29th May 2022 Thoughts
Reading Romans 5 (1-11)
The nearest Sunday to the 24th May is called 'Wesley Day' or 'Aldersgate Sunday' within the Methodist Denomination. The day of Pentecost is also celebrated around this time. They have a lot in common. In both cases the coming of the Spirit caused massive change in the hearts and minds of the recipients, the disciples and the Wesleys.
The disciples and followers of Jesus were gathered together in a room, the Spirit came and they went out and preached the Good News and the Church was born.
On 24 May 1738 John Wesley was attending a meeting of Moravian Christians in Aldersgate, London. An extract from Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to Romans was read out. Wesley says that ‘while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed'. Through the Holy Spirit explaining the scriptures he came to have an experience of God that was not just head knowledge but heart knowledge. He experienced God's love in a most personal and life-giving way. Until then he had known God in his mind, but not in his heart. Now he understood the value of a personal experience of God that would bring assurance of salvation to the believer.
This experience changed his life, it was a pivotal moment, he had already been ordained for 10 years as an Anglican Priest but this transformed his belief and preaching. As a result of this John Wesley became able to tell others about Jesus and his relationship with him. On talking to his brother, Charles, he realised that he too had had a similar experience a few days before. It was never the intention of the brothers to form a new denomination but to witness to a living relationship with God through Jesus. To reform, revive the Anglican Church from within.
Like the disciples the Wesleys felt called to preach repentance, like the disciples they felt empowered by the Holy Spirit to make a real difference, a real impact on peoples' beliefs and lives. Like the disciples they literally went, out as itinerant preachers, to tell the Good News
We, like the disciples, like the Wesleys, are called to be witnesses to the most
exciting story ever told, we are witnesses to the most exciting love story ever told. A love story where the main characters are God and each of us, and every single person you see. We too are sent to tell the Good News, the Gospel,
This is exciting, this is as the gospels tell us Good News which we need to pass on. We don't need to be clever, be able to preach, be able to tell a long story, we don't need to know all the right doctrines, we don't need to know all the right answers, we just need to know in our hearts that God loves us and we need to tell others that God loves them and wants to have a relationship with them
22nd May 2022 Thoughts
Reading Luke 24(13-35)
Two of the disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, said to be about 20 miles away, perhaps they were walking home to pick up their lives.
As Cleopas and his companion were walking, they were deep in conversation, they were joined by a third person, someone who apparently was unfamiliar with recent events, the conversation continued with the stranger explaining the scriptures and telling them what was predicted about the Messiah, he explained how events in the past showed what would happen and how they could understand the events of the last few days.
It would have been a fascinating conversation to have eavesdropped on, don't you think?
What would Jesus have said?
Where would he have started?
Perhaps Jesus started with Creation, with Abraham, Moses and the prophets. Perhaps he said that in the beginning the Word was with God, and all things were created for and through him.
Perhaps he talked about Abraham, who very nearly sacrificed his son Isaac, only to be stopped by an angel pointing out a ram nearby, Abraham said God would provide his own sacrifice.
Perhaps he talked about Moses who placed a bronze serpent on a pole, any who looked on it and believed were saved from the poison of the serpents, see Numbers 21, perhaps he mentioned the words of the prophets, a virgin shall conceive, a king from the house of David whose reign shall have no end, or perhaps he quoted verses about the suffering servant in Isaiah .
All these pointed to the Messiah, to Jesus
The conversation lasted all the way to Emmaus, and at their invitation, Jesus went in with them. The realisation of who their guest was, only came when he took an ordinary piece of bread and broke it and gave it to them.
It was this familiar action that enabled them to realise just who had been talking with them.
What was their reaction?, they said 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us'
The two companions on realising who they had been speaking with immediately went back to the others to witness to what they had experienced, they didn't wait till morning, didn't wait til they had had time to reflect, time to learn the right doctrine, or words but they set off right away, they were too excited to wait.
Today is the nearest Sunday to the 24th May 'Wesley Day' or 'Aldersgate Sunday'.
On 24 May 1738 John Wesley was attending a meeting of Moravian Christians in Aldersgate, London. Someone read from Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to Romans. Wesley says that ‘while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed'. John Wesley had a similar experience to that of Cleopas and his companion. He didn't have Jesus physically there explaining the scriptures to him but through the scriptures he came to have an experience of God that was not just head knowledge but heart knowledge.
This experience changed his life, it was a pivotal moment, he had already been ordained for 10 years as an Anglican Priest but this transformed his belief and preaching. As a result of this John Wesley became able to tell others about Jesus and his relationship with him. On talking to his brother, Charles, he realised that he too had had a similar experience a few days before.
Like the disciples the Wesleys felt called to preach repentance, like the disciples they felt empowered by the Holy Spirit to make a real difference, a real impact on peoples' beliefs and lives.
We, like the disciples, like the Wesleys, are called to be witnesses to the most exciting story ever told, we are witnesses to the most exciting love story ever told. A love story where the main characters are God and each of us, and every single person you see.
This is exciting, this is as the gospels tell us Good News which we need to pass on. We don't need to be clever, be able to preach, be able to tell a long story, we don't need to know all the right doctrines, we don't need to know all the right answers, we just need to know in our hearts that God loves us .
1st May 2022 Thoughts
Readings Psalm 30 John 21.1-19
Beauty for Brokenness
I want to talk to you about Kintsugi which comes from Japan and means golden repair. One theory for the origin of this is that a damaged Chinese tea bowl was sent from Japan back to China for repair (late 15th Century) came back repaired with metal staples, this led to talented craftsmen looking for a more pleasing way to repair broken pottery.
The practical aspect of Kintsugi is that the pottery is mended and the areas of breakage are covered with lacquer which is mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum. In this way the repairs are not hidden but are used to bring out the beauty of the original pot and to make it more beautiful than when it was first made. The broken pieces gilded restoration usually takes up to three months, as the fragments are carefully glued together with the sap of an indigenous Japanese tree, left to dry for a few weeks and then adorned with gold running along its cracks.
The philosophy of Kintsugi says that cracks and repairs are part of the objects history and show that it has been well used, the flaws resulting from use should be celebrated not disguised. Kintsugi instead of seeking to hide the cracks and lines makes a feature of them.
There is also an element of waste not want not, better to repair than discard.
We live in a world where if things are broken we usually throw them away. The Bible however is full of the message that nothing is wasted and that everyone can be part of the kingdom and used for the purposes of the kingdom and used for the purposes of God however broken we are.
Peter and the disciples were broken, they had all deserted Jesus when he needed them, Peter had literally denied even knowing him, not once but three times. They had all experienced real trauma and fear, they had seen Jesus hanging on a cross. They needed healing.
In our reading this morning we are told that after the resurrection Peter decided to do what he knew best, what he was comfortable with, he went fishing with a few others. They went out in a boat and after a night of fishing, they had caught nothing. A man, whom they later realise is Jesus, tells them to fish on the other side, resulting in so many fish they couldn’t haul the nets in. When they realised it was Jesus, Peter jumps in the water to come ashore leaving the others to struggle with the catch.
Jesus cooks them breakfast over the fire, bread and fish, I wonder was that the best breakfast they ever had?
Jesus doesn't confront any of them, he doesn't say where were you?
He doesn't tell them that they aren't worthy to be part of his kingdom, he accepts them as they are warts and all.
After the meal Jesus and Peter have a conversation, for each time Peter denied Jesus, he is commissioned to look after the sheep, to feed the lambs.
Each broken crack in Peter's life and soul is lovingly mended but not erased but glided.
Jesus mended the past and gave Peter renewed hope for the future.
In spite of all the mistakes, denials and failures, Peter’s declarations of faith become the rock upon which the Church is built – a place where failures find forgiveness and mistakes can be mended.
Our faults, our cracks and breakages are part of our life, they make us who we are, they are part of our character today. God doesn't get rid of our character, our history but repairs in such a way as to make us more beautiful in his eyes, makes us more Christlike.
Do you need tending, healing?
24th April 2022 Thoughts
Reading John 20 (19-31)
Last week we celebrated Easter, no doubt we thought about the week leading up to Easter Day, the high lights, the trauma, the despair and drama of it all. Now we start to think about the events after the resurrection, those events that are recounted so that we, who did not live through it, might believe.
In this reading from John's Gospel we are introduced more fully to Thomas, known as the 'Twin', nicknamed ,somewhat unfairly, as 'Doubting Thomas'.
The story starts with Mary Magdalene going to the tomb and finding it empty, Mary meets the Jesus in the garden and then tells the other disciples. Peter and another disciple then go and investigate, they find that, just as Mary had said, the tomb was empty,
Did they all believe what they heard?
The next scene takes place behind locked doors, doors locked out of fear, doors locked to provide safety and security.
The text says when it was evening on that day, Jesus comes among them, he shows them his hands and side, then the disciples rejoiced, they saw the physical evidence and believed.
This is where history has been unfair to Thomas, he asks for the same proof the others were given.
For some reason Thomas was not there when Jesus first appeared, why not?
Thomas has already shown his loyalty and love for Jesus, in the past he has always been there, when Jesus was going to Bethany 2 miles from Jerusalem it was Thomas who urged the disciples to go with him, so they could all die together if need be.
For Thomas when Jesus died his world ended, all his hopes were dashed, the leader he had followed faithfully for three years had not only been taken from him but had died in an horrific way. Perhaps Thomas needed time alone to come to terms with recent events......he avoided his friends, he avoided his family.....and so he missed out.
We can learn a lot from Thomas and his actions.
Because he wasn't there he missed seeing Jesus, he missed being given his peace, he missed the joy of being with him again, he missed the truth of the resurrection, he missed just being in the presence of his Lord, he missed the wonder of that appearance, he missed so much.
We can all miss out on experiences with God because we don't have time, we are too tired, too busy, life is too full of commitments, too many more interesting things to do?
How many times have you heard or said, I wish I could have been there, or seen that, experienced that but.....
Thomas was not there, but perhaps his doubts were shaken enough for him to meet the disciples the following week, perhaps he said I'll give it one more try, perhaps he wanted to believe, perhaps he felt drawn to the others and what they had he wanted.
The next week Thomas was there and he saw and believed. He was given the same proof that the others had been given. There is a difference between doubt and unbelief, doubt is a problem with the intellect, someone wants to believe but has serious understandable questions. Unbelief refuses to believe no matter what it sees. Thomas was plagued by doubt but when his questions were answered he believed unreservedly.
I think we can all relate to Thomas, we all have our doubts, our questions. Sometimes things happen and we doubt, we doubt that God can love us if this happens to us, sometimes we doubt the very existence of God, we all do it from time to time, we wonder why we carry on doing what we do, we ask what is the point?
Asking questions honestly and truthfully is how we learn, children are notorious for going through a stage where the only word they seem to know is WHY? That is how they and we grow in learning and in our relationship with God.
God has created us all to be different to be unique, to be thinking independent people, not clones or robots. He delights in our conversations in our questions, in our desire to know more, to understand more.
17th April 2022 Easter Thoughts
Reading Matthew 28(1-10)
What a week! Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, the most important week in the Christian year. On Palm Sunday we see Jesus riding into Jerusalem in triumph, to cries of Hosanna, by the end of the week he is betrayed and the cries turn from Hosanna to Crucify.
I am reminded of the words of the hymn, 'My song is love unknown' by Samuel Crossman. Verse three says 'Sometimes they strew his way, and his sweet praises sing; resounding all the day hosannas to their King. Then Crucify! Is all their breath, and for his death they thirst and cry.'
Verse 4 'Why, what has my Lord done? What makes this rage and spite? He made the lame to run, he gave the blind their sight. Sweet injuries!'
The problem was though that Jesus did far more than that, he challenged the authorities, he challenged the ones in power and gave a voice to those who had no voice. He was a problem for many. Jesus was born an agricultural society where the peasants worked the land and the ruling elite claimed the produce through taxes and levies. Some of the taxes where on the land some on the actual people who worked the land. Failure to pay the dues resulted in serfdom. The taxes were paid to the Temple and to the state or the Romans. The Temple was no longer regarded as a house of God but as part and parcel of the oppression. The High Priests who should have been representing the people to God and God to the people were appointed by Rome's puppet ruler, Herod, who gave the position in return for support of his rule. The incumbent was changed on a regular basis to prevent too much power and influence being held.
Jesus came and questioned the taxes, the oppression, the system and he taught that it was right to do so. The representatives of the Temple system and the Romans did not take kindly to this and were determind to get rid of this threat to their hold on power. The week between Palm Sunday and Easter Day were the culmination of months of plotting and scheming, of attempts to discredit Jesus by a series of challenges and questions all of which Jesus had overturned.
They could not silence him by discrediting him with the people and his popularity kept growing. In the last week Jesus went to Jerusalem, the very seat of power. He came out of the shadows, out of the villages and even into the Temple itself ,overturning tables, making sure that the rulers knew he was there. He issued a direct challenge. The answer to Samuel Crossman's question 'What has my Lord done?' is there.
Jesus challenged what he saw was wrong, he challenged injustices but more than that he showed us all a better way to live. He showed us a different Kingdom with different rules and different challenges. A kingdom which reflects the character of the King, a kingdom of love, justice, equality, a kingdom where the first is last and the ruler is a Servant King.
10th April 2022 Palm Sunday Thoughts
Reading Luke 19 (28-40)
The events of that day, Palm Sunday, are well known to us. We know all about the donkey, the palm branches. For us, with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps there is a tinge of sadness that this great day of rejoicing is so quickly followed by the baying of the mob for crucifixion.
But what did it mean to the people there, to the followers of Jesus, this Rabbi from Nazareth, to the crowds, to the religious authorities, to the Romans?
All four Gospels have accounts of the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem riding a donkey or colt or both, they all place the event somewhere around the beginning of the Passover festival.
In Luke's version rather than palm branches cloaks are spread in the road. The tradition of celebrating a new king by throwing your clothes on the path before him went back to the days of Elisha. It first appears in 2 Kings 9.13, where people spread their cloaks under Jehu when Yahweh anointed him as the King of Israel. Jehu want on to liberate Israel from the heirs of Ahab and Jezebel, he destroyed all traces of that regime and the worship of Baal associated with it, there was violence and bloodshed.
Was this in the minds of the people the day they put their cloaks under the hooves of the donkey?
Were they expecting Jesus to liberate them from the regime of the Romans with violence and bloodshed?
Every part of the day, every action was full of meaning and significance.
The words they sang 'Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord' is taken from Psalm 118 and Jesus was fulfilling the prophecies of Zechariah Zechariah 9.9 proclaims:
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion. Sing aloud, Daughter Jerusalem. Look, your king will come to you. He is righteous and victorious. He is humble and riding on an ass, on a colt, the offspring of a donkey.
Jesus was doing his part to fulfill the prophecy by riding into town on a donkey colt. Not only that, but Jesus’ parade route had begun at the Mount of Olives. Again, just like Zechariah said it would happen: On that day he will stand upon the Mount of Olives, to the east of Jerusalem (Zech. 14.4).The disciples led the singing and rejoicing because of what they had seen Jesus do, they had seen his generous actions, his healing, his miracles, they had heard his teachings, they had lived and travelled with him for nigh on three years. They were confidant that everything had led to this day, this day of triumph. So they shouted and sang 'Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord!'
Some of the Pharisees asked Jesus to check his disciples, why? Was it that they didn't agree, that they were miserable people just trying to spoil the atmosphere?Jerusalem was part of a land under a foreign rule and as Jesus and his disciples were coming in from the Mount of Olives through the eastern gate of the city, the Roman governor Pilate would have been riding into Jerusalem from the western gate, with a battalion or two of Roman forces with him. Every year, hundreds of thousands of worshippers came into Jerusalem for the Passover, from every corner of the known world. It was the festival that every faithful Jew had to attend at least once.
It was difficult to ensure safety and security in such conditions so the Romans were there in force.
Passover had and has huge significance for the Jewish people.
Passover was the Jewish holiday that celebrated the time their God had liberated them from another empire—Egypt. A time when their God had defeated the ruler of Egypt who had enslaved them, now they were under the rule of Rome could it happen again? The Jews believed it and the Passover brought all the simmering resentments and hopes to the surface, it would only take a spark for a riot or rebellion to begin. The Pharisees and other religious leaders would be held accountable by the Romans for any trouble, so they asked Jesus to control his followers. To keep the occupants in their place Pilate rode in with pomp and ceremony riding a war horse.
The Messiah, the King of Kings rides in to his city on a donkey. What a contrast between the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Heaven.
We are citizens of God's Kingdom, a kingdom which reflects the character of it's King.
3rd April 2022 Thoughts
Reading John 12.1-8
All four of the gospels have a similar story, that of a woman coming to Jesus as he sits at a table. She anoints his feet with a precious ointment or oil and then dries them with her hair. In some versions she is a prostitute and so has been linked with Mary Magdalene, who has then become known as a prostitute. Chicken and egg, all we know about Mary of Magdala is that Jesus cast out seven demons from her and she became one of his followers (Luke 8 v 2). The idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute began with an Easter sermon given by Pope Gregory 1 in 591. In his sermon he combined three women into one, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and the unnamed sinful woman in Luke 7. It wasn't until 1969 that this association was officially removed by Pope Paul IV.
In John's version of the event it is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus who is involved and they live in Bethany. John has located this event between the raising of Lazarus and the death of Jesus.
In chapter 11 we see Jesus, having heard that his friend Lazarus has died, travelling to Bethany. He goes to the tomb, or rather cave where they have laid the body and then we have the shortest verse in the Bible, 'Jesus wept' (John 11 v 35).
With those two words John shows us a great deal about the God we know through Jesus.
We have a God who gave us emotions. We weep, we laugh, we celebrate, we grieve and we do so with Jesus alongside us, fully human and divine. Being fully human means he took on all aspects of being human, he felt sorrow, he felt despair, he felt loneliness, he felt rejection, he felt joy, he felt love, he felt happiness, he felt wonder, he felt the whole range of human emotions, so at the death of a friend , he wept.
In some translations it says that as he stood by the tomb he was deeply troubled or was moved by a deep anger, was this because he knew that soon he would lay down his life, that soon he too would be coming back from a very real experience of death, that he would have to conquer death and go through the whole experience of a horrific death first?
So after the raising of Lazarus, six days before the Passover, a banquet is prepared in Bethany in Jesus' honour. Mary takes the nard and anoints the feet of Jesus, not his head but feet as for a burial.
What can we learn from this passage?
Is it that there will always be poor people so we should just accept the injustices of society and work with and through them?.Or is it that God weeps with us over the wrongs in our world, is it that as we are moved to tears by the suffering of the Ukrainian people, God too weeps.
27th March 2022 Thoughts
Reading Luke 15.1-3,11b-32
Today we celebrate Mothering Sunday. Mothering Sunday is a tradition dating from the Middle Ages. Originally a time to focus on 'mother church', it became a day when young girls, in service away from home, could visit their mothers and go back to their 'mother church'. Today in many churches congregations gather to thank God for mothers. Despite gloomy statistics about family breakdown, there remains a deeply rooted longing to celebrate all that is best about the family, embodied particularly by the role motherhood plays.
But it is not just mothers who nurture and care, quite often single parents take on the role of Father and Mother.
In a painting by Rembrandt, of the prodigal son, the father appears to be embracing the son with a male arm and a female arm. Have a look at the painting sometime, is the painter referring to the idea of God as being male and female, or God loving as a Mother and Father do?
In chapter 15 of Luke's Gospel we are given three lost and found stories told by Jesus, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son, all are found and the stories all end with celebrations and a party.
One of the set readings for today is the lost son, a story familiar to us all, it is a story Jesus tells the religious leaders when they complain about his tendency to eat with the wrong type of people.
The story is about a man with two sons, one of whom stays at home and the other rebels, he leaves home, spends his inheritance, which he has asked for before his father's death, comes back in repentance and is forgiven with open arms. More than that the father has been looking for him to return, a party ensues, the elder son, the one who stayed, is hurt and angry at the response to his brother's return. Jesus doesn't say whether the elder son did join in the celebrations and welcome his brother or if there was a grudging acceptance for the father's sake.
There are three main characters in this story, the father who doesn't condemn, who allows rebellion, who allows resentment, he makes himself vulnerable to rejection by both sons because he allows them freedom and doesn't control. He loves, he waits, he hopes, he runs, he embraces and he forgives and celebrates. Then there is the elder son, he stays and works hard in the fields, he is seen as the good obedient son, the one overlooked because he doesn't cause trouble or concern.
Thirdly the lost son, the one who turned his back on the family, who became the black sheep, the one who let everyone down including himself. The one who is given a full and free pardon by his father.
What can we learn from this story?
Which of the two brothers do you relate to?
Do we resent those who come to church and are welcomed with open arms whilst we have been there for years quietly working in the background?
One thing we can all learn from this story is that even when we let God down, God loves us. As a good parent does, God forgives us. God is a pattern to us when we try to be good parents or children. God is a pattern for all our relationships with other people. God shows us unconditional love.
20th March 2022 Thoughts
Reading Luke 13(1-9)
The news, these past few weeks, has been full of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. We have heard and seen tales of misery and woe. We have seen women and children leaving their men behind to defend their cities. We have seen people fleeing their homeland looking for refuge elsewhere. We have seen their suffering.
In the reading from Luke's Gospel, there had been an incident where the tower at Siloam had fallen killing eighteen people. This was an accident that was caused by the faulty construction of the tower, and that’s what led to its collapse. It is believed that the tower joined the pool of Siloam, where Jesus had healed a man, who had been afflicted for thirty-eight years. There were a lot of people who waited patiently in the porches around the pool for the troubling of the waters. Perhaps some of those unfortunate people had also been killed.
The people of Jesus' time would have assumed that any tragedy, or even illness was a direct result of some sin or wrongdoing. This may have been by the person directly affected or by their parents or ancestors.
Jesus refutes this by saying that the people killed were no more sinful than everyone else, we are all as bad as each other, we all need to mend our ways.
As Christians we struggle with the idea that God allows suffering, we struggle with the notion that God as a god of love, indeed that God is love can allow suffering, and yet we see the suffering of the Ukrainian people, of the people in other war zones.
If we can feel heartbroken by the scenes reported how much more will God feel it? So we ask why He does not intervene?
I don't know the answer I can only give you my thoughts.
God gave us freewill, he gave it to the person on the street and to those in power, the ability to choose to do right or wrong, God gave that gift or curse and will not take it back.
But he has also promised that he will be with us in all circumstances, carrying us when necessary. He came to be one of us, he knows what suffering is, he died one of the most painful deaths as the Son and as the Father watched as his Son died.
Because of this he can truly understand what our experiences are like, what our suffering means.
Through it all we know that God loves us and will be with us. We also know that in spite of all that is happening in our world, ultimately it is still God's world and in the end God and good will prevail.
I invite you to use the words of StF 693, or follow the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08utbDFP9AE, Beauty for brokenness as a prayer.
13th March 2022 Thoughts
Reading Joel 2(1-2) (12-17)
Today, is the second Sunday of Lent, which began with Ash Wednesday and ends the day before Easter Sunday, on the day, sometimes, referred to as Holy Saturday.
Lent commemorates the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness at the start of his ministry. It was a time that came straight after his baptism by John. He was acknowledged by God as his 'Beloved Son' and from that experience he went into the desert for the forty days. From a high straight to a low, just as we so often do. How many times have you had a time when everything seems right between you and God, when you have been close, a ' mountain top' experience, only to come down to earth with a bump, someone or something will spoil it all. Perhaps this is how Jesus felt one minute God is talking to him the next he is alone in the desert with only the devil for company.
We are told that Jesus fasted and prayed during this time and so traditionally Lent has become a time of fasting or at least it used to be, now we just enjoy pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, a nod towards using up all dairy products before Lent.
Lent like Advent is a time of preparation, of spiritual house cleaning! In Advent we look forward to and prepare for the birth of Jesus as a baby, it is a time of joyful anticipation. Lent in contrast is a time of repentance, signalled by the marking of a cross in ash on the forehead, a time that sees us trying and perhaps failing to walk alongside Jesus, through his temptations, through his journey to Jerusalem, and finally to his death and resurrection
But what does repentance mean and why should we do it?
Not so long ago the news reports were full of politicians saying sorry, sorry about going to or holding Christmas parties, apparently unaware at the time that they were breaking rules they had brought in, even the Prime Minister was not exempt from this error. Questions were raised as to whether there was true repentance or whether words were said to appease the nation.
It is easy to say sorry, to seem sorry without that being the case, it is not always clear if the remorse is for the action, or for being found out.
In Christian terms repentance is far more than saying sorry, it is literally turning your back on previous behaviour, turning around and going in a different direction. Repentance requires a change of life, of direction and attitudes not just words.
There are many passages in the Bible, such as the one from Joel, that call for repentance, that call for God's people to repent, to turn back to God and away from the things which displease God, so that the relationship between God and his people could be restored.
During this time of Lent, perhaps instead of showing self restraint by denying ourselves something, we should concentrate on putting right the things that are wrong in our lives.
Taking positive action rather than negative.
6th March 2022 Thoughts
Reading Luke 4:1-13
This week I just want to share with you the following, it is taken from an online resource called Rootsontheweb.com
In the desert
The landscape is empty, only the fierce furnace of the sun blazes mercilessly on the scorched land. All life has scuttled for sanctuary among the crevices of the rocks or lies up in the hollows of the dried-up watercourses waiting for the cooling breeze of evening. All life, that is, save that of the gaunt figure of a man picking his way wearily to the shade of a lone tree. He’s hungry, thirsty, and tired. Yet from his eyes there still gleams a wise compassion that seems infinitely older than his age. He sits down and rests, his eyes fixed on a jumbled heap of boulders shaped like round loaves of bread. They remind him of his hunger. ‘Turn them into loaves,’ comes the whisper. ‘You are starving, satisfy your hunger. Are you not God’s Son?’ He looks up, as if seeing someone before him, yet he appears to be alone.
‘That’s what the voice said at your baptism,’ continues the questioner. ‘You are my Son – or was it just your imagination, a trick of the brain, an illusion? Perhaps you are not whom you imagine yourself to be, but just an ordinary carpenter infected with messianic fervour. Prove that I’m wrong. If you do succeed, it will win you a lot of votes. There is a lot of hunger in the world. Millions are starving. And even if you do believe in yourself, then turning stones into bread will convince the atheists and the sceptics. Go on, turn them into loaves!’
The man looks again at the rocks and shakes his head. ‘No,’ he replies. ‘It is written: one does not live by bread alone.’
Undaunted the voice continues: ‘Come with me to a mountaintop – a holy place. For did not Abraham, Moses and Elijah have mountaintop experiences, moments of vision? I too can weave visions. So, stand with me on the roof of the world to see your destiny. I’m pleased that my talk of bread and circuses did not impress you as they have the Roman world. You are made of finer stuff; you are made to wield power, to exercise authority. Before you kings will bow and emperors will do you homage. Look! This is my world.’
The man looks. Spread out before him in a trice is the long march of history: kings, emperors, dictators and presidents, generals and commanders, men and women of wealth, power and influence, all who rule, all who conquer, all who control, all of them bowing before a throne on which he sits. ‘It is yours,’ says the voice. ‘I give it to you and all its glory. All I ask is that you acknowledge me; that you call me your Lord, and you shall have it now. What is your answer?
The man pauses, considering, then gazes down again. Now, instead of the panoply of power, he sees a man wearing a crown of thorns and a purple robe, mocked and buffeted by jeering soldiers. Afterwards, he looks into the tormented face of a crucified man and finds his own staring back at him. He stands upright: ‘No. Depart from me. For Scripture says, “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”’
‘Come with me,’ the voice persists. ‘I want you to see something. I will take you to the Temple. There’s nothing wrong with a visit to your Father’s house, is there? Tell you what – we needn’t even leave the desert. Let me open up your imagination. We’ve entered the main gate and have gone through the courts into the Holy Place. Now we are in the Temple itself and have climbed to the roof at its highest point. Don’t look down – it’s a long drop! But I’m forgetting; you are God’s Son. You lead a charmed life. Jump! It’s okay. You can depend on the Father. Does not the Scripture say that his angels will protect you, lest you strike your foot on a rock? It’s quite safe. Think of the entertainment value, think of the draw that a miracle will have. Once you have gathered the crowd by this stunt they will hang upon your words. So, jump!
The man looks down and up again, then he shakes his head once more: ‘I see you know your Bible,’ he replies, ‘yet that does not surprise me. But let me give you another text that will put this suggestion beyond argument: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
The voice was silent. As the sun begins to set, a cool breeze springs up, seeming to whisper, ‘Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’
© ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2022.Reproduced with permission.
27th February 2022 Thoughts
As you read this on the 27th February I will be joining with around 60 Christian Women for a weekend conference. Our theme this year is Wisdom and Wonder, so I thought I could share a few thoughts about this theme with you. My thought is that God has the wisdom and we have the wonder. Wisdom is an attribute of God. The book of Proverbs tells us that there is an invisible creative force in the universe that can guide people as to how they should live, it affects everything we do. This is what God used to create the world. God knew what he was doing, in the order, in the beings he created.
Have you been watching the Green Planet? David Attenborough's latest offering. Using time lapsed photography we are introduced to a whole new world of plants, a world where plants and animals unknowingly but amazingly enable the survival of each other. Each part is enmeshed into the whole, ants take away seeds which have been disguised as dung, monkeys eat messily and seed fall into rivers, bees and birds receive nectar in return for pollinating other plants. The fire lily remains dormant in the ground awaiting forest fires and so vegetation is restored once again. Just a few examples of God's wisdom at work.
God in his wisdom created the human race to steward his creation, made in his image, we don't look like him, it is more like children having similar characteristics to their parents, acting in same way, having the same mannerisms. Having a similar outlook, similar ways of doing things. God is a creator and so we create, we make things, we nurture and grow plants, we garden, we grow , well some of us do, vegetables etc.
It follows that you and I can also have wisdom,note I didn't say be wise, experience is not the same as wisdom. It has everything to do with the anointing of God, to see what is right and what is wrong, to know what to do and when to do it. Like grace, wisdom is something God offers and which we must receive. It is a gift. A gift which needs to be grown into, practised, again, Proverbs tells us that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, fear of the Lord is healthy respect, is submission to his will, not cowering in a corner in fear and trembling.
God's wisdom is completeness of knowledge in every realm of life and fulfilment of what he has in mind, the universe and humankind are products of his creative wisdom. There is nothing that God does not know, nothing, no circumstance that he can not forsee, no consequence that he is unaware of, there is no action that he can not see all the outcomes of. That means , for us, that we can truly trust him. He knows all that can, will, could, happen and he has only our best interests at heart.
But where, we might ask, is the wisdom in sending his son to be born as one of us, for him to be so helpless, so vulnerable, being born not in a kings palace but in a outhouse of an inn, not born to wealth and privilege but to poverty and oppression. Where was the wisdom in telling shepherds first, of his birth, they had no voice, they were unimportant they were on the out skirts of society. We can not hope to understand the wisdom of God, Isaiah 55 (8-9) explains why
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. So if we can't hope to understand what should our response be to God's wisdom?
This is where the wonder comes in. At God's wisdom we can only respond with wonder and awe. We can only, like the shepherds, wonder at the baby, like the wise men we wonder at the heavens. Our God is a God of wonders. Wonder means amazement, awe, marvel, astonishing, surprise, we look and look but we cannot believe our eyes. When we talk about God being a God of wonder, it means everything about God begins and ends with wonder.
And at the end of it all we can only wonder at the undeserved grace, the undeserved love. We can only wonder at the relationship we can have with God, a relationship based on the fact that God loved us before we even gave him a fleeting thought.
How wonderful is that? How marvellous?
20th February 2022 Thoughts
Reading St Luke 8.22-25
From verse 21 of this chapter of Luke's Gospel there are different events which the author uses to teach us and the early Church that following Jesus does not exempt us from problems, we have never been promised an easy life, if anything we have been promised the opposite. Alongside that we have also been promised that God would be with us through all that life throws at us. Through him we can overcome and even thrive.
The first of these events is that, Jesus at the end of a busy day, boards a boat with the disciples. They set off across the lake of Galilee with Jesus asleep at the back of the boat. Whilst he is sleeping a storm arises and the disciples, some of whom are seasoned fisher folk, fear for their lives. They wake Jesus, who, stands up in the boat, rebukes the storm and all is peaceful, flat calm descends. Jesus questions why the disciples have so little faith and they in turn wonder just who Jesus is that even the winds and waves obey him.
The lake of Galilee is surrounded by steep mountains and narrow valleys down which the wind is funnelled, in sudden, strong and unexpected squalls. The storm on the Lake is simply saying that through all the adverse circumstances, 'the storms of life' Jesus is with us and he can calm the storm, with him in the middle of it we can emerge on the other side.
Jesus is Lord of nature
The second lesson comes next, as they crossed the Lake they came to the region of the Gerasenes, where there was a man said to be possessed by a Legion of demons. This man for a long time had been living wild, chained hand and foot and kept under guard. The demons asked Jesus to send them into a nearby herd of pigs. The man was healed and was then found by the people who came 'at the feet of Jesus' clothed and in his right mind. Jesus, unusually, tells the man to go home and to tell people what had been done for him.
Jesus has power over the mind
The next lessons are based around the healing of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and the raising of Jairus's daughter. Perhaps the woman's haemorrhage represents any kind of physical illness and Jairus's daughter shows that Jesus has overcome the final problem of death itself.
Jesus has the power to heal and restore.
Luke is saying that we will face problems in life, some simply because we are alive and some because we follow Christ. The message also is one of good news in that Jesus can overcome everything and will be present right in the middle of it all if we trust him to be there. We need to trust him that he is here, now. We also need to trust that he is Lord of the past, that he knows,has seen,the way forward, what will happen, the victories he will win and the lessons we will learn. Jesus may not give us the kind of victory we expect but he will always overcome trouble in some way if we ask him. In illness for example, it maybe to get better or it maybe to receive a sense of real peace.
Jeremiah 29 (11) sums it up with these words
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
13th February 2022 Thoughts
Racial Justice Sunday
Readings Ephesians 2(19-22), Colossians 3(9-11)
The organisation called 'Churches together in Britain and Ireland' have put together resources to help individuals and churches look at issues around racism and justice. They have put the resources under the heading 'Racial Justice: What's it got to do with me?'
When I think of the people who are likely to read my 'Thoughts' we are all white, middle or perhaps working class people unlikely to have directly experienced racial abuse. It is perhaps understandable then, that we will approach matters of racism in this way. I am also aware that each person to whom these 'Thoughts' are directed would call themselves Christian, followers of Christ, and so questions of racial justice have a lot to do with us.
Racism and racial discrimination deny basic justice and human dignity to those made in the image of God, discrimination assumes that not all are equal, that some due to the colour of their skin, or the location of their birth, their nationality are lesser.
The Bible has a lot to say about justice, it is God's Word and so reflects God's character, a God who is always concerned about justice and equality.
The two readings above both point out that in Christ we are all the same, there are no longer barriers or boundaries between us but is this referring only to the church, that all are equal when they come to know Christ? Is it only as adopted children that matters of race cease to exist so outside the church we can ignore or condone racial discrimination?
Acts 2 (1-12) is worth a read on this.
People from many different places, with differing languages, different cultures all heard and understood the gospel message, all who where there heard what was said in their own tongue, none were excluded, the message was for all.
If we read the Bible carefully, we see that God does not have a problem with diversity or difference. If God did, God would have made us all the same. In Genesis 1:27 it says that we are all made in God’s image, and as such there is only one race, the human race. We may have different skin colours, but we are one people. But, while God does not have a problem with ethnic difference, some human beings do, and the history of our world is sadly full of instances where people have been separated or treated unfairly on the basis of their skin colour, and we the Church often go along with this sinful behaviour.
Do we stand up, speak out or support someone who is being treated unjustly whatever the reason? What does racial justice have to do with me?
As a child of God........everything!
6th February 2022 Thoughts
Readings: Isaiah 6 (1-8)
Luke 5 (1-11)
The first reading is from the book of Isaiah and details how the prophet was called, commissioned by God. Isaiah has a vision where he sees the glory, the wonder of God. In contrast to this glory his own unworthiness is highlighted and he declares that he was
“a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
In the scriptures we hear of people called by God, or who have an encounter with God, who in the face of this experience realise their own inadequacies and feel shame. Isaiah was one, Jeremiah another, Paul, in his letters always claimed to be the least one worthy to be called an apostle, and yet God worked through each one. Each one was made worthy by God.
In the reading from Luke's Gospel Jesus approaches Simon, gets into his boat and teaches the people from it. He then tells Simon, an experienced fisherman, to fish in a way that was the least likely way to catch fish, in the heat of the day and in deep water. Simon queries the strategy but goes along with it and so many fish are caught that two sturdy fishing boats look likely to sink.
Simon recognises this as a miracle and that the perpetrator was God, in the light of this encounter he felt unworthy and ashamed
“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!
The book of Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, fear in this sense is a healthy respect for, rather than a cowering in the corner away from. Jesus tells Peter not to be afraid and on reaching the shore Peter and his partners left the boats and followed Jesus. On following Jesus, we are told that Peter and the others left everything behind, nothing was as important to them as going with Jesus. He led them into a new way, an uncharted way, somewhere they had not been before and they had to learn to know him, to trust him.
We too, when we have a real encounter with God, feel unworthy but God has adopted us into his family, we have been made worthy, in spite of all our many faults, in spite of all the times we get it wrong, God loves us and makes us worthy.
30th January 2022 Thoughts
Reading: Luke 4 (21-30)
In this reading from Luke's Gospel Jesus has returned to Nazareth where he had lived as a boy, where he had grown up. The people here knew him and his family, they had seen him train as a carpenter, they had seen him leave that trade, leave the family home. More than that, they had heard tales about him teaching, healing people, even performing miracles. He was the local boy made good. There must have been a real sense of excitement that day in the Synagogue, what would he say? What would he do? How different would he be to the boy they had known all his life.
The Synagogue was probably filled with local people all wanting to know and see what all the fuss was about.
Jesus stood up as a signal that he was willing to read from the scrolls , when it was handed to him he found the words from Isaiah, words that would have been well known, that all would have heard read before by various rabbis and they would have heard the rabbis explaining and teaching the meanings behind the words.
What did Jesus read?
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Jesus didn't expound or preach or explain but read the words as fact, as literal truth and then simply said “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
To begin with the people were amazed at the way Jesus spoke, at his presence, at his knowledge but then the atmosphere changes as they remember that Jesus used to be one of them, just a local lad but now he goes too far, claims too much.
Jesus adds fuel to the fire when he starts to talk about Elijah and Elisha.
During a famine, which incidentally Elijah caused, Elijah was sent to a widow who provided for him but she was not Jewish. Elisha in turn healed a leper, Naaman who again was not Jewish. These events happened in spite of the fact that there were plenty of Jewish widows who could have provided for Elijah and plenty of Jewish lepers for Elisha to heal.
The people became angry with Jesus because he was saying that God had an interest in people beyond the Jewish nation.
He was no longer just a local boy made good but now he was teaching and preaching uncomfortable and foreign ideas.
This is a pattern which repeats itself during Jesus ministry, when he is telling stories, when he is healing, when he is performing miracles, the people follow and hang on his every word but as soon as the going gets tough, when they are told the cost of following Jesus many leave.
When it is really tough, at the arrest, at the trial and crucifixion, only one of the disciples stays nearby, and even he denies knowing Jesus.
Jesus was willing to pay the price for speaking out, for speaking God's truth.
How many times do we keep silent when we know we should speak out?
23rd January 2022 Thoughts
1 Corinthians 12.12-31a
Corinth was 1 of the most important cities of Greece, it had Greek history but was now remodelled as a new Roman city, it was a forward looking, the place to be, prosperous, population of around 500,000 consisting of Romans who had settled there, Greeks, immigrants and migrant workers from all around the Mediterranean, including people from Crete, Syria and Macedonia, Egypt and Judea. There were social divisions between very rich and very poor, between slaves and free. Social position was equated with honour, honour was acquired by superiority over others, back biting and social climbing was the accepted norm, harmony, unity of any sort was not .
On Paul 3rd missionary journey he spent about 18 months there plying his trade as a tent maker/leather worker and formed a following of Jesus, a church.
Paul then moved on to Ephesus.
This letter was written from Ephesus in Asia Minor prompted by a visit from some prominent members of the Corinthian Church and a letter delivered by another group of visitors from Corinth asking for guidance on some matters.
There was division in the church the first chapter of the letter spells this out. Other teachers had come after Paul and now there were factions followers of Apollos, of Kephas and some saying they were followers of Paul himself
So Paul writes a letter to be read out to all the people in the church.
The letter is in response to some issues raised in the letter given him, but some points are to combat the divisions.
The letter covers aspects of how they were to live as a community as a church how to live as followers of Christ when they were living in a totally different community, how to reconcile issues such as equality between slaves and masters in church, but not outside the doors, acceptance of both Jew and Gentiles again not outside the doors in normal society, how to eat together for the Lord's supper, clean and unclean.
This New Way of Jesus is something totally new and in many ways went against all the norms of society. Easy for us to forget.
The church in Corinth was full of divisions that came in from their society as well as from their different cultural backgrounds. In society it was important to seem better than others, keeping up with the Jones, think of Mrs Bouquet or Bucket and this led to disputes about who was best, who had the best spiritual gifts, who should be deemed the most important.
Paul likens the church to a human body all parts needed to function properly but more importantly for the church at Corinth all parts are of equal value.
Just as the human body has many parts, hands, eyes, feet so the church is made up of many different people all with their own gifts to contribute. For the church at Corinth the question had been which were the best and most important gifts to possess.
Paul puts all the gifts on an equal footing all are needed to build up the church and none are better than the others.
We know that for our bodies to work without problems then all parts of it have to contribute, we know if some part can't function to it's full capacity then it impinges on all the other parts. We know that if some part is injured, say a hip, then the rest of the body compensates, the way we walk alters to take into account the lack of mobility.
We can apply what Paul says in different ways today, perhaps to working together with different churches in the circuit, each has something different and important to add, we are all part of Christ's body the church.
Each of us has something to offer to the church, each of us has some gift, perhaps it is a word of encouragement, a word of advice or wisdom, perhaps a smile, a singing voice, musical ability, flower arranging, operating the computer, reading in public, all these can be used to build up others in the church, all can be used to contribute to the atmosphere of love and worship.
When we hold back, the church is not built up to worship God and to tell and show others the love of God it may mean that others have to compensate or just that something is missing.
Everyone is important and of the same value, from Minister to flower arranger.
16th January 2022 Thoughts
John 2 (1-11)
Water into wine. A story we all are familiar with, this is the first miracle, the first sign of Jesus' identity, recorded in the Gospels.
It is a miracle shrouded in secrecy. Jesus and his mother are at a wedding feast, an event that has probably been taking place for a number of days, and disaster strikes, the wine runs out. For some reason Mary turns to Jesus, a fellow guest, to remedy this situation, initially he baulks at this imposition but then gives instructions to the servants, the water becomes superior quality wine and the wedding feast is saved. Only the servants know that they poured water in and poured wine out.
What does it all mean?
Over the years many explanations have been given, details have been analysed, was Jesus rejecting Mary's parental authority, does water represent Judaism and wine Christianity, why 6 jars, why was the first miracle at a wedding?
There are many references in the Bible about the relationship between God and his people likening it to a wedding or to a wedding banquet of feast. There is the story of the 10 virgins, the man who invited guests to his wedding only to be rejected, references to the Church as the Bride of Christ. Weddings are an important motif for the Bible, is that why the setting for the first miracle is at a wedding?
Perhaps this is a story that has been over researched, perhaps it has simply meanings, perhaps it is about God's generosity and living life to the full. Weddings are times of celebration, times to gather together, time to rejoice in the happiness of others, in the potential of the unseen future, a time of hope, a time of expectation.
It is also a time of generosity shown in the giving of gifts to the Bride and Groom, the provision of a feast or banquet for all to enjoy.
At this wedding the wine runs out, a social disaster. Jesus sees the 6 stone water jars which would hold between twenty and thirty galleons of water. The
jars were used for the purification rites, water to wash and bathe in after becoming unclean, is Jesus saying this practice is now becoming obsolete? Or just using 6 handy large jars?
The jars, on his instruction , are filled to the brim, not half filled, all 6 are used and filled. All 6 become filled with wine and according to the steward the best wine was served last.
Is this what Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, means when he says that God is able to do exceeding abundantly, God is able to accomplish all things and does so superabundantly above the greatest abundance (literal translation). We have a God who does not deal in half measures but gives and does far more than we can ask of think of. Our highest aspirations are within God's power as answers to prayer.......ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find!
9th January 2022 Thoughts
This week we have already moved from the infant stories of Luke and Matthew to the adult Jesus at the very beginning of his public life. There are no childhood or infancy stories in the Bible. We go from the nativity stories, to a 12 year old to an adult Jesus.
John, the same John, that was mentioned leaping for joy in his mother's womb, is now depicted as a somewhat wild man living in the desert, eating locusts and honey, dressed in sackcloth and demanding the people repent and be baptised.Some think he is Elijah returned, some query whether he is the Messiah, John himself says he is the unworthy fore runner of one far greater than himself.
Before Christianity, in the Jewish tradition, ritual purification, through washing or bathing, was a common practice. If someone had become unclean through contact with a gentile, a dead body, a woman after childbirth or after menstruation or …...the list goes on. A mikvah, a ritual bath, is still used now to become ritually clean again.
John comes preaching repentance and baptism. Repentance is far more than saying sorry and then continuing on doing the same thing time and again. Repentance is a turning away into a totally different, an opposite way, turning your back literally on the old ways and going forward in a new direction.
John called the people to turn their backs on their old way of living and to go in a new way, a way that would prepare the way for the Messiah.
Jesus comes on the scene and is baptised by John, not because he needed to repent but perhaps as a symbol that he was turning away from the life of a carpenter, from being an obedient son of earthly parents to being the obedient Son of his heavenly Father. For Luke the main point of this event is the affirmation, by the voice from heaven, that Jesus was God's beloved Son and that God was pleased with him. His calling, his identity in God was confirmed.
Do we, do you, know who you are in Christ?
Isaiah 43 says
Thus says the Lord,
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
You are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
Fear not, for I am with you;
Isaiah 43 says that we have been called by name, by individual name, that means that God, the Almighty Creator, actually knows your name, he knows who you are and he has called you because he loves who you are. You are precious in his eyes.
Calling you by name means he has adopted you into his family, you are a child of God, more than that, you are a beloved child of God, an heir to his kingdom.
As God affirmed Jesus as his beloved Son so he waits and longs to affirm each one of us as his beloved child.
Do you know who you are in God?
Do you realise how loved you are?
If you take nothing more than this, from these thoughts, let this sink into your mind and heart.
You are precious to Almighty God!
2nd January 2022 Thoughts
Reading Matthew 2 (1-12)
The writer of Matthew's Gospel is the only one to tell us about the wise men and we are actually given little information about them. It is sometimes assumed there were three because of the three gifts, did they come with servants, with an entourage, with tents, with guards. Surely if they were as important as we are led to believe they would not have travelled light and they carried gold with them.
But all of this is not important, what is is that they travelled a long way, to present gifts and worship to a baby they recognised as being important enough to warrant a new star appearing in the heavens.
They gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Not the usual gifts for a baby and lots of theories have been put forward as to why these gifts in particular. Perhaps they were the tools of the trade for the wise men and they were handing them over so they could follow a new path, perhaps they were symbolic of who Jesus was and is. Gold for a king, frankincense used by a priest, Jesus is our high priest..Hebrews 4 (14) myrrh mixed with wine as a way of giving pain relief and for embalming. Were these the right gifts to give?
There is a legend of a fourth member of the group who misses a rendez vous point and is robbed on the way of a expensive pearl and has only 30 pieces of silver left to himself. He arrives at the gate to Jerusalem to be told that the rest of his party have been and are returning home a different way. The gate keeper tells him of a rumour that a couple with a young child may have gone towards Egypt and that the father is a carpenter by trade. The fourth wise man goes towards Egypt with the intention of buying wood and nails as a gift for the child.
Gifts for a baby...... gold, kingship, frankincense for sacrificial offering, myrrh for pain and embalming and perhaps wood and nails for a cross.
But then what do you give to the Creator God?
How did the wise men know what to give to a God who has created everything?
I find it difficult to find the right presents for people . Most of us don't actually need anything, so the gifts are extras, things we would like but are unnecessary, what do you give to someone who has everything they need or want?
How much harder is it for us to give a gift worthy of God
What can we give to the God who created everything? To the God who gave everything for us ?
The final verse of 'In the bleak midwinter' says
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him... give my heart.
How readily and regularly have we spent time with God in worship, in prayer, in reading his Word?
How readily and regularly have we given of ourselves and our time to someone who needs love and compassion?
How readily have we shown that this king rules in our lives by letting him make a difference when we are confused or lonely or devastated by what life throws up?
How readily have we given God, not second best, not what’s simply ‘good enough’, but the best of what we have to offer?
The wise men embarked on a long journey to get to Bethlehem they didn't have the luxury of trains, buses or cars. We are all on a long journey, it is called life and as we saw before journeys can be good or bad, sometimes depending on who is with us. As we travel through life different people join us on that journey, they join us and they leave for different reasons.
There is one however who once invited to join us will never leave us alone, will travel with us to the end of our journey and beyond, sometimes he will even carry us over the difficult parts.
The wise men travelled to worship him, we can travel with him, Immanuel (God with us) into the New Year, into the rest of our lives and beyond.