Minister's Thoughts Archive: 2023

17th December 2023 Thoughts

Reading: John 1:6-8,19-28

Advent as we have seen is a time of waiting, we wait for the birth of the baby Jesus and we wait for the coming again of the Lord Jesus.

Advent is also a time of preparation, we prepare for Christmas, children learn or at least try to learn their parts and places for nativity plays or cameos. We write and receive cards, put up decorations, buy presents and food. Sometimes the preparations involve cleaning spare rooms, making up beds, which have seen little use for most of the year but now are in demand.

Preparations are completed in stages, when we go on holiday the preparations are completed in stages, we get a brochure, or decide where and when we will go, the accommodation is booked then we pay the deposit, then there is a period of waiting before the balance is paid. Then the holiday gets closer, decisions are needed on what to take, which suitcases are needed, do they need airing, clothes washing, when and what to pack the list could go on and on.

Advent is a time of preparation. Our reading from John is about preparation for the coming of God's Kingdom, for the preparations needed for the coming of God's Messiah. We are told that there was a man called John sent from God to bear witness to the light, the author of this Gospel gives no information about John, there is no mention of locusts, of wild honey, of sackcloth. The message is the important thing, not the messenger.

His message is one of repentance, not just saying sorry, but of a change in direction, he is saying that people need to turn their lives around to prepare for God's kingdom. His message is about preparation, of making the path straight ready for the coming of the Light.

In the ancient far east if a really important person was coming the path would literally be made straight, boulders and obstacles would be removed so a straight path was available and the inconvenience of going around an object was removed.

This was and is John's message, remove the obstacles we put in God's way. We all have things and aspects to our lives which aren't what God would want, which stop us having a closer relationship with God. Advent, this time of preparation , as well as being a time of cleaning, baking and domestic preparation is a good time to look at our lives and see what we need to do to make the path straight. In the midst of all the busyness do we stop and listen to what God is saying to us, in all the preparations do we miss the point of the preparations?

Revd Chris

10th December 2023 Thoughts

When I was a child I remember being taught at home and school how to tell the time, do you remember big hand and little hand. Big hand on 12 for the hour, little hand tells the minutes. Nowadays a lot of clocks are digital, just numbers.

No matter which type of clock we use I can guarantee that we all look at a clock or watch many times in a day for various reasons. Sometimes it is because we are bored, in a hurry, excited about an event due to happen at a certain time. Have you noticed how sometimes time slows down at other times it speeds up and how the older we get the faster time goes. Has the year really had the right number of months, I feel sometimes that I must have missed one or two.

Today is the second Sunday of Advent. As you know Advent is a time when we look forward to the coming of Christ, not only as a baby born in Bethlehem but also as a coming King. It is a time given to think about the Christmas story but also about the Second Coming. The first time Jesus came, humbly born to poor people, laid in a manger, weak, helpless dependent on his parents. He was betrayed, condemned, whipped, mocked, crowned with thorns and crucified between two thieves. The second time will be entirely different, there will be no hiding, no fleeing to Egypt. The second time he will come in all of heaven's glory, he will come in power and majesty as the king of all the earth. Not in obscurity this time but witnessed by all.

Matthew's Gospel was written for a Jewish readership who lived in the expectation that Jesus would return sooner rather than later, he was expected at any time. The Church has now been waiting for 2,000 years and we have, become complacent, even cynical or perhaps we simply no longer believe in the 2nd coming anymore. As humans we tire of watching and waiting we get impatient if someone is a little late for an appointment.

We are not always alert, we have all been caught out, visitors come unexpectedly, birthdays, anniversaries are forgotten. Some of us are planners hoping to cover every eventuality others have a more laid back attitude of "it'll be alright on the night"

We make plans for the future, we plan for Christmas, where and with whom will we spend it, we plan for the near future

but how much thought do we give to our future beyond death.

We know that life is precarious, Covid has certainly taught us that, jobs end, relationships, health, security may break down but we expect it to happen to someone else not us.

We must prepare, so that while living ordinary lives, in our hearts we are living as God want us to with him, as his friend.

Jesus taught us that as we don't know when he will come again we have to live in a state of readiness. He could come at anytime.

So how would you feel if instead of thinking about the coming of Jesus as a baby this Christmas he actually came again as the Bible tells us he will. If he were to come now, would you be ready? What would you say to him?

Would you regret something. Would you wish you had done something or not done something this week? Just how ready are you.?

During this period of Advent we must prepare ourselves not only to celebrate that first advent with the associated stories, and presents but also to prepare ourselves for the 2nd Advent when Jesus will come again in power and majesty.

Revd Chris

3rd December 2023 Thoughts


  • Isaiah 64:1-9
  • Mark 13:24-37

When things are going awry we sometimes wonder where God is and we really want him to do something about the situation we find ourselves or the world in. We hear the news about wars, Israel, Hamas, Russia,Ukraine and elsewhere, we hear about famines, earthquakes, we hear about the mass movement and displacement of people, we know about rising prices and the cost-of-living crisis. The world leaders, the politicians, don’t seem to have any workable solutions and if they have, they are too busy arguing among themselves to be effective. Today we start the season of Advent – the time when we look forward to Christ’s return in glory which, in turn takes us back to the hope of God, in Jesus, intervening and putting things right.

This hope, this desire, is nothing new, as we can see in the passage from Isaiah. It is thought to have been written after the Babylonian conquest of Judah in 586 BCE and before the Temple was rebuilt. The author has experienced war and the destruction of the Temple, the focal point of the peoples lives. The leading classes of society have been taken to Babylon in exile and the people are asking how and why this has happened, where is God now.

Isaiah reminds his readers and us and interestingly God as well that in the past God has intervened and saved his people. He led them out from slavery in Egypt, he led them in cloud and fire, he fed them in the wilderness, he intervened in a powerful way, but now God seems to be silent.

Is this our experience? Do we ask the same questions, if God acted in the past, if the prophets heard his voice clearly, audibly, why don’t we? If God intervened in the past why not now? We want the sufferings of today’s world to be worthy of a few mountains shaking with God’s anger but, instead, there’s silence. This is a problem for us as much as it was for Isaiah. It was also a problem for the early church as we can see in the passage from Mark. The first followers of Jesus, the eyewitnesses to the events of his life and death, were themselves now dying and still Jesus had not returned. The Church had to adjust from living in constant expectation of the return of Jesus to living with the hope that he would return soon. The people who first read the Gospel of Mark would have read this passage against the background of the Roman sack of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple – which would have been as awful as the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem had been in Isaiah’s time.

Both Isaiah and Mark tell us that however bad things, situations get, however bad the world situation gets in the end God will come and put all things right. It will be in God’s good time not our own.

This is essentially what Advent is about, the celebration of the first coming of God in Jesus, to be Emmanuel, God with us, in our own circumstances, to be there alongside us in times of joy and sorrow. Advent is also about waiting, waiting for Jesus to come again as a King in glory when his Kingdom will be fully realised, and all things will be made new.

Revd Chris

26th November 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 25:31-46

Over the last few weeks, we have followed the events in the Gospel of Matthew from chapter 23 to 25. We have read and looked at the parable of the faithful and unfaithful servant, the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids and the parable of the talents. Each of these parables have been talking about being ready for when the Master, the Bridegroom, for when Jesus returns as King.

Some churches celebrate this Sunday, the last before Advent as ‘Christ the King’ Sunday, a day to look at what we expect a King to be or do in the light of Jesus as our true King.

The last ‘parable’ or rather teaching by Jesus is that of the sheep and the goats. This is not so much a parable as a vision or even an account of what will happen. Jesus will come as King and Judge, seated on a throne to judge the nations. Just like a shepherd he will divide the sheep from the goats. The righteous will be put on one side the unrighteous on the other, the judgement will depend on whether care has been offered to someone in need. The care expected is simple basic care, food, drink, hospitality, clothing, nursing care and visiting, none of these are so complicated that each of us can not do at least some of them. These are the actions and care that are demands running through the Torah and Old Testament. The prophets constantly berate the people of God for not caring for the weak, the poor and vulnerable in society.

This is not new teaching that Jesus offers but rather fulfilment of the Law of Moses.

The King says that any of these actions that are done or not for the least of his people are not done or done for him. This is in keeping with the Jewish concept of shaliah which sees the King’s emissary/ messenger as if he were the King himself, rather like an ambassador today represents the King on occasion and an insult to them or an affront is an insult with far reaching implications.

So the warning in this teaching from Jesus is that if we don’t care for others we are showing a lack of care to Jesus himself. We all bear the image of God, do we really want to ignore the needs of someone who is God’s child?

Revd Chris

19th November 2023 Thoughts


  • Zephaniah 1:712-18
  • Matthew 25:14-30

The reading last week about the 10 bridesmaids, 5 were prepared for when the bridal party arrived and 5 were caught out. It was about being prepared for when the bridegroom, Jesus, returns, for the end of time.

Our readings this week, from Zephaniah and Matthew, follow a similar theme.

We don't often hear about Zephaniah, he was a prophet during the early part of Josiah's reign and could have been a contemporary of Jeremiah, Nahum and perhaps Habakkuk. He seems to have been someone who moved in the upper stratas of society and claimed King Hezekiah (715-686 BC) as an ancestor, perhaps Great Great Grandfather.

Zephaniah's main theme is the coming Day of the Lord when God will punish the nations including Judah for their betrayal of Him. The picture, the prophet paints, is one of horror, destruction and misery. He also makes it clear that in the end God will be merciful and some will be saved. The Day of the Lord is not the day of vindication the people of Judah were expecting but of judgement and possible restoration. The Lord, through Zephaniah, demands silence whilst he pronounces judgement on the nations and his people.

God is portrayed as being angry – demanding silence and declaring the fate of the rich who have ignored both God and the poor amongst them. The Lord is angry due to the people’s idolatry which has made true worship impossible. Zephaniah is clear that silence is the only possible appropriate response in the face of the Lord’s anger. He is also clear that status and wealth will not be an escape route.

In the passage from Matthew we read the parable which follows on from the story of the10 bridesmaids and its a parable told by Jesus about a man, who before going away for an unknown length of time, gives his slaves talents (money). On his return he calls the slaves to account for what they have done with the money given

them. Two have used the money and have doubled what they were given but the third has done nothing with it, apart from keep it safe. The ones that have made more money are congratulated and given more whilst the third is condemned for achieving nothing. Is Jesus, through this parable saying it is a good thing to invest money, to make money, to play the market? Or is he saying that we should always be working hard to better our lives, to wheel and deal?

Is this all a bit tongue in cheek?

One interpretation that is now muted is that Jesus is the third slave who refuses to play the game of money making of wheeling and dealing, he refuses to play the game of the religious leaders and so is eventually condemned to be crucified, to be cast out into the darkness, out of polite society.

Both readings are telling us, the readers, that we should be prepared for when the 'bridegroom',or the 'rich man' comes.

Are you?

Revd Chris

12th November 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 25:1-13

The reading from Matthew’s Gospel is a well-known tale told by Jesus. There were 10 maidens or bridesmaids involved in a wedding, half of them were prepared with extra provisions, they were ready for a long wait, and half were not. Those that were, are called wise and those not prepared were called foolish. The bridal party is delayed and the extra provisions are needed, those who are prepared go into the celebrations, those who are not ready have the door closed in their faces. The punch line delivered by Jesus is

“So stay awake because you don’t know the day or hour”

Is this story about never sleeping or is it about being prepared. The obvious answer would be that it’s about being prepared because we all need to sleep, but prepared fpr what and how?

How could the world be prepared for something such as the pandemic, how could we even have conceived what was going to happen? We had warnings, there was rumours of a virus, there was the cruise ship anchored off our shores, Italy, France reported deaths. One Sunday we were in church as normal, by the Wednesday Churches were closed with no clue as to how long, or when we could reopen.

How could people in the Ukraine have been prepared for the actions of President Putin? Yes we all heard his threats, the sabre rattling. We heard politicians and world leaders saying that Russia would not take serious action even though tanks were moving nearer and nearer to the borders with Ukraine. We saw on the news Ukrainians going about their normal business in the days before the invasion.

How could the people living near the Gaza strip been prepared for the actions of Hamas, how could those who went to the festival have known that they would be killed or kidnapped. How could the world have been prepared for the killings, for the abductions, how could the victims have conceived of the hell about to be unleashed on them?

Conversely the people living in Gaza, how could they have imagined the lengths that Israel would go to in response to their actions, the shelling, the bombardments, the devastation.

How can we be prepared for storms, for natural disasters, for wars, for pandemics?

Is that what Jesus is saying? That we should always be prepared for any eventuality, that we should always have a bag packed, be ready to flee or is there something more to this tale?

Perhaps Jesus is saying that rather than being prepared for physical events, such as wars and natural disasters that we can't affect, we need to be prepared in a spiritual sense, we need to be always ready to meet Jesus. As we have realised over the last few years literally anything can and will happen in a matter of minutes. So where does that leave us?

Are we like the 5 wise maidens, prepared to meet the bridegroom, Jesus, or will we plead for more time to get ready and be like the foolish maidens? The latter were refused entrance!

Revd Chris

5th November 2023 Thoughts


  • Micah 3:5-12
  • Matthew 23:1-12
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

There’s a common theme ‒leadership, good or bad‒ to these readings.

November 5th is bonfire night or Guy Fawkes night, a commemoration or festival started by James 1 of England. The idea of burning an effigy on a bonfire was introduced as a warning to people plotting against the King. A group of Catholic conspirators planned to blow up the Protestant King along with the Houses of Parliament to change the leadership of the country. The plot was foiled on the 5th November 1605 when Guy Fawkes was caught, red handed, with 30 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament. Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators tried to change the leadership through violence.

To celebrate his survival the King ordered straw dummies to be hung up and burnt. Now we just have bonfires, sometimes with a straw dummy.

In every part of our lives we are affected by leadership, some good some bad. Birmingham Council declared itself near bankrupt through ineffectual or poor leadership, the government is being accused of providing poor leadership during the pandemic, we could argue that the transport system, the NHS, the Banking system, the police force and many other organisations are suffering from poor leadership.

We are all affected by leadership, the Church also has leaders and is not immune to the problems or benefits caused by good, bad or ineffectual leadership.

The reading from Micah condemns the leadership offered by the prophets, priests and judges of Micah’s day. The prophet accuses them of accepting bribes, of making predictions, prophecies for money. According to Micah those in authority should be leading the people in the ways of God, but by their actions they were doing the opposite. They had no excuse because they were the ones whose job, whose vocation was to lead the people in the right way. They should have known better.

The reading from Matthew covers some of the teaching Jesus gave in the Temple after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. At the end of the previous chapter the religious leaders and Pharisees have virtually given up trying to defeat Jesus verbally. He has answered all their challenges in ways that have left them speechless and with a certain amount of egg on their faces. In this passage Jesus is teaching his disciples and the onlookers in the Temple, probably within the hearing of his defeated opponents.

The words of Jesus are interesting, he doesn’t dispute any of their teaching, in fact he says that they stand in the line of Moses, they are handing down the laws etc of Moses, the problem was that their words did not match their actions, they were all talk, they made sure that the people obeyed the law without necessarily doing so themselves. Jesus accuses them of being all show. He accuses them of wearing longer tassels on their prayer shawls, of wearing larger containers of the Shema on their foreheads and arms. Their problem, according to Jesus, was that they liked the people to revere them as leaders, as important people, they liked people to see what they were doing and to accord them respect.

The Bible and Jesus condemn leaders who are unjust, who lord it over other people. Jesus unlike the Pharisees shows by his actions as well as his words what kind of leader he was and what kind of leadership his followers are expected to exemplify. In John chapter 13 we see Jesus taking on the role of a servant when he takes it on himself to wash the dust off the disciple’s feet. In Matthew 28 we are told that Jesus came “not to be served but to serve”.

We, as followers of Jesus, are called to be humble, to be concerned only with serving others, not so our peers will admire what we do or say, but because the love of God influences our actions.

Revd Chris

29th October 2023 Thoughts


  • Matthew 5:1-12
  • Revelation 7:9-17

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor saints. Soon after, All Saints Day came to incorporate some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before All Saints Day was known as All Hallows Eve, and later, Halloween.

Outside of church or Christian circles this is a time when ghosts, ghouls, witches and the like are celebrated, a time of trick or treats.

Different denominations have different understandings of what a saint is. For Roman Catholics it is someone deemed fit by the Pope, through miracles or piety to be canonised.

For Protestants, Saints are people of God, some of whom were martyred for their faith, some of whom are simply people of God who have lived a good life and have now died.

The early church grew in a Roman society and the early Christians refused to conform to the laws of their day choosing to worship just one God not the huge array of gods and goddesses to whom Roman society demanded lip service. Instead of asserting, as good Romans should have done, that the Emperor was Lord, they asserted that Jesus was.

This was dangerous talk, the Lord was the one with power over you, originally the term meant the head of the household, but when used for the Emperor it meant head of the empire. The Christians were now claiming that Jesus was Lord not the Emperor and that there was a kingdom greater than Rome, greater than the empire. This was a subversive message and was stated simply by the words

“Jesus is Lord”

This is the claim that all God’s people make, the claim that has led to many being put to death, to being martyrs and are still being persecuted and put to death because this statement, this belief challenges the power of rulers and authorities.

This simple proclamation understood just who was/ is in charge of the world and it wasn’t Caesar, or any ruler since, it has always been God.

The greatest power in the world was not Rome, or any empire since but the Kingdom of God.

To assert that Jesus is Lord has political consequences. What might it mean for us to assert that Jesus is Lord?

Saints are the ones who get what “Jesus is Lord” means. They aren’t ones who are holy in the sense of being separate, odd, or pious. Saints are simply people who know that the claim that Jesus is Lord has to have implications for how we live,  

Are you willing to assert that Jesus is Lord, that he is Lord of your life, that he is your Lord?

Revd Chris

15th October 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 22:1-17

The religious leaders set of a series of parables when they asked Jesus by what authority he behaved the way he did in the Temple. As you recall Jesus had gone upto Jerusalem, he had gone into the Temple, overturned various tables, evicted the money changers and generally had disrupted the lucrative Temple trade, whilst accusing the religious leaders, of turning his Father’s house of prayer into a den of thieves. The religious leaders, whose task it was to oversee the Temple, were within their rights to query this unusual behaviour, this behaviour by which Jesus claimed rights over their Temple.

Jesus answers their question with a set of three parables or stories, the first concerns two sons whose Father asks both of them to do a task, the first refuses but then later changes his mind, the second agrees but doesn’t do as he was asked. In this parable perhaps Jesus is indicating that his opponents (the religious leaders) were committing the worst possible sin of refusing to do God’s will.

The second parable was the one where there was a vineyard given to tenants by a landholder. Servants were sent to collect the harvest only to be beaten or killed until eventually the landholder sends his son, who in turn is killed. The vineyard is given to other tenants.

It is likely that as Jesus presents a clear picture of Israel, as the vineyard, God as the landholder and himself as the son, he presented a self fulfilling prophecy, he was doomed from then.

The third image or parable is a wedding feast to which various people were invited. Everything was ready, everything was prepared but the invited guests found other places they needed to be. The host sends his slaves out to find other guests, the good and the bad so that the wedding feast was full of people. The host comes into the wedding feast, which is for his son, and finds someone who is not dressed for a wedding, does not fit the right image, and that person is evicted from the feast.

In this parable is God the host ? If so why is he somewhat remote from the proceedings, he only goes in to see what is happening and his only action as the host is to evict someone with the wrong clothes. These guests are the ones found by the servants not invited ones.

Could it be that the person evicted is Jesus being evicted from the vineyard again, because he does not and will not conform to the wishes of the religious leaders?.

Or is it simply that everyone is invited to the feast, into God’s kingdom but there are more ways that one to reject that invitation?

Have you accepted the invitation?

Revd Chris

8th October 2023 Thoughts


  • Matthew 21:33-46
  • Philippians 3:4b-14

Our reading from Matthew comes in the chapter which starts with the entry into Jerusalem, the cleansing of the Temple, the cursed fig tree, and the parable of the two sons. This parable of the vineyard carries on from there.

If we were to read or hear a similar report to this, a report of fraud, gang violence, multiply murders in the newspaper or to hear it on the news perhaps we would find the contents shocking. We are so familiar with this story that the details pass us by, but imagine for a moment, how the chief priests and scribes felt as they listened and were cleverly forced by Jesus to condemn themselves and their own actions.

The vineyard, in this case, is the nation of Israel, which should be producing good fruit, the prophets have been sent throughout the ages and have met with violence, and or death, now the owner has sent his son, Jesus, who again is being treated with contempt instead of the respect he is entitled to. As a result of all this disobedience, murder and intrigue the vineyard will be given to other tenants who will respect and care for it.

There are various ways we can view this parable and its meaning for us today.

The vineyard, the Jewish people, haven't been obedient, haven't recognised God's anointed Messiah and so the Kingdom of God is now open to others as well as Jews who do recognise him.

We are coming to the time of year when we give thanks for the harvest and celebrate the gift of creation so we are admonished to consider the way we care for the vineyard which is our planet. Perhaps we should be considering all the implications of climate change. This planet, this vineyard is not our playground but is entrusted into our care, we are the stewards, the keepers of the vineyard, the tenants.

Another way to view this parable is to say that we as individual members of God's Kingdom, of branches of the true vine are expected to bear good fruit.

Before the final warning to his hearers Jesus quotes Psalm 118 saying that the stone the builders rejected became the key foundation stone, again indicating the topsy turvy nature of the Kingdom. Jesus is the cornerstone on which Matthew invites us to build our lives.

Our second reading is from the letter written to the church in Phillipi. It was originally a Greek city, refounded by the Romans after the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC, largely by Roman veterans. According to Latin inscriptions found there, it was a prosperous place. During the time of the letter to the Philippians – somewhere around AD 60 – it had been extensively remodelled, and was considered to be a ‘miniature Rome’.

Paul was writing to a group of people he knew and was fond of. The letter was written after several visits perhaps around AD 60, and perhaps from Rome or Ephesus. Letters would normally be read aloud to the community, because a lot of people would not have been able to read. Those listening would probably be from the lower classes of society.

Paul sets out his credentials rather like a CV applying for the right to speak and teach.

If his rights were based on birth, he qualified, if based on religious observance, he qualified, if based on zeal for the law, he qualified. He had done all that any of the laws required of him and done it well but he had come to realise that all of it was not enough. In fact he came to see it all as rubbish. He realised that by his own efforts he could not gain perfection, he could not change, he could not win. Like Matthew he came to see that everything had to built on the cornerstone, on Jesus.

Paul says that now he is striving to gain perfection through knowing Jesus, to become more like him so that eventually he can join him in eternal life, everything else in meaningless, his focus is on the Kingdom. He has come to realise that all that matters is that his life is built on Jesus and on his teachings.

Revd Chris

1st October 2023 Thoughts


  • Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-32
  • Matthew 21:23-32

The reading from Matthews Gospel comes just after the event we know as Jesus cleansing the Temple. Jesus had gone into the Temple and had literally gone on the rampage, he had overturned tables of the money changers, and those selling doves, he had driven out all those buying and selling in the Temple. Whilst he was doing this he had quoted scripture saying “It is written My house shall be called a house of prayer” but you have made it a den of robbers”

The religious leaders, the chief priests and elders who were responsible for running the Temple questioned the right of Jesus to disrupt the trading and life of the temple. They were the ones with the authority and so they call into question Jesus' behaviour because it challenges the status quo.

So they ask him by what authority and who gave him this authority ?

Jesus in true rabbinic style answered their question with a question of his own.

'John's baptism was it from God or from men?'

Was John acting with God's approval or was he literally just a voice crying out in the wilderness, was he sent from God or not?

John had been regarded as a prophet by the ordinary people so whichever answer the authorities gave they would be in trouble so they took the easy way out and claimed not to know.

Jesus asks those around him this question “What do you think?” and then goes on to tell the story of the two sons.

The first son refused to do as he was asked but then changed his mind, whilst the second son immediately agreed but didn't actually do anything.

So the first obeyed the second didn't.

I wonder which one we are most like, do we say

'Yes, Lord I'll follow you, obey you, live the Christian life, bear witness to the world about you'. Do we become very involved in church life, a leading light within those walls, but then in our ordinary non - Sunday life live exactly as everyone around us does. Or do we sit in church looking bored not involved much in church life but outside of church bare witness by our lives, the way we live, the things we say and do make us different to those around us.

Pious words versus actions, God is not interested in words unless they mean something, we have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. It is easy to say we will do something, proof is in the pudding, actions speak louder than words, how we live, what we do as well as what we say. Our words can be at odds with our actions.

Each of us is responsible for our own position with God responsible for our own salvation.

In the book of Ezekiel it says the following

“The Fathers eat sour grapes and the children’s teeth are put on edge”

Ezekiel says that each individual is responsible for themselves.

Each of us have to decide for ourselves what we will do with God, will we accept him or reject him. It is not enough to come to church because our parents did, or because it is what you do on a Sunday. We must make the decision to ask Christ into our lives, to live through us in a very real way.

Revd Chris

24th September 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Jonah 3:10 ‒ 4:11

The story of Jonah starts abruptly with a directive word from God

“Go at once to Nineveh”

There is no scene setting, little detail about Jonah, he, in spite of the books name, is not the main character in this tale, it is God who is and his thoughts reactions to wickedness and disobedience. His relationship to people and to nature are what are important. Here is a God who takes initiatives to open the eyes of people so they can see where they have gone wrong so they will turn back to him. Here is a God who chooses to use human agents in spite of the problems that sometimes causes him. In spite of the fact that most are reluctant or just say “No”

When we look at the Bible stories, when we look at our own experiences we can see that God calls and uses people who are far from perfect. Many of the “big names” where far from perfect, Jacob who started out as a schemer, stealing his brothers birthright, becomes Israel. Moses is one of the most reluctant of Gods leaders, pleading slowness of speech and tongue, he begs God to send someone else Exodus 4(13). Then of course there was David happy to be a shepherd, who, became a King and writer of the Psalms, adultery and murder were also his legacy but he was used of God.

So Jonah, like all these others was far from perfect, he was prejudiced, petulant, resentful and sulky he wanted God on his terms, acting the way he felt God should act. He was not only a reluctant spokesperson but he was disobedient.

God told Jonah to go to Ninevah because their wickedness had come to his attention. When God said Nineveh was wicked, he wasn’t kidding. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the most powerful empire in the world in that day. The Assyrians had a reputation for cruelty. The Assyrians had no use for the Jews, and the Jews hated the Assyrians. .Hated them for their bloodthirsty cruelty. Hated them for their idolatry. Hated them for their arrogance. For a Jewish man to be told by God to go preach to Nineveh was repugnant. Jonah really did not care what happened to the Assyrians.

Nineveh was 500 miles north and east of where Jonah was. It was a major city on the banks of the Tigris River. In our terms, that would be in Iraq, about 300 miles north of Baghdad. Archaeologists have found the ruins of ancient Nineveh outside the city of Mosul in Iraq. Tarshish was almost 2000 miles west in Spain.So there is a 2500 mile “gap” between God’s call and Jonah’s desire.

God said, “Go east." Jonah said, “I’m going west.” Jonah was under the impression that God was tied to one place and that he wouldn't bother following and would give the job to some one else. He thought that if he said “No” God would go away and find someone else.

You know what happens next, he finds a ship, there's a storm, he is thrown overboard, swallowed by a large fish, vomited onto dry land. Whilst he is in the fish he prays

God heard his prayer and he was rescued from the fish. But God did not let him off the hook he still had to go to Ninevah and preach the message he had been given and the people repented and so were not destroyed.

Look at Jonah's reaction, he gets really cross that God is not doing what he wants, he sits under a vine and sulks.

How often do we do that,when God does not answer prayers the way we think he should, when physical healing is not granted, when needs are not immediately met, how often do we give God the benefit of doubt and assume that may be just maybe he knows what he is doing and it is we who do not understand.

So what can we learn from the readings today?

In the story of Jonah, Jonah knows God's character is to forgive, is to act generously and Jonah perhaps feels that God has made him look a fool, he has not acted the why Jonah said he would. The passage shows us that God's love is for all, whether we are Jews, the first labourers or Gentiles, or perhaps whether we turn to God early in life or in our more mature days, God loves us and values us all equally, without favour and without any cause other than his grace.

Revd Chris

17th September 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 18.21-35

Our reading today follows on from last week as Matthew continues to explore the theme of forgiveness. In the reading last week Jesus was telling his disciples how they should live together as a community. It begins with Peter asking Jesus about the extent of forgiveness. How many times should he forgive, not a stranger but another member of the group, a member of the church, seven times is his estimate but Jesus says seventy times seven. The difference is obvious and fairly staggering, Peter's version is one where a tally can be kept and the forgiveness used up. With the seventy times seven the idea is that the person forgiving would lose count. Jesus goes on to illustrate his point by telling a parable.

This one is about a man, who is forgiven much but who in response forgives very little, and is punished by his master for his attitude. The first servant is forgiven a huge debt, ten thousand talents equivalent to about £3,000,000 after he begs for more time in order to pay back what he owes, the Master takes pity on him, releases him and wipes his debt out. This servant though does not leave light heartedly, relishing his freedom from debt, he doesn't go home and celebrate with his wife and family who have been spared slavery, in fact he doesn't seem to appreciate what has happened at all.


Perhaps he thinks he deserves to be let off, perhaps he doesn't really feel he was in the wrong at all, perhaps he had an inflated ego and only saw the Master's initial reaction as an empty threat, perhaps he feels the Master was soft or weak to release him. He has got one over the Master in the power game. Maybe he doesn't understand the forgiveness he has received because in his eyes he did not need to be forgiven. If he doesn't understand, appreciate what has been given him why would he pass it on to the underling who was in debt to him?

The servant leaves, comes across another servant who owes him money, under £5 (Jerusalem Bible) , the same plea is made, give me time to repay, but this time no mercy is shown.

The man's peers are so incensed by his actions that he is reported to the Master who metes out punishment.

So what is the parable saying to us?

The Bible repeatedly tells us that we ought to forgive those that have injured us, we pray it often in the Lord's Prayer for example, 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us' we know we should forgive, we know we should do it frequently. We know intellectual that we should, that there are even benefits for ourselves if we do BUT we also know that sometimes it is really hard to do. Sometimes we can forgive but not forget and we hold onto and even cherish that nugget of hurt. To know that we should doesn't always mean we can.

The point of the parable is that, we can only forgive when we are aware of how much we have been forgiven. It is not a calculation, you have been forgiven this much therefore you are capable of forgiving this amount, but rather the amount of forgiveness God holds is limitless and we can draw on that when we have none of our own to offer.

The parable invites us to realise that we are all forgiven debtors living with other forgiven debtors and the differences between us is slight. There is no room for the power game of innocent versus guilty, we are all guilty, but forgiven in God's sight.

Revd Chris

10th September 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 18:15-20

'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us'

This passage from Matthew, taken on its own, reads like a legal manual on how to deal with someone who has caused offence, steps are laid down, rather like a disciplinary process in a workplace. Instead of dismissal this process leads to excommunication and exile from the community, the defendant will be treated as an outsider, this is the punishment if the process does not bring about change and reconciliation.

Matthew's Gospel was written for a small community, living in a hostile environment and their life as a community was very important, how they lived together, how they interacted together was very important to their survival.

Chapter 18, of which this passage forms a small part, also asks questions such as “ Who is the greatest in the Kingdom?” Jesus answers by placing a child in front of them and saying “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom”

The disciples are warned against putting stumbling blocks in the paths of others, to be conscious of the effects their lives might have on others, they are warned not to be disdainful of others or self righteous but to take care of each other.

Our passage then is not about being better than others and pointing out their faults but more about how to live together in harmony, how to get along with each other. It is easy to unknowingly and carelessly cause affront to others that we are close to. There are very many ways of doing this, by the words we say or don't say, by the tone we use both verbally and in writing, by the actions we take or don't take, by the care we give or withhold.

Life inside and outside the Church can be a minefield that requires careful navigation.

We all, without exception, get it wrong from time to time but the beauty of our life together lies in our willingness to forgive and to be forgiven.

God forgives us all the time willingly and without keeping any score card so we should forgive each other. When we are the injured party we are to seek out the person who we feel has caused the injury and initiate reconciliation. Often times the offence has been caused unknowingly and once pointed out apologies and be offered and accepted. We have no right to nurse grudges, we are to take the first steps to solving the problem before it gets too big, before others are drawn into the situation.

We pray 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us' , we all have much to be forgiven for so we all ought to forgive much.

Here are a few Bible verses which comment on forgiveness

Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” NIV

Col 3:13 3 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” NIV

Luke 17:3-4 “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him.” NIV

Matt 18:21-22 “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” NIV

Mark 11:25 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” NIV

The chapter ends with the parable of the unforgiving servant who in spite of being forgiven a large debt does not forgive a small debt owed to him so he incurs the wrath of his Master.

We are the servant who has been forgiven a huge debt and we are to forgive all the small hurts and debts as we have been forgiven. In that way we can live together in harmony in communion with each other and with God.

Our reading ends with the oft quoted promise that where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus he will be present. Gathering in his name means we are in accord with what his name means and stands for . To claim that promise means to gather together in harmony, in love, in communion with each other and with God.

Revd Chris

3rd September 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 16:21-28

How quickly things can change, have you noticed? Whether it be in relationships or in everyday life. It can take just a word of criticism or dissension for the whole atmosphere to change in a room. In this country we usually say that about the weather, we can have all the seasons in one day.

One extreme to the other is a bit like the passage from Matthew chapter 16. Earlier Peter is praised for his insight in realising that Jesus was the Son of God and the next he is reprimanded for questioning the words of Jesus.

Peter says You are the Christ but his understanding of this title is totally different from the understanding Jesus had.

Jesus sees himself as the anointed Son of God, fully human and fully divine, bridging the gap between Man and God. He sees himself fulfilling prophecies that speak of the suffering servant, a humble figure obedient to the wishes and plans of his father.

In the light of Peter's understanding of the role of the Messiah which he would have held in common with most of his race it is perhaps easier to understand how baffled he would have been when Jesus acknowledges that he is the Messiah but then talks about his death and suffering in Jerusalem.

In our reading Jesus for the first time tells his disciples plainly what awaited him in Jerusalem. Jesus told his disciples that certain events had to occur because, without him going to Jerusalem, the centre of religious power, suffering under the hands of the leaders, being crucified, and being raised three days later, you and I would not have any hope of salvation and our faith would be empty.

So Jesus sets himself up to go to Jerusalem, to obey his father, he decides on his course of action only to have Peter come to him and to cast doubt on his plan, to suggest that actually he could find a way not to go through with it all. He offers the possibility of choice, that maybe just maybe there was a way to avoid the suffering. Jesus sees this as the devil back again and as in the wilderness he rebukes the devil and tells him to get behind him.

Poor Peter how quickly things change, how hurt he must have felt to be cut down to size so quickly and so easily Jesus rejected the easy way; and chose instead the hard way of the death of the cross. And it was then that He turned to His followers and calls them to do the same. He says, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."

Jesus does not call us to do something that He didn't do himself first. The next part of our reading tells us that Jesus fulfilled his father's purpose for him by faithfully and obediently suffering the death of the cross on behalf of us all. He tells us that those who want to follow him as disciples must follow his example as the way to live. We must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.

The question we have to ask is what it means, obviously there is no wooden cross propped against the door for you to collect on your way out, so we are not talking of a literal cross but something more subtle.

So what are we called to do?. We are called to deny ourselves, put aside our wishes, what we want to do with our lives and do what Jesus wants us to do instead. This is what Jesus did for us, he didn't want to die but yet he did. Day to day we need to follow his example, not take the easy way but to live in a way pleasing to God, striving for holiness, not putting ourselves first, not always wanting to have what we think we have a right to but putting others first, their needs and rights before our own. Sometimes that means giving up our rights and desires for the sake of someone else. It is not always easy to step aside for someone else not always easy to deny ourselves but this is what we are called to do, it is a way of showing love for one another. It is a way of fulfilling the commandment that Jesus gave us. “Love one another as I have loved you, by this shall all men know that you are my disciples” This is a self giving love which puts others first, this love embraces affection for fellow Christians and for the stranger.

Not putting ourselves first, not repaying evil for evil, not avenging hurts real or imagined is central to the call to deny ourselves and to follow Jesus. We need to remind ourselves that we have died to the insecure self centred way of being, that needs to be recognised, rewarded and satisfied.

Revd Chris

27th August 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 16:13-20

In last weeks' thoughts (20th August) I mentioned that the church at Lye had been hosting a Kesher Course, looking at the Jewish roots of Christianity, of Jesus. This week the 'Thoughts' are based around the reading from Matthew where Jesus asks his disciples who they thought he was. One of the reasons, if not the main one, for the existence of the Gospels, is to explain and reveal who Jesus is. Matthew starts by tracing the genealogy of Jesus back to Abraham, Luke goes further back to Adam and in John he is seen as the Word of God, the Logos, entering time as Jesus. In Mark his appearance is hailed by a herald preparing the way for the Messiah.

Each Gospel seeks to establish the credentials of Jesus, they use his family tree, his miracles and his teachings as ways to do this.

By chapter 16 in Matthew's Gospel there have been lots of miracles, lots of teaching and now Jesus turns to his closest followers to assess their understanding and that of other people. He asks them what labels were being used for him, what were people saying about him, who did they think he was. The answers ranged from Elijah to a resurrected John the Baptist. That question was relatively easy, it was about other peoples opinion, but then Jesus gets more personal and asks who do they think he is?

Peter replies that Jesus is the Messiah, but what did that mean? It is not a concept that we are familiar with except through the Bible. Peter meant God's anointed one, one sent by God to rescue his people and in Peter's time and context, that meant getting rid of the Romans and ruling as David's heir in Jerusalem.

Did Jesus have the same understanding? Or was it more along the lines of Isaiah 53, a scripture that Jesus would have been familiar with, in it, the Messiah, the Anointed One, is seen as a suffering servant. He is one who will be 'struck down by God, and humiliated.

He was pierced for our offenses,
He was crushed for our wrongdoings;
The punishment for our well-being was laid upon Him,
And by His wounds we are healed.

The question Jesus asked is still relevant today.

Who do people say I am and who do you say Jesus is? How do you see Jesus?

Do you have a mental image of a 'nice', meek and mild, blonde/brown haired, well trimmed goatee beard, white male wearing a white garment with a blue piece of cloth artistically draped over his shoulder?

We forget that Jesus was a Jew and the only way to understand what he did, what he taught, who he was, is to know about his world and his times. What was his world like, what scriptures did he know, how did he understand them.

We need to be able to answer his question not in a glib way, but we need to think deeply about it, how is this Messiah?

Who do you say Jesus is? How would you explain your answer to someone who was not a church goer?

Revd Chris

20th August 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 15:21-28

The reading today comes after a question from some Pharisees as to why the disciples of Jesus did not wash their hands in the proscribed manner as taught by the religious leaders of the day. Jesus turns the tables on them and asks why they replaced the law of God with their traditions. This is followed by Jesus going to the region of Tyre and Sidon, into Gentile lands. Some version of the Bible say ‘he withdrew’, he was facing increasing opposition from the religious leaders and at the same time the people who listened to him, who followed him for his miracles, were wanting him to take up the military mantle of King David, so he withdrew from the situation. He left the area of Galilee to allow things to settle down and went into what had been Canaanite lands, where he met the woman whose daughter had a demon.

This event or rather conversation is also included in Mark 7(24-30). Both accounts give the same basic information but some of the details are different. Mark explains that the woman was Greek and was born in Syrian Phoenicia. This area, also known as the land of Canaan, was in Greek hands prior to the time of Jesus and the region had people of mixed nationalities living there, they were different groups or tribes rather than an ethnic group. When the people of Israel first came to the area the Canaanites were a military challenge for the likes of Joshua and the Judges, they were also pagan, and their very presence was a threat to the purity of Israel’s religion and morality. There was a long history of spiritual and military conflict.

At first reading it might appear that Jesus is being racist, but he is doing what he would normally do. He would often put stumbling blocks in the conversation to get people to think, to see if their faith was enough to persist. In the case of this woman Jesus is impressed with her answer.

The woman addresses Jesus as ‘Lord, Son of David, she is aware of the problems between the Jews and the Canaanites aware that Jesus is a Jew, is the Jewish Messiah, but is willing to put everything on the line to save her daughter.

Jesus’s reply is to say that he has come to the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew’s Gospel is thought to have been written after Mark and includes the statement by Jesus, that he was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, they were his priority. Mark omits this so perhaps the statement was added later to Matthew as guidance to the Jewish Church in its relation to Gentiles. Another idea is that the story shows how concepts in the Old Testament developed so that Gentiles were included in the Kingdom of God. In the Old Testament, Israel, the Jews, were the only people of God but with the coming and teaching of Jesus, the Kingdom becomes open to all, Jew and Gentile alike. Galatians chapter 3 (28-29) There is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Matthew is writing for a Jewish audience about their promised Jewish Messiah. Jesus wanted the disciples and the woman to understand that his ministry in the brief time he had on earth was very focused. He was the Son of David, the promised Jewish Messiah. The kingdom had to be offered to the Jewish people first and when they rejected it then it would be open to all.

Over the last 10 or so weeks, we, that is United Church Lye, have been fortunate enough to have hosted a Kesher Course, Kesher means connection and this course has been about the connection between Judaism and Christianity. The person connecting the two, is of course, Jesus himself and we forget or ignore the fact that Jesus was born and raised a Jew. The scriptures he knew and read would have been the Torah, the first five books of our Old Testament, he would have been aware of the teachings and discussions of Rabbis. He was a Jew, respected enough to be referred to as a Rabbi, as a teacher, to have his own followers learning his teaching and way of life.

Jesus came as a Jew, as the promised King of the Jews, whose kingdom would eventually extend to all the world. He did not come as a blonde, blue-eyed male with a neatly trimmed beard, he has never belonged to the white British nation, he has never been the property of this or any other church.

Sometimes we try to imprison him within the church, within the way we worship, within our fellowship, within our prayers and liturgy. We don’t take him out to introduce him to the community around us but confine him to a Sunday morning within our church and our rituals.

Is it time to realise that only by the Grace of God can we have a relationship with this Jewish Messiah and to realise that God’s Kingdom is open to Jews and non-Jews alike.

Revd Chris

13th August 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 14:22-33

A definition for you, according to Wikipedia, faith is a belief in something or someone, a belief that promises made will be fulfilled.

If you are seated, you have shown your faith in the chair, you have sat down, having complete faith and trust that the chair you lower yourself onto will fulfil its inherent promise and will support your weight, it won't let you down.

The reading from Matthew is a reading of faith, of challenge. It is a story of a calling and obedience. The reading from Matthew comes after the feeding of the 5,000 and the news that John had been beheaded by Herod. The disciples collect up the 12 baskets of leftover food and then Jesus sends them across the Sea of Galilee in a boat whilst he goes up the mountain to pray. There were 12 men in the boat some of whom were fishermen by trade and had spent most of their working lives on boats on this particular stretch of water. Peter, Andrew James and John were used to being in the boat, were used to sudden storms.

We are told that on this particular night a storm blew up, the waves were so high that even these seasoned fishermen were having trouble preventing the boat from capsizing and were not making much headway across the water.

The disciples saw, through the wind and rain, in the murky light of early morning a shadowy figure approaching them across the waves, naturally they were terrified. They had spent the night awake, fighting the elements the power, strength and unpredictability of which they were well aware. Now they see a ghostlike figure gliding towards them. Their fears were only allayed when they heard and recognised the voice of Jesus saying to them

“Don't be afraid it is I”

Peter responds by saying if its really you then call me to come to you over the water, let me test this call. Jesus does so, Peter climbs out of the boat and stands on the water. Now Peter on many an occasion has climbed out of the boat , admittedly in shallow water, but he knew from experience that the water would not, should not have supported his weight, normally he would have gone straight through the waters surface until he reached solid ground beneath, but this time it doesn't happen. He finds himself walking on the water.

As soon as he takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to notice his surroundings and what he is doing he starts to sink.

It's rather like the cartoons of the coyote chasing the road runner off the cliff. The road runner always makes it across, the coyote follows, gets part way across, then stops realising that there is no solid ground beneath his feet. He hangs in the air, looks at the audience and then with a look of disbelief plummets to the valley floor and a plume of dust rises marking the spot where he crash lands.

Peter realising, like the coyote, that he is going to fail and sink cries out to Jesus to save him and is helped into the boat by Jesus.

So that was our reading from Matthew but what does it mean for us what can we learn from it?

The story is a story of faith, challenge, calling and obedience.

Peter had faith in Jesus, he climbed out of the relatively safe boat to walk to Jesus across the water, he knew, he believed that Jesus would not let him down and whilst he focussed on him that was true, as soon as he looked around and noticed his surroundings he began to fail. But even as he was failing he trusted Jesus to rescue him and that faith was honoured and he was helped into the boat.

So where is our faith, how strong is it. The boat was in the middle of the water, in the storm, sometimes our lives can seem to be like that, we are in the middle of huge problems and we can't see the way out can't see the solution If we focus on Jesus and remember what he has done for us in the past, if we focus on him not the problems he will become the solution.

Peter threw out the challenge to Jesus when he said

“Lord, if it is you tell me to come to you on the water”

Peter wanted to make sure of his facts first, we often think of Peter as impetuous, as fool hardy, as someone who didn't think things through, but on this occasion at least, he knew exactly what he was doing. He knew that without the permission without the calling of God he would fail, but with the calling of God he would and, could succeed. Surely this is the same for us on a personal level and as a church. Any call we have to do something for God we need to be sure of, we need to have confidence in and we need to step out in faith.

Revd Chris

6th August 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 14:13-21

The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand is found in all four Gospels and so we can assume that the four writers of the Gospels all saw it as being very important and significant. But why?

Matthew was at pains to give proofs to his Jewish audience that Jesus was the promised Messiah. In chapters 8 and 9 Matthew gives a string of miracles designed to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, so did he need to include this one to prove the same point?

Perhaps this is not so much about the number fed but about the abundance of God's Kingdom, the Kingdom, whose arrival, John and Jesus announce.

This miracle comes immediately after the account of the beheading of John the Baptist.

John had been imprisoned by Herod Antipas, he had dared to question the relationship between Herod and Herodias, his sister in law. Herod was at a feast celebrating his birthday, as part of the entertainment, Salome, daughter of Herodias, danced for the King. He was so thrilled with this that he made a rash promise to give her anything she wanted, the result, to Herods' dismay, was the beheading of John and his head on a platter. The first verses of John 14 suggests that Herod was haunted by these events, he sees Jesus as John returned. When Jesus hears what has happened to John he tries to find a quiet place, perhaps to mourn, but the people hear where he is and follow him. He puts aside his feelings and has compassion on them. Jesus on seeing the crowds has compassion for them and this attitude rubs off on his disciples who come to him, concerned that it is growing late, asking him to send the crowds away to get food for themselves. But look at the response of Jesus, he says that the disciples are to give them something to eat. How often do we ask God to do or resolve a situation only to find that we become the answer to our own prayer? To find that we are asked to do something about the situation.

The disciples gather together their meagre resources of five loaves and two fish and give them to Jesus. See what happens!. He takes the loaves and fish gives thanks, breaks the bread and gives to the disciples who then distribute to the crowds who are well fed and there are 12 baskets of leftovers. God is always generous, he always gives more than we need, not just enough but more than we need.

So what can we learn from this miracle as individuals, as a Church, as a Circuit?

We have fallen into a trap of looking at our churches the way society, the way people in general view the world. We all look at the Church through a lens of scarcity, that is with the belief that there isn't enough to go round, not enough energy, time, people or any other resource. We focus on what we haven't got. It's a view of the world and Church which says there is never enough.

It's the view that the disciples had in the reading from Matthew. They see a hungry crowd, very scarce resources, and have no idea what to do. Jesus showed the disciples and us that God is a God of abundance and does not deal in terms of scarcity.

We may feel, like the disciples that we have very few resources to offer either as individuals or as a group of Christians........but is that true?

What resources do you have?

However meagre they are God can multiply them and make them more than enough we just need to be willing to hand them over.

Revd Chris

30th July 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 13:1-9

This chapter from Matthew's Gospel is full of teaching about the Kingdom of God, what it's like and how it spreads.

The first parable is the one we are all know, the parable of the sower. Its about different types of soil, its about a sower sowing seed. It's a story Jesus told to illustrate a point, a tale using images that his listeners would have been familiar with. The parable is told against the background of harsh farming conditions where fields would consist of all different types of soil, where the farmer would have paths across the fields that he would walk along. He would have a bag on one hip, the strap across his chest, he would take out a handful of seed and throw it around him as he walked, the wind would take the fine seeds and they would land where they were taken, some on good soil, some on thorny soil, some on stony soil and some would land by the side, on the wayside.

We are not used to this some what haphazard way of planting. In our fields we see the large machines making the furrows and dropping the seed precisely where they are planned to go, we are used to large scale, efficient farming with little left to chance. Even planting our own crops on allotments and in gardens we carefully make the lines, plant and cover the seeds, ensuring they are the correct distance apart and all in neat labelled rows, well that's the theory anyway.

So what is the meaning of this parable

Lets start with the main character, the Sower.

Assuming that the seed is the Word of God then the sower is anyone who sows the seed, it is the prophets, the evangelist, missionaries, preachers, you and me.

Sometimes preaching can feel like throwing seeds into the wind without a clue where they will land, on good soil or barren?

Whatever you and I do as Christians, as followers of Christ, we are sowing the seed we are spreading the word of God, we may not see any obvious result, we may think that what we have said or done has fallen on deaf ears, or on stony ground but you never know when something may take root and flourish.

Like many of you, as a parent, I would say something to my children that seemed to have fallen on totally stony ground and yet at some point in the future that advice would be followed or quoted back at me.

So we are all to some extent or other the Sowers but we can also be the ground or rather our hearts and mind are.

If we take the example of preaching as a means of spreading the seed then each time we hear a sermon our hearts and minds become the soil on which the soil is spread, the question is which kind of soil are you, are you the same each time.

In the parable there are different kinds of soil, thorny, stony, wayside and good soil.

The first ground that the seed falls on is said to be that of the wayside or path and the birds came and ate it up. It has no time to root in the ground before it was gone. If we fail to respond positively to act each week on what we hear then we will lose the point , lose the impact and nothing in our lives will change.

“Use it of lose it”

Are these the times when we think oh I know this, time for a snooze, heard it all before, nothing new here then. Is this when our spiritual arrogance rears its ugly head, when we refuse to hear any criticism of the way we do things in church, always done it this way and Praise the Lord we always will.

The second type of soil is the rocky soil, where there is a thin layer of soil over rock. This is the type of faith that is very shallow, fine on the surface but there are no real roots, no depth, no understanding it is all emotion. As soon as anything goes wrong the faith goes, the attendance in church goes because there is no depth nothing to cling onto.

How deep are your roots, how far have you let the word of God penetrate your heart and life, how well do you know the Bible? Are you just a Sunday Christian because believe me that is not enough.

Then there is the thorny ground, the seed takes root it grows and flourishes, but then other things become more important and take over. It could be anything from a job working on a Sunday to the children’s activities to shopping instead of going to church. It could be something as simple as instead of listening and taking part in the service we are sat wondering what we will do after church. All the cares that we allow to take away the joy of being in God's House are part of the thorns which can strangle the seed as it tries to grow.

And so to the good soil, who, what is this?

Good soil is fertile, full of nutrients, tended watered has all that seeds need to grow and flourish to produce fruit. None of the other soils can support the seeds to grow let alone produce fruit.

The good soil of the mind and heart is where the Word of God is dwelt on, is allowed to take deep root and so will produce a harvest of characteristics or fruit which will bring glory to God. It is a heart and mind which each week listens, digests the word of God and acts on it. It is the person who goes to church with a sense of eager anticipation expecting to hear God speaking to them in sermon, hymn, reading and prayer. It is the person within and through whom these fruits can be seen

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”

Can these fruits be seen in you?

Jesus concludes the parable with the words

“He who has ears to hear let him hear”

In other words he is saying to all of us “This means you” Although this parable was addressed to people of Jesus time it has meaning for each one of us if we will but listen and hear it.

Revd Chris

23rd July 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Genesis 28:10-19a

Dreams are funny things aren’t they? Sometimes we have recurring dreams, sometimes we remember them on waking, other times something will happen that enables us to remember at least part of a dream. Some of the most common dreams apparently are teeth falling out, being chased, being naked, failing exams, flying, falling, crashing a car, and being unable to find a toilet. I will admit to some of them.

Most of these dreams we would class as bad dreams perhaps even nightmares maybe they occur when we are feeling worried or afraid and so we dream of scary things.

The Bible places importance on dreams as a vehicle for God to speak, Joseph in the Old Testament had big dreams, Daniel had dreams, Joseph in the New Testament had life saving dreams, the prophet Jeremiah talked about dreams.

In the reading from Genesis we read about a dream that Jacob had. He was scared and afraid, earlier in the story he had cheated his brother Esau, and Esau had vowed to get even with Jacob. He was on the run afraid that his brother would catch up with him and kill him.

So, in theory Jacob should have had a bad dream as his mind worked through all the things that should, could go wrong. Jacob however had a dream about angels going up and down a ladder directly into heaven. More than that though he dreamt God was there making a promise to him that he would be blessed in the future. When he woke, not only did he remember the dream, but he felt God’s presence was still with him. In verse 15 God promises Jacob that he is with him, and will stay with him, in response Jacob takes the stone he had used for a pillar, pours oil on it and calls the place Bethel, which means House of God. Jacob says

‘Surely, the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it.’

Jacob was not in a good place, the scriptures often use the idea of night as an analogy of spiritual darkness, of an absence of good, an absence of light. He finds himself in a place where he did not expect to find any goodness, he did not expect to encounter God there, he was not looking for God but there God was by his side.

I wonder how often we find God in unexpected places or do we just not notice because we were not expecting to find God there.

Revd Chris

9th July 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Song of Songs 2:8-15

I wonder what you thought when you read the above passage? Did you think something like, this is hardly suitable to be in the Bible? Some would argue that it should not be in the Bible at all, but then there have been many arguments over what should or should not be in our Bible, Martin Luther would have removed the epistle of James along with other books. Revelations is another controversial member of the cannon.

However 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that

'All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the person of God may be proficient, equipped for every good work'.

The Bible is a library and has many different kinds of writing in it, there is law, stories, history, teaching, parables, prophecy and revelation to mention a few. Different genres require a different approach, so what does this reading come under?

Some see it as an allegory describing the love relationship between God and his people, or between Jesus and the Church. In the Bible marriage is used as an illustration of the relationship God has with his people, so this Song of Songs illustrates the love, the intensity and the beauty of the relationship we should have, we should strive for between ourselves and God. Just think for a minute what that relationship is like, that intensity......some of us may remember what it was like in the early days of a relationship, that first knowledge that someone loved us, someone outside of our families, someone who had no cause to love us, no family connection but still found something to draw them to us.

Others have argued that it is a dramatic story involving Solomon, a young maiden and a shepherd. Solomon and the shepherd are both trying to win the affections of the maiden, eventually she returns to the shepherd, her true love.

Perhaps it is simply a literal, powerful description of the romantic and sensual love between a man and a woman, observing both their courtship and their marriage. A collection of snapshots of their live together through courtship and marriage, like looking at a photo album.

We are going to look at it as a description of a relationships ones with flaws and problems just like ours.

This is a relationship where things are going a little bit wrong, the relationship started out full of joy, excitement and enthusiasm, but time has passed, things have crept in and things aren't as rosy as they were. The passage speaks of a cleft in the rock, a hiding place, a refuge, somewhere we might go to hide away, not physically. You know the times when you feel yourself retreat from a thoughtless word, or an intentionally wounding word, times when you have given the cold shoulder, or walked away in anger, times when you have just not wanted to be near the other person. Times when you have just wanted to protect yourself from a perceived or real hurt. Those are the times when we have hidden, when we have shut ourselves off from those around us.

In the passage the man says

My dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the hiding places on the mountainside,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.

Who could resist such words? The man, in this case, is trying to make amends, is trying to find a way to make the relationship work. The man is aware that his partner is distancing themselves from him and he is working to draw her back again.

God is always calling us back to himself.

As I read this passage I was intrigued by 'all the little foxes' were these a breed of small foxes, were they cubs? Using the word little could make them sound endearing, could make them sound vulnerable, and what were they doing in a vineyard anyway? Whose vineyard and who was being asked to catch these little foxes?

It would seem that foxes get into vineyards and eat the blooms so there are no grapes and so no wine. They are pests which need to be caught and evicted before they can do a lot of damage to the crop.

But what has that got to do with us?

I don't own a vineyard and I'm fairly sure no one else here does, however there is more to this than a vineyard. We can see this in terms of relationships and the little foxes are the little niggles which can become massive issues. It can be the really little things like leaving lights on, leaving the lid off the toothpaste, never putting things away or putting them away in the wrong place, always saying the same phrase, moaning at the TV. All really small things on their own but can become like the dripping of a tap, endlessly annoying.

Those of us who live alone are not exempt from all of this, our little foxes are concerned with other relationships, perhaps with the people in our church family, perhaps even with me. It can be in the way we always greet someone or don't bother to say 'Hello' but walk straight on by. It can be the way we always spoil things for others by criticism of the hymn choice, by under the breath mutterings, by sleeping during the sermon. They can be things like a lack of courtesy for one another, thoughtlessness in our speech and in our actions, thanklessness, harsh or critical words, nagging, spiritual apathy, misplaced priorities. All of these things can spoil the vineyard can spoil our relationships can spoil our church life.

So what are the little foxed in your relationships?

What are your grievances, irritants, that, if left undealt with, may bring a world of hurt later on? Catch the foxes – deal with the issues. Many times these irritants stem from ourselves, they are not the fault of the person who is annoying us but it is the way we see that person, the issue lies with us not them. Jesus told us that bitterness, anger, envy etc comes from our hearts.

So what can we do, how do we catch all the little foxes and evict them from our lives and relationships?

Instead of dwelling on how annoying someone is and always has been annoying we should ask God to forgive our attitude and teach us how to see the other person as God sees them and to be able to see that they are made in the image of God.

I would like to suggest a further reading for you as well, Ephesians 4:22-5:2.

Revd Chris

2nd July 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Ephesians 3

Ephesians is a letter believed to have been written or dictated by Paul, from Rome, to the church at Ephesus. In this letter, unlike some of his other letters he doesn't address any particular problem or heresy, this letter is more a teaching tool. It's about prayer, it's about how we respond to God, to our Creator.

Paul prays that we may be rooted and grounded in the love of Christ, that this love will be what drives us, sustains us, that this love is at the base of all we do, it is what makes us us and sets apart from others. It is God who makes each one of us unique, each one of us given a name.

Look what Paul prays for the church, for us, he prays that once we have a deep rooted faith then we will be able to see the depth and richness of God's love for each one of us, so we will be full of God's love. This is the prayer all Minister's have for the people they are given to care for, that together we will realise the depth and richness of God's love, not only for us but for those in our communities

There is power in prayer

There is a children's song which goes something like this

“Prayer is like a telephone, pick it up and use it everyday”

Hopefully it is not the type of call with a variety of options to chose from, for confessions press 1, for requests press 2, to give thanks press 3, for complaints press 4, for anything else hold the line and an angel with be with you as soon as possible.

Prayer is more like a hotline which gets you directly through to God. Let me repeat we have a hotline straight through to God, you and I can talk to the Almighty Creator.

So how should we pray? Is there a formula guaranteed to get results, that always works? Do we have to do anything to get God's attention?

In the book of Kings in the Old Testament we read about the prophet Elijah who challenges the prophets of Baal to a contest to see whose god was the real god and whose god would answer his prophets. Elijah is on his own against all the other prophets, so he lets them go first. Both sides build their altars the prophets of Baal sing, dance, cut themselves and generally work themselves up into a frenzy but nothing happens, no voice, no fire from heaven.! Elijah taunts them. Maybe Baal is asleep, has gone out, or maybe he is on the toilet! Many hours later it is Elijahs' turn. He digs a gully around the altar and fills it with water, he soaks the sacrifice and wood with water and then he prays. He prays quietly, with confidence, with faith and God answers him with a mighty fire. The sacrifice is consumed, the wood is consumed, the altar is consumed along with all the water. There is power in prayer.

Paul prays for the church at Ephesus and the way he does it gives us an insight into his prayer life. Paul, like Jesus spends a lot of his time in prayer. We know that Jesus sought quiet places to pray. In the same way when we approach God , when we consciously turn our attention to God we need to let go of whatever we have just been doing, to relax and allow ourselves to become aware of God. Sometimes we rush into God's presence with our minds full of things to ask God or to complain about to God. Sometimes we forget that the prime purpose of prayer is to enjoy God's presence and to allow God to speak to us as well as us speaking to him. It is a time of communication which by it's nature is a two way operation. We live in an age where everyone is rushing around, going somewhere, doing something and so it is important for us to just stop, put time aside, and spend it with God, listening as well as talking.

Sometimes we need to remember that God takes us at our word, you know the saying 'be careful what you wish for', it is more important to be careful what you pray for. God is well known for using people to answer their own prayers, to use them as the catalyst to bring about change. We pray, but we don't always expect God to even listen, never mind act on our prayers, it can be a shock when he does.

Revd Chris

25th June 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 25:1-13

For the past few weeks, whilst I haven't been doing church business, I have been working as an exam invigilator. This mainly involves supervising young people as they sit exams making sure they comply to all the rules. Some exams are more interesting than others, some are shorter, some are longer, some require more revision than others.

The exams are prepared for through lessons, homework and revision. None of the exams just happen without a great deal of preparation by the schools, by the teachers. The children know when each of the subjects they study will be the subject of one or more exam papers.

That being the case why is it that some can come to an exam without a pen, pencil, without a ruler or calculator, seemingly without any preparation at all. Sometimes all they need is a pen!!

After I had given out yet another pen I recalled the story in the reading from Matthew's Gospel about the five wise and five foolish virgins, the wise were prepared the foolish were not.

Weddings in the time of Jesus were somewhat different to those we know and are used to. The marriages were usually arranged by the parents of the bride and groom with the help of the Rabbi. The betrothal period was usually for a year, during which time negotiations occurred between the families usually regarding matters such as dowries.

It was traditional for the bride to join her husband's family home, so once the betrothal was confirmed the groom would return to his father's house to prepare a 'bridal chamber'. This was all part of the negotiations. When the place was complete, to the approval of the groom's father, the groom and his friends would fetch the bride from her father's house. This process could easily take over a year to be fulfilled. The bride would not know in advance when this would be and the only warning would be a trumpet call and a shout. The handmaids would also be in the dark but all were expected to be ready with oil in the lamps and with some to spare. The virgins in the tale told by Jesus were not prepared for the groom's arrival and so missed out on the wedding festivities.

Also in this chapter we have the parable of the talents and the sheep and goats. It seems that in all three stories Jesus is telling us that we need to be prepared for the coming of his Kingdom in all it's fullness.

The Kingdom of God or Heaven, we are told, is like a wedding feast or a banquet, the type of feast and celebration that lasts for days with no shortage of good food and fine wines.

A feast where only the best is served and it is limitless.

We, like any invited wedding guests, are expected to be ready to greet the wedding party, we are expected to be prepared for the celebrations to start, to have our wedding clothes on hand.

How can we be ready?

We gather with the other guests, in church, in places where the followers of Jesus meet. We work for the coming of the kingdom by living by its' rules and ethos. We read the book of the kingdom ( the Bible) and we look for the signs of the kingdom. We live each day as if it were the day Jesus could come again in all his glory. We live each day in such a way that we can hear Jesus say

'Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Revd Chris

18th June 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Luke 15:11-24

Father's Day this year falls on the 18th June. It is a day which some find good, some hard depending on the relationship between father and children. The Bible, in particular the New Testament refers to God as a Father figure as a role model for all fathers.

In chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel we have three stories, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost or prodigal son, all of whom are lost and found with great rejoicing.

In the story of the prodigal son Jesus tells a story that is as relevant today as it was then, just the details and context are different.

There was a man who had two sons, there is no mention of a mother, perhaps he was a widower or the mother figure is not relevant to the meaning of the story.

There are three main characters, the Father, and the two sons.

When you read or listen to this story who do you empathise with? Are you the parent, the rebellious son or the dutiful son? Whose shoes could you wear?

Jesus tells the story about the Father, he didn't say he was a good Father, just a Father, but the implication is that the Father in this story is God.

We all know the story, the younger son wanted to leave home, he wanted to go and explore the world, to live his own life on his own terms. He asked his Father for his inheritance so he could fund his lifestyle. The Father gave him what he asked for, he didn't try to hold onto him, he didn't try to restrict him but allowed him to make his own mistakes.

The son leaves, seemingly without a backward glance, happy to be free, to have parties with new found friends until his funds run out and he is faced with reality, no money, no friends, no food and no support. He sinks as low as it is possible to be, living with and feeding pigs. No fate could be worse for a child of Abraham.

He comes to his senses and decides to go back, not as a son but as a hired hand, the father sees him coming and runs to meet him, to embrace him.

There is no reprimand, no cold shoulder, no 'hope you have learnt your lesson' there is no waiting for an apology, just total acceptance, total joy that the son is back and he is welcomed with open arms.

God is the loving Father in this story.

We refer to God as our Father but what does this really mean? I said that this story is relevant today as it was when Jesus told it. God is still the loving Father on which all parenthood should be based.

How do we get this relationship with God?

All of us can be said to be made in the image of God and so in some way are the 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 and be given the spirit of sonship. Then we have the right to call God 'Abba Father'.

The relationship of parent and child has rights and responsibilities, God gives us love, faithfulness and care, we need to show reverence, trust, loving obedience that children owe to a father.

It is a two way relationship, a final thought for you, Ephesians 6 says, and please note the end of this quote

'Honour your father and mother, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger'.


11th June 2023 Thoughts

Reading 1: Matthew 9:20-22

Part of the reading from Matthew's Gospel chapter 9 is about a woman who is said to have suffered from an issue of blood for 12 years.

The woman is not given a name, the important point is that she is a woman with an ailment common to all women. Periods that start and end with regularity are bad enough but when the pattern goes wrong, life can be really miserable, heavy prolonged bleeding saps a woman's strength, but how awful to be in this state for 12 years. This woman endured this for 12 long years, she was probably weak and ill. 12 long years where because there was no gap between periods she could never became ritually clean. In Jewish society a woman was considered unclean whilst having a period.

Reading 2: Leviticus 15:25-27

When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period. Any bed she lies on while her discharge continues will be unclean, as is her bed during her monthly period, and anything she sits on will be unclean, as during her period. Whoever touches them will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean until the evening.

A woman was considered unclean for a mere seven days when she had a regular period, this woman bore not only the inconvenience but also the curse of being unclean for 12 years. Anyone and anything she touched became unclean. Imagine ,she passes food to someone, their hands touch, they are unclean, if she touched anyone at all they would be unclean. Anything she sits on, touches at home or in public becomes unclean and soon no one wants anything to do with her because everything just becomes too much hard work. Too much washing in a place where water is precious.

Modern science would have identified the condition as being caused perhaps by fibroids, a hormone imbalance or an infection. Whatever the cause in those days no cure had been found. In desperation she had seen many doctors and had suffered under their hands, literally. She had been bled dry of dignity of respect as well as financially. Mark says “she had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors.” none had been able to help her.

Then she heard about Jesus, this man from Galilee who was said to be able to heal. When she got there there was already a crowd around Jesus, just the thing that she was accustomed to avoiding! She went closer everyone was concentrating on the conversation between Jairus, the ruler of the local synagogue and Jesus. Jairus was pleading with Jesus to go with him and save his daughter before it was too late. The crowd parted, was it to avoid her touch? Whatever the reason she reached forward and touched his hem, too embarrassed to reach higher than the floor?, head down in shame? Jesus stopped and asked who had touched him, it was more than just a touch it was a touch of faith. She told him that she knew that just touching his clothes would make her well. She knew that touching the Rabbi would spread her defilement to him, she knew he had every right to be angry with her and she expected him to at the very least reprehend her. Perhaps she was afraid he would remove his healing and then things would be even worse.

Instead of scolding her Jesus says “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering”

He calls her daughter, immediately lifting her isolation, her rejection and putting her firmly back into society as a daughter . She was no longer alone, isolated but part of his family by virtue of her faith.

Her life was transformed by her encounter with Jesus, she was no longer unclean, no longer an outcast, no longer did she need to avoid other people now she could lift her head high, she could mingle with other women as their equal, no longer to be pitied.

Revd Chris

4th June 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Psalm 8

Psalm 8 is one of the suggested readings for this Sunday, 'Trinity Sunday'. Last week we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit in wind and flame, this week the focus is on God as being a community of Father, Son and Spirit.

This is a first psalm of praise rather than of prayer, it is not asking God for anything such as help but it is someone praising God for who he is, the Creator of the universe. The author looks at the world around them and sees that all of it, especially the heavens, the moon and stars point to a majestic sovereign God, a God whose weakest creation (babes) are enough to silence his enemies.

One commentary queries whether the psalmist was present when the simple faith of a child silenced and defeated the arguments of an adult!

The more the author looks at the world around him the more he realises how insignificant human beings are. We have all had experiences where we have realised how small, how ineffectual we are, we have looked at mountains, at oceans, at vistas and marvelled at the scale of God's world. The psalmist asks why a God who is so majestic, who is the creator of everything should care for such insignificant beings as humans? Why should he, why does he, care for the human race and more than that why does he care for you, why does he care for me?

There is no reason, no logical explanation for this care other than it is totally undeserved and nothing we can do will earn it or make us lose God's love.

The psalmist goes on to echo Genesis and the story of creation. Human beings have been made a little lower than God and have been given dominion over the rest of creation, they have been crowned with honour and glory.

What does that mean?

Genesis says that we are made in the image of God and the first hint of a trinity is found when God says 'Let us make man in our own image'. And we do know that God’s Spirit was present in the Creation, we also know that the Word which became flesh and dwelt amongst us (Jesus, God’s Son) was at work in the Creation.

Being made in the image of God has various strands of meaning, in the ancient world bearing someone’s image meant you represented them, you were given their power and authority, you spoke and acted as them. Humans therefore represented God to creation, they are his representatives, his caretakers, their role is to nurture and care for the rest of creation.

God's image also means that we share traits with him, not physically but perhaps in our ability to reason, to be creative, to know right from wrong, to have speech, and self-determination, to be able to love. God made both man and woman in his image and from the beginning the Bible places both as the pinnacle of God's creation.

Knowing that we are made in God's image gives us, as Christians, a sense of our worth in God's eyes.

Each of us is precious to him but we also have a duty to see his image in everyone else.

Revd Chris

21st May 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 11:16-19,25-30

People can be very different can't they? Everyone of us is different, everyone of us is unique, thank God for that.

Our reading features two men who came onto the religious scene, they were as different as chalk and cheese even though they could claim a family connection, one is John the Baptist, the other is Jesus. John lives in the wilderness dressed in sackcloth living on a diet of locusts and honey. He preaches a stern message of repentance and baptism, of giving up the good life of plenty. Some are attracted by his message and lifestyle but others are repelled.
John was austere, he was a preacher of fire and brimstone, repent mend your ways.
The second man is Jesus who was totally different to John. He is far more liberal, he doesn't obey the rules, he works on the Sabbath, he defends his followers when they don't fast at the expected times and when they break the rules. To compound his errors he associates with the wrong crowd, he eats and drinks with all the wrong people. John was known for his diet of locusts and wild honey, Jesus was known for his feasting, he was accused of being a glutton but more than that he would literally eat with anyone, and he didn't bother with all the rules of cleanliness.
If John was a religious fanatic Jesus was by comparison, a glutton and drunkard a serious accusation which, according to Deuteronomy 21, could lead to a violent and dishonourable death,
Two very different people both asking uncomfortable questions, repent and give up comfortable lives, follow and have all your assumptions turned upside down, both preaching the same message about the Kingdom of God, both rejected by their society.
Jesus despairs and likens his critics to children in the playground refusing to play either happy or sad games.
In the second part of the reading the example of children is carried on, this time a different aspect of children and childhood is cited.
It is to the children or to the childlike that God reveals himself not to the intellectual.

Knowing God, thankfully, does not require great learning or years of studying or qualifications in Theology. It is not head knowledge that is required but knowledge of the heart. We cannot know God other than what is revealed to us by God's Spirit. The more open and childlike, that is trusting and open, the easier we can learn. That learning is helped by our willingness to accept his yoke and to learn from him.
As so often a phrase that in the time and place it was written would have been fully understood for us it is not so clear.
Perhaps Jesus in his life and training as a carpenter made yokes. He would certainly have been familiar with their construction and use.
A yoke usually joins two oxen together to work as a team. Did you notice during the coverage of the coronation procession how one of the horses pulling the carriage was always pushing into it's partner, it made life difficult
When Jesus invites us to take his yoke and to learn from him, he is inviting us to join him in harness—to allow him to take the lead—to let him help us through difficult places—to give him the opportunity to show us how it is done.
His yoke is kindly and the burden light. Who better to be yoked with?
A well fitted yoke distributes the weight evenly and enables the oxen to do the job well, it is a helpful tool not a hindrance if the yoke is well fitted and light it means the burden is easier to carry.
The Jews of Jesus day were struggling under the additional man-made rules added onto God's law, that was their burden, our burdens may be very different but just as real, it could be isolation, loneliness, grief illness, financial worries, all the things that worry us Jesus still offers to help us with those burdens, to be alongside us in the yoke, to take the weight with us, to be by our side and to lead us on.

Revd Chris

14th May 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 18:1-5

On the 6th May King Charles II was officially crowned and anointed in a very Christian service, I expect many of us were glued to the television. I expect a few could remember and compare the service to that of the coronation of Elizabeth 2nd. I wonder which were your favourite parts, the processions? The clothes? The coronations?

It was all very splendid, we as a nation know how to do pomp and ceremony, we are very good at it.

It is not that many weeks ago that we were talking about Jesus and his style of Kingship, something to do with a donkey, not a gold covered carriage, there was a procession for the entry of Jesus into his capital city it was composed of ordinary folk in peasant clothing throwing their cloaks down for the donkey to walk on. There was no special blue or gold carpet laid in the Temple, no throne.

The anointing of Jesus was not done privately behind specially made screens by the Archbishop of Canterbury, his anointing was in public by a woman of ill repute, it was for burial not kingship.

Did you notice all the different flags along the route and in the procession, flags from all the places that owe some sort of allegiance to King Charles? He is a King over a lot of the world, he had a vast Kingdom but it is a different sort of Kingdom to the one Jesus rules.

So what is different about the Kingdom Jesus rules, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven?

A lot of the teaching, the things Jesus said are about the Kingdom of God, this isn't so much a place, as a community, it isn't somewhere you can hop on a bus or train to get to.
The Kingdom Jesus spoke about is an upside-down kingdom or as a Christian author Malcolm Duncan puts it, a flipped Kingdom. It is flipped or upside down because the values of a normal kingdom are turned on their head or just don't fit.
In this Kingdom the King is a servant, the people we would think are important are at the back of the line. The important folk are those who are poor, who are shunned and ignored, are those who have nothing, no standing, no importance. This Kingdom belongs to the oppressed, this kingdom's values are justice, equality, fairness, no bullying, no oppression. Love for the King and each other are the most important principles, self and ego are not important.
The King is Jesus himself who as the Son of God put all that aside and became a human being, he was willing to put himself into the care of human parents, to be dependent on their love and nurture.
In the days this book of Matthew was written down, women and children had few if any rights, they were deemed unimportant. Some of the followers of Jesus came to him to ask who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Can you imagine their surprise and bewilderment when Jesus took a child, probably a toddler, and said that whoever becomes like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, he didn't say someone who is rich, well connected, popular, clever, educated, someone who is well read, someone who can talk and argue their case, he didn't say someone who is male, white, middle class , he didn't even say a wise, mature person.
No, he said someone like a child.
So, what did he mean?
Perhaps Jesus is simply referring to their innocence, their wish to please, perhaps even to that well known phase of asking 'why' all the time so they can learn, or perhaps the reference is to the trusting, loving nature of children.
To enter the Kingdom, we need to trust the King we need to give him all we have and are, trusting that we will be in safe hands. To become citizens of this Kingdom we first must accept it's King as the King of our lives.
There are many differences between the Kingdom Jesus rules and the Kingdom Charles rules but the good thing is that King Charles knows this.
My favourite part of the whole proceedings was this conversation
“Your Majesty, as children of the Kingdom of God we welcome you in the name of the King of Kings”.

And the reply
“In his name, and after his example, I come not to be served but to serve”.

Revd Chris

7th May 2023 Thoughts

Reading: John 14:1-14

The above passage is one of the suggested readings for this week. It is from the Gospel of John and in it Jesus offers his disciples comfort and reassurance. The first four verses are quite often used in funeral services, as a way of giving reassurance to mourners, that their loved ones have indeed gone home, to the mansion prepared for them by Jesus himself.
We find comfort in the thought that they are safe, looked after until we can join them.
In verse five Thomas asks a very sensible question, remember this is before the crucifixion,'We don't know where you are going so how can we know how to get there?' Jesus replies in his normal, somewhat cryptic style 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'.
The Church calls people to become followers of Jesus because the Church believes that he is the way the truth and the life, no other body in history has made such an audacious claim for it's leader.

Jesus claims I am the way.
The way to where? A way is related to a destination to say something is a way to, means it is a route, a method to get to a destination, a way must have a destination, an end point beyond itself. Jesus as the way, is related to a particular end, to a particular goal. If your purpose is to do God's will, to enjoy fellowship with God, to develop the kind of character that we see in Jesus, to enter the Kingdom, then Jesus is the way. He will lead us, he will teach us and he will help us.
Jesus also says that he is the only way to the Father, this claim or rather statement has been the basis for many an argument and discussion since the dawn of Christianity, if it is true where does that leave other world religions?
Jesus does not say 'No one comes to God except by me' he says 'No one comes to the Father except through me' the only way to know God as our Father is through the relationship Jesus had with God as his Father.

Jesus claims I am the truth.
Jesus can to reveal the truth about God, he came to answer the question, 'What is God like?'
He is the son of God in the sense of 'like Father, like son. We can look at one and see the characteristics of the other, we often say that so and so is just like their parent, same character, same mannerisms, some even are physically alike.
Jesus came though as the truth and sometimes truth can be a challenging thing.
He challenged the Scribes and Pharisees on a number of occasions, he shone the light of God's truth on the religious practices of his day and continues to do that on our practices and beliefs. He had no time for empty words and revealed and reveals them for what they are.
Is this part of the reason the religious leaders were so keen to get rid of Jesus? His truth showed up their faults and failings.
If we allow the truth of Jesus to look at our lives his truth can change our lives and can give us freedom to live as God intends us to live.

Jesus claims 'I am the life'
Life is more than existence, it is more than waking up in the morning and going to sleep at night. In the opening paragraph of this Gospel we are told that in him was life, that is God's own life.
The New Testament is the book about life; not merely, or in the first place, life in heaven but life here and now. Jesus is the giver of new life, he gave new life to the man possessed by demons, he gave new life to the Samaritan Woman, to the lepers, to Zaccheus, to the criminal crucified with him.
He gives new life to us, life in all its' fullness and joy, life to be lived everyday with all its' moments filled with God's presence.

Revd Chris

30th April 2023 Thoughts


  • Psalm 23
  • John 10:1-16

In the Old Testament. when God commands Moses to go to his people, Moses asks who should he say sent him? The response is' I am who I am
In John's Gospel, seven times Jesus claims this title, this name for himself.
This passage contains the claim that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, God was often seen and referred to as the Shepherd of his people.
Jesus’ teaching about the nature of himself as the true shepherd of Israel is conveyed especially through the two statements, ‘I am the gate for the sheep’ (10:7) and ‘I am the good shepherd’ (10:11).
Jesus uses the imagery of the sheepfold to illustrate His message. A Sheepfold was a circular wall about 10 feet tall with a single opening that served as a door. Several flocks might be placed into the sheepfold at night, with one of the shepherds lying in the opening to serve as the door. Nothing could get into, or out of the sheepfold without having to go through the shepherd. Jesus is telling His audience that only thieves and robbers seek to enter the sheepfold by another means besides the door. The shepherd, however, always comes in the right way! The good shepherd knows his sheep by name and so by character, he provides what is needed to flourish, safety, food, water, see Psalm 23. He provides safety because like any good eastern shepherd he would lay down across the only entrance to the enclosed walled sheep pen.

There would be different flocks in the sheepfold and when a shepherd wanted his flock to come out of the fold he would give a unique and distinctive call, the flock would rush to answer that call. That was how shepherds proved ownership in Jesus' day. They didn't have brands or marks. Each shepherd had his own distinctive call and sheep would only respond to that call. The sheep knew their shepherds' call.

I came across this tale:

A man in Australia was arrested and charged with stealing a sheep. But he claimed emphatically that it was one of his own that had been missing for many days. When the case went to court, the judge was puzzled, not knowing how to decide the matter. At last he asked that the sheep be brought into the courtroom. Then he ordered the plaintiff to step outside and call the animal. The sheep made no response except to raise its head and look frightened. The judge then instructed the defendant to go to the courtyard and call the sheep. When the accused man began to make his distinctive call, the sheep bounded toward the door. It was obvious that he recognized the familiar voice of his master. "His sheep knows him," said the judge. "Case dismissed!"

When we become Christians we learn his voice And, the more time we spend with Him in prayer and Bible study, the better we hear his voice, the more we are able to follow in trust and confidence.

So what are we waiting for? Let's be good sheep!

Revd Chris

23rd April 2023 Thoughts "Palm Sunday"

Our reading from Luke's Gospel is placed in a chapter which is all about proving that Jesus was alive and had appeared to the disciples.

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. There are questions as to exactly where this village was, various sites have been identified as being the Emmaus of the Bible.

As Cleopas and his companion were walking, they were deep in conversation, deep in discussion and they were joined by a third person, who they didn't recognise.

Do we recognise Jesus when he walks alongside us in the guise of friends and strangers, do others see Jesus in us as we walk alongside them?

The conversation continued with this 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.

The conversation lasted all the way to Emmaus, without them realising who was with them. When they arrived, at their invitation, he went in with them and when he took an ordinary piece of bread and broke it, they realised who he was.

Why didn't they realise before?

In the communion do we recognise Jesus in the bread and wine, do we realise that Jesus is revealed to us as the perfect spotless Lamb of God, revealed as the one sacrifice that can take away our sins and the sins of others,

Do we realise that Jesus walks with us through our lives, if I were to ask you to do a time line of your life would you be able to say, that is when Jesus walked with me as such and such a person.

The two companions on realising who they had been speaking to 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.

Can you imagine how this group of people were feeling?

They had been through a roller coaster of emotions in such a short space of time.

Just a little while ago they had been full of anticipation, of excitement, of joy and vindication as they followed their leader into Jerusalem as he rode his donkey through the streets. Only royalty and Romans rode in Jerusalem

Now, they must have thought, Jesus will stand tall and tell everyone, prove to all the authorities, that he was the Messiah they had all been waiting for, now the Romans would be sent packing. Their ears and hearts must have rung to the sound of the people shouting Hosanna to the King. They heard the local populace cheering and waving palm branches. Elation and joy.

But and what a but, just a short time later how things have changed...... now the crowds have turned hostile, no palms, perhaps fists but jeers and cries of not Hosanna but crucify.

The disciples had seen Jesus taken away, given a sham trial, mocked, whipped and crucified, they had all fled in terror apart from Peter who at least stayed on the fringes watching and then denied knowing him three times.

They had fled with their tails between their legs only to gather together behind locked doors. Now they knew despair, confusion and terror. Had they heard the rumours that they were supposed to have stolen the body of Jesus from under the very noses of the guards?

Jesus comes to them and they stand and stare not knowing whether to trust their senses or not. They are convinced when he eats a piece of fish, not by an empty tomb, or what Cleopas tell them, but by an ordinary act of eating made extraordinary, for them fish, for Cleopas bread. For us, you and me, communion, ordinary things made holy .

We find Jesus in the ordinary in the everyday mess of our lives. Jesus comes alongside us as we walk through life, he explains to us, he shows us the love God has for us and for those we meet.

He gives us his love to pass onto others, not to keep to ourselves.

Revd Chris

2nd April 2023 Thoughts "Palm Sunday"

Reading: Mark 11:1-11

All of the Gospels, including John, tell us about the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey, at the start of what we call Holy Week, the week leading upto the crucifixion.

Jesus was a Jew and so he came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Like all the festivals in Judaism it was a way to remember an event in their history. It was celebrated to remember the time when the Israelites were in slavery and God was using various plagues to persuade Pharaoh to let His people go. This was the last and harshest of all the plagues, the firstborn of all the Egyptians, including their animals would die. God's people would be spared because the Angel of Death would literally pass over them on seeing the blood of a lamb on their doors.

The Jewish nation were instructed to celebrate their deliverance from both this plague, this devastating loss and their freedom from slavery, so they gathered in Jerusalem to do so.

The Romans had a fort built to oversee Jerusalem, especially during such celebrations, and they controlled everything, even the robes of the High Priest were kept by the Roman Procurator. The celebration happened with their permission. Before the celebrations the Romans would have moved into the fortress in a triumphal procession with much pomp and ceremony with the Governor riding a magnificent war horse.

Jesus entered Jerusalem through a different entrance and riding a donkey. His actions were a deliberate contrast to that of Pilate.

The people strew branches in his path something considered a high honour in the Middle East. An action worthy of a great person or visiting royalty. The donkey was used to symbolise a king riding in peace not war. But it was still a triumphal entry in a time of oppression.

There is a very short timescale between the cries of 'Hosanna!' and 'Crucify!, was it the same crowd or were the second crowd recruited by those determined to see an end to this troublesome Rabbi from Nazareth?

Why was there such a radical change? In one breath, so it seems, the cry is 'Good news – the Messiah has come!' And the people acclaim him. But they wanted a conquering monarch, a military leader, not a peacemaker riding on a donkey, on the way to a cross. Expectations can distort vision, so for many – those who want quick solutions rather than the revolution of the heart – Jesus is a disappointment. In a culture that worships power, celebrity and heroes, Jesus is seen as a failure.

How do you see Jesus, are you still asking the questions

'Who is this?' Who is this King that comes as a servant? This anointed one who dies a criminals' death?

This, my friends, is our God.

Revd Chris

26th March 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

The reading is taken from a book in the Old Testament which contains writings from a prophet called Ezekiel . He is thought to have lived during the time when the Kingdom of Judah was a vassal state of Babylon. The then king, Jehoiakim, revolted against the Babylonién overlord, Nebuchadnezzar Il. This led to a siege of Jerusalem lasting over two years. The Babylonions eventually overcame Jerusalem, destroyed the first Temple and deported many of the citizens, especially those with any clout, to Babylon and its territories. Ezekiel was one along with Daniel and his Friends.

Ezekiel had his first vision before the exile, in Judah, and continued to prophecy during the exile in Babylon. His prophecies are thought to span a twenty two year period and are centred around three themes. Chapters 1-24 are about judgement on Israel, chapters 25-32 Judgement on the nations and chapters 33-48 Future blessings for Israel.

So judgement has been pronounced and carried out, God's people have as usual turned away From God and the result is their exile in Babylon, but they have not been abandoned by God even though all seems lost.

Ezekiel is given a vision in which he sees a whole valley full of bones, they are scattered across a large area. The bones aren't connected to each other and they have been picked clean of any flesh by birds and wild animals. It is a scene of horror, of the finality of death.

As he stands there, in the vision, God asks him a question “Can these bones live?”

The answer that I think you or I would have given would be a resounding No, Ezekiel however answers more cautiously with “O Lord you know”.

God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones, to speak to them directly, to tell them that he was going to breathe new life into them, that he was going to restore them to life.

The passage explains that these bones represented God's people who thought they had no hope, no life because they has been cut off from their home, from their God. Here God promises them new life and restoration to their land.

So what does this passage say to you?

Sit quietly with it, read it through once what words, sentence do you notice?

Anything new?

Read it again and imagine yourself in that valley, can you hear the bones coming together?

Read it a third time and ask God what he is saying to you directly.

For me, it says that even when we think nothing is changing, that we are stagnant, God is still working, still changing us, putting new flesh onto our spiritual bones, new life into our tired spirits.

Revd Chris

19th March 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Luke 13:34

Have you watched the wildlife programmes on the television?

Sometimes we can wince at the savage behaviour of predators, the lion that brings down a vulnerable animal, separated from the herd. The actions of a polar bear around a seal, the way a school of whales surround a shoal of fish and yet all these hunt to provide food for their young. The mother protects her young fiercely, sometimes at the cost of her own life or well being. Animal parents also know, instinctively, when to let their youngsters go. Babies of all kinds need special care and attention as they grow, but eventually they all need the freedom to explore the world around them.

In the reading from Luke we find these words:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

These words were spoken by Jesus over the city of Jerusalem, a city which had resisted God so many times, which had rejected and killed his prophets over the years. He likens himself or God to a mother, to a hen which gathers her young under her wings for protection, for safety and warmth. God longed to be allowed to love and nurture his city but they refused to be loved by him.

Today is Mothering Sunday a day which traditionally saw those working in the 'big houses' returning to their families for the day. This rare visit would see the family visiting their 'Mother Church' as well as their parents. This has morphed over the years and become less about Church and more about Mothers and carers.

We celebrate Mothers and those who care or have cared for us in the past. We remember Mothers who have died, we remember their legacy, the love, the care, the way they nurtured us and the way they encouraged us to live our own lives.

We celebrate the Mothers we still have, we buy/make cards, we give them flowers, we take them out for lunch, some have been known to provide breakfast in bed for their parent.

All this to thank them for what they have given us.

When we think though of how much love and care God has given and gives to us, even this special love, from a mother, pales in comparison.

God has promised that even if our own mother's were to forget us he never would.

So how can we show God our appreciation our thanks?

Micah chapter 6 verse 8 tells us what God requires of us

'To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God'

Just as children strive to win their parents' approval so we should strive to please God by loving him and by loving our neighbours as ourselves.

Revd Chris

12th March 2023 Thoughts

Reading: John 4

We take water for granted, we turn on a tap and fresh clean water is available, hot or cold. We have showers, kettles to make a hot drink, access to water is so easy. Of late with all the rain and flooding we have experienced across our lands with all the damage caused by seas and rivers breaking their boundaries it is hard for us to fully appreciate what it is like not to have an abundance of water.

Israel is a dry and dusty land. Long rainless summers means rivers dry up, even the river Jordan becomes shallow, narrow and muddy. Early peoples of Palestine and the surrounding areas depended on the rainfall of Spring and Autumn for their annual water supply. This rain filled wells, springs and cisterns, people became adept at storing the rain they did get for the hot dry summers.

Cisterns were dug out of rock and used to store water. In Jerusalem the temple area alone had 37 of these covered cisterns , gutters, pipes, and man made waterways directed the water to these underground pools. Drinking water was carried in goatskins and washing was reserved mainly for feet as the roads were always dry and dusty. Households would send their younger women and girls to draw water from the communal well, usually in the cooler part of the day.

We read in John chapter 4 that Jesus was travelling from Judea to Galilee and to do this he went through Samaria and he came to a town called Sychar which of course had a well. He was tired so he decided to wait at the well whilst his disciples went into the town proper to buy food.

Whilst he was there a woman came to the well with a water jar. She came at the 6th hour, during the heat of the day not during the cooler hours when the other women would come meet each other, socialise and exchange gossip. This woman was looked down on, firstly by Jews, because she was a Samaritan, secondly because she was a woman and thirdly because of her reputation. There had been many men in her life, we aren't told why, or who, perhaps she was reliant on them for financial support, perhaps she was widowed at a young age and had to then marry the brother of her first husband? Perhaps she was divorced for displeasing a husband?

Whatever the reasons she had got through five husbands and was now living out of wedlock. Jesus doesn't condemn her, he just states the facts.

Jesus astounds the woman by asking her for water, he actually talks to her, they have a conversation centred around water. He meets her where she is and talks to her about something she can relate to, he takes the ordinary and finds the deeper meaning.

This is the first time Jesus comes close to admitting to being the Messiah and says he can give water which will satisfy her thirst, spiritual water for spiritual needs. They discuss the different approaches Samaritans and Jews have in their theology, in their approach to God.

The woman was so taken by this conversation, by his knowledge of her that she went and told all she met about him. Instead of hiding away she sought out other people and urged them to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Because of her words others listened and came to their own conclusions. They urged Jesus to stay and he talks to them for two days.

This woman had an encounter with Jesus , we are not told how her life changed but then Jesus had not condemned her or told her to change. She was transformed from someone ashamed, hiding away to someone willing to tell anyone who would listen what had happened to her, how she had met a Jewish man who didn't care that she was a Samaritan woman of ill repute, but who treated her as a person of value and worth. She met someone who could give her the gift of life, of spiritual life.

We too need to have an encounter with Jesus because just as water is essential for our life so the spiritual water which Jesus gives is essential for our spiritual life.

Jesus offers to all of us living water, in verse 13 Jesus says “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

We need to accept that water, allow it to fill us and then become channels of God's living water to the world. This is not a passive thing but results in actions to show God's love to others, watering his garden, his people so they can grow strong and sturdy.

Revd Chris

5th March 2023 Thoughts

Reading: John 3:1-17

I quite enjoy doing word searches and crosswords, I have to admit though that I am not very quick at them, I can look and look for a word and just not see it. In my defence the words can be in reverse order and placed diagonally.

There are times when we can look at something in front of us such as word searches and no matter how hard we look we just can not see it. How many times have you looked for keys, for glasses, that elusive piece of paper. Sometimes our eyes see it but our brain doesn't translate what we are looking at.

It's always in the last place you look, often right in front of you.

The reading is from the Gospel of John and it is the story of Nicodemus a man who looked but didn't see.

He was a member of the ruling council, a religious leader who comes to Jesus at night under the cloak of darkness in secret or perhaps at a time when Nicodemus knew he would get his full attention, he came to learn from him. There was something about Jesus, this wandering Rabbi which was different, which caught his interest. There is a lot we could say about this passage but let's look at verse 14 where Jesus says:

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life”

The background to this statement is that the people of Israel were in the desert and were having to go round the land of Edom rather than through it. They were very nearly at the land promised to them by God but the King of Edom refused to let them go through his lands and so they had to make a detour. They were well and truly fed up and so they started moaning again.

According to the account in Numbers chapter 21 God sent fiery serpents into the camp. People who were bitten by the snakes and there were many, died. God's people realised that they had angered God, that this time they had gone too far so they went to Moses and asked him to pray to God to take the snakes away.

So Moses prayed to God, and God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole so it could be seen all round the camp, anyone who looked on the bronze serpent would live.

In John's Gospel Jesus tells his hearers that just as the bronze serpent was lifted up for healing of the physical bites so he, the Son of Man, must be lifted up.

Jesus, the Son of God became a man for us, we, you and me, human beings caused the problem, the bite, and to be healed someone akin to us, a human being, but perfect, had to be lifted up for us, to show us the way back to God. There is something of a double meaning here. Jesus had to be lifted up, physically on the cross, we have to lift our eyes to look at him for our salvation.

Without the cross we have no means of returning to God, of having a relationship with him and so it is the cross that we should stand for.

Churches have crosses on or outside their buildings for a reason!

Revd Chris

26th February 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Matthew 4:1-11

Lately we have been looking at Covenants in the Bible, from the time of Abraham through to the New and final covenant. We have seen how throughout the ages God has been faithful to his promises to redeem his people.

It began with a promise to preserve the land, then to a promise to preserve a people, to bring from that people a single person, a Messiah from the house of David.

In the reading, from Matthew’s Gospel, we see the beginnings of the mission of this Messiah. Jesus has been baptised by John in the river Jordan, the heavens have opened, the dove has appeared and there was that voice affirming Jesus as God’s Son in whom he was pleased. Who heard the voice? Was it just Jesus?

After this experience of God’s pleasure and favour Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he stayed for forty days and was tempted by Satan.

How often do we have a similar experience? Everything goes well, we feel close to God who answers our prayers, we are on a ‘spiritual high’ but then something happens or some remark is made and we come tumbling down and that sense of being so right with God fades.

Jesus goes from being blessed by God to being tempted by Satan. These temptations are about what kind of Messiah would he be, would he use his power to make sure he had enough to eat, would he be a super hero knowing that God’s angels were charged with looking after him, would he go into politics proper so as to rule the world around him.

Who would he be? What would he stand for?

Throughout his ministry, the three years that we read about in the Gospels he must make these choices time and time again. The temptations were not a one time only choice but each action, each miracle, each teaching had to align with his understanding of who he was and what his purpose was. The forty days in the wilderness were for Jesus a time of self reflection, a time to examine who he was and what he stood for.

What can we learn from this passage in Matthew?

Jesus tells us that we can not live on bread alone, that there is more to us than a physical body, we need more than physical food to thrive and grow. We need spiritual food as well as bread or pancakes. We need the Word of God, either understood as the Bible or Jesus himself, we need food for our spirits as well as our bodies.

We also know from this passage that Jesus was not immune from temptations, from going into a dark place. We can rest assured that anything we go through Jesus has already been there before us. We can know that he understands and has overcome everything that stands against us.

Lent, like Advent, is a period of preparation both leading up to a celebration of God’s love and power. Both celebrate God breaking through into our world in a new and earth-shattering way, one by his birth, one by his death and resurrection.

God’s covenant with his people fulfilled, a Messiah from the house and line of David redeeming his people, restoring the broken relationship of the Garden of Eden through his New and eternal Covenant.

Revd Chris

19th February 2023 Thoughts "Covenants"

Reading: Jeremiah 31

We have looked at the Covenants made between Noah, Abraham and Moses. There was also a covenant made with David, whereby he was promised that there would be a ruler from his house whose kingdom would have no end.

All of these promises, agreements built on each other, revealing more of God's purposes with each one. The other side of the coin was that there were consequences for the people if their side of the agreement was not kept. We can see that throughout the Bible the people failed time and time again. However every time God persevered with his plan to redeem a people to himself through which he would bring all mankind into the relationship with himself which was always intended.

The last covenant which we looked at in more detail was that with Moses, a covenant of law where the laws were external and were written on tablets of stone. These laws were to be memorised and passed down from generation to generation, taught by parents to their children.

The prophet Jeremiah promised a new covenant, written not on stone tablets but on hearts of flesh. This covenant will fulfil all the others and succeed where the others have failed. Those involved in this agreement will be transformed from the inside out. This new covenant will also be the last one because it is an everlasting one which will bring together and fulfil all the elements of the others. It will be a new covenant in the sense that there has never been anything like it before, God will do a new thing for his people.

The basic foundation of this covenant is the need for the forgiveness of sins, of past wrongdoings being wiped out and erased. Jeremiah sees a time when instead of animal sacrifices representing the idea of sin being forgiven through the death of the animal, there would be a sacrifice sufficient for this really to be the case. The Jewish sacrificial system was a dress rehearsal for the real thing.

Sacrifices were offered, scapegoats were sent off into the wilderness representing the idea of forgiveness, through the death of a sacrifice but it had to be done time and time again.

The animal to be sacrificed had to be without blemish, it had to be perfect.

Jesus came as the perfect lamb of God, without fault, without blemish, the perfect sacrifice, the perfect substitute. His sacrifice, his death on the cross sealed the New Covenant and fulfilled the Jewish sacrificial system.

At each Communion we celebrate the New Covenant sealed with his shed blood as we drink the wine to remember his death and resurrection.

God's covenant promised made with his creation and his people are all brought to completion in this sacrifice of love.

Revd Chris

12th February 2023 Thoughts "Covenants"

Reading: Exodus 24

We have looked at the Covenants with Noah and Abraham, so this time it is the turn of Moses. If the Covenant with Abraham was one of promise, the one with Moses, is one of law. This agreement, this covenant spelled out for the people of Israel just what was involved in being God's own people.

God brought them out of Egypt, out of slavery to Pharoh into a covenant relationship with God himself. This covenant with Moses was a way to renew God's commitment to his people, a commitment established under Adam, confirmed under both Noah and Abraham. It is an ongoing living relationship, each covenant a new layer to the understanding between God and mankind. This covenant lays bare and in detail what God requires, he is a holy God and his law, his Torah, is designed to produce a people who are, at the very least, aiming to be holy.

But what is meant by his Torah, what did God give to Moses, to his people?

In Hebrew Torah means guidance, teaching, instruction rather than laws. The first five books of our Old Testament are sometimes referred to as the Torah, indicating that here is teaching, here is guidance given to Israel and us through the ongoing revelation of God's character and purposes. Throughout these books a story is being told it starts with the creation of the world, goes through the lives of Abraham and Moses including the spelling out of the basis of God's relationship with his people. Throughout there is a conviction that present in every moment is God. The Torah is more than that, it is also a story of good news, a Gospel, good news which is world changing. This is about a God, who is not a remote deity sought out by desperate people, not a deity constructed as a last ditch crutch, but throughout God takes the initiative in the relationship, he is the one always reaching out in spite of numerous rejections and disappointments.

The commandments are given after God has delivered the people out of slavery, he loves first and then gives guidance on how to live according to his will. God gave the Torah to this people because he loved them. Obedience to the rules and regulations come as a response to the love of God. Israel often failed to live up to the standards set for the people of God. By the time of Jesus some religious groups, such as the Pharisees, had surrounded the original rules with more rules to make sure the original ones were not inadvertently broken!

For Moses the covenant rules were set on tablets of stone, it was an external covenant. Jeremiah, a prophet living after the time of Moses promised a new covenant which would be written on our hearts, an internal covenant.

More about that next time!

Revd Chris

5th February 2023 Thoughts "Covenants"

Reading: Genesis 15

Last time we looked at the covenant brought in by God between himself, Noah, his descendants and all of creation. This covenant is sometimes referred to as a Covenant of Preservation, God promised to preserve the earth and basically not flood it as much as he just had done!

The covenant with Abram or Abraham is referred to as a Covenant of Promise in that God makes promises to Abram.

For this covenant to be established Abram is told to leave his land and family and to go on a journey. God promises that Abram will inherit the land, will be rewarded. Abram understandably points out that as he and his wife are both old the person who would inherit any land he gained would be a distant relative.

God gives the assurance that it would go to a child of Abram and enters into a formal covenant arrangement with Abram.

Under God's direction Abram takes a heifer, a goat and a ram. He divides them all into two halves and placed them opposite each other, then as the sun was setting Abram falls into a trance and God shows him what will happen to his descendants. After this a smoking fire-pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces, God made the covenant not Abram. Only God passed between the two halves of the animals.

God the Creator binds himself to man by a solemn blood oath, he chose to commit himself to the fulfilment of the promises he has made to Abram.

By chapter 17 of Genesis God has decided that Abram and his descendants need something to remind them of this covenant, to remind them that they are his people and so the injunction is laid on all generations that on the eighth day of life all males were to be circumcised, this was then the seal of the covenant. Being uncircumcised meant they were not part of God's people, there was no choice it had to be done, it was and is the sign and seal of the covenant between God and his people.

But why circumcision ?

It was a physical sign of the covenant but it also indicated the need for cleansing. Removing the foreskin was seen as a hygienic practice and was used to show the need for purification, and was how people were purified so that a covenant could exist between a holy God and an unholy people.

The covenant with Noah was symbolised by the placing of a bow in the sky the covenant with Abraham is symbolised by the rite of circumcision.

The covenant with Moses will be symbolised by the law written on tablets of stone.

More next time.

Revd Chris

29th January 2023 Thoughts "Covenants"

Reading: Genesis 9:1-17

One of the gifts Methodism gives to the Christian Church is the Covenant service. This was first held in 1755 and was introduced by John Wesley. It is an annual service held in all Methodist churches and chapels, a key element of it is the Covenant prayer which says

I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing: I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessèd God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

The original idea was that there would be a series of meetings about the Covenant leading up to the service itself. There would be a day’s retreat for people to prepare themselves in prayer, fasting, reflection and self examination before joining in the service itself, which as well as containing the prayer would be centred around Communion, which in turn celebrated the New Covenant.

The Bible tells us about various covenants that God has made with his people and they are always initiated by God. There is the covenant with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses, with David and finally the perpetual covenant made through Jesus.

The reading from Genesis chapter 9 tells us about the covenant with Noah. The chapter starts after Noah, his family and all the animals in the ark have been released from their lockdown. Noah has built an altar and has offered whole burnt offerings in thanks for their deliverance. God is pleased with Noah and makes a covenant with him, but not just him, it is also with his offspring and all the living creatures that were with him, birds, domestic animals and wild beasts. A lot of what is said to Noah is very similar to the words spoken to Adam ‘Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and have dominion over it’. Alongside this injunction to increase and multiply is the introduction of the importance of all life, there is the command not to eat meat which has blood in it. The blood equals life anyone who sheds blood must lose theirs. This seems somewhat harsh to us, eye for an eye etc. If each of us are made in the likeness and image of God then to kill one of us is a direct insult to God himself. Noah represents a second beginning, a second attempt at enabling human beings to have the kind of relationship with God that they were intended to have. As a reminder of this covenant God promised to put a bow in the sky so that he himself will remember the covenant he has made with all living flesh.

There are other covenants for us to look at, next time will be the covenant with Abraham.

Revd Chris

22nd January 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Ruth

The discussion group this month is looking at the Book of Ruth, so I thought I would share some thoughts which have arisen from that.

We are probably all familiar with the story of Ruth but I would encourage you to read this small book through in one sitting, only four chapters.

No one is sure who the author of this book was but the events in it happened in the time before there was a monarchy, in the time of the Judges.

The story starts in a large town called Bethlehem, usually this area produced plenty of food, in fact the name of the town means ' House of Bread', unusually there was a famine. Elimelech was from Ephrath so probably belonged to one of the chief families in Bethlehem and he decided to take his family, wife and two sons, to Moab which was on the opposite side of the Dead Sea and was a separate state. It was not somewhere that knew Yahweh.

Whilst the family were in Moab, Elimelech died, as did the two sons. Naomi was now without any man from her family to look after her, and she was in a foreign country with her two daughters in law. Naomi heard that the situation had improved in Judah, that God was providing again for his people so she decided to go back home. Ruth and Orpah both started the journey with her. She must have been a special Mother in Law. Orpah was persuaded to go back to her own people but Ruth proclaimed that she would adopt Naomi's ways, even her god.

Ruth and Naomi arrived at Bethlehem to be greeted by the townswomen who knew Naomi but were surprised at her appearance. Naomi explains that she left full and has returned empty, no longer did she want the name that meant her life was pleasant, but' Mara' because her life had become bitter.

But in all that she had suffered, Naomi did not stop believing God. She did not understand why her life was sad. She only knew that God was in command.

The story moves on. Ruth goes to glean in the fields, according to Leviticus 19 (9-10) when the harvest was gathered in those in need, the poor and alien, were allowed to gather grain left at the sides or dropped by the harvesters. It so happened that the strip of land Ruth went to was owned by Boaz, who it so happened was a relative of Elimelech. Coincidence or God 's direction?

There was another law laid down by God which said that if a man died his nearest male relative had the right of redemption of his lands and property so that the land God gave the tribes would not be lost. Ruth laid down at the feet of Boaz and claimed his protection as a relative through marriage to Elimelech. Boaz knew of a closer relative that had to be given the right of refusal and although this man was happy to buy the land was not happy to take on Ruth as his wife. Perhaps, he already had a family, or because the first son they had would carry on the name of Ruth's deceased husband and he would own his land not the step father. (see Deuteronomy 25:5-6)

Boaz and Ruth marry and have a son called Obed, but it is Naomi who is congratulated and adopts Obed as her son. In time Obed became the father of Jesse who was the father of David and the line descends to Joseph who was of the house and lineage of David.

So why is this book in the Bible? It's a story about an ordainary family wh are living as members of God's family because they respect and obey him. It' s about resilience and trust in grief. Naomi in spite of all she loses never doubts God, she doesn't understand his actions but doesn't lose faith and in the end is rewarded and provided for.

Revd Chris

15th January 2023 Thoughts

Reading: John 1:29-42

There is something special about a personal invitation to something it makes us feel special and valued, it makes us feel wanted. When someone invites you for coffee or a meal because they want your company it makes you feel special doesn't it, warm inside?

Invitations are important in the Bible as well and are extended by both God and Jesus. There are apparently 55 verses in the Bible which deal with an invitation of some kind. Psalm 34 reads “O taste and see that the Lord is good”. Seeing goes beyond physical sight it is more understanding why things are as they are,come and learn, understand.

The reading from John is at the start of Jesus ministry, the affirmation of his calling, embodied in the form of a dove. We know little or nothing about the childhood of Jesus. The reading opens with John the Baptist testifying to the people around him as to what he had seen. When Jesus was baptized by John, John saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove and remain on Jesus. This was a sign to John that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. The next day John sees Jesus and identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God. Two of John’s disciples hear this and follow Jesus and begin to ask him questions. Rather than have a long discussion with these disciples, Jesus issues a simple invitation, “Come and See.”come and experience it all for yourselves After a few hours with Jesus, the disciples were telling people that they had found the Messiah.

John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said to his disciples that Jesus was the Lamb of God. When John’s disciples followed Jesus, they expected to see the Messiah. The Pharisees, Sadducees and Chief Priests anticipated threats to their power. When they saw Jesus, they didn’t see the Messiah—but only a challenge to their power and authority.

Jesus asked the first disciples, “What do you want” or “What are you looking for?”

It is one of the fundamental questions of life.

What are the people who live in the homes surrounding this church building looking for? What do they want? Isn't it something to believe in and hold on to, something important enough to live for, and something big enough to claim their adoration and praise.

Are they not looking for challenge and purpose?

Are they not looking for God?

“Come and see” is how the disciples’ story begins.

This is an invitation to catch a glimpse of God, and if we catch a glimpse of God we will catch a glimpse of who we can be!

The people who follow Jesus end up doing many of the kinds of things that Jesus did.

They care for the hurting, listen to the lonely, feed the hungry, pray for the brokenhearted, bandage those who are wounded, and do more than is expected.

Jesus invites each one of us to come and see. Come and see what he can do in your life, come and see just what he is capable of and willing to do for you. Jesus invites you to a new life, a new understanding but you have to accept the invitation, you have to be willing to “Come and see”.

We are called to see what God sees when God looks at the world, to abide with God in the places where God lives, and to share that passion by being God’s presence in this world and bringing others to Jesus. Accepting Jesus’ invitation we follow him and in doing so we see, hear, touch, taste and smell what life, mission, and ministry are like with Jesus. We are immersed in the experience of God not of church. When we meet God when we go and learn, when we go and listen and understand our lives have to change, we have to become more Christlike the more time we spend with him the more he influences us.

There are occasions, though, when we look but do not see, and seek but do not find. We often blame God and say that God has left us or is not listening to us, when this happens. But actually our spiritual eyes are playing tricks on us.

We often see God in only the good things that happen. When we are comfortable, content, and secure we view ourselves as blessed by God and have no trouble seeing God. If our comfort, contentment, or security are taken from us, when we feel ourselves threatened, we frequently focus intently on the problem. We examine it so closely that we can see nothing else—not even Jesus. Pausing to step back and look around we may discover that Jesus was right by our side all the time.

Revd Chris

8th January 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Luke 2:1-21

The 8th day of January holds special meaning for myself and for my family. It is the day, our daughter was born. Like all mothers I remember it well. If you ask me where or what I was doing on a certain date I would have trouble telling you, but this day, along with dates such as my wedding day and the birthday of my son, I can recall with clarity.

Why am I telling you this?

The 8th of January falls soon after Christmas and there seems no time between Christmas and the celebrations for her birthday, presents have been bought for both events at the same time, sometimes excess Christmas presents have been re-wrapped as birthday presents.

I remember the Christmas before she was born, I was heavily pregnant and even celebrating Christmas Day was a real chore, but it did make me think more about Mary, and I really empathised with her that year more than any other before or since.

My bag was packed, I knew where I would give birth, I knew I would be in a warm building, with a bed, with professionals trained in aiding birth, with people who could help if there were problems. I even had the advantage of this birth being a second one……but Mary!

How different was her story, a young girl, a first birth and to a virgin. A birth that would come after a long journey (there is no mention of her riding on a donkey by the way) in a strange place. Did she really have to go with Joseph, or was that a way to protect her from the local gossips.

When they arrived at their destination they couldn’t find anywhere to stay, just like many people today who are forced to flee their home lands, through war, droughts and famine. Where do you go in that circumstance.

Joseph and Mary had nowhere to go until they were allowed to shelter with the animals in an outhouse/ stable/cave.

We are spared the details of the birth, did God have pity on Mary and allow an easy quick birth or did she labour for hours, did Joseph find a local village woman to help Mary? Did Mary have any baby blues or postnatal depression? Or was she always as serene as our nativity stories and plays depict.

Mary gave birth and laid her baby in the feeding trough used by the animals.

I wonder how the animals felt about that!

Part of the process of welcoming a baby into the family is to choose a name for them, a name which is attached for life. The name our daughter was given means star. The name Mary's child, Jesus, was given means the Lord is Salvation, he was also called Immanuel, God with us.

God is with us through all aspects of our lives, the good and the bad and all between.

Mary's child has been born, history has been fulfilled and we can rejoice.

Revd Chris

1st January 2023 Thoughts

Reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

The reading is taken from a book in the Old Testament which is in a group called the Wisdom Literature or Writings. The name of the author is uncertain although some attribute it to King Solomon, writing in his old age. One of the basic ideas in this book is that there is a time and a season for everything. Just as we expect certain weather and events in the seasons of the year so there are seasons in our lives.

When we were younger our peers all seemed to be getting married, then they all seemed to be having children, then grandchildren. We move from celebrating weddings to a period when all those around us are inviting us to funerals. One generation gives way to the next. We go from being children enjoying Christmas lunch cooked and prepared for us to the ones cooking for parents and then to having our children prepare the meal for us, just one example of seasons and tides.

Ecclesiastes encourages us to see that there are many different times ‘under heaven’, some of them very dark indeed.

We all have different experiences of the various times and seasons of life. Some of us have experienced the joy and trials of children, some of us have lived fruitful happy lives as independent self sufficient people. All our lives have come for different points, we all have different stories and experiences to share.

Ecclesiastes has a list of actions which are both positive and negative, in the last few years the experience we had with Covid taught us that embracing is not always appropriate. We have all had times in our lives which have been positive and negative, perhaps with an overlap but not always. Sometimes those periods have been short-lived sometimes they have lasted for longer. The experiences we have are all different and unique to each one of us, no one can fully understand how someone else is feeling, sometimes there are no words we can offer.

We can only be aware that others are in a different season to us.

Part of the list in the reading is ‘a time to build and a time to tear down’. There is challenge within the words ‘a time to build and a time to tear down’. And the new year seems a good opportunity to consider prayerfully where we are as a church community. Are there things we do that need to stop because they are not or no longer fruitful? Are there things such as the Tuesday Club or the Discussion Group that have been started but could and should grow, that need to be built up?

Are there other things we can do to support each other in the different seasons and chapters of life.

Revd Chris