25th September 2022 Thoughts
Reading: St Luke 16:19-31
In our ‘Thoughts’ last week we read about the parable of the Crafty or Shrewd Manager which Jesus had told to a large crowd of people including some Pharisees. This tale had not gone down well with some of his audience. Luke tells us that some of them, notably the Pharisees had sneered at Jesus as he told his story.
Jesus had a lot to say about wealth, about money especially where the misuse of money led to oppression or prevented people having a close relationship with God. Many of his parables were around this theme.
After the Shrewd Manager comes the story of Lazarus the beggar and the rich man. This is a different Lazarus to the brother of Mary and Martha. The name Lazarus comes from the Hebrew Eleazar, meaning ‘God has helped’ in the case of his friend Lazarus, God helped him by raising him up from death and in the story Lazarus was also helped by God. As is often the case with the stories and teaching of Jesus roles are reversed, those considered to be important in society are relegated to minor roles and those considered unimportant are brought centre stage. The story does a role reversal in that the poor man, the outcast, is named whilst the rich man who would have been respected in society is not named.
Lazarus was a beggar because his painful skin condition would have caused him to be excluded from mainstream society for fear of cross-infection, also making him unemployable. With no welfare state to assist him, Lazarus had to resort to begging.
In life the poor man was ignored by the rich man even though he was aware of his presence and in death even knew his name. We are told that the dogs had more sympathy for him than his human counterparts did. The rich man probably saw Lazarus every time he went through his gates, he may have tried to have him turned away, perhaps he was annoyed by him.
Both men died Lazarus went to Abraham in comfort and the rich man went to Hades where he suffered. Again there is a reversal of the expectation the hearers would have had. For them the rich man would have continued in luxury and ease, after all he had been blessed with wealth, he was important, he was respected for his position.
Lazarus, the beggar, gets the afterlife of ease and comfort.
The rich man asks Abraham to sent Lazarus to help him, the man he ignored and ill treated in life. This rich man so used to getting his own way still expects to be heeded in death. When this help is denied, he asks for his brothers to be warned by Lazarus , because they, in his opinion , would believe someone who is raised from the dead.
There are a few things we can take from this story, Lazarus doesn’t speak in this story, so is it about the poor and dregs of society having no voice?
Is it about treating everyone the same regardless of their position in society?
Is it about the problem of reliance on wealth?
Or is it Jesus predicting his death and saying that for some even his resurrection will not convince them to turn to God.
18th September 2022 Thoughts
Reading Amos 8 (4-7)
The reading is from one of the books in the Old Testament, one of the so called 12 minor prophets. He lived around the same era as Hosea and Isaiah.
Amos was originally a shepherd living in the southern kingdom of Judah but then God gave him a message to preach. Amos had four visions each of which started with an image, a plague of locusts, a raging fire, a dangling plumb line, and now a basket of ripe summer fruit. The fruit is ready for picking and the Hebrew word for “ripe fruit” is similar to the word for “end. As the fruit is ripe, so Israel is ripe for the picking, for being consumed, for termination. The ripe fruit is the picture of the End. It has finally come.
The message was one of condemnation aimed, in this chapter at least, at the prosperous society of Israel in the north. On the surface there was wealth, there was prosperity, so the people were complacent, surely God was on their side and all was right with the world. Amos came, a poor shepherd from down south, and started to point out how that wealth and comfort was gained at the cost of the poor, the wealthy became wealthier and the poor became poorer. Corruption had crept in, the prices were going up, the scales were being altered so less was sold for the same price. Money was being made whenever and wherever possible.
The effect of this widespread deceit was that the poor ended up in more and more debt, needing help to just get through the day. The rich get richer and the poor get more and more desperate. Making money had become the most important thing and loving your neighbour was a thing of the distant past.
As one commentator puts it 'The God of the prophets had been replaced by the god of profit.'
The people no longer relied on God but on military power to keep them safe, their worship had lost its' depth and meaning and basically they were no longer relying on God or following him. God's rules always enforce justice and are against oppression, their effect is always to help the poor and the lowliest in society.
This is true today as it was in the time of Amos and his fellow prophets. Amos warns about the dangers of neglecting God's ways, of serving money and wealth rather than God.
Because God is just he is angered by oppression in whatever form it takes.
We all know there is oppression in our world but, sometimes we, like the northern kingdom of Israel, like to think it happens somewhere else, not here. Oppression can take many forms, from racism, discrimination, modern day slavery , poverty, domestic violence and plain bullying.
What can we do?
The Bible exhorts us to live out our Christianity, to love our neighbour as ourselves, to treat each other justly, to value each person as being made in the image of God. In reality that means accepting everyone who comes through our church doors as they are not as we think they should be. We can support charities and laws which are working to defeat different types of oppression. We can help by being aware of what is happening around us, being willingly to speak for those who have no voice, being willingly to speak up for what is right, for what is just.
We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven and we should live by those ideals, we should share those ideals with our neighbours, supporting justice and fairness.
11th September 2022 Thoughts
- Psalm 51 (1-12)
- Luke 15 (1-10)
I love a good story whether it is told, shown on the television or read in a book. In the monthly discussions, on the 3rd Tuesday of the month we decided to start looking at the story of Moses. The idea was to read the first two chapters, but some became so engrossed in the story they read far beyond the homework they were given. It's a good story. To hold my interest, especially when reading, a story has to have an interesting beginning, something to capture interest, a good middle, not rambling but perhaps imaginative and it has to have a conclusion, a definite ending. I get really annoyed with books and television series that leave you to come to your own conclusions, its ok if there will be a sequel but sometimes stories just end and you’re left wondering what happened next, did they find the missing coin, was there a happy ending?
Stories have always been an important way to communicate, they help us to remember events, to relive events. We use them in our church services, we tell the story of the Last Supper when we have Communion. We hear stories about Jesus and his followers in the New Testament and about people and events further back in the Old Testament.
Jesus used stories and parables all the time, it is the way information was taught by rabbis. Before the Bible was written down stories would have been passed from teacher to pupil, from parents to children word for word.
The Jewish people as a nation were told to pass their history on, to remember it to learn from it, to re- enact it. Festivals were created for this purpose, the sabbath rituals and the Passover meals are good examples.
Our Old Testament reading was from Psalm 51 and it was written largely as a response to a story which in turn was told to make a definite point.
The story went like this
There were 2 men one rich, one poor. The poor man had 1 ewe lamb which basically grew up with his family, was part of the family a pet lamb.
The rich man had lots of sheep, lots of herds.
One day a traveller came to the rich man. The laws of hospitality meant that the rich man should feed his visitor, should kill a lamb to make an appropriate meal.
Instead of taking one of his own many sheep the rich man took the poor man's sheep and had that prepared for the meal .
This story was told by Nathan, a prophet, to King David, ironically the king didn't realise it was about him and reacted angrily in favour of the poor man.
Nathan spelled out to David that by taking Bathsheba to be his wife he had acted as the rich man against the poor man, Uriah, Bathsheba's husband.
David repented and our psalm is said to be an outpouring of that repentence.
David realises that he has lost something precious in his relationship with God, he realises that his actions have caused a rift between them.
Our second reading was one we probably all know and is one in a series of lost parables, the lost sheep, the prodigal son and the lost coin all fit together in a group.
How often have you lost something important? Car keys, door keys, rings, papers.......
I remember, as children, my sister and I got lost, we went out as a family and took a walk through a wood, guided trail, follow the noses of the fox signs, we went a little way ahead, took a wrong turn and kept going and going and going, we were eventually found . I can still remember the feeling of relief when we saw my father's car coming towards us. The joy and relief all round were immense.
Sometimes we lose things sometimes we lose our way.
We can all learn from the lost sheep, from the prodigal son, the shepherd looked for his sheep, the father looked for his son.
God is looking and waiting for us to turn to Him, for us to ask to be found.
4th September 2022 Thoughts
I don’t think there is a biblical passage that I can suggest you read to go with these thoughts. If anyone can think of an appropriate reading let me know!
I went on holiday recently to a seaside town. Now obviously when you go to a seaside town, you expect there to be a lot of birds, a lot of low flying birds. Well we saw a lot of seagulls. In fact, we had a hotel with a sea view which, on the first night we thought was great. Looking out over the sea, the pier, the beach, watching the wonderful sun setting over the sea. The big wheel with flashing lights lit up on the pier. The promenade was lit up by a string of multi – coloured lights, all very pretty. Even the weather was pleasant, warm enough to leave the window slightly open to let in the fresh sea air. In the early hours of the morning we were woken up by a rather loud caw. We had thought, almost naively, that the small roof outside the room was at too much of an angle for a bird to land on. In fact, we'd seen a seagull attempt to land earlier and had watched it slide off in a somewhat comical fashion. We soon realised that, the seagull had obviously persisted and perfected the landing. For the rest of the holiday whenever we were in the room, with the curtains or the window open, we had a companion. A rather stubborn nosey and noisy companion. They sometimes brought a friend. A guard if you like, outside the window.
Now we don't know how many times our stubborn friend tried to land on the sloped ledge outside our window, nor do we know if it was the same bird!! But, we do know it would have been through trial and error and it took a few attempts to land. We also know seagulls work as a team when it came to the scavenging at the pier, the bins can attest to that. Now you may be wondering where this is going, other than saying it was an interesting holiday!!
What if I said we should be more like the seagulls?
These birds are really gulls rather than’ sea gulls’, they are typically coastal rather than sea birds. They are resourceful, inquisitive and intelligent. They have learnt to co-exist with humans, they have learnt how to find food, even take food from the unwary human. They have complex methods of communication and a highly developed social structure. They are very adept at working together, we see it as mobbing behaviour! Gulls are stubborn and very good at teamwork.
So how should we be more like gulls or sea gulls?
Our sea gull, whom we named Cyril, often came with a companion who seemed to act like a bodyguard keeping a careful eye on him/her and on their behaviour. Perhaps we can be that guard for someone else, that companion helping each other to feed, not on the discarded fish or chips but on God’s word.
I was talking to Revd Michael Payne and he says he wants more cows in his churches. When pressed for an explanation he said that as cows chew the grass until every last bit of goodness is wrung from it so he wanted people take a passage of scripture and really think about it, to keep coming back to it until they had wrung every bit of meaning from it.
Gulls keep coming back for more, they are intent and focussed on their goal.
Do we need cows or gulls or both?
We need to be as stubborn as both, the gulls refuse to be scared away, they hop a few inches but soon come back, Cyril would not leave our windowsill until he wanted to, whilst there was something there of possible interest he stayed. As Christians we need to be stubborn in our beliefs, in our support for each other and we need to be raucous about the love of God.
Revd Chris (, Esther and Cyril)
21st August 2022 Thoughts
Reading: Luke 13 (6-17)
In this passage, from Luke's Gospel, we have the parable of the fig tree with no fruit and the healing of a woman on the Sabbath.
The parable is placed after questions about whether people are punnished for their sins, do we deserve, through our actions, the misfortunes that befall us? If good things happen in our lives is that because we are more worthy or less sinful than someone who only seems to have everything go wrong. Jesus basically says, in his answer, that we are all as bad as each other, we all need to be put right with God.
Isaiah 64 verse 6 sums this up
'All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away' (NIV)
Jesus then goes on to tell his story of a man who owned a vineyard and there happened to be a fig tree there which had not produced a fig in three years. It was barren and fruitless.
We then go on to read about the healing in the Synagogue. Jesus was teaching there, we are not told what he was teaching or on what passage he was basing his words on, just that he was accepted as someone who had something to say. In the Synagogue Jesus saw the woman who had been bent over for 18 years. He called her forward, she, the nameless woman, did not approach Jesus to ask for healing, there was no touching the hem of his garment, no Son of David have mercy!
We are told nothing about this lady other than her condition, perhaps that is because the author ( sometimes referred to as Dr Luke) of the Gospel is interested in the medical aspect. Was she with anyone else that day, was she a mother, wife, sister?
Had she come because she knew Jesus the healer would be there? Had she come hoping to be healed, hoping she would be noticed or that just being there would be enough?
Jesus sees her! Does he just see the physical her, or does he see her hopes, her dreams and her faith.
Jesus sees us! But what does he see, more than just the shell, he sees deep inside, read Psalm 139 for proof.
Jesus sees her and calls her forward and he heals her, she stands up straight for the first time in 18 years and her immediate reaction is to praise God. The reaction of the synagogue leader is to tell the people not to come for healing on the Sabbath but on any of the other six days of the week. According to the letter of law what he said was correct, the Sabbath was a day set apart for rest because God rested from his creation work on the seventh day.
The problem Jesus had with this is that the letter of the law was being used to overide the spirit of the law. The Sabbath was a day to worship God, healing the woman on the Sabbath brought more worship to God than any empty religious actions ever could.
As churches, as individuals we need to guard against going through the motions, against doing things the same way because that is how it has always been done.
I heard a story recently where, a new Minister, taking the service in his new church was surprised when during a hymn, half way through the service, the congregation moved 'en masse' to the other side of the church. When he asked about it he was told that the heating system they used to have meant that one half of the church heated up quicker than the other so half way through a service they would move to the other side. The heating system was replaced but it was now an entrenched church ritual to move half way through a service.
Do we have outdated meaningless rituals, do we understand the meaning behind what we do?
14th August 2022 Thoughts
A few weeks ago now, on the 24th July, the young people of the church told us what they had been doing in Sunday Club. As part of their project, looking at Eco Church and all that entails, they were looking at how things can be reused rather than discarded. To illustrate this they had some empty glass bottles and jars which they had painted and then they had inserted some battery operated fairy lights. The empty plain bottles and jars were literally transformed to become decorative objects lit up from within. The lights made all the difference.
On the same day I was fortunate enough to go to a dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. Before we took our seats we walked around the grounds of the stadium and under a temporary roof there was 'The Bull 'and various other figures that would be part of the event. The bull was impressive in size, in its' engineering but it was just an inanimate object and so we passed it by with little more thought than ' that's interesting!'
The rehearsal started, our seats were high and on the end of the row, looking down to the side we overlooked the waiting area and one of the entrances to the arena, the entrance used by the chain women pulling the bull. Now when we saw him, he was snorting, he was surrounded by red flares and he was lit up within by red lights and later by white ones. He no longer seemed to be a large inanimate object but was lit up from within. He seemed alive. The lights made all the difference.
In the first chapter of John's Gospel we are told that Jesus is the true light and in John chapter 8 Jesus says
‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’
Again in Matthew chapter 5 Jesus says
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
What does this mean for us?
Without the lights the glass bottles were dull and empty. Without the lights the bull is still impressive but is less alive.
Jesus is the light of the world, when we are his followers that light is within us, it lights us up from within, it animates us, it drives us, it shines from us. We reflect the true light into the darkness of this world.
Without the light of Jesus in our lives we are less than we can be, less than we are meant to be, still alive but without the fullness of life that we are meant to have and the world is darker.
7th August 2022 Thoughts
- Isaiah 1:1,10-20
- Luke 12:32-40
The reading from Isaiah at first glance seems somewhat alien to us. When was the last time you offered a sacrifice? When did you have anything to do with burnt offerings, with the blood of bulls/ lambs or goats.
It would be easy to dismiss the whole passage as being irrelevant in our day and age, however the passage is not about sacrifices as such but about attitudes.
The people were berated for bringing meaningless sacrifices, for going through the rituals with the wrong attitude making them worthless.
So what does this passage have to do with us?
Perhaps we can relate it to our day like this.........how do we come to church? Do we come with an open mind, do we come to be entertained for an hour, to pass an hour on a Sunday. Do we avoid certain preachers, worship leaders? Do we come and actually listen to what God has to say? Do we come just to socialise or do we come determined to worship God, literally, to give God his worth. We need to come with our hearts in the right place God will be satisfied with nothing less.
If we come to God with the right attitude with our hearts in the right place then we can begin to work for and wait for the Kingdom of God to fully come.
All very easy to say and quite vague.
What do we mean by the 'Kingdom of God?' How do we know when it is here?
How do we work for it?
The Kingdom of God will be fully here when , as the Bible tells us in Revelations chapter 21, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, God's dwelling place will be among his people and there will be no more death, crying or pain. Note the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven.
This is the fulfilment but what do we do now? How do we work for the Kingdom now?
This Kingdom, as Jesus himself stated, is not of this world. It has no physical boundaries, it is not tied to a physical place, it has no barriers, it is open to all. It is
a kingdom which derives it's character directly from its King. Its principals are as far as normal society is concerned upside down, a kingdom where the first shall be last, where adults need to remember how to be as trusting as a child, and where the leaders are servants of all. It is a kingdom based on love, equality and justice, a kingdom whose citizens love the person next to them as themselves whatever race, whatever creed or gender they are. All are treated equally as all are children of God, made in his image.
So how do we work for this kingdom?
We tell others about the King, we live by the principals of the Kingdom, loving neighbours as ourselves. We ready ourselves to meet with the King at every and all opportunities we are privileged to be given.
31st July 2022 Thoughts
Reading Luke 12 (13-21)
In this passage Luke relates an incident involving Jesus which resulted in him telling a story or parable. In Jewish society one of the traditional roles of a Rabbi or teacher was to arbitrate on civil matters such as inheritance hence the demand for judgement between the two brothers. Jesus is not concerned or even interested in such things...... he condemns the questioner (who has interrupted him) by warning against greed, life is more than possessions. Then he tells his story about a rich man who owned land, this land was fruitful and produced a bounty of crops. If you have ever watched Country File on a Sunday afternoon you will know that running a farm, particularly a large one involves a number of people.
But then look at what the story says, in it there is only one character, we have three verses of a monologue between the farmer and himself
“He thought to himself, he said “I will do this, I will do that, I will say to myself
There are two problems portrayed in this story, both linked, the man cared only for himself but yet did not care enough about himself.
He has all these crops and all he can think about is how to store the crops, others have helped in the sowing, planting harvesting but he doesn't spare them a thought. Other people exist and could be helped by his surplus. If he had been wise rather than foolish he would have shared, rather than hoarded, he would have gained treasure in heaven. His problem was not that he had money, or wealth, no the problem was that like the rich man who couldn't bear to give his wealth away to follow Jesus, he loved his wealth, he loved his possessions to the exclusion of all else.
Perhaps he has worked hard to get where he is in life, we don't know how he became rich perhaps through inheritance, perhaps through trade, perhaps through the wise use of money, perhaps through hard work and shrewd actions. We don't know, all we know is that he was rich and that he owned land which was fertile.
He was not condemned or berated for being rich.
Where our Farmer went wrong is in thinking that he was in control of his future that his crops, his land, his wealth could give him security and happiness. He thought that the more he possessed, the more crops he could hoard, the more secure he would be.
We have all learnt, thanks to the pandemic, how quickly the world can change and lives can change.
We hear stories of people fleeing their home lands because of persecution or war. They struggle to get to another country often with only what they can carry, it is assumed that they have always been poor, always had nothing, the reality is that many are well educated, many had good status in society, many have lost everything, many have given everything up, not because they wanted to but because they felt they had no choice.
According to the parable told by JC there are two ways to be rich, one is to have lots of money and possessions and to rely on them for security and happiness, the other is to have riches in heaven, to have a right relationship with God, to know that we are precious in God's sight, not so much friends as adopted children, wealthy beyond measure.
The Bible teaches us again and again that reliance on anyone or anything other than God is futile. There is no point in relying on wealth or possessions as these won't last everything material has a limited life span. The story of the rich farmer again tells us this, wealth and possessions are not in themselves wrong. The farmer becomes a fool because he totally relies on his possessions he thinks he an sit back and enjoy himself. His barns are full but his spiritual treasury is empty.
The good news is though that although we can not alter the future by worrying, God already has everything under control. He is in control so we can concentrate on the important thing, our relationship with Him.
24th July 2022 Thoughts
Reading: Luke 11 (1-13)
In this passage from Luke's Gospel we see the disciples coming to Jesus and they ask him to teach them to pray, they have seen him pray and like all good disciples they want to emulate their teacher.
This leads to an interesting question, Why don't they know how to pray?.
The Jewish people had plenty of good quality prayers and a strict pattern of prayer.
Prayers were to be said at the third, sixth and ninth hour of every day. Prayer was and is at the centre of their day. The Shema is a well known daily prayer, recited at the beginning and end of daylight, a great prayer based upon Deuteronomy 6 which at its simplest states
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."
There were many other prayers which formed the liturgy at the synagogue and more which covered all aspects of daily life.
So why did the disciples need to be taught how to pray?
The disciples would have known the formulas used for prayer in the scriptures but they came wanting more, they had seen how Jesus prayed how he went to a quiet place, how he didn't make a song and dance about it, didn't use the usual flowery language to impress others perhaps they had glimpsed some of the relationship he had with God and maybe, just maybe, they wanted some thing like it.
Perhaps they knew that the way to a relationship with God was to know how to communicate with God.
So Jesus tells a story as he often did to illustrate his point.
It goes like this, a man has a visitor late at night and he asks for some bread but the man has no bread available. Laws of hospitality in this world say that he must provide for his visitor, so he goes in search of bread to his friend, the friend says he is in bed and getting up will mean disturbing his family and animals, but because the man persists, the friend gets up and gives the bread so the laws of hospitality can be fulfilled.
Is this a story telling us to be persistent in prayer to get what we want or need?
Should we nag God?
There are other teachings in the Bible about prayer, Jacob struggled with God all night until he got a blessing. Hannah prayed persistently for years until she got a son, then there was the story of the unjust judge and the widow who persisted until she got justice.
So what is prayer, is it a formula whereby certain words produce results?
Jesus gives a framework for prayer, does he give the exact words of the Lord's Prayer, some believe so some don't.
Jesus doesn't talk about the importance of stillness, of posture or focusing the mind, he teaches his apostles to talk to God, to bring the whole muddle of life to him, so we can ask for the coming of God's kingdom and for our needs in virtually one breath.
So how should we pray?
Do we need to get it right?
Will God be angry if we don't address him in the right way with the right titles?
Do we need to cover all the bases?
Do we need to appease God first, stroke his ego?
If we don't address him properly will he not hear or refuse to listen?
Do we need long prayers or short?
Do we need to shout or raise the volume?
What answer does Jesus give to all these questions?
He says 'Don't worry, God knows what we need before we ask it before we know it'
Talk to God as a Father as our Father.
Our Father, that's not a remote deity but up close and personal , dialogue based on a relationship between God and mankind, God and children, for the disciples this was radical, this was new. God whose name was too holy to be written is now introduced as not just formal Father but in Jesus's language this was Dad or Daddy.
Jesus often taught by taking things that were familiar and giving them new meaning or extracting more from them or by turning them upside down.
When he was asked, by a scribe, which was the most important commandment he answered with the Shema prayer but added to it
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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 addition was
“The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:29-31
William Barclay is quoted as saying this
"The Lord’s Prayer brings the whole of life into the presence of God, and brings the whole of God into the whole of life."
Jesus encourages us to bombard God, to talk to him about all aspects of our
lives, to tell him everything, to talk to him constantly, to build up this Father/child relationship, to talk during the week not just on Sundays in church, not just through set prayers, not just by saying amen at the end of someone else’s 'prayer. God wants to have a dialogue with each of us on our own any time, anywhere.
3rd July 2022 Thoughts
Reading Psalm 66 (1-9)
This is a psalm of praise for God's answer to prayer. It seems that God has saved the author, probably a King, from an enemy threat and his deliverance has also involved the whole nation. This deliverance is seen as having world wide significance, hence the call for all the earth to join in praise. The praise is offered at the Temple in fulfilment of a vow. The author invites others to join him in his praise and thanksgiving even to the farthest parts of the earth.
He reminds his listeners of the great things God has done in the past, 'Come and see what God has done ' citing the Exodus, the parting of the sea into dry land. God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt, from a powerful regime. The psalm goes on to say that God is ever the same, his rule is now as wide and his eye as watchful as it was then. Should this not give us hope for our world today. Much of our world is suffering under unjust regimes, many live in poverty, in fear. Yet the psalmist affirms that all the ends of the earth should praise God because of who he is and because of his proven ability to deliver even in the worst circumstances.
The application for us is that in the New Testament our Exodus is the saving of God's people through the cross of Jesus. The message of the cross, that Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God gave Himself to redeem us from our sins, that He was raised from the dead, ascended on high, and is returning in power and glory to judge the earth, is our only hope. Though it may seem that the nations are not under His sovereign control, that is not true. His redeeming love and His sovereignty over the nations should be the focus of our praise as it was for the psalmist.
As individuals many of us feel enslaved to circumstances, to issues brought on through age, nothing works the way it used to, we can't move as well, we can't hear as well, we can't see as well , we can't even sleep as well as we used to, we worry everyday about things we have no control over, we worry about people close to us........and yet the psalmist says, 'Come and see what God has done, shout with joy to God!' God was there for us in the past, He is here for us today and he will be there in the future, unchanging and ever loving and in control.
So Psalm 66 says we are to shout with joy to God and say how awesome are his deeds.
So what is God saying to us today?
I think it is this, we are to shout with joy, not mutter, not be quiet but exuberant, why, because the God who rescued his people from the empire of Egypt is the God who has rescued us through the death of his son and through that death and resurrection we can rejoice because our names are written in heaven.
(Luke 10 v 20)
26th June 2022 Thoughts
Reading Matthew 1 (18-24)
Last Sunday was Father's Day and as I have been on holiday I am sure you will forgive me for being a week behind, especially when I say that I spent the week with my Father on holiday.
Celebrating Father's Day is a fairly recent idea, the first one in 1910 was partly as a backlash from Mother's Day, the idea was to celebrate Fathers as well and guess what, it started in America.
We tend not to celebrate it too much in churches, it is largely ignored, Mothering Sunday we give flowers to Mothers and carers but nothing in church services for the men. We try to be politically correct, some people have poor memories of Fathers, or a less than perfect experience of that relationship so rather than risk offending anyone we don't celebrate it.
Yet in fairness some folk have poor relationships with mothers, and some will, no doubt, remember Les Dawson's view on Mother in Laws, yet we have no qualms about celebrating that day, we celebrate the maternal side of life but are wary of celebrating the paternal side.
In some theological and church circles there has been a move away from ideas of God as Father, a leaning towards the feminine side or to no gender at all.
But just because our relationships and experience aren't perfect should we get rid of the ideals?
Our reading from Matthew is one normally wheeled out at Christmas as a nativity story. We concentrate on Mary, mother of Jesus, but not Joseph.
Joseph the man chosen by God to be the earthly Father of his son, what an honour, we sometimes refer to Mary as being blessed and honoured of God, but what about this man?
He was a righteous man, obedient to the law, he did his best, he was compassionate. He was within his rights to have Mary stoned for adultery, because although only promised in marriage, it was far more binding than our engagements, a legal contract broken only by divorce.
Mary told him, or perhaps someone else told him, that she was pregnant, Mary claims that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, many a man would have stormed off, demanded their rights, would have suffered from a hurt ego, would not have believed her tale but, Joseph considered how he could divorce her quietly to save her from public disgrace.
Then there was the dream and all was ok, wasn't it? In the eyes of the world, his neighbours, friends he was a fool to take on another man's child but he did it.
He protected Mary and her child. Joseph had to go to Bethlehem to be registered but he could have left Mary to the mercy of the gossips
He took them to Egypt away from Herod,he took them to Nazareth, he taught Jesus his trade. He went back to Jerusalem to find Jesus in the Temple
That is the last mention of Joseph............Jesus was now 12 an adult in terms of Judaism.
So what makes a good father, if God is the ideal Father what does that say to us?
All can be said to be made in the image of God and so in some way children of God, but to know God as Father, as Abba, we need a new relationship, as Nicodemus was told, a new birth of water and Spirit, we need to be born of the Spirit, we need to ask Jesus into our lives and so become adopted into the family of God be given the spirit of son ship. Then we have the right to call God 'Abba Father'.
Any real relationship is a two way thing.
I refer you to Ephesians chapter 6 (1-4)
19th June 2022 Thoughts
Reading Luke 8 (26-39)
The basic story in this passage is also related in Matthew and Mark's Gospels but all three have subtle differences.
Jesus has gone to the east side of the Lake of Galilee, to the Gentile side. He is a Jew in Gentile territory where pigs are kept and where there's a man possessed with demons living amongst the tombs. He has so many demons that they call themselves Legion. The name implies great numbers as well as a being a Roman military term, both a reminder, to the early readers of this Gospel, of the power of Rome and the power of the spiritual realm. Both powers are arrayed against Jesus.
What is Jesus doing here ? He is in a place which would make any self respecting Jew recoil in horror.
Contact with Gentiles equals contamination, contact with pigs equals contamination, contact with gravestones equals contamination, yet here Jesus was, not by accident but by purpose.
Part of Luke's purpose in retelling this story is to show that Jesus is recognised by demons as the Son of God, that he has power over demons even in Gentile territory. Jesus is not restricted to the Jewish nation but has power over the spiritual realm and the material realm. His power is universal.
Jesus healed the man and allowed the demons to go into a nearby herd of pigs who were subsequently drowned. The herdsmen on seeing their livelihood disappear over the cliff edge into the lake were not impressed and they along with other inhabitants of the area were keen for Jesus to leave. The healed man was found now to be dressed and sitting at the feet of Jesus, he adopted the posture of a disciple, like Mary in Luke 10(39) he sat at the feet of Jesus.
Unlike Mary , though, he was not to be allowed to keep that position.
When Jesus went to get into the boat he wanted to go with him but instead Jesus told him to go home and tell people what God had done for him.
Interestingly the gospel account says he went and told everyone what Jesus had
done for him, the two, God and Jesus, are interchangeable. This is one of the few times that Jesus says “Go and tell”, he knew that he would not be passing that way again and there was no danger of a mob wanting to put him on a throne. He was rejected by the people there but he left a witness.
Telling others about our own experiences, telling of what we know has been done for us, is one of the most effective way of spreading the good news to
others. Word of mouth is a powerful way of spreading any information, word of mouth, personal invitation is the most effective way to invite people to join us an our Christian path.
The man was told to “Go and tell” we are being told to do the same, “ Go and tell what Jesus has done for you!”
5th June 2022 Thoughts
- Isaiah 61(1-2)
- Acts 2 (1-24)
This year the Day of Pentecost falls on the same weekend that we are celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II marking 70 years of her reign.
At the first “Pentecost celebrated by the church, there were 120 people together in a large room, in a house near the Temple. They were together waiting, just waiting, they were waiting for something to happen, for some sort of power, power that Jesus had promised them. They were together waiting and praying for what they were not sure.
Then it came, the sound of a wind filling the house and then flames and on each of them settled a tongue of fire.
Wind is often used in the Bible to symbolise the Holy Spirit and flames for the presence of God. Here we have wind and fire together!
The flames came and set the early followers of Jesus alight with faith and power , they didn't just sit there, they ran out into the streets and started telling anyone who would listen about Jesus and what he meant to them. About 3,000 were added to their number that day. But it didn't stop there! The Apostles went from village to village, from town to town teaching local people about Jesus. The local people told their friends and family and they in turn told their friends and families. It was a simple sincere faith that spread with the momentum of an unchecked forest fire. When the flames and wind came the people were anointed by the Holy Spirit with power.
In the Old Testament there are stories of people being anointed with oil to be set aside for God's work. Samuel anointed Saul, then David and Zadok anointed Solomon, the Queen was anointed in the same way at her coronation by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The oil symbolises the divine, the Spirit of God resting on the person anointed.
Recently I attended the conference for Ministers of the URC held near Stone. One of the speakers was Dr Meg Warner who concentrated on Lamentations and the idea of Jubilee which is a theme in the Old Testament.
It begins in Genesis with the idea that God worked for six days but rested on the seventh and so the land should be allowed to rest on the seventh year.
There is the persistent idea that the land belongs to God so it can not be sold on a permanent basis because it is owned by God and leased to the people on it. We are all tenants not owners, lease holders not free holders, living on God's land.
What does that mean for the citizens of a country when others are seeking asylum and refuge?
The year of Jubilee was supposed to be a year of re setting. The land was to be given a year of rest, Israelites who had been sold into slavery were only sold until the year of Jubilee and then had to be set free, all such debts wiped out, land that had been sold or taken was returned to the original 'owner'. A year of going back to factory settings, a year when the slate is wiped clean and new beginnings were made possible.
This year of the Queen's Jubilee can we 'reset' our lives? Forgive those we need to forgive and seek the forgiveness of those who need to forgive us?
Archived Minister's Thoughts
Thoughts are archived after around three months and can be found on the pages linked below.