,[e] and escaped from his hands.

The end of St. Pauls second letter to the Church in Corinth seems rather odd on first reading. Paul is boasting about how he has suffered at the hands of those to whom he has tried to preach the Gospel to. Why would someone need to boast about how they have suffered? There are occasions when people try to out do each others, Students at seminaries often find themselves trying to play a game of one-upmanship in order to prove who is the most devout, but this is perhaps not the case with St. Paul.

Paul is trying to prove his credentials as an apostle to a society that is sometimes hostile, it is clear that he does not really wish to behave this way but feels that he needs to show people exactly what he has suffered whilst trying to do his duty and establish his credentials by way of his persecution. Part of the hostility that Paul faces comes from people who claim to follow Christ but plainly don’t.  These are teachers that have usurped the teachings of Christ to preserve the status quo and to maintain their own positions in authority.

We don’t have to boast about our own scars to communicate our faith, but we need to acknowledge them and how we have been shaped by our experiences of life. However, we need to be careful that we are not just promoting the status quo, when really there is a need for change. Things cannot go on as they have done before, our churches need to be dynamic and responsive to the society that we live in, we don’t have to agree with societies demands, but we should respond to them and change where needed in order to continue the work of the Apostles of old. Claims that we as individuals or we as a church body hold the moral high ground are dangerous and often misguided, when faced by those who bear the scars of life. The church as Christ body on earth has the power to heal and restore, to make whole the unwholesome. It can guide people towards the truth and the light, but only when we all acknowledge our own failings and our own scars.

 

Daily Reflection 27th July 2020 – Matthew 13.13-35

The Mustard Seed and the Leaven

31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

Prophecy and Parables

34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:[a]

Many of us will be familiar with the above parables. We have probably heard many sermons preached on them over the years. We all know that the smallest glimmer of faith can lead to amazing growth that can sustain, nourish and spread. Many a Sunday school lesson has no doubt been illustrated by the attempt to grow something to illustrate the parable of the mustard seed. Perhaps the more adventurous even tried to bake bread, who knows?

What is often not understood is that there is a reason why the mustard seed was used in the parable. It is not as is often thought, the smallest of the seeds, that title is held by the cypress tree. But it was commonly used in the time of Christ as an illustration of something small. It was often used when someone was accused of breaking one of the many rules that governed daily life. A transgression “as small as a mustard seed” was enough for an individual to find themselves condemned by those who interpreted the religious law of the day. It would have been a very common turn of phrase and those who had heard it would have been well aware of its meaning.

Christ’s use of the mustard seed image is the one that we are familiar with, but if we turn it around and look at how it was used by the scribes, we are reminded of the damage that a small thing can do.  One small thing that is unwholesome can grow and destroy, sins can be forgiven, but their effects on others can grow and bear sour and bitter fruit.

From minute objects, mighty objects can grow. But let us make sure that what we plant is good and wholesome, not evil and destructive.

 

Theological Reflection of Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis for Saturday 25th July 2020

Today is the feast day of St James the Apostle. That is not a very helpful introduction, because there were two Apostles called James. One of them, the son of Alphaeus, has traditionally been known as St James the Less; whereas the Apostle whose life and work we celebrate today has not surprisingly been referred to as Saint James the Great, son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of St John the Evangelist.

James and John were fishermen from the Bethsaida-Capernaum area along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where they shared in the family business run by their father, who also employed hired men from outside the family. Both Mathew and Mark record Jesus calling James and his brother John to follow him (having already called Peter and Andrew from their fishing business, with the promise that they would become fishers of men instead). James and the others all obeyed the call, and left their fishing business at once. We do not know how radical a departure this was. It cannot have been either total or final, because the Gospel records give accounts of later fishing and boating expeditions of the twelve Disciples and Jesus. Nor do we know whether or not they were able to receive any financial allowance from the family business in the future. What is quite clear, however, is that James and the others then gave up any ambition to live by fishing or to develop the business in to a successful financial enterprise. Increasingly their time and their direction in life would become focussed on Jesus and his mission.

St Mark tells us that Jesus appointed twelve of his Disciples to be with him and to be sent out to preach and to have authority to cast out demons. They were designated Apostles, from the Greek work “Apostello” = to send. This suggests that their primary concern was to be outward. Nonetheless, some of the passages in the Gospel records reveal Jesus teaching his Disciples, eating and relaxing with them, travelling in company; in other words, the element of being with Jesus was also important. There seem to be four tiers of attachment: the wider body of Disciples whose commitment to Jesus was difficult to assess; the twelve Apostles; the inner circle of Peter, James and John; and John, the Disciple whom Jesus loved.

James was ultimately to pay for his devotion to Jesus with his life (see Acts 12:2). Beforehand, however, James would have had the benefit of Jesus teaching him and his fellow Disciples, listening to Jesus’s sermons in synagogues, house and in the open air; watching him heal the sick, cast out demons and even raise the dead (at least three) back to life. Although not a witness to the death of Jesus (unlike his brother John), he was a witness to the resurrected Jesus, was present at his ascension and at the gift of the Holy Spirit during the feast of Pentecost.

As a strapline I suggest the phrase “Deeper In, Further Out”. The more our lives are offered up to the risen Jesus Christ, the more our lives will be touched, renewed, healed and remade in his image, and the more it will be natural for us to be his witnesses in ways which are convincing to our fellow humans. I conclude with the collect for the day:

Merciful God, whose Holy Apostle St James, leaving his father and all that he had, was obedient to the calling of your son Jesus Christ and followed him even to death; help us, forsaking the false attractions of the world, to be ready at all times to answer your call without delay; through Jesus Christ our Lord who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

Daily Reflection 24th July 2020 -Jeremiah 3. 14-18.

14 Return, O faithless children,
says the Lord,
    for I am your master;
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
    and I will bring you to Zion.

15 I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made. 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will. 18 In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your ancestors for a heritage.

At the time that the prophet Jeremiah was active, the whole of the middle east was in a certain amount of turmoil. The reign of King Josiah started well enough with a reform movement that was designed to reunite the northern and southern tribes and put an end to pagan worship and practices. Sadly, after the death of Josiah things started to unravel and the efforts that had been made to bring unity to Israel faded and events happened that led to the Babylonian exile.

We can see echoes of the above in our world today and certainly in our churches. Over the centuries prophets, teachers, kings and Christ himself have taught the need to keep focused and remain true to our faith as one body, one church. While it is true that we may not always agree on the details or even the doctrine, our belief and understanding of the teachings of Christ and the inspiration and education that we can glean from the scriptures will lead us on the right path if we work together as children of God.  The church should be bigger than a few individuals and while it is true to say everyone has differing roles, these roles should help us pull together not apart. We may find things that we disagree with, we may find things that we actively dislike. It is highly likely that similar feelings were being found among the tribes of Israel two and a half thousand years ago. Yet for a while unity reigned and things went well. Things only took a turn for the worse when those who had been united, found themselves split and factionalised again.

We are approaching a time when we will be able to worship together again in our churches, as we return to this, let us all keep in mind the need to go forward together, one church, one faith, one Lord.

 

Reflection on the Feast of Saint Bridget of Sweden. 23rd July 2020 – Rev’d Glenys Payne

As many of you may know, one of my greatest loves is music, especially singing hymns and Christian songs. We have been very fortunate during lock down to be able to follow services on face book or on television and listen to a variety of singing praises to the Glory of God. Sadly for some of us it’s not quite the same as singing them together in the company of others in Church.

Many people find great comfort and guidance in the Psalms. One of the chosen Psalms for today is 146 where we will find these words at the very beginning, as you will find in many of the psalms: v 1-2

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord O my soul!

I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.”

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Bridget the Patron Saint of Sweden who was the daughter of a wealthy governor, who was generous with his money to help the poor. Bridget, who was born in 1303, learned these lessons early in life. She married into the Swedish royal family and lovingly raised eight children, one of whom came to be known as St. Catherine of Sweden. Bridget and her husband followed her father’s example of caring for people in need. When her husband died, Bridget gave away all her possessions so that she could give to the poor. She also founded a double monastery for men and women who lived apart, but worshipped together. The religious order was known as the Most Holy Saviour.

Some of the words in Psalm 146 are also very fitting for Saint Bridget: v 5-7

“Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps faith for ever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry”.

I’m sure we all come across co-incidences, but I like to call them God – incidences. As we are still under the umbrella of the many issues relating to the Covid 19 pandemic it is interesting to hear that when Bridget learned of an epidemic in Rome, she made a pilgrimage there to assist the sick and the dying. How fitting that we should be remembering her work as we give thanks to those unknown heroes who have worked so hard during the pandemic for the good of others. While in Rome, she spoke out against the injustices she saw and worked to change situations that kept all people from living a good life. Her words and actions influenced government and Church officials.

Bridget also made another pilgrimage to the Holy Land where she experienced Christ’s presence in prayer visions. We see in the Saints what life is supposed to look like. May St. Bridget remind us and help us to build our lives and families firmly in service to the Lord for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

As we think of Saint Bridget today, we think of her making those pilgrimages for the good of many people by serving them in the best way she could. It reminds me of one of my many favourite hymns which I hope we will be singing together again soon.

“Brother, sister, let me serve you; let me be as Christ to you;

pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey, and companions on the road;

we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.”

Daily Reflection 22nd July 2020 – John 20. 1,2,11-18

20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look[a] into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew,[b] “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Throughout our lives we will probably, if we have not already, experience events that transform our us. Times when we go from a feeling of surety to one of unknowing, these may happen quickly or they take place over weeks or months but still a dawning realisation that things would never be as they were before.

We see such a change in today’s reading, one that we often hear around Eastertime. To see it crop up again today is a good reminder that we are a post-Easter Church. Without the death and resurrection of Christ, we would not exist. The whole idea of the empty tomb is something that we should always remember. Our faith is grounded in the man who death could not hold.

Mary Magdalene, whose feast we celebrate today is a complex character. There is a tradition that she was a prostitute who was saved by Jesus, rumours abound that she may have been Jesus’ wife, both of these thoughts are probably wrong. She is an important figure in the gospel narratives, mentioned by name more times than most of the other Apostles. We can understand from what we read that she was certainly close to Jesus and was present as a witness at his crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Not only this but she was the first person to see the risen Christ and was the one who went and told the others what had occurred.

With the events of the previous few days still clear in her mind, Mary must have been in a state of great shock and worry. Her life had been turned upside down by what had happened, the realisation that Jesus was the Messiah had become apparent to her and yet now her beloved friend and teacher had been executed alongside common criminals.

Mary returned to the tomb after the other disciples had gone and it was her return that means that Mary was the first person to see the risen Christ although she did not know it at first. It does make you wonder why she failed to recognise the person whom she loved so much and had spent so much time with?  There are perhaps a few ways we could think about this. One is that Mary could not recognise Jesus because of her tears, they had blinded her to the point that she could not see who was standing there.  When we lose someone dear to us there is always a sense of loss in our hearts and tears, shed and unshed in our eyes. Now there is nothing wrong with shedding tears but perhaps we might want to be mindful of the fact that it is our loneliness and our loss we are weeping for. We cannot be weeping for someone who has gone to be with God. It is for ourselves that we weep, natural and inevitable it may be but at the same time we need to be aware that our tears can blind us to the glory of Heaven. Tears there must be, but through these tears we should glimpse Glory.

Perhaps the other reason Mary failed to recognise Christ was that with her tear- filled eyes she had turned her back on Him and was facing the tomb. Again, it can be the case with ourselves, at times we can spend too long staring at the cold earth of the grave and forget that the person whom we love will be with God. We can forget the heavens and concentrate too much on the earth.

Mary’s grief disappeared when she realised with whom she was standing. Fear and anguish were instantly replaced with joy and hope once she had dried her eyes, turned around and seen Christ standing there.  Mary must have known that things had changed but lifted from her sorrow of loss and confusion she could see that all would be well. This is something that we might like to consider at times of great change in our own lives. We can spend time grieving over our loss and over what has gone before, but we are called to see the hope that change can bring. There are times when this hope may be hard, almost impossible to see but it will be there. And we must not forget who is always standing with us even though our concerns over the future or our tears are making us blind to the fact. Although it may be hard to do sometimes, we can turn away from our concerns, from our upsets or our grief and then as Mary found, we will see that we are standing there with Christ.

 

Daily Reflection 21st July 2020 – Matthew 12. 46-50

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers[a] stood outside, asking to speak to him.[b] 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

This is one of those passages in scripture that is known about by most people, they may not know the quote exactly, they may not be able to find the passage in the bible straight away, but the gist of what it says will be familiar to most people that profess a Christian faith and many that don’t.

It is perhaps one those passages about which nothing new can really be said. There is not much to takeaway from the passage apart from its obvious message and hints in other parts of the new testament that Jesus’ family never really understood what he was doing.

This all said, the message that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ is one that often needs repeating, sadly it can be quite obvious that the spirit of Christian kinship can be sadly lacking in the wider world, as it can be in our church communities.  This is not just a modern issue, today the Church remembers Howell Harris, one of the leaders of the Welsh Revival in the 18th Century. Although he and others had great success, their work was often hampered by narrowmindedness and hostility.

Who knows, if we are on the cusp of the Welsh Revival of 2021? It would be nice to think that we are. But we are on the edge of a new era for the church, post-covid will be a very different time to what went before. But, we can seize the opportunities that are presented to us and work as a church family, together, in harmony and remember that we truly are brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Daily Reflection 19th July 2020 – Matthew 12.38-42

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Those that were questioning Jesus were demanding a miraculous sign of his power and authority. This was the nature of the time, people wanted to see something amazing and would not believe with out such evidence, claims needed to be backed up by a huge supernatural event. The mistake that the Jews around Jesus were making was that they wished to see God in the ‘Abnormal’ and failed to realise that we are never nearer God, and God never shows himself to us so much and so continuously as in the ordinary things of everyday.

Jesus’ response to the scribes and the Pharisees is a tremendous truth, Jesus is God’s sign, just as Jonah was God’s message to the people of Ninevah and Solomon was God’s wisdom to the Queen of Sheba. Jesus is the sign to us that despite all that is going on in the world, all will be okay. There is no need for a colossal event from the heavens, or a fantastic happening. Jesus is the sign of God that is all around us, in all of creation. If we want truth, look around us. Our faith in Christ is faith in the truth, our evidence is in all that He has done for us and continues to do.

 

Theological Reflection of Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis for Saturday 18th July 2020

I believe that the word “Ecology” made its first appearance in the English language in 1873. By 1973 it had established its place within the biological sciences. Interestingly, we hardly hear or read its name today. Instead, the other E-word, Environment, has become perhaps the most critical issue of our time. Wild fires in Australia and South America, flash floods in Great Britain (as well as in the Indian sub-continent) melting of the Arctic Ice Cap…. the list goes on and on. We now know that those things are consequences of Global Warming, which in turn to some extent has been caused by a release of carbon dioxide in to the atmosphere.

The Christian Church has not been leading the way in engaging with these issues of critical importance. This is ironical, because the very idea of creation of the world by God demands our concern about its capacities and limitations. Historically, scientists in the West until the late 18th century pursued their observations in a theological context. By the late 19th century the Church was losing confidence in the creation accounts of Genesis in the face of growing acceptance of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Taken alongside the widespread harnessing of science and technology together to enable the advance of agricultural and industrial processes, it is after all not so surprising that as confidence in creation waned, interest in balances of nature – Ecology – should grow.

In the face of all these challenges, confidence in the Old Testament as a reliable theological resource became less secure, and it was not until the mid-20th century that western Christianity experienced a revival of interest in the great themes contained within it. We are aware now how easily the commands of God to humanity to subdue the earth and have dominion over the lower animals slip in to exploitation and domination.

A thorough ecological repentance is absolutely essential. In the face of denial by some world leaders it still seems as difficult to achieve as ever. Let us pray for the movers and shakers who are currently slumbering to wake up to the harsh realities which confront them.

 

Daily Reflection 17th July 2020 – Ezekiel 8

In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord God fell upon me there. I looked, and there was a figure that looked like a human being;[a] below what appeared to be its loins it was fire, and above the loins it was like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming amber. It stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my head; and the spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north, to the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy. And the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I had seen in the valley.

Then God[b] said to me, “O mortal, lift up your eyes now in the direction of the north.” So I lifted up my eyes toward the north, and there, north of the altar gate, in the entrance, was this image of jealousy. He said to me, “Mortal, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? Yet you will see still greater abominations.”

And he brought me to the entrance of the court; I looked, and there was a hole in the wall. Then he said to me, “Mortal, dig through the wall”; and when I dug through the wall, there was an entrance. He said to me, “Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.” 10 So I went in and looked; there, portrayed on the wall all around, were all kinds of creeping things, and loathsome animals, and all the idols of the house of Israel. 11 Before them stood seventy of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the fragrant cloud of incense was ascending. 12 Then he said to me, “Mortal, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of images? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.’” 13 He said also to me, “You will see still greater abominations that they are committing.”

14 Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the Lord; women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz. 15 Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O mortal? You will see still greater abominations than these.”

16 And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord; there, at the entrance of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east, prostrating themselves to the sun toward the east. 17 Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O mortal? Is it not bad enough that the house of Judah commits the abominations done here? Must they fill the land with violence, and provoke my anger still further? See, they are putting the branch to their nose! 18 Therefore I will act in wrath; my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; and though they cry in my hearing with a loud voice, I will not listen to them.”

I was in a neighbours house just before Christmas for a spot of festive fare with a few of the families that live near by. As is my custom, I was in clerical shirt and collar. One of the questions that I got asked was, “You’re a vicar then.” I confirmed the fact that I was a cleric (trying to explain what a curate is as opposed to a vicar was often far too complex to consider in social situations, eyes would glaze over before the first sentence was finished). The reply came “So you believe in God then?”.  I resisted the urge to sport with this person and reply, “No, not really, I joined the church because I enjoy working Christmas day and I like wearing a dress on a Sunday” and answered them in the affirmative that, yes I did believe in God and yes I did go to church. What followed was a brief conversation about this individual’s faith and beliefs.

What often becomes clear in these situations is that religion has sadly become a bit of a smorgasbord of choice and selection for many, with a personal belief that encompasses elements from several religions, liberally garnished with a scattering of new-age nonsense and assorted funny ideas.

Ezekiel’s vision of Jerusalem talks of him seeing the temple filled with idols and offerings, God was still present but was being driven out by the false gods of the people. From a biblical perspective a temple can only be to one god. If two are present one will eventually depart. If false gods remain, the true God will depart. Yet if the true God remains the false gods will wither and fade.

We know that God does not actually depart from anywhere, just as we know that God does not dwell in one place or church alone (although many don’t always seem to grasp this). Yet our receptiveness to God will diminish, our ability to feel his presence will fade if we let ourselves become tempted to acknowledge and worship false idols, be they ‘spiritual’, physical or financial. This is true for the temple as it is for our churches today. It is also true for ourselves as living temples to the one true God. If we let other things in, we will find that we can no longer find God.

While the Christian faith is varied and can be experienced in many sound and satisfying ways, we might want to remember that our belief is centred on the Trinitarian God alone in all His wonderful aspects and it is to this that we worship, pray and serve. This is what we should teach and bear witness to in the hope and expectation that the false idols are driven out, cast down and destroyed.

 

Daily Reflection 16th July 2020 – Matthew 11:28-30 – Rev’d Glenys Payne

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We can all feel weary by carrying heavy burdens, especially with the many issues relating to the pandemic. The good news is we don’t have to carry them alone! In our reading today, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Sometimes we hold on to our burdens and try to carry them ourselves, but Jesus will help us, if we let Him.

What kind of rest was Jesus offering? Jesus offers an invitation to a different way of life, a different way of faith. Not a faith that burdens and breaks, but a faith that refreshes and renews. How does this passage speak to us today?

Jesus is NOT offering the rest of inactivity. He’s not saying, “You deserve a break. Come and kick off your shoes and relax with me.” Jesus is not offering us a luxurious holiday or a day at the spa. He’s not offering us an escape from life; he’s offering us a different way of dealing with life. Jesus is not offering to completely relieve us from carrying burdens. Whether it’s the burden of illness, bereavement, the burden of making ends meet or the burden of being good enough, we will have always have burdens. Even Jesus knows there’s no such thing as a burden-free life. The issue is not if we shall be burdened. The issue is what we are burdened with and how we are going to bear those burdens.

Jesus’ invitation, which can seem contradictory, is to ‘Come and find rest…by taking up this yoke!’ What is Jesus inviting us to do? Is it to rest or is it to take up His yoke?

The key to understanding this part of the invitation is the concept of the yoke. I love the way Jesus uses parables to get His point across. A yoke was a piece of wood that joined together two oxen to make a team for pulling a plough or a wagon. The Greek word Jesus uses for “easy” also means “well-fitting.” As a carpenter, Jesus would have made a lot of yokes in his day. The ox was brought to the shop, and the measurements were taken. The yoke was then roughed out, and the ox was brought back to have the yoke tried on. The yoke was carefully adjusted so that it would fit well, and wouldn’t chafe and rub the ox’s neck. The yoke was tailor-made to fit the ox.

Jesus knows what burdens us: our anxieties and our fears, our temptations and our responsibilities, our failures and our guilt. And he offers here to lift our heavy burdens and replace them. He offers to take off the yoke of obligation that sits ill-fitting on our shoulders and instead replace it with his easy yoke. But what makes Jesus’ yoke easier than the ones we already are burdened with? That’s the amazing thing: a yoke is made for two. This yoke is not one that Jesus imposes upon us, as some Christians feel but one that he wears with us. When Jesus offers us his yoke to carry, he’s offering to become our yokemate, he’s offering for us to learn how to bear the burden by working beside him. He’s saying that the heaviness of life will seem lighter if we are willing to share it with him by worshipping him, spending time with him in prayer, reading his story.

Whenever I feel burdened, which is very often, I find singing hymns a great comfort before spending time in prayer. In 1815 an Irish man Joseph Scriven found he was carrying many heavy burdens and migrated to Canada. Whilst there he wrote a poem to his terribly ill mother, called “Pray without Ceasing” and was later put to music. This is one of my many favourite hymns:-

“What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear

What a privilege to carry, Everything to God in prayer”

Oh, what peace we often forfeit Oh, what needless pain we bear

All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer

 

Daily Reflection 15th July 2020 – Matthew 11:25-27

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Is Jesus really condemning the wise and the learned here? Should we not try and understand more about our faith and how our church has become what it is today? Absolutely not, what Christ is condemning is intellectual arrogance and pride. This is the unbending thoughts of those who are absolutely sure that they are correct and no one else is. There is a place in our faith for both the head and the heart, we should be keen to discover more and to broaden our ideas about how we practice our beliefs, but the Gospels place is in our hearts and no our heads.

There is always a place for rational thought in our lives, but this is thoughts and ideas that can grow, change and blossom according to our lived experiences.  When we shut our minds to new expressions and ideas we may feel wise and we may think that we understand and know what is best. But we don’t, we have taken our eyes of the truth that is revealed in the love of God for his creation the revelation of Christ. Perhaps when we feel that we have all the answers, we should look deeply at ourselves and ask “Is it really the Good News”?  Who knows, we may find that we surprise ourselves sometimes.

 

Daily Reflection 14th July 2020 – Psalm 107 

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So

107 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    whom he has redeemed from trouble[a]
and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,
    finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty,
    their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
    till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
    and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
    and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
    they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
    and burst their bonds apart.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze
    and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
    and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
    doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
    his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
    which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
    their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
    and were at their wits’ end.[b]
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters[c] were quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
    and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33 He turns rivers into a desert,
    springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
    because of the evil of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
    a parched land into springs of water.
36 And there he lets the hungry dwell,
    and they establish a city to live in;
37 they sow fields and plant vineyards
    and get a fruitful yield.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
    and he does not let their livestock diminish.

39 When they are diminished and brought low
    through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
    and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of affliction
    and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad,
    and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
    let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

 

How often do we really think about what God has provided for us? You only have to spend a few minutes walking around Llanelli Town centre to see individuals who quite obviously lack the basics of existence. Evidence is often found around the back of St. Elli that points to the desperation and depredations that some people experience on a daily basis. We may have struggles with our health, our relationships, finances, with life in general in fact. But the majority of those who will read this will be far blessed beyond the imagination of many in our town.

This Psalm gives examples of those who have been rescued by the Lord and those who have found that their positions of privilege have been swept away. Those who have been saved all shared a common thread, they all found themselves crying out for help from God and they found themselves safe. Part of this is a realisation that despite what ever is going on in their lives, be it good or bad, they do not have all the answers. They need to accept that there is a power far greater than anything that exists on earth.

We might want to consider what this Psalm means in our contemporary society. Where are the injustices, where is the pain? What can we do about them? Wisdom observes, we reflect, but this reflection is meant to lead to action. God is described here as active in building and planting and we are invited to play our part in cultivating a world so that all may flourish. We are all well blessed with material things compared to others, but we are really and truly blessed with a faith that can allow us to overcome difficulty and persevere in times of trouble. We are blessed with a hope that so many in our society do not posses and who try and get through life with faith in possessions, their own will power or sadly substances that block out reality.

There is a mechanism by which change can happen, the hope that is found in Christ can be shared. Our reflections can lead to action for change in our communities. By our witness we can bring a flicker of light to those who live in dark places, that exist in many, many forms. We can reflect on just how well provided for we are, how blessed we are and we can give thanks for the knowledge and love of God that that allows us this privileged position.

 

Daily Reflection 13th July 2020 – Matthew 10:34-42

Not Peace, but a Sword

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Rewards

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

 

There is an old saying that goes along the lines of “Behind every successful man is a great woman.” It has been attributed to people such as Wellington, Elinor Roosevelt and William Gladstone. We may quibble with the correctness of the quote in our modern society, but the sentiment is correct however you look at it.

We can’t all be obvious heroes, we can’t all be the centre of attention although many may try. Talents and skills differ from person to person and we all have our role to play in our world, some roles are in the public gaze while some go through their lives playing their part, unsung and unrecognised. Yet without the support of others, no one on earth can achieve greatness and we cannot fulfil our potential without help.

Jesus recognises this, both the differences between people and importance that we all play in bringing the Gospel to the world. Some may not be able to communicate the good news as effectively as others, but can support those who do. He tells us that our parts in the mission of God are all of vital importance, no matter what we do to support it.

As we start looking at how we can begin to worship together again, we have chance to look at what we can do to enable the light of Christ to shine out around our communities. We may not be the one holding the torch, but we can be the ones in the background with the spare batteries. We may not be able to attend worship ourselves, but we can tell others what is going on. Safe in the knowledge that we are doing our bit, by being the ‘Greatness’ behind the ‘Success’.

 

Theological of Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis for Saturday July 11th 2020

 

A significant but little-noticed feature of the first chapter of Genesis is that they contain two accounts of the creation. Surprisingly for modern Western readers, the older account is that in Chapter 2 (from Verse 4) and the later account is that in Chapter 1.

They emphasise substantially different matters, although the over-arching theme is the same in both. It is God who creates Heavens and the earth, plant life, animals and humans. Consequently the whole creation is God’s possession. This is not a popular idea in the contemporary world view. Particularly at a time in history when many nations are reviewing the shamefulness of slavery, the implication of humanity belonging to God is not a comfortable idea. It is a reassurance, therefore, to read in both accounts distinctive features about the nature of the human being and our place in the creation.

First, in both accounts, humankind has a central place, in as much as God created the earth for humanity.

Secondly, both accounts describe the nature of the human being in ways which imply the expectation of some kind of relationship with our creator. Last week I referred to the “Image and Likeness” feature in Chapter 1. In Chapter 2 the Lord God forms the man from the dust of the ground (something of which Richard Dawkins could almost approve), and breathed in to his nostrils the breath of life. Basic biology – but not quite. It is God’s breath which gives life to the man of dust, who thereby becomes a living being. No attempt to explain the precise meaning or implication of this is given, but there is no doubt that some kind of divine-human connection was intended to be understood. As a race, humanity is not the mere possession of God. Both relation to God and relationship with him are being declared here. That sets the human being apart from mere animals, who are said to have been formed from the dust of the ground, but without mention of God’s breath.

It is widely believed (but not quite correctly) that mankind’s relation to God and potential for relationship with him imply that we are constituted of body and soul, the body being mortal and the soul immortal. Yet in Chapter 1 it is the whole human being who is made in the image of God (with no reference to soul); and in Chapter 2 Verse 7 the physical body and the breath-life of God breathed in to it are combined in to one soul or living being in which neither element is considered capable of living without the other. Moreover, Verse 17 of Chapter 2 contains the warning that if the man abused the nature of the gift of the garden and his life he would die. There is no indication that his physical nature would die, leaving a disembodied immortal spirit. That belief comes from the Greek philosopher Plato and his theory of immortality of the soul, which, owning to the Renaissance of classical learning and culture in the 15th and 16th centuries, has infiltrated our pre-superstitions in the way we have approached the reading of the Bible. The Hebrew understanding of humanity in the Old Testament is primarily that the human being is one whole person. It is noteworthy that in the Gospels Jesus is recorded as ministering to people’s bodies as well as to their beliefs and attitudes, and he commanded his Disciples to do likewise. St. Paul, who was one of the finest Old Testament Scholars of his time, told the Christians in Corinth that now we have an ensouled body. His view of salvation was ultimately that of the whole person, which would one day bear the form of an enspirited body (see 1 Corinthians 15:44) it will need a separate Theological Reflection to develop this theme.

 

Some rumblings from the organ loft….. Andrew Pike 10th July 2020

 

Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thing honour dwelleth.

 

Words form psalm 28, that have been on my mind the last week or so, particularly last Tuesday, when I was sitting in the Church of St Elli watching and praying. A place throughout the centuries that has held the worship of the faithful, the silent prayers offered up, a place for the family of Gods people.

 

I wondered what it was like in years past, the first site being a monastery with Holy men contained within its walls, then its development, and what buildings followed. The site has had many buildings of worship on it since.

It came to me, that this was the longest amount of time, that I’d not been in a church building, or even played for a service. I’d missed many things during this time, but led me more to think of what was important, and why. Words of an old hymn we used to sing came to my thoughts.

 

Hushed was the evening hymn, the temple courts were dark.

The lamp was burning dim, before the sacred ark.

When suddenly a voice divine,

Rang through the silence of the shrine.

 

I have missed going to the church services, as a catholic Christian, not attending the Eucharist troubled me greatly. I missed the preaching, and hearing the word opened up for us. We have missed seeing the family of God gathering as a Christian community together. I’m sure many are grateful for the daily readings from Canon Huw, and the reflections and daily writings from our Vicar Fr Jim. We can say our daily offices at home, and reflect. It’s very much like the early Christians who worshiped within their homes. Going back further, when the Jewish people found it hard worshiping in a different land under different circumstances. We are living in challenging times indeed.

 

It made me think about the meaning of church. Not buildings here, but we as Christians, the church as the mystical body of Christ here on earth.

 

How relevant is what we do as Christians here in this place , and are we doing as God asks us to do? An old friend of mine became a cathedral dean, and I once asked him how his new ministry there was going. He replied it was like being a caretaker of an ancient building, and struggled greatly with it.

As much as I like some of the church buildings in the town, we aren’t called to become caretakers of monuments, it’s not about that, but proclaiming the Gospel from generation to generation, and showing the love of God to those who do not know him.

 

Are the places where we meet relevant to the needs of the people of God and the unchurched of today? I wonder, what do people think of the church, and what we do? How are we as the church reaching out to the needs of the people around us? Are we historians or pioneers of the faith?

We must remind ourselves that the arms of Our Blessed Lord on Calvary, were stretched open for the whole world, and that we need to show and reflect that same love as Christians. That silent and divine voice is still speaking during these times.

 

These, perhaps, are hard questions for us to think about. Church, outreach, and mission. The word change sometimes brings dread and fear to many. Is now the time we look at where we’re going, and what we are doing? I think it is.

Words from the late Archbishop Michael Ramsey, the church that lives by itself, dies by itself. This is an absolute fact my dear friends.

 

I’ve had to ask myself some very searching questions during the last few months, perhaps not easy ones, and challenging ones with more to come.

Looking at our faith, and asking questions of ourselves and church, is vital to moving forward.

It’s perhaps something we all need to reflect on during the coming weeks, as individuals, and as an LMA. What we must remember is that Christ is the same today, as yesterday, and forever. The world changes, we change, God changes not.

 

These are just my thoughts, and not intended to “rock the boat” in any way. I ask us all to consider what our church means to us, and what God is calling us to do within our church community. Let us all open our hearts in prayer, and ask that His voice divine speaks to us as we move forward, and for what lies ahead.

 

Past put behind us, for the future take us.

Lord of the years, accept your peoples praise.

 

Daily Reflection 9th July 2020 – Luke 18:31-43 

 

A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

Jesus Heals a Blind Beggar near Jericho

As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.

 

When our daughter, Frances was younger she used to love using acronyms e. g.

We all need to be like FROGS and – Fully  Rely  On  God

We must give ourselves a PUSH Pray Until Something Happens.

I was recently reminded of this when a friend wrote how difficult it was to tell how people really are in these difficult times when we only communicate via telephone or Zoom etc. When a person says they are FINE what exactly do they mean? He suggested the acronym  for FINE – Fed up Insecure Neurotic and Exhausted. How many of us say we are ‘Fine’ when maybe we don’t feel fine. What would your acronym for ‘FINE’ be?

 

With regard to our present situation and struggles during this pandemic. It has become very apparent that a lot of people, from all age groups, are very frightened at this time,, and understandably the word ‘Fear’ is used on a daily basis in all our newspapers and all our television news broadcasts. Again there are many acronyms for FEAR e.g.

Forget Everything And Run     or      Face Everything And Rise.

Yes we all handle fear differently. What would be your acronym for ‘FEAR’ be?

 

In our reading today Jesus speaks a third time about His Death. The disciples didn’t understand and were probably filled with fear. As they were coming near Jericho they came across a blind beggar, who we know from Mark’s Gospel was called Bartimaeus. He had every reason to be scared and fearful especially when the crowd scolded him. But what wonderful Faith Bartimaeus had in Jesus. He was so persistent in his Faith. He obviously knew all about Jesus as he referred to Him as ‘Jesus Son of David.’

Jesus healed him and told him – ‘Your Faith has made you well. There are many acronyms for FAITH e.g.   Forsaking All I Trust Him     or        Full Assurance In The Heart

What would your acronym for Faith be?

When faith reigns supreme in our hearts, worrying takes a back seat, fear vanishes, the temptation to give up disappears, and the memory of God’s love stays fresh in our minds.

Theology is the study of things relating to God, who is Spirit. In the Gospels Jesus on 4 occasions heals the blind. These stories of healing are there to help us recognise our own blindness, specifically our inability to see things in a spiritual way. Jesus tells us that God does not see as man sees, because “man looks at what he sees but God looks at the heart”. Jesus is telling us that to see as God sees we must learn to look at things from the heart. Moving it from our head to our heart has been described as the longest journey that we will ever make.

 

When we see things through the lens of our minds, (head) it processes them in a fundamental fashion. When we move it to our hearts then it completely transforms our view of the world. Emotional activity in the heart gives us the eyes of the Holy Trinity- eyes that look at the world through love and compassion. Jesus had love and compassion for everyone he encountered, especially those who could not see who He was. “Forgive them Father for they no not what they do”!

 

Our world’s greatest pandemic is Spiritual Blindness.

 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.

Therefore we will not fear…

Psalm 46:1-2

 

Daily Reflection 8th July 2020 – Luke 18:15-30

Let the Children Come to Me

15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

The Rich Ruler

18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers[a] or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

 

The first part of today’s reading from Luke is one that has been debated many times. Just what is it that Christ means? For some this shows that children should be welcomed into our churches, for others it means that we should make all our services accessible to children. I am certain that many people will have many, many views on both these points and perhaps this is not the place to discuss this to any great length.  This passage is often taken to mean that we should become child-like in our faith. This does not mean that we should become immature though. But we might ask the question as to how do we as mature adults become child-like?

Children possess a great sense of wonder, something that as we grow we often loose. Years of life’s experience’s  can make us jaded and tired. This is not the case with a small child who still lives in a world full of colour and delight in which God is always near. Anyone who has spent anytime with a small child will know how trusting they can be, as we mature, we loose this sense of trust. We may want to ask ourselves at times just how much we trust God? Can we trust Him like a child trusts their parents? Going with the trust and wonders its the ability to forgive, again this is something that so many adults lose as they get older.

As we go through life, as we mature, our attitudes change, our hearts can become hard. We need to keep alive the sense of wonder for the whole of creation, trust in the wisdom of God and forgiveness for those around us. This is the childlike spirit that is the passport to the kingdom of God.

 

Daily Reflection – 7th July 2020  Luke 18:1-8

The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge

18 Then Jesus[a] told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”’[b] And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

 

Today’s Gospel reading is quite odd  because on first reading the parable seems to equate God with an unjust Judge. This is not Jesus intention, Luke is careful to point out in the introduction that this parable is about the need for persistence in prayer. Somethings can only be achieved through dogged, faithful perseverance. A hard slog of prayer if you prefer. Prayer like this can begin to shape those who pray, until prayer becomes more than just a passing whim, it becomes a real vocation and a serious part of our daily lives.

The idea of a weak and feeble widow is an image that is seen throughout the bible. A widow in biblical times, particularly an old widow, would have been one of the most vulnerable individuals in society. The idea of a widow attempting to seek justice from one of the most powerful members of that society, a judge, someone who made and interpreted the laws. Not just any judge, but a corrupt one to boot, was almost unthinkable.

Time after time this widow petitioned the Judge, each time she was sent away, dismissed and her petition not granted. But eventually her persistence pays off and she gets what she seeks from the Corrupt Judge.  Now compare this corrupt Judge with our Righteous Judge.  Jesus encourages us to consider how much our righteous Judge, our Loving God will do to answer the persistent prayers of faithful believers.

God does answer our prayers, if we are faithful and persistent in our petitions to the Almighty he will respond. The whole idea of living a prayerful life is seen throughout the Gospels and the new testament. The Apostle Paul tells us to pray without ceasing in 1 Thessalonians. And again in Phillipians  “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” All instructions to pray persistently.

Now this parable should be seen as a great comforter to those to find themselves in dark and despairing situations and also for those of us who may not be suffering difficult times. We individuals, our communities and nations can all take heart from the fact that God will not abandon us and we must remain faithful and continue in prayer until God answers. It is our faithfulness and persistence that provides the power of our prayers.  We pray and God will respond.

It must be remembered that although God will respond, the response may not be what we want or expect, but it will be what we need, although we may not realise it at the time. God’s response may not be what we expect but he will equip us and others to deal with the issues we face.

The world is a dark place at times, not just the darkness that we create with sin, but darkness from the evil in the world. Persistent and faithful prayer is our way of combating this. Tragedy and injustice wherever it happens needs to be  prayed for, the wider world needs our prayers.  Daily we need to must ourselves of the unchanging nature of our loving and Just God, the one true God who listens and responds so graciously.

God is not like the unjust judge who grudgingly granted the widows petition out of a selfish desire to get a bit of peace and quiet. God is involved in his creation, us in other words and in all that life brings, both the good and the bad. Remember that it is only by our persistent prayer that we show our trust and participation in God’s activity in our world and in our lives, for want of a better phase – Keep on, keeping on.

 

Daily Reflection – 6th July 2020

Recently this large mural has appeared on the gable end of the Harry Watkins pub in Felinfoel, for those of you who don’t know this is the pub next door to  Holy Trinity Church and the mural is in plain view from the churchyard.

I don’t know if it was painted with any theological intent in mind, I would like to think it was. But it is bold, bright and striking. I would suspect that it is not to everyone’s taste, and to be honest, it is not something that I would want on my dining room wall. But you cannot deny the powerful message that it conveys to all that see it.

Some of us may remember the hymn “He’s got the whole world in His hands”, often a staple of school assemblies or Sunday school. How easy is it to forget the very basics of what we learn about faith as we grow older? As we mature and our faith develops and changes, the basics of belief fade into the past as we take on more information, and start to view the world in a different way. We may try and rationalise things, explain things, we may stop believing in things that we find uncomfortable and hard to accept. The childhood acceptance of God imagined as man in a white flowing robe, a huge beard and living in the sky changes as we grow, for some their faith expands and accepts, for others secular arguments take over and their faith withers and dies because reason tells them that if God is not a bearded man living in the sky then, he cannot exist.

Let’s be sensible here, God is not a bearded man living in the sky. He never has been and never will be. We cannot visualise God, we can never understand the immense power that is held by the force that is the creator of all that. But it is human nature to explain things in human terms, it is often the only way we can understand things more powerful that we could ever imagine.

Physically the world is not held in the actual physical hands of our creator, NASA would have found out this one out if it was the case. But it is at times like this that perhaps we need to go back to basics, back to our childhood and accept that God’s love for the whole of His creation, for all on the face of the planet, no matter who they are, what they believe or what they look like,  is total and all embracing. Just as God is not white or black, in His eyes, neither are we for we are all His children.  Like all children we can be unruly and disobedient at times, yet the love of the Almighty is unconditional and universal, far more so than any human love can be.  It is the love of someone who walks with us, laughs with us and importantly suffers with us. It really is the love that has no end or limitations.  To be honest, this is the love that the world needs at the moment, the love that changes hate and intolerance to acceptance and understanding, the one love that can allow us all to forgive and be forgiven and move towards a better world, where we all strive to do our best by ourselves and by others.

We all have our opinions about belief, our ideas about what faith means. We may believe in God, we may not. But rest assured, whatever our beliefs God loves us, believes in us and wants His creation to thrive. He really does, have the whole world in His hands.

(With grateful thanks to Darren Harries for allowing the use of his picture)

 

Theological Reflection of Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis for Saturday 4th July 2020

We live at a time and in a society in which the prevailing world view is that the universe evolved from gasses and dust which exploded and began a continuing expansion and development which included the Solar System and Planet Earth, and subsequently minerals, vegetable and animals, including ourselves. For all that science may be able to explain about how and for how long this has been happening, it cannot tell us whether or not a spirit creator is behind this, nor can it tell us why any of it has happened.

Interestingly, the first statement of creation in Genesis Chapter 1 is that God said “Let there be light”. Was God therefore behind the Big Bang? The chapter is not written in scientific language and should not be read as a scientific work. It is rather a series of visions or revelations which God gave to the writer himself or to a group of Hebrew people who brought their visions together as one compilation. The climax of the chapter is the account of the creation of mankind, male and female, in God’s image and likeness. That gives a clue to the why and wherefore of creation, which is developed in the short statement about the first thing God did after he created our kind: “God blessed them”. He poured his love in to their lives, his grace, his favour upon them, and assured them of his benevolence towards them, in both words and actions. That is what blessing means. The remaining verses in chapter 1 flesh out the principle of blessing referred to. Humanity was to take its place in the world as the pinnacle of the creation, with whom God had shared a portion of his glory and his power and with whom God was able to communicate, because humanity is not only a physical being but a spiritual one too.

The writer of Psalm 8 reflects upon this in one of the so called nature Psalms, musing that in creation God has reviewed his glory in the skies and on earth has crowned humanity with glory and honour.

There is of course a corollary. With this authority, blessing and position there is power. That can be          exercised either responsibly or recklessly. Reflecting upon these matters today, I notice that the bodies who are best informed and most concerned about presentation of the earth have not been overly Christian or Jewish. They have on the whole tended to be earth-bound. Is God using them as Prophets to a Christian Church which has been slow to recognise the fragility in the balance of the natural world?

 

Daily Reflection July 3rd 2020 – John 20:19-31 – The Feast of St Thomas.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

In this reading from John we see the original doubting Thomas. History does not seem to have been kind to Thomas the Twin, he was the one who needed more proof. Thomas was missing from the disciples group when Christ appeared to them initially and was not convinced by the account that the others gave of His appearance. To describe someone as a doubting Thomas today is almost seen as an insult, or certainly a slight condemnation of another’s thoughts. This is perhaps rather unfair, Thomas does not appear many times in Johns Gospel, three times in all and we do not know much about him. Even his name is a bit of an enigma,  The name Thomas the Twin has also been translated as Two Minds Thomas suggesting that he may not have been quite as direct or clear of thought as the other disciples.  We tend to remember him for one facet of the story and not the rest of what we read about him in scripture.

Thomas was a not an individual lacking in courage. We see earlier in the gospel when Jesus was going to visit Lazarus at Bethany, all the other followers tried to hold back due to the perceived danger. Thomas was the one who announced, “Let us also go, that we may die with him”. It was clear that he loved Jesus and loved him enough to go with Jesus to Jerusalem and if necessary die with Him at a point  when all the others were hesitant and afraid. What had happened in Jerusalem was what Thomas had expected and for all his expectations and understanding, when Jesus had died Thomas was broken hearted, so much so that he could not face the others and went off alone to grieve and reflect on what had occurred. As a result of this he was not there when the Risen Christ had appeared and refused to accept what he was told.

A week later we see Christ appearing to the disciples again. This time Thomas was present, Christ knew Thomas’ heart and repeated his own words to him and invited Thomas to make the test that he had demanded.

We can all be at risk of being like Thomas. In an age when proof is so important yet not accepted by some, many people feel the need for a miraculous manifestation, proof by a stupendous act rather just accept what we know deep down to be the truth. Truth that can be seen by the acts of others demonstrating the love of Christ, A truth that can be found by accepting and understanding that we do not know all the answers,  a truth that can be found by accepting the grace that is freely offered to us all and above all, a truth that we are called to share.

 

Daily Reflection 2nd July 2020 Luke 16:19-31

The Rich Man and Lazarus

 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’  But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’  He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’  He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

 

The reading today of the rich man and Lazarus might be difficult for many, especially those of us whose lifestyle stands in sharp contrast with a majority of people in the world who live on much less than us. Like so much else that Luke says about money and possessions, it stands as a huge concern not only of the great confidence we place in financial security, but also of the drastic inequalities between rich and poor we see in the world today.

In the reading, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees whom He had just described in v.14 as “people who loved money” The only thing Jesus has to say about this rich man is that he was characterized by the external things of life. He lived a hollow life concerned only with the love of display and the desire for self-indulgence. The Rich Man was materialistically rich & wealthy but spiritually he was poor & bankrupt.

In direct contrast to this, the Lord portrays Lazarus. He is the only character in any of the parables who is given a name. The name is significant; it means, “God is my helper.” Surely this is deliberately intended by our Lord to suggest that Lazarus was a godly man. Even though poor and a beggar, God was his helper. (This Lazarus is not the same person as the brother of Mary and Martha, Jesus’ friend who comes back to life in John’s Gospel.)

Though the Rich Man was dressed in fine linen clothes & lived in extreme luxury, his outward appearance did not match his inward condition. So what was the Rich man Guilty of? He hadn’t committed a crime! He didn’t do Lazurus any harm or even drive him away from his house. He lacked compassion and did nothing. The closed door of the rich man’s home, which separated him from Lazurus, suggests the rich man’s heart being closed to the needy poor man.

We can ask ourselves what is Jesus telling us in this parable? Are we being reminded that God’s eternal judgement has everything to do with how we use wealth in this life and whether we attend to those who are less fortunate than ourselves.  It has been heart- warming and overwhelming to witness people’s changing attitudes to those in need during the Covid19 crisis. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Colossians “… Christ is all, Christ is in all. You are people of God; he loved you and chose you for His own. So you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

                                                                                         

 “Loving Lord, let your many Blessings be upon me as I begin this day with you. CONFIRM ME in the truth by which I rightly live, but CONFRONT ME with the truth from which I wrongly turn. I ask NOT for what I want but for what YOU know I need as I offer this day and myself for you and to you in Jesus’ name.” Amen.                                          Anon.

 

Daily Reflection 1st July 2020 –  Romans 12:9-21

Marks of the True Christian

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[a] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.[b] Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[c] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

This passage from the letter to the Romans is often read in part on in full during weddings. It seems to be an ideal set of instructions for how people should live in harmony with each other in the state of Holy matrimony.  However, like many well known passages of scripture that seem have become attached to certain events we often find ourselves (clergy included) becoming a bit blasé about them. We think we know what they mean, we have heard them often and no longer really listen to the message that the give us.

Perhaps we need to re-examine what they say and remember that they can have a huge bearing on how we live our lives and not just for certain occasions. The above passage contains an awful lot to consider, you could certainly fill several long sermons on a couple of verses alone. Indeed many years ago I heard a Salvation Army Officer preach for nearly an hour on verse 11 alone.  Perhaps if we take just one verse from this passage then this is could be the one to concentrate on. In fact we could even cut it down further to the last part of the verse “Serve the Lord”.

How do we serve the Lord? A very good question and one that is answered in part by the rest of the passage. A quick answer could be that we serve the Lord by serving others in His name and not by serving ourselves.  This is not always easy to do, we all have deeply entrenched ideas about what is right and what is not. We have likes and desires that we often feel are the correct ones despite evidence to the contrary, often these have no link to doctrine or scripture and we can often hold onto these thoughts long after they cease to be relevant in the wider world. Sometimes our desires and wants restrict others in their lives and our likes and desires hold can hold back the church itself it its mission to serve.  We can be inclined to forget that the church and it’s buildings should be dynamic, ready to change to serve the needs and at times hold accountable the society that surrounds it.

Sadly, words like sacrilegious, disrespectful can get thrown about when something happens that some disagree with.  To some people in parishes across the land it seems that moving furniture in a church to allow it to be opened up for use of the community at this time is sacrilegious. It is hard to see that the temporary adaption of a building to bring it into use for prayer could ever be deemed so.  We must ask the question of ourselves as to whom we are serving? Should our own desires prevent others from seeking the sustenance that praying in church gives. Are we truly serving the Lord when we put obstacles in the way of others? Are we showing love to someone when our stubbornness prevents much needed change? While it is true that standards must be maintained, we may wish to consider just what our standards actually mean in the wider world and how they impact others.

 

Daily Reflection 30th June 2020 – Psalm 5

1 Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament. 

2 Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. 

3 In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. 

4 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. 

5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; 

6 you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, LORD, detest. 

7 But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple. 

8 Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make your way straight before me. 

9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies. 

10 Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. 

11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. 

12 Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield.

 

When Jesus calls his disciples he says to them “Follow me”, countless sermons and hymns have exhorted us to do the same. We may describe ourselves as people who “Follow Christ”. All this indicates that a life of faith is not static but a dynamic journey that involves walking in the footsteps of Jesus. As Christs ministry unfolds, and perhaps as our own understanding develops  it becomes that this journey is not an aimless ramble but a trip to a destination.

The way that we commence this journey is important, the psalmist talks of the morning, the start of the new day has a significance. Each day we continue with our journey and we need to orientate ourselves in God’s direction and align ourselves with his nature.

We see in this psalm a helpful way to do this,  we can call out to God and it is by this act that we express our belief in a power and authority much greater than our own, something that rises above the problems and troubles of the earth. We can also find ourselves drawing close to God in worship, praise and prayer. We may not always feel like it, we may feel that God is far off. But we can make a conscious decision to orientate our selves towards God as we try and discern the right way to live our lives before we take out first faltering steps becoming more confident as we go along the path to our ultimate destination.

As we make our journey we can be encouraged by those that join with us, as we can encourage those around us as we remember that when His people gather, God is in our midst to bless us.

 

Daily Reflection 29th June 2020 – The Feast of Ss. Peter & Paul – Acts 11 1-10

Peter’s Report to the Church at Jerusalem

11 Now the apostles and the believers[a] who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers[b] criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’ Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, ‘I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But I replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” But a second time the voice answered from heaven, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 10 This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 

 

We don’t always realise how close Christianity was to being just a sect of Judaism. Christ was a Jew and obviously many of his early followers were as well. There were great arguments amongst the first disciples as to who Christ actually came for. We know the answer to this today, but 2000 years ago it was much less clear.

Even in more recent times there are those that believe that there is a predestined elect who will see salvation whilst the rest don’t. Some sects or perhaps cults would be a better word, seem to base their entire doctrine around who is worthy and who is not.

The account that the author of Acts (traditionally thought to be St. Luke) gives in this section of the book is very telling. The fact that so much was written about the encounter shows its importance. The text would have been written on scrolls originally and not only were these expensive, they were also limited in size. Only something really important would have been recorded buy being written down, other parts of the narrative would have had to be passed down through the oral tradition and sadly many of these will have been lost to us.  This encounter is an important milestone and Luke sees it as hugely important event along the road that the early church trod. It is events such as these that show us that Christ is for the whole world and not just a select few. Sadly, this is something that is not always remembered by some today

As we remember the works of St. Paul and St. Peter today, perhaps we should also remember the universal nature and all encompassing love of Christ, not sent to die for a few But sent so that everyone, no matter who they are, may receive life, love and salvation for all time.

 

Theological Reflection of Reverend Patrick Mansel Lewis for Saturday 27th June 2020

As I write this Theological Reflection in preparation for Saturday I am very much aware that, but for the Covid-19 crisis, Bishops in Wales and in every Diocese throughout the world would be ordaining ordinands as Deacon or Priest on Saturday morning; and that those ordinands preparing for ordination would have been on retreat from Wednesday evening.

When I look back at my ordination as Deacon I am still able to recall the intense sense of movement of my vocation towards its recognition and the magnitude of what was about to happen, and my sense of God speaking to me during the service: “where have you been? I have been waiting for you”. Apart from my Wedding Day, this day stands out for me as the most important and exciting of my life; and for Claire, by contrast, one of the most terrifying of her life, as she wondered whether God and the Church would be willing to share me with her.

One feature of New Testament teaching which the Church has been re-discovering in the last 50 years is that concerning spiritual gifts. Whatever else ordained Ministry may be about – and there are many things – in one respect it is an appointment to office in the Church to exercise spiritual giftings in a ministerial way. St. Paul wrote more about spiritual gifts than any other New Testament writer. In his longest treatment of the subject, in 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14, he discussed spiritual gifts in the context of the whole congregation, making it clear that every member is gifted in one way or another. In Ephesians chapter 4, he homes in on five ministerial giftings which he obviously believes to be foundational to shared leadership of a group of Churches: Apostles – Prophets – Evangelists – Pastors – Teachers.

Traditionally the Church in the West regarded itself as being within Christendom so that clergy were ministering in a context in which people of all social, economic and age ranges regarded themselves to be Christians (at least to one kind or another). Consequently the traditional understanding of the Christian Ministry is that we are Pastors.  Apostles may well have died out in the New Testament era, their main purpose being to witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and to establish sound doctrine upon which the Church is founded. However, because in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglian Churches we believe in the Apostolic succession we regard our Bishops as having an Apostolic authority in their Dioceses.

Clergy have always to some extent been Teachers of the faith, according to their own individual giftings and inclinations, as well as the needs of their congregations.

However, the two giftings which I would like to highlight in this reflection are those of the Evangelists and the Prophet. As the Church has exercised diminishing influence and authority in the life of the country as a whole and in almost every area where it is at work, we have to acknowledge that Christendom is very largely a feature of past generations. Therefore the need for Evangelists and the interest in training Ordinands for an Evangelistic Ministry is now part of the Church’s vision. In our own LMA thankfully we have one accredited Evangelist and one or two supportive members of the Ministry team who show indications of Evangelistic gifting.

Probably the most difficult spiritual gift for the Church to appreciate and to manage is that of the Prophet. If there were as many Prophets within the Christian Ministry as there are Pastors and Teachers the life of any group of Parishes would surely be pretty confused. Furthermore, we know of examples of Christian deviations such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons which have grown up under the leadership of a powerful personality with supposedly prophetic gifting, where the teaching has been so heretical that certain central features of Christian doctrine have been denied or the doctrine has been extended to include features which are not within the biblical canon. In our own generation, there was for a while great interest in something called the 9’oclock Service in a Church in Sheffield until the Curate leading that Ministry himself went off the rails and many people were hurt and led astray.

Nonetheless, Prophetic insights can help Christian Leaders in discerning how to interpret the Biblical tradition in our own generation, in the sense of hearing what God is saying to the Church, and what God is doing and leading the Church to do. The Theologian Jurgen Moltman wrote a book entitled “The Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit”. Where the Church really is operating in the power of the Holy Spirit prophetic insights will be part of the Prayer life of its leaders and its Ministry.

 

Daily Reflection 26th June 2020 – 1 Peter 4:7-11

The end of all things is near;[a] therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

You may, or you may not be aware that we are in an ‘Embertide’ at the moment. This is one of four short periods of three days, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in the year that the church traditionally set aside for fasting and prayer. The word Ember is a corruption of Quatuor Tempora, meaning The Four Times. In Welsh the translation is Wythnos y cydgorian – the week of processions. This particular Embertide is also at the time of Petertide, the feast of St. Peter and it is when the church has traditionally held ordinations.

This year the ordinations in Wales are still being held, although they may not all be held this weekend. They won’t be taking place in the cathedrals either. This diocese’s ordinations will be held in the Bishop’s garden in Abergwili. There will be no processions this Embertide in Wales, no ceremony, no full cathedral and no ordination retreat either. All very different from the years before.

There is nothing wrong with ceremonies, rituals or traditions, but there are times when the ceremony can overshadow what is actually happening.  We can become far too wrapped up in the spectacle that the reason for the spectacle is in danger of being lost.  Once we accept the role that Christ calls us to, and for many this is not ordained ministry, we are forever changed. We can never go back to what we were. Personal faith may ebb and flow, sadly for some it will disappear for ever, but we will be fundamentally different people to who we were before. It will shape our actions and thoughts not matter what we go on to do, we will be changed.

Perhaps a stripped-down ordination is not a bad thing. It may serve to demonstrate that the importance is in the act, the vows that are made and the obligations that are agreed to by the candidates and not the ceremonials (Wonderful and inspiring though they are).  The reading from the 1st letter of Peter, sets out some wonderful instructions for those who are being ordained in the next few days and they also remind those of us already ordained and those whose calling is in a different direction of the burden that is placed on us.  None of this is about us, it never has been. It is about our role in the body of Christ -the church. We must act and speak with integrity, use our talents, no matter what they are, to serve others and not ourselves and above all, love each other as Christ loves us.

 

Daily Reflection 25th June 2020 – Luke 14 1-11 – Rev’d Glenys Payne.

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a Sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this.

 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

 

Over the past few weeks we have been looking at some of the marks or identifying characteristics of a Christian. In his letter to the Galatians Paul tells us that he carried the physical marks of Christ in his own body which identified him with the testimony of Christ. However, believers should bear some spiritual marks which identify them as well.

In our reading today, the parable of the Wedding feast, Jesus tells us to consider the mark of humility. Before Christ came into the world, the worst thing that could be said about a man/woman was that he/she was humble. That was considered to be a quality of a slave, not a free man/woman. But as we know Christ came teaching a new concept – to be exalted, men and women must humble themselves.

Jesus illustrated this principle throughout His life and ministry. Sadly, one of the many characteristics of this world today is selfishness and so few are truly humble. Today people can talk for hours about themselves and they are always the hero of their own stories. Very few of us tell the tales about the times when we have failed. Sadly this attitude can also be found within the church today. Much is said about what people do for the Lord, but little is spoken of what God has done for them! Humility is needed in our service to the Lord.

I can hear myself say – but I’m not selfish! Forgive me Lord – as I write this it is only lunchtime and as I reflect back on my morning I know I have had many selfish thoughts!! What about me?? Why can’t I?? – and so on. Then I stop and think there are others far worse off than me. Yes, it is important to think of ourselves less often. C.S. Lewis once said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  One way to foster humility in your life is to actively stop thinking of yourself so much.  Sadly, our television shows, movies, and magazines flatter us by telling us that we are wonderful no matter what! – sadly we tend to believe it.

We need to think of others more often. – The amazing thing is that once you stop thinking of yourself all the time your mind will begin to think more about others. Pride says, “I want!” and humility says, “You need!”  True humility thinks about others more often than oneself.

More importantly we need to think of God most often.  Some may think that it will not work in the real world.  Or some may be thinking that we have tried this before and it didn’t work.  In times such as these during lockdown and restrictions during the pandemic it is difficult not to stop focusing on ourselves.

God has made it clear in the Bible that if we choose to exalt ourselves we will be humbled.  Will I be the person who strives daily to advance my kingdom with my wants, needs, and feelings or will I be the person who will “deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow” (Luke 9:23)?

“All this day, O Lord, let me touch as many lives as possible for thee; and every life I touch, do thou by thy spirit quicken, whether through the word I speak, the prayer I breathe, or the life I live. Amen”

Written in 1876 by Mothers’ Union Founder Mary Sumner.

 

Daily Reflection 24th June 2020 – Luke 1:57-66- The Nativity of John the Baptist.

When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbours and relatives heard that the LORD had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65All the neighbours were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the LORD’s hand was with him.

We can never know what the future will hold, there are those that claim to tell the future, psychics or fortune tellers yet they are misguided at best and fraudulent charlatans at worse. We might make an inspired guess at what will happen, we might have an idea based on our knowledge or evidence. But until future events actually unfold we have no idea exactly what is going to happen.
The parents of John the Baptist had no idea how life would turn out for their son. Evidence pointed that he was going to be special, Zechariah was mute and had been for most of Elizabeth’s pregnancy due to doubting the message that he had heard from an angel. She herself was past child bearing age it was obvious that God’s hand was with him.
Yet despite this, the infant John would lead a life that no one could have predicted, the details were unknown until they actually happened. We can often find ourselves in a similar situation, both as individuals and as part of the body of Christ. We don’t know when or how services will start again, we know that they will and we may make a guess as to what the church of 2021 will look like but we cannot be sure until it happens. We don’t know how our own lives will pan out either and often guessing proves incorrect.
What we do know is that God is with us and has a hand in all we do, this we can be sure of no matter what the future holds. At this moment we may need to stop making too many plans for uncertain times and just trust that what ever happens, it will happen with Christ standing beside us.

 

Daily Reflection 23rd June 2020

Do we thank God enough? We may pray on a regular basis, we may in normally times be regular church attenders, but do we really thank the Lord for the blessings that are bestowed upon us?

It is interesting to hear young children pray, for the most part their prayers are centred around thanking the Almighty for what they have. “Thank you for Mummy & Daddy, Uncle Bert, all my friends” etc, etc. Simple they may be but children often give thanks in pray for things that adults take for granted. Adults seem to ask for things when they prey, “Dear Lord, please help me….”, There is nothing wrong with this, we are told that if we ask then we will receive. We may not receive what we expect or even what we actually want, but our prayers will be answered.  This will be the case even if we fail to remember to give thanks for what we already have.

God is not insecure, He does not need our prayers to give him affirmation of his position and we open a huge can of worms when we start giving human characteristics to God. We give thanks, because it helps us realise our own position in the relationship, we are powerless with out him. Sometimes this may slip our minds as we go through life.

Richard, Bishop of Chichester, whose feast was celebrated last week is best known for the prayer that his is said to have uttered on his death bed.

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ

For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.

Day by day.

In a few short lines He was able to acknowledge what God had given him and ask for what might be the three greatest things that anyone could ask of God. As we sometimes forget to give thanks, we can also forget that part of the mission of the church is to teach people to understand the nature of our faith. By teaching and learning we all grow, even at the point of death.

We don’t always have the time to spend hours and hours in prayer, we can’t always find the word. Even if we do there are times when we may forget what is important. As we go through the weeks ahead, perhaps we might keep Richard of Chichester’s prayer in our minds. Never forgetting to give thanks for all our blessings and remembering that our relationship with God, continues to grow and flourish, all the days of our life.

 

Daily Reflection 22nd June 2020 – Matthew 7:1-5

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

It is so easy to judge people, it seems to be an inbuilt trait that we all have. When we meet someone for the first time or even when we encounter someone we have known for years, we will probably form some opinion of them at that point in time. Human nature, plain and simple, it may be an inbuilt safety mechanism on our part, it may be just a way that allows us to interact with others in a sensible manner. However, it can also be cruel and unthinking.

Today’s gospel readings see’s Jesus warning people of the perils of being judgemental. This is not the small opinions that we form of one another in our day to day lives but the judgements that lead to condemnation of another. Human nature is not impartial and Christ is telling us that no human is impartial enough to judge another. None of us is faultless enough that we have the right to pick fault with those whom we meet, yet we all do it. Indeed the world is full of people who are happy to condemn the actions of another without fully realising the situation that lies behind it.  We see this in groups, clubs, councils and even our churches. Many are happy to criticise what is being done, yet unwilling to take any position of responsibility.  The world seems full of people who are happy to claim the right of being extremely vocal, yet completely lacking in action.

No one has the right to condemn another unless they are prepared to venture themselves into the same situation. We have quite enough to do to rectify our own lives with out seeking to  censoriously try and rectify the lives of others.

 

Reflection for Father’s Day by Rev’d Capt Rob Lowe

To all dads – expectant dads, those of you who have adopted children, dads who do not see their children often. Happy Father’s Day.

I read a book recently, which for me as those who know me is very unusual. All my life I have struggled to find books interesting.

Thirty-seven years ago, I met my wife Lisa, we have spent thirty-four years married and are still going strong. Right at the very onset, my life was completely changed by Lisa being a committed Christian. This was a shock to me because of my background. I come from a family of eleven and Christianity didn’t focus much in my life apart from the odd visit to church for weddings, funerals and of course when I was christened along with six of my siblings.

As our relationship grew so did my faith and love for God. A year or so later I experienced the Holy Spirit that changed my life for good. From that encounter my faith deepened. I felt God call me to get involved with my local church. This was a great time of leaning and, after a few years, God called me to join an organisation called The Church Army.

This was exciting, but also difficult, knowing that I needed to go through various hurdles. I attended a weekend lead by CPAS (Church Pastoral Aid Society) for people looking at exploring ministry. That weekend was certainly a challenge and I knew straight away that being ordained as Vicar was not for me, but on the Sunday before leaving someone asked me if I knew about The Church Army and what they did. The ministry they were involved in suited me better and from that weekend on I never looked back.

I attended the Wilson Carlie college of evangelism back in the nineties, where I undertook three years of difficult studies, this was a testing time. I left school with no education, I did not read at all and my life was a rollercoaster of drink, gambling, and the odd drug now and again. Before entering college, I needed an O-level in English language and, to my surprise, after hard work I did it.

So, what is this to do with Father’s Day? During lockdown I decided to read a few books – one being by Jack Frost, entitled “Experiencing the Father’s Embrace”. Jack went through some of the same difficulties in life as myself, so I could relate to a lot of what he brings and refers too. Jack himself became a Minister, he leads and is a teacher of healing ministry for Pastors, missionaries, and leaders. He helps them with the hurt and disappointments they have experienced throughout their life relating to their earthly father. Jack had a miraculous encounter with God’s love while he was fishing alone at sea. This experience set him free from 10 years of drug and alcohol problems. The book continues with some interesting events and is a good read, so if you would like to know more about Jack Frost Experiencing the Father’s Embrace order a copy, I am not on commission it’s just a great insight to a loving Father God.

Back to the father. Our earthly father is no comparison for what our Father in heaven is for each of us. Jack and his father could never see eye to eye and so brought conflict and a broken relationship, and neither could see a resolution. Most fathers do their best to give us what they think we need. Like Jack’s father, my father gave what they thought was best because their fathers did very much the same. I saw myself and was reminded by my wife at times that I reacted very much as my father did. I was behaving the way my father did and his father before him and felt something needed to change. Having faith and believing in a God who has unconditional love, no matter what our circumstances are, and knowing that He loves us very much made this possible.

Are you uncomfortable with love? Are you continually filled with the understanding of how much our heavenly Father loves you? Are you aware that He delights in you and He thinks good thoughts about you all the time? (Jeremiah 29:11.) Do you realise that He feels nothing but perfect love when He thinks about you? 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that “love thinks no evil” (NKJV). Many of us struggle through life because we are afraid to receive and give love. That may determine what we are wanting to get out of Life. Each and every one of us, man, women, and children, we are all Father God’s happy thoughts.

Depending on their upbringing, men often can find it difficult to show love. Genesis 1:26-28 clearly states that all were made in the image of God, Genesis 5:1-3 Genesis 9:6 all mention image. Are you free to love friends, family members around you as you should? Or have you bought into the lie that says you do not need to express love? Other men I have met over the years have struggled with this ungodly belief.  Like Jack, I too experienced the Fathers love as He embraced me through the Holy Spirit.

If you cannot hold to the concept that our heavenly Father loves us, then read John 3:16 (NIV) God so Loved the world that he gave His one and only Son Jesus Christ for you, me and everyone else. If this does not convince you, remember He gave His one and only Son, would you be prepared to offer your child in the same way? My own father had never been able to embrace me or say the words “I love you”.  I realised that I caused, over the years, pain through my acts of stupidity and this meant our relationship was broken many times.

It was not until I was commissioned as a Church Army officer that my dad, through a family member, mentioned how proud he was of me becoming an evangelist and a minister of faith. Although he could not express himself to me, deep down I knew he loved me. That was a great feeling.

Whatever our relationship is with our earthly fathers, our heavenly Father loves us unconditionally.   For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angles, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans:838-39.

Do you want to experience our Father’s embrace? Then join with me this prayer, Father God, I believe that I have been created for love, to experience Your healing love, and to share that love in my relationships with others. It is not enough to have success in my life or in my ministry if I do not have a relationship built upon expressed love with You or with others. I want to experience Your arms around me and help me to love others as You love us, continue to be in my life through the Fathers Love and His Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The picture below came to me some years ago when I was praying for God to reveal himself to me and is appropriate for my reflection from Jack’s book experiencing Father’s embrace. Today is Father’s Day, whatever your circumstances are God loves you.  Happy Father’s Day to you all.

God through Jesus Christ embracing Humankind.

This is how much God loves His children.

 

Theological Reflection of Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis for Saturday 20th June 2020

One of the Christian Leaders to whom I am grateful for having discovered and written about a way of life which was both practical and other-worldly, practical and withdrawn was Brother Roger of Tazie. His emphasis on calm, unhurried worship of God as well as involvement with people who were frustrated, being ignored or protesting demonstrated a conviction that a balanced Christian life is both heavenly and earthly. A good strapline for his way of life was the title of his book “Struggle & Contemplation”. Whereas my reflection last week was very much about struggle, this one is much more about contemplation.

We who live in the Celtic countries draw much inspiration from the Age of the Saints in which we discover deep spiritual connections between Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Those early monastic communities drew much of their inspiration from the Desert Fathers, who left their busy lives in the cities of the near East in the fourth century for the simplicity, poverty and stillness of the deserts of Egypt and the Levant.

There they found a different kind of opportunity, challenge and struggle. The opportunity lay in the unproductive environment of the desert, which was of little use to farmers, craftsmen or traders in the villages and towns from which they had withdrawn. It gave them time and an enforced stillness in which to mediate on the scriptures, pray and celebrate the sacraments. For busy people, or those who have been busy, but are no longer busy, there is a strong instinct to approach God in the manner that we adopt for our comings, goings and doings, which is of course to regard him as yet another resource in our quest for the achievement of our goals. The opportunity for prayer afforded by slow passage of time then becomes a challenge: to release God to be God, the Lord of our lives, and to realise that he is an end in himself, in fact the ultimate end distinct from our strivings for success, our search for peace of mind, our quest for beauty in its myriad forms.

Whether we have chosen to lead a quiet life of prayer, self-sufficiency and comparative solitude, or whether our way of life today is more conventional for Western 21st Century humanity, nonetheless those of us who seek to develop a life of prayer have to some extent to face ourselves as well as our outward circumstances: what we have been, what we are becoming, past successes which have engendered self-satisfaction, misunderstandings which have not been totally resolved, present temptations to deviate from the path of life appropriate to our vocation of Disciples who are learning to pray. All of these issues militate against the direction of life which allows God to be God, to bless as he wishes to (rather than at our request) to reveal himself in unexpected ways, to take usout of our comfort zones, to teach us to trust him.

Nonetheless our vocation to learn to pray and worship is universal among Christians, whether those called to life in a religious community, to ordained ministry, to life in the third sector or to a busy family life. That is to open our hearts and minds to the love of God, and in our worship to abandon ourselves to him. As we make time to do these things we will hopefully become aware that we are in God’s presence, whether alone or in a group, and that in some way we are being given a glimpse of his glory. I am going to offer as an unlikely example John Wesley who had exhausted himself in several fruitless years of attempted Evangelism across the Atlantic Ocean and returned as a rather defeated and frustrated young Clergyman. He attended a Christian meeting in Aldersgate Street during which he felt that his heart was being “strangely warmed”. There is no reason why that cannot happen to us as well. In such a moment of God’s grace, our minds can be stilled and we realise that we have discovered our goal: God giving us of himself, as an end in himself, and wordless, sightless assurance that whatever may happen in life, for good or ill, ultimately all will be well (as Lady Julian of Norwich wrote). When God reaches down to Earth and touches anyone of us we never need to be of anxious heart again about our eternal destiny.

All of us are to a greater or lesser extent still grounded by the Lockdown. In these unprecedented but continuing circumstances let us remember that stillness, slow passage of time and partial solitude can afford new opportunities for spiritual growth.

 

Daily Reflection 19th June 2020 – Luke 12: 41-48

The Faithful or the Unfaithful Slave

41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 45 But if that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces,[a] and put him with the unfaithful. 47 That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

The role of a steward in a large house during the time of Christ was one of the most important in the household. It was a very powerful, privileged and responsible position for an individual to hold. The role was normally given to a trusted slave, one who had served his master for many years and shown his worth. It was not a role that was given lightly as the master of the household needed to trust his steward implicitly. In the parable above we see that this trust can be misplaced.

We are very good at compartmentalising our lives. Many of us find ourselves dividing our actions or our days into little bits, a time for this or a time for that.  But we can also compartmentalise our faith, many of us will know of people that profess a faith and yet fail to act in a Christian way (One very famous individual was seen as behaving such as this recently).  I knew a businessman a few years ago, of which it was said “He prays on his knees on a Sunday and his customers during the rest of the week”.

If we are not careful, we can shut God out of parts of our life. We may have the best of intentions on a Sunday, but by the time Monday comes, we have forgotten how we are called to act. Worse, we may actually consciously ignore what we have been taught about how we should behave.  We can all find ourselves drawing a line between the sacred and the secular. But if we have a real and true understanding of our faith, we will realise that there is no part of our lives when the master is away from us. We work and live under the continual watch of a master who is never truly absent, even if we think he is not there.

The knowledge of our faith brings privilege and this always brings with it responsibility. Deliberate actions when we really should know better are far worse that when ignorance plays a part and failure is doubly blameworthy when we have been given every chance to do well.

 

Daily Reflection 18th June 2020 Luke 12:32-40 – Rev’d Glenys Payne

 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

One reality of life is waiting; waiting for someone to show up, waiting for something to happen, for things to change! Of course many of us do not like waiting. Normally we look for the shortest queue at the supermarket and the bank. We become impatient, even angry, waiting for the doctor or the waiter who is slow. Many of us wait for that day when we have enough time, enough money, enough freedom, and the day we will live happy ever after. Many of us wait for the answer to our prayers. This pandemic however has taught many of us to be more patient, less angry and so grateful for the many prayers that have been answered.

 

In today’s reading Jesus tells the disciples to be prepared, loyal and vigilant until the Lord’s second coming. When Luke wrote this Gospel people were expecting the Lord to return pretty soon but the time and day was not known. This story is not, however, simply about passing time. It is about presence and being present. Jesus sees waiting as an act of faithfulness; the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

 

So we are mistaken if we think today’s reading describes an absent God, a God who left some time ago, for whom we wait. We are equally mistaken if we think we are waiting for a God who lives out in the future. Jesus is teaching us how and where to wait. He’s inviting us to be present to the One who is always already present. He’s inviting us to listen for the knock, to watch, and to be alert. He’s inviting us to be present to the reality of God in each other, in the world, and in ourselves. This is the God who is present in the ordinary circumstances of our lives, even in our waiting.

Yes Jesus is teaching us to wait. He’s inviting us to be present to the One who is always already present. Many of us I’m sure have found God closer than ever in these troubled times, especially amongst fellow Christians, family and friends.

 

Daily Reflection Wednesday 17th June 2020 – Job 15 

Eliphaz Speaks: Job Undermines Religion

 15 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered:

2 “Should the wise answer with windy knowledge,

    and fill themselves with the east wind?

3 Should they argue in unprofitable talk,

    or in words with which they can do no good?

4 But you are doing away with the fear of God,

    and hindering meditation before God.

5 For your iniquity teaches your mouth,

    and you choose the tongue of the crafty.

6 Your own mouth condemns you, and not I;

    your own lips testify against you.

 

7 “Are you the firstborn of the human race?

    Were you brought forth before the hills?

8 Have you listened in the council of God?

    And do you limit wisdom to yourself?

9 What do you know that we do not know?

    What do you understand that is not clear to us?

10 The gray-haired and the aged are on our side,

    those older than your father.

11 Are the consolations of God too small for you,

    or the word that deals gently with you?

12 Why does your heart carry you away,

    and why do your eyes flash,[a]

13 so that you turn your spirit against God,

    and let such words go out of your mouth?

14 What are mortals, that they can be clean?

    Or those born of woman, that they can be righteous?

15 God puts no trust even in his holy ones,

    and the heavens are not clean in his sight;

16 how much less one who is abominable and corrupt,

    one who drinks iniquity like water!

 

17 “I will show you; listen to me;

    what I have seen I will declare—

18 what sages have told,

    and their ancestors have not hidden,

19 to whom alone the land was given,

    and no stranger passed among them.

20 The wicked writhe in pain all their days,

    through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless.

21 Terrifying sounds are in their ears;

    in prosperity the destroyer will come upon them.

22 They despair of returning from darkness,

    and they are destined for the sword.

23 They wander abroad for bread, saying, ‘Where is it?’

    They know that a day of darkness is ready at hand;

24 distress and anguish terrify them;

    they prevail against them, like a king prepared for battle.

25 Because they stretched out their hands against God,

    and bid defiance to the Almighty,[b]

26 running stubbornly against him

    with a thick-bossed shield;

27 because they have covered their faces with their fat,

    and gathered fat upon their loins,

28 they will live in desolate cities,

    in houses that no one should inhabit,

    houses destined to become heaps of ruins;

29 they will not be rich, and their wealth will not endure,

    nor will they strike root in the earth;[c]

30 they will not escape from darkness;

    the flame will dry up their shoots,

    and their blossom[d] will be swept away[e] by the wind.

31 Let them not trust in emptiness, deceiving themselves;

    for emptiness will be their recompense.

32 It will be paid in full before their time,

    and their branch will not be green.

33 They will shake off their unripe grape, like the vine,

    and cast off their blossoms, like the olive tree.

34 For the company of the godless is barren,

    and fire consumes the tents of bribery.

35 They conceive mischief and bring forth evil

    and their heart prepares deceit.”

 

 

There has been much talk in all areas of life about the ‘new normal’. That is how life will be after restrictions are lifted and we are free to move about more. The truth is that no one really knows how things will pan out and if we think about it, what is ‘normal’ anyway?

Today’s reading from Job is a passage that sees one of Job’s companions rebuke him for his lack of forbearance, for his lack of bravery when confronted by changed circumstances. When we look at the situation that we are now in, it is quite obvious that we are all in very changed circumstances. With the increased lifting of restrictions many people can be seen going about their daily lives much as before and in some cases there seems to be little regard for keeping safe distances and doing as much as we can to prevent the spread of a virus that is still a colossal threat.  We only have to turn on the news to see evidence of ‘Windy knowledge’ and a resistance to sensible practices that do not allow people to do exactly as they want to do.

The time is coming when we will be opening the churches again and no matter what we might think, things will be very, very different and this may persist for a long time.  We cannot go back to how things were, how many people want them to be straight away, if at all.

However, when you think about it, this really does not matter. Our churches are wonderful and important buildings, but they are just that.  When it comes down to it, it really should not matter which church building is opened when. We all have our favourites, places that we love to be, but when the time comes, we can pray and worship in any church building as we have been doing at home. We might want to take a hard look at ourselves and just see how unprofitable our talk is when we put place over prayer.

We don’t know exactly what the ‘new normal’ will be, we don’t know how it will affect our daily lives, but we can be sure that we will need to adapt and be flexible. But we can be sure, that God will be with us in the days ahead, as He has been with us since our creation no matter what we face.

 

Daily Reflection Tuesday 16th June 2020 – 1 Kings 21

Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.”

But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.”

So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.

His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?”

He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”

Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote:

“Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 10 But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”

11 So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. 12 They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 13 Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. 14 Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned to death.”

15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” 16 When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.

17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 18 “Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. 19 Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’”

20 Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!”

“I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. 21 He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free.[a] 22 I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’

23 “And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of[b] Jezreel.’

24 “Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.”

25 (There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. 26 He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.)

27 When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.

28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.”

The story of Naboth’s vineyard is an interesting one and many things can be taken from it. Certainly, it is an example of how power and authority can corrupt. We are currently in a time when accusations of corruption, greed and abuses of power, both modern and historical are all in the news.  Stories of violence and footage of loud voices shouting make for good news stories but in truth can do little except inflame tensions and causes distrust.

We are all entitled to our opinions, although it is worth remembering that opinion is not the same as fact and we may not actually be right. Sometimes in a group of 20 people it seems possible that more than 20 opinions are being voiced.  The loudest voices are normally the ones that seem to get heard and at times when there is a real need for voices that have been silenced to be acknowledged, when past wrongs need to be understood and addressed, these are the ones that are often addressed quickly.

However, making loud demands and using the pressure that comes from popular support does not always mean that the correct things happen. It may just mean that people feel obliged to shout with you in case they become the target of the shouting. Ahab’s might achieved nothing in the end except the possibility of disaster. It was only through humility and dignity was disaster for him averted.

We may want to remember to be humble with our dealings with others, we may wish to think humbly when we reflect on what is happening in the world. We certainly need to think about what we are trying to achieve and why we are trying to achieve it. Is it to show our self-perceived virtue, power and might, just because we can. Or are we actually trying to do some good in a careful and considered and above all humble, manner.

 

Daily Reflection Monday 15th June 2020 – Isaiah 41:1-10

41 Listen to me in silence, O coastlands;
    let the peoples renew their strength;
let them approach, then let them speak;
    let us together draw near for judgment.

Who has roused a victor from the east,
    summoned him to his service?
He delivers up nations to him,
    and tramples kings under foot;
he makes them like dust with his sword,
    like driven stubble with his bow.
He pursues them and passes on safely,
    scarcely touching the path with his feet.
Who has performed and done this,
    calling the generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord, am first,
    and will be with the last.
The coastlands have seen and are afraid,
    the ends of the earth tremble;
    they have drawn near and come.
Each one helps the other,
    saying to one another, “Take courage!”
The artisan encourages the goldsmith,
    and the one who smooths with the hammer encourages the one who strikes the anvil,
saying of the soldering, “It is good”;
    and they fasten it with nails so that it cannot be moved.
But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
    and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
    I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
10 do not fear, for I am with you,
    do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

 

I feel sorry for atheists, I really do. Having been one for a number of years I know that when things turn bad, there is nothing worse than the feeling of being completely alone. You may have friends and family around you, but there is the feeling that you are utterly by yourself and there is no way out of the emotional hole that you are in.  One of the criticisms that is levelled at organised religion is that is a psychological crutch. Something that people who are mentally week and cannot support themselves in difficult times need to lean on for support.

This part of Isaiah is known as one of the salvation oracles. These are passages that were given to people who were facing times of crisis and doubt. They are meant to be encouraging reminders that human life is not the be all and end all. There is something else more powerful than we could ever imagine and the best part of it is, this all powerful force is there for us.  This is the promise that we do not go through life alone, we do not need to feel isolated and afraid.  When we are faced with a situation that we think we cannot deal with, when we are confronted by something that is to big for us alone, there is someone standing by us always telling us not to be afraid.

There is nothing wrong with finding yourself at rock bottom, it is part of human life. We certainly should not be ashamed of our suffering and worry and we should never be afraid of asking for help from those around us. In the same way, we should never be afraid to offer help to those who need it.

We can take heart from what is there for us, the one whom we serve who cares for us more than we can ever imagine. We know that we will never truly be alone, all that we face in this life, we face it with our creator, one who loves us and knows us better than we know ourselves. Who is at times, when all others have failed us, the only one who can truly help us. God is our crutch, I cannot see why people mean this as a criticism. Surely to provide support when things are hard, we all need something dependable at our side? Even when things are good, the security of knowing that we are loved and supported, held up so that we will not fall if we should stumble is so much better than going through life alone.

 

Theological Reflection of Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis for Saturday 13th June 2020

I am writing this piece at a time when all aspects of the media are reporting on the growing surge of anger and protest following the death of George Floyd during his overwhelmingly heavy handed arrest by the Minneapolis Police Department. The protest is both positive and negative:

“Black Lives Matter”; The Minneapolis Police Station has been burnt down; the bronze statue of Edward Colston, Shipping Magnate of Bristol, torn down and consigned to the depths of the city docks as punishment for his part in the slave trade. Most of the USA and many European countries are now deeply engaged in urgent debate about the important question: where do we go from here?

An obvious starting point for Christians is to recite the conviction of Genesis chapter one that God created human kind, both male and female, in his image and likeness. In the context of the very widely held acceptance of Darwinian Theories of Evolution it is worth observing that the Archaeologists and Anthropologists traced their findings of the earliest examples of our kind (homo sapiens) to middle Africa. Adam and Eve would either have been black or, tracing Abraham’s fore-bears to Mesopotamia, perhaps people of colour; but not the fair skinned couple of European artistry.

Let us be honest: the instinct for racial divisiveness is a mark of sin within humanity. This evil streak runs very deep. I discovered it in a small way when I was a pupil at a boarding school in England. A few years later, at a pre-confirmation retreat, the humanitarian cleric leading the bemused teenage gathering lamented that we had managed to give the impression that “ wogs begin at Calais” In 1972, while at a Chinese restaurant with some sea fairing trainees I suggested that we should add a tip to the bill. “what?”, exclaimed a rough and ready Thames lighter-man, “these are only little yellow men!”

In addressing the issue of anger and protest, it is worth recalling a sound bite beloved of the legal profession: “don’t get mad – get even”. Both State and Church have both played their part in promoting racial justice and reducing exploitation of the poor. The struggle for the Abolition of Slavery (both of the slave trade and of ownership of slaves in the West Indies) is still perhaps the finest example of Church and State working hand in hand to bring justice to bear over such abusive exploitation of human lives. That principle of Church-State cooperation is still important, even though the Church has lost much ground. A proportion of every class of humanity will behave badly towards women, the poor and the vulnerable, which will often exclude black people. Why? In short, because evil will manifest itself where it can. Therefore external limitation of exploitation by legislation is essential. So is the moulding of attitudes towards social and racial justice. Churches have a part to play in that. My late friend the Reverend Jimmy Wilson Hughes, of the Missions to Seamen, was awarded an OBE for his work as a Port Chaplain for his work in Durbun. What was so significant about that? While there he opened the first multi-racial bar in South Africa. He had not agitated or provoked. He had integrated and reconciled.

 

Daily Reflection 12th June 2020 – The Feast of St Barnabus – Acts 11:19-30 

19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

 

Today the church celebrates the feast of St Barnabus. Barnabus, tradition tells us was one of the 70 disciples that were sent out by Christ as mentioned in the Gospel of St. Luke. His is mentioned in some of Paul’s letters and is one of the possible authors of the Epistle to the Romans. His story appears in the Acts of the Apostles and we can read of his journeys around the middle east and Mediterranean regions.

When you look at the life of Barnabus one thing becomes quite apparent, he was an individual who taught and encouraged people in the faith. His time in Antioch saw the name Christian used for the first time to refer to the followers of Christ and by his actions many, many people heard the word of the Lord and came to faith. He is known to have spent time in Jerusalem and it is said that he had more to do with the church there than St. Paul did.

We can often become slightly immune to what we read in scripture, not so much the big events but the more mundane or day to day  acts of individuals of whom we know very little about. Barnabus, is not one of the better known disciples. We may presume that he, like many other individual’s we encounter in the bible, was just an ordinary person. Yet he is an ordinary person who performed extraordinary things. It is people such as Barnabus that we may want to look to when we need encouragement and inspiration. He is one of those that has gone before us to show us the way, we can follow his good example and teach and encourage those around us. We can build and we can grow the body of Christ by doing what he did, sharing the Good News of Christ in the world to those around us.

 

Daily Reflection 11th June 2020 Corpus Christi -Glenys Payne

Today is appointed as a day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion, more commonly known as “Corpus Christi” – Latin for the Body of Christ. Today many celebrate the Real Presence of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the elements of the Eucharist.

Since Christianity began, Holy Communion, Eucharist or the Mass, whatever word you prefer to use, has been central to Christian worship. We know from the Acts of the Apostles that the earliest followers of Jesus regularly met to share bread whilst the earliest available liturgies -the liturgy of St. James for example – make it very clear that the early church believed that Jesus really was present with them in the Eucharist. I have received Holy Communion since I was thirteen and although I haven’t always believed that Jesus really is present with us when we take bread and wine together as our communal meal, but I strongly believe this now.

 

The Eucharistic prayer starts off by proclaiming the real presence of Jesus: ‘The Lord is here,’ followed by ‘His Spirit is with us.’ These aren’t just words included to pad out the liturgy; they are statements of faith. And if they are statements of truth – ‘the Lord is here’ – surely it is right that our fit and proper response should be to ‘lift up our hearts?’ And, if Jesus is with us, touching us and feeding us, surely it can only be correct to accept the possibility that we may be transformed through the simple act of sharing in and receiving bread and wine?

 

In the Eucharist we look simultaneously in two directions; back into Scripture to the Last Supper and the post resurrection meal encounters and, forwards to the eternal banquet. Again in the Eucharistic prayer it is made clear that we are joined in our earthly communion by the ‘angels, archangels and all the company of heaven.’ Holy Communion, isn’t just about the here and now with all its trials and tribulations; it is also about drawing us into the eternal story. That’s why we proclaim ‘great is the mystery of faith.’ But why would Jesus want to feed us? For sure to remind us of our eternal destiny but also so that when the feast has ended we are equipped to ‘go in peace to love and serve the Lord.’

In these unprecedented times it has been difficult for many to Spiritually Receive the Holy Eucharist. Spiritual communion was once defined by St Thomas Aquinas as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament and in lovingly embracing Him as if we had actually received Him”. One way of doing is by sincerely praying the following prayer by St Alphonsus Liguori:

“My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most Blessed Sacrament. I love you above all things and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as if you were already there, and unite myself wholly to you. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.”  

By sharing his body and blood through the form of bread and wine in the Eucharist, there is an intimate relationship between ourselves and the Lord. This week, let us pray for all those who do not know this close union or who are not able to be part of it. We also remember all deprived of the Eucharist because of the pandemic.

 

Daily Reflection 10th June 2020 – Luke 11. 1-11

The Lord’s Prayer

11 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:

Father,[a] hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come.[b]
    Give us each day our daily bread.[c]
    And forgive us our sins,
        for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
    And do not bring us to the time of trial.’[d]

Perseverance in Prayer

And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

 

Sometimes when we want to pray, we cannot find the words. Our mind will not allow our mouth to express the words that our heart wants to speak.  I would hazard a guess that this happens to most of us at the time that we really need prayer, when we are at our lowest points.

It was traditional for Rabbis in biblical times to teach their followers a short prayer that they may habitually use. John the Baptist had given his followers a prayer and now the disciples came asking Jesus for one. This version is shorter than the one that we find in Matthews gospel, but it can teach us all that we need to know about prayer.

When we see God as described as Father in the first line, we are not asking for things from an unwilling Lord, but someone who delights to fulfil the needs of his Children. Ask and it will be given, seek and we will find because we have a Father for a God, who loves and cares for us. It covers all of life and also shows that before we ask for anything for ourselves we must put God and his glory first. Only when we have given God his place will we find everything in its proper place.

Christ has given us a prayer that is all encompassing in fulfilling our needs, it is the prayer for our needs today, not those of the unknown tomorrow and the worries that following days may or may not bring. Yet it covers our past sins as we acknowledge our many failings and our future trials as we ask that we will not have to bear them alone.

The Lord’s Prayer has two great uses in our private prayers. If we use it at the beginning of our devotions, it awakens all kinds of holy desires which lead us on the right pathways of prayer. If we use it at the end, it sums up all that we ought to pray for in the presence of God.

 

Daily Reflection 9th June 2020 – Psalm 9

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
    I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

My enemies turn back;
    they stumble and perish before you.
For you have upheld my right and my cause,
    sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
    you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.
Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies,
    you have uprooted their cities;
    even the memory of them has perished.

The Lord reigns for ever;
    he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
    and judges the peoples with equity.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
    proclaim among the nations what he has done.
12 For he who avenges blood remembers;
    he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.

13 Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!
    Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may declare your praises
    in the gates of Daughter Zion,
    and there rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
    their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
16 The Lord is known by his acts of justice;
    the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.[c]
17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
    all the nations that forget God.
18 But God will never forget the needy;
    the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

19 Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;
    let the nations be judged in your presence.
20 Strike them with terror, Lord;
    let the nations know they are only mortal.

 

When we read the first part of this psalm all seems well, the psalmists enemies have been destroyed, God is to be praised, all that He has done is recalled with gratitude.

But then the tone changes, the writer asks the Lord to have mercy on them. Perhaps what we have read before is more a statement of faith than an account of an experience. We are reading an account of what ought to be true.

Believing in God whilst living in God’s world can be a frustrating experience. There is too much that is wrong with the world, nothing is perfect, life can be unfair and seem cruel at times. It gives unbelievers a stick to beat us with.  How many times have we all heard the comment “how can there be a God when there is so much suffering in the world” or “How can a loving God allow XYZ to happen?”. If we are honest, we may have found ourselves thinking similar thoughts, having doubts in the darkness of the night. People can wonder how things happen on an individual and a global scale. We live in a world that is too full of dictatorship, too much poverty,  too much injustice and fear.  We can protest, something that there has been much of in the last few days.  We can call others to account, we can be seen to be supporting worthy causes for the right reason.

Above all, we can pray for them. There are times when the words will not come and we are faced with such a confusing situation that we do not know what we should pray for. It is at times such as these that the psalmist’s prayer can be ours too. “Arise Lord, do not let mortals triumph”. Despite all evidence to the contrary, God is indeed the one who will rule the world with righteousness and equity. In the final contest between God and man, there can only be one winner.

 

Post Pentecost Reflection Monday 8th June 2020 – Gaynor Houghton-Jones

When Fr. Jim suggested a few weeks ago that anyone might write a reflection for the website, as a lay person, I didn’t feel at all qualified. Since then however something has been nagging in the back of my mind and nudging me forward. I have been turning over three things in my mind. Firstly the challenges Canon Huw has given us in his weekly reflections, secondly Rhidian Brook’s talk at the Hay Festival online on his book Godbothering, a selection of Thoughts for the Day and thirdly the wisdom of Christians who influenced my early years – Rev. Alec Lewis, Miss Evans – Sunday school teacher with a unique gift for storytelling, Mrs Stewart, our neighbour, crippled with arthritis but with a strong faith and enormous knowledge of the Bible and Miss Dorena Thomas, my schoolteacher and staunch member of Dock Chapel who lived out her faith in front of our eyes.

I struggle with being a Christian. That is not to say that my faith is in doubt but day to day the distractions of the world creep in and I know I do not always do what Jesus would have done.

Most of my life has been spent in London working within the justice system and witnessing at first hand the divisions in society, the short termism of governments and the frailty of man. Madeleine McCann’s case now in the news again brings back so many memories of cruelty and neglect. As a lawyer I am rule based. St. Matthew tells us that Jesus taught people to obey the law – to pay their taxes to the Roman authority for example – and that He also said he had come not to abolish the law but to fulfil it, to uphold its holy standard. Before I retired I would often ask myself whether I was the lawyer who found comfort in Leviticus with its formidable array of regulations or the lawyer who was ready to meet the challenge set by Jesus when he was asked “Who is my neighbour”? Should I look at the spirit of the law to interpret it in a way that is seen to be just?

When I served on a Parochial Church Council in England I participated in strategic planning for the parish, the making of business plans and budgets and in lengthy discussions over whether to remove pews, change service times and liturgy, proceed with health and safety issues, build flats or houses and carry out restoration work on the ancient church. Our parish was well managed and PCC members were polite, co-operative, innovative and fully aware of cabinet responsibility. There were still times when there was dissent however and some members resigned because they could not uphold the decision of the majority. There are so many day to day issues which trouble churches and discussions can often be robust, passionate and lacking in humility. Quite often God seems to be absent or is looking down in exasperation. It is no wonder that C.S. Lewis’ demon Screwtape giving advice to his nephew Wormwood says that the church is their greatest ally. He says that parish organisation should always be attacked and that the “high” should be set against “the low”, those who say “Mass” set against those who say “Holy Communion” and those who prefer vestments against those who do not. He illustrates that petty differences will lead to doubt and a loss of faith.

Jesus asked for full commitment and yet he told us the story of the prodigal son. So, although we may struggle we know how loving and merciful our God is. Jesus is perfect. We are not and as we strive to do better we do so in the knowledge of God’s grace.  St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians says: “For by Grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing: it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no-one may boast.”

And so at this season of the Spirit I pray:

“Breathe on me, breath of God,

Fill me with life anew,

That I may love what Thou dost love,

And do what Thou wouldst do.”

 

Daily Reflection –  Reverend Patrick Mansel Lewis,  Saturday 6th June 2020      

 

As I write this article I am aware that tomorrow will be Trinity Sunday, on which it is traditional for Christian congregations to remind ourselves that we hold a Trinitarian Faith: we worship one God in three persons. When Morning Prayer (or Mattins) was the main service on Sunday morning’s congregations would solemnly declare their faith on Trinity Sunday in the words of the Creed of Saint Athanasius, the hero of the Counsil of Nicea (325AD). This was no small matter, as this Creed runs to 42 verses (plus a Gloria) over two and a half pages of the Prayer book. The purpose of this version of the Creed is to present a coherent and rational declaration of the divinity of all three persons of the God-Head.

The Athanasian Creed says of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that they are not made and are not created. The subtle distinctions are these:

  • The Father is made by no-one
  • The Son is from the father alone: begotten
  • The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son: not begotten, but proceeding from both.

All believers consent to the divinity of God the Father. Apart from a few hot heads who appear from time to time over the generations, Christians also believe in the divinity of Jesus in his capacity of being the Son of God. In that he is Son, he is therefore of the same stock or substance as his Father-the Divine Almighty Father.

When we come to the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost to traditionalists) the answer is not quite so simple, partly because people have more questions; consequently there have to be more answers. As to his divinity (which is the primary issue for Trinity Sunday), the bottom line question must be whether the Holy Spirit is a person or a power or a force.  If the Spirit is no more than a power or a force then it is not a person and cannot be divine. Conversely, if the Spirit is a person he may be divine.

John the Baptist told his Disciples that Jesus would baptize his Disciples in the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the Disciples were utterly transformed, and became a community of enormous influence in the Middle East and in Europe. So the Holy Spirit came with power. That is the subtlety of the matter. Power came upon the Disciples, and if we are not careful we can confuse the power which the Holy Spirit brought with the identity of the Spirit himself.

Jesus told his Disciples that he would pray to his father who would send them another Counsellor (otherwise known as advocate or comforter). That is the language of a person and not a thing.

Likewise in the early chapters of Revelation, each of the letters to the seven Churches in Western Turkey ends with the instruction: “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church”. Likewise, this is language about a person and not a thing.

So, we may conclude that the Holy Spirit is a person and not a force or a power, but a person who brings great power.

As to his divinity, there are a number of New Testament references which bracket the Holy Spirit with Jesus and the Father, implying that the three should be read as belonging to each other. In his letter to the Romans, especially in Chapter 8, Saint Paul describes the Spirit in various different ways, one of which is the Spirit of the Father, and another of which is the Spirit of the Son. This is the kind of language which led to the Church Fathers who framed the early Christian Creeds declaring that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (and is therefore of the equivalent stock or substance to each of them, and is consequently divine).

Accordingly I encourage all of you who read this article to hold to your belief in the divinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, whose power is at work in both Heaven and on Earth. This is in essence the message of Trinity Sunday.

Daily Reflection 5th June 2020 – Luke 10:1-16 

The Mission of the Seventy

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy[a] others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’[b] 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’[c] 12 I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

 

The time is approaching when we will be back in the church buildings, no date has yet been set and before we do many things will need to be examined and various procedures put in place, changes will need to be made, things will not be the same as they were before.

We might ask ourselves is this actually a bad thing, what do we need to change in our churches, what actually is important? Do we just want to carry on as close to how things have been or do we want to take a long hard look at ourselves and consider how we can perform the mission of God better than we did before?

When Christ sent out the 70, he sent them out with nothing except his words. He knew that their task would be difficult, indeed he says that they are going out to be lambs among wolves. He also knew that the message that they carried would not always be accepted or even popular, but he sent them none the less.

The time will be here soon when we have to examine how we are going to act in the world, are we going to continue just hiding behind walls for a couple of hours on a Sunday, or are we going to be out there in the world, among our families, friends, neighbours and strangers bearing the Good News of the Risen Christ?

Daily Reflection 4th June 2020 – Mark 12:28-34 – Rev’d Glenys Payne

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”  Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; ‘ you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘He is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbour as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any questions.

 

In a world where religion seems to be dominated by people who want to make it all definitions and doctrines, political correctness, laws which must be followed, new strategies, and so on – here we have in our reading- Jesus being challenged by the legal types of his time and He tells them that it is first and foremost about love!!! It is a wonderful message but challenging message, especially for us in the situation we find ourselves in the world today.

The Pharisees are really challenging Jesus when they ask him which commandment above all the rest is the greatest. Jesus answers by naming not one but two commandments from the Hebrew Scriptures. The first comes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and the second from Leviticus 19:18.

How does one ‘Love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind?’ How do we love God? How do we experience God? Who is considered to be my neighbour? These are all questions that rise up and don’t always have clear answers. So, these two commandments, which is the core of this Gospel message, they’re not as straightforward as first seemed. If we’re really looking to complicate things even more, how can you love your neighbour if you don’t love yourself? Love of self is implied in order to love one’s neighbour.

‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Throughout the bible we see examples of love and sacrifice for one another. One of the greatest stories of this connection with fellow man is through David and Jonathan 1 Samuel18:1 “Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.”

Sadly however the commandment often (and rightfully so) gets focused on how to treat someone else – not to be prideful and selfish. But many I’m sure when our insecurities are at their highest and our self- esteem is low we could ask “What if I don’t love myself?!” What if I find it hard to love and serve others when I feel like this? What if I’m not able to serve others in the way I should?

Do we sometimes forget to thank God for our individual Blessings? We are to celebrate all of God’s creations, which means ‘ourselves’ as well.

A mother was spending time in prayer with her four year old daughter at bed time and told her how Blessed she was as a mother to have Daddy, her and her brother, in her life and how much God loved them. The child reached out her sweet little hand and touched her Mother’s face, saying ‘Yes but remember God made you too Mammy.’

We are good at praying for others but do we always pray for ourselves. Do we ask God to help us love ourselves as He would Love us?

As we read Psalm 139:13-14 we remind ourselves that God loves us as individuals. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Low self-esteem and self-worth drags down our thoughts and emotions and our general outlook tends to be negative. Without even realizing it, our lowered self-esteem can breed bitterness, resentment, and jealousy towards others. Even if we work on building others up. The lack of love we have for ourselves will be evident to those around us.

“Love yourself first”. Maybe that is where we need to begin. Certainly self-hatred is not a good foundation. “Love yourself first”, but we must always remember that the greater thing is to love your neighbour, who is going to have just as many faults and irritating ways as yourself, but who is just as precious and priceless, designed by the same creator. In Loving our neighbour, we are on our way to loving God, which is the real goal, the highest calling, the ultimate meaning, the fullest experience, the greatest commandment.

Always remembering that we can only love at all because he first loves us (1 John 4:19)

 

Daily Reflection 3rd June 2020 – Luke 9:37-50 

37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he[a] shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” 45 But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

46 An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, 48 and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”

49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”

 

After many weeks of news that has consisted of articles about or linked to Covid-19 others another story has taken over the headlines of the world’s news agencies.  Events across the Atlantic have once again shown the problems that exist in what is supposedly one of the largest democracies in the world. A death in custody of a citizen from a minority group has led to widespread violence, looting and disorder. This in turn has led to threats from this country’s president to send in the military to keep order. Various states national guard units have already been deployed in this respect. Finally, to cap it all, a photoshoot with a bible outside a historic church after the protesting crowds were removed by police using rubber bullets and tear gas. The message of the Son of Man has been betrayed by one human’s hands.

We can wonder as to what actually drives this particular individual, we can wonder how on earth he was actually elected in the first place? But elected he was and in some cases popular he remains.  The description of the boy possessed by a demon in the passage from Luke seems worryingly familiar to behaviour seen in this individual.

Christ drove out demons, Christ brough peace where there was uproar and confusion. Now it is our turn. We cannot stand by in the face of any injustice and remain silent, silence and not wishing to get involved kills people.  Yet violence is never the answer from whatever quarter it comes from as violence will be met with violence and more people will suffer.  As Christian’s we are called to stand up for the marginalised, for the oppressed and for those who suffer.  Now is the time to stand up to make our voices heard, to show love where there is hate and bring peace where there is violence.

 

Daily Reflection 2nd June 2020 – Matthew 11:28-30 

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

We have to be careful when we look at passages of scripture and consider the context for which it was written. The above passage is about the trouble and hard work that people in the time of Jesus found in following the minutiae of the religious laws of the day. Hundreds of rules and regulations, commands and observances made it incredibly difficult to stay on the straight path.  As long as we keep in mind this context, we can explore the text and see how it speak to us today.

Many people are struggling at the moment, enforced confinement with family and no real change on the horizon are causing much stress and upset. Even in family groups that always get along there will be cracks and anxiety. People who live alone might be lonely, telephone calls are okay, but no real substitute for going out and meeting friends. All in all, as time goes on, it is getting harder and harder for many of us to keep plodding on.  We know that things will improve, but we don’t know when.

Christ’s words in Matthew’s gospel can speak to us in this situation, we are all weary, we may be burdened with stress and worry, yet by casting our cares on to Christ we can feel rest and recuperate. This is not always easy, many of us are wired in a way that makes us determined to carry on on our own, to try and muddle through as best we can. We don’t always ask for help when we need it, we think that we can manage it all.

There comes a time when we must realise that the only way we will maintain our sanity in a situation is to share our concerns and lean on the support that we can find with Jesus. There is no shame in realising that we are finding it hard, but if we can open our eyes and our hearts to the one who is walking beside us, we will find comfort and rest.

 

Daily Reflection 1st June 2020 – Romans 12:9-16 

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.[a] 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;[b] do not claim to be wiser than you are.

 

Across the border in England some children are going back to school today. Normally after a holiday many parents are keen to get their offspring back to school. The last few months may have been anything but a holiday for many families and many parents will be worried sick about sending their children out of the assumed safety of the home environment into an unknown situation. The media have been reporting that of all the children eligible to go back to school today (which is a very small amount) only half will be present as some families do not consider the situation safe enough yet to engage.  There are debates and discussions going on across the country as to how the individual nations that make up the United Kingdom go forwards from this point. When will the shops open fully, when can we meet friends and family with no restrictions, when can we attended church again?

In some cases, debate and discussion is turning into argument and conflict. In some families the desire of family members to see others is causing disagreements, sometimes serious ones. One family I know is suffering what is essentially emotional blackmail from grandparents who are desperate to see grandchildren again. I am certain that no malice is being meant, but desire the desire to move forward and regain something approaching normality can manifest itself in strange and disturbing ways.

If you follow the news closely and certainly if you are active on social media, you cannot fail to have seen the amount of opinions that are being presented about how we as a nation move forwards from this point. Everyone has an opinion it seems and some shout them louder than others. This may not be bourne of selfishness, many people’s reactions to the situation are now reactions to personal anxiety and a complete confusion with regards to what is going on. Yet we must be wary of claiming to be wiser that we really are.

Getting out of this situation will be much harder than it was getting into it, it will take courage, wisdom and patience and it will certainly take prayer and reflection as well. It will also take love and perseverance in times of stress and worry. But remember what we are taught in the scriptures, take heart in the care and compassion that we find in Christ’s love for all. We do not face our troubles alone, we walk in the light with the constant companionship of our friend and saviour. No matter how dark the day, there is always the glow of hope to preserve us we just need to open our eyes and see it, open our hearts to feel it and open our mouths to share it.

 

Reflection of Reverend Patrick Mansel Lewis for Saturday 30th May 2020

We are in the last week of the Easter season of the Christian year, in which we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This week includes another highly significant event in the life of Jesus Christ on earth. Since Thursday of the previous week we have also been commemorating and celebrating the ascension of Jesus to his Father in Heaven. The week from last Sunday, the 7th Sunday of Easter, is in Church tradition the week in which Christians who follow a Church calendar pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit. We do this because it is clearly taught in the New Testament that the Holy Spirit was given to the fledgling group of Christians after the ascension of Jesus to Heaven. This connection of the gifting of the Holy Spirit to the ascension certainly makes it clear to us that the presence of the Holy Spirit among us is a personal gift from Heaven.

So this last week should have been an extended vigil of waiting upon the Lord in prayer. However, if that is all that we do in the week of prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit we reveal a certain naivety: as though we have known nothing of the gifts which were poured out on the first disciples 2000 years ago and which have been freely available ever since.

St Paul’s second letter to Timothy may help us to bring a sense of perspective upon the matter. In chapter 1 verse 6 he reminds Timothy to rekindle the gift of God that is within him by the laying on of his hands. What is the gift which Timothy received? Is it Prophecy, or the capacity to heal disease-ridden and fractured lives, or to be a convincing evangelistic preacher? No. Paul knows that Timothy is a warm hearted, gentle and sensitive young man, who is susceptible to loss of self-confidence and timid responses to more forceful personalities. Paul tells Timothy that loss of confidence, timidity and fear are not expressions of God within in us, because god gave Christian believers “a spirit of power and of love and of self-control”.  This can also mean sound judgement and good sense.

Whatever our vocation within the body of Christ may be, the foundation element for all of us is about what we are, and not what we do. Without a strong foundation in our character everything which we do is at risk of becoming a role-play, rather than an expression of the person that we are. The comforting factor is that the Holy Spirit is at work within us for a life-time transformation of the lives of all believers in to being that reflection of the image of God which is genuinely characteristic of each one of us. That does not mean that our lives are going to be easy or without problems or difficulties. However it does mean that the Holy Spirit is working within us all to develop instincts and responses of sound judgement, authority  (which can mean the capacity to be ourselves rather than merely the capacity to be a response to other people and situations in which we find ourselves) and an instinct for self-giving. These are the things which St Paul commended to Timothy and, by implication, to all of us as well. We need them now more than most times in our lives.

 

Daily Reflection 29th May 2020 – John 21. 15-19 – Andy Pike

5When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, LORD,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, LORD, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “LORD, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

We are in the last few days before the great feast  of Pentecost,  here the gospel of John refers to the last encounter Jesus had with his disciples. It is here that Jesus shows his love and affection, his tenderness towards them. Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me”? It’s only after this, that Jesus entrusts him with looking after his sheep. Love is at the centre of everything in this portion of scripture, Peter became known as the beloved disciple. Jesus never asked him many questions, or asked of his morals, or his study, simply, “do you love me”?

What Jesus is asking here is of our love. The word love is sometimes used awkwardly, and often misunderstood today. To love, is above all, a profound experience of relationship among people in which similar sentiments and values prevail – a care and concern for the other over oneself, as well as joy, sadness, suffering, growth, renunciation, dedication, fulfillment, gift, commitment, life, death. This is so applicable to the current times. Jesus mission in a manifestation of love: “having loved His own, He loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1).

Our love should not be just words or just talking about it, they should be of things that are active or genuine, or of  practical worth. Anyone who lives in faith, and shows the love of Jesus becomes a beloved disciple of the Lord.

The Lord Jesus calls each one of us, even in our weakness, sin, and failings, to love him above all else

 

  • Peter becomes a new creation: a fisherman turns shepherd.Lord, grant that I may never cease asking for forgiveness. If we must be prepared to forgive limitlessly, then we must also be ready to ask for forgiveness – and believe we are forgiven – until the moment we die.
  • Peter, despite his failings, is chosen to continue the ministry of Jesus by humble service to others. Jesus gives me a ministry of service also. Am I aware of it? Do I carry it out even if it means pain?
  • What answer do I give when, like Peter, I am questioned regarding the extent of my love for Jesus? Can I at least say ‘You know that I try to love you.
  • If Jesus were to ask me, ‘Do you love me?’ how would I respond? Many women and men, down the ages, have given their lives for Christ. How would I feel if I were asked to do the same? Can I at least be a good follower of Jesus?

Daily Reflection 28th May 2020 – John 17:20-26 -Rev’d Glenys Payne

20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us,[a] so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

 

The gospels often show Jesus at prayer, but, with the exception of the “Lord’s Prayer”, they do not normally tell us the contents of Jesus’ prayer. Today’s gospel reading is an extract from chapter 17 often called, the “Priestly Prayer”. It is part of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse – some of His last words before His Crucifixion.

The purpose is not to teach us how to pray but to show the intimate relationship between Jesus and his Father. “I pray not only for these but for those also who through their words will believe in me.” Jesus is not only praying for his disciples, but also through them, for all believers across all ages. He is praying for us too.  Jesus is not entrusting the future of the disciples to themselves. He is entrusting their future to God. His words are not departing instructions but a departing prayer. In this reading we overhear Jesus’ prayer for His disciples and for us. His prayer isn’t for our benefit only but for the life of the world, so that the world may come to believe the Father sent Jesus. Our unity becomes the sacramental presence of God in the world.

The number 3 biblically represents divine wholeness, completeness and perfection. Jesus prays three times for oneness. “That they may all be one.” “That they may be one.“That they may become completely one.” The oneness for which he prays is modelled on the unity of the Father and Jesus, their shared life. He prays that we would be completely one as he and the Father are one.

The world has not known you, but I have known you – The world here doesn’t mean nature or God’s creation that will always remain good. The world here means the negative forces in society. The disciples came from that society and have to continue working within it. Being a follower of Christ at that time, as indeed is also often the case today means going against the prevailing trends in society.

Jesus extends his prayer to the whole church. Knowing is not so much having factual intellectual knowledge of someone, but having personal, direct experience of the other. The word here takes on an intimate and mystical sense. On the eve of his suffering Jesus prays for all his disciples: may their unity witness to him so that the world may believe. They will also see Jesus’ glory given by the Father.

In these unprecedented times this reading is as relevant now as it was then. It is Jesus’ prayer that we all become completely one in His name.

 

Daily Reflection 27th May 2020 – John 17:11-19 

11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that[a] you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost,[b] so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.[c] 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.[d] 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

What does it mean to be sent into the world? There are various sections of the scriptures that talk of the early followers of Christ being sent out to proclaim the good news to the world at large. The idea that Christians would shut themselves away in small groups or alone would have been completely alien to Jesus. He intended that his followers would be proactive in their faith, sharing and demonstrating the same love that he shows to us.

While there is nothing wrong with time spent in contemplation and prayer, indeed it is something that most of us do not do enough of, our place is in the world, outside strong stone walls and boundaries.  Perhaps this idea is strange to us at the moment, with so many of us isolated at home. But being outside in the world can be as much a mental state as a physical one.

If we always think in terms of Church as just the building with various people tasked to do specific jobs, we are at risk of being shut away. Church is far much more than this, it is true that certain roles in the church cannot be performed by all and there are various roles that have a legal implication. But no one becomes a better Christian by doing a specific task or holding a certain office. We are all called to be out there with the world, with our friends and neighbours demonstrating the love of Christ to all in whatever way we can.

 

Daily Reflection 26th May 2020 – John 17:1-11 

17 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people,[a] to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

We often read in scripture the passages that mention the ‘Name of Jesus’ there is even a famous hymn that has the phrase in the first line.  But what is meant by this, what is the importance of a name?

In Jewish tradition a name was much more than how you were identified in a group, certainly in the Old Testament ‘Name’ is part of who you actually were, not just what you were called. It could mean the who character of the person in so far as it could be known.  In Psalm 9 the author writes “Those who know thy name will put thy trust in thee.”  Clearly this does not mean that know what God is called will trust him; it means that those who know what God is like, those who know his character and nature will be glad to trust him entirely.

Jesus is saying the passage above that he has enabled us to see the nature of God. It is another way of saying that “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Yet there is more to this, in later periods of old testament history, the name of God was not allowed to be uttered, it was too sacred for the ordinary person to say. It was said on the day of atonement, by the high priest in the holy of holies. God was the remote king who was kept distant from the ordinary people.

Jesus is telling us that he has brought God so close to the people that they can now name him, that they can understand His true nature and love. So close that we can now talk with him, listen to him and share our lives with him. Through Christ we have a relationship with the Almighty that never existed before. As Christians, we should strive to ensure that our name represents to others what we are, not just what we call ourselves.

 

Daily Reflection 25th May 2020 – 1 John 2:18-29 

18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.[a] 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

24 As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us—eternal life.

26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

God’s Children and Sin

28 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

 

Over the course of history, many individuals have been described as, or identified with the Antichrist. Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, various presidents of the US to name but a few from the last couple of hundred years. The Antichrist as mentioned in the book of Revelation, has been identified as the emperor Nero by some scholars. A figure so detested at the time, many could not believe he was dead. Many people today still hold onto the idea of a single individual who is the essence of all wickedness and the incarnation of evil.

The writer of this Epistle, who tradition has always declared to be St. John – the author of the fourth gospel, gives a slightly different take on the matter. To him the sign that the antichrist is active in the world is the teachings and beliefs of false teachers and prophets. The church had been warned by Jesus that there would be many coming in his name preaching lies and dangerous falsehoods,  St. Paul had also warned his followers about false teachers that titillate the ears.

John’s understanding was that the Antichrist was not a single figure, not just an individual. But rather the power of falsehood speaking in and through the false prophets. Just as the Holy Spirit inspired the true teachers the antichrist was what inspired the false teachers.

The power of good verses evil is a battle that occurs in our minds. We can see this today, ideas settle in the human mind because they are heard so often, false information can become perceived as the truth because it is repeated time and time again.

At this time and as we move towards what might be seen as a rather uncertain future, let us make sure that the teachings we listen to are the teachings of God and not the teachings of evil, the voice of light and not the mutterings of darkness. We should also ensure that what we teach others is only what is really the Good News of, not a twisted idea that leads to suffering and pain for others.

 

Theological reflection for Saturday 23rd May 2020 by Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis

The Collect for Ascension Day recites are belief that our Lord Jesus Christ has ascended into the Heavens, and goes on to ask God to grant that we may “In heart and mind” also ascend there, and continually dwell with Jesus.

St Paul would approve for the desire inherent in our collect, having himself written to the Christians in Colossae that they should “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God”. To the Christians in Ephesus he was even more explicit, telling them that God has “Raised us up with Him [Jesus Christ] and made us sit with Him in Heavenly places”.

The epistle to the Hebrews uses more dramatic language, referring to Jesus as “The pioneer and perfector of our faith”[12: 2]. What did the writer have in mind in using that kind of phrase? He uses the Greek word “Archegos” [which we could assimilate very easily into Welsh which has a maritime background]. Every merchant ship in the Greek Navy used to have one member of the crew who was a very strong swimmer, who was allocated a long rope attached to a capstone in the bow of the ship. In the event of the ship striking a rock or running onto a sandbank as it approach land the duty of the archegos was to leap into the water with the free end of the rope around his waist and make for the shore as best he could. Upon reaching the coast he had to attach the rope to some strong point so that the rest of the crew could use the rope’s length between their vessel and the beach like a breeches buoy and gain land safely. This is the imagery which lies behind the English translation “pioneer”.

Jesus, our pioneer, has made a way of escape from the shipwreck which is the result of diverting from the course directed by God in the first place. Our pioneer lost his life in the attempt, but it was miraculously restored to him to enable completion of his journey through the waves to the land, which might have borne the name of something rather appropriate like Ascension Island.

No one would suppose that the process of pulling oneself through the rolling waves and breaking surf hand over hand on the rope would have been easy or simple. It would have required determination, perseverance, effort and endurance. However at the end of the haul through the water would be the pioneer, both a destination and the one who enabled the flight to safety from a ship breaking apart in the pounding waves.

Such is the vision which the writer to the Hebrews has of both the ascension and the spiritual journey which we are invited to make. Our destination? Jesus himself. Where? In the presence of God the Father. How? By the guiding Holy Spirit whom the Father has given to those who want to follow Jesus. Come, Holy Spirit!

 

Daily Reflection Friday 22nd May 2020  – John 16:20-24

20 Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is in labour, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. 22 So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 On that day you will ask nothing of me.[a] Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.[b] 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

The Jewish people viewed time as being in two main parts. The past and what was to come. The past was wholly wicked and evil and the time to come was going to be glorious and wonderful because this would be the time of the messiah, this was to be the golden age of God. Between these two times there would be the birth pains of the messiah, a time of trouble and war, destruction and chaos and the terrible day of the Coming of the Lord, this would be the day that the earth was shattered into fragments before the new and golden dawn.

Jesus knew the scriptures and these pictures would have been in his mind when he spoke to his disciples and told them of the horrors to come before he returned.  But before he left them, he told them of the hope that will triumph over everything.

Joy from things of the world can never sustain us, this is a joy that is transient and can be withdrawn at a whim.  Joy that comes from a faith that knows the true love of Christ can never disappear. It is independent of the ebb and flow of the fortunes of the world. This is not to say that to be a Christian will not bring pain and suffering at times, Christ tells us that we will face trouble and pain, but the hope of the joy to come can never be taken away.

In this season of prayer for ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, between Ascension and Pentecost, we are called to pray for the world around us, for our friends and neighbours that they may find the joy that can never be taken away. That they may find the hope in the kingdom to come and the peace and love that is found in following Christ on this earth as we make ready for the next one.

 

Daily Reflection 21st May 2020 – Acts 1:1-11  Ascension Day

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying[a] with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The Ascension of Jesus

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Reflection

Jesus’ ascension into heaven is something that probably doesn’t get enough attention. We make a pretty big deal over Christmas and Easter, but what about the ascension? We might think the ascension is not all that important but without the ascension the work of Jesus would be incomplete.

Many people are asking during this Covid 19 pandemic – When will things get back to normal?”  “Will life ever return to ‘normal’ to the way things used to be or will there be a ‘new normal’ in the days and months ahead?” We can wonder if Jesus’ disciples asked similar questions after the Resurrection. They all thought that they had lost their master and teacher. Their far from ‘normal’ lives with Jesus, suddenly came to a screeching halt when He was crucified, died and was buried. They must have wondered, “What now?”

But before they could fully digest the loss…He was alive again. He suddenly appeared to the women on the way back from the empty tomb and made many other appearances. This continued for 40 days until the Ascension, He was gone again!

Why 40 days?  Is there any significance or meaning behind the specific number 40? God sent rain for 40 days and nights when the flood occurred. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. When Moses went up the mountain and into the presence of God he was there 40 days and nights. Goliath taunted the Israelites forty days until David showed up. Jesus was tempted by the devil for forty days.

We see that the number 40, as with other numbers in the bible, has significance. We see in some of these references it was a time of testing and judgment. Yet in these times of testing and difficulty at the end there is relief and blessing. The flood waters receded, the Israelites entered the Promised Land, David slew Goliath, Jesus had victory over Satan, etc. We see in the case of Moses that the forty days were a time of divine presence and power. Jesus’ 40 days before his ascension were significant too.

Was this going to be the ‘new normal’ – Jesus appearing and disappearing at will? Were things ever going to return to ‘normal’ to the way that they had been before? In Acts 1:6 the disciples asked “Lord, will You at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” Jesus replied “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

We may ask in ‘What is our ‘new normal’ going to look like? As long as we remember that the Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost is the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and is in our hearts today, inviting us to trust in Him. No challenge is too great for a child of God.

 

Daily Reflection Wednesday 20th May 2020Philippians 4. 4-7 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This is the second time I have reflected on this particular text in this series. The first time was on the 23rd of March, the morning after the Prime Minster made his announcement about the new regulations that would change the way we go about our daily lives.

The message for many has not changed, Wales has seen no relaxation on the controls, although they have been amended in England. But, all across the globe there are indications that the fight against the spread of Covid-19 is starting to be successful. Some counties are lifting their restrictions, many are looking into what this will entail.

For many this is causing worry and stress about what will happen next. In the UK we have seen divisions between various political parties and even the nations that make up the union, the idea that we are all in this together seems to be slipping away. Claims and counter claims about the best way forward are causing confusion and arguments. Yet there is still hope, there is always hope, in moving forwards. The majority of the population have had a long period of enforced separation from wider family and friends and this has for many, reminded us of what we take for granted in our lives. Many people have also realised how much we need to rely on others, still more have found satisfaction and pleasure in supporting both those around them and strangers.

Figures in the media suggest that live streamed and recorded worship is proving popular, with more people engaging in some form of worship than has been the case for many years. This can only be good news for all concerned, how many return to our churches after years of absence remains to be seen, but the fact that people have reached out to Christ at this time should give us all hope.

As we move towards a time of greater freedom, let us not be anxious but remind ourselves of the hope that comes from Christ. Rejoice in the good that has come from this situation and above all give thanks for all He has done for us and for others in the past few months. And we can certainly pray that from the chaos of the present, a better and more loving future will develop.

 

Daily Reflection 19th May 2020 – Job 28. 1-11

28 “Surely there is a mine for silver,
    and a place for gold that they refine.
Iron is taken out of the earth,
    and copper is smelted from the ore.
Man puts an end to darkness
    and searches out to the farthest limit
    the ore in gloom and deep darkness.
He opens shafts in a valley away from where anyone lives;
    they are forgotten by travelers;
    they hang in the air, far away from mankind; they swing to and fro.
As for the earth, out of it comes bread,
    but underneath it is turned up as by fire.
Its stones are the place of sapphires,[a]
    and it has dust of gold.

“That path no bird of prey knows,
    and the falcon’s eye has not seen it.
The proud beasts have not trodden it;
    the lion has not passed over it.

“Man puts his hand to the flinty rock
    and overturns mountains by the roots.
10 He cuts out channels in the rocks,
    and his eye sees every precious thing.
11 He dams up the streams so that they do not trickle,
    and the thing that is hidden he brings out to light.

 

The Book of Job is one that I would recommend anyone to read, it has humour, it has sadness, but above all it has wisdom. The extract above is part of a poem recited by one of Job’s friends, we don’t know who he was but he spoke to Job at a time when Job was wondering where true wisdom comes from. The answer to this is obviously that true wisdom comes only from God.

We have been given the world for our use, we can do what we like to it. But, with this right comes huge responsibility and as a society we have not always been properly responsible for what we have been charged with. Some of this is down to ignorance, the great inventors and engineers of the industrial revolution would have had no idea that the search for mineral and the burning of coal to power heavy industry would create problems that we face today. But in the present day, ignorance is perhaps less of an excuse.

Society wants things, we are in a situation where consumer demand drives all. The desire for the next bit of technology, for the next item we buy is what drives the world. For many, gone are the days when we replace something because it is broken. Items are replaced because the new updated model is desired. People are happy to buy the lastest mobile phone, colossal television or latest fashion and care little about the environmental impact. Lip service may be paid and we do see protests about environmental destruction. Often these are filmed on mobile ‘phones that are made in foreign factories using materials that are ripped from the earth with little worry for those who live near by or the wider environment. As end users, we can be guilty of being selectively ignorant about the damage that we are responsible for. No on in the UK would want a lithium mine on their doorstep, but many have little concern that somewhere in our world people are living next to a colossal hole in the ground that pollutes the air and water with toxic chemicals.

True wisdom come only from God and it is imparted to us through the teachings of Christ in the words and spirit of the scriptures. If we are to use the world’s resources wisely then we would do well to open our eyes to the sufferings that we are indirectly responsible for. To treat others as we would like to be treated and show the love and wisdom of Christ to those who desperately need it now by being fully responsible and ethical in all we do.

 

Daily Reflection Monday 18th May 2020 – Psalm 104:19-30

19 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
    and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
    and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey
    and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
    they return and lie down in their dens.
23 Then people go out to their work,
    to their labor until evening.

24 How many are your works, Lord!
    In wisdom you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
    teeming with creatures beyond number—
    living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.

27 All creatures look to you
    to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
    they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
    they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
    they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
    they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.

Strange things are happening in our world, not just the overarching issues that we are currently dealing with, but things that no one really anticipated. Rivers are running cleaner than they have done for years, air quality has improved vastly, wild flowers are emerging on verges that are not being trimmed by the council. Where open spaces are closed off from the public, nature is reclaiming the land.

This part of the 104th Psalm suggests that however things may appear in our short spans of existence, there are longer and more complex patterns at work in our world, way beyond our comprehension and experience.

This Psalm asks us to look at the wider picture of creation. We are naturally focused on the here and now and while this is important, we should look beyond ourselves. Death with always continue, but so will renewal. Birth, life and death are all parts of God’s creation and part of the ‘due seasons’ of existence.

The writer of the Psalm embraces the present moment with singing. We too are invited to a song of praise for creation through our worlds and actions. This song has been sung since the beginning of time, over the years old voices fade away and new voices from new lips join in, picking up the lines and in turn passing them on to others who come later. This is always a new song of new creations, yet it is the same song that has always been and always will be, long after we have gone and our lines are being sung by those who will come after us.

Nature is restoring itself with little help from us, creation is managing just fine without our interference. At this Rogationtide, when we traditionally think of all things pastoral and agricultural. Let us give thanks for creation, for the natural world, wildlife and farming. Maybe when this is all over, when our song will be heard across the valleys and the hills, it will be sung with more care and consideration for the wonders of God’s creation.

 

Theological Reflection by Rev’d Patrick Mansel Lewis for Saturday 16th May 2020

Tomorrow will be Rogation Sunday, the last Sunday in the season of Easter. This is, therefore, my last offering on the theme of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus struggled in Gethsemane as he made his last spiritual journey to a position of hopeless, settled, contemplation of an imminent and brutal trial and execution.  It was not a foregone conclusion.  He had to decide to go through with it, which required tremendous perseverance on his part.  The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews obviously reflected very thoughtfully about this utterly human response of Jesus to what lay ahead.  He wrote that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered.  You can imagine him stealing himself for yet another show-down with his critics, knowing that he had to be true to himself by speaking truth into unsavoury situations and thereby hardening the enmity against him of men holding positions of entrenched authority.  Obedience to a high calling may well lead to suffering, and it did so for Jesus.  But obedience to the vision always strengthens character and the capacity to endure.  It was this patient endurance on the part of Jesus which, with the help of the Holy Spirit (and a strengthening angel in Gethsemane), enabled him to arrive at a unified, dedicated, clarity of vision and purpose which the writer to the Hebrews describes as being made perfect through suffering.

So Jesus, son of Mary, the son of God who surrendered immortality in his incarnation, identified himself with humanity at large as he experienced the ultimate meaning of mortality in its cruel embrace at Calvary, obedient to the last to his vocation to incarnation.

Without that obedience on the part of Jesus there would have been no resurrection.  To state the blindingly obvious, resurrection only happens to one who has died.  Jesus did die, and so he rose again.

What of us?  How does the death and resurrection theme apply to us?  In his discources, Jesus taught the importance of dying to self and living a life with him at the centre.  Not self-centred, but Christ-centred.  Sometimes he talked about the need to die to ourselves in order to enjoy new life from him.  Saints John, Paul and Peter (to name but a few of the New Testament writers) see a parallel between the death and resurrection of Jesus and the theme of death to self and new life from Christ. It needs to go on through this earthly life, in many different situations and contexts, as we move  towards the end of our earthly journey.  If we share our life with the risen Lord Jesus on earth, he will share his risen life with us when our journey here comes to an end.

In the face of the mounting number of deaths in the Covid-19 pandemic, we do indeed have a Gospel to proclaim – always, that is, if we know it for ourselves.

 

Daily Reflection 15th May 2020 – Acts 15. 22-31

2Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided to choose men from among their members[a] and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers, 23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers[b] of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24 Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds,[c] 25 we have decided unanimously to choose representatives[d] and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled[e] and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

30 So they were sent off and went down to Antioch. When they gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 When its members[f] read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation.

 

This passage and chapters of Acts that precede it are a good example of what can happen if you take a text out of its context. Just reading the passage above we may fail to grasp what is actually occurring around the Apostles at this time. In essence this a reply to a question that had been sent by the church in Antioch about how gentiles were to become Christians. Many Jews at the time felt that become a follower of Christ someone had to follow all the minutiae of the Jewish religion first. Many Gentiles and some Jews thought that this was not the case. The debate that proceeded this response was deep and prolonged.

To not follow the rules of life that the Jews followed was for many, unthinkable. One of the leaders of the early church was St. James, known as James the Just. He states earlier in the dialogue that there should be nothing that makes following Christ difficult for the gentiles. They have no need to become Jews first or follow the Jewish Law, Just a few small observances. Making the decision to follow Christ was hard enough then, as it can be now, without petty bureaucracy making it harder.

James also realised that just sending a letter to the church in Antioch was not enough, previous ones had caused confusion, it was therefore decided that the reply would be delivered and proclaimed by Judus Barsabas & Silas to ensure that the message as intended was delivered.

We need to ensure that we both as the church and individuals do not put up barriers that block people coming to Christ.  It is not all about how someone looks or what they do for a living or enjoy as a hobby. While we might agree that a certain ‘wholesomeness’ of life is expected of all who follow Jesus. We need to remember that our opinions are often just that and we may wish to open our minds and our hearts if we are to share the gospel with those around us making certain that we do not become the barrier that blocks another.

It is also worth remembering that the apostles sent two people to deliver the message to Antioch, to share and teach personally rather than just sending a letter. Perhaps when this is all over, we may want to remember that talking, teaching and walking with someone coming into the faith is better than expecting them to just read a book and possibly get the wrong idea.

 

Reflection for Thursday May 14th.  Acts 1 15-26 – Rev’d Glenys Payne

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters,[a] the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:

“‘May his place be deserted;
    let there be no one to dwell in it,’[b]

and,

“‘May another take his place of leadership.’[c]

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

 

Today we remember the apostle St. Mathias.  How much do we know about Matthias? How much can we know?

Today’s reading from the book of the Acts of the Apostles is about the best we have got – there is no further mention of Matthias in the New Testament.  According to some Matthias preached the Gospel in Judea then in what is present day Georgia where a marker placed in the ruins of a Roman fortress claims that he is buried. Much about Matthias is hidden from our sight. Even his name is variable: some identified him with Zaccheus the reformed tax collector who gave away so much of his wealth; others have wondered if he is the same person as Nathanael in the Gospel of John.

The truth is we aren’t sure who Matthias was before he was chosen to fill the place left vacant by Judas, and we aren’t sure of the details of what he went on to do. What we do know from this reading from Acts is that he had been a faithful follower of Jesus, was rooted in the community of faith and he was called to be a faithful witness to the resurrection power in Christ.

All of which leads us to reflect on the significance of those who exist at the periphery of our sight. Those who have significance in the Divine sight but who are often easily overlooked, without name, hidden from our sight!

This is especially true as we continue in lockdown with Covid 19 when so many people working diligently to keep us safe far from our sight. This week is Christian Aid week – working with other partners this international charity seeks to bring practical aid to many who might otherwise be hidden from sight.

Every moment we are surrounded by hidden people – our lives unwittingly intertwined with theirs. Hidden from our, but not from Divine sight. Should we be asking what of our own selves? It maybe that we are amongst the hidden ones – and need to be reminded that God sees us. Maybe the Spirit invites us to look anew at the hidden parts of our selves – the depths of our own souls where our hunger for God is growing – could these hidden places be the very place the Spirit is at work?

Today we honour Matthias. Much about Matthias is hidden from our sight – but maybe what we know is enough – enough for us to recognise that the hidden parts of ourselves and the hidden people of our world are precious and chosen in God’s sight.

 

Daily Reflection, John 15, v. 1-8 – Andy Pike

The Vine and the Branches

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 

Reading through, and reflecting on the Gospel for today, gives all as Christians a very sure hope in these trying times. I’m very sure many of us haven been self isolating, and not been able to do the things we have got accustomed to being able to do. It’s given us perhaps a chance to catch up on certain things, sorting long over-due jobs out, clearing things, and something I particularly enjoy, the garden.

Another today, of the “ I am” phrases that St John`s Gospel uses, one of the many times that Jesus uses this to describe himself, and also of the Glory of God the father. Light, bread, the gate, and here, the true vine. In the Old Testament, the imagery of the vine is often used, Israel as the vine, and the judgment of God upon it. It’s more important today, to see the positive side of what the message is within the portion of scripture, and a very positive one, “being in Christ”.

Vineyards are seen here as being similar to Jesus` disciples, the people working in them. God as the vine grower, Jesus as the true vine, and the disciples or us as the branches. Jesus tells us very clearly that he is the true vine, and implies that there are false vines as well, and that His word has cleaning power, when we believe and  obey it. The people who pass by, are able to discern the good branches, and also the ones that aren’t. The fruitful ones, those who believe and trust, and the weaker ones, perhaps those that need feeding, those who do not trust and believe.

Jesus makes it very clear here that our relationship with him, our abiding with him, is the very key point to both our fruitfulness and our eventual destiny. The christian finds a sense of strength and purpose through a relationship with Christ, the true vine. The unbeliever, like the weak branch, that needs to be grafted onto the Christ vine, in order to grow.

As we go through these times, my prayer is that we all grasp this teaching of Jesus, and in our own part of Gods vineyard wherever it mat be, that we bear fruit. Fruit that others will see, and want to be very much a part of. Even though we are in these isolating situations, we must hold fast to all that is good, Jesus the one true vine, the author and perfector of our faith, and in him alone we trust always.

 

Daily Reflection 12th May 2020 Psalm 97

The Glory of God’s Reign

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
    let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
    righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him,
    and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world;
    the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
    before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
    and all the peoples behold his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
    those who make their boast in worthless idols;
    all gods bow down before him.
Zion hears and is glad,
    and the towns[a] of Judah rejoice,
    because of your judgments, O God.
For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
    you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The Lord loves those who hate[b] evil;
    he guards the lives of his faithful;
    he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light dawns[c] for the righteous,
    and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
    and give thanks to his holy name!

One of the comments that is often made about the Psalms is that they are no longer really relevant. They belong in the past with a culture that no longer exists. Yet the psalms are the prayer book of the Old Testament and while many of the images contained within them seem to bear no relation to our practices today we disregard them at our peril.

The English word greed is Anglo-Saxon in origin and means desire or want, but one that has become a craving, all consuming and leaves us blinkered. Many people today still make their boast in worthless idols. Greedy for the material things in life and ignoring who they may trample on the way to attaining them.  Aspirations are one thing, but when these aspirations take over and become an obsession, a single minded craving that can distort our relationships and our views on society.

We might want to be careful what we wish for at the moment. Many, many people have desires at this present time to do things that they have been prevented from doing for many weeks. When this desire becomes a greedy obsession to get our own way regardless of the consequences we are on dangerous ground. When we desire to possess freedom, we might want to be cautious that our desire does not end up possessing us and preventing rational thought and action. It is easy to be caught like this, our desires may become the downfall of those around us.  By our short sighted view of a situation, we could be causing so much distress and pain, the only thing that should be possessing us is God and not our own selfish desires.

 

Daily Reflection 11th May 20201 Peter 1:3-12 

A Living Hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice,[a] even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen[b] him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, 11 inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!

 

The news over the weekend seems to suggest that despite the slight modification in the restrictions that we find ourselves under, nothing much will change for the majority of the population. It is apparent that the majority of the nation is looking forward to the day that things return to normal. The problem is, we don’t know what form the new normal will take. It seems that the freedoms and activities that we all enjoyed at the beginning of the year may take a long time to return. For some this realisation is hard. Plenty of items on the news and social media from the last few days have shown that in some quarters people are now actively acting against advice and meeting up, going out, even having parties and are no longer willing to be subject to restrictions of movement and association.

St. Peter’s letter to the churches of Asia Minor notes that the members of these churches has been suffering various trials and persecutions. They too would have been not always able to meet freely and associate openly yet it seems that they managed to carry on and at times thrive.  Perhaps we might want to consider how we can thrive at this time? If we are able to, we may wish to volunteer to physically serve our community, to shop for friends and neighbours.  We may be unable to go out and so look to serve others by keeping in contact with people around us. Both good and honourable things to do and many people thrive by being useful. However, if we are to truly thrive then we need to look at our own spiritual well being. We may have opportunities now to spend time in prayer, contemplation and study that will never come again. We can build ourselves up in the faith of Christ, we can gain better understanding of our purpose, we can increase our knowledge of what it means to be a disciple today and ensure that when the restrictions are lifted we can emerge into the world better and more whole than we were before. Better equipped to deal with what life sets before us by being more reliant on God than ourselves. Better to rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy as we receive the outcome of our faith, Salvation and the living hope.

In the days ahead, let us make the most of what we can do, things that we may not always have time for.  We can fill the day with praise and prayer, not forgetting to pray for those who are really struggling to keep safe and follow advice.

Theological Reflection for Saturday 9th May 2020 by Rev’d Patrick Mansel Lewis

 

Last week I noted the paradoxical feature of my present location outside Llandeilo and my lingering attachment to LMA Bro Lliedi and I attempted to draw out paradoxical elements in the 3rd chapter of St Paul’s epistle to the Philippians.

As we seek to find meaning in the New Testament writings we begin to discover their capacity to arrest us with the depth of paradox which they reveal.  For example: he who seeks to save his life shall lose it – he who surrenders his life for my sake shall find it – Jesus the King yet also the servant of all.  The most profound, of course, is that the only way for Jesus to conquer death was to embrace it.

That is what makes it possible for us to declare the acclamation of resurrection.

‘Jesus lives! Thy terrors now

Can no more, O death, appal us.’

But here is the rub: No death – no resurrection.  For you and me, neither birth nor death is a matter of our choice.  They happen.

For Jesus it was different.  As Son of God, with the Father in Heaven, it was a matter of ultimate and vital decision to be born as a human baby.  It would mean the immortal embracing mortality. More than that, it would not be a mortal life long-lived, gathered full of years and buried with his fore-fathers; but it involved the decision to confront evil peacefully but so clearly that he would inevitably suffer an early and violent death.  Only then would his immortality be restored.

So, for the Son of God, the progression would look like this:

No birth – No death and resurrection.  That is the foundational principle of the Incarnation.

As we commemorate VE Day – 8th May 1945 – we begin to see a parallel of a kind with the incarnation principle.  Young men joined the services either as volunteers or conscripts well aware that they were advancing their mortality into much nearer focus.  264,000 of UK forces were killed, some by disease, some in accidents, some while hurting others, some in the course of taking great risks for the benefit of their comrades.  For all, their death was in some way sacrificial in coercing a fanatical and ruthless megalomaniac into a cessation of insatiable conquest and control of the lives of millions who did not applaud him.

Therein lies the paradox, to be observed again: life through death. What our grandparents’ generation fought for was peace in the context of freedom as against peace through surrender to a monster.  For them it meant all the risks, pain and loss involved in a massive effort of coercion.

For us, who honour their achievement and their sacrifice, the challenge is to engage with others in the spirit of treating our neighbours as ourselves, and interacting on a basis of persuasion wherever possible. Now, more than ever in recent memory is this important both for governments, local authorities and every family as we seek to over-come the deadly Corona Virus in a spirit of mutual co-operation, while honouring the sacrificial spirit in which all health workers minister to the sufferings of the afflicted.

Reflection for VE Day – 2 Corinthians 5. 16-21

 1From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

If it wasn’t for the second world war, I would not be here today. One set of grandparents met as a result of the war, the other set would probably not have married had my paternal grandfather not volunteered for the army. I am not alone in this, it has been suggested that at least 75% of all people born in the UK since the end of the war had parents, grandparents or great grandparents that met or formed a relationship as a result of this conflict.

 

We today, owe an awful lot the second world war. It and the period that followed it have shaped our country in a way that could never have been imagined. So many seminal changes in attitudes and lifestyles can be traced back to a global conflict that claimed the lives of millions and changed the face of the world. The welfare state, nationalisation of UK industries and the atomic age are all things that grew out of a bloody period in our history. Even the swinging sixties came about as a generation found it was able to cast off austerity and make a new mark on the world. The old had definitely passed away and things became new.

 

We might argue that things have not become better, even if they are new but this is not the time or the place to discuss this. Many people will spend time today celebrating the end of the war, without understanding its implications. There is always a place to celebrate the end of conflict and the triumph by good over evil, but we might wish to remember our responsibilities at this time. God entrusted the message of reconciliation to us, we must do all we can to reconcile one to another, but we must do this this by helping others to become reconciled to God. If we fail to do this, the peace that we now enjoy across our nation just becomes a minor interlude between war and the next deadly conflict.

 

We should also not forget that VE day did not mark the end of the war, far from it, there was still many bloody months left of conflict and death in the Far East before the guns fell fully silent.  This might serve to remind us that just because something no longer directly affects us, it may still have massive implications further afield. The majority of the population of our nation live in relative peace, the same cannot be said for our brothers and sisters across the globe.

 

Today, let us celebrate the defeat of an evil power, remember the sacrifices of those who fought and those who remained at home and still sacrificed much while doing their bit. Remember too, how much we as a society have been shaped by events 80 years ago and all we owe to those who took part in and lived through the second world war. But also remember our obligations as peacemakers at this time and how we must do our bit to bring the nations of the world to one another and to God.

Reflection on John 13 v34 –  “Love one another as I have loved you” – Rev’d Glenys Payne

Do we love others as God loves us? That unconditional love like no other love!

There was a young boy who wanted to meet God. So he packed his bag with pop and crisps and started out on his journey. When he got to the park, he met an old woman who was sitting on a bench staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his bag. He was about to take a drink from his pop when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her some crisps. She accepted them and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her pop. Once again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted! Together they sat for a while eating and smiling. He gave her a hug before leaving the park.

When the little boy went home his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that made you so happy?” He replied, “I had lunch with God.” But before his mother could respond, he added, “You know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”

Meanwhile, the old woman who was also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face and he asked, “Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?” She replied, “I had pop and crisps in the park with God, and you know, he’s much younger than I expected.”

In John 13 Jesus is teaching his disciples about humility, acceptance and love. Jesus was their source of comfort and strength, but he knew that they would have to learn to support each other after he returned to heaven. That’s one reason why he issued the commandment to love one another. It is also the new commandment that we as his modern disciples are to follow.

This commandment is new for four reasons. First, Jesus was a clear model of the love he requires. Second, the commandment focuses on the Christian community. We are called on to love everyone – friends, enemies and total strangers. Third, it creates a new covenant based on love and not obedience to all of the Jewish laws. Fourth, this new commandment is open ended. There is no end to the requirement, so we can never say that we have obeyed it entirely. Even if we can’t feel affection for someone, we can still help them, and when we do, we show Christ’s love.

Isn’t it amazing, that in these difficult and unprecedented times that most of us have ever experienced before, that ‘The unconditional Love of Jesus’ shines through all the suffering, the sadness and the uncertainty more than most of us have ever experienced before. Yes we have to see the Love of Jesus in everyone and be the Love of Jesus for everyone.

 

Daily Reflection 6th May 2020 – Ephesians 5:1-14 

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

There has been a subtle change over the last few weeks in how people are reacting to our current social and medical situation. When we first found ourselves confronted with the greatest restrictions on personal liberty that this country has ever seen, there was an acceptance in most people that what was being asked of us was okay. Our government and national assembly were asking people to change their habits in a huge way, and for the most part people accepted it.

Since this start of this, there has been a bit of criticism of the way the matter has been handled and social media has been full of ‘instant experts’ the modern equivalent of ‘the chap in the pub’ who is the fount of all knowledge. This appears to be growing, who would have thought that Dave at No.  33, was a fully qualified social scientist and expert on infectious diseases  when he spent most of his days (prior to lockdown) in the bar of the Ferret and Dartboard.

St Paul warns us to be careful of empty words and while he was not referring to a situation such as ours, if we think of the definition of Salvation meaning to be saved, then there is not a lot of difference between having our lives saved by Christ and having our lives saved by avoiding infection.

We can reflect the light of Christ by telling the truth and only the truth, both about our faith and about what we hear in the news. Speculation is unhelpful in either case. Christ either died for us all or he didn’t, there is no middle ground and we who profess a faith are called to spread the truth alone and behave in a truthful and acceptable way. Proclaiming the Good News that comes from Christs death and resurrection is our calling, but so is having care and love for those around us. Sometimes this love calls for us to endure suffering and inconvenience, more so now than ever. There may be times when we must call those in authority to account, there may be times when we must call our friends and families to account. But before we do, we must ensure that we are living as children of the light, follow God’s example and only speaking the truth with love, with care and with wisdom.

 

Daily Reflection 5th May 2020 – Psalm 23

1.The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3.He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4.Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5.Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6.Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

After a number of weeks of being shut in for all but essential purposes, are we now finding that we are running on empty? We may still have plenty to do, but has the motivation gone? Are we finding ourselves making excuses to procrastinate, or are we putting that one off until tomorrow as well?

We may be finding it harder and harder to get anything done, to build up enthusiasm for any task. Our houses may be cleaner than ever, chores we have been putting off for years have been completed, books read, films watched and still the days are becoming long and restless.
Psalm 23 is possibly one of the best known of all the psalms. Sadly, it has become for many a bit overused, we hear it at most Christian funerals, it is on greetings cards and even set to music as a theme tune to a television program. Yet despite this the message that it brings to us is as important as it was the day it was first written.
Perhaps that the moment we need to lie down in green pastures and do nothing but reflect on the love and care of God, to stop trying to do things our way and instead let us be led by the hand and shown the way of the truth. It is perhaps no small thing that the first followers of Christ were called ‘People of the way’. Do we need to cast off our cares and worries and just accept that we cannot do all that we think we need to do and just allow our souls to be made whole again? If we do so, we will find our selves refilled and we shall overflow with love and be restored in the faith of Christ.
The time comes when we have to stop worrying and fretting, accept that we are empty and need refilling. There is nothing wrong with lying back and accepting that we need refreshment from time to time and there is nothing wrong with being busy doing nothing. We all need time out to recharge our batteries, but let us do so in the presence of the Almighty, trusting in His wisdom, care and guidance.

 

Daily Reflection Monday 4th May 2020 John 10:1-10

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Yesterday was the 4th Sunday after Easter and is sometimes known as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ The readings are pastoral in theme and we are encouraged to think of Christ as the Good Shepherd leading us through life. More recently this day has become known as ‘Vocations Sunday’. This continues with the theme of leadership and encouraging others in their faith.

A few of last weeks reflections looked the need to understand our relationship with Jesus and how we can only meet with God through Him. Today’s reading from John (yes it was the gospel reading yesterday as well), continues in a similar theme and also includes thoughts about guidance in our faith.

Many people think that a vocation to lead in the church is just the calling to become ordained, but it is far, far more than this. Christ tells us many times in the gospels that we are all called to spread the good news, not just a chosen few. We all have a vocation for ministry, sometimes it is not clear what this vocation is, sometimes it may be abundantly clear. We may not see in ourselves what our vocation is, but others can see it in us. Indeed, one of the areas that vocations advisers in the Church in Wales look at when meeting with people who are looking to have their vocations recognised either as worship leaders, lay readers or the priesthood; is how our vocation and calling is seen by others.

Understanding our role in sharing the gospel with others is paramount, we are not called to be spectators in faith. The church is not a spectacle to be observed, but to participate in. Christ called his disciples to go out and make disciples of other and this command has never changed. Truthfully, it is more important that we recognise this more than ever at the moment. While we find ourselves limited in contact with people, it is worth reflecting on our calling and how we share the love of Christ with others. While we need to be careful taking small passages of scripture out of context it is worth considering Christs words in verses 4 & 5.  We can share so much more easily with those whom we know, rather than strangers.  We can share, encourage and enable those around us as mission is not always about travelling. You don’t need to be a special person to do it, the first disciples were ordinary people as we all are today. Some of us are called to a licensed ministry, most of us are not, but this does not mean that we are not all called to serve and share.

 

Theological Reflection by Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis, associate priest in LMA Bro Lliedi  – Saturday 2nd May

I do not know whether I am coming or going. I am neither here or there. I have not been licensed to the LMA of Bro Dyfri, in which Claire and I now live; nor has my license to ministry in Bro Lliedi been revoked. So, I experience the paradox of being unable to minister in the area where I live and being allowed to minister in the area where I no longer live.

I am making my way through St Paul’s epistle to the Philippians, one of his so called “prison letters”. He understood better than most of us the meaning of paradox. He wanted to visit all the churches which he and his colleagues had founded, yet he found himself prevented from doing so by opposition from fanatical Jews and control by the Roman governments.

Paul begins chapter 3 by telling his readers to rejoice. Not an empty, hollow, happy – clappy, noisy rejoicing about nothing particular, but to “rejoice in the Lord” (see 3:1 and 4:4,10). In his house arrest Paul’s circumstances were very limited. In that barren environment he discovered the powerful presence of God, in which he makes himself vulnerable in reflecting upon what he was ( and by implication what he could have become) before his meeting with the risen Christ outside Damascus, how he has laid his C.V and personal ambition aside as an impediment to his discipleship which must reach to the core of his being.

That humility, that vulnerability, opened Paul’s hope to the risen Jesus, who had himself given up everything in obedience to God. The spirit of Christ filled Paul’s life, whether he was active or constrained. To the Philippian Christians, who had welcomed him, he could take the risk of bearing his soul and reveal the inner man rejoicing in the way in which God turned his circumstances upside down, Paul had next to nothing except God in his life at this time; yet God proved to be more than enough.

God grant that we in our present circumstances may discover a measure of God enjoyed by Paul.

 

Daily Reflection 1st May 2020 – John 14:1-14
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
The Disciples would have probably said that they knew Jesus well, they had spent much time in his company and experienced what he was doing and saying first hand. They must have been pretty confident that they had seen the real Jesus.
However, in this passage from John’s Gospel we see them gathered at a time just before the crucifixion and suddenly they are much less sure of themselves. Jesus was not just one man alone, he was part of something much more important and now he was reassuring his followers about what was to come.
We see in many passages in the gospels that the disciples did not always understand Jesus and why he acted like he did. But it is from this point after Jesus seeks to reassure them of what is happening and what is to come that things become clearer for them. Perhaps their faith had been restored.
Some of us may be feeling uncertain in our faith at the moment, the things that we thought we knew, we may feel we know no longer. Yet, throughout the years Jesus seeks to reassure us of who he his and how he supports us through life. He does this by reminding us of his relationship with the Father and how we are included in this relationship. It is not exclusive, but utterly inclusive. The love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit has room in it for us as well, always and forever.

Daily Reflection 30th April 2020 – John 6:44-51

4“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’[a] Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

One of the more common things I hear in conversations with new people, normally just after the point that they realise that I am a Clergyman, are apologies. The words always differ slightly but always go along the lines of “Oh, er… that’s nice.. I believe, but I don’t go to church, but I believe in God, or something like that..”. It is hard to reply to statements such as this with anything that won’t cause offence so normally the response is “that’s nice” or “that’s good”. In an ideal world I suppose we should question that reply and ask what it is that they really do believe in and then point out any theological holes in their argument. But because like most of my colleagues I am polite, I refrain from questioning too deeply.

How do we approach God? Are we comfortable in our own existence and with our own feelings? Do we have our own ideas about how we will find salvation? Are we sure in ourselves about what we are called to do? Jesus is quite clear in this passage from John’s gospel. No one comes to the Father, except through the Son. There is no workaround, there is no easy way out. If we want to approach God, we have to do it through Jesus.

Accepting the teachings of Jesus and living by them is not always easy, we can always find ourselves making excuses and finding reasons why particular teachings do not apply to us, or even distorting what we learn to suit our own needs and desires. Sometimes the gift of Christ is wrapped in a way that we find unacceptable. The message is unpalatable because it is too difficult to accept, we would need to change our attitudes and opinions too much to accept it totally.

The thing is, no one said that following Christ was going to be easy, it isn’t and requires sacrifice and devotion far beyond following anything else. Are we ready to open our minds to the gift that is being given and look at ourselves to make sure we are ready to receive it.

We should not refuse to accept the gift of Christ because we don’t like the way that its wrapped. The gift is what is important, all else can be changed.  Would we refuse to accept a prize cheque for £1000 if it meant walking a few hundred yards down the road, and we don’t like walking? No, we would do what is required to receive it. We would change our opinions and accept what is needed to receive the prize.

Christ calls us to be sure in our belief in him, we can doubt and we can question much of what we hear, but we cannot doubt that the only way to the Father is through the Son.

 

Daily Reflection 29th April 2020 – John 6:35-40 By Andy Pike

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

My thoughts today as I read our daily readings, gave me a great sense of uplift. We’re all still in a sort of lock down, many of us will have missed our church services and gatherings, our sharing of worship, church family and friends. In all of these changes going on around us, the one thing that remains unchanged, is the love of our Lord, and his constant promise that He is always with us no matter what.

Today’s gospel reading is one of my personal favourites, from the Gospel of St John, where Jesus boldly declares to the crowd gathered listening to him, “ I am the bread of life “. In St John’s gospel, Jesus uses the words “ I am” several times to describe himself, and to give a glimpse of who he  is, what is to come, and his teaching.

The people listening to his words, were probably expecting something in a  more material way, and missed the point that Jesus had come from heaven as a revelation of the Father. Jesus was very much aware of the lack of faith among the people, he’d made a great statement, and yet they didn’t understand him. “ You have seen me, and you do not believe”.

Jesus is very direct and clear to them, that nobody will ever go hungry or thirsty if they believed in him. He goes on further to to explain that he was sent from heaven, not to do his will, but that of his father. As direct as he was they still didn’t believe.

To eat the bread of heaven, is the same as believing in Jesus, and to believe he has come from heaven, and from God. It is to accept the way that he has taught. How much of Jesus did these people see on that day? This is something the world needs to have today, Jesus the bread of life. Without a deep trust and commitment to Jesus and his teachings, do we have full access to this bread of life ?

We can only strive through our prayers, and the reading of Gods word to understand this, simply because as the word tells us, God wants us there with him at the last day. We will always have this need for the bread of life, so freely given to us, and to see him more clearly. When we do this, my prayer is that we can join in the words of St Paul, “ I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me”.

Bread of heaven, feed us now and evermore.

 

Daily Reflection Tuesday 28th April 2020 – By Rev’d Glenys Payne.

Hope in troubled times.

Next week we are supposed to be celebrating VE Day, sadly not in the way things were planned. Where do we as Christians find ourselves today? The battle is won but the war hasn’t ended. Jesus won the battle against the forces of sin, evil, and death – His was the ultimate sacrifice when He achieved victory on the Cross. Through His life, death and resurrection Jesus won the battle; His was the ultimate sacrifice when He achieved victory on the cross.

Little did any of us know that this Easter tide we would be facing a worldwide battle of a different kind. A battle so different to anything any of us have ever experienced. A pandemic – Covid 19. How poignant that we should be celebrating Easter in the middle of a lockdown.

On Good Friday there was the pain, the shock and the horror of the Crucifixion. ‘Forgive them for they know not what they do’ – This pandemic brought so many mixed emotions to the surface. What has been so noticeable this year is the silence. We were always used to silence on Good Friday – no shops open, no traffic etc. We didn’t think we’d ever experience  that again.

On Holy Saturday the disciples were lost they stayed indoors not knowing what to do. The silence continued. They were bereft having lost a loved one. – So many we know have lost loved ones and feel so alone.

On Easter Sunday the disciples found the empty tomb – our Churches are empty! So many have felt empty and find it hard to believe what is going on – but there is Hope! Yes what Christ did in His death and resurrection, He did simply out of Love for us. We are reminded in John’s Gospel ‘As the Father loved me, so I have loved you.’ ‘You will remain in my love if you love one another, just as I loved you.’

In the words of Her Majesty the Queen – “There is the love and the joy of the Resurrection. Yes the discovery of the risen Christ on that first Easter Day gave His followers new Hope and fresh purpose, and we can all take heart from this. We know that Coronavirus will not overcome us – as dark as death can be – particularly those suffering with grief – light and life are greater.”

Amidst all the pain, the suffering, the loss and death – In Jesus we believe that God enters into our experience of these things; and that through all this we trust that His Love will shine through and uphold us.

We have seen so much love shine through all over the world, like many of us have never experienced. We have been so Blessed with modern technology enabling us to partake and meet with family and friends in the comfort of our own homes. May the living flame of the Easter Hope be a steady guide as we face the future, let us Hope and pray that this will be a new beginning for us all.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4 4-7

 

Daily Reflection Monday 27th April

A slightly different reflection this morning by one of our parishoners who wishes to remain anonymous. The poem is called ‘Pippa’s Song’ by Robert Browning. This short verse paints a bucolic and wonderfully beautiful image of nature in all its splendor.

The year’s at the spring

And day’s at the morn,

Morning’s at seven

The hillside’s dew-pearled.

The lark’s on the wing,

The snail’s on the thorn,

God’s in His heaven-

All’s right with the world.

Although we can argue that nothing is alright with our world, I this poem invites us to look at the wonders of the natural world and reset our vision of what can be beautiful  beyond the damage we’ve caused and the fear and uncertainty the surround us. What the world should be, could be.

 

A meditation on Easter – Patrick Mansell-Lewis

“The Lord is Risen: He is risen indeed”.

We love to declare the Easter acclamation. It is so clear and concise, and so definite. And so reassuring. It is also true. The case for the resurrection of Jesus is very strong. First of all, he died. The evidence for this is unshakeable. John, the beloved disciple did not abandon Jesus. He was with Jesus’ mother Mary, Mary Magdalene and others, a near witness to the crucifixion and death of Jesus. John records the definitive evidence of death in chapter 19 verses 34 and 35: the spear thrust in Jesus’ side released a flow of blood and water, the separation of clot and serum which takes place as the flow of blood around the body diminishes to the moment of death.

Mary Magdalene was the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection when she met him in the garden as she left the empty tomb. A very interesting choice of witness as women were not then competent to give evidence in the courts of law. Jesus was ahead of his time as regards women.

John first saw the risen Jesus on the Sunday evening when he appeared to his disciples gathered behind closed doors. “Disciples” could have included Jesus’ mother (although the text does not expressly say this), as verse 24 distinguishes between “the twelve” and “disciples”. So Mary Magdalene and John, and probably Jesus’ Mother and some other women, are our primary witnesses, being those who had seen Jesus die and had attended his burial, and then saw him alive again on the Sunday.

Our secondary tier of witnesses are those who knew Jesus before he died, but were not present at the crucifixion and consequently could not give eyewitness testimony of his death, but were able to rely upon the primary witnesses for that. All the disciples who saw Jesus on the Sunday evening would fall into this category.

Then there is a third category of witness: those who saw him alive after the resurrection but who had no personal meeting with him before he died. Some of the company of “more than 500 of the brothers” to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection “at the same time” (1 Corinthians 15:6) may fall into this category. They were reliant upon the evidence of others for the existence of Jesus before his death.

These are the main evidential categories in my assessment of the credibility of the resurrection accounts. Critical reviews make much of the differentials of detail between the different gospel accounts. These need to be faced, but I do not find them to be overriding. I am referring here to such matters as the different numbers of women recorded by the different accounts as visiting the tomb on the Sunday morning and the references in one account to one angel, and in another account to two.

First of all, they are not primary evidence (see above). The emptiness of the tomb is merely circumstantial evidence.

Secondly, the vision of angels gave the women only the ability to present hearsay testimony: that which had been delivered to the witness by someone else.

Thirdly, it is extraordinary how a group of witnesses seldom manages to agree upon what each one saw or heard or felt at the time of the incident in question.

When I was a newly-qualified solicitor I joined a firm which handed to me a procession of personal injury cases. About half of these involved road accidents which always required a police accident report. When these reports contained statements from several different witnesses, there were almost always glaring inconsistencies. Yet they agreed about one thing: there had been a road accident and the general nature of the vehicles involved. The direction in which the evidence pointed, as between the drivers for culpability, was revealed as each piece of evidence was weighed for reliability and evaluation of the whole became possible.

I have attempted to weigh the evidence for the event of the resurrection and evaluate it towards a conclusion. I am persuaded. I am a believer. Yet it was not my analysis of the resurrection accounts which enabled me to believe. I believed when I realised that Jesus really did exist and that he was interested in me personally. Only then did I begin to read the New Testament both analytically and as texts which bear witness to the vitality of the faith of the witnesses and to the urgency of the message. Then I realised that these texts were so important that their credibility was worth examining. As I did that God took me by surprise in calling me into the Christian ministry. So I have become yet another witness to the resurrection of Jesus and I commend this presentation to my readers as an analysis written with the eye of faith, and convinced of the urgency of the message. May you discover God’s blessing as you read it, as I have discovered His blessing as I have written it.

 

Daily Reflection 24th April 2020 – John 6. 1-15

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

The feeding of the 5000, or the ‘Miracle of the loaves and the fishes’ is perhaps one of the better known passages from the new testament. It appears in various forms in all four of the gospels. It is perhaps one of those passages that are so well known we no longer think too hard about the meaning of it. Yes, it was a miracle but there is so much more to it than that.

If we look at the last two verses, the reaction of the crowd, we see something else. The crowd wanted to make Jesus their king. All good you might think, but perhaps not. The reason that they wanted to make Jesus their king was not because of who he truly was. The Jews were waiting for the prophet that had been promised to them, at this time the mob was willing to acclaim Jesus as just this, yet a little while later another mob were shouting for his death.  They were willing to support Jesus when he gave them what they wanted, he healed them, he fed them and they would have made him their leader. But there is such a thing as brought loyalty. The same crowds would have been equally swayed by anyone else who supplied bread.  

Many wanted to use Jesus for their own purposes, they had seen the miracles and head the stories and perhaps were thinking how this man could be used and moulded to fulfil their dreams. This is dangerous ground to be on and the when we think about the crowd like this our opinions of them change.

But are we any different? When we want comfort in sorrow or strength in difficulty there is no one so wonderful as Jesus. But when the boot is on the other foot and we realise that something is demanded of us we are sometimes not so keen to have anything to do with him.

When we appeal to Christ is it for strength to carry on in our own way, with our own desires or schemes? Or is for humility and obedience to accept his plans and wishes? Is our prayer “Lord, give me strength to do what I want to do” when it should be “Lord, give me strength to do what you want me to do.”?

 

Daily Reflection 24th April 2020 – John 6. 1-15

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

The feeding of the 5000, or the ‘Miracle of the loaves and the fishes’ is perhaps one of the better known passages from the new testament. It appears in various forms in all four of the gospels. It is perhaps one of those passages that are so well known we no longer think too hard about the meaning of it. Yes, it was a miracle but there is so much more to it than that.

If we look at the last two verses, the reaction of the crowd, we see something else. The crowd wanted to make Jesus their king. All good you might think, but perhaps not. The reason that they wanted to make Jesus their king was not because of who he truly was. The Jews were waiting for the prophet that had been promised to them, at this time the mob was willing to acclaim Jesus as just this, yet a little while later another mob were shouting for his death.  They were willing to support Jesus when he gave them what they wanted, he healed them, he fed them and they would have made him their leader. But there is such a thing as brought loyalty. The same crowds would have been equally swayed by anyone else who supplied bread.

Many wanted to use Jesus for their own purposes, they had seen the miracles and head the stories and perhaps were thinking how this man could be used and moulded to fulfil their dreams. This is dangerous ground to be on and the when we think about the crowd like this our opinions of them change.

But are we any different? When we want comfort in sorrow or strength in difficulty there is no one so wonderful as Jesus. But when the boot is on the other foot and we realise that something is demanded of us we are sometimes not so keen to have anything to do with him.

When we appeal to Christ is it for strength to carry on in our own way, with our own desires or schemes? Or is for humility and obedience to accept his plans and wishes? Is our prayer “Lord, give me strength to do what I want to do” when it should be “Lord, give me strength to do what you want me to do.”?

 

Daily Refection April 23rd 2020 – Colossians 2.16-3.11

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Living as Those Made Alive in Christ

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

If we look across the globe there have been a number of protests about the restrictions that we all currently face. In many areas there have been Christian groups who have been vocal about the need to maintain worship and meetings. Sadly some of these have become breeding grounds for the virus and epicentres for large outbreaks.

So, what do we do? Do we trust in our faith in Christ to keep us safe and disobey earthly rules, or do we remain isolated with our church doors locked and barred? It is perhaps a difficult question to answer. If we look at Paul’s letter, we see him tell the young church not to submit to regulations.  Should we be opening our door and gathering together again?

The answer is of course a big NO. By desiring to fulfil our own spiritual needs we would be putting others in great danger. Paul is not talking about disobeying rules that would prevent a plague. But the petty rules that governed everyday religious life in the first century and the way in which we behave that causes pain to others and damages ourselves.  Rules that lead to self-indulgence, vanity and greed in all its forms.  We do not need to meet in a church to worship and praise God, it is nice to do so, but who would we be serving by doing so at this present time? Would it be God or would it be ourselves?

The rules we need to disobey at the moment and always, are the ones that we set ourselves that allow us to condone our own actions when we behave badly towards others and do things that are unwholesome and unbecoming to ourselves and those around us. Not the rules that may be frustrating and at times seem pointless but are helping to contain this terrible virus and protecting those whom we love.

 

Daily Reflection 22nd April 2020 – Colossians 2:1-15

I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh[b] was put off when you were circumcised by[c] Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

It is sometimes hard to think of the church as anything more than an individual building and its associated congregation. Historically and also in more modern time people have been identified by which church or chapel they attended. Various members of various churches have inflated the importance of ‘their’ place of worship over churches in surrounding communities. It is quite telling to see where people loyalties lie when a number of congregations join together for a joint service. It is rather sad to see that in many cases people don’t seem to think that God resides anywhere other than their own favourite place of worship. With the number of closed churches in this town it is quite a regular thing to hear people say that they used to go to St. XYZ but when it closed they stopped going anywhere.

This extract from Paul’s letter, perhaps it is Paul’s prayer for the church? Has been described as the ‘Marks of a Faithful Church’ and it is interesting that he does not mention buildings. Just the strength of faith, the power to resist strange and unwholesome ideas, the need to both teach and learn. It is also apparent that he was working to equip and support churches that he had never seen and probably never would. Yet he knew that they were part of one wider universal church, who ultimately should be working for the same purpose. We may want to look at our own churches and think, just how faithful are they really and how faithful are we when we won’t cross the town to share in worship and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the faith?

 

Daily Reflection 21st April 2020 – Colossians 1:15-28 

The Supremacy of the Son of God

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[a] your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Paul’s Labor for the Church

24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

We will all be familiar with the expression “Running around like headless chickens”. Perhaps it could be unkindly said that at the start of the current unpleasantness there was an awful lot of this behaviour. Certainly, the panic buying that was seen suggested a certain lack of sense from many. While it is normal to want to protect and ensure that those whom we love are protected and provided for, behaviour without thought is never a particularly good idea. Most of us, will at sometimes have done something or said something without thinking it through properly, hopefully without any major consequences.

Paul describes Christ as the head of the church, this is not the modern idea of the head of an organisation being in charge. But the idea that Christ is the actual physical head of a physical humanoid body. We are those that make up the body as the church. Again this is not a denominational thing, there is no factional split apart from what we as humans have created, all true followers of Christ are part of this body.

Problems arise when parts of the body stop listening to the head. We will be familiar with individuals who have suffered injuries that lead to paralysis or other medical conditions that mean the communications from the head no longer reach all the limbs. As the best this may lead to a lack of feeling and poor control, at worst it leads to the limbs becoming useless and dead.

The message to us today is to continue to listen to Christ, our head and perhaps look at where communications have broken down with him. Unlike our frail human form or the headless chicken, these communications can always be remade if they are broken or corrupted and Christ can again be the head that guides our every movement. We can help others to remake their connections with the head and we can also ensure that we listen to his instructions, follow His commands and act as He calls us to do.

 

Daily refection Monday 20th April – Colossians 1:1-14 

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters[a] in Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.[b]

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant,[c] who is a faithful minister of Christ on our[d] behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[e] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[f] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Paul’s introduction to his letter to the church in Colosse contains some salutary reminders to us all about the essence of the gospels. They are the true ‘Good News’, all previous religions were perhaps at best ‘guesses about God’ But the Christian gospel deals with certainties and not guesses. It is universal, meant for all in the world, not just an elect few. There are very things in this world that are truly open to and available to all of humanity. Our personal situation will dictate how we live, day to day. Our skills and talents will dictate the job that we do or did. But the message of the Gospel and the joy and the peace it can bring are without exception open to all of us.

The gospel can and does change lives, it is productive. Knowledge of it causes those who hear and accept it to grow and bear fruit. It also speaks of grace, it is not just another hopeless and daunting tasks set before us, it is not a message of what is demanded of us by God, but a message of what God offers to us as a gift that is free for all to accept.

Finally, the gospel is humanly transmitted, there must be a human channel through which it is shared and this is where we come in. The only obligation that comes with the Good News is that we have to share it. It may be divinely inspired and given, but it must be humanly passed on. Christ needs us to be the hands, the feet and the lips that will bring the gospel to those who have never heard it. We who have received the privilege of the gospel have also received the responsibility to share it.

 

Daily Reflection Saturday 18th April – Mark 16:9-15

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”

This is the so-called ‘longer-ending’ of Mark’s gospel. While it is not thought to be completely contemporary with the original writings it is thought that it was added at some time in the first half of the first century AD. It appears to have been added to provide a more satisfactory ending to the gospel  which originally ended with the disciples fleeing from the tomb in terror. The most important message in this passage and perhaps the one that we should consider carefully at this time is “Go into the world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.”.

If there is one message that we should carry forth  from all our readings and prayer in this Easter time, it is this one. Perhaps more this year than ever, there is a distinct lack of good news in our world at the moment. Easter Sunday was perhaps one of the most unsettling Easter days the western world has ever experienced, an entire nation closed off and isolated from one another. Well perhaps not, yes we are isolated in a physical sense but the availability of electronic communication has allowed us to remain in contact more easily that ever before. While not everyone is able or willing to use such methods we can still show our love for our fellows in many varied ways.

The Good News of Christ needs to be shared more than ever before, not just the words of comfort that we hear but the Good News that comes from actions and support for those who are weak and suffering under political leaders whose own power hungry agendas concentrate more on their own vanities and desires. Various things are happening in our world that are being led by individuals who are using their power in underhand and twisted ways to suit their own ends. Sadly, this is not just happening in what might be described as ‘banana republics’. But in huge nations lead by elected individuals who actually profess a what they call a ‘strong faith and love of the Bible’. This is not the Good News of Christ, this is nothing more than populism that shows a complete disregard for scientific knowledge, common sense and the welfare of the majority. With ‘rights’ comes responsibility and sadly those who often complain loudest about rights being taken away, show no responsibility whatsoever. The rights of everyone else to live in safety, or even just to live have no apparent importance at all.

If we want to share the Good News this Eastertime it is not a question of remaining silent, it is a time to open our mouths and vocalise our concerns as loudly as possible. It is a time for us to become aware of how our fellow humans far across the world are being misled and will ultimately suffer and die because of political rhetoric. We may not be able to do much, but we can stand in solidarity with others, we can share what is happening with those that we talk to. And most importantly we can pray for all who suffer and will continue to suffer at the hands of an individual whose only concern is their own desire, wants and pursuit of power. Christ stood up for those who suffered, Christ was the friend of the poor, the marginalised and oppressed, now its our turn.

 

Daily Reflection 17th April 2020 – 1 Corinthians 15. 35-50.

The Resurrection Body

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[a]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[b] bear the image of the heavenly man.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Most people in Paul’s day had personal experience of sowing wheat seeds in the fields. And most people when they died were buried directly into a hole in the ground, so the comparison was obvious. Burying a body is like sowing a seed, said the Apostle. The plant which comes up is beautiful, whether it’s an ear of wheat or an exotic flower. The seed you plant is rather plain. It appears to rot away.

So it is when we go to heaven, says Paul. We shan’t be the same as we are now; we’ll be much better. But the pattern of personality which we’ve built up in this life continues into the next. We may not have a physical body in heaven; it’s not that sort of place. But the personality we form on earth will be the same personality we have in heaven. Well, actually, thank God, that’s not quite true: all the bad parts of our personality, the character traits we’re ashamed of, will be put away with the old physical body when we’ve finished with it. We lay aside our worn-out physical body when we die. It’s rather like taking off an old set of clothes and putting on new ones.

Of course, we can’t fully understand heaven. Our words were coined for talking about time; they can’t cope with eternity, with the majesty of the hereafter. It’s like trying to explain grown-up life to children. But what we might like to take from these passages from the Corinthian epistle is the hope that faith in Christ brings to us all. No matter what is befalling us at the moment, we have the hope of better things to come.

 

Daily Reflection 16th April 2020 – Luke 24:36-48

Jesus appears to the disciples

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

“Peace be with you” these are possibly some of the most comforting words that we can find in the gospels. We hear them and we share them with one another during communion services. It is a tremendous blessing to give someone. It’s not asking for material greatness, or physical healing. It is wishing someone one of the greatest gifts of all.

This passage comes from the end of Luke’s gospel. It is the final part of the ‘road to emmaus’ narrative. The two disciples who had met Jesus on the road had returned to their friends in Jerusalem and shared what they had seen. Suddenly Christ appeared before them all, and we are told that they were afraid and unsure of what was happening. Christ’s words them are as important to us now as ever. At a time of confusion and upset, what is it we really want? What does the world really need? The answer of course is peace. This is not the peace that is the end of war and conflict, although that would be wonderful. But it is the peace that soothes our worries and anxieties and tells us that no matter what happens, Christ is with us. It is the peace that allows us to carry on in a time of confusion safe in the knowledge that we are not suffering alone.

Peace be with you all this day and in the days to come.

 

Daily Reflection 15th April 2020 – 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in turn: Christ, the first  fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

Many of us will have heard this passage at a funeral or memorial service.  It is one of the readings that can be found in the Church in Wales funeral book. It is perhaps, one of those passage that are heard often, but not always understood. If you look closely at it there is certainly one part that seems to put an interesting slant on trinitarian theology.

To understand this passage a bit better it is worth remembering that the imagery used would have been familiar with those who heard it first. The  Passover festival was also a great celebration of the harvest. The first fruits are the first of the barley crop to be brought into the temple and blessed. Until then the new crops could not be sold or used. The first fruits were the sign of the bountiful harvest to come.

The resurrection of Christ is a sign of the resurrection of all believers that is to come, the new harvest of the new life could not happen until Jesus had be raised from the dead.

In a time when many are suffering and dying with something that until a few months ago was unthought of. It is worth remembering that by Christ’s death and resurrection death in all it’s horror and finality has been destroyed. Death no longer has any victory over us because we, like Christ will rise again in the sure and certain hope of everlasting life.

 

Daily Reflection 14th April 2020- 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 

The Resurrection of the Dead

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died[a] in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I wrote yesterday about the arguments in the early church about the physical resurrection. Paul’s reply to those who do not believe is strong. He states that without it, you have no Christian faith.

The resurrection shows that the truth is stronger than lies. In John’s Gospel Jesus says to his enemies “Now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth” (John 8:40). Jesus came with the true idea of God and goodness and his enemies sought his death because he destroyed their false views and ideas. If they had succeeded, and there was no resurrection this would show that falsehoods are stronger than truth.

The resurrection shows that life is more powerful than death. If Jesus had not risen again, it would show that death could take the most perfect individual who had ever lived and destroy it utterly. During the second world war a church in central London was decorated for Harvest, in front of the alter was a sheaf of corn. One night the church was reduced to rubble in one of the most terrible bombing raids the capital had seen. The following spring, amid the rubble of the destroyed church sprouted green shoots and by next harvest time, there was a patch of wheat growing in the rubble. Not even the death and destruction of the bombs could destroy the life of the corn and it’s seeds. The resurrection is the final proof that life is stronger than death.

It is possible that we will not be back in our churches anytime soon. When we do, things will have changed. This will be the case in both our communities and the wider world. But please remember that the resurrection of Christ shows that truth, hope and life can never be extinguished. Like the church destroyed by the bombing these things will always triumph in the case of adversity. Thanks be to God.

 

Daily Reflection April 13th 2020 – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The Resurrection of Christ

15 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters,[a] of the good news[b] that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters[c] at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.[d] Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

The theologian, William Barclay, noted that chapter 15 of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthian’s was one of the greatest and most difficult passages in the entire new testament as it deals in part with the idea of the resurrection of the body. The Members of the church in Corinth were not denying the resurrection of Christ, just that the actual body had not been raised.

Paul is very clear that belief in a non-physical resurrection, is belief in no resurrection. The whole idea of a physical resurrection is a hard thing to comprehend. The Jewish and Greek members of the Corinthian church would have had as much difficulty in believing in it as many people do today.

The Jewish members would have remembered traditions and scripture that made no real mention of life after death. One line of Jewish thought denied the immortality of the soul absolutely.  In more recent times senior members of the Anglican church have expressed their doubt about a physical resurrection.

There are times when we have to take in faith what we receive in the good news. Accept that it has happened and the workings are a glorious mystery. We don’t write our own good news, our own gospel. We are given it, we receive it and while it is natural and sensible to interpret what we receive, there are facts and certainties contained within that are un-arguable.

We receive the gospel in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we don’t receive it alone. It is not meant just for us, but for all. One of the early church fathers said “A man cannot have God for his father, unless he has the church for a mother”. We receive and accept in faith and fellowship. There are things which we do not and cannot ever understand. We have just experienced the Easter Mysteries, Christ is risen again from the dead and we are renewed in faith and in love and despite the current situation, in fellowship with Christians the world over. Receive the good news in faith and share it so others may receive and remember it is the good news for all, not just us.

 

Easter Eve- Theological Reflection by Rev Patrick Mansel Lewis

Jesus was dead. There was no doubt about it. Joseph (of Arimathea) had received the dead body from the Roman authorities. All 4 gospels record this. Only Mark states that Joseph took the body of Jesus down (from the cross). Only Matthew states the tomb was Joseph’s own tomb. Mark records that Pontius Pilate, before releasing the body to Joseph, ascertained from the centurion that Jesus was dead. All 4 gospel accounts record that Joseph wrapped the body in clean linen. John introduces Nicordemus into his account, telling us that he brought “a mixture of myrrh and aloes about a hundred pounds weight” and that they bound the body “in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews” (19: 39, 40).

The whole event was a terrible tragedy. And yet is was not only a tragedy. The essential principle of the incarnation is that when Jesus was born he identified with humanity. He did not simply participate with us in a number of ways and avoid aspects of human life which were inconvenient, disrespectful or unpalatable to him. In this painful time of the Covid 19 pandemic it could be said that there is no record that Jesus suffered a serious or fatal disease. Not everyone does. Our universal lowest common denominator or our mortality. And in that Jesus shared. Although he never ceased to be Son of God when he was born son of Mary, in becoming human he gave up (voluntarily) (Philippians 2: 5-11) the immortality which he had enjoyed as Son of God before his incarnation.

The importance of the death of Jesus-its significance- is that the salvation which he came to earth to grant to us is something which he achieved by identifying with us in our humanity in its fullest reach. Satan had tried to lure Jesus away from that in the temptations in the desert, but Jesus saw him off as he rejected that easy way out. As Jesus embraced one aspect of our humanity after another, he transformed each one- including death. He would rise immortal on the Sunday morning and would thereby transform the finality of death for all who call upon him as their saviour.

 

Friday Meditation by Rev Patrick Mansel Lewis 

Good Friday. What a name for such a commemoration! What a barbarous, cruel and torturing sentence to pronounce upon an accused found guilty of any crime. How much more so when the Roman governor declared that he found no guilt in the man standing before him. What weak-willed surrender of independent judgment by Pontius Pilate under the shameless and manipulative finger-pointing of the Jewish lawyers and priests. They could not stick a charge of blasphemy on Jesus for claiming to be the son of God (because that was of no concern to the Romans); but they just managed to force Pilate into a corner over Jesus’ admission that he was a king: the Jewish Messiah, or its Greek equivalent, the Christ. This charge should not have got through. If Pilate felt out of his depth he should have referred it to more learned Roman authorities. King Herod was not considered to be a threat to Caesar. Why should this mild-mannered defendant be, one without soldiers or henchmen?

So be it. Injustice won the day and Jesus was condemned for being the Jewish king. This was the Roman version of what was going on. What is the real explanation of what was happening on that day? Jesus knew that his hour had come. He had discharged his public ministry in the most astonishing way: he had preached in the towns and villages, taught in the synagogues, healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, and appointed the apostolic group. Now he had one more thing to do. That was to offer himself as the representative of the human race, not to Pontius Pilate or to Caesar but to God. In representing the totality of humanity stripped bare before God, with no excuses, no argument, no plea in mitigation, Jesus knew that this was the only way for the full extent of evil in humanity to be set aside. In Biblical language Jesus became the ultimate and fully effective sacrifice for sin. St Paul declares that “God made him to be sin who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Since the crucifixion there is no need for anyone to feel at enmity with God. Anyone who feels unworthy of approaching God has merely to plead the name of Jesus, and his sacrifice for us all. The theological word for all of this is grace: the gift of Jesus Christ to us. Not to be earned, fought for, or the objective of good works, but simply to be received as a gift with thanksgiving.

 

Maundy Thursday – John 13. 1-17 & 31-35

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,[c] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.

Christ’s actions in washing his disciples feet is not the action of a King or great ruler. It was the duty of the lowest of the low in society at the time, often the task of the most junior servant or slave. By doing so, Christ is showing us that he is the King that has come to serve as well as to save his people.

How often do we humble ourselves? We don’t live in a culture where humility is prized overmuch. Modern society seems to be far more about the pressure to push ourselves forward, than remaining humble. Stories that we have all heard regarding the so called ‘panic buying’ that has been occurring recently show how the needs and wants of the self seem to have overtaken the needs of others. The richest, the fastest and the most powerful have the advantage over those less able and weaker. It is interesting that many were quick to condemn the actions of others, when they may have been just as guilty.

This said there have been many instances over the past few weeks of people really doing their very best under the circumstances to help those around them. The ability of individuals to be humble and to serve their communities and neighbours has been seen more than ever. People are going the extra mile to do their bit to help. If we can take one thing from the current situation then the way communities and individuals have worked to show their love and to serve will be a good legacy for a dark time in our nation.

There is a line in a worship song that goes “This is our God, the servant King. He calls us now to follow him, to give our lives as a daily offering, this is our God, the servant King”. We can worship Christ, our servant King, by being humble and serving those around us. No one, who calls themselves a Christian should ever see a humble task as beneath their dignity. By our love and service of others, they will know which King is our ruler.

 

Wednesday in Holy Week John 13:21-32 

21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”

25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,[a] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

Betray is a hard word to use, it makes us think of dark times, of being seriously let down and hung out to dry. It is perhaps, not a word that is used often and for this we should be thankful. Hopefully, it is something that we would never even consider doing to another person. It is a dark word, full of malice and threat, that describes a dark and sinful action. Christ’s betrayal by Judas is well know by us, even the name ‘Judas’ has passed into the language as a term of abuse. To describe someone as a ‘Judas’ is perhaps one of the worst forms of expression that can be used about another and suggests a nasty, malicious and underhand deed or series of actions.

As we approach the cross with Christ, it is perhaps a good time to consider our own actions towards others, towards family members and people in our community. We may not have betrayed them, but there will be times when we have let people down, treated them with contempt and callous indifference.

I have written before about the need to have a right relationship with those around us before we can have a right relationship with God. This does involve some serious soul-searching and the ability to look deep into ourselves to identify our faults, to look into our very being and perhaps dealing with some serious issues that we have held onto far too long. It may not be easy, it may take a while, but we can do it, we must do it in order to be made whole once again.

Part of this process may involve considering who we have failed over the years and if necessary trying to make amends. We may no longer be able to talk with those whom we have let down, but the real desire to make amends and seek forgiveness for what we have done is enough for us to be forgiven by Christ. We must also play our part in forgiving those who have done wrong by us and let us down. Holding a grudge is easy, forgiving is hard, but through the love of Christ we can forgive, because, after all, He forgives us.

 

Tuesday in Holy Week – John 12:20-36

Jesus Predicts His Death

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up[a] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

We don’t hear the voice of God addressing crowds of people anymore. Miraculous happenings such as these have not occurred on the earth since the time of Christ. In fact if we think about it, if  group claimed that they had heard the voice of God talking to them, most of us would be thinking about mass hysteria and possibly the tragic events that have are associated with some of the more unsavoury cults that have graced the world in the past decades.

In our modern world so many people are seeking instant gratification, we order items and expect next day delivery. We have ‘on demand’ services on our TV’s, information, news and opinion is available 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. For many people it is the same with religion and prayer, we pray, we ask, some even demand, but we fail to hear anything in return. People get angry with God for not answering, there is an assumption held by many that prayer is a form of barter. If you promise to behave and do good, then God will answer your prayer. I am certain that there are more prayers being said in our country at the moment than there has been since the second world war

A few years ago a lady, rather gifted in years, told me that God had never spoken to her in over 70 summers of church attendance.  It was quite an odd thing to hear from someone who might be described as a stalwart of the local church. She added, that she had never stopped listening though and could use her own senses to see what God was calling her to do in her community and in the church. Her conclusion was that God had given her eyes to see and ears to hear and it was through these experiences that God was speaking to her, not directly, but equipping her to perceive what she should do.

Who knows, the thunderous voice of the Almighty might yet be heard booming around the hills and valley’s of Wales, we can but hope. But until such time, let us listen as much as we speak when we pray and use what God has given us to see the things we should do. God may not always speak directly to us, but he certainly is always happy to point us in the right direction, all we need to do is look.

 

Monday of Holy Week – John 12:1-11

Jesus Anointed at Bethany

12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[b]” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

Today’s reading seems to go against so much of Jesus teaching. Why shouldn’t the cost of the perfume be used to benefit the poor and needy. What is so important about anointing someone’s feet, when so many are going hungry?

Sometimes we have to go against social norms and do something different. Social distancing has meant that are normal ways of interacting with one another have had to change. Friends and neighbours that we may bump into whilst outside cannot be embraced, hands cannot be shaken. Private conversations have to be held at a sensible distance. A gift from someone we know cannot now be handed to us directly, even the postman no longer hands over a package, but leaves it on the step to be retrieved later. Polite and sensible behaviour now means closing the door of our homes, rather than opening up our houses and offering hospitality.

For so many of us, we go through life taking things for granted. We held onto certainties that have been utterly destroyed. All we thought we knew about our daily lives, we have been forced to reassess and reconsider. There is perhaps no better example of the situation we as Christians find ourselves in. Who would have thought at the beginning of Lent that we would not be celebrating Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter Sunday in our churches?

What we can take from this reading and our current situation is that we need to seize the opportunities that are presented to us to do something special and out of the ordinary. To think ‘out side the box’ so to speak, and to consider what we can do for others else that is perhaps  unexpected and yet shows selfless love.

There is much we can do ourselves, but we also can remember to help those in our communities who are still working to help others and putting themselves at risk of infection. Those who are not able to follow advice from the government and NHS and stay safe at home, those whose jobs are so important that they are exposed to a deadly threat and still continue to serve those in their communities. Those who are going against the new social norms and may end up paying the ultimate price by doing so.

 

Canon Huw Mosford’s reflection for Palm Sunday – April 5th can be seen as a video on our Facebook page

 

Theological Reflection for Saturday 4th April 2020 by Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis

Yesterday I wrote about Paul’s house arrest in Rome, his relationship with the young Christian Church in Philippi, the capital of Macedonia and the encouragement which he received from both the Holy Spirit and the prayers of his friends in Philippi.

In chapter 2 of the epistle Paul emphasises the kind of attribute to life which should be characteristic of Christian disciples. Interestingly, he never uses the word “disciple” (unlike the Gospels, where it is frequent). Instead, he tells his readers that their attitude to life should be the same as that of Jesus and proceeds to pen one of the most beautiful character sketches of Jesus in the whole New Testament (see verses 6-11).

He then continues with his well-known words that his readers should “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. We are all familiar with the image of the thick-skinned evangelist engaging people in the street with the question “Are you saved?” Paul was indeed a preacher of salvation by faith in Jesus made possible by the grace of God. But he saw that not as a flash in the pan, but as a new beginning, which needed to continue to the end. He saw himself and his congregations as people who were in the process of being saved.

This process needs our cooperation. We must play our part. We must do what we can, because as human beings we are created with the privilege of making choices, decisions, setting directions in life exercising our wills, thinking through our interactions with each other, and so on. We are not passive instruments to be super-spiritual like young Christians of a charismatic learning who developed a pattern in the 1970s and 80s of “leaving things with the Lord” and avoiding life’s responsibilities.

So, in difficult times such as these we should endeavour to maintain a Christ-like attitude of humility and patience, looking out for the welfare of others to the extent permitted us, and not giving in to besetting temptations as a means of comfort and consolation.

However, that is not the end of it. Paul uses his well-known phrase of working our salvation to God’s provision, for it is not an easy vocation, but one which invites reverence and trepidation. In verse 13 Paul writes “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose”. In other words the Holy Spirit (the person of the God-head who is active in the world) is at work in us, individually and as a community, to guide our life, our thoughts and our actions towards his purposes for our lives.

As a catchphrase we could say that if we do what we can to cooperate with God, he will do what we cannot. He will play his part if we play which he has given us. Even in these lean times we can see expressions of gratitude, courage, humility, generosity and helpfulness emerging within the wider community as ways of coping with the emergency. God grant that our society continues to respond to the crisis with reverence and trepidation, yet with courage and determination too.

 

Theological Reflection for Friday 3rd April 2020 by Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis

Yesterday evening, at 8pm Claire and I stood outside the house and beat a gong in admiration and appreciation of the physicians, surgeons, nurses and paramedics of the NHS who are showing such selfless and unswerving devotion to duty in their ministrations to those of their patients who are afflicted with the Coronavirus. Legions of others no doubt did likewise.

It is therefore not inappropriate, perhaps, to refer to another physician: Luke, the friend and sometime companion of St Paul on some of his missionary journeys. The middle sections of the book of Acts contain what theologists refer to as the “we passages”: those in which Luke (the author of the book) includes himself in the narrative as a travelling companion of the apostle.

One such passage in chapter 16 which describes how Paul, Silas and Timothy travelled through Asia Minor to the part of Troas on the north west coast, where Luke joined them. From there, Luke records that “we” sailed to Macedonia and made our way to Philippi where Paul and Silas were imprisoned for driving out a spirit of divination from a slave girl who had been making a fortune for her owners by fortune telling. During the night they were miraculously delivered from prison in a dramatic rescue.

Paul’s next involvement with Philippi was his epistle (written with Timothy), written under house arrest most probably from Rome in the early 60s. He was free to teach the faith and to receive guests but he was not allowed out of his rented house. In this his circumstances were not very different from many older people who are not permitted to leave their house/flat, and who are dependent on others even for their basic shopping requirements. This time his loss of liberty lasted for about 2 years.

In spite of that circumstance this letter is punctuated by references to joy and confidence in what God is doing in the lives of the Christians in Philippi. This is one theme in chapter 1. The other is his concern that the name of Jesus Christ and his reputation should be exalted in Paul’s life- or in his death. He remains joyful in this most self-denying attitude because of his conviction that the Holy Spirit and the prayers of the Christians in Philippi are sustaining him. Those Christians, or at least a proportion of them, would have witnessed the imprisonment of Paul and Silas in Philippi about 10 years beforehand. Paul reminds them of that, and points out that belief in Christ normally involves some suffering.

For us in locked-down Llanelli today there is some comfort in Paul’s conviction that God knows when believers are suffering, and sends the Holy Spirit to strengthen and to console; but that God also motivates other believers to pray for those who are suffering. Broadly speaking God either rescues us from a difficult situation; or He permits the difficulties to continue, but He gives us inner strength to keep going through them, often with the support of others. Paul had known both. So have I. So have many of you who will be reading this reflection.

 

Reflection Thursday 2nd April 2020

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done. 18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[a] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[b]

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”[c] 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”[d].

With all that is going on at the moment it may be that our practices for lent have fallen by the wayside. I would be the first to admit that my Lenten fasting has not gone as well as it might. With Easter rapidly approaching and no services in our churches, we are not getting regular reminders of this penitential season and our own physical and mental needs may have taken precedence over our spiritual needs. This is quite understandable given the situation that we find ourselves in.

The good news is that there is still time to prepare ourselves fully for what is to come. If we are to get ourselves into the position of being in a right relationship with God, we first must get ourselves in a right relationship with ourselves and more importantly with other people. At this time when we are in our homes we still have the benefit of being able to communicate with others. Telephone, letters, email and social media are all great ways to keep in touch with our friends and families, I am sure that we are all making use of them as much as we can.  But there are other things that we can do. A message of greeting in our windows to those who pass by our homes, a reminder that we are still praying for the world and our communities.  We may also want to do the things we have been putting off, perhaps writing a letter to a family member that we no longer speak to. Or ring a friend we have not spoken to in years, we have the time and the opportunity now to rebuild bridges that may have been broken for years. We can improve our relationships with each other and by doing so we can improve our relationship with God and unlike for poor Esau, it is not too late.

Daily Reflection 1st April 2020 – Hebrews 12:3-13

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,”[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

I make no apologies for using for today’s reflection yet another extract from the letter to the Hebrews. The lectionary readings for morning prayer at the moment are slowly progressing through this Epistle and I heartily recommended them to you for a spot of quiet reading. The letters to the early churches contain so much that is relevant to the church today and with the current situation that we find ourselves in they seem more relevant than ever.  It is quite heartening to think that the issues that we as a church have faced recently and will face in the future would have been familiar to the early Christians and there are times when we can almost here our ancestors in faith reaching out across the centuries to us in support and empathy.

I wrote in yesterday’s reflection that things could be very different when we finally get back to our churches and today’s reading notes that when we are undergoing a time of trial we should not lose heart. The epistle talks about being disciplined by God. Suggesting that the current situation is down to God disciplining us is not helpful and those who think this way may want take a good long look at things before they go any further along that thought line. But we certainly can consider what is happening a serious and unpleasant challenge to us all.

But we read that what may not be pleasant at the time, what we may find hard and painful will eventually yield good results and we shall be the better for it eventually. So as the hymn goes, “Stand up , stand up for Jesus” and let us walk with our head held high and a spring in our step along the straight path to a brighter future.

Daily Reflection 31st March 2020 – Hebrews 11:32-12:2 

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[a] they were sawn in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated – 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Today we continue with a text from the letter to the Hebrews and again the unknown author, whom tradition assumes to be St. Paul, is referring to the Jewish scriptures that we now call the old testament. Stories that many of us will be familiar with and certainly the readers of the original letter would have know well.

All the early churches faced problems and persecution. While the Church in Wales does not face persecution, many churches across the world do on a regular basis. The freedom that we have to worship and praise is something that many have taken for granted over the years, and yet here we are, our churches are closed and we cannot meet up with our friends in fellowship. If we go out we are at risk of infection, and at this present time even arrest and a fine. Perhaps we can at last understand in a small way,  the issues that our brothers and sisters in Christ face on a daily basis.

Hopefully in a few weeks, perhaps months we will be back in our churches on Sunday. However, there is a real possibility that some of our friends will not be returning. Our beloved Church will be changed by the current situation and while this is a scary thought it does give us the opportunity to think about how we go on proclaiming the Gospel and being ‘Church’ in a changed world.

It is worth remembering that God never gives us anything to deal with that we cannot manage. It may not seem so at the time and sometimes we may need to think very differently about how we carry on with the race that is marked out before us. We have a wonderful opportunity now to throw off the things that hinder us and carry on with perseverance with our eyes fully fixed on Christ and the world to come.

Daily Reflection 30th March 2020 – Hebrews 11:17-31 

17 By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, 18 of whom he had been told, ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’ 19 He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, ‘bowing in worship over the top of his staff.’ 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his burial.[a]

23 By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.[b] 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered abuse suffered for the Christ[c] to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though[d] he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.[e]

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient,[f] because she had received the spies in peace.

 

I am certain that for many people who attend church regularly this is a time that their faith is being tested to the extreme, it is probably the case that this applies to a number of clergy across the world as well. We don’t really know how the wider world, society, local communities or even our friends and families will come out of this current situation. The likes of it are unprecedented in the extreme, at no point in the history of our world have we experienced anything quite like this. While it is true that the world has seen pandemics before, Spanish flu in the early 20th century and various plagues during the middle ages to name but a few. This is the first time anything of this magnitude has occurred when the world is so well connected with communication technology and social media.

This does have benefits, it is far easier to keep in touch with loved ones, to continue to work, to go about our daily lives and even to worship and study  with out having to be in close contact with anyone else.  But this has its drawbacks. We are being constantly reminded about the predicament that we find ourselves in and it is this that I am certain is causing many people to question their faith and what it is they believe. We are bombarded with information, some true and some not, but most presenting a bleak picture.  We all have to process this and as the bad news about suffering and restrictions continues to come, many will be asking where God is in this situation?

As those mentioned in the reading above found out. God is with us always and he will always be with us. Christ is with those confined to their homes unable and unwilling to go out, He is with those who queue nervously outside the chemist, with those who have been made redundant and worry about what the future holds and with the lonely, who no longer have anyone to talk to. He is with those who are suffering the effects of this virus, He is standing with those who weep and mourn the death of a loved one and He is at the bedside of those who are dying in isolation in a strange hospital bed. But also let us not forget that He is with us as we spend time with our families as we laugh and smile together, He is with us as we exercise in the sunshine and as we get those chores done that we have been putting off for so long.

Faith can be so simple, it is not about heavy theological ideas, it’s not about deep thought and cogitation. It is about just having the understanding that whatever we go through, God is with us and what ever we meet on the path through life, he is by our side and will always remain there as the one certainty in an uncertain time.

Sunday March 29th – Join Canon Huw Mosford in his reflections on the Gospel reading for the day  – John:11.1-45 which can be found on our Facebook page.

Theological Reflection for Saturday 28th March 2020
by Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis

During a civic service at St Elli’s Parish Church in mid 1965 Canon Howard Williams, then incumbent of the parish, began his sermon with a paraphrase of Genesis chapter 12 verse 8; “[Abraham]….pitched his tent….and there he built an alter to the Lord….”

The Lord had appeared to Abraham in a vision and has premised that he would inherit the land of Canaan. As construction of an altar, in order to offer an animal sacrifice, was probably an expression of thanksgiving to God and an acknowledgement of His covenant of blessing to Abraham.

Interestingly, the quotation from Canon Howard Williams, resonated to me after the service by my late father (who was present at the service in an official capacity) does not include the last phrase in verse 8: “and called on the name of the Lord”.

The verse, read as a whole, shows admirably the breadth of human life as body and soul: our need for a secure dwelling-place, an acknowledgement that it has come by a divine gift conferring privilege, the humility expressed in sacrificial thanksgiving and the recognition that none of us is complete in him/herself expressed in Abraham’s call upon the Lord.

Verses 14 and 15 of Psalms 50 are almost a commentary upon this passage:

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

And pay your vows to the Most High;

And call upon Me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me”.

This principle of calling upon the name of the Lord runs like a golden thread through parts of the Old Testament (eg Psalms 99 verse 6; Joel 2-32) into the New (eg Acts 2: 21 in Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost: Romans 10-13)

When times are difficult there is an instinct within us all to call for help from those who can give it. All of us are admitting to each other now that we have never known a time like this before, when so much of our surrounding infrastructure in life has been shut down. Our government is trying to protect for 3 months those who cannot work, or pay rent or mortgages. Our admirable medical profession is taking the greatest strain. And yet, many people are anxious, worried about the virus and are not lonely physically isolated but are feeling isolated.

These are times in which to call upon the name of the Lord, to tell Him where we hurt and to ask for His help. In conclusion I quote from “The Scripture Letters” written by CS Lewis in 1942:

Satan: “I will cause anxiety, fear and panic. I will shut down businesses, schools, places of worship and sports events. I will cause economic turmoil”.

Jesus: “I will bring together neighbours, restore the family unit. I will help people slow down their lives and appreciate what really matters. I will teach my children to rely on me and not the world. I will teach my children to trust me and not their money and material resources”.

God grant that in these lean times we learn to do so.

 

Theological Reflection for Friday 27th March 2020 by Revd Patrick Mansel Lewis

We have all heard of the increasing numbers of people suffering from the Coronavirus, of the re-assurance that most people will only suffer a mild reaction, of those who are increasingly filling up the hospitals with serious complications and, sadly, of those in greater numbers who have died.

Having said that, I only know one person who has actually contracted the virus, which is my son Robert, a modern languages teacher at a comprehensive school in London. He tells us that he is fighting fit apart from a loss of taste and smell, having seen off a mild cough. Schoolteachers are well known to be exposed to all the sickness and diseases brought in by their pupils. However, schools have now closed for the emergency and teachers who are so far unscathed are no more likely to be exposed to the virus than the rest of us.

Not so members of the medical profession. They are the heroes of the hour, selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way and honouring to a man or woman their commitment to the Hippocratic Oath. Jesus told his disciples during his Last Supper discourse that “No man hath greater love than this, that he giveth his life for his friend”.

My Godson William (who took Holy Communion at St Peter’s Church 2 weeks ago) is among that noble army. They deserve our daily intercession, as well as our thanks and out admiration.

We do not know how fast the virus will work its way towards West Wales, or how controlled it will be by our national lockdown by the time it reaches this area in more than a minimal degree. Whatever the answer may turn out to be, we must remember that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost- those who are not in control of the way ahead in life. By his Holy Spirit he is available to all of us in prayer.

Prayer is, or should be, as natural to us as walking or eating and drinking. Why? Because we are made in the image and likeness of God who is spirit. We are both body and spirit. As our bodies rightly explore the earthly world, our spirits were made to explore the Heavenly, or spiritual world. Both are real, but in different ways. Thankfully the world of the spirit is protected by a divine guarantee. The one who oversees the spirit world has declared Himself to be our spiritual Father. A balanced life is one in which we live life to the full on earth while joyfully participating in the spirit-realm. This is the arena of eternity, and the one in which we can enjoy eternal life beyond the demise of our physical bodies. This is divine perspective in which to live our lives day by day.

 

A slightly different reflection today. This comes from The Rt. Rev’d Dr Stephen Croft, Bishop of Oxford.

This Psalm has been a source of strength and comfort for thousands of years   and for many hundreds of thousands of people. He suggests that we pause once a day (he recommends 11am) to recite the Psalm followed by the Lords Prayer.

Psalm 23 – A Psalm for people like us.

When we are isolated and alone we remember God is with us; we place our hands in his hands…

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

When we are tired and confused…
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 

When we are worn out with worry…
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 

When we are sick and afraid and if we loose those whom we love…
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

When we face difficulties today and we hope for a better tomorrow…

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over. 

In the face of trouble and difficulty of all kinds, we remember Jesus’ promise of life beyond death.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

 

Daily Reflection Wednesday 25th March 2020 – The Annunciation.

Luke 1:26-38 

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

The story of the Annunciation as told in Luke’s Gospel is not a private story, it is not a secret held only by Mary. It is has become a public announcement of a wonderful event. It is a story that we can all draw courage and comfort from because it is so radical and hopeful and it promises something that is so different from the alternative, which is human existence with out Christ, the dark and sombre existence bereft of hope and fulfilled expectation.

It is a story that tells us that we are no longer alone in this world. God has intervened to surprise and confound our expectations. He has turned the ordinary into the extraordinary and though this story we are able to refocus our world as one of hope, our eyes can be opened to the glory that is to come and the time when pain and suffering will be no more.

However, it is not just eternity that we have to look forward to. Christ wants us to live our lives to the full today. With what is currently happening we may need not feel that we are able to live our lives to the full, but we can. We do not need to go out to be fulfilled, we do not need to see others in order to pray for them, to help them in so many small ways. We may feel impotent and constrained at the moment but as St. David said we can still do those little things for others. For many just knowing that others are thinking and praying for them is a huge comfort. A smile or a wave though the window can bring hope and comfort and remind others that they are not alone in the world. As all who follow Christ are reminded today that we are not alone and never will be.

Daily Reflection Tuesday 24th March 2020

Philippians 4. 4-7 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

I have gone slightly off the lectionary reading this morning, most of us will be aware of the Prime Ministers announcement last night. We are facing a challenging time in our churches, in our communities and the nation as a whole.  We may feel worried and nervous, not just for ourselves, but for those around us. It is always hard to be separated from our friends and families and the unusual nature of this situation makes it even harder as there is no apparent end in sight. The news and social media, even our neighbours are all full of suggestions and ideas but really no one really knows how this will all end.  Rumours persist, spread via various methods and these can be unnerving in the extreme.

It would have been a similar situation for the early churches, uncertainty, not knowing who to trust and where to turn. Pauls response to the Church of the Philippian’s, is one of the most memorable and comforting passages from the whole of scripture. It is one passage that does not need to be interpreted to make it understandable for today. It is simple and clear to anyone who reads it, it makes not a jot of difference if they are a person coming to the bible for the first time or a grizzled old cleric.

I offer this text to you today to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest. My friends do not be anxious about anything, trust in the Lord and find peace in a worrying time.

Please pray, please stay safe, keep in contact with others, pray some more and may God be with you all.

 

Daily Reflection Monday 23rd March 2020 – John 9:18-41 

18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” 26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” 28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind. 40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

 

Reflection

This is a time when for many people they find their eyes have been truly opened. We all tend to wander around feeling safe in the knowledge that certain things will happen and that all things in the world will carry on much the same as they have always done. The present events in our world are seeming to prove otherwise. Today’s passage from John’s Gospel concerns the healing of a man who had been blind from birth. Christ had put mud on the mans eyes, told him to go and wash himself and he had received his sight after many, many years of living in darkness.

This man, whose name we do not know proclaimed that he did not know much about Jesus, but he knew what he had done for him.

We cannot always find the words to express what Christ has done in our lives and what He continues to do, but like the man who was healed of his blindness, we can feel and experience what He has done. Sometimes clever words and high theology cannot beat our own understanding of just what the truth of Christ really is. Sometimes it is better to believe and love what we know in our hearts than to try and explain.

Christ came into the world to open the eyes of all of us to many things. The suffering of those around us and our own failures to name just a couple. But He came mainly that all our eyes are open to the light of His truth and love.  We are at a time when we need to have our eyes opened more than ever to the truth and learn to differentiate between the real truth and fake news, rumours and gossip.  Open your heart to Christ and what he calls us to do and your eyes will be opened and filled with light.

 

Daily Reflection Mothering Sunday – 22nd March 2020

Dear Friends,

Mothering Sunday this year is very different for all of us especially as we are more or less on lockdown. But we need to have faith and support each other as well as our children. So to mothers a Happy mothering Sunday and we are all grateful for the love that you have showed us.

One of the best gifts we can offer children is the same gift God gives us…the security of love, and the stability of secure family connections.  We offer them security by letting them know that no matter what happens, no matter how much they mess us…we still love them.  Jesus says we must show love just as he shows his love for us.  The point is that we love.

Sometimes our love and concern is misunderstood by children.  Let me share with you a great true story:

A mother was sending her son off to school ; he was walking but did not want her to walk with him.  She wanted to support his independence, but also to assure his safety!  She had an idea.

She asked a neighbour to follow her son to school in the mornings, staying at a distance so that he would not likely notice her.  The neighbour agreed and the next morning she took her toddler son and set out following behind Timmy as he walked to school with another neighbour girl he knew.  She did this for a full week.

As you would suspect, Timmy’s friend noticed that the same lady was following them, as she had done all week.  She said to Timmy ‘Have you noticed that lady following us to school every day?  Do you know her?  Timmy replied, ‘Yes, I know who she is.’  ‘That’s Shirley Goodnest & her daughter Marcy’.’

His friend asked, ‘Who the heck is she & why is she following us?’  ‘Well, Timmy explained, every night my Mother makes me say the 23rd Psalm with my prayers, because she worries about me so much.  In that Psalm it says “Shirley Goodnest & Marcy shall follow me all the days of my life” so I suppose I just have to get used to it!!’

May the Lord bless and keep all Mothers; may He make his face to shine upon you & be gracious to you.  May he lift His countenance upon you & give you peace.  May YOU be comforted and Mothered.  Though you have spent your life taking care of others, may you also take care of yourself especially at this time.  May you be pampered by small indulgences, and may you know the quiet and soothing grace of simplicity. God bless you.

Your friend and Dean,

Canon Huw Mosford.

 

Daily Reflection March 21st 2020

2 Corinthians 12:1-10

In my reflection yesterday I considered how we could profit from the seven verses of St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Today I am looking at chapter 12 verses 1-10, in which he makes his famous confession about the ecstatic spiritual experiences which he had enjoyed 14 years previously, and then proceeds to lament on uncomfortable and continuing affliction from which he describes as “a thorn in my flesh”.   

It is a glowing example of descending from the sublime to the ridiculous (but no laughing matter for Paul). He never revealed the nature or identity of that thorn, although in the final verse of the section he refers to weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties. The thorn may have been especially noticeable in all these contexts.

We now suddenly find ourselves in an overwhelming but inevitable viral invasion which is hitting everyone to a greater or lesser extent. Let us remind ourselves that our English word “virus” derives from the Latin vis which means strength or force of power. It is an unrelenting, impersonal enemy invasion with a biological instinct only for its own advantage.

It is a rule of life that we must do what we can to make the most of the characters which are given to us and the circumstances which surround us in life. For much of the time our characters are up to our circumstances; but sometimes we are overcome by adversity. For some now it will mean death; for others, a serious respiratory illness, perhaps combined with a high fever, while many will nurse a flu or heavy cold or cough. Over all lies the poll of uncertainty about where, when, whom and how the enemy will strike.

We must do what we can to protect ourselves and those for whom we are responsible. We must heed the medical advices and minimise the risks.

Even so, we must acknowledge that until a vaccine against Covid19 is identified, tested and proven we will remain to some extent out of control.

St Paul confesses to having pleaded with the Lord 3 times to remove his thorn in the flesh. Clearly it was beyond his control, and he must have felt that it was unbearable. So what did God do? He did not remove the thorn. In fact He did not do anything as such, except to tell Paul that His grace was sufficient for him, for His power is made perfect in weakness.

Paul did not live in denial. His physical or psychological discomfort (or both) continued. However, he knew that the Lord was close at hand and would help him to manage. We are entitled to receive the same principle of blessing from God. Sometimes we may cry out to Him for help, and it is readily to hand, and our adversity recedes. At other times it does not. In those times we should seek God’s grace- His goodness, courage, kindness, warm-hearted desire to enrich our lives without regard to anything which we may have done to deserve that. It is a pure gift and we may readily seek and receive it.

In conclusion, in hard times we should do what we can to fulfil our responsibilities. To the extent that we can not, we should pray to God: in one respect, according to the degree of our difficulty; but in a greater respect, according to the boundless vastness of God’s grace.

 

Daily Reflection March 20th 2020

2 Corinthians

One of the things which sea-farers dislike particularly is fog at sea. You can avoid it by staying in port, but if you are already at sea it can catch you unawares, as the Coronavirus has caught the whole world unawares.

One New Testament epistle which is not widely read is 2 Corinthians, partly because of St Paul’s complex relationship with the new-found Christian community in Corinth, but also because of the comparative difficulty in analysing its structure. Nonetheless, the beginning and (nearly) the end contain great sources of comfort and reassurance in hard times. In chapter 1 St Paul describes God as

the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”.

Read 3.7 and note the way in which Paul links suffering-comfort-patient endurance-hope.

His point, of course, is that God is close to us at these times. How do we experience that closeness of God in times of suffering and isolation? We do so particularly in prayer, which we can all do for ourselves. We can use our prayer books as a resource. We can make our prayers more personal and more specific than the general prayers of the prayer book, either by writing our own petitions and intercessions, or even by improving them if we find that to be neutral.

Remember who you are praying to- God is our heavenly father, which implies a personal relationship. Access his compassion and comfort as you pray for yourselves and for each other.

Daily Reflection March 19th 2020

Romans 4:13-18

13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.”[a] He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not. 18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”[b]

Reflection

We saw in our reading and reflection yesterday that the law that Jesus came to fulfill was a Law of reverence towards God and a respect towards our fellow human beings.  Today’s reading sees St. Paul write to the young church in Rome about the law too.

He talks of Abraham, the great father of the Jewish nation. God promised to Abraham that he would be this father of the nation and this promise came to him because of the great faith he showed to God. Not because of him doing good things and building up merit, but because of Abraham’s faith and the free grace of God.

The love and favour of God cannot be bought. There is no way to work yourself into the kingdom of Heaven. The love of God can only come though faith and acceptance of Christ, not through just doing good things. This grace from God is freely given to all who wish to receive it, no one is beyond the love of God and a fellowship with Christ.  There is no one group who are predestined to receive it and you cannot buy favour by your own actions.

To receive the grace of God, you just have to accept it and begin a right relationship with God and this begins with a reverence towards God and respect for fellow human beings. No matter who you are, or what you have done in the past if you truly want to be forgiven, God will forgive and welcome you into the fold.

At this time of concern across our nation and our town, isn’t it wonderful that there is still someone who despite all our faults and failings, is prepared to love us unconditionally for eternity.

Daily Reflection- 18th March 2020

Matthew 5:17-20

The Fulfilment of the Law

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Reflection on Matthew 5:17-20

Perhaps this is one of the more confusing statements that Jesus makes, it comes towards the end of the sermon on the mount. He tells those gathered below him that he has not come to abolish the laws that guided the Jewish way of life but to fulfil them. Yet through out the gospels we see people accusing Jesus of breaking the laws that the people were told by their leaders to keep. He did not observe the rituals that the Law laid down. He healed on the Sabbath, a day that the Law said should be for rest alone and he was eventually tried and crucified as a Law breaker.

What does this all mean? There were four main types of Jewish Law, The ten commandments, the first five books of the Bible or Pentateuch (held to be the most holy), the Law and the Prophets (the rest of scripture, what we now call the old Testament) and the law as interpreted by the scribes and the Pharisees. This contained many small and petty regulations that governed every aspect of daily life. Jesus came to fulfil the Law of God, not the law of man and defiantly not to fulfil thousands of petty little laws that regulated every action, of every waking minute.

Jesus came to bring out the real meaning of the Law and if we look back at the 10 commandments, we can see that their whole meaning can be summed up in two words -Respect & Reverence. Reverence for God and God’s name and day. Respect for our fellow human beings. It was this that Jesus came to fulfil, not a list of legalistic prohibitions, but a love and respect for all no matter who they are.