Thought for the Day

25th March 2023

John 8:6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.

Have you noticed how any politician answers instantaneously, without thought. They have set answers ready and even if they do not answer the actual question they fire out the point they want to make and just keep repeating it. Any question that is asked needs a proper reply and an actual answer. We all have time and we all need to take time. In the world 2 countries stand out as being able to sit with silence, to think before they act or speak, they are Japan and Finland. Notably the 2 worst countries at taking time, at sitting with silence are the USA and the UK. The need to fill the silence, to talk incessantly, to reply whether relevant or not, is, it seems, how we think life should be lived. Jesus was prepared to take time, even when others were pressuring Him, time to think about His answers before giving them, to actually answer the question asked. This is the example we need to follow. Do not let ourselves be rushed into a reply, do not rush others into a reply, listen to a question fully and then answer the question. It is far better to give a truthful, honest and relevant answer than to just fill the silence with hot air. 

24th March 2023

John 4:7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’.

Have you noticed how direct Jesus is with people. Even people who others would avoid, not engage with or just ignore. Jesus jumps straight in. Jesus, a Jew asks a Samaritan for something and she is a woman, all the usual social norms are challenged. Jesus doesn’t make polite conversation but digs in and goes deeper. Jesus doesn’t play games. Doesn’t get side tracked. He knows, the Samaritan woman can’t hide. So, she begins to open up, but there are still issues; as a Jew, Jesus is part of a nation that despises and rejects her people, who will not accept any other way of doing things. When we talk to people do we just make polite conversation or look for what lies behind, what is really at the heart of someone’s need. We need to look deeper and ask what can we really do to help? Jesus offers more than just actual water. He offers a complete change of life and her reply is that He cannot be serious, can he? Who does He think He is, greater than our ancestor Jacob? There is something about this man, His honesty and directness, it brings people in. When we are honest, direct and look beyond the front, we too bring people in. 

23rd March 2023

Exodus 17:3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’

The Israelites, in Exodus, had been rescued from the Egyptians and slavery by God but they had constantly turned against Him and were still wandering in the desert. They had hardened their hearts against the very God who had constantly cared for them and not let them down, but time after time they moaned and groaned and put that relationship with God at risk. It is a constant story throughout the Old Testament. Our way rather than God’s way, we know better than God. It was not just the Israelites who thought like this but everyone through history and us as well. We honestly think we know better than God and when we constantly end up in a mess of our own making, who is still there to pick us up and care for us? God is! God kept fighting for His people even when they turned away, God keeps fighting for us even when we keep turning away. No matter how often we turn away God will always be there if we call to Him.

22nd March 2023

James 1:19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

Do you like to talk? Perhaps you are someone who likes to talk about themselves constantly. There is a story of 2 Americans on a flight from east coast to west coast. One a very rich Texan who loved climbing mountains talked incessantly throughout the flight. He talked of his adventures, the views he had seen, the equipment he had, he talked and talked. The other man politely listened. As they arrived the Texan getting ready to get off said, oh by the way I forgot to ask your name. The man who had sat and listened for hours said Hi, I am Neil Armstrong. The first man to walk on the moon, did not big himself up, did not butt in, but listened. Yet had the Texan been willing to listen for just a moment he would have heard about going to the moon. It is so easy to get caught up in ourselves that we lose sight of others, their accomplishments, their contributions to our world. Every human has a part to play, for some it will be far more impressive than others, but all are needed to make our world work. Sometimes we need to just listen to others and maybe discover a treasure that we would otherwise have missed with all our talking.

21st March 2023

John 4:14b The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

The huge growth in bottled and filtered water reminds us that water is not only necessary for life but is also a money spinner. So, when the Bible talks of life giving water, who wouldn’t want it? yes please, whether it be the resentful Israelites struggling with thirst in the desert in Exodus 17 or the Samaritan woman at the Well whose need is not actually physical but spiritual, or ourselves. It is Jesus asking for a drink, who starts the conversation, and finds a way in. She is a Samaritan and Jesus is trying to make clear that His living water, His mission, is for Jews and Samaritans, in fact it is for everyone who wants it. Even in the Samaritan woman’s vagueness Jesus sees clearly what she needs. Even in our vagueness God sees clearly what we need, what we are struggling to communicate. As Jesus talks to her, He reveals His knowledge of her and her dry life, she realises her need, and becomes a witness to Jesus, a messenger of His love, of His life giving water and she brings the people to Him.

20th March 2023

Proverbs 31:26-27 A mother opens her mouth with wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the ways of her household, and is never idle.

Growing up with 2 sons we lived superhero’s, had the action figures, watched the films and built the Lego. Who are your favourite superhero’s? What attracts you to them? Webster's dictionary says they are exceptionally skilful or successful people often with superhuman powers. Superhero’s have certain things in common; they help people, they have special powers and skills, they are normal people with normal lives, they are available all the time and they stand up for good, right, justice and fairness. Jesus was a superhero, healing people, helping people, standing up for people against injustice and wrongdoing. His mum Mary was also a superhero, sticking by her son, dealing with him being persecuted, wrongly punished and watching Him die on the cross. All Mum’s are superhero’s, they juggle family, work, washing, cooking, cleaning, packed lunches, school runs, nursing, games, singing, smiling, sadness, joy, illness, they do it all. We are who we are because of our mums. Even when we shout at her, slam doors in her face, blame her, tell her we hate her, stay out to worry her, she still loves us. Our mum’s are superhero’s because they stick with us through thick and thin. Let’s try to appreciate them more every day and to thank all the women in our lives who have made a difference, cared for us, loved us, supported us and to thank God for them.

19th March 2023

John 19:27 Jesus said to the disciple “Here is your mother” and from that hour the disciple took Mary into his own home.

I am very aware that the plight of women in Afghanistan is just getting worse. Female doctors are not allowed to practice now but are also disappearing. They are seen as a threat because they are women who are educated and the men in this very patriarchal society will not allow this because their patriarchy is challenged. As we celebrate Mothering Sunday we need to be very appreciative of all women, our mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmas, daughters, neighbours and friends. We are all children of someone even if we do not have children ourselves. We all like to be seen and heard and appreciated for who we are. The sad truth is that women and Mum’s are often not seen, it is far too easy, even in our supposedly modern society, to become invisible and taken for granted as a mum and as a woman. We need to be reminded that God sees you and I and all women, created equal. God values you and I and all women, as much as any other person. We also need to be reminded that God sees us all and when we disrespect women, mums, girls, God is not happy with us and would challenge that behaviour within us to change. Today, Mothering Sunday, allows us to show our Mums and all the amazing women and girls in our lives just how special they are and how much we appreciate them.

18th March 2023

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Yesterday was St Patrick’s Day. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland; this Saints day has been observed for over a thousand years. It is always in the season of Lent and has been the opportunity to take a day out from the austerity of Lent to celebrate, to dance and feast. Patrick was born in the late 4th century in Roman Britain. As a young boy he was kidnapped by Irish Pirates and taken into slavery where he grew up for the next 6 years. He managed to escape and find his way home and in the time as a slave and then as he returned home he found a growing faith in God. In his difficulties and troubles, he met with people who were calm, taking life a day at a time, a step at a time and seeking God’s wisdom and help. He was so impressed that he became a Christian and dedicated his life to serving God. Back in England he trained to become a priest and felt that his calling was to return to Ireland and work with the people he had met and those who had kidnapped him. The stories about Patrick show his true and honest nature. They also show his awareness of his surroundings and situations. His living day by day. His mindful nature. He learned and taught a lot about not worrying about tomorrow or next week or next year but accepting life as it is and living it well. It was not about storing up wealth on earth but in Heaven. Allowing God to use him to care for others, to show others love and compassion. The treasures of heaven are not wealth, gold, position or power, the treasures of heaven, of God, are people. Patrick realised this and spent his life being mindful of others.

17th March 2023

Psalm 1:3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

Throughout the book of Psalms there is an emphasis on the joy and peace that comes from meditating on the Law. By the Law they do not mean rules and regulations but a much wider broader category. At its heart are the 10 commandments but also the context in which they were given, the theological history of Israel in the Pentateuch; the first 5 books of the Bible; and the rabbinical commentary and debate on these books and the developing traditions of Israel. It is this, God’s action, His story, the argument, the debate, God’s revelation to us, it is this that the Psalmist tells us to meditate on, ponder, think about and to sink our roots into and be nourished by. The soil is the place where the tree roots are nourished, move, grow, develop, and secure the tree. The Bible is our soil, the law, the history, the revelation is all in there and this is where we need to be securely rooted. These secure roots hold us in place when the storms come. The Psalms speak of difficult times that come to all of us. Our rootedness in God’s word gives us resilience. Roots are not just anchors of stability but living, growing things on a continuous journey to find nourishment. They follow the path that is best for them, where they will find water and nourishment.

16th March 2023

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.

I love the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I wonder if you have read it. It is very much a family favourite with young ones. The story is about a tiny egg on a leaf which hatches into a caterpillar on a Sunday morning, He eats and eats and eats, but is still hungry. The next Sunday he built a small house called a cocoon and stayed in there for more than two weeks. He nibbled a hole in the cocoon and pushed his way out. He was not a caterpillar anymore; he was now a beautiful butterfly. In John 3 we meet Nicodemus who came to Jesus late one night, because he was hungry. Unlike the caterpillar Nicodemus wasn't looking for a late-night snack; Nicodemus was hungry for spiritual food. He was hungry for the truth about the kingdom of God. He came to Jesus because he had questions and he knew that Jesus would have the answers. Nicodemus reminds me of the very hungry caterpillar. Jesus tells him we need to be born again, that means when the Spirit of God enters our heart and gives birth to a new spiritual life. This is life as a Christian with Jesus and that’s what it means to be born again. When the caterpillar came out of his cocoon, he was a new creation. A butterfly! That's the way it is when we are born again and let Jesus come into our hearts. He makes us a new creation! We are born again.

15th March 2023

Acts 17:26 From one human he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

Article 1 of the Declaration of Human Rights says “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Every human is entitled to basic rights as a human regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, politics, opinion, origin, birth, property or any other status. Shamefully inequality is spreading across the world, expanding poverty, discrimination, division, intolerance and hate. Even climate change, pollution and loss of nature is a violation of all our basic rights because it changes the world order and impacts the most vulnerable, most of all. Abhorrent abuse against women and children, forced labour, trafficking, modern slavery, poverty, hunger, hate crime, imprisonment, torture and death, physical, mental and verbal abuse, all because someone is disabled, a child, transgender, LGBTQ+, female, a migrant, from a certain descent or culture, from a certain religion, of a certain colour of skin. The very sad fact is that we treat our pets better than we do the most vulnerable in society. Every human is created by God, all equal, all human and each one is of equal value and treasured by Him. No one is more or less worthy, no one has more or less rights than another. We need to respect differences and to understand that all are human and all are equal before God and thus treat each other well.

14th March 2023

John 4:27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman.

How do you feel when someone interrupts your conversation with someone else? I see it a lot in church, someone will interrupt others to speak to me, they think their cause is more important. It is not and we all need to be more patient with each other. Often the disciples interrupt Jesus conversations to try and force Him to follow usual rules or to triage people into levels of importance. Jesus has none of it. Anyone who needs Him will be seen and helped. Any meeting with Jesus is a meeting at the right time, God’s time, and is life changing and life giving. Jesus died for everyone. Everyone needs to meet Jesus and we are the way that happens. We are the introduction not the triage. Our conversations, our challenges to the norm. Our caring for society. These are catalysts for transformation, for change. The kind words, the simple deeds, the friendship and neighbourly behaviour, the challenge to injustice and unfairness, our being open and honest…..this is what changes people, what shares faith and brings people to God. We need to be relevant, challenging, and honest, just like Jesus was, so that every meeting will be a meeting in God’s time, in God’s way.

13th March 2023

Matthew 7:12 Treat all people the same way you would want them to treat you.

The Golden rule is an ethical principle of treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves. It exists in every religion in forms of wishing the best for the other, not doing or wishing harm on anyone, treating the other with respect. Even for those of no faith it is part of democracy, of mutual respect and basic human kindness. It is a reminder that our words and actions are capable of inflicting harm and immorality on our fellow humans. Within Christianity it ties into the Jewish law and the prophets which teach that if something would cause you harm then you do not do that to anyone else. It sits within the whole realm of relationships, how we relate to and interact with each other and ultimately with God our creator. From God comes the virtue of kindness which we should reflect to each other. God put himself into our place through Jesus and acted accordingly and so we put ourselves in the place of the other and act accordingly. A good test is to ask ourselves; how would we feel if it was us? Jesus put himself into our shoes, walked with us, gave himself for us, may we put ourselves into the shoes of others and walk with them, treating them with dignity, respect, kindness just as we would want others to do for us.

12th March 2023

Exodus 2:19 They said, ‘An Egyptian helped us against the shepherds; he even drew water for us and watered the flock.’

Places of meeting were very important in the past, before the times of community halls, villages had places of meeting for everyone to come together and before we had running water in houses, there were wells and places where families had to go for water. There are still many of these places in our world where this is still happening and children die from dirty water because there are no proper fresh wells. In the Old Testament encountering someone at a well is very scriptural, Abraham’s servant meeting Rebekah at the well and introducing her to Isaac. In Genesis 24. Jacob meeting Rachel at the well in Genesis 29 and Moses meeting his wife at the well in Exodus 2. Wells are a source of life-giving water. We can survive far longer without food than water. Water refreshes, energises, gives life, it washes clean. Life as we know it cannot exist without water. Water is an image used in the Bible for life, an image of a God who provides for those who thirst with the literal water of life but also the spiritual water of life in Jesus. The need to be fed and watered is necessary for human life but also for heavenly life. God offers that life giving water to us.

11th March 2023

John 1:23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

When I talk about something I find that if I make a good point I can be dismissed as not really knowing what I am talking about. This old way, often used in politics, or by men with women, is to try to make the other person look stupid by attacking them, not actually making or justifying their actual argument. In Jesus time anyone who spoke up did need to justify who they were, the Pharisee’s would ask who they were to question or challenge them. They would ask if they were Elijah or a prophet. When John comes along challenging these leaders, their religious practice and preaching hellfire and brimstone, they are wanting to discredit him as quickly as they can. They ask who he is and the reply is from the prophet Isaiah, one calling in the wilderness, preparing the way, baptising, pointing toward the Messiah and to Jesus and pointing out that neither he or they are worthy. John knows his role; He knows who Jesus is. Do we know who Jesus really is? Do we know our role in pointing others to Jesus? Others will try to discredit us but we need to be secure in Knowing God and knowing exactly who Jesus.

10th March 2023

Matthew 11: 4 “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Has anyone ever asked you If you are the one they are expecting? I have often introduced myself as the vicar from the local church when I knock on a door for a visit. They don’t necessarily know me but I do hope the dog collar is a clue and that they are expecting me. John the Baptist is Jesus’ cousin, he has been pointing the way to Jesus, he baptised Jesus, he had seen and heard the miracles, heard the voice of God, preached his hellfire sermons in the desert and then ended up in prison. From this awful place he begins to question who Jesus is. John asks are you the one? Are you the answer to my prayers? Because right now from where he is sitting in a prison cell Jesus is not quite what he was expecting. Jesus warns us about our expectations, we have an idea about who Jesus or God should be. Like john we need reminding about those things we do actually know about God and His love for us, instead of our often unrealistic and unfounded expectations. We have our parts to play in the story of the gospel, just like John did, and we need to see God at work in each other and rely on what we know of God, not what we expect.

9th March 2023

Proverbs 24:27 Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.

As I left for school yesterday (Wednesday) morning, there big flakes of snow falling fast, much of the ground and parked vehicles had a good dollop of snow already deposited on them. The main roads were okay, slushy, wet and if we were sensible, they were safe. By the time I reached school the flakes became sleet and less frequent. The school grounds were well covered and the school road was difficult. School opened but later than usual. A few hours later I was on a train, by now the sleet was rain and little snow was even visible but the trains were a mess, messages about disruption and travellers leaving earlier. All this snow had been predicted, they were virtually spot on with the time of the snow and then the rain and yet some travel was just not ready for it. Roads had not been gritted, train tracks not cleared and gritted, disruption everywhere even though we knew it was coming. As humans we are very good at not taking notice of warnings, of not being prepared, of thinking we know better. Time and again God warned, God gave not just hints but clear prophecies, clear happenings, and clear outcomes, yet humans decided we knew better. Jesus came, fulfilled the prophecies, performed miracles, gave the teaching but humans knew better and we still think we do. If we can put aside the pride, be willing to listen and learn, see Jesus for who He is then we will always be prepared for whatever come our way.

8th March 2023

Matthew 17:1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

Sometimes we wonder what the purpose of things are. Why did that happen? Why does that make me feel like that? We may ask the same questions about Bible stories and events in Jesus’ life. The purpose of the transfiguration story for the disciples and us is that Jesus is seen in a more heavenly form, the disciples who were present could gain a greater understanding of who Jesus actually was. This dramatic change in appearance allows the disciples to behold Him in His true glory. They had only known Him in His human body, now they had a greater understanding of the deity of Christ, though they could not fully comprehend it. This offers them reassurance of exactly who He is after hearing the news of His coming death. Sometimes we need to see exactly who God is so we can keep going through the difficulties and troubles of this world.

7th March 2023

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

I have recently been trying to locate an old bank account. The bank was bought out and accounts transferred but somewhere along the way the details of the new account did not get to me. I am using a verified Bank account finder that our banks have to provide to the public. I have been asked all sorts of questions and as I commented, if I knew all the things you are asking me then my account would not actually be lost. Part of the issue is that when accounts are taken over we rely on the banks communicating with us but the communication can be lost in old addresses, changed names, a different way of access to before, no more statements or cheque books, a lack of effort on their part and ours. It is all so easy in our busy lives. The key is recognising that the account is lost, realising we need to find it. The key in life is recognising we are lost, that God has found us and is their waiting but we must seek Him. Whatever our change of address, name, age etc, He is right there but we can only see Him, meet Him when we recognise we are lost and allow Him to find us.

6th March 2023

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

God is perfect and just and good, but we humans are not. My life, your life is full of flaws; we make mistakes every day; we don’t live as God wants us to. And it’s not just our personal life; the world is full of injustice, things that aren’t right. People are taken advantage of; the poor don’t have enough to eat; the rich get richer and people suffer. Challenging these things, that is God’s righteousness. Seeking to grow more and more like Jesus in the way we live, and doing all we can to make the world a more just, a more righteous place, that is God’s righteousness that we need to seek. That’s the choice. Live for ourselves or live for God and his righteousness. We make that choice every time we pray the Lord’s prayer. We ask God to give us what we need for each day. We ask Him to look after our basic needs as we seek to manifest His kingdom on earth. In the current cost of living crisis and increasing ethical divide, either we can live for nothing other than our own survival; or we can ask the question, what kind of lifestyle most honours God, seeks His righteousness and then go after that.

5th March 2023

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

We all have days when we want to give up. I will often say out loud just stop the world I want to get off. Yet I usually manage to keep going, most of us do. When we feel like giving up, we might need reminding that God loves us and wants each one of us to live life to the full! God's plan for each of us is to bless us and not to harm us. If we're struggling in life, we need to carry on, not give up, there are better things to come! There are often things that demand our time and attention that we actually should leave behind; bad habits, unhealthy relationships, jobs that challenge our faith and practice. We must keep fighting for what is good and right, for justice and peace. We need to allow God to strengthen us to fight for our relationships, to fight for our children, fight for our health and don't give up! Be assured we are not alone and we are in the protective and strengthening hands of God. He will provide us with strength when we need it. He will renew our strength as we need it and we must not give up.

4th March 2023

Matthew 17:4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

We do like to keep good experiences and feelings in our lives. Take a picture, build a cairn, leave a mark, it makes us feel better. At this momentous occasion of seeing Jesus changed on the Mountain top Peter wants to put up shelters as a sign of God’s presence. Peter did not want to move on, he was expressing a wish to stay in that Holy place. Something we all like to do. Let’s put God in a box in this special place and keep things as they are. We desire to live off a special experience and lose sight of the reality before us which needs us to be Christians in the real world. The mountain top experience is over. What goes up must come down. God will bless us in these wonderful places but then we must return to normal life and use His blessing to make us better Christians in the real world. As we move further into Lent, we will be tempted to stay in those holy, mountain top places rather than join Jesus in His walk to Jerusalem and the cross.

3rd March 2023

Deuteronomy 6:6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.

These words come from the Shema, part of a daily Jewish prayer that speaks of remembering and teaching young people the right way to live. Within Judaism faith is passed on in families through the traditions being lived on a daily basis. During the Holocaust the millions of murdered Jews continued praying, observing the festivals in concentration and death camps even facing punishment and death. The persecution of a group of people because of what they believe or where the come from, the colour of skin or their accent is completely unacceptable and yet we see it daily in the UK. The inflammatory language around refugees and those escaping war and intolerance only to arrive here and be treated so appallingly. Ordinary people who can be turned to fascist beliefs by stoked newspaper reports and right-wing MP’s who curry favour with those who they do not properly represent but encourage them to see the other as the threat not the undemocratic ways of their government. We can make decisions to challenge hatred and prejudice or sit by and do nothing. We can speak out against religious, racial and identity-based persecution or just want a quiet life. We have a choice but if we don’t act we will lose our choice, if we allow others to lose their freedoms we will lose ours and there will be no one left to speak out for us. We are called to justice and fairness for all.

2nd March 2023

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

For those of you who do not know me I am a rugby fan, I have been a follower of Wales since a child, I played before women’s rugby became a norm and both my sons still play. Following Wales has had its ups and downs, currently we are in a down and people take great delight in telling me about Wales losing or not playing well. In the same way life has its ups and downs, times when we are on top, all is good and we seem to win, but then the times in the doldrums, when we seem to lose and everyone takes great delight in rubbing our noses in our failures. Christians fail, we get it wrong, we suffer at the hands of others and circumstances and people sure love to tell us when we fail. God though, sticks with us, supports us, does not rub our noses in it, but simply encourages us to keep faith with him, to let Him support us and find our way back to the right way. A true fan does not give up on their team, even when they are unsuccessful, God never gives up on us, whatever the circumstance, whatever the situation and whatever anyone else says to us.

1st March 2023

Luke 16:10 One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

Today is St David’s Day. St David is the patron saint of Wales and St David’s, in Pembrokeshire, is the smallest city in Britain. It is a wonderful place and well worth a visit. St David had a phrase, do the small things well. He believed that if we do the basics of faith well, the rest falls into place. Simply this means as Christians we need to pray, read the Bible and love one another. As we pray and read, God works within us, showing us how to live, how to change, how to be honest, fair and true. As we love one another things change, people grow and relationships develop. If everything we do is done out of love, done for God and for His kingdom then there is never any malice or hatred, never any judgement or criticism. Friends if we do the small things well, if we try to be like St David, God will make sure that the rest will all slot into place.

28th February 2023

Luke 24:44 Then He said to them, 'These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.'

In the Church of England, we base our faith on Scripture, Tradition and Reason, a threefold approach which allows us to move forward as we learn more and understand more. When Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus at the Transfiguration, they represent the Law and the Prophets; the twofold basis for Jewish teaching and faith. God now makes it clear to everyone who will listen that the Law and the Prophets must give way to Jesus; the One who is the new and living way is replacing the old, He is the fulfilment of the Law and the countless prophecies in the Old Testament. Jesus will be seated at the right hand of God, He will be enthroned as King of kings and Lord of lords, after His death and resurrection. His disciples and followers, are going to establish God’s kingdom on earth through Jesus. His teaching is in our scripture, our traditions grow from this and our reason comes through our education and learning, which allows us to interpret this for our current and future lives. But there is a warning for all of us, if we think we have all the answers for everyone then we are deluded. Only Jesus has and is the answer.

27th February 2023

Matthew 6:18b Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Are you good at giving things up? Some of us are no good at saying no and often end up being very busy people. Giving up certain food or fasting completely can be difficult but can also be beneficial if done properly. Lent is a time of giving up, certain foods, even certain joyful activities. In early times Lent involved a very strict fast. People did nothing that was enjoyable during Lent. Sundays were the only day when joy and song were permitted, but these songs and hymns had to be very solemn. No Gloria was sung or said. It still isn’t. It was a time of deep contemplation and prayer. However a person choses to fast or give things up, the most important part of Lent is the contemplation and prayer as we move forward to Easter, as we walk with Jesus towards the cross of Good Friday. On Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day we ate up all the fatty stuff, so as to have a very plain and simple diet in Lent. The word Shrove comes from Shrive, to confess sins. Then on Ash Wednesday as Lent began, ash was purified after burning, a cross marked on the forehead as a sign of repentance, forgiveness and remembering we are as Humans, created from Dust and we will return to dust. As we realise and reflect on our need for forgiveness Lent offers a time to pray, read, ponder and contemplate change as we move towards Easter. 

26th February 2023

2 Peter 1:16a &18 But we were eyewitnesses of His majesty…..We ourselves heard the voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain.

When something really good happens we enjoy it, when life is up and great, we want it to stay like that. We want to stay on holiday, at the party, at the wedding. We take pictures and make memories. We often call, these experiences Mountain top experiences. We do not forget those mountain top experiences, some of them, as Christians, we relish; those times we feel closer to God, the places we find security and want to stay there, but we must come down into the real world, we must bring the security and blessing with us and allow it to encourage us and bring blessing to others. The disciples never forgot what happened to them. John wrote in his gospel, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only”. Those who witnessed the mountain top bore witness to it to the other disciples and to countless millions of us down through the centuries. Friends, I encourage you to recall and remember those special times with God and allow them to bless you again and again, encourage you to keep going and assure you of God’s risen power and His unconditional love for you. 

25th February 2023

Matthew 4:1a Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.

I wonder how much you know about the season of Lent? It began on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 6 weeks, not including Sundays, that is 40 days leading up to Easter. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week. Lent is an old English word meaning 'lengthen'. Lent is observed in spring, when the days begin to get longer or lengthen. It commemorates Jesus 40 days in the Desert after His baptism before his ministry commences. A Time of preparation. Priests still do this today, not for 40 days but for a short time they go on retreat to prepare themselves. Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray before beginning his work for God. He was tempted several times by Satan but was able to resist. Lent allows Christians to remember Jesus's fasting in the desert. It is a time of giving things up and a test of self-discipline. There are many foods that some Christians do not eat in Lent, such as meat and fish, fats, eggs, and milky foods. Some Christians give up something they really enjoy, such as cakes or chocolate. Some fast one day each week, some fast a meal every day, some fast in daylight hours. There is no prescriptive way of doing it. It is more about what a person believes God is asking of them. Whatever tradition we are from the challenge is to use our time in Lent wisely, to give up the bad habits of judging, arguing, criticising, and to try to establish new and better habits of compassion, peace, empathy. Perhaps an act of kindness each day, giving to charity, volunteering, write a poem or thought each day, phone someone each day. These are things we can all do, not just in Lent but at any time to make life better for everyone.

24th February 2023

Matthew 16:5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

On Ash Wednesday I had an uneasy feeling. We read the passage in Matthew telling us not to show off when we fast , pray and give and then we put a big ash cross on our foreheads and walked around like that all day. The two things seem at cross purposes, please pardon the pun. I do find that the cross provokes questions, I am not in rags or making myself look in a terrible state, so I am as normal as I can be. This cross is not to show off but it is a reminder of sin. We are all sinners, no matter how hard we might try to claim otherwise. We are all hypocrites, I might not see you or you me behaving in that way publicly, but we all look down on others, criticise behind peoples backs, make judgements about others and their life, their faith and belief. We all judge so easily but that cross reminds us we too are sinners; we too are judged and we too need forgiveness. Through this lent may we make the effort to cast off the bad habits, the judging and criticising and endeavour to take up the better habits of encouragement, praise and care.

23rd February 2023

Matthew 17:5b “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Many of us speak about our future, what we want, where we will study, then live, children, grandchildren. We desire a future but we have no guarantees. Jesus clearly spoke out on several occasions about His future, that He would suffer, be killed, and be raised to life. That must have been difficult for His friends to hear. To give them a glimpse of who He really is Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain to pray. Physically going up makes us feel nearer to God, to Heaven. While praying, His personal appearance changed into a glorified form, and His clothing became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appear, representing the Law and the Prophets with God’s literal word, Jesus. A cloud envelops them, a voice says, “This is My Son, whom I have chosen, whom I love; listen to Him!” You listen to Moses, you listen to Elijah, now listen to my Son, my word. The cloud lifted; all is back to normal. In this moment the disciples got a glimpse of the future, of Jesus glory, of who Jesus really is. Our real future is in God’s hands and He will and does take care of every moment if we let Him.

22nd February 2023

Genesis 3:19 From dust you came and to dust you shall return.

Today we begin Lent, this first day is Ash Wednesday where we recognise the wrong doing in our lives and are marked with an ash cross on our forehead as a symbol of our repentance and desire to change. Ash is a result of fire burning away impurities and leaving ash. The people of the Bible would wear sackcloth and cover themselves in ashes as a sign of their repentance, their turning from sin and desire to become better by taking away "burning" away the bad things in life. It is also a reminder that we were brought to life by God from the dust of the earth at creation. As we move through Lent, we recognise our need to turn from sin, our need for forgiveness, our need to be more prayerful, more faithful and less selfish. We walk with Christ as He heads towards Jerusalem and His death, we move from Christmas to Easter, from birth to death and then beyond to the resurrection. It may seem a long way off but day by day, step by step we walk with Christ.

21st February 2023

Joel 2:12 “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Today is Shrove Tuesday or in France Mardi Gras. On this day before Lent begins the tradition is to eat up all the fats so that Lent sees us have a minimal diet, a disciplined life of fasting, praying and getting ready for Easter. Eggs, fat and flour mixed up and cooked makes pancakes. Thus, it has become known as Pancake Day. The name Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday, the Tuesday we eat up all the fats. These days most people just enjoy pancakes but have no real idea of why we eat them. In schools the reason is sometimes told but so often Lent and its preparation for Easter is ignored. Traditions such as pancake races supposedly come from someone making pancakes, hearing the bells ring to call folk to church and running there with the pancake still in the pan. For Christians it is a mark of the liturgical season changing, now is a time to prepare, to live better, to give things up and be disciplined. It is an opportunity to walk forward towards Easter knowing that before victory comes torture and death and to be ready to walk with Jesus on this journey of eternal life through death.

20th February 2023

John 8:12 Jesus said, I am the light of the World, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

John’s gospel contains these I am sayings, they use common recognised things in daily life to explain who Jesus is and why He has come. Darkness is difficult, not being able to see, feeling unsafe, it is the common narrative on bad things, under cover of darkness crime is committed. Light allows us to see clearly, it pervades into corners and small places, the torch app we use on our phones can shine under the bed or in a dark place so we can find something. Jesus speaks of being light because He shines in the dark places, His light shows the corruption and darkness of those who wish to operate in hidden places, those who would use cover of darkness to commit crime. We are also that light, we have the light of life because we follow Jesus, we are people who shine into dark places, hold people to account, challenge wrongdoing in others as well as in ourselves. If we are followers of Jesus then our own lives should be full of light, shining, full of compassion, honesty, integrity, and empathy. We show the love of God by being light in this dark world. Our behaviour matters because we are setting the tone, the example to others. 

19th February 2023

Proverbs 17:28 Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

In places of work, families, clubs, wherever we meet together there is gossip. Someone who says “Did you know?” “Guess what?” “I’ve just heard that…” we listen intently as we are told something which may not actually be true, or maybe private or none of our business, and then we happily pass it on without concern for the harm we may do. To try and remedy this in myself I ask myself three questions about anything I say, firstly is it necessary? Then is it true? And finally, is it kind? So often gossip starts because we say things which are not necessary, we comment when it is none of our business and we can begin unnecessary rumours. So, if it’s not necessary to say something, don’t. Most importantly about anything we do say is that we need to know for certain it is true. We should never repeat lies or conjecture. If we are not sure we must check the truth of anything or remain quiet. Finally, we need what we say to be kind and good. If nothing we say about someone is good and kind then we should say nothing. Is it necessary, true and kind? if not, let’s keep silent.

18th February 2023

Matthew 5:14b A City built on a hill cannot be hidden.

I do love aerial photos of cities, you get a different perspective, but I also love the ones taken from space at night where you can see the light generated and so clearly visible. For years people have complained about the light pollution our cities create. It has become virtually impossible to see the stars when you live in or near a city. A city is not a place that you keep hidden, they are big, they stand out and if a city is built on a hill, it is clearly visible to everyone. A city at night, is a collection of lights. Street lights, buildings lit up, lights to frame a special building, lights to warn planes of tall buildings. Lights everywhere, clearly visible. A city shows off its presence, says look at me, I’m big and bold and here. We are called to be big and bold and here as Christians in our community. To live in truth and bring light. In many ways we are called to be light pollution like the big cities are, not so the heavens cannot be seen, but so God and His heavens can be seen, can be experienced because we become the light to the world who cannot be hidden.

17th February 2023

Luke 12:22b Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.

Daily life gets on top of us sometimes. There are days, weeks even months when everything seems to be a struggle and we feel like we are just existing. Money troubles, illness, bereavement, job loss, rising energy bills, each can bring us low for short or long periods of time. There is no safeguard against this for anyone, and for those with wealth and security it can be easier to cope, but not always. Jesus never tells us that we, his followers, will have an easy ride. In fact, He clearly warns the opposite. Life will be tough at times! When Jesus asks us to trust God to provide and points us to the birds and the flowers; He’s not promising us that we will never have hardships. But He is promising us that the answer is to trust God with it, to let Him share the load, to provide for us, which means sorting out today, and leaving tomorrow for Him. 

16th February 2023

Luke 10:27b Love your neighbour as you love yourself.

The question needs to be asked, just who is my neighbour? The person next door? The person I work with or friends? The word neighbour comes from old English meaning near dweller. In the Bible it means everyone we meet, work with, live with, play sport with, family, friends, everyone. We as humans must stand together with one another. Jesus tells us to love each other as we love our self, do we really try to do that? To do this effectively we need to spend time with others, understand them, know them. We know ourselves more and think about ourselves more than anyone else, so we need to apply that to others. We are being called to love, care for, respect our neighbour as we would ourselves. To treat others as we would want to be treated. It is all to easy to put our agenda, our comfort, our future above others, to step over someone rather than stand with them if it suits our agenda. We are selfish as humans; we will put me first. Helping the other is so easily lost once we have power and wealth, and we will do whatever it takes to maintain our status even when that means walking over others. This love of neighbour must cut across culture, religion, ethnicity, politics, gender and race. I may not agree with your political view, but I will stand with you on your right to hold that informed opinion. Divide and rule is the current ploy in much of society, misdirect people, make them fight amongst themselves, that way we maintain power. It is only when people stand together that things change and justice for all becomes achievable. As we love our neighbour may we stand together, support each other’s freedoms and rights and work for the good of all not just the few.

15th February 2023

Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

We often use the phrase, in a perfect world, this wouldn’t happen. We don’t live in a perfect world, we live in a world full of sin and wrongdoing and because of that we have worry in our lives amongst other things. Worrying in perfect lives is unnecessary, not because we don’t have needs, but because the God who made the universe is our Father in heaven, who knows what we need, loves us dearly, and is more than capable of taking good care of us as we live in this imperfect world. Worrying doesn’t make things any better. We don’t live longer by worrying. If anything, too much anxiety probably shortens our life expectancy. It certainly makes us go grey faster. When we worry, we live as though the whole thing, the responsibility, rests on our shoulders alone. Behind this lies the bigger question of ambition. Our anxiety betrays our ambitions. Ambition is about what we’re living for. Most of us don’t live our life one day at a time with no purpose or direction. We all have things we’re aiming at, chasing after, hoping for. If our ambition is focussed on food, drink, clothing, that reduces us to little more than animals. Jesus says that if we are his people, if we know our God, then we will live for more than that.

14th February 2023

Genesis 1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years."

I love looking at the stars. As a teenager I knew the constellations and followed them and read the myths associated with their formation. These days you can purchase a distant star as yours and hold a certificate saying it is yours and mapping it in the heavens. Early books of the Bible testify to the power of stars in the life of the ancient people. Job mentions three constellations: the Bear, Pleiades, and Orion. Childless Abram goes out at night and hears a promise from God that he will have many children, as numerous as the stars. Stars are said to “Sing together” and “shout for joy” in the Book of Job, and Psalm 147 tells us God names all the stars and determines their number. Clearly, the stars held meaning for the ancient people of God. God created the heavens and all the stars within it. We have the blessing of being able to see these stars and the light they give us in the night sky.

13th February 2023

Matthew 6:25a Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.

In life some of us are worriers. We worry about food, clothes, homes, jobs, money etc. Although we are encouraged not to worry God also knows that we do. Jesus offers us help by pointing us toward a better understanding of ourselves and living for God. We quote helpful ideas about anxiety to each other but in reality, they do not magic away our worries. They do show us that anxiety is unavoidable because it is part of the human condition. At Creation we brought worry into the world by turning away from Gods complete provision for us. Just as we battle sin on a daily basis so we have to battle the worry that pushes its way into our lives. Jesus gives us a couple of practical examples from the natural world to encourage us in finding our provision in God. Birds are a good example when it comes to food and drink. They don’t sow, or reap, or gather in barns. They don’t worry where their next meal will come from. They are simply looked after by God. Which is not to say that God just drops the food into their beaks; they have to collect it, and they have to eat it. But what they don’t do, is worry about it. God cares for the birds, so how much more will he take care of us, his created and loved children. Flowers are transient. Here today, gone tomorrow. And yet, God clothes each of those flowers with the most exquisite beauty. If he does that, how much more will he make sure his dear children are clothed.

12th February 2023

Hebrews 13:5 Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.

In this current Cost of living crisis so many people feel that no body cares. They are written off as lazy or feckless, told they should be able to live on 30p a day, told they should work harder and not have anything modern or technical. What a difference it makes when someone cares, what a difference it makes for hungry children when they are fed, for parents to be paid a fare wage, for rented property to actually be habitable, for the poor to be treated with respect and with compassion, for the elderly to be cared for and treated well. Just think how many people are suffering unimaginable pain today because they feel that no one cares for them. Many people feel that there is no one they can trust anymore. In fact, situations and relationships around us can change very rapidly, leaving us perplexed and uncertain about tomorrow and the future. People really do think “No one cares for me anymore”. In the midst of all the uncertainties and rejections we face, we can remember that God cares for His children and will never fail us. God cares for us and wants us to care for each other, to be His operatives, His hands and feet in looking after each other as God looks after us.

11th February 2023

Matthew 5:14b You are the light of the world.

At the time of Jesus, a lamp had olive oil in the back end, and then a wick of some kind that came out of the spout. Once it was lit it was put on a stand, up high, because the higher the lamps were put up the more light you could get in the room with less lamps, one lamp could actually do a lot when it was elevated. What Jesus says is, “Nobody lights a lamp and puts it under a basket”. In other words, they don’t hide the lamp, or the light. What they do is they light the lamp and they put it on a stand so that the light illumines everything around it, which is exactly what we’re supposed to do as God’s light on this earth. Light is us revealing where God is. So, if we act in a way that is not consistent with the character of God, then we’re being darkness, not light. As the light of the world, we are God’s light in this dark world, challenging injustice, standing up for goodness and honesty, not judging others but showing them God’s love so the Holy Spirit can work in them and they can find God for themselves.

10th February 2023

John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

How are you with data or statistics, personally I believe they have a place but I don’t get excited about them and it is easy for me to get lost in trying to interpret them. Some people are just amazing with them and can interpret them easily and clearly to help us see the trends. Each year clergy have to enter statistics into the church of England data base. We give figures for Easter and Christmas services, October is used as the month where we send in our weekly and Sunday figures, we record those on the electoral role and certain events and services we do through the year. These statistics are interpreted by people in the church who decide how we are doing in attendance, mission, growth etc, and after Covid it has been useful to see that smaller churches have got back to pre-covid levels far quicker than bigger ones, and also to see that we now have at home congregations who watch streamed services. Although these things can be helpful the danger is we become a slave to them, having to grow in numbers or be considered a failure. That is never what God intended. God doesn’t measure our faith or love by numbers, we are called simply to love one another as He loved us. This is what matters to God.

9th February 2023

Job 15:11 Are the comforts of God too small for you?

There may be times when we feel life is unfair, we judge other’s situations by our standards and can think others are deserving of their suffering but we are not. The book of Job challenges us as to whether fairness from God is actually what we want. The undeserved grace and mercy we receive from God is much better for us than fairness! Eliphaz and Job’s “friends” hear Job’s words of explanation and understanding but do not accept them. When it comes to understanding God’s ways, Eliphaz thinks he’s got it nailed and no matter what evidence Job puts forward, he’s not about to let it get in the way of a good theory. Many of us behave like that. In fact, this so-called friend of job is incredibly cruel to poor suffering Job, repeating his point of view as the only right way. Job, he says, deserves his punishment, it is his fault and he needs to repent. This so-called friend piles even more suffering onto Job. Actually, it is the friend who is guilty, the friend who presumes he knows it all, even more than God. How often do we put ourselves into the place of God deciding who is right and wrong in our opinion. Later in Job’s story we find that Job receives not only comfort from God but also rich blessing. Eliphaz is the one who God is angry with because he did not speak the truth or help God’s child in his time of need. 

8th February 2023

Matthew 5:13a You are the salt of the earth.

The Dead Sea is a fascinating place in Israel. You can't sink in the Dead Sea because of the amount of salt. Normal oceans are between, 6% and 8% salt. The Dead Sea is 36% salt. It's the lowest place on Earth, so all the water flows into it, it's literally the drain of the world. Nothing flows out of it because gravity has no place to take it. It's 1300 feet below sea level. It's so salty that you can't sink in it. To this day, they mine salt at the Dead Sea. There are multiple veins of salt and just one of those veins has enough salt in it to supply the entire world's population with salt for 60 years. For us, salt is reasonably cheap, However, in the first century, salt was one of the most valuable minerals on the planet. In fact, salt was so valuable that they paid people in salt. They called it a solarium. We take our word salary from it. Salt was the most valuable, most precious commodity, and Jesus says, “You are the salt of the world”. The equivalent today would be “You are the diamonds of the world”. For them and us this means we are really precious and valuable to God. Friends, You're a diamond. A priceless one!

7th February 2023

Luke 2:38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Have you noticed the days are slowly getting a little longer. Just a minute or so each day the light comes earlier and goes later. The beginning of February is a sort of turning point in the winter solstice towards the spring equinox; it’s the point at which we begin to turn from the cold and dark of winter towards the promise of spring. The odd flower begins to rear its head, signs of life just tickle the land. Just as nature provides us with seasons, our liturgical year offers us seasons, to help in our faith and in our experience. As we begin to move toward spring, we move also towards Easter, we turn from cradle to cross but also beyond, through the cross to the empty tomb. It is already visible, albeit dimly through the darkness still to come. The pin prick of light at the end of every tunnel that shows the way, getting bigger and bigger the nearer we get. Anna saw it in the Temple, she saw the redemption of the world would be so costly to God but also the only way He could bring us back to Him.

6th February 2023

3 john 1:2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

I do like many of the greetings used in science fiction films and stories. The Vulcan, live long and prosper and the Star Wars, may the force be with you. As Christians we may say bless you or may God be with you. There are often many parallels in the Christian story used in literature and films. In Star Wars the family name is Skywalker which means from the heavens. The name Luke, the one who brings Darth Vader back to good, means bringer of light. So, Luke Skywalker is the bringer of light from the heavens. The name Jesus means saviour, Christ means anointed one and is Greek for Messiah which means chosen one. So, Jesus is the chosen and anointed one who comes to save the world. Behind so many names or phrases lie a key message, one which we can miss if we do not look a little deeper. May God bless you. In other words, make you holy and look after you.

5th February 2023

John 14:27 I leave you peace; my peace I give you. I do not give it to you as the world does. So don’t let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

We are much more aware of Mental Health and Wellbeing. One of the areas we need to recognise is to be who we really are. Within each of us there is the me, the part we show to others, the front we often put up, the self we want others to know which is often an act. Then there is myself, who I am in the family, the son or daughter, the friend, the sibling, the parent, who we are has arisen out of how they see us, what they know about us and what is expected of us. Then there is I, the real me, the real you, the person who is alone with our thoughts and ideas, who has the struggles, the feelings, the desires, who have the doubts and who battle at times to believe in ourselves and what we can do. Often the bravado plays out so no one guesses how vulnerable we feel. The trouble is, the longer we play this role the harder our outer shell becomes and the harder it is to find the real person. We all meet those very hardnosed people who have no compassion, we see it daily on our TV screens with politicians who don’t flinch at terrible events who have no compassion or empathy. Society seems to tell us that we have to be hard and unflinching, to compromise our integrity and honesty to achieve. God created who we are, who we really are, all our foibles, strengths and weaknesses, talents and inabilities. None of us are perfect and we are human. Our verse speaks of peace, of not allowing ourselves to worry or be troubled because we have the blessing of others, people to share our experiences with, people to talk to, people to be real with about our feelings, anxieties, weaknesses and strengths. Being honest about how we feel, seeking help, just talking and speaking out our anxieties and feelings is the first step to allowing that peace to come in. 

4th February 2023

1 John 4:4 Greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world.

Star Wars is a huge franchise over numbers of years. We still have many figures the boys played with but I was surprised to find that the best selling figure is Darth Vader. As the journey from Anakin to Darth Vader happens one of the Jedi knights tell him “The most powerful thing you possess is your power of choice, the choices you make will determine your destiny.” As you know he makes several very bad choices and becomes evil. BUT hope is never lost, even at the darkest hour. The parallels to the Christian story are marked. It is about choice. The choice of God to create the world, the choice of humans to reject Him. The choice to send Jesus to save us, the choice of people as to whether they accept Him or not. We have the choice to follow the side of good and God or to choose the dark side. Anakin finally came back to good through his son, we have the choice of good every day through the Son who came. May we always choose life.

3rd February 2023

Luke 2; 30 & 31 For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations.

How good are you at recognising people? I admit to being a bit rubbish, especially if I haven’t seen someone for a while. It’s a little amazing to me that Simeon recognised the Messiah in the baby Jesus. Over his many years in the Temple he must have seen lots of babies, 40 days old, tiny and wrinkly, carried into the temple by devout parents. Yet, he knew what he was looking for, God had shown him. Even so he must have imagined something a little more exciting, a great teacher or a charismatic rebel all ready for changing God’s world? But here is a baby, brought to the Temple like so many before him. It is, I think, a mark of Simeon’s true wisdom and discipline, that he does not allow his ideas or his long waiting time to distract him from what God is actually doing. I wonder how many of God’s promises we don’t see fulfilled simply because we aren’t paying attention or because we don’t have eyes and hearts, like Simeon’s, prepared to see God at work in unexpected places. Or maybe we don’t see it because we are so wrapped up in waiting that we lose sight of God and don’t recognise Him at work.

2nd February 2023

Luke 2:34b “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel…and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 

Today, in the church, we celebrate Candlemas and there is an old tradition that today truly ends the Christmas season and by now everyone’s nativity scene should be taken down. This is because today we turn from the Christmas story towards Easter and Good Friday; from Jesus’ birth to Jesus’ death. Today is kind of a pivotal point for the new year, the day when we turn from cradle to cross; birth to death, and Jesus’ presentation at the Temple or Candlemas contains this pivot. At this point, as the infant Messiah is brought in, God’s promise has been fulfilled. A song of praise, light and glory follows but then changes as Jesus future is prophesied and His mother hears how He will suffer and what she will witness. Following Jesus is not just about Christmas; not just light and joy and celebration. It is also about the cross, remembering that following Jesus is also about sacrifice and faithfulness in the face of suffering. Candlemas is the day on which our candles are blessed, marked as signs of the light of Christ in the world to shine out and help us through the darkness yet to come. 

1st February 2023

1 Peter 2:24 Jesus Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds we are healed.

I love the stories behind the items brought to the Repair Shop on BBC. Recently I saw an episode where a lady brought a micro mosaic cross which her father had worn in the war and which stopped a bullet that would have killed him. As a result, the cross was damaged and was broken in two. Quite literally the cross had saved his life. I also remember seeing a small pocket Bible in the Imperial War Museum with a bullet hole, that too, had saved the life of the soldier who carried it in his breast pocket. Quite literally the Bible had saved his life. We often speak of being saved by Jesus, but the context of these two actual situations where a cross and a Bible actually physically saved a life reminds us of the life saving gift of Jesus on the cross. The cross saved a soldier from the bullet, it saves us from death and eternal separation from God, the Bible saved a soldier from a bullet, it saves us from death and brings us life as we learn about our saviour.

31st January 2023

Luke 1:68 He has raised up a mighty saviour for us born of the house of His servant David.

The history of faith carries with it people expressing their praises, ideas and thoughts through song. The Psalms contain so many songs some even have a little musical direction, Song of Songs has love songs and poems. There are sad songs in Lamentations, and many individuals sing out their praises to God and their prophecies. The Benedictus in Luke 1 is one such song. Zechariah, unable to speak for some considerable time because he can’t see God at work, is released from his months of contemplation to praise God and prophesy the coming Saviour. He shouts from the rooftops about God’s faithfulness, of the covenant with Abraham now being fulfilled. He speaks of the coming saviour, of salvation and of the part his own son John will play in preparing the way. We, two thousand years on from this, are privileged to have seen these prophecies come true, we have seen the life, death and resurrection of the Saviour, we have the gospels, letters and the lives of so many saints who have gone before us. As we are saved through Christ, so we become saints who serve, we love and care for others because of what we have come to know, we are God’s hands and feet on this Earth, and we are set free through our Saviour Jesus to live life to its fullest through Him.

Apologies for being behind with posting these, internet connection was lost for a couple of days.

30th January 2023

Matthew 5:15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

There are still too many people in our world living a life in darkness. Too many people still live without hope. Too many of us are consumed by the bad news and it is up to us as Christians to show others who are living in darkness how to find the light. If the people who walk in darkness are going to find the light of God, it is going to be through us. If we hide our light because we don’t want to upset people or answer their questions then they cannot find Jesus for themselves. Jesus clearly calls us to let our light shine for all to see, to share the good news, to share Jesus’ teaching and offer them hope and healing. He also calls us to be like salt, sprinkling into people’s lives the flavour of hope, the preservation of good things. He comes into our darkness, into our turmoil, conflict, chaos and despair and He shines out His love into the darkness, and the darkness, no matter how oppressive or overwhelming it seems, cannot overcome Jesus’ light. Jesus’ time on earth gave us a glimpse of this light and He promised that when He returned, the light would shine fully and completely. So, in the meantime, we can reflect that light. 

29th January 2023

Luke 2:26 It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Have you ever waited for something? Waited for a really long time for something you were really excited about and really wanted? Have you ever waited so long and so hard for something that you almost missed it when it finally arrived? So busy waiting, getting impatient that the real thing almost slipped under your radar. Or perhaps you waited for so long that your attention drifted away. Simeon was waiting to see the Messiah. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit promised it would happen before he died and we know he was an old man. His song sounds like someone who had been waiting a long time, someone filled with anticipation and now filled with long-awaited joy as he takes the infant Jesus into his arms and knows him to be the one, he has been waiting for. He has waited well. Sometimes we need to be patient, to wait well, not lose our focus and not lose our hope because when God makes a promise, He keeps it. He promised Simeon, it took a long time but it happened just as God had promised. Simeon had born witness to the arrival of the Messiah, the salvation of the world. That time had come for him and a new time began for us.

28th January 2023

Matthew 5: 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

When we get good news the first thing we want to do is tell someone, share it. As Christians we have the best good news there is in Jesus and the first thing we should want to do and we are called to do, is to share His love, proclaim the good news we have found, help struggling people find healing, peace and fulfilment. God loves us! God loves the world! Jesus came into the world to be its saviour, to offer us all hope and healing. Our world needs so much healing. Not just physical healing, but spiritual and mental healing too. Jesus invites us to come to Him, to repent, to change our direction and to follow him. And all of us who follow Jesus are told that we are the light of the world. We are reflecting God’s light, and we are to let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven. We found Jesus because someone shared His love with us, pointed us in the right direction. Others will only find Him if we share His love with others and point them in the right direction.

27th January 2023

Deuteronomy 6:7 Teach these ways to your children and talk about them when you sit at home and walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. We remember the 6 million Jews, the half million Roma people, the quarter of a million disabled people who were murdered as part of the Nazi ‘s final solution. The promoting of hatred and persecution of a group of people to galvanise disillusioned people and thus gain more power and wealth for the ruling few. All done under the guise of nationalism. Yet here we are in 2023 calling people fleeing from persecution and murder illegal immigrants. The children rescued by amazing brave people and brought to this country would now be considered illegal immigrants. We are told that when good people do nothing evil flourishes, the ordinary people of Germany did nothing and evil flourished. Here in the UK as more and more ordinary people do nothing, evil flourishes. The poor get poorer, the rich get richer and those in the middle aspire to be richer and have their anger and disillusionment twisted towards the poor and the refugee. The promise of WW2 was we would not allow genocide to happen again, it has time and again. We said we would learn lessons about freedom and democracy and the protection of both, we haven’t. The Jews learnt from a young age what was right and wrong, so do we, and yet our attention can be so easily grabbed by persecution of others to supposedly save ourselves. We have a choice, to turn a blind eye and make excuses or to make a stand, to fight for the equality of all and to stand for justice and righteousness. 

26th January 2023

Isaiah 6: 2b For those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

In this seemingly dark world sometimes we wonder where is the light? There is darkness in our world. There are still wars, shootings, hatred and division. There is still hunger, poverty, and homelessness. There is still darkness in our world and in our own lives, that health concern we have, for ourselves or a loved one. A struggling relationship, frustrations at work or school. Financial concerns that seem insurmountable, mental health issues, feeling low and lonely. There is still darkness in our world and we need to acknowledge that. Isaiah, was not afraid to acknowledge the darkness in his world. He describes living in deep darkness; civil war, complacency, poverty, arrogance, their leaders didn’t believe that they needed God’s help. If we close our eyes, tight, like the toddler who thinks because they cannot see you, you cannot see them, and we refuse to acknowledge the darkness, then we will see no need for the light, and we have no reason for hope. But there is reason for hope. And there is reason for joy because the light has dawned in the darkness through Jesus.

25th January 2023

Isaiah 9:2a The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

We tend to associate these words with Christmas and Christmas readings. This light does not only show itself through a baby in the manger at Christmas but that child, Jesus, grows up, and proclaims that the kingdom of heaven has come near, and He invites the disciples, the people and us to follow him. We are invited not just to hear this story, but we are invited into the story. We have an invitation to follow the light. Jesus is our light. He lights our way. And when we follow him, we never walk in darkness. No matter how dark things may seem in our life; Jesus still lights our way because He is the light of the world. No matter how dark the tunnel we are in there will always be a pin prick of light pointing us the right way. 

24th January 2023

Matthew 9:14 Then John's disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

Many of us look at others and wonder why they seem to get away with something we can’t. We ask why others don’t seem to face the issues we do and why rules and laws seem to apply to some more than others. During the pandemic it seemed that our politicians were getting away with doing things the rest of us were forbidden to do. Our motivation for doing things can be ritualistic, we do them because we have do, because traditions and authorities tell us to, where as in our Christian faith it should be about joy and love, out of desire and not duty. Each of us is an individual and God will call us each to His way. That means we will do things differently and at different times. It is not our goodness or service it is God’s goodness and service being worked through us. At this time Jesus disciples did not follow the same rules as the Pharisees and they wanted to know why. Another thing to criticise and judge, but Jesus is clear that things should happen when they are necessary and for the right reasons, not because it was always done this way or because we have to or because religious practices dictate it. We each need to examine before God why we do what we do and our judgement of others for doing things differently, some things will need to change others may not but that is God’s decision, not ours.

23rd January 2023

Philippians 1:6 I am confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

All journey’s have a beginning and an end with varying stops and starts throughout. Life’s journey begins with our birth and then continues until it is completed. Any journey we undertake will stop and start, there can traffic jams, hold ups, boring times and exciting ones, there can be rest stops, accidents, breakdowns, that little voice that calls are we there yet? Along the way we may well meet people, help people, share the load . We often say life is a rollercoaster with its ups and downs, twists and turns, sharp corners and gentle bends. However we look at it life is always moving forward, we age from the day we are born. Plans are made surprises happen, changes are needed, everyone of us has a history, a present and a future. Throughout all these twists and turns, changes, stops and starts God promises to carry on His work in us to completion. No matter what happens we face nothing alone, we have God on our side, and we have one another to help and share the load. God created families in which we grow and learn, are given support and love. The family of God is there to love and support us, help us grow and learn and we are part of that family.

22nd January 2023

John 1: 36 When John saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

John the Baptist is in no doubt that Jesus is the chosen one. He recognises that there is a new purpose, a greater power beyond his calling. He could have been precious about his disciples, wanting to keep them for himself, but instead he shows them the way forward is with Jesus. We can be precious about my church, my way of doing things, my position, my role and in doing so stop others finding their place, finding their role, even finding their faith. John was not lessened by what he gave up and neither are we. We are servants of a greater master, we are chosen, we are called, we are loved and precious for who we are. We are never alone and we are used by God in so many ways if we are willing to let Him use us, willing to see what God is doing and join in.

21st January 2023

John 1:39 a Jesus said to them “Come, and see.”

We all like to be invited to join a group or a party. In John’s Gospel there is an invitation for the first disciples and us to come and see, to find out more about Jesus. The followers of John the Baptist leave John's ministry to follow a new calling and purpose, the Messiah, they start from small, humble, beginnings, a brother brings his brother whose name is changed. Ministry grows, widens and is for everyone. There will always be new ways of doing things and of recognising God, and here a new section of society, those who are not Jews, are being welcomed and invited into God’s family without having to jump through hoops to join. We can be very good at making people jump through hoops to join the church, that was never what God intended. Instead, we should recognise and create a space for new members in God's family to feel drawn to. People meet Jesus through us, through our words and attitudes, our behaviour. Will what they see, hear and experience show Jesus or turn them away.

20th January 2023

1 Corinthians 1:5 For in Him you have been enriched in every way, with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge.

We tend to think that Christians of the early church were somehow better than us, they had it sorted. When Paul writes his letter to the Corinthians church it is in a mess, no church is ever perfect, but Paul recognises their worthiness, telling them and us that we are not valued because of our potential, or what we do, but we are valued because God loves us, unconditionally, completely and utterly. We so easily focus on the future, and while we have potential, what and who we are right now is completely loved and valued by God and we need to remember that. Christ lives in us and we live in Christ. An amazing and wonderful relationship, but we are also part of something much bigger, a new family, a new way of being. God’s family is inclusive and we can learn from anyone at any age or stage of life. Every new person enriches and resources the community, one person does not have all the skills. We work together and we support each other.

19th January 2023

John 10:10 I have come that you might have life in all its fullness.

If I asked you if you live a full life, how would you reply? You might talk about work, being busy, never having time for self. A full life is not necessarily a busy one, it is a life of fulfilment, a life that balances work and rest, that brings joy and happiness, full of love and peace. This is the new type of life Jesus is referring to here. This full life is one that includes more than just self, more than just family, friend and community. It is a life of more than just the familiar. The fullness comes from knowing and embracing all people, those who are different from us, who have different traditions, customs, cultures and ideas. It is about being open minded and open hearted. Life is full of so much colour, so much sound, so many experiences but it is so easy to become blinkered, to not see, hear or experience the richness of life, to side-line ourselves into a singular black and white existence with no richness, diversity or fullness. Life should be a rich vein of experience where eyes are opened and dreams fulfilled, where life is full of hope, where community is promoted and valued, and each life is given dignity and value and where each of us flourishes. Full life includes the full spectrum of human experience, both sorrow and joy, both struggle and success because to really appreciate a full life we need all sides. May we open our eyes, minds and hearts to the rich full life around us as God intended.

18th January 2023

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Sometimes we think that all responsibility for mission and service of God lies with us. We seem to quite happily alleviate God of all responsibility as we become rather over confident of how the church should be run and organised. Yet the ultimate responsibility for mission does not sit with us, or the PCC, or the bishop or any committee or group, it lies with God first and foremost and God is always faithful. We need to be reminded that faith is a two-way relationship; God constantly has faith in us and does not give up on us at the first, second or any sign of failure, and we must continue to have faith in God even when we cannot see clearly or are finding life difficult. We are promised the power of the Holy Spirit to give us the ability and strength we need to share our faith with our family, friends, community and ultimately to the ends of the Earth.

17th January 2023

Romans 15:4 - For whatsoever things were written afore time were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Our traditions and learning have come through centuries of study, discussion, oral conversation and writing. People have recorded their experiences, their learning and study so that others might benefit. The scriptures, or Bible, have come from writings and traditions over many centuries and millennia. Some of this is in the form of laws, some is poetry and song, some is story and recollection, some is prophecy and some accounts of events. It is there to help us, there to establish the relationship of God to His people, there to encourage a cohesive and welcoming society. As with everything opinion will filter into writing. Even the most factual recollection will be influenced by opinion which is why accounts of events differ or are recalled with a differing importance. A doctor writing a gospel will do so differently from a fisherman but yet so many things align to open our eyes to a wider arch of the fundamental story. God creates a free people for a relationship, one which is lost by selfish behaviour and yet is never forgotten. God’s love of His people meant timely interventions and ultimately the sacrifice of His own son to restore that relationship. The scriptures show us that story, show us the human selfish condition and teach us how to live as better people. The scriptures offer hope and learning but through patience because we have opinions and those filter into our interpretation of God and His word. As we read the scriptures may we do so with an open mind, with patience and ready to learn and to be comforted.

16th January 2023

Isaiah 49:6b I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

When studying for ministry a lot is made of Missio Dei, God’s mission. In the Old Testament God's missional enterprises are made clear and we are invited to join in. Things move from the local to the global. Witnessing to Israel is not enough, we are all called and chosen to be a light to the world to the ends of the earth, to the whole of creation. God chooses people despite, and because of their background; anyone can be called, this is not just for the select few. We can be People who have been struggling, been waiting in vain, feeling stuck, facing uncertainty, seemingly with no voice but we are assured time and again that God knows us, named us and loved us from the very beginning to the very end. God recognises our effort and exhaustion, but still calls us. God is our strength, equipping us with specialist tools and gifts to be used as we need.

15th January 2023

Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace that we have all been saved.

When I go out very early I used to get dressed in the dark, laying out clothes the night before. That has meant on occasions I have gone without my clergy collar or my cross, sometimes without my purse or money and sometimes without my keys. In an attempt not to disrupt anyone else or wake them to early I try to be quick and quiet. Usually all was well but if did manage to forget something it could mess up the rest of the day. It was also possible to be wearing odd socks but, thankfully, never odd shoes. Often in our attempts to be selfless we can cause more of a problem. In an attempt to help others we can forget the importance of our own presentation and readiness for work or activity. As with everything in life we need compromise. I moved my clothing etc ready for the next day into the bathroom where I can have the light on and not disturb anyone. Finding ways that help others and ourselves is vital to our way of living. God does not want us to sacrifice our own readiness and reliability because we are trying too hard to benefit others. God offers us not only fruits of the Spirit to show to others but also to ourselves. Being kind to self is so important because we are nicer people with others when we are nicer to ourselves. We love others far better when we love ourselves, we are more peaceful with others when we are peaceful ourselves. It is not selfish to take care of oneself, in fact it is vital if we are to minister effectively to others.

14th January 2023

Matthew 2:13 An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

When people find Jesus and give their lives to Him things change, becoming a Christian means lives need to change, attitudes, ideas but all in God’s time. Once we find Him, we must learn to listen, to read and study the scriptures, read and understand the prophesies and learn to listen to God and where he wants us to go next. Joseph heard God tell him to flee for his family’s safety, The Magi heard God tell them not to go back to Herod and they returned home another way. People heard God time and again and changed their direction of travel. We also need to hear God and change our view and our direction of travel by listening to God. Lives change because of experiences; our lives should change because of our experiences; because of prayer, reading our Bible, coming together to worship and what we learn and know about God. The challenge of every meeting with God, every prayer, every study is where does God want us to go next? And are we willing to go?

13th January 2023

Matthew 2:10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Throughout the Christmas story and beyond we meet people who have their eyes opened and their lives changed by the coming of Jesus the King. It can do the same for us. We can learn, realise, discover and change. The wise men, for example, studied scriptures, prophecies, stars, light and it set them on a course to find the King. Their arrival brought worship, treasure and gifts of a kingly and appropriate nature. Their arrival at Jesus nativity brings light, dawn light, star light, divine light just as had been prophesied. These Wise men, these kings left their home, their comfort, their wealth, their nice lives to find a King and bring Him gifts. It was that important to them. How important is Jesus Christ to us? Are we willing to give up our comfort, wealth, nice lives to find our King and do we bring gifts? Are we willing to learn, to read, to pray to seek God’s way in our lives, are we willing to have our eyes opened and our lives changed by Jesus?

12th January 2023

Isaiah 60: 6b And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.

We often don’t realise that the prophecies that are in the Old Testament speak of what is to come, of Jesus coming and His death and resurrection. Isaiah 60 is one of my favourite prophecies about Jesus’ birth because it preserves and declares the teaching of inclusion. The Jews were very insular about who was included and who was excluded in their religion, God made it clear through His prophets and teachers that He wanted everyone to be included in His love and forgiveness, no matter where they were from or their religious tradition, their culture, gender, race, age or life choices. God is absolutely clear, all are welcome in God’s family. Contrary to what we might want to think and believe, religious leaders, followers, Christians of long standing or short, we are not the gate keepers or judges who decide who God accepts. He makes that decision, not us. God is a God of inclusion and we, as His people, must be the same.

11th January 2023

Psalm 72:4 May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor.

I strongly believe that the prosperity of all people can only truly abound when every citizen is able to share in the blessings. When all share in the prosperity then all share in justice. In this Psalm, a prayer for the king, there are many images of flourishing and abundance, fruitful hills and drenched fields, these fill us with a longing for security and plenty for everyone. The king is painted as defender, protector and provider. Achieving justice for the afflicted, defending the vulnerable from oppression, rescuing children from poverty, these are the criteria which define true kingship and true leadership. If our elected leaders are not fulfilling these qualities then they must be challenged and their hearts changed. If our hearts desire God’s ways, they will desire justice for all, not just the wealthy; equality of all no matter their race, creed or gender, for all our children to be fed well and for no one to suffer because of where they were born in society. This is an urgent need, one which we are called to stand up for on a daily basis.

10th January 2023

Psalm 72: 10 May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores bring tribute to him. May the kings of Sheba and Seba present him gifts.

Isaiah and Psalms clearly speak of the Kings who will come, Kings from a Gentile nation, not a Jewish one. The inclusion of everyone has been in God’s plan from early on, It was clearly there for those not Jewish in the Old Testament but the Jews had never included them. The Gentiles, as they were called, did not even know they were called Gentiles, hey were just not of the Jewish tradition. Inclusion was important to God, even in the Old Testament and as the early Christian faith develops, prophets, writers and St Paul speak of inclusion. In the early church Jews and Gentiles clashed on circumcision, traditions, rules on food and clothes. Early church leaders disagreed, but God’s inclusion of everyone is there, clearly, for all to see. Even today inclusion is much easier to talk about than it is to actually do because there is a huge cost to those we exclude and to us as it challenges our views and ideas. If God wants everyone included then who are we to do and say otherwise.

9th January 2023

Matthew 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.

Each year in the New Year we celebrate Epiphany, we celebrate it on the same day as the Orthodox church celebrates Christmas. We also use it as the day on which to take down our decorations. The term Epiphany means appearing, the coming of a divine being to the world. In the traditional Prayer Book it is called the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. Epiphany is shorter and perhaps better for our understanding. We tend to use the word today to mean a sudden, unexpected realisation of something. We have “an Epiphany” moment. The festival we celebrate each year is the witnessing of Gentile Kings or Magi to the coming of the Christ, the Messiah. These men, not of the Jewish faith, journey from the ends of the known world to search for a king, they make a pilgrimage. We can make our own pilgrimage, maybe not across nations, but to church, in our worship, through our regular prayer. We can make a physical or spiritual pilgrimage. The question is do we want to make the effort.

8th January 2023

Isaiah 7.10 & 11 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights."

How many times have I heard those words, “God loves a cheerful giver!” Usually when someone is trying to guilt me into giving to their cause. By making us feel we will score points with God we can be softened into giving. Let’s turn this on its head because God also loves a joyful and cheerful receiver. In the Old Testament God offers many promises and prophecies to His people. Ahaz is being promised peace by God, and is even offered the opportunity to receive a sign to reassure him to put his trust in God and not in human armies. He is very grumpy and with false religiousness turns down the generous offer made by God. A foolish choice! Instead, he put his trust in the King of Assyria’s armies to save his kingdom. It turned out to be the wrong choice, but God gave his sign anyway, because the choice is always ours to make. God promises Immanuel, God with us in Human form, given to save the world at great cost. We always have the choice as to whether we receive Jesus, whether we trust in Him and receive His joy and peace. We can put our trust in humans and armies and wealth or we can put our trust in Jesus. The choice is ours.

7th January 2023

Revelation 21:5 Behold, I am making all things new!

At this time of year lots of folks wish each other a Happy New Year. It is traditional, polite and a positive greeting. That little word, new, has huge implications. When we buy something new, we expect it to be pristine, perfect and undamaged. If it isn’t we return it and expect a replacement that is. We all love a new book without the crinkled pages, we like to have a new bottle of aftershave or perfume, a new pen and paper, new socks, new clothes, new furniture, a new car is something really special. New has so much promise attached to it! As we begin a new year it offers the opportunity to make a fresh start, it has promise and hope that things will be better, happier, easier and we will be better people. God’s promise of making all things new resonates with us because we desire that hope, that promise of better. We know we are not perfect, we make mistakes, we mess up, but the promise of new gives us hope, allows us to not give up our quest for better, but instead gives us a daily renewal, offers us a new start every time things go wrong. As you wish people a Happy New Year, be reminded that newness is available to us all every day, every moment of every day, from God who wants us to live as new, hopeful, happy people always.

6th January 2023

Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

I received word today of the passing of an old friend. We had been in contact for more than 30 years but she never shared her terminal diagnosis with us because she didn’t want any of us to worry. In fact, all her preparations for her funeral have been so as not to inconvenience anyone. This is typical of her, you could always find food, support, sanctuary and love at any time in her home. She was one of life’s real angels. It is amazing how some people never make a fuss, always think of others and losing them from this world is difficult and very sad. God reminds us time and again that we are chosen, precious, fellow citizens with the saints; not because of anything we have done but because of God’s saving love for us. As God’s created beings we carry our creator within us, all humans carry God in them but some carry that imprint far more obviously than others. Some shine more with His love than others. We all have the option to be members of His household but sadly some still choose to remain strangers and aliens and not to let God be part of their lives.

5th January 2023

Isaiah 43:1 But now, says the Lord, who created you, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

At this time of year I go through the Christmas cards and check for any change of address or messages people have sent. Where the front can be used for a tag next year I cut them up ready and put with the Christmas stuff for next Christmas. I often find short messages from people just letting us know anything major or if they are in need. Sadly, I also find each year that some folk don’t send a card, maybe they moved and forgot to let us know, maybe things have changed. I only give up sending a card if we don’t hear for 3 years. With the postal issues this year I am still receiving late cards which help me know folk are still there. It is easy after many years to forget people, to think they are no longer want to hear from us, but it always saddens me when we no longer know where someone is or how they are. At some point we all lose contact with folk who may have been so important to us in the past. I hope not to forget anyone and I keep names and addresses in our book even when we no longer hear from them. I try not to forget, I try to be reminded when I use the book. Sadly, I am human. I am glad to say that God never forgets any of us, even if He doesn’t hear from us for a while, He doesn’t stop sending messages to us, He never forgets us even if we forget Him. God knows everyone of us and never forgets, so we can always make contact again, we can always turn back to Him.

4th January 2023

Matthew 2.18 A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.

In God’s incredible grace, the cost of sin is met, and we are invited to live differently, to live in new ways and have a secure future. But who actually pays? In our current political situation, it is the ordinary people who pay for the mistakes of the wealthy and powerful. We remember after Christmas that King Herod causes the little boys to pay in this awful narrative of a jealous King who will do anything to remain in power. He has power, the infants do not. Herod cannot accept the good news brought to him by the wise men, so the innocent ordinary children suffer at the hands of the powerful and wealthy King. As we look at our world, beautiful but marred by sin and injustice, who pays for the high levels of consumption and waste this festive season? We know it is the environment and the poorest members of our society, those who have least will always pick up the tab. As Christians we believe that Jesus offers us a different and deeper reality, where God in His gracious generosity breaks the cycle. In God’s grace, the cost is met, in full, in Jesus, and we are invited into new, impartial, honest and true ways of living.

3rd January 2023

Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as His children.

The process of taking everything down from Christmas has begun. Decorations and lights come down, the baubles come off the tree and they are boxed up for another year. The cards are taken down and either thrown away, recycled or turned into next year’s gift tags. For many years we have left something up throughout the year as a reminder that although we celebrate Christmas once a year it is central to our faith and it should impact on that faith all through our lives, every day. It might be some bells, a small tree, a few lights, a nativity representation, it could be anything but it reminds me that Christmas is part of every day. The events we read about over the Christmas period actually took place over a much longer period of time, the Angel’s visit was 9 months before, the wise men’s journey took months and months, Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem for a considerable time after Jesus was born before fleeing as refugees to Egypt. The story we read and talk about over a few Christmas weeks actually took place over a long period of time. The prophecies came in centuries before the event and we continue with our celebration’s centuries later. Of course we take down our decorations because they make Christmas the special time it should be each year, but may we not forget to carry it in our hearts and lives every day as central to our faith and belief.

2nd January 2023.

2 Corinthians 4:8&9 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

When it snowed in December how did you react or feel? Overjoyed, excited, disappointed, worried? The folk I was with were concerned and worried, how to get home safely, their children were, of course, excited, but even those who were worried got stuck in, adapted and got themselves home. The human spirit is an amazing thing. These verses reflect that; in the early church Christians were often in terrible danger of prison, torture and death but they did not give up. They had a hope, a belief in God, in Jesus and were prepared to stick it out no matter the consequences. Of course, they had their moments of doubt, of question, we all do. John The Baptist, arguably Jesus biggest fan, gets put in prison and asks the question of Jesus are you the one we are waiting for? Gods promised one? Building our resilience, keeping going, doesn’t mean we don’t doubt, don’t want to give up, don’t struggle, but it does mean we develop the reserves to keep going in the difficult times. We look for and ask for help, we look for hope and we push on through. We take each day a step at a time, ask for help when it is needed and remember it is okay to have doubts and questions, it’s okay to get upset, to let off steam, it is okay not to be okay. From the very recognition of our situation comes more strength, more resilience to enable us to keep going.

1st January 2023. New Years Day.

Mark 2:4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.

At this time of New Year we are reminded how important our loved ones are to us. We will generally do anything for those we love, our family and friends, because we want what is best for them. The four friends of the paralysed man are so desperate for his healing that they break open the roof so that he can get to Jesus. This exciting but unorthodox entrance, is the beginning of a real drama. Jesus tells the paralysed man that his sins are forgiven, which brings anger from the religious folk because only God can forgive sins and no one can actually see if it is happening to the paralysed man or not. But telling him to get up and walk, that is vastly different. It is instantly obvious whether Jesus is a liar or genuine. Jesus is putting His reputation on the line because He knows the truth and is completely secure in it. This is a challenge to our discipleship as we move forward into 2023. We all need forgiveness from sins. But we must also stand up and be counted and be completely secure in our faith. We need to be bold in our claims about Jesus and to be prepared to back them up with evidence; and to go into 2023 knowing that our faith actually makes a difference in everyday life and that it does change things for good. May God bless you in this New Year!

31st December 2022. New Years Eve.

Psalm 31:14 I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, “You are my God! My future is in your hands”

As the end of 2022 approaches, I wonder how you feel? Sad that another year is over or excited for another new year to begin, maybe a bit of both. People begin to ask what resolutions we are going to make and I know that I am not going to make any at all. I learned years ago that resolutions end up just dragging me back down as I fail to keep them. I will still celebrate New Year and rejoice in God giving us yet another new start. On New Years eve many thousands of Christians will hold a watchnight service, which sees the old year out and the new year in with God, offering thanks for so much in the past year but also offering to God the opportunities of the coming year. The opportunity to reflect on the past that we did not know a year ago, and pray for the future to come and all its opportunities. To remember all those we have lost in this past year, all those we miss so much, all those blessings we have received and the celebrations we were able to have. And now we start again, not knowing what lies ahead but knowing who holds that future in His safe hands. Knowing we can trust God, who created us and loves us to death and beyond. I may not make any resolutions, that is a personal choice, but I will watch, wait, trust and hope in God for 2023.

30th December 2022

Luke 2:11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born for you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Over Christmas I have watched several versions of Dicken’s Christmas Carol. I love it as a story and it speaks very much about second chances and giving out of our riches to others. The contrast between this and the one found in Luke’s gospel, is that Dickens tells us how we should give to others, and that is incredibly important, but in Luke, we learn how essential it is to see ourselves at first, as receivers. Receivers of the saviour Jesus into our loves. That’s quite tough, we’d rather see ourselves as capable, self-sufficient, generous, caring givers who are doing our best as Christians. But the nativity, the good news of Jesus coming, is for poor, needy, empty people who open their hands to the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. We must first recognise that we are needy, poor, empty people who need to receive Jesus before we can give out to others. Christmas, literally means the mass, or sending out of Jesus into the world and that is done through us. As we receive Him so we can go out in His strength bringing Him to the world and giving to others out of the abundance we have been given by God.

29th December 2022

Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”

Have you got the Christmas blues yet? That let down that comes after Christmas and before new year. We tend to build up huge events which can mean normal things can seem boring. Once the fun and excitement of presents and food is over, then what? When the Angels came to the Shepherds, announced Jesus birth and then praised God they remind us of the fact that Jesus birth means all humans have the opportunity to find peace and favour with God. The Good News of Christmas did not begin and end in the stable in Bethlehem. It was the beginning of a wonderful, all-encompassing true story that would continue for over two thousand years! Jesus came, in an unassuming and humble way, as a vulnerable new-born. God’s promise fulfilled in Jesus. After the meeting, life resumed as normal for the wise men, the humdrum life continued for the shepherds. Only Joseph and Mary witnessed a permanent change in their lives. Actual, normal life happens between the highpoints. Most of life is lived in the work-a-day reality. The Messiah has come and so we can enjoy the peace of God and peace with God. We can walk in His favour, His goodwill, His love, every day of our lives! We cannot live on the mountain top every day but these experiences do give us the encouragement and blessing to enable us to live out normal lives for Jesus each day.

28th December 2022

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

At Christmas each year we remember Jesus, who was not just an idea but an event in history, God came among us into the real life, the mundane, the pain, the suffering, the hurt, the joy. Fully human in a human world. This child, born weak and helpless, is God putting Himself at our mercy. Light and truth is not spread by anger, humiliation and beating people into submission; Light and truth lives and grows where humility, compassion, vulnerability, honesty and love flourish. Where there is hatred, anger, bullying, rhetoric, lies, brutishness, God is not there, not in that darkness; but He comes to shine a light through this child of light and love, this child of compassion and vulnerability, this child of grace and peace, this child born to be our saviour if we choose Him. This is why we celebrate this baby, why we remember Christmas, literally the mass of Christ, the sending out of Christ through us the people of God. As Jesus came to us on that first Christmas, so we are sent out to share the Christ we have found with all. This Baby born in Bethlehem is our Saviour. This baby is our redemption. This baby, the first Christmas present, is God’s gift to us all. Every baby is a symbol of new life, this baby, this child is the reason for our new life and our eternal life.

27th December 2022

Isaiah 9 we are told The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness, on them his light shined.

We read in John’s Gospel about the Word, with God, was God from the very beginning. Jesus the Word made flesh who came from God and became one of us on that first Christmas. It was here that God sent His son to save us. This living word was part of creation, the light, the life, the divine discourse and reason, someone of God’s wisdom to be listened to and respected. God promises a light in the darkness. Someone who will fight for His people, someone who will live as human and divine, someone who will defeat death and sin, someone who will pay the necessary price for humankind’s wrongdoing and turning away from God. This someone, born of a virgin, called Jesus, will save his people from their sins. The great mystery of Christmas is that God who is love and truth, grace and peace is not some distant impersonal being standing apart from us and global events and personal tragedies that shape and affect our lives. No, in the birth of Jesus, God has come among us in his son. Giving flesh and form to these events in human life so we can not only feel His love, hear His truth, experience His grace and share His peace, but know these things are possible for us and available to us.

26th December 2022. Boxing Day.

Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the LORD himself will give you a sign. Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and he shall be Immanuel." Which means "God with us."

"What Child Is This?" What's the big deal with a child born in a manger over two thousand years ago? Why all the songs, carols, presents and bells? So far in 2022 135 and half million babies have been born. The most popular day for babies to make their entrance into this world is Tuesdays then Monday. Sunday is the slowest day, September the most popular month. So, Why is this baby, Jesus, born in Bethlehem approximately 2020 years ago, the Child that we celebrate every Christmas? 135 million babies born this year and we're singing about one child born over two thousand years ago, far away in the Middle East. Why do people make such a fuss about this one baby? We read in When Jesus Christ was born Matthew says, "This is it. This is the child. This is the child that will be God with us." The reason we make such a big deal about this child is because the child born in a manger over 2,000 years ago in a place called Bethlehem is God with us. Both Human and divine. He experiences everything we do. He understands what we go through, He opens the way back to God and defeats death.

25th December 2022. Christmas Day.

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming from the Father.

Today you will open presents from family, friends and loved ones. We will receive gifts we love and some we are not so sure about. On Christmas Day every year there is one Perfect Gift. He was born a long time ago in a little town by the name of Bethlehem. This Perfect Gift had been predicted to come thousands of years before He arrived. Since His arrival this Gift has been opened by millions of people but yet many millions more have never opened it, never chosen to receive that gift. Have you opened the Perfect Gift? That Perfect Gift is Jesus. There is no sense in trying to be clever about it. We all try to get hints as to what is in the gifts that have our name on them. We all hope that at least one present under that tree is for us. We sing Carols about this wonderful gift every year and yet so many leave one lonely package under the tree. This gift from God for each of us has each of our names on it, the question is, are we going to leave it there, or open it?

24th December 2022 Christmas Eve

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Some of you will have spent many hours this Christmas season searching for the perfect gift. You will have browsed through store after store or web site after web site. You want it to be just right. Based on what the person you are giving the gift to needs, you want it to be, perfect. Maybe you have received the perfect gift. You have that memory of the time when someone surprised you with a gift you will never forget. As a child it may have been a toy that you just thought you had to have. I still have the Jasmin Bunny I was given as a 6-year-old, she has been my constant companion ever since. Here’s how it is supposed to work on a perfect Christmas morning. You get up on Christmas morning and you find packages underneath a tree. They are wrapped in colourful paper with ribbons and bows. A minor distraction when it comes time to open the gift. Up until that moment they are a mystery. You may shake them and listen closely to detect some telling sound that would give away the secret but gifts are meant to be opened. They are not a gift until they are received. God offers us the gift of Jesus but we have to receive Him and accept Him. If, this Christmas, you leave a package wrapped and unopened it will be useless. Don’t leave Jesus under the tree this Christmas.

23rd December 2022

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

How are your Christmas plans coming along? Are you ready? We do like to be ready for the family, the guests, plenty of food and gifts, expecting people at certain times. God did not wait until everyone was ready for his son to be born. God did not wait until the world was ready, or until Joseph was ready, or until Mary was ready. And that is a good thing, if He had we would still be waiting. God helped Joseph and Mary to become ready. The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to help him find his way. The angel appeared to Mary and told her God’s plan. The angel addressed Joseph as “son of David,” reminding Joseph that God’s plan was always to bless the world through a descendent of David, and Joseph would be that descendent; but it is the last thing he expected. The angel told Joseph that Mary would bear a son, and that he should be named Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins.” That is literally what Jesus’ name means. And it is why he was born. To save us from our sins. To heal our broken world. God did not wait for everyone to be ready the first time and He is not going to wait for us to be ready before He comes again.

22nd December 2022

Matthew 2:13 An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt."

How do you react to difficult news? Often we react very quickly before knowing the full story and that can completely wreck a viable situation where we have got the wrong end of the stick. Engaged to Mary, Joseph’s life had taken a very unexpected turn, in the blink of an eye, and he really wasn’t sure how to proceed. I suspect that most of us can relate to Joseph. Most of us have had something happen in our lives that took us off our planned route, and left us without a map or a clue about how to proceed. Life has a way of doing that, doesn’t it? What Joseph would later find out is that God had a plan for him the whole time. It wasn’t Joseph’s original plan, but this was much better. When life takes us on a detour, it is very comforting to remember that God has a plan, that God is still in control. And when we believe that, and trust God, there is no detour too great to cause us to lose our way. Christmas means, among many other things, that God is full of surprises and we must never jump in too quickly when we do not know the full story. Our world does not have to be orderly or predictable for God to enter it. He is there in every situation, ready to show us all we need to know to be part of His plan.

21st December 2022

Matthew 1:19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

When Mary was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit, Joseph was completely blindsided. I suspect that nothing could have shocked him more. Joseph might well have been counting down the days to his wedding; he might have had the big day circled in his calendar. But then there came this curve ball from out of the blue, that completely upended his plans, and ultimately overturned his entire life. Hurt and confused by what Mary had seemingly done, Joseph planned to dismiss her quietly. He did this because he didn’t want to expose her to public disgrace. He cared for Mary, but now he could not have her as his wife. How could he, now that she was found to be pregnant? Think of how devastated Joseph must have been by this turn of events! All of his hopes and dreams; all the plans he had for his life, had suddenly disappeared. And the girl that he thought he knew and loved suddenly seemed to be somebody that he didn’t know at all. Joseph is a compassionate, caring man and even in the midst of something awful he does not want to punish someone or hurt them. Thankfully Joseph's fears are unfounded and in God's strength he becomes the earthly father of our Saviour Jesus.

20th December 2022

Isaiah 44:22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.

We have had the usual round of Christmas adverts from the various stores. I particularly like Lidl Bear, partly because I am a huge fan of Teddy bears and very much appreciate the little girl missing her treasured bear, but also because of the story of redemption in those few moments. A bear who finds fame, suddenly has everything it seems, lives the life so many of us think we want and then realises he actually had everything he needed to begin with. He returns home on Christmas morning to the complete joy of his little girl. Sometimes we think that the glitter in front of us is all we want, we long for fame and fortune, and then we begin to realise it is not all it promises to be. We long for what we had, those we loved and who loved us, those who accepted us for who we are. We begin to realise our mistake and want to turn around and go back. Sometimes this is really hard to do, but with Jesus the opportunity for redemption is always there. We can always turn back, always find the way back with God who will be overjoyed that we have come back to Him. 

19th December 2022

Matthew 1:18a This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about.

The last Sunday of Advent is a time when we get an early Christmas present in our worship and in our scripture readings. Because the readings finally get around to the celebration at the heart of Christmas: the birth of Jesus. We finally get the Christmas story recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, not Luke’s. Luke’s story is told from Mary’s perspective. Matthew’s is told from Joseph’s perspective. Both stories are about the same miraculous birth, but they emphasise different things. Just as if any Mum were to tell the story of their child’s birth, they would tell different things from the Dad. Joseph’s side of the story teaches us about the miracle of Christmas. The surprise gift of Christmas. Joseph’s account reminds us that the birth of Jesus was completely unexpected. Not just for Mary, but for Joseph, and really for everyone. That first Christmas was a surprise in all sorts of ways. Advent calendars can make it seem like Christmas comes in a very orderly and predictable way. But the first Christmas was anything but orderly, and definitely not expected.

Isaiah 35:3 Strengthen the weary hands and make firm the feeble knees.

Sometimes when I read the Bible a verse will really jump out at me, this is one those. As I get older I find both the strength in my hands and the movement of my knees has deteriorated. I can’t always open the jars now; I find kneeling really hard and going up and down stairs is not as easy as it used to be. Don’t get me wrong, I am still fit and healthy but the gazelle like bounding up the stairs is definitely no longer happening. Here in Isaiah, we are reminded that God sees these weary hands and feeble knees and hears our prayers to strengthen them. When we need that extra strength, that extra energy God can and will step in. Sometimes the weariness and feebleness come from Spiritual and mental struggles, again God is there to strengthen us. This verse makes me smile, makes me realise that God’s word has so many things in it about normal people. Thank you, Lord.

17th December 2022

Matthew 8:16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.

For many folk Jesus is seen as a good man, a miracle worker, a healer. Even those who don’t believe usually accept He did some amazing things. As Christians, if we accept Jesus as the Son of God, as part of the triune God who is responsible for creation and the natural world, then we understand how He was able to do miracles, to heal people. He has power over the very nature He created. Today we possess so much science that offers us miraculous healing. Things which wiped out huge numbers of people, now cured, operations unthought of even 20 years ago now happening. The things of today are the miracles of the past, as we move on in our God given intelligence, learning new things, developing new techniques and drugs, we turn miracles into ordinary life. We are so used to it we forget just how miraculous it is. God offers us physical and mental healing through medicines, medical professionals, science, the help of others. He is still a God of miracles, we are just very good at giving humans and science the credit. God provided the intelligence, the resources and the ability to develop these things and it is that which allows us to advance miracles of healing so regularly.

16th December 2022

Psalm 54:4 Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

When I was in college, I often did a shift at the bar, as evenings went on folk would become more inebriated and then some would be very joyful and comedic, others would become quite maudlin. It was as if the alcohol made them dwell more on the difficulties in their lives than the joys. People I know who struggle with alcohol talk about drinking to forget but say that the more you drink the more your mind dwells on your problems. In recent years we have finally begun to take mental health seriously but the pandemic and cost of living crisis, the lack of money and huge bills mean people are in more need now than ever, both practically and mentally. As usual the Government help in these areas is non-existent, with schools and work places now funding their own with even less money. Forgetting our problems may bring some relief initially but they never go and nothing is really achieved. All I know is that God promises a peace, not all the answers or solutions, but a way of coping which allows us to stay the course and to think outside the box. God does not promise everything always perfect and wonderful, but He does promise, strength, peace, help and encouragement. He also gives us others to help, to listen, to support and we must never feel we cannot ask for help when we need it. God offers His help through others, just remember that knock on the door, that envelope, that delivery may be from God’s helpers, the angels of this work He has provided to help us.

15th December 2022

Luke 15:17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!

Recently I was reminded of the Mazes we visited with the children. If you think of navigating a maze, to find the exit, we will take many wrong turns, sometimes even the same ones, but these wrong turns ultimately help us move through the maze and get to the exit. Similarly, in life, wrong turns can redirect us onto something greater, a better clearer path. It is also the case that those who experience hardship, struggles and wrong turns in life often develop more resiliency, more determination, and more courage. Making a wrong turn, facing failure, rarely means the end of something and often it can be the beginning of something new and often better, because it offers us the option to try again, to gain wisdom, to learn and progress. The prodigal son came to a realisation. He realised he could still have a place in his father’s estate where he would be better off than he was now. What he didn’t realise until he got home is that his father’s love is so unconditional that even in his failure he is still welcomed, still loved, still valued, he is not given up upon. However, much society may judge us by our perceived successes and failures, in God’s eyes we are loved and accepted for who we are. Navigating life’s maze means making mistakes, errors and failures, but we should not be afraid of these, but rather in God’s grace, use them as a springboard to find another way.

14th December 2022

Matthew 25:13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The snow on Sunday night as I came home from church was both welcome, I love the snow, but also worrying, as I was travelling on quickly disappearing roads. When it came it came hard and fast, fortunately I was near enough to home, but others quickly became stranded on motor ways in Kent. I did not expect it, the weather I had seen suggested a little flutter maybe and also, we never get much snow this near to London. Many of us were surprised and caught unawares. How we react when things happen suddenly says a lot about us. Those who are always prepared, blanket, food and water in the car, those with nothing, those who kept on going and trying and those who stopped as soon as a little white stuff fluttered down. In faith we need to be prepared for anything, expect the unexpected as they say. At any time, Jesus could return, at any time there could be an emergency, someone who needs our help, a job that God wants us to do. Being a Christian is not a sit back and relax faith, but an action-based faith. We are called to help, to minister, to act for others and to share God’s love through practical loving ways. We may never know the consequences of all we do for others but God sees and encourages and supports, giving all we need to be people of practical faith, who are always ready and prepared.

13th December 2022

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart fail: but God is the strength of my heart, and my Lord for ever.

When we fail it can feel really uncomfortable or seem like a deeply personal setback. Have you ever looked on failure as a steppingstone to success through growth and opportunities to try again. While its challenging, failure is often inevitable, whether it comes as a missed deadline, a calculation error, an interview without a job offer or that wrong reaction which caused so much hurt. Knowing how to accept and appreciate failure can help us use it as a learning opportunity. We can see failure as not getting the desired outcome and the opposite of success, but our definition of success includes wealth and prosperity rather than happiness and wellbeing. Acknowledging the feelings associated with failure is an important step in gaining emotional intelligence and the ability to recognise the impact it has. Failures often lead to success because they allow us to test and try what doesn't work and to discover what does. As Christians we will need to learn and change as we grow in faith. Experiencing failure might be painful initially, but without it, we might well miss the many benefits it can bring. God knows we are not perfect and that we will fail, thankfully He accepts us as we are, failures and all, always ready to help when we call to Him.

12th December 2022

Matthew 12:34b For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

I wonder how many times you have been asked what’s in your heart? We are told that the words we speak reflect what is in our hearts. We can only pretend for so long with false smiles and trying to be nice, but eventually the Scrooge or Grinch inside will come out if it’s there. The real us is reflected in how we behave, how we speak to others. If we are foul mouthed constantly then we need to examine our hearts, if we are happy to ridicule, speak ill of or be nasty to others under the guise of fun or banter then we need to examine our hearts. I was always told; if you cannot say anything good then say nothing. What we say matters, by our very words we will be judged, if we lie, ridicule, make fun, criticise then we will have to face up to that before God. As is often said it is better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to open our mouths and remove any doubt. None of us are perfect, we will say the wrong thing sometimes, the problem is when we are doing it almost all the time because then it is what is in our heart that is fueling what we say and that needs to change.

10th December 2022

Isaiah 11:1 A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

People have often been forewarned of events, of what might happen if things don’t change. Right now, we are being warned of the terrible changes in our climate unless we change how we live and quickly. People were foretold of the coming Messiah, of Jesus being born, but people easily ignored many of the prophecies about the Messiah that did not fit with their way of thinking. Kings aren’t born in stables, only palaces, kings are rich, kings have power to destroy. Kings don’t serve. Kings don’t take an interest in the poor or challenge the status quo. Jesus does not fit into the picture they had made for themselves. Jesus often does not fit into the picture we draw for ourselves. We want the power, the authority, the riches, but not the servanthood, the ridicule, the challenge. As much as we spend Advent preparing for Xmas, we are also supposed to be preparing for his return. Making sure we don’t fall into the trap like those who forgot about the Messiah because of the time frame. We need to always be prepared, to live as Christians ready for Jesus both this Christmas and every day. 

9th December 2022

Matthew 3:3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”’

What have you done to prepare for Christmas so far? Any trees up? Decorations? Presents bought? Presents packed? Have you been opening your Advent Calendar? As part of the preparation for Jesus first coming at Bethlehem, there were prophecies, His coming was foretold. Isaiah spoke of the virgin who would bear a son, and Him being from the tribe of Judah, a descendant of David, called Emmanuel. Micah spoke of Bethlehem as the place He would be born, Malachi spoke of the forerunner who would prepare the way. These are just a few. There are many more prophecies about His life, miracles, death and resurrection. These prophecies were given so people could get ready for the Messiah, for Jesus. We prepare for things when we know they are coming, people coming for dinner, packed lunches for school or work, doing homework, preparing for a baby to come, getting ready for a new job. Where possible we should always be prepared. As people got ready for the messiah, they prepared, unfortunately they also forgot when it took longer than they wanted.

8th December 2022

Luke 2:13,14 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

Around this time of year, I tend to get asked what my favourite Christmas carol is. I admit that each year I tend to find a carol will jump out at me, have a different message for me. I do love all the carols, certain one’s fit perfectly in certain services. This year the carol that is rattling round in my consciousness is “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”. The carol picks up on the themes of war and peace which seem very relevant to the Ukraine situation and the lack of peace in so many places at present. It speaks of two thousand years of wrong, of man at war with man hears not the love song which the angels bring. The final verse reminds us of the age to come, an age of peace when all will finally hear and join in with the song of the angels. I wish I could rise over the strife in Ukraine and say oh hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing. We may not be able to physically do this but we can pray for it, we can raise the people who want nothing more than the strife to stop and for their freedom to be returned, raise them to the Lord. We can pray for the age of Gold to come and peace to be over all. If you get a chance to sing this carol this year please do look at the words and remember those whose Christmas is blighted by war.

7th December 2022

1 Peter 2:16a Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.

I recently went to see the London Production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Still my favourite childhood Story. I was reminded of how easy it is for us not to take responsibility for our actions and in doing so put others at risk. One of the four key children in the story succumbs to the charms of the evil White Witch and in doing so endangers his siblings and the kingdom. To redeem him a sacrifice has to be made, a sacrifice of huge magnitude which puts everyone at risk. The story is an allegory of God’s sacrifice to save us. We all make mistakes, we all try to cover up our faults but in both the story and in life it is the recognition of our wrongdoing, the taking responsibility, which allows the sacrifice made for us to redeem us. It is far too easy to pass the buck, to make excuses and to use our freedom in Christ as a cover up for evil. We must show proper respect for honesty, integrity, goodness and for everyone no matter who they are because God made His huge sacrifice for everyone, to offer everyone the opportunity to take responsibility and be redeemed. 

6th December 2022

Matthew 5:14b People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

We have just put up our Christmas lights. We invested in new ones which use less electricity, have a timer and are bright. Lights are so different now, they can go outside without costing a fortune, they use so much less electricity and much more efficient. Even so, I have noticed that whereas lights have been left on all night in the past, now they are only on in the evening. People are saving electricity but still wanting to share the colours and light needed at this time of year. Light is so vital in the dark nights, folk going to work in the dark, coming home in the dark, the lights give some joy in dark times. Darkness can be a time of fear, of cold, of loneliness, but bright, sparkling, flashing lights serve to push away the darkness, to cut through and provide light, reassurance and encouragement. Jesus was called the Light of the world, the one who pushed away the darkness of evil, who shone a light on the fear and loneliness, who changed lives from darkness to light. Festivals of light are crucial to our faith and our world; we provide light in the darkness of winter. 

4th December 2022

Luke 1:3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account.

Can you remember how you came to faith? Did you grow up in it or someone shared it with you, or you encountered something that made you question and seek answers? However it happened, part of what we do or should do is to look at what has been done, what is written and taught and grow as Christians. In this beginning of Luke’s gospel, Luke is clear about his aims in writing it, to give an orderly account of what Jesus did and said, to see the links to prophecies fulfilled in Jesus coming, to show the eyewitness accounts, to investigate and know the truth. These are good, honesty driven, reasons for sharing Luke’s experiences with others, with us. Over years of faith, I have changed my view on many things, God has had to open some very closed eyes and deaf ears, but He takes each one of us as we are and slowly shows us what needs to change in our lives. Although we may strive for perfection it is unattainable. We will never be completely right and when we judge others by our opinions and views we endanger their relationship with God who will change them in His time not ours. It is far too easy to think we know it all and have got it all right, sadly we will never get it all right and need to be as willing to change our views later in life as we were when we first found faith.  

3rd December 2022

Matthew 24:42 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

You may have noticed how colour is used in the Church of England. The altar cloths, falls and various covers change colour with the liturgical seasons of the year. Currently we are in Advent, the colour is purple, and it is what is known as a penitential season. We reflect on our wrongdoings and make changes. Purple is a colour that reflects repentance, self-denial, preparedness and fasting, but it also a royal colour reflecting the Kingship of Christ. Three of the Advent candles are purple and are lit to remind us of the Patriarchs, the Prophets and John The Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus. There is also a rose candle, not for Mary as many assume, but for Gaudete Sunday, The third Sunday where, like with Mothering Sunday in Lent, there is an uplifting time of Joy and celebration within the austerity of the season. The antiphon for this Sunday is Rejoice in the Lord always from Philippians and so rose pink represented the joy of the Lord. The final candle is white, in the centre of the wreath and lit on Christmas day when all the cloths and falls change to white and Gold for the Christmas season. White is a colour of purity and light, the holiness of God in the Christ born at Christmas. 

2nd December 2022

2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of love and self-control.

Do you feel in control of your life or does it feel like life controls you? We actually do have the God given ability to control our lives, but what are our priorities? Working all the time often becomes a necessity, especially when the cost of living is so high, but it is not beneficial, neither to us or to those we love and support. I had a father who was always working, we saw little benefit money wise and our family relationship suffered terribly. Life needs to have balance. We need to ask ourselves what we do to keep our work in balance with other parts of our life? Do we have rest times, down times? If not why not? Even Jesus knew that all humans need time away, time to eat, time to rest. Do we take time to eat properly? Do we take time for ourselves in the business of life? No excuses, we must try making specific times in our day to rest, to enjoy simple things and to make sure we eat properly. Sometimes we have to re-evaluate our priorities, because I have known many families who would prefer to have someone at home with them and be hard up, than comfortable without their family member. Families and friends need us, value us and we must value ourselves before God.

1st December 2022

Matthew 24:31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Advent is a time for looking both forwards and backwards. The term comes from the Latin, Adventus, which means coming. Jesus first came at Bethlehem but also spoke of coming back, of the great trumpet call, this is often called the second coming. During the late 4th early 5th centuries new Christians were prepared for Baptism at Epiphany with 40 days of preparation, including fasting and prayer. Preparing for baptism into the faith and preparing for Jesus’ return became combined into the festival of Advent. All Christians were expected to prepare for celebrating the nativity of Jesus, His first coming, but also to be prepared for His second coming. Advent is a penitential season, similar to Lent, where we examine our lives, seek forgiveness and make changes; when things are more austere in church, no flowers, the colour purple is used, the Gloria is not used and time is spent reflecting on one’s own preparedness. Today we focus much more on preparing for Christmas, on Jesus first coming, but Advent still contains the readings and teachings which remind us of His second coming and that we need always to be ready for His return.

30th November 2022

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

How can we renew our minds? Seems a strange idea and yet, what we see, hear and experience each day affects us and our minds. Sadly, much of what we witness in daily life is filled with negativity and awfulness. The constant negative news, the constant lies of politicians, the terrible plight of the hungry and poor demonised by right wing press. Instead, what we need are good and wholesome things to fill our minds with. Instead of death and destruction we need life and construction. It is often said that what comes out of our mouths is a reflection of what is in our heart and mind. Think about what you say out loud to others, is it good and wholesome or is unpleasant and rude? There are no excuses, what we say about others matters and reflects on us. We must try to be more mindful of what we say because these words and actions show who we really are. Renewing our minds to wholesome and good things will change our perspective on life, it will change how we see others and it will enable us to be people of God who always seek for the truth, for the good of all and for the best outcomes in life.

29th November 2022

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Sometimes in life, we don’t recognise our own needs or problems and we don’t recognise our need for God. There are still so many in society who ignore God. Like the religious leaders, the soldiers, the other thief, at Jesus death, people called Jesus to “Save yourself! Prove who you are. Save us.” These people wanted a magic show; they wanted Jesus to “do what I want, for me, now”. “Do this and I will believe” they say. Jesus did exactly that time and again, but they still did not believe. These people and many of us want to escape our lives rather than have them put back together by God in a fantastic way we could never imagine. So, instead of letting God bless us and care for us we mock, we deride Jesus. And yet, the cross is the ultimate act of love, compassion and forgiveness by God as Christ joins with and aligns himself with us in the pain and suffering of this life. God loves us utterly, completely and unconditionally, He proves Himself constantly to us and offers forgiveness and saving every moment of every day. All we must do is believe. 

28th November 2022

Ephesians 1:10 At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ, everything in heaven and on earth.

The term remembering in the sense of bringing all the pieces together, putting the parts back again as one; is the opposite of dismembering; separation, pulling apart, tearing limb from limb. The thief on the cross wants to be remembered, put back together again, not to simply be thought about and the same goes for us. Just like the thief we want to be re-membered, to have the many pieces of our life put back together. Our cry to be remembered is also a recognition and confession of our dismemberment. We have been dismembered, because pieces have been scattered and lost. Sometimes through the circumstances of life; loss and grief, shattered dreams, disappointment, regret, failures, the death of a loved one. Our life becomes fragmented and broken. It can happen in all sorts of ordinary ways: anger and resentment, criticism, judgment, envy, comparison and competition, gossip, bad mouthing another, perfectionism, the need to be right or in control, busyness, excessive productivity and efficiency. If we look at our relationships, wherever there is strain, hurt and brokenness, the chances are that we are being dismembered, forgotten, torn apart. That is not the life God gave us. That is not God’s dream or hope for us. That’s not what it was like in the very beginning, on the day of our creation, when God looked at all of creation, us included, He declared, “It is very good.”

27th November 2022

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, our calendars do not start until Thursday this week, but with Christmas Day on a Sunday this year, this is the earliest the first Sunday of Advent can be. For the church this is the hinge of the year, the previous liturgical year is over and the new one begins. Unlike the New Year we celebrate on January 1st, this one does not have parties or celebrations because Advent is a Penitential season. Penitence is recognising and showing sorrow and remorse for our wrongdoing. It is part of the preparation for the Christmas season. It is about preparing oneself for the coming of Jesus; the first coming of Jesus at Bethlehem, but also the second coming when Christ returns and the New Heaven and New Earth are finally fulfilled as God intended them. Today we remember the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David: those who looked forward to God’s promised Messiah. We light a Purple candle and look forward with them to the coming Messiah. 

26th November 2022

1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

When I first started teaching, I would always go into school early, I still do it today. I love the school when it is quiet, no one is yet around and there is peacefulness. This allows me to get ready, be prepared, have everything ready to go but also be able to adapt should things change suddenly, which they can. During the pandemic I also found that time so valuable to walk the school and pray. I was pretty much confined to my office when everyone was in school, so being able to walk and pray before everyone came in made a huge difference. We are all different, we need those differences, but there is something about being prepared, being in a place before everything happens, being able to set ourselves for what is to come and offer up our best. It is the same for me in church, I am always there early to prepare the place but also myself. We all need to be ready before God, to spend time with Him not just together in church but also alone, in quietness and solitude. For some it is the journey to work, for others a quiet place in the home, for others even a cloakroom. Wherever we find our place we need a little time, time to be with God, time to prepare, time to be ready so that even when things change quickly, and they will, we can step up knowing we are ready and prepared because we have spent time with God.

25th November 2022

Philippians 1:2 I pray with joy because of the way in which you have helped me in the work of the gospel from the very first day until now.

Have you heard the term Blue Sky thinking? It involves an individual or group of people looking at something with fresh eyes and not being bound by the usual constraints. Albert Einstein was a blue-sky thinker, often laughed at and disregarded, his thinking led to some of the greatest scientific discoveries and advances in society. Across time there have been many of these blue sky moments and times that have changed our world view, not least the Sun at the centre of the Universe, Newton discovering Gravity, the rights of women, or in recent years the World Wide Web. People thinking outside the box, having a clear vision not obstructed by societal norms, seeing the bigger picture, these have all changed things. The very fact that Christianity is a worldwide faith shows us how the early Christians had this clear vision and went for it. They travelled the world even though it was dangerous and took so long; they shared their faith, they opened eyes so that people heard about Jesus. This creative and imaginative force within us is given by God. He gave those first Christians a clear vision, He has given that to us throughout the ages and gives it to us now. God offers a clear vision if we are willing to look, grasp and strive for the best and not let clouds or problems stand in our way.

 24th November 2022

Romans 12:2a Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed and changed by the renewing of your mind.

A recent report I read suggested that resilience has become one of those buzz words we band about but don’t really understand. It also suggested that parents are not that keen on this word or its implications for our young people. Instead let’s think about it as sticking with things and people through thick and thin. It is another way of looking at resilience, and it helps understand how we build our determination, our constancy and how we can develop our reactions to events and people in our lives. Across cultures we see people make promises to serve a country or people, promises to stick with someone until they have paid off a debt, promises to sponsor someone trying to clean up from drink and drugs. In our culture children have God parents who promise to help parents in the upbringing of their children and parents themselves make promises in how they will bring up their children. We have people in public life who make promises to serve their community but, and it is a big but, so often once these promises are made, they are forgotten very quickly and stickability is lost. We seem to have forgotten the importance of making a commitment and sticking to it, an example is the commitment of marriage which has declined as people say they don’t need to marry to be committed to each other but when things get tough it is far easier to walk away than try to work things out. Being held to our promises and commitments is the very heart of stickability and resilience. We are reminded not to conform to the pattern of this world, in other words not to break our promises just because other people do, not to abandon people during difficult times because other people do, not to take seriously our commitments and promises because all we see is people who lie to get themselves into power and then do whatever is needed to keep that power. God is the chief example of one who sticks with us no matter what, He fulfils His promises and commitments even when we turn away from ours. 

23rd November 2022

Isaiah 49:16 Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.”

We all know what it is like to be remembered and we know what it is like to be forgotten. Think of a time you were remembered, how it felt, a phone call, a letter, a visit, a gift, a surprise, recognising you. I bet it made you feel good. We all want to be remembered. It means that we matter, there is life, presence, and relationship in being remembered. We know how important remembering is. The Feast of All Saints, Remembrance Sunday, we remember those we love, who are forever a part of us and our lives. Compare that with a time when you were forgotten. What did that feel like? Someone forgot your birthday, or the anniversary of your wedding or the death of a loved one. In those moments we feel alone, abandoned, uncertain, afraid, wounded, maybe even angry. There is a sense of helplessness. We are no longer sure of our place and whether we even belong. No one wants to be forgotten, we want to be remembered. Jesus promises that remembrance. He will never forget us, we are inscribed on the palms of Jesus hands.

22nd November 2022

Luke 23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Many of the words in the Communion service speak into our relationship with God. The very act of Communion is anamnesis, a remembering through action of what Jesus did for us. Every time we participate in the life of Christ by living with mercy, compassion, forgiveness; every time we speak a word of hope and encouragement; every time we love without condition, expectation, or payment; every time we share our bread and live in communion with one another we participate in Christ’s remembering of our own lives, the lives of each other, and the life of the world. We “do this in remembrance of [Jesus].” In those moments we hear the promise of Jesus, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Why is that the promise given us on the last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical year? That promise is the hinge between the ending of this liturgical year and the beginning of the next. It stands between the crucifixion and the nativity. In Christ’s eyes we are never forgotten we are forever and always remembered. “Today you will be with me in paradise” is Jesus’ promise to each one of us, this day and every day.

21st November 2022

Matthew 23:37 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.

The few verses at the end of Matthew chapter 23 are called the Lament over Jerusalem. A lament is a passionate expression of grief or regret. A whole book in the Old Testament is called Lamentations. This sadness can be expressed through poetry, prose or song and allows an internal feeling to be expressed outwardly. What is so powerful here is that God, Jesus laments, God is sad, God is grieving over His people who have turned their back on Him. This Holy City, the very city that will become new has turned away from its creator. We tend to think of God as all powerful and all knowing but we rarely think of Him as sad, as grieving, yet we carry the very emotions He has as we were created in His image. God grieves when we turn away, when we do not share His love with others, when people ridicule all God has given to us out of love. As much as God grieves, He will never force us only wait for us to find Him again. Once the time for the New Jerusalem comes there will be no more waiting. Humans have a choice to make and when we turn from God it saddens His heart.

20th November 2022

Genesis 28:16 The Lord is here! He is in this place, and I didn't know it!

I wonder if you have ever had problems with your brother or sister, if you have any siblings. Quite often there can be sibling rivalry, one upmanship, the desire to be better or to be the favourite. In the Old Testament there are a number of stories where brothers go against each other, where tensions are high and favouritism causes real problems. It's becoming clear that Jacob, not Esau, is the son through whom God will make a nation and bless the world. But while out in the desert he has a dream. His dream of a ladder up to heaven with angels going up and down is a symbol of the fact that even with all his faults, he has a working and good relationship with God. Esau never finds this relationship. This dream serves to remind Jacob and us that earth and heaven are in fact close. They are not as far apart as we often think they are. The world can seem very ordinary sometimes, without much room for God, but Jacob’s ladder to heaven reminds us that the boundaries between earth and heaven are porous. There is two-way traffic as God involves himself in our world and we pray to Him in Heaven. Jacob called the place 'Bethel', meaning 'House of God'. He realises God was right there even though he did not know it. Sometimes we have this same experience, perhaps in the most ordinary of places. God is there, in every place, even though we might forget it.

19th November 2022

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promises, but is patient toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

The recent budget was once again a calculated reaction to a situation rather than sticking to the promises made by a government. Yes, we must change and adapt to circumstances but completely abandoning pledges because of a failure to look after their commitments, shows that promises are just a means to an end, power and wealth for the few. Sticking with a situation, a promise, a commitment is not easy, but it is vital to the ordering and running of our world. Being able to ride out the rough with the smooth is crucial in life because life is not one big positive experience. There are amazing parts to life but also the difficult and awful parts. We celebrate success, promotions and new life but we also meet illness, failure and death. As has been said in many a song and speech, life is a rollercoaster with many ups and downs. We must as both Christians and humans, take seriously the commitments we make, not just to get us what we want but because it is together that life is at its best and fairest, together we make a difference, together we support one another through the difficult times and celebrate with one another through the good times. The example we have is God who sticks with us through every moment, Jesus who even when we fail still fulfils His promises, who does not give up on us after a few days or weeks but sticks with us through thick and thin. The least we can do for one another is to stick with each other and to help each other whatever happens. This way we will all have a better life, and our community will be a better, stronger and more stable place for all.

18th November 2022

Genesis 20:2 Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.

One of the shocking things about many Old Testament stories is the normality of women being treated as property. This appears normal in the ancient world, but in the Bible the way these stories are told usually show God's condemnation of this misogynistic behaviour. As much as Abraham is held up as a patriarch whose example should be followed, he is actually willing to prostitute his own wife to secure his own safety. Abraham willingly passes Sarah off as his sister so that the king Abimelech will take her into his house. Abraham shows no respect for Sarah’s honour and no regard at all for her safety. He also controls her by telling her it is a test of her loyalty to him for her to do this. Controlling and coercive behaviour. Not acceptable by anyone. Abraham is seen in a terrible light here. The wise statesman, powerful warrior and ancestor of all Israel is a terrible moral failure. God himself intervenes to save Sarah. This is an example of shameful behaviour the kind of which we're more sensitive about today, but still misogyny is rife, particularly in the church and in nationalist policies. In the New Testament, Paul doesn’t help much either, he does tell husbands to love their wives, as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it, but that is far to easy to wriggle out of. It also shows us that doing the right thing, having integrity requires morality and courage. Once we give into selfish behaviour, once we are corrupted in our morality towards others the consequences are terrible and not of God.

17th November 2022

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.

We are currently seeing people in need of a decent wage rise. Contrary to a government agenda, most public sector pay has been either frozen or given very small increases in the last 12 years. Some public sector workers have seen no rises in several years, all while the cost of living is rising. The government figures on inflation bear no resemblance to the price hike in energy, pasta, milk, bread, eggs and so on. People are expected to live on, by MP’s, 30p a day and be grateful. Meanwhile they claim for energy costs, food allowances etc up to £300,000 a year. Until someone has to live on next to nothing, cannot afford to heat their home or hot water, have a few pounds to buy food which is now 3 or 4 times what it was, none of us can judge or criticise those in this position. Millions in poverty, children in school hungry. We are so wrapped up in blaming them, a useful tool by those in charge, that we cannot see the blatant greed of the wealthy. God has been completely clear in the Bible, a fair wage for work. This is not a gift or at the whim of the wealthy, it is due, expected and should be given without complaint. Right now we need wages to rise and rise fairly in a wealthy country where the poor are getting poorer while the wealthy are increasing their wealth massively on a daily basis.

16th November 2022

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you to the nations.

Every so often I have to apply for a new DBS certificate. Because I work with Children and vulnerable adults I have to be cleared as not having anything in my background that might be a threat. In many ways it is intrusive but it is also necessary. We want our children, our vulnerable to be cared for and helped by those who are going to do their best for them. Over the years the completion of the form has become easier because things can be checked online. Every one of us has a footprint we leave upon this world. Our names, dates of birth and NI numbers etc clarify who we are and allows us to be seen for who we are in society. I am able to prove who I am and be verified by those who are trained to check everything. Before God we do not have to prove who we are, He created us, He knows exactly who we are even if we pretend to be otherwise. Before God we do not need a passport, a NI number, birth certificate because God already knows all those things about us. He knows the number of hairs on our heads, knew us before we were born, knows the tears we cry and carries us in His heart. Proof of who we are in God is completely covered in Jesus. We are His, we are loved, saved and kept in the Father heart of God by the death and resurrection of the Son, Jesus.

15th November 2022

Mark 9:2b There Jesus was transfigured before them.

Real life is a mixture of good and bad, often things are confusing and messy and we have to work hard often for little reward. Sometimes we hit a high, often called a mountain top experience where things are amazing, clear and wonderful but these happen rarely. Peter’s everyday experiences had caused him to try and turn Jesus away from His earthly mission. Jesus had condemned Peter and yet very soon after this Peter, along with James and John, is invited to join Jesus in the Mountain Top experience. They find themselves part of a glorious vision including Elijah and Moses which clearly validates Jesus as God’s chosen one, the Messiah who was to come. They had witnessed Jesus’ miracles, seen lives changed but now they were in the presence of God Himself. We are sometimes given 'mountain-top experiences' of our own, when God seems very near to us and the veil between earth and heaven is lifted. These experiences are precious, but they aren't the norm. When Peter, James and John came down the mountain they found anger, failure, confusion, messy daily life. The disciples are not able to help someone who needs healing. This is real day to day life; this is the life within which we minister. We will get frustrated, we will get it wrong, we will find it exhausting. Those mountain top experiences are there to encourage us, help us, strengthen us to cope with the difficulties of the valley in which we live each day.

14th November 2022

John 5:25 Very truly I tell you, the hour is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.

What are you waiting for? At this time of year children are waiting for Christmas, getting more and more excited. We often “Can’t wait” for a holiday, a party, a visit, a special event. Jesus used this phrase the hour is coming. Something is coming but not yet. This was explained to me through the adage “pie in the sky when we die or steak on the plate while we wait”. Part of Christianity is patience, waiting for what is to come. The trouble with patience and waiting is that we can lose focus. We can get bored, wander off, get a bit lazy with life now, but God wants us to have life in all its fullness now, not just in the future in Heaven. There were also early Christians who were so caught up in going to Heaven they were no earthly good. It was all about the future and nothing got done in the here and now. Yes we are promised Heaven but we are also called to live life now, to share God’s love with others, to be helping others, caring, compassionate, forgiving, honest, just and fair. We are called to work for and serve God in our daily lives but also knowing the hour will come and we shall be heavenward bound.

13th November 2022

Mark 6:3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

How are you perceived at home, at work, by others? Often, we are not seen in the same light by family as we are by others or at work. Jesus was attracting large crowds; they came to hear his teaching and often get fed and sometimes healed. When he went back to his own town, Nazareth, it was a different story: the people only saw the carpenter’s son who had grown up among them. Calling him the 'Mary’s son' indicated they doubted the legitimacy of Jesus' birth and so made this cruel insult. Joseph believed that Mary conceived 'by the Holy Spirit', as Christians do, but perhaps the townsfolk weren't so sure. They saw Jesus as getting above himself and so He was not able to perform any miracles there apart from a few healings. This seems quite shocking. We are used to thinking of Jesus being able to do anything. But Mark is quite clear: Jesus was limited in what he could do by the people's lack of faith in him. Let ‘s be very clear, there is no connection between the amount of faith we have and what God does for us. That idea is very cruel, especially if we are blamed for not having enough faith when we or a loved one are not healed or helped. But it clearly shows us there is a need for us to co-operate with God in everything we do. If we aren't receptive to God’s leading and open to his possibilities, we can limit what He can do with us and through us.

12th November 2022

1 John 3:16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

Unlike those who have fought in wars and those who still fight for our freedom and protection, we will probably never be asked to love others to the extent of giving up our lives for them. We are still called to show our love to others and for others, in all sorts of different ways. Others are those we meet at school and work, members of our family, our neighbours, our community, those in difficulty, the poor, the sick, the unloved and disregarded, in fact we are called to love everyone, even those who live on the other side of the world who it is so easy to forget. We show this love by the ways in which we help others in person and through organisations and charity work we support. At this time of remembrance, we recall and give thanks for those who have given up their lives to bring freedom to this country, and across the world, and as we do this let us also remember that Jesus willingly gave up His life to deal with the evil in our world and in our hearts, making us new again. Once that happens within us, we can, through love, go out and change the world and make it a more peaceful place by spreading His new life and growth.

11th November 2022

Psalm 105:8 He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.

Today we Remember those who gave their lives in service of their countries. Most of us will be wearing poppies. The reason we use a poppy to help us remember is that they were the first things to start growing again in the muddy fields of World War 1. The Poppy usually has three parts. The black bit in the middle of the poppy can represent all the terrible parts of war, the hate, the suffering, the pride, the anger, the violence, the desire for more power, more land and more money. All the bad bits of war come from the same place, out of the human heart; evil thoughts of anger, murder, immorality, theft, lies and slander. It is quite a disturbing thought that a war can begin with one man or one woman’s evil heart? They then share that evil idea with others, The idea then spreads to another person and another person until a nation is led into something awful, like a world war. The red part of the Poppy represents blood, the fact that many people gave their lives in wars so that we can live in a free country. The red part can also remind us of Jesus, also willing to lay down his life for everyone in the world, so that the problem of the blackness in our hearts could be sorted out, so that we can live free from evil. Love is much more powerful than evil. The red part of the poppy is much bigger than the black part. The green part of your poppy, the green leaf and stem reminds us of things that grow, that even in the depths of death and war new and beautiful things begin to grow. New life comes out of death. New life in Christ comes out of Jesus death on the cross. New life and democracies can come out of war. 

10th November 2022

Luke 20:27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question.

How good are you at riddles? Word puzzles, questions that make us think. Sometimes riddles are funny, sometimes not. What goes up when the rain comes down? An umbrella. What is full of holes but can still hold water? A sponge! Riddles have been around since before the time of Jesus. One day, Jesus was approached by a group of Sadducees, religious leaders, who tried to make Him look silly. However much we disagree with someone we should never try to make them look silly or treat them badly. They were trying to trick Jesus into agreeing that there was no life after death. They asked him to answer a riddle about the law of Moses, families, children, and who might be married to who in Heaven. It was a very tricky riddle, but Jesus knew exactly how to answer them. He didn’t fall into their trap. Jesus said, marriage and families as we know them are for people while they live on earth, but in Heaven things aren’t the same, they are so much better and people will never die again. They will live forever as the children of God. After Jesus answered their riddle so wisely, no one dared to ask him any more questions that day. Riddles are for fun, not to be nasty to people or to be unkind. Jesus promised us that if we love him and trust in him, we will live forever in Heaven with him. One last riddle for you; Why were the religious leaders called Sadducees? Since they didn’t believe in the resurrection or the happiness of Heaven, they were "Sad, you see!"

9th November 2022

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Like me, you have probably met those confident people who seem to have everything sorted, the self-confidence and self-assurance seems to ooze from them. I will let you into a secret. In nearly all those people it is bravado. They act this way to make everyone think they are totally self-assured. People with real self-assurance don’t need to act out a role, they just are, quietly, gently, no big show is needed. That self-assurance, composure, positiveness, poise and strength comes from an inner security rooted in peace, love and self-knowledge. In Colossians we are given the qualities which allow us to develop that self-assurance. Patience, forgiveness, love;  of  self and others; peace in decisions and life, thankfulness for all we have, wisdom and hope. Everything we do or say needs to be done to the best we can. This gives us faith in ourselves, our abilities, and talents, allows us to meet new challenges, overcome difficulties, learn and gain wisdom which in turn leads to self-assurance. But remember, self-assurance is not arrogance, it is forged from a willingness to learn, to gain insight, to exercise judgement in the knowledge and experience of life alongside the expertise of others. It enables us to look and see the world and our God given unique, special place in that world. This is self-assurance as God intended.

8th November 2022

Wisdom 3:1 But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.

As well as the 66 books of the Bible, there are some intertestamental books called the Apocrypha. One such book is that of Wisdom, accredited to the very wise King Solomon. This verse is one of the most comforting and encouraging when we suffer death and grief. It reminds us that those we love and have lost are in God’s hands, what a place to be. Not only that, but they will also suffer no torment, none of the rigors that those who reject God and reject goodness will suffer. Hell is an odd concept in today’s world and yet it is the striking reminder that those who completely selfish, who reject the ways of God, who think and act totally for themselves will meet their end in the same suffering they put upon others. What keeps us safe in God’s hands is the recognition that we are sinners, we need help and that Jesus death on the cross provided, that defeat of death and evil in both our lives and our physical death. We place ourselves and those we love into the hands of God knowing He will keep them and ultimately us, safe and blessed.

7th November 2022

Luke 6:21Blessed are you who weep and mourn now, for you will laugh again.

When we grieve and mourn those we lose to death, there are many things that trouble our hearts. Perhaps we remember things we did or said that we deeply regret but can’t say sorry for. There might be things we left unsaid because we thought we had more time to say them. We might be hanging on to feelings of anger or bitterness towards someone we love dearly but who hurt us. We might just feel angry or confused about why they had to die. Only we and God know what’s in our hearts. And God, knowing what we need better than we know ourselves, holds out his hands so that we can place that person we have lost into those safe, loving hands. Placing someone into God’s hands may not be easy. We might only be able to do it gradually over a period of time. Our relationship with someone doesn’t end when they die. We carry it with us and it can change, grow and heal. We can grieve for their loss but also feel deep gratitude that our lives have been enriched because they were part of it. As we hold in our hearts those, we love but see no longer. Let us remember that those we love make us who we are and remain part of us forever. They may not be physically here anymore but they will always be within our heart and minds, our memories and experiences.  

6th November 2022

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The bonds between the living and the dead are grounded in Christ’s resurrection, the source of all Christian living and hope. St. Paul reminds us that we are all mortal and perishable. Mortality is what we have in common with every human being and indeed with every other living thing, sentient or not. Jesus as a human being comes and transforms our mortal nature from the inside. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead allows death to be defeated and brings eternal life for all who die in Him. We do not know what it is to live beyond time, like God who holds all time, past, present, and future, and who simultaneously transcends all time. We do know, however, what it is to live in Christ: that is our present experience. As we commemorate those who have departed this life, we ask that they will be given rest “where sorrow and pain are no more” and we are reminded to not let our hearts be troubled or worried. Through Jesus we are not condemned but saved to eternal life.

5th November 2022

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called the sons and daughters of God.

Across our world more and more countries possess nuclear weapons. In recent days Russia has made noises about using them in their unjust war against Ukraine. In the UK we have had heated discussions for years about disarming verses deterrent. We spend huge amounts on nuclear weapons while people go hungry and homeless. Jesus public ministry was quite clear, the days of violence, injustice, war, and empire must and will come to an end. We, as Christians, are invited to welcome God’s reign of peace and live in God’s universal love and nonviolence from here on. Jesus says that God is a peacemaker, and since we are God’s sons and daughters, we are peacemakers too, not warmakers. We too, must practice peace and love of all just as God does. There are no exceptions, no justifications for warfare. Many folks would say these teachings are naïve, impractical, and idealistic. But as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “Jesus is not an impractical idealist: he is the practical realist.” Loving one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival and is the key to the solution of the problems of our world. 

4th November 2022

Luke 6:27 But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.

In the gospels we find the teaching of Jesus called the Beatitudes. These are the attitudes we should have in life each and every day. The attitudes which make us saints of God. The attitudes which enable us to understand the poor and hungry and not despise, judge and reject them. The attitude that is compassionate toward those who grieve, who struggle and are upset. The attitude that realises the mistreatment of ourselves and others is because of our faith. The attitude that accepts that truth, integrity and honesty can often get us into trouble when we question society and its treatment of people. The attitude that realises wealth and power is not what should drive us and is not what we should be striving for at the cost of others. Being a saint isn’t something we show off about or tell others about, we don’t actually recognise it in ourselves, but God does. We live as ordinary people in ordinary jobs who do what we do as Christians with honesty and integrity. We pray for others. We work with others, we bless people, we try to love our enemies, to give what and where we can. We may not work miracles like St Andrew, St Peter or St Paul, and yet we do work miracles, because of us hungry people are, someone has a home to live in, some will have new opportunities and we offer hope where there wasn’t any before. Our attitudes can and do change lives when we live as God asks of us.

3rd November 2022

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Before moving to Rochester Diocese, we lived in Upminster and the Parish of St Laurence. There had been a church on the site for more than 1400 years. Some of the present church is quite ancient and there is a very old crypt. There is some 500-year-old graffiti in the stone and wood work. Stories of ancient tombs and historic folk. I would often sit in that church and think, if these walls could speak, what stories of faith they could tell. All our churches have history, people who have worshipped in them for 50 or 100 or 200 or however many years. We see just a tiny part of some stories through the windows, plaques, tombs, furniture, plate etc. So many stories we will never know and yet we are here because others who came before us had vision, had faith and worked for the Lord without any real recognition. All these folk are who we think of on All saints. Yes, we remember the saints and martyrs recorded in our service books and lectionaries but we also remember those who were never recorded as saints or martyrs but yet served the Lord. As we look back, we will remember those saints we knew, their faith and service, those who taught us so much about faith and love. These are saints, and in the same way you and I, are also saints, as we share what we know and believe with the next generation.

2nd November 2022 All Souls Day

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

The Commemoration of The Faithful Departed, All Souls, came about because of a deep Christian instinct to honour the martyrs, and the saints and the Christian instinct to pray for the dead. Our bonds to one another are not severed by death but still remain. We are still tied to one another in the living Christ, and we believe that we can still help each other through prayer. In Christ, the veil separating this life from the next is quite permeable. The commemoration began to be observed first in monastic houses and then throughout the Western Church. It was set on November 2nd as something of an extension of All Saints on Nov 1st. On All Souls’ Day, we recall the countless numbers of not especially heroic, but rather ordinary Christian people who have lived before us, most of whose names in history are forgotten to all but God. For us, we hold before God those more recently passed who are especially dear to us, family members and friends. We remember those we love but see no longer, those who memory we treasure and whose presence we miss.

1st November 2022 All Saints Day

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us and so easily entangles.

You and I may not see ourselves as saints but we are. The definition of sainthood I love the most is a saint is someone who the light shines through. It comes from the fact that saints of old were represented in stained glass windows where the light shone through. As a child of God, as a Christian, the light of Christ shines through us. Yes, sometimes the light gets a bit obscured by mistakes, by storms, by day to day living, by condensation, but that light of Christ shines through us when we live our lives for Him. That light shines through the prayer, the hospitality, the compassion, the friendliness, the charity, the hope, the love, the difference we make to others' lives, the welcome we offer to those we meet. We will never get a named saint’s day just for us as most of the old saints do, but we do get All Saints Day, a day where we celebrate each other and our faith. When we recognise for ourselves and show each other, just how important we are in God’s family and in God’s work. All Saints Day is for you, for all of us, we are saints, we are not perfect, we are not fully formed yet but we are those who are blessed before God as we serve Him.

31st October 2022

1 Corinthians 1:12 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today is Halloween, this is now celebrated in the UK with dressing up and Trick and Treating. As a festival it actually belongs to the church, to Christianity, as All Hallows' Eve. It falls on 31st October each year, and is the day before All Hallows' Day, known more commonly as All Saints' Day in the Christian calendar. The Church traditionally held a vigil on All Hallows' Eve when worshippers would prepare themselves with prayers and fasting prior to the feast day itself. The name comes from the Old English word 'hallowed' meaning holy, but is now usually shortened to the more familiar word Hallowe'en. It has become synonymous with ghosts and ghouls because it was considered to be a thin place in time, that means a point in time where the gap between the world of the living and the dead is reduced. As that gap between the two worlds becomes permeable people believed that the dead could return to earth that evening thus giving rise to the idea of ghosts. Personally, I do not celebrate Hallowe’en and I encourage families with young children not to play with these representations of evil. I am saddened that society has pushed this into such a money spinner and encourages a devilish attitude instead of a respect towards those who have given their lives in the service of God. All Hallows remembers the saints and martyrs, it remembers those who have loved and served. That is who I will celebrate and remember and I encourage you to do the same.

30th October 2022

Mark 5:41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).

During Covid we were much more aware of washing hands, wearing masks, keeping our distance so as to not to spread disease. In Jesus time there were certain traditions which meant those who were dead or sick were considered unclean and so not to be touched. Jesus gets called on by Jairus, whose little daughter is ill, but on the way there's a sick woman. Her case is less urgent; bleeding for 12 years, and the girl is at the point of death. The woman has been made ritually unclean by her condition, so she could not attend the Temple and anyone who touched her became unclean as well, therefore she sought to touch Jesus anonymously. Jesus does not ignore her and she is healed. On arrival at Jairus' house, the daughter has died, mourning has begun. Jesus takes the dead girl's hand, again ritually unclean, and He raises her back to life. Jesus is not made unclean by contact with bleeding, instead, he heals and cleans her. Jesus is not made unclean by contact with a dead body: instead, He raises her to life. As Christians we sometimes seem to feel that the best way of being holy is to keep away from anything that might compromise or contaminate us. Jesus didn't do that. He helped anyone who needed Him, no matter the issue, no matter the urgency. For us, we too must help anyone who needs us, no matter the issue, no matter the urgency.

29th October 2022

Luke 18:1 Jesus told them about their need to pray always and not lose heart.

How often do you pray? For some of us it is a constant, for many others it is only when in need. When we don’t pray, don’t have that community and relationship with God, we will depend on ourselves instead of depending on God’s grace. Unceasing prayer, praying always, is, in essence, continual dependence on and complete communion with the Father. To put it simply, for Christians, prayer should be like breathing. We do not have to think about how to breathe because we were created to breathe, as we are born, we breathe. That is why it is more difficult to hold your breath than it is to breathe. Similarly, when we are born into the family of God, where prayer is the normal, natural response, we should naturally pray always. Sadly, many of us hold our “spiritual breath” for long periods of time, thinking a few moments with God on a Sunday or a Thursday are sufficient to allow us to survive. But then the difficult times happen, we blame everything and everyone else, including God. The fact is that we should be continually in the presence of God, constantly breathing in His truths, reading His word, being open to His Spirit, to be fully functional in our faith.

28th October 2022

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

I once heard a story about Queen Elizabeth II that she thought everywhere smelled of new paint. I also heard of all places that she visited redecorating just the rooms and corridors she would use and yes they would smell of new paint. Whenever anyone special visits we make sure that at least the public and seen places are clean, tidy, well presented and looking good. In our lives we tend to make the obvious places clean and tidy before God. Other’s see us in a certain acceptable way, we make sure they do, and hope that God sees that too. We want to keep our not so nice places out of God’s sight. We want our life to smell of new paint. God sees beyond the new paint, the clean places and the tidy parts to the real us. He sees the dark places, the dirty places, the untidy places and yet He still loves us. He just wants us to be honest, to show everything to him, to allow Him to work in all parts of our lives to make us the best we can be for Him.

27th October 2022

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

In the Bible we are told on many occasions to pray always or as it is also put, pray without ceasing. This can be confusing. Surely, it cannot mean we are to be in a head-bowed, eyes-closed posture all day long? Jesus is not teaching about non-stop talking to God, although we can be good at that, the endless shopping list of requests. Rather Jesus is teaching about an attitude of God-consciousness and God-surrender that we carry with us all the time, 24/7. Every waking moment should be lived in an awareness that God is with us and that He is actively involved and engaged in our thoughts and actions, that is, of course, if we let him. In a worldly sense it is what we often refer to as our conscience. That which stops us doing bad things, reminds of the dangers we are in and encourages us to seek help. When our daily thoughts turn to worry, fear, discouragement, and anger, we should consciously and quickly turn every thought into prayer. Notice the link to not only telling God and asking God but also thanking God. As we go through the day, prayer should be our first response to every fearful situation, every anxious thought, and everything we do. It is not God bothering. God wants to be in complete community and consciousness with us every moment of every day.

26th October 2022

Romans 8:27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

I find it really comforting and helpful when someone tells me I am being prayed for. I like to share with people when I am praying for them. The hymn writer Isaac Watts used to keep people’s names and needs in an envelope and lift these up to God regularly all through his life. We often have lists of people to pray for but so often these become long shopping lists of names where the reason has long been forgotten. The Holy Spirit, as part of the Trinity, lives within us and intercedes for us constantly. The Spirit knows our every need, our every thought and can pray for exactly what is needed each and every day. Even if you don’t know if others are praying for you, you can be assured and absolutely certain that the Spirit is praying for you. I will let you into a secret, even when we think others are not praying for us, they are. There are so many gifted prayer warriors who pray for each of us. Try to remember every day that The Spirit intercedes for you and others do as well. Know yourself prayed for, as you need it.

25th October 2022

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I have heard that we have a bumper crop of apples this year in the UK. The weather has been conducive to sweet, rich flavoured, juicy apples. Who doesn’t love an apple, from early years being cut up for a snack to biting into an apple as we get older. Fruit is vital to our diet, it provides vitamins, minerals, nutrients, healthy things for our body and helps with digestion. No wonder Paul talks of the fruit of the Spirit. These are things good for us, aiding our life, they are healthy, provide essential nutrients to life. When we live with love and joy, patience and gentleness the world is so much better for everyone. When we are self-controlled, peaceful, good and kind, it changes us, and it changes other people. That in turn changes our society. My prayer is that we have an abundant crop of these fruits of the Spirit, not just this year, but every year, every month, every week and every day.

24th October 2022

 Exodus 20:4 Do not use God’s name for evil purposes. God’s names are not swear words.

I was sitting in a restaurant the other night, having a meal with family. All of a sudden, at the next table, a list of expletives rang out, loudly; included in the swear words was God and Jesus. People seem quite happy to use God’s name as a swear word, to include it with words that are rude, lazy, common and unnecessary if we have a good command of language. When we want to show our displeasure there are endless words that express anger, annoyance, disappointment, disagreement, without resorting to using what are Holy names, as an expletive. I often correct people in the street, if I hear bad language being used loudly or God’s name being used as a swear word, I ask people politely to mind their language. I get the very rare apology but usually I get a mouthful of abuse and told to go away in very unpleasant language and tone. It is a shame that we do not value our language enough, or respect the beliefs and views of others enough, to speak better to one another and to express our displeasure. If you would not say what you are saying with God in the room, then do not say it at all.

23rd October 2022

Luke 18:7 Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?

Sometimes people tell me that they don’t really need God but when they do, He will be there. It is easier for us to feel secure by presuming on; instead of depending on; God’s grace. We easily become satisfied with physical blessings and have little desire for spiritual ones. When study, promotion, and money produce impressive results, we can confuse our human success with God’s divine blessing. When that happens, passionate longing for God and yearning for His help goes missing. Continual, persistent, prayer is an essential part of Christian living and flows out of humility and dependence on God. We tend not to pray in the traditional way of hands together, eyes closed prayer but by making a bargain with God, if you do this for me I will….. we make promises we don’t keep. God does keep His promises and promises to grant justice, to help, to encourage and train us. God promises to increase our belief and faith, to strengthen us and never leave us. It is us who do not keep our promises, us who constantly ask and forget to say thank you, us who turn to God only when in desperate need; but God’s love for us is so amazing that even then He hears us and does not let us down.

22nd October 2022

Matthew 7: 2 God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others.

We are very good at applying things to other people but not to ourselves. I find it interesting that those on large incomes with savings and financial interests happily judge anyone who is in a poorly paid job or needs help as scroungers and a drain on society. As they demand even bigger bonuses and wages, they don’t want those who are essential to society to be paid any more. Those who earn in excess of £80,000 a year and claim perhaps £200,000 in expenses believe a nurse should pay for their car parking and travel, be paid £16,000 a year and work 12-hour shifts. The arise of zero hours contracts to stop companies having to pay fair wages to people and fire them when they wish, which doesn’t apply to them in their well-paid, safe jobs. Sadly, the wealthy and those who consider themselves wealthy, apply very different rules to others than they do themselves. God judges them and us the same way we judge others. If we condemn the poor, cheat the worker, malign the sick then we to will be condemned, cheated and maligned. Out of His great gift to us we must give to others, freely, without judgement and with love.

21st October 2022

Psalm 130:5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits and, in His word, I put my hope.

How good are you at waiting? Already we are heading at top speed towards Christmas and already the I can’t wait is being said. We become impatient for the next big thing, we almost forgo the precious time between now and then in our impatience. I have learnt over the years to not purchase the gifts being talked about now, as they will change in the next few weeks. In the Bible we are often told about waiting for God and waiting on God. Not rushing into everything but waiting for the right time and place. We like to hurry God, to make Him fit into our timeline instead of the other way round. God, of course, sees the bigger picture, the overall picture in time and space, and as such His timing is perfect. We would do well to follow His timing, to wait patiently, to listen, to hear and to respond in His timing, not ours.

20th October 2022

Luke 6:48 Be like the man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the water broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been built o sure foundations.

We have just been to Birling Gap on the south coast. We drove across the South Downs from Eastbourne via Beachy Head and then stopped at this point where the Seven Sisters starts along the South Coast. Coastal erosion here is so bad that the house on the cliff top, which a hundred years ago was over half a mile from the sea, will collapse into the sea within the next 18 months. Nothing can stop this erosion but it is made worse by our pollution and trying to build where we should not. We just don’t listen as humans. Even in the Bible we are told not to build on sand, or the house will fall flat, but to build on rock where the house will remain strong and safe. Foundations are vital in life, we need to be strong and sure, to have foundations which keep us safe when the erosions of life come. God is our foundation, He is our strength, protection and stay. If we build our lives securely with God then when the storms come, when we experience erosion and battering, we will stand firm!

19th October 2022

Matthew 10:8 As you go, proclaim the kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons, give without expecting any return.

Helping or serving people is not about making money. In fact, society has called jobs that serve others a vocation or calling and by doing so have been able to always keep these people poorly paid. A vicar receives a basic stipend, an amount of money to enable them to serve their community without having to have a job to afford their basic expenses like food, heating, a place to live. Public servants, with the exception of our MP’s, are paid poorly and have to fight for even a reasonable pay rise, while those in government take home a huge salary alongside huge expenses, these expenses alone are often 10 times more than a nurses salary. We are called by God to be good neighbours and friends, to not do things because of what we will get in return, but in order for everyone in society to be able to live well. Helping people is necessary for all of us, we need those who look after us, transport us, provide food for us, offer comfort and advice. Society cannot function without public servants, as much as we should not look for reward, people do have to live, so paying people fairly is what is needed. A calling to help and serve others is not an excuse for poor pay or working conditions.

18th October 2022

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will.

I find that some people talk in sound bites, they use a trendy phrase in the hope that they look impressive. What I have found over the years is that usually these people only have a surface knowledge of something but try to look good. It happens a lot in board rooms, people who talk in phrases to establish their credibility in something they know little about. The same is true of Christianity. There are people who talk in sound bites, express phrases that they have heard or read but know little about. The assumption that all Christians believe exactly the same thing when they do not, the assumption that all Christians are door mats, to be used and abused, the assumption that being a Christian is some fad that does not need careful and in-depth research, the current idea that we are all “woke” lefties against growth. Christianity has always been a rod to beat people with and it always will. Being a Christian means knowing God not just knowing about Him, understanding why we believe what we do, being able to express our faith in clear and deep terms. It is about honesty, integrity, love, hope, peace and assurance. Those are not just trendy words but clear expectation of the Christian faith. If you do not know what they mean, what their background is then please ask, look them up, know what the Bible clearly says.

17th October 2022

1 Corinthians 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Recently I came across a social media post that that listed off different people and their choices, and said after each one, love them. The whole point of the message was love people no matter who or what they are. It can’t be that simple, can it? We look for reasons to condemn, it is hard to love those we disagree with, but we manage it in families, in relationships because none of us can agree on everything. Jesus was persecuted because He did not follow the rules imposed by the leaders, the rich, the powerful who dictated the way people should live in order to keep them suppressed. When you begin to offer love instead of hate, forgiveness instead of judgement, peace instead of disquiet, you become a threat to the status quo. Jesus quite simply loved people, the poor, the sick, the prisoner, the child, the woman, the tax collector, the fisherman, the pharisee, the Sadducee, the priest, the Samaritan…… He loved everyone, even though they often hated him in return. We are called to love everyone, even if we struggle with their life choices, their sexuality, their gender, their race, their colour, their disability, whatever or whoever they are, we are, we all deserve to be loved and not judged. It is love that brings change, love that cannot be vanquished, love that defeats death and sin.

16th October 2022

Philippians 2:4 Do not look to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

The UK now has more than 14 million living in poverty and it is rising sharply. More and more children are now living in poverty, more than in the Victorian era. Children are going to school hungry, with empty lunch boxes. Children sharing 1 small sandwich between 4. Free school meals can only be accessed if you earn below £7000 a year. That is £136:60 a week, that is £19:23 a day to live on. Remember out of that there are the bills to pay, the travel cost to go to work. The fact that anyone can earn as little as that in today’s society is in itself appalling. Poverty affects physical health and mental health, every moment is a struggle. The cost of living has risen sharply, gas and electric has risen sharply, rents are rising sharply, one in 3 people who have never had to access a food bank before are now going there. Demand over the last 3 years has increased 128%. People going hungry is not something to boast about. We are all called to consider others, to look out for one another. That means no one should go hungry. No one should worry about feeding their family. All of us can help, play a part. Give generously to food banks, help where we can, look out for neighbours, the elderly, anyone who is struggling. If you are struggling, please ask for help. It always amazes me that those who give the most are those who have the least. Families who have struggled in the past, those who are doing just about okay will always give, while many of those with much more, more than they need, will give very little but make a big show of it. 

15th October 2022

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

We celebrate Harvest because people have always thanked God for the food, the crops and seasons. This week is also the Jewish festival of Sukkot. They build shelters in their gardens and eat there, worship there and celebrate God’s provision of food when they were in the desert. We are now living in a country where two and half million people are using food banks. This is rising weekly. The Trussell Trust are seeing over 2000 extra people each week come to them. The same applies to the Independent Food Aid network who also run foodbanks. These foodbanks and community fridges are all run by volunteers. They provide food parcels for those in need. Contrary to what many politicians and media outlets would have you believe, going to a food bank is the last resort. The fact we even need foodbanks is an indictment on a rich nation like ours. Those who access foodbanks are people with long term health issues, single parents, but also nurses, Teaching Assistants, care workers, cleaners and huge amounts of people who have zero hours contracts. God created a world with enough for everyone but that only works when we are willing to share and value others.

14th October 2022

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Sometimes a funeral in church can be followed by a lengthy, slow drive to a cemetery for a family plot burial. Funeral cars travel slowly and can often have 8 or more cars following behind. I was brought up that if you see funeral cars, you do not pull out in front, or at any point in the cortege behind, you do not overtake and at lights and roundabouts you let the cortege through before pulling through the junction. The respect that was afforded to funerals is long gone. People will now happily pull out, try to force their way in, overtake, won’t let you through a junction and just walk out to cross the road in front of you. It is a real skill to drive a hearse slowly and try to keep everyone behind. The respect we should all offer is because this is a life that has finished on earth, as we all will one day. These are grieving families, as we all will and do experience. This is a situation where no one wants to be but everyone has to be at some points in their lives. The least any of us can offer is compassion, patience in waiting just a few moments for cars to pass through, not honk a horn or shout obscenities because the traffic is held for a few moments. None of us would like this behaviour towards us or our family so we need to be more respectful and compassionate towards others in these important moments of life.

13th October 2022

Luke 17:18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?

We don’t hear about Leprosy much these days. Now controllable by drugs, we understand how it is transmitted and lives can be lived pretty much normally. In Jesus time people were cast out from society, no treatment, to live a shortening and awful life outside the town or village. If a leper appeared to be healed, they were to go and show themselves to the priests to confirm their healing, to allow them to go back into normal life. Although Jesus is their healer, God is not given the glory, no one offers Jesus as the reason for their healing. Just one healed leper came back and praised God for what God had done. We must not forget to say thank you to God for the big things and the small things. The food in our cupboards, the home we have, the money we need, our job, family and holidays. There’s something about gratitude, about saying thank you that makes us appreciate life and the things around us far more. There’s something about getting a thank you from someone else that makes us feel good, deep inside. May we willingly give God the glory for all He does and thank Him for everything He so freely gives.

12th October 2022

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

Religion up until Jesus time had become about ritual, as long as you did the right thing at the right time, in the right way, all was well. If you then went and behaved monstrously well you’d done your bit so you were fine. Jesus explains that Christianity is about faith not ritual, about God’s grace, forgiveness and love and the expectation of the forgiveness, grace and love we should show to others. The early church moved, sometimes falteringly, from ritual to faith and forgiveness. Of course, ritual would never be gone, it aids us, guides us but the problem comes when ritual is what defines us and not our faith and the living out of that faith. We still practice ritual, through services, sacraments, liturgy etc but it is why we do it and how we behave as a result that matters. Our faith, our willingness to forgive, to practice what we preach, to live out our faith every day, that's what really matters. 

11th October 2022

Luke 17:15&16a And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at Jesus feet, giving Him thanks.

I am sure most of you were brought up as I was to say please and thank you, to be well mannered. Yet so many people trample over others, get what they want and never say thank you. How often do we thank God? We are great are asking for things, often coming to God with a long shopping list of things we want and yet so often we forget to say thank you for all we have, for all we are, for everything God has given to us and done for us. A serious question we all need to answer is, what are we thankful for? Do we know that God has richly blessed us or do we believe that we are the ones who have provided for ourselves by our own hard work and influence. We pray for help, strength, healing, wisdom, patience, before a job interview, about family issues, and when they happen, we so easily forget that God has been part of the process and we completely forget to thank Him. All 10 lepers knew who to go to, who to ask for help, just as we do, regularly promising God that if He does this for us, we will……go to church regularly, pray every day, tell others, make a stand on things…. And then when all goes well, God blesses us, and we do not make good on our promises. May we learn to say thank you for everything, every day, to God and to others, it will make all our lives better.

10th October 2022

Mark 1:30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her.

Mark’s gospel is the shortest one and goes straight to telling of the beginning of Jesus' ministry, it starts quickly. Jesus gathers His disciples and starts to cast out demons and heal people. The impression given is of someone who may well be a huge public figure, but still has time for ordinary people. Peter’s (still called Simon at this point) mother-in-law is ill; Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to look after them (verse 31, ESV). There is a quiet and simple pastoral care in what He does. We might think she deserved some peace after being ill, but 'she got up and served them' this shows her recovery is instant, full health immediately restored, no half measures with Jesus. Her healing inspires others who need help to come to Jesus as well and that evening, the whole town gathers under His ministry. As Jesus helped and healed all these people he wants to help and heal us. Whether we are sick physically, mentally or spiritually; sad, lost, angry, hurt or just feel forgotten, Jesus is ready, willing and able to help and heal.

9th October 2022

Matthew 5:18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

The ninth letter of the Greek alphabet is Iota, it also has a meaning, something very very small. The term is used in Matthew to mean even the smallest part, smallest mark, the jot or tittle as we sometimes call them will be lost from God’s word. These were often very small marks above a letter which if forgotten or lost would change the meaning or sound of the letter and the word it made up. In early Christian times much argument was made about the Trinity based on small marks on a piece of paper. How easy it is to mislead someone if we forget a comma, an apostrophe. People often say something does not make an iota of difference, but actually even the smallest of things does matter, does make a difference. Our words, attitude, facial expression, actions, not doing something, not being somewhere… everything we do and say matters, even the smallest of things can change a situation. The good news from the Bible is that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, He does not change, even the smallest thing cannot change what Jesus did for us on the cross or His love for us every day. God is consistent, God does not change and God will never change in how He feels about us.

8th October 2022

1 Peter 4:10 As each of us has received gifts, we should use them to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.

Collecting food for Harvest, or collecting regularly for the foodbank, challenges us with our responsibilities to each other and to nature. As we give thanks to God for all He has given to us, we also promise to keep our environment safe for future harvests. It cannot be just about us, or about the rich landowners who look for profit, we must remember those who will come after us, our world was created for all, not just this generation. Harvest gifts remind us about how we use the things which God has given to us. We can use all God’s gifts wisely for our benefit and share them with others for their benefit, or we can abuse them, be completely selfish and justify our selfish actions to make ourselves feel good. Today and every day we each need to ask ourselves how we can use the gifts God has given us wisely, sensitively, compassionately and for the benefit of all and not just for ourselves or our rich paymasters. 

7th October 2022

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

As a youngster I had plans, hopes and dreams for my future. I always wanted to work for God so that one came true, but I also wanted to write and record songs, sing in a pop group, travel the world and have enough money to be comfortable. Having these dreams is good for us, something to aim for, work towards, but also we must be open minded enough to allow our dreams to change when life changes and when things we don’t necessarily expect, happen. I did not expect to become seriously ill at 18 and lose musical ability, some physical ability and have to give some things up. Plans are all very well until the unexpected happens. Proverbs sees that the reason we often make our plans is for money, status, power or because we want the best for ourselves and sometimes for others too. Wisdom in Proverbs is like someone who instructs us, helps us, guides us. Wisdom comes with experience and learning. We are unwise if we chose to ignore the experiences of our past and the experiences of others who can guide us. The future is an unknown but we do not face it alone, we have God on our side, he holds both our hand and our future and we can trust Him to get it right.

6th October 2022

Ephesians 1:17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

How much do you value your independence? We long, as young people, to be able to go out alone, to have our own money to spend, our own time to use as we want. When I visit care homes, I find folk talk of losing their independence. They have spent years making their own decisions, now someone else tells them when to eat, sleep, dress, wash, even go to the toilet. We spend so long fighting for independence only to lose it as we age. For some independence never really comes because of disability, illness, gender, culture and circumstances. Our independence allows us to learn, to develop, to pursue our own interests as we take responsibility for ourselves. God did not make us robots, but humans with minds, hearts, skills, abilities which allow us to be both independent but also be part of a community that values both the individual and the whole. Our independence gives us the opportunity to restore and encourage the independence of others. At a difficult time like this, with so many in need, pushed into poverty by poor economic decisions, with little independence; as we value and develop our independence, we can help others do the same by sharing a little of what we have with those who have very little.

5th October 2022

Genesis 2:15 The Lord God placed humans in the garden of Eden to work the land, to care for it and keep it safe.

Harvest festival falls in the time of the Christian calendar represented by the colour green; this is a really appropriate colour with all of its ecological and environmental connotations. As humans we all have an impact upon the natural world. We are all consumers or producers, so we are all links in a long chain of action which can either protect or destroy our world. God put humans into the Garden of Eden to look after it, to be caretakers or stewards. With our increasing technology we are able to change the substance of plants and animals so that they can resist disease or be more productive. However, this same technology also puts our world at risk. As we plough more and more into the ground, alter genetics to get bigger and better harvests, stop allowing the ground to rest regularly, we just prevent the ground from restoration and thus cause even more problems in the long term. As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to take of the natural world so it can take care of us.

4th October 2022

Matthew 19:21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The Bible contains many stories about wealth, mostly warnings against greed and about what we put in place of and before God in our lives. It seems that the more we have the more we desire. People long for fame and fortune, a bigger house, a better car, a top job… more, more, more. We become so focused on these things that we lose sight of God. The more something overtakes our life the more God is pushed out. There is nothing wrong with wanting good things, fair pay, better housing for ourselves but if they become our focus God is relegated to the back and we become selfish and often greedy at the expense of others. We need to put ourselves back on track, out God first because then it all falls into place. We need a change of mindset, to see God and His ideal for all to live well and fairly to be our focus. The top of society wants more and more to squirrel away and look where that is getting us right now, with more poverty and hunger than Victorian times. We need to make God our top priority, our first and more important treasure, the rest will then fall into place.

3rd October 2022

Romans 1:25 Because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!

It is really important to celebrate harvest every year in a meaningful way. It is probably more important today because we need to be reminded of our dependence on food and God’s creation. We also need to be reminded about our responsibility to treat the world properly. We have the potential to do so much damage to our world and as we witness the ravages of climate change, we can see that we already have. Harvest offers us the opportunity to focus upon our environment, to thank God for it, and consider our responsibility to our environment. Whatever you think about climate change, no one can deny the terrible droughts, more and more land becoming desert, incredibly destructive storms and wild fires we now see almost every week. We have done terrible damage to God’s world and we need to commit ourselves to caring for God’s world in a much better way. 

2nd October 2022

Genesis 8:22 As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.

At the beginning of October, we usually celebrate Harvest in our churches and schools. As we talk to people about Harvest, we discover that many of us are not clear about where our food comes from. Today most of us live in towns and our contact with the countryside is very little. I meet children regularly who have never been to a farm, never seen farm animals and have no idea that eggs come from hens or milk from cows. We don’t seem to know much about the seasons, farming or the agricultural calendar. Much of our food is processed and packaged, we don’t get it from the field and the farm, instead we get it from Tesco, Lidl, Sainsbury’s or some other supermarket or shop. We buy imported fruit and vegetables which are not in season in our own country. God gave us the seasons, the weather, the land to grow our food and yet we have so easily become divorced from this and so lost the importance of knowing about the very food we rely on to live.

1st October 2022

Acts 17:28 For in him we live and move and have our being.

Do you like to move, maybe to dance? Movement can help recentre us in our body and unlock our innate gifts. It can offer the peace to be who we are without worry and it isn’t forced or controlled. It provides a personal peace that loosens us and brings us back to the heartbeat of humanity, and that makes us the best peace mediator we can be. As we breathe, we can feel our posture, our body shape. We can change that shape, move our bodies into shapes of praise, worship, humility, service. We can use music to enhance this experience and to change the mood. But still, it is essential to breathe. Our breath is the centre of our life, breathed into us by the creator Himself. In Him we live and move and have our being. As God created us, he gave us life, breath and being. We can do all that we can do, we are sentient beings because God made us that way. May every breath remind us of that.

30th September 2022

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

When all is said and done, the gospel comes down to forgiveness. God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of each other. When we recognise our own frailty, our own need for forgiveness it helps us find our compassion, our empathy, and our own forgiveness for the frailty and cruelty of others. We recognise that we are all the same, all imperfect beings in need of saving grace and forgiveness. We cannot sincerely love the other or forgive another’s offenses if we see ourselves as separate from God and from each other. Our imperfect world offers precisely the conditions for the expression of these aspects of divine love; forgiveness, empathy and compassion. Without radical forgiveness, received by us and freely given by us, there can be no future. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We love because we are loved. We extend to others the grace so freely given to us by God.          

29th September 2022

Luke 16:20 At the rich man’s gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores.

Often, we are told the names of characters in a story, in the Bible we are not told the rich man’s name, he was just called rich and he was mercilessly aware of the presence of poor Lazarus. Lazarus was in a desperate situation of poverty, open sores, dogs licking them, and in terrible hunger. Lazarus wasn’t even allowed to have the crumbs that fell from the gluttonous table of the rich man. Lazarus had a bad lot in this life, and many folks around us have a bad lot in life which is not their fault. On the other hand, the rich man has a good lot. Right now, many rich people have seen their already good lot improved even more by unfair tax breaks that reward wealth not work. At death, Lazarus goes to paradise, the rich man to Hades. That is not saying that rich people cannot go to heaven or that poor people will always go to Heaven. It is actually about how we treat each other and how we treat God. Is our wealth, possessions, jobs, homes etc so much more important to us than God? Are His ways ignored by us? If that is the case, then we cannot expect God’s help if we ignore Him.

28th September 2022

Luke 16:8a The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.

The dishonest steward or manager realises that no one will come to his aid because of his bad behaviour, so he makes a plan to change things. He calls on the people who owe money to the Master and negotiates reduced settlements. It makes him popular. We can imagine the results of this action; the debtors would be eternally grateful. If the manager shows up in a few weeks, and asks these debtors for a job, they will have a sense of obligation to him. The man will land on his feet. It was a stroke of genius to ingratiate himself to people who could help him out after his job loss. Jesus is not praising the manager for his morality but praising his decisive action. When this man discovered that his livelihood was threatened, he proved resourceful and clever. In his determination to provide for himself and his family, he took strong decisive actions in a crisis situation. Jesus advises that we too should take decisive action, especially about our spiritual lives. When we find ourselves drifting spiritually, when we find others in need, we must take action because our future depends on it.

27th September 2022

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Every couple of years as contracts are renewed, we get new phones. I take ages to learn how to do things, I am very slow at learning how it works and each time I do something I have to refer to the manual. Gareth on the other hand plays around and makes lots of mistakes as he learns how to do things only referring to the manual when he is desperate. When I was younger, I had a poster which said “If you want the World to work perfectly then follow the Makers instructions” Below this sentence was a person reading a Bible. We constantly hear about problems in our world, global warming is a huge issue and commentators ask what can we do? How did we get here? Is there anything we can do to stop this? Following the Makers (God) instructions would have stopped us getting to this point but it also offers us ways forward that we can use even now, but we think we know better! We play at things, test them, try them out and if we make a mess we don’t worry, we just go back or try something else; very occasionally, if we’re desperate, we turn to God, to His word and want an answer immediately. Being a God of grace, He has given us those answers in the Bible, His instructions on how to live and care for the world, He has given us the Bible, BUT, do we read it? The Bible is so important to our Christian Faith, it is special, Holy and should be treated as such, but it should also be read and used. We do not treat our Holy book as well as many other religions do and we often leave them gathering dust on the book shelf. God gave us the Bible to use so let me encourage you to read your Bible, find out what God has to say on everything from marriage to children, from music to poetry, from gardening to punishment and so on. 

26th September 2022

Luke 16:23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.

Through stories and parables Jesus often explains to us the kingdom of God; in simple terms it is about loving God and loving our neighbour. Like many of the parables Jesus tells, He uses them to place a large mirror in front of us so that we can see ourselves clearly. He then stands next to us as we look in that mirror explaining what our life, our words, our thoughts, our behaviour and our hearts should be like. In Luke 16 the mirror is on the rich man and even though we may not be rich, there is a message for us. The riches and possessions of this world mean nothing to God and are worthless in eternity. One of the most poignant moments in the Queen’s funeral was the removal of the symbols of her power, crown, Orb, Sceptre, and their return to the people. They meant nothing in eternity. The rich man chose the riches of this life and his clothes and his comfort and ignored God and others. Lazarus didn’t have anything much in this life, But he had God, God had his back and so Lazarus had eternity. We have choice, it is ours to make and there is no one else to blame.

25th September 2022

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Maybe it`s being a priest or because of my faith but whenever we go away we tend to visit the local cathedral or parish church. I love the sense of history HIS STORY that you find in each one and the stories of human struggle to erect and keep these places special! Coventry is one of these special places. You have the old ruins, bombed in World War 2 and the new Cathedral with it`s beautiful glass and tapestry. For me two things stand out; the cross of nails, two big nails had fallen into the shape of a cross during the bombing, and the words of forgiveness written underneath a wooden cross made from bomb damaged beams within the ruins. From the brutality of war time destruction came a sign of hope, a cross of nails. From the brutality of a Roman occupation came hope, held to a wooden cross by nails. From a battered, ruined Cathedral came a message of forgiveness. From a battered ruined body came a message of forgiveness and new life. When we think of symbols of love we tend to think of hearts, flowers and rings. Perhaps the most powerful signs of love are nails, a cross and a battered bruised body that died so we might live. If you ever get a chance to go to Coventry Cathedral, go and see the glory of new and old, the cross of nails and the message of forgiveness.

24th September 2022

Luke 16:11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?

Hollywood movies often glorify the anti-hero. The ones where the star of the movie is the bad guy who is so lovable that the audience winds up pulling for him. They might lead a gang of cutthroat robbers but are such delightful characters that we hope they will escape their fate. We all know that it really is a bad thing to pull for the con men and the crooks We might expect it from Hollywood, but not from the Bible and surely not from Jesus. Jesus appears to be praising a dishonest manager. We are told, we cannot serve God and money. Don’t make money a bigger deal than it is. The wealth of this world is tainted and temporary, and is to be distinguished from the permanent treasure in heaven. Money is not an end in itself; it is a resource. And if we believe the message of stewardship in the Bible, all that we have belongs to God. We are indeed merely stewards, like the steward here, and we should not squander the Master’s resources, the Lord’s creation. We need to be trustworthy with little so that we can be trusted with much. God wants us to be shrewd with the wealth that He has entrusted to us, so that we serve God and His people in need.

23rd September 2022

Psalm 51:2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

When the boys were young, we would try to get to the beach every year and just let them play. With all the constant warnings about the sun we bought them wetsuits. These gave sun protection, help when it was cold and gave extra buoyancy. Gwyn and I would often walked along the beach talking and enjoying all the lovely things we would find. When Gwyn was about five, he asked me about the waves, where all the holes go and what happens to the castles that have been built. I began to explain about the tides coming in and going out and after a while he said “So twice a day God sends the tides to wash the beach clean.” He has always had a knack for summing things up. That comment got me thinking, twice a day, what a lesson for us. I was brought up with the idea of keeping a short account with God, and doing that by morning and evening prayer, twice a day! Although we can pray at any time and in any place and let me encourage you to pray at any time; our real business with God needs to be done at the start and end of the day when we can deal with all the mess and rubbish we’ve accumulated. Just as God sends the tide twice a day to wash the beach so God will wash us clean when we come before Him and ask for His forgiveness. If you don’t already do this why not try and get into the habit of keeping a short account with God and letting Him wash you clean each day!

22nd September 2022

Luke 20: 46 Beware of those who like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets.

At the Queen’s funeral it was good to see that some very important people, as they may well see themselves, were further down the Cathedral than perhaps many expected. It was also amazing to see the Orb, Sceptre and Crown of the Queen returned to the people. In death all are equal. We take none of our power, status, wealth or authority with us. We see, so often, the richest and most powerful cling to power, cling to wealth by exploiting the poor, the widow, the orphan. In complete reversal to Robin Hood they rob the poor to keep the rich, rich. In many instances those who hold power are also rude and often proud, interesting that a former US president has said he would not have accepted the lower place given to the current President. I think that says it all. Too many now have a self-serving belief, that it is all about them and yet God is clear that those who mistreat others will pay the price. Those who cling to power will be forgotten, those who use what they have for others will be remembered. We are all equal in God’s sight. No one has the right to trample on another for selfish gain, BUT, those who get it good in this life will be expected to use the blessings they are given to help others, not just themselves.

21st September 2022

Luke 16:7b Take your bill and make it eight hundred. You are forgiven two hundred.

In Jesus teaching there are many lessons in forgiveness. Forgiveness of wrong doing, of hurt, of a debt. The dishonest steward, once caught out, forgives debts to curry favour with those who can help him out. He actually forgives things that he had no right to forgive. He forgives for all the wrong reasons; for personal gain and to compensate for past misconduct. But that’s the decisive action that he undertakes to save himself. We are all called to forgiveness. Called to forgive it all, to forgive it now, to forgive for any reason you want, or for no reason at all. But we need to forgive. There is no bad reason to forgive. As we extend the kind of grace God shows to us in every possible situation, to others, it can only put us more deeply in touch with God’s grace. The steward worked in the unrighteous currency of money. We are called to be good, decisive, active stewards in righteous currency. The currency of God’s kingdom, the currency of forgiveness.

20th September 2022

1 Timothy 2:2 I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered for everyone, for kings and all those in authority.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he exhorts us to pray, to offer prayers of supplication, intercession and thanksgiving for all Kings and those in high positions. We are invited to bring our leaders, our monarch, in fact, anyone in authority, to God. We are called to ask for wisdom, strength and guidance on their behalf. St. Paul understood that the political climate was important for the Early Church to thrive and for all individuals to live freely, peacefully and in accordance with God’s Word without consequences. Sometimes we may not feel like doing it, especially when those in leadership seem not to care, or seem to be more concerned about self than service. But right now, we have come together and we have prayed for our new King, his family, their grief and the funeral. We are called to carry on praying for the new king’s faith, to thank God for the wonderful faith of the late Queen. We are called to continue to pray for all who grieve and all who have died in the faith of Christ as Queen Elizabeth did. 

19th September 2022

Matthew 4:4 (Deuteronomy 8:3) Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

How many loaves of bread do you get through in a day? In a week? I know many people who go to the supermarket each evening to pick up the dated bread cheaply because their families eat through loaves when they get up, come home, packed lunches etc. Some folk insist on a fresh loaf every day and will not eat day old bread. I also know people who will not throw bread away even if it is mouldy because they can cut the mould off and they will not waste food. Then there those who will only make their own bread, fresh, free from additives. Is this a reflection on life? There are those who get through as much as they can, those who start fresh every day, those who hang onto everything, never really starting a fresh and those who feel that only their style of life is correct, free from additives!! Perhaps a more mixed approach is better, we need to live life to the full, we need to start each day fresh and clean and not be hampered by the past or mould of life and we also need to learn from the past. We need to try and not pollute our life with the additives and distractions of life on earth today. Quite a tall order, but a balanced approach! Just as bread is the staple food, let’s remember that the Bible is the staple food of the Christian. All new priests are given a Bible because their ministry should be based on God’s word. We give new Christians and confirmands a Bible so that they will feed on God’s word and grow as Christians. Let me encourage you to read your Bible regularly and to try to lead a more balanced life, a full life, a fresh life, a life not in the past but learning lessons from the past and trying not to pollute our present or future. 

18th September 2022

Deuteronomy 5:33 Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and thrive and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

Currently people are queuing for many hours to pass the queen’s coffin as it lies in state. Many faith people are acting as Chaplains to the crowds as they queue. The stories coming out are ones of respect, caring for each other, sharing food and drink, helping each other and being polite and courteous. In 2019 the Queen spoke of the need to speak well of each other, to respect each other and our differing points of view, and to seek common ground. I think she would be proud of how people have respectfully come together and how they are behaving toward each other. Being courteous and polite to each other means being well mannered, well behaved, gracious, kind, considerate, thoughtful, respectful and offering a helping hand to those who need it. When we behave like this, things go well, and people thrive. For us all to thrive we rely on each other’s behaviour, respect, good manners, consideration and kindness. We all need each other to do well. Sometimes that means being the voice of reason or stepping up in a difficult situation, seeing the bigger picture and standing for the good of all. For our society to thrive it is vital to be polite, to be respectful of each other, to make sure everyone is treated fairly and well.

17th September 2022

2 Corinthians 5:17 When anyone is in Christ they are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.

What’s in a name? We used to have a cat called Casper. Traditionally Casper is the name of one of the Three Kings and it means wealthy one or treasurer. Both our sons names were chosen because of their meanings, one means God rescues and one means fair and great. My husbands name means gentle one and my own name means youthful one. ( I’m hanging on to this as I get older) Names are very important, many a poor child has found themselves on the end of playground jokes because of their name and many of us shorten or use a middle name because we dislike our given Christian name. In the Bible Simon has his name changed to Peter, the rock on which God will build His church and throughout history many people took a “Christian” name when they were converted to the Christian faith. This was a name that meant something and marked the change in their life. From this came the term Christian name. Now we call it a first name. Do you know what your name means? The internet can help or name books. Perhaps your parents chose your name for you because of what it meant. The good news is we all have a name that does mean something, a name that means we belong to Christ. We are covered by Christ, we take on his nature, before God we become as Christ. He stands with us and we take the family name of Christian, follower of Christ, saved by Him ! So what’s in a name – our future is !

16th September 2022

Luke 22: 34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

We are all aware of Peter’s denial, we hear it every Easter, we read the anger in his replies and the terrible guilt and sorrow when he hears the rooster crow just as Jesus said. What we tend to forget is that we all do it, we all make mistakes, we all break promises to each other and to God, we all deny Jesus in some way or another and often we are too blind to see what we have done or accept our fault. One of the most amazing things about God is His love for us which means we get not just second or third chances but multiple chances. When we recognise our faults and admit we have failed or done wrong, when we are sorry for these mistakes, then we are forgiven completely, and we continue with God as if nothing has happened. We are restored. We may have to do some apologising and restoring to others when our mistakes impact on them, but with God we are forgiven, and He gives us chance after chance. Peter went on to become head of the early church, he stood up for His Lord and did eventually die for His faith, crucified upside down. May we recognise when we make mistakes, be willing to admit our faults, apologise, make amends and know God’s forgiveness no matter how many times it happens.

15th September 2022

John 20:25 Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.

Many of us worry about scars, marks on our body from injury, or from accident. We worry that people can see something, a vulnerability and we buy products to cover them. Many women stop wearing bikini’s after having children because they are embarrassed by their stretch marks. The demand for perfection in magazines and celebrity has left our society believing scars are not to be visible and are an embarrassment. Yet, scars are actually a visible sign of what we have survived, what we have given. Scars show the incredible ability of our bodies to recover and mend but the scar it leaves is a reminder of what we have come through. Jesus scars were an identifying mark of his death on the cross. Only He could bear those scars, they were His proof of His sacrifice, of His death and then of His resurrection. Our beloved queen quoted from pilgrim’s Progress when she said “My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his battles who now will be my rewarder." Our scars are marks of survival, of love, of what we have been through, of the battles we have fought and we should be proud of them, not hide them away.

14th September 2022

1 Kings 3:19 Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.

I have often wondered what makes a good judge. Many television representations do little to make them seem good honest people. Donald Trump’s manipulation of The USA Supreme Court Judges has shown how people can be appointed not on their merit but on their willingness to agree with and support a certain political view. In the Bible judgement is God’s domain but He enables leaders to become judges, not because they can be manipulated, but because they have His heart. The key is quite simply discernment between good and evil. In fairness we have developed a considerable grey area in between the two, where we offer possible excuses, mitigation and can be open to manipulation. No human is perfect, none of us can be completely right so here we are offered a way forward, an understanding heart. We cannot decide someone’s right or wrongness without understanding, without experience, without the compassion and empathy within us, these are put there by our compassionate and empathetic Father God. May we pray for that understanding heart that gives us true discernment.

13th September 2022

Proverbs 21:3 To be just and fair is more desirable and acceptable to God than any sacrifice.

Sometimes life can be really difficult, everything that can go wrong does, people who you thought were friends or at least would be helpful drop you right in it. Everything you do seems to lead to something else extra you had not planned for, the cost of food is now such that every penny must be counted and things gone without. At the beginning of a new term things are always busier, there are always more costs for families, the routines have been got out of and now need developing again. Everyone is getting tired quickly, the darker nights are on their way and the people who had helped have disappeared. I seriously wonder at the strength some people have to keep going. I know several teachers who have come back to work with extra supplies, food for hungry children, stationery, even clothes for pupils they know will not be able to afford them. How dare we as a society allow this to happen. How dare we blame the children and their parents. How dare we use our ability to do well to call others inadequate and blame them. God counts the hairs on every head, no matter their status, God wipes every tear no matter the age or skin colour, God sent His son for every human no matter their ability to pay or not. Any society that allows its citizens to go cold, hungry and homeless is not as God requires. Things need to change and we, however small, can play a part in that if we so choose.

12th September 2022

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the broken hearted and grieving, He saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Queen Elizabeth dedicated almost her entire adult life to our nation and commonwealth. She treated everyone with the utmost respect, even when they didn't deserve it, during the course of her duties and her private life. Even if we are not huge royalists, even though most of us never actually met her, she has been a constant in the majority of all our lives. Her death in itself may bring us to different levels sadness, but what it does do for all of us is remind us of those we have lost, those particularly lost in Covid, those we could not grieve for properly, those whose funerals we could not attend or even, in the early days, actually have. This offers us a time to grieve, to grieve for our Queen but also for our own loved ones who we miss, whose memory we treasure whose presence we miss. It is often said that the death of someone else who may not even be that close to us, or of a pet, can bring to the surface the loss and grief of the past. As we grieve our Queen, let us take the opportunity to grieve those other losses of the past and be kind to ourselves.

11th September 2022

1 Corinthians 16: 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

Friends, we now live in a very momentous but sombre time; The longest reigning monarch has died. The Elizabethan era has come to an end. A new monarch, a King, now reigns. This first Sunday of our period of national mourning falls on September 11th or, as Americans call it, 9-11. 21 years ago, in 2001, the world experienced acute pain, shock and grief in those horrific terrorist attacks. Our Queen wrote a letter of condolence to the relatives of the victims of 9-11, she wrote: “Nothing that can be said can begin to take away the anguish and the pain of these moments. Grief is the price we pay for love.” These words seem particularly appropriate on this 9-11. Grief is the price we pay for love. The Queen, throughout her remarkable reign, had a steadfast and natural faith which sustained her and she said that “Christ’s example helps me see the value in doing small things with great love.” Even in grief may we see the value of doing the small things with great love.

10th September 2022

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.

We are now in an official period of mourning for our Queen. The term mourning means the state of being in deep grief. We mourn over a profound loss, such as the death of a loved one or a terrible accident. We also mourn over our own sins or mistakes, those things we get wrong. We mourn for the purity of heart we once had or for a future where our bad choices mean our best future is destroyed. Mourning is part of our being human. It is the way our hearts respond when something we deeply value has been taken from us. Mourning can also be a way to show our recognition that we have dishonoured God and His morality. Mourning is painful but can help us realign our hearts and minds with the heart of God. Mourning is a familiar theme in the Bible. Ezra mourned over the sins of his people. Nehemiah mourned at the news that his beloved Jerusalem lay in ruins. We mourn the death of our Queen but we mourn knowing we have eternal hope, knowing Her faith assured her, as it assures us, of eternal life, that death is not the end for those who are in Christ. So even as we mourn we are blessed and we are comforted by our Saviour and Lord.

9th September 2022

Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

Today we mourn the loss of our dear Queen. The majority of this country have known only her as their monarch. Only a few short months ago we were celebrating her platinum jubilee and we saw the love and respect that people had for her. One of her most endearing qualities was her faith in God. She promised to dedicate and devote herself to her people and asked God to help her keep this promise. On each pound coin you will find Elizabeth II by Grace of God, queen, defender of the faith, written there. By the grace of God, she has defended the faith, our faith. She said that Jesus Christ was the inspiration and anchor in her life. She spoke of Jesus as a role model of reconciliation and forgiveness who stretched out His hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example taught her to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none. Queen Elizabeth was never quiet about her Faith. Her example to us is one inspired by God, may we know that strength of faith and devotion to God’s people and to the service of all.

8th September 2022

Joshua 1:9 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

As a teenager I loved singing the worship song based on this verse; Be bold, be strong, for the Lord thy God is with you! It speaks of not being afraid and not being dismayed, but yet at times we are afraid, we are dismayed, worried and concerned, we struggle with our confidence. God knows our feelings and emotions and how they affect us. He knows we fear pain, death, loss of money, job, family, home etc. God does not ask us not to acknowledge that fear and despondency; He asks only that when we are afraid and fearful, we allow His boldness, His strength, to settle in and on us. He asks us to offer up how we feel to Him and let Him take the strain. In God’s strength we can and do face anything. We find an ability within that enables us to cope and often to come out the other side stronger people. There is nothing wrong with being afraid but we need to let God in to stand with us and give us His strength.

7th September 2022

Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?

We are currently talking a lot about the cost-of-living crisis. The cost of our bills, our food, our petrol, our clothing has gone up hugely. We are all beginning to evaluate the cost of things much more and decide if we can actually afford them. Cost is so much more than monetary value. As a child I wanted a puppy, I was sat down and told about cost of the puppy, it’s food, the vet, taking it for walks, keeping it clean, chews, toys and so on. It was made clear the cost was too much. In everything we have to decide what the true cost is and if it is worth it. Everything in life has a cost emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually as well as monetary. As we consider the cost of anything we have to consider the short- and long-term cost. If something costa us everything, is it worth it? Following Jesus has a cost. God is very clear that we should count the cost of being a disciple, we must decide whether we are prepared to pay it. Things are easy to say, not easy to do. Jesus was prepared to pay the price, to pay the full cost for us on the cross. The question is, are we prepared to count the cost and give our lives for Jesus.

6th September 2022

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.

All of us at sometime like to bask in some glory. The winning run, chair of the committee, solo in the choir, a bonus, a promotion, saving someone, having a book published etc. We like to be given some credit for our hard work because life is difficult enough without some positive pats on the back to keep us going. Sadly, for some, they become hooked on that feeling and the adrenaline rush it brings and they can even desperately set themselves up to be heroes so they receive more and more acclamation. This verse in Psalms reminds us that we actually deserve none of the glory, it is only God himself who deserves glory! It is this glorious God who loves us, is faithful to us, who saves us. The wonder of this glorious God is that He also encourages us, pats us on the back and says to us, well done. Although God deserves the glory, He still offers us, undeserving as we are, glory and majesty because we are so precious to Him.

5th September 2022

1 Corinthians 6:11 You were washed, you were sanctified, you were made new and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Over the summer my Chaplain’s office has been redecorated. The cracks and holes in the walls now fresh and clean, the flooring replaced, a new sink and taps and a new radiator. I may, at last, not be so cold this winter. It was like walking into a new space, it smelled new and fresh, it was brighter and I was so pleased. Words like clean and new are used in the Bible, they describe taking our old, cracked and damaged lives and transforming them into fresh, clean and new lives which stand out and which reflect God’s glory and transformative power. We have become a throwaway society, if old or slightly damaged, cracked and dirty we throw it away and get a new one. No repairs or redecorations, no cleaning up, no transforming it. God does not throw us away, He does not look at damage, cracks, dirt or problems and He does not throw us away. Instead, He loves us, heals us, cleans us up and makes us new again. We become a fresher, cleaner, happier version of ourselves. The great news is that unlike my office which will not receive another makeover for many years, we can receive a makeover every day, God is willing and able to always clean us up, repair the damage and make us new again.

4th September 2022

Isaiah 40:21 But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

After 2 years of Covid, lockdowns, huge deaths, long covid, fear and worry, it has been hard to adjust. We forewent holidays, rest times, exams, public interaction and this allowed things to change in ways we could not imagine and left the wonderful of excuse of covid to prevent a return to normality. Job losses, working from home, social distancing, not meeting people, websites still having excuses as to why they’re slower, not offering the benefits of the past or the options we are used to. Meanwhile the cost of everything is rising and wages are not. There is no respite, we Lerch from one thing to the next and the hard work and savings of years are now gone. That retirement we saved for, gone, that home we saved to buy, gone, that holiday we saved for, out of reach. We are tired and low. Yet God promises strength, that nothing is beyond our ability to cope and that we go through none of this alone. God reminds us to rest in Him. To trust Him. To let Him take the strain. To rise again and soar in His strength. It may seem difficult to do, but be encouraged, we have a God who keeps His promises.

3rd September 2022

Ecclesiasticus 10:12 The beginning of pride is to forsake the Lord; the heart has withdrawn from its maker.

As I see the front page of many papers, I am conscious of the constant drip about migrants crossing the channel. BUT, did you know that of all these migrants the papers tell us about every day, only a few in every hundred are actually illegal and not actually entitled to asylum. Our press has become a voice for the right wing, populist, Britain first government. Those who try to hold them to account are removed, truth and honesty have been replaced with fake news and even our precious BBC, who had a reputation for honesty and impartiality, is now just an arm of the government who has replaced all the senior people with govt appointments who act as puppets for a governmental voice. Friends, we are in dangerous times, our very democracy is under threat. The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord…… to forsake the poor, the vulnerable, to forsake justice, honesty and integrity. We must decide who we stand with? God and His ways or the ways of this land and its treatment of those most in need. We are called to choose who we serve. I hope and pray we will choose to serve God by inviting the poor, the migrant, the refugee, the disabled, the vulnerable to a fairer life because we will no longer accept the ways which reward only the rich and powerful. I stand with God and I hope you do to.

2nd September 2022

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as an approved worker who has nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of truth with precision.

We all want to be the best friend, parent, child; the best at our job, the best we can be. We all come up short. The time we forgot the changing bag for the baby, said the wrong thing to a friend, made the wrong decision, forgot that anniversary. We are not perfect, humans just aren’t, we have inherited the imperfections of all humans but all God wants from us is to do our best, to try. No human is perfect, only Jesus ever fulfilled that role and in doing so allowed us, with our imperfections, to be loved and accepted by God. God is only ever asking us to do our best. As long as we try, as long as we offer ourselves to His service, God will always be with us, on our side, blessing us. As long as we try our best, we have nothing to be ashamed of. God’s word is full of encouragement, full of forgiveness and love, full of help and advice. As long as we try our best, pray and ask God for His help, that is all that is required of us. God will do the rest.

1st September 2022

Ecclesiastes 3:16 I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness.

The balance of our society has become in favour of the rich and powerful minority at the cost of the ever-growing majority who are treated like the serfs once were by their land owners. We have returned to Victorian poverty. Hungry children, more and more work for less pay, higher costs while not being given higher wages. Whilst the few take their places at the top table, we are expected not just to sit lower down but rather to wait on those at the top, pick up their scraps and be grateful for it. I cannot understand how energy companies can pay billions to shareholders, millions to chief executives in bonuses and salaries, take huge profits and then say the consumer must pay more. Meanwhile these rich powerful people claim they can’t afford to pay their workers fairly. We are told it’s the fault of the poor, the migrant, the person on benefits, anyone but the rich who are quickly getting richer. Did you know that during covid and this last year we have created more billionaires in this country than anywhere else. All created off the need and suffering of the ordinary people. God believes in equality, fairness and justice for all, not just the few, but for everyone. The question is, do we believe this and are we willing to do what we can as Christians, to achieve it?

31st August 2022

Luke 14:11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Currently we have a lot of people who have such high self-importance they believe they are entitled to the place of honour. Most of us would not want to make more of ourselves than we are. Also right now, we are looking at poor and vulnerable people who cannot feed their family, heat water, wash their clothes, cook food, buy food, heat their homes if they can even afford a place to live. I do not know all your circumstances but I do know statistics would suggest there will be people reading this who are struggling, people in your street, in our community who are at their Wits end. I do not pretend to be a politician but I do know that MP’s are not moved into doing something for us because they have their bills paid for them, they can claim their heating and not just for one home but for a second if they have it. They can eat in subsidised restaurants, claim for their phones, all their travel, cleaners, computers, food costs, hotel bills. The list of expenses they can claim is endless. We do not have that option. If it does not affect them personally, they will do nothing. God, though, is quite clear that this behaviour, this treatment of the poor and vulnerable is not acceptable and Just as they watched Jesus closely to see what he did, people watch us. If we are willing to let the poor suffer, to ignore the disabled and vulnerable, to make excuses for the rich, for the government, then others will do them same.

30th August 2022

Genesis 27:14 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

When you think about God working among us you might share my amazement at how often things go wrong and yet God's will is still achieved. The human side of life is messy! God's purposes are ultimately accomplished, but not without significant delay and hurt. In this family, an important patriarchal family in the Jewish faith. Each parent stakes a claim for a favourite child and then Esau flippantly sells his birth right to his brother. There is very little to admire in how the characters behave. Isaac ignores the prophecy and intends to give Esau, his favourite son, the blessing of the firstborn. Esau, having sold his birth right, goes back on his oath. Rebekah, devises a plot to deceive her husband and Jacob implements it. This family unit is in conflict and completely breaks down. We can easily look at all the players in the picture and see how they're all to blame, and yet God uses these imperfect people to work through His plan anyway. Sometimes we write ourselves or others off because of our imperfect, human failings, and yet God chooses us and uses us. God never counts us out so we should never count ourselves out.

29th August 2022

Luke 14:7 Jesus noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, so he told them a parable.

Have you ever been invited to a special event or party where celebrities are, where money is no object and only those who have certain contacts, money, influence are ever invited. This has never happened to me and I expect not you either. If you watch red carpet events there are certain people who automatically demand the most attention. Others who are ignored and overlooked because they are not currently as valuable. Sadly, the fans exacerbate this issue cheering for some and not others. It seems the more popular you are, the more popular you become. The more money you have the more you seem to get. The more celebrity you have the more you receive. Here is a lesson in human relationships and pecking order where we must decide whose side we are on. Do we look to the rich and celebrity and dismiss the poor as irrelevant? God says the poor, the disabled, the vulnerable are the treasures to be cared for, celebrated and given the places of honour. As Christians we have a duty to stand up for those in need, to fight the corner of the poor, disabled, elderly and vulnerable.  

28th August 2022

Mark 3:2 They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.

One of the simplest and yet most difficult things we are called to do as Christians is to love each other. To do this we must see each other! Really look and see one another. We must notice the people who are easy to overlook as we go about our busy life. Would Jesus have been really loving if he had asked those that he healed on the sabbath to come back tomorrow when it wasn’t the Sabbath and then I will heal you. He didn’t do that. He reacted out of love. So, we also must act out of this love when we are living out our faith on a daily basis. God encourages us to use our gifts to make life better for other people. The Spirit will prompt us to live with justice, mercy, kindness, and love? Ask yourself each day, is there something I can do that will make it easier for someone else to fully participate in life as God intended them to. What do we need to change to make things more accessible for all of God’s children? How do we take what we hear and experience in worship on Sunday mornings and live it out the rest of the week? Jesus kept his eyes open to see the people in need and the problems in society that needed to be called out. We need to see each other. To see need and to do something, to keep our eyes open and to call out those things in society which hurt and damage people.

27th August 2022

Luke 13:13 When Jesus laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.

Many Bible stories about Jesus contain healing, sometimes physical, sometimes spiritual or mental, sometimes relational. Many of us would identify with the people who need to be healed. Most of us would love to be healed from something. Maybe a relationship that has left us feeling broken. Maybe our life isn’t what we hoped it would be. Maybe we are grieving the death of someone and that emptiness inside us is too much. Maybe we are angry at things beyond our control and we can’t let go of our anger. Maybe our body is no longer allowing us to do things we used to enjoy and is failing physically. If we think about it, every one of us would like healing. Everyone would like to have their need acknowledged and their brokenness restored. My belief is that healing comes in many forms and at different times. Sometimes we will live with things, but strength to cope is freely given. Sometimes we have to lean into the issue and let God take the strain. Sometimes time is a necessary part of that healing. However it happens, and it does happen every day, my hope is that when we are healed, we will react as many of those Jesus healed reacted. They praised God and they told everyone all about it. 

26th August 2022

Matthew 25:45 ​“What you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.”

Covid and now the Cost-of-Living crisis has shown that the flourishing of the very few has been at the expense and suffering of the majority of others. When any one of us diminishes the humanity of another, we dismiss and diminish the image of God which each human bears. While this suffering and hardship continues, while we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to those suffering around us, when we continue to allow those in authority to act with impunity to the detriment of those struggling, this is to disregard the warning of Jesus: ​“What you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.” The flourishing of some cannot be at the expense and suffering of others. As we see God in each other we must pay attention; look out for people who are struggling, listen out for quiet pleas for help and offer support and care where we are able. We can campaign, petition and vote in favour of packages and measures that help those disproportionately affected by the crisis. We can reach out to our local MP and engage with them. We can go to the local Citizens Advice branch, CAP centre or foodbank, find out the local needs and campaign for them to be addressed. We can also pray. Pray for our neighbours and our communities, for compassion and empathy, kindness and generosity. And remember, whatever any of us do for the least of these, we are doing for Jesus.

25th August 2022

1 Peter 4:9 Be generous with the different things God gave you, sharing them around so that everyone can benefit.

It is good to be pleased or even a little proud of ourselves when we do well. When people speak well of us and our actions, it is to be accepted as a compliment and a blessing to us. One of my pleasures is when I am told I am generous. We try as a family to give of our time, our money and our talents to help others, we do have two priests in the family after all. But, for all of us where we have enough, others do not, and so it is good to help where we can. We do not do it for the recognition as none of us should, but sometimes a little positive encouragement gives us the strength to continue. We see that the little we are doing makes a difference. Each of us has been given gifts by God, gifts or abilities which mean we can help others if we share them freely. Gifts and abilities are given by God that we can all have a better life by sharing together. Where there is need, we can step in and cover and the same can be there for us. Sometimes we need reminding what our gifts are, a beneficial activity is to look at yourself and write down your gifts. Then it is good to think how we are sharing those gifts with others to help them. It can also help to look at how we have benefitted from the gifts of others. Of course, we may discover that we are a little mean with what we have and perhaps the challenge then is to give more freely, knowing we will also be freely given to by others in Christ.

24th August 2022

Luke 13:11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.

Here we meet up with someone who needs physical healing, bent over for 18 years, unable to stand up straight. She did not ask to be healed, but tried to blend in with the crowd so as not to draw attention to herself. Even when everyone else ignored her Jesus saw her, Jesus noticed her. This is one of my favourite things about Jesus, He sees people. He sees this woman who most people probably ignored firstly because she was a woman and also because she has a physical disability. Some people are invisible, even today disabled people are not seen or are purposely ignored. This is also true of children, the elderly and women. But just as Jesus saw her, Jesus sees you, your situation, your need; Jesus sees you and wants to do whatever is necessary to help you, heal you, care for you. With some simple words and a touch of his hands, Jesus heals the woman. She is able to stand up for the first time in years and the first thing she does is praise God. Her life is forever changed because Jesus saw her. Our lives are forever changed because Jesus sees us. May we praise God for all He does for us.

23rd August 2022

Luke 13:14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”

In many of the stories about Jesus there features a Religious Person or leader of the time. It is very easy for us to see these people as the bad guys of the story. They speak out what they know to be true, in this instance that anyone can be healed any other day of the week except on the Sabbath because the law says they cannot work on the Sabbath. These people are often faithful people who live by the Torah and have studied the scriptures and worked hard to live in the correct way. But meeting Jesus they are told that they are wrong, what humiliation at being corrected. We could easily call these people vicar, Sunday School teacher, PCC member, choir member, person in the congregation. This person is us. This person is me and you. I am a rule follower. I love knowing what I am expected to do so I can do it. And I am very hard on myself when I cannot meet those expectations. Churches are places and people with rules. These are the ways we govern ourselves and what makes everything work in our churches. Many of our rules are unwritten and are just the way we do things. Jesus isn’t instructing us to throw out all the rules, but Jesus is encouraging us to think about the rules that govern our lives. Are they fair, correct, just and loving? A Sabbath day makes good sense as our bodies need rest and time to worship and renew. But healing someone cannot be put off until tomorrow. God works through us now whatever day of the week.

22nd August 2022

Romans 15:7 Therefore, accept and welcome one another as Christ welcomes you.

How welcoming are you? Do you make people feel at ease in your home, in your church, in your workplace? Or would you much rather people did not invade your places? I expect many of us would say, depends on the person or people. Being people of welcome was crucial in the early church. Even they had issues, should Christianity just be for Jews or Gentiles as well. Even those first church leaders had to be reminded by God and each other that everyone was welcome. The example of Jesus was that He welcomed everyone. His followers were from every walk of life, every gender, every level of society and He made it clear that all were equal in His group and that this should permeate all of society. Unfortunately, the way of imperfect humans, particularly males, have made sure society is not welcoming of everybody, that levels of wealth and power are maintained and that many are made very unwelcome if they do not fit into the set pattern they have made. We all fall into that trap, avoiding the homeless, not helping the foodbanks because we hear, via a bias press and government, that these people are just scroungers. Jesus welcomed everyone, no if’s no buts. We too must welcome anyone into our churches, welcome the poor and needy as much as the wealthy and powerful. We need to open our minds and hearts to everyone no matter who they are or what their background is for that is the way of Christianity as Jesus taught it.

21st August 2022

Ecclesiastes 1:2 Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. Don't count on being remembered.

We all go through a time when we want to be remembered. We would like a place in history, our name on something or in the history books. It gives a sense of immortality; our body may have gone but our name lives on. If you were asked who are your favourite names from history, we can all real a few off but in the context of the many millions who have lived it is a relatively small pool to pick from. It is true that most things in life are forgotten, before the web the phrase todays news, tomorrows fish and chip wrapper was often used as the papers are onto something else the following day. We all want someone to remember us and it is fair to say that we do live on in other’s memories of us, but those memories are only for one or two generations. It seems cynical but so little of life and history is really remembered and it is fair to say that the history we remember is always written by the victors and so will not be the full and honest truth. The memories we hold of others and they of us, should be good ones, it is right to strive to be remembered as good, honest, caring, loving people. Even if the world does not really remember us for long, God does remember us. God knows us, by name, he knows the number of hairs on our head and sees all those tears we cry. When everyone else has long forgotten us, God has and will not. God never forgets us.

20th August 2022

Jeremiah 2:31 Young women don't forget their jewellery, do they? Brides don't show up without their veils, do they? But my people forget me. Day after day after day they never give me a thought.

How forgetful are you? I am really good at putting something down and forgetting where I put it. I don’t always remember conversations until I am reminded and I really struggle with learning names and faces these days. If I really need to make sure I remember something I write myself notes, even send myself emails as a reminder. I love making lists where I can clearly see what I need to do next. The point being made here is that actually we are good as human beings at remembering the things that are important to us, the things that matter in our lives. We tend not to forget to pick our children up from school, or the doctor’s appointment, or where our jewellery and valuables are. We tend not to forget meals out, concert tickets, our own birthdays, our own phone numbers and emails. The problem is we are good at forgetting those things not important to us, so in the case of God He does not have the importance in our lives that He should have. We tend to put more and more in front of God until He just drops off the end of the list and is no longer important to us. We need to be reminded to put God top of the list again, to make our relationship with Him important and to restore the daily communication with Him. God needs to be in our heads and in our thinking, in our hearts and our understanding, in our eyes and our looking, in our mouths and in our speaking. God should be in every part of our lives and not forgotten. (phrases from the Book of Hours in public domain)

19th August 2022

Proverbs 10:28 The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hope of the wicked will perish.

Don’t you just love straight talk, no if’s or buts, if we do this this will happen. I grew up in a home where strict rules were enforced, and you went against them at your peril. The Old Testament is quite often straight talking about the consequences of actions. Life was simpler, language less confusing and right and wrong were very black and white. People understood the rules and laws and kept them knowing that if they didn’t punishment was severe. Much of the Old Testament makes the choice of following God very black and white. The prospect of being righteous is joy, in other words if you are a good, righteous, honest person you will find joy. The antithesis of this is that if you are wicked, you will suffer. The consequences of wickedness, lawlessness, dishonesty, lies, fraud, abuse and the like, is death. Sometimes it seems this punishment is a long time coming and there are a few of our present leaders who certainly have and are behaving wickedly, they will get their comeuppance. They will not have the prospect of Joy because their behaviour is damaging and against God’s ways. We all make mistakes, and the wonder of God is forgiveness, BUT we must recognise our wrongdoing, apologise and make amends for it. We do that because we recognise God and His impact on our lives, and in doing so, we are forgiven and find joy. If we choose wickedness the path to suffering is very easy and downhill all the way.

18th August 2022

Proverbs 15:22 Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.

My husband says the best piece of advice his father ever gave him was to get on and marry me. For once he took his father’s advice and we have been married for 29 years. We can all be very funny about advice, particularly when we are young, thinking we know better, thinking that older people know nothing, but good advice can be blessing that stops us making stupid errors and saving us pain. When we make plans to do work on our homes, we listen to those who are experts, we get plans drawn up and we decide if it is possible or not. When we study for qualifications, we listen to those who know, we study and learn, we follow their guidance. As we grow up, we become who we are often because of our upbringing and the values our parents have passed onto us. Those who have experienced life longer, who have become experts in their field, who have made the poor choices and want to share how to avoid them with others, these are people we should listen to, take good counsel from and so succeed. I do like the fact that when we are told to honour our parents, they are also told not to exasperate us. The listening to advice is so valuable and when it is our turn to give it, the way we give it, the way we offer our pearls of wisdom matters.

17th August 2022

Psalm 57:4 I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts, men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

The Psalms are great for summing up how we might feel at times. They have these wonderful verses about how everything seems to be going wrong, then followed up with expressions of gratitude and praise for God because even in the midst of dark times He is there. I love this verse comparing our difficult times to being in with lions and ravenous beasts, sharp teeth and swords. We get the picture, this is serious, people in with lions don’t survive, spears, arrows and swords wreak havoc and bring death. This is a deep dark situation where there seems to be no hope and yet verse after verse of despair is followed by verses of praise and recognition of God’s care and presence even in this terrible time. The battle between being in the depths and trusting God is a hard one and can be a daily one for many. Life can be cruel, unfair, debasing and yet God promises we are not alone, He stands with us, understand us and will not let us down. The lions might be near and hungry, the spears and arrows raining down, the swords sharpened and ready and yet the protection of God stands between us and them, day after day. May we spare a moment even in the dark times to thank God for His goodness to us.

16th August 2022

Ephesians 4:25 Put away all dishonesty and speak truthfully to all, for we are all part of one body.

Think of a time when you lied or cheated, why did you do it? What makes us lie to someone, bend the truth, act dishonestly? Whenever we speak to anyone it should be in a truthful, loving & caring way because that is what God demands of us as Christians and as His children. Just think about how you feel when you discover that someone has lied to you. You feel betrayed, you feel cheated, you wonder why and you no longer have trust in the person who has lied to you. If you feel like that when someone lies to you, you now know how others will feel if you lie to them, so why do we do it? We really do struggle with our human nature; we think that covering up our mistakes and errors through lies will actually make people think better of us and yet we can clearly see just how badly it damages people’s opinion of us. As humans we are caught in this balancing act where we do what we don’t want to do and don’t do what we want and ought to do. St Paul spoke a lot about this in his letter to the Romans. The response is to let the Holy Spirit enable us to stand firm in truth and honesty, to let Him prompt us when we are tempted to lie and to recognise, we are all part of God’s family and none of us deserve to be lied to by another.

15th August 2022

Judges 6:13a “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about.

On the occasions when I have asked God some awkward questions I was not as polite about it as Gideon was here. He politely challenges God about why they are in such a mess and why hasn’t the God who did all the wonderful things of the past do something wonderful now. Many of us think this if we are honest. We look at stories in the Bible, of miracles, healings, battles, callings, visitations and we ask why not me, why not now? We feel we want to hear a loud bombing voice or see a river split open to reveal dry land, or have food delivered from the skies or hear a donkey talk or a man live in the belly of a whale for three days. We tell God that if He did some of these things now people would believe, being a Christian would be easier. But then I am pointed to Jesus, His story, the miracles, healings, water to wine, food for 5000, defeat of death and did they all come flocking? Did they all believe? The answer is no. You can offer all the proof in the world to people but many will not believe even then. When I ask God awkward questions, I don’t often get straight answers but I do get reminders, points in my life when time and again God has stepped in, in the right way at the right time. Gideon is reminded of God at work and goes on to do wonderful things for God, may it be the same for us.

14th August 2022

Philippians 4: 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is virtuous, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.

I grew up with the term “selective memory”. The choice someone made to remember or forget something as it suited their needs. Current politics and journalism seem to thrive on this, forgetting to hold people to account, forgetting to observe laws, forgetting to honour promises and pledges when it suits them to do so. The term selective is a polite way of saying choice. People making an active, purposeful choice to forget a promise, break a law, abdicate responsibility, all to further their own lifestyle. Remembering and honouring things is crucial to our learning lessons, retaining knowledge and building upon it, and keeping the promises and commitments we have made. The term virtue is an old word, not used much now, probably because of what it means; behaving to the highest moral standards. Yet it is exactly what we need to do right now in our country and communities. Philippians calls us to think on or dwell on things which are good, virtuous, true, honourable, right and pure. Imagine if everyone only focussed on these positive things. With so much goodness, integrity and honesty in the world there would be no poverty, no one would be homeless, money would be equally shared, and leaders would not operate from selfish gain. We cannot change the world overnight, but the change starts with us, we can make a difference today, each day, we can effect change if we live as people of virtue, of goodness with the highest moral standards.

13th August 2022
Proverbs 10:9 Whoever lives honestly will live securely, but whoever lives dishonestly will be found out.

Would you describe yourself as honest? Perhaps more to the point would others describe you as honest? I consider honesty to be really important in life and have brought my children up to be honest, admit their mistakes, accept that we get things wrong and fess up when we make a mistake. Sadly, public life does not seem to worry about honesty any more. It has become acceptable to lie, to make excuses, to blame everyone else in order not to have to face the consequences of their actions. It seems that people aren’t energised to demand honesty from public figures any more. It seems that if you can get away with being dishonest people seem to admire you and not hold you to account. We need a reality check. Dishonesty in any part of life means a person is willing to lie, to cheat, to do anything to get their own way and keep their position. When it comes to honesty you cannot separate public and private life. If you are dishonest in one thing you will be dishonest in everything. It does seem that however much we try to hide our discretions; we will be found out. It may take a while but it will be revealed for all to see and hear. The question is whether we are willing to hold people to account and to hold ourselves to account. The best way to live before God is to remember that old saying, honesty is the best policy and if we stick to that and encourage others to do the same, this world will be a better, safer place. Remember that honesty and trust are linked, if we are not honest people will not trust us.

12th August 2022

Genesis 20:2 Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.

Being female and a priest means I experience some prejudice and sexist treatment. For me one of the most shocking and exasperating things about many of the Old Testament stories is how routinely women are treated as property and maltreated by those who are supposed to care for them and are in fact God’s chosen people. Sadly, and very wrongly, this treatment of women was normal in the ancient world, but sometimes, not as much as we should, we do find God's condemnation of this behaviour. Abraham, a hero in the three main religions, is willing to prostitute his wife for his own safety, passing her off as his sister so that Abimelech will take her into his house. Abraham shows absolutely no respect for her honour and no regard for her safety. He also practices coercive behaviour by telling her it is a test of her loyalty to him, and this man is offered as an example? I really struggle with this, as do most women. Abraham actually doesn't come out of this story well. The supposed wise statesman and proclaimed ancestor of all Israel is a terrible moral failure. Thank goodness God himself intervenes to save the situation. This is an example of shameful behaviour that we're more sensitive about today, but still not dealing with enough. It clearly shows that doing the right thing will often require moral and even physical courage. If we let ourselves be corrupted by fear, by sexism, by selfish gain, the consequences will be terrible.

11th August 2022

Zechariah 8: 4 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Once again old men and women will walk Jerusalem’s streets with their canes and will sit together in the city squares.

We tend to be disrespectful of old age in the west. Instead of caring for our elderly we seem to prefer to either put them in a home or buy in care for them in their own homes. It is partly selfish but also is due to our own business and not being able to care for those who need it and work and look after our own families etc. The older generation give so much in bringing up their children and then often act as free childcare for grandchildren, the least we can do is care for them when they need it. I know this is hard, I have faced it myself, trying to help aging and ill parents while trying to do two jobs to keep the family fed and watered and having to live a distance away. This verse in Zechariah places our elderly in the streets of new Jerusalem, walking, with their canes, a sign of old age, sitting together in the squares. Here is respect, here are folk enjoying being together in God’s place and the verse after tells us that also in those streets will be children playing and having fun. No fear, no worries, no negative issues, just enjoying life. God wants us all, young and old, to enjoy our lives, to be cared for without fear or worry and if that is what God wants for us, that is what we should want for each other.

10th August 2022

Luke 10:13 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

We tend to think that seeing is believing. We want evidence to prove something. If we see it then we can believe it is true. As I have got older, I have become more cynical and less trusting of being told things. Too many promises not kept, too many agreements broken, too many negative experiences. When I work with young people in volunteer placements some are brilliant at giving me evidence of their attendance and what they have done and achieved. Others just presume that telling me they attended for several months with no way of validating this is going to be acceptable. To achieve things in life we have to have evidence, certificates, references, documents. Sadly, even then some people are not convinced. Here in Luke even though miracles have been seen, people healed in front of their eyes, clever and factual argument made, prophecies fulfilled, these people of the city of Chorazin will not believe. These people witnessed the mighty power of God in their streets for the better part of three years. Yet, it seemed to make no difference in their lives. We can experience the power of God, day in and day out, we can be shown the evidence of God working and still we do not believe. There are too many Godincidences in life to think there is no God. The evidence is all around us, the question is whether we chose to believe our eyes, our ears, our hearts and minds or not.

9th August 2022

Psalm 31:24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.

A recent piece of research concluded that victim blaming has become a common response in the UK, rather than being compassionate and empathetic we have become people who blame the refugees for needing to leave their country, blame the person hurt in an accident for just being there, blame those attacked and raped because it makes us feel safer if we can find a reason. Blame everyone else instead of looking to ourselves. St Augustine said “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” We should be angry, not at the person suffering but those who allow and cause this suffering. We should also channel that anger into courage to make a stand, to challenge the status Quo and to make those responsible accept their responsibility and if necessary, their punishment. Paul Boateng has recently quoted this quote in his work with the church on racism, he encourages us all to make a stand, to not let it be just words, but action. Step up in the fight against racism, step up in the fight against violence, poverty, fair wages, sexism, honesty and truth. We are right to be angry when things are wrong and we must then channel this anger, be courageous and demand things change for the betterment of all.

8th August 2022

Galatians 3:28 In Christ's family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal.

I long for a society where there is perfect equality between races, classes, gender, abilities, careers, rich and poor. Many tell me I am too idealistic, but I don’t think so. If you long for something and believe in it, you will strive toward it. You don’t stop until you get there and even then, you keep working to maintain it. I find as a woman in the priesthood I am often attacked by those who believe only men can be priests. We have just seen the rights of women over their bodies go backwards because of extreme and mainly male views. We have politicians in this country playing with Conversion Therapy and using their power to affect the rights of others. There is not equality and the large steps we had taken are very quickly being eroded in the cause of keeping certain people in power and finding someone to blame. The diversity of humans was understood by Jesus, by leaders of the early church who were then replaced by figures who asserted male dominance within religion. Their take on things gave us centuries of inequality and this continues. Every person has the right to find God and love their way. God is unconditional with His love and so should we. When we use archaic beliefs and practices to prevent freedom then we are not living in God’s image. Not one of us has the right to treat any other human being other than as an equal and I and many others, with God on our side, will keep fighting for that until it happens.

7th August 2022

2 Corinthians 8:7,13 See that you also excel in this grace of giving…Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be full equality in diversity.

How good are you at giving? Some people love to give, small gifts, tokens of appreciation, anything to bring someone else pleasure. Others cannot even be bothered to remember special occasions let alone give a card or gift. A friend of mine told me how her husband never remembered her birthday or Christmas etc. She would defend him as being too busy, I would suggest he did not think enough of her. Giving is a grace, that means it not deserved but freely given anyway. We give because others give to us, we know how it makes others feel and how it makes us feel. Giving costs so little and offers so very much. Research by the Trussell Trust who run many foodbanks, has found that those who give most are those who have the least. Their understanding of need, often of being helped themselves, means they are more likely to give even when they are hard pressed because they know what that food really means. They have also found that the wealthiest are the least likely to give, they keep their wealth for themselves. Our ability to give is inside us, often it has been lost by selfishness and greed. We stop giving because we believe we will be richer. The very act of giving makes us so much richer as people, as caring, empathetic and loving humans. If you’re not usually a giver, try it and see what happens. You will be a blessing to others and you will also be richly blessed.

6th August 2022
Romans 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor even the powers of hell can keep us from God’s love.

Are you someone who relishes new beginnings or someone who struggles with endings? Maybe a bit of both? As things change, a new place of work, a new school, a new group of people, we all face worries and concerns? The future can be daunting, and we are not sure of what to expect, but also, we are aware that life is fragile and things can change very quickly for all of us. The one surety we have in everything is God’s love for us. When Paul was finding things difficult, he stepped out and wrote to the Christians in Rome about their futures and their worries. He shared the difficulties life can bring but then declared that nothing can separate us from God’s love and to reinforce his point he lists these things. Life or death can’t separate us, angels or rulers can’t do it, the present or the future can’t do it and the powers of hell cannot separate us from God’s love. So, as you face the future, it’s changes, its uncertainties, be secure in the knowledge that nothing, nothing at all, can separate us from the God’s love.

5th August 2022

Revelation 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

We all love to come first, from the sports days of our youth, to exams, to sports, to competitions, to queues, we just love being or going first. Of course, if there is a first there is always a last as well as a second, third, fourth etc. The further back we are the more we dislike it and coming last, we hate it, we are competitive as humans and see some sort of embarrassment and shame in coming last. Yet coming last offers the opportunity of improvement, it challenges us to examine our priorities and our gifts. If we are regularly last in something, perhaps it is not our strength. These comforting words about God being the first and the last I often read at funerals. They offer the hope of all of us that beyond life here is a future with God who is the first and last. It puts everything in perspective, at our beginnings and endings God was there first, in triumphs and failures, God was and is there first. In God’s presence at both beginnings and endings, as well as everywhere in between lies hope, encouragement and strength. There is no where we can ever go or be that God is not right there with us.

4th August 2022

Luke 10: 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.

We like to do, to be busy, be active, make something, cook something, clean something. As we keep busy, we feel like we have justified our existence and our role. This doing part of our nature is driven by our personality and our thinking. On the other hand we are also beings. Being comes from our soul and heart. Being is very much a spiritual thing. But neither is more important, and both are necessary for how we live our lives. The doing part of us relates to the world, our place in it as our worth is calculated by what we do, our productivity. It tends to occupy our minds daily as to where we want to go in the future, how to achieve this and who to work with to get there quicker. Being is about the moment we are in, realising our potential in that moment, that situation. Being fully present in that moment. Allowing our heart, our soul, our spiritual self to experience everything around us and our place in it at that moment. In Mary and Martha, we see one who is doing and one who is being. Both are needed and both are essential to life. I can’t just be and not feed my family, clean the house, do the washing but I also can’t just do those things and experience the fullness of life and who I am. We are Human beings; we do because there is need. The way we do will be affected by our being, seeing things either as a chore or as a blessing to others. We need a balance, time to just be, to be free to experience fullness of life here and now and time to do the things that will help ourselves and others, achieve goals and a future.

3rd August 2022

Acts 2:46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

Recently a friend of mine has begun playing bingo, he has a friend who finds it difficult to go out and socialise and they have found going to bingo helps with this. A lot of people in the community find bingo a place to come together, enjoy each other’s company and play together. The atmosphere is supportive and people clap when someone wins. For those who are lonely, older, find it hard to socialise, this offers a safe place in which to meet others and feel supported. This got me thinking about church. I am not suggesting we play bingo although I know places that have it as a church social activity; but it is the atmosphere, the support which makes me think. If a group of random people can come together over a game and be supportive of each other then so can a group of people who come together to worship God. When we meet together in church, we should make sure everyone is welcome and everyone feels safe. We should all be applauding one another when people do well and supporting each other in difficult times. There should be no levels of acceptance for one and not another. No pulling people down for doing well and no judging of others. This community spirit of playing bingo together should be in our churches when we worship together.

2nd August 2022

Colossians 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

We all love to celebrate, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, exam results, new job, anything we can celebrate and congratulate one another on. It is part of our humanity that we want to celebrate good things. We want to say well done, offer praise, offer support and be part of that positive experience. These celebrations allow us to celebrate the goodness of life and that gives us a resilience to keep going in the barren times, in the difficult times. We now have life celebrants who take funerals that celebrate life. The word celebrate means to come together for a significant and happy event. The term is also used for the celebration of communion. The priest is termed as a celebrant. The logical deduction here is that communion is a coming together for a significant and happy event. It is significant because it is a memorial of Jesus final meal with His disciples which He told us to do together. It is also happy because although it commemorates Jesus’ death, it also celebrates His defeat of death for us, the eternal life given to us, and we remember these in the act of sharing Communion together. The act of celebration whether through Communion or a party or any type of celebration is testament to God’s creation of us as positive, celebratory beings.

1st August 2022

Genesis 18:32 “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

Every now and again, if you have credit cards, you will receive a letter telling you they are going to change their agreement with you. No negotiation, just we are changing this rate or now making a charge, or cutting the time you have to pay and you have to accept it or you can cancel your account. I find it really annoying and I think it is wrong that I cannot do the same to them, that I cannot renegotiate. This always reminds me of when Abraham negotiates with God. It is something we think God will not accept from us and yet Abraham does it because Abraham has a covenant relationship with God. He plays on God’s forgiving, caring nature and God says He will not destroy the city if Abraham can find 10 good people. Sadly, Abraham fails even to find 10 good people. We all try to negotiate with God, I will do this if you will do that. Sadly, as with Abraham, the promises we make mean nothing. People do not keep their promises to God and often don’t have any intention of doing so even when they make them. Almost in the very next breath they renege on them. Promises to God are so often made with fingers crossed behind our backs because we have no intention of doing what we say. This is now so common in our world, political leaders making promises they never keep, making claims which are untrue. God’s love for us is complete and utter, unconditional, there is no negotiation needed. His ways are also not negotiable because they are true, pure, good and holy. It us who must change not God.

31st July 2022

Acts 10:15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

In clubs and societies there can be rules about who can join. There are many men only clubs in London, many in universities and colleges. As much as we claim to be an equal society, we are not. There are still very few disabled people, women, black people, in positions of power and authority.

In the beginning of the early Church, the new believers faced a problem, should the followers of Jesus be Jews only, or should Gentiles to be included as well? Jews kept themselves separate and did not visit or eat with Gentiles. Gentiles on the other hand were attracted to Jewish religious ways.

Peter's vision of the sheet from heaven containing clean and unclean animals was sign to him that in God's kingdom the old barriers were to be got rid of. Both Jew and Gentile could be brothers and sisters in Christ, all could receive the Holy Spirit and all could be equal. Christians still worry about associating with the 'wrong' people or going to the 'wrong' places. There can be a sense that to be really holy, we have to avoid getting our hands dirty by avoiding people who don't share our faith or our opinions. This is the complete opposite of what Jesus did, or what Peter was shown by God. We are called to mix with people who aren't like us, and to share the love of Jesus with everyone, no matter who they are. Being a Christian is not an exclusive club, God wants it to be completely inclusive and only by sharing His love with everyone can this happen.

30th July 2022

Nehemiah 4:17 Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each laboured on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.

Although the trend is now not to test for covid regularly, we still do it in school if someone comes down with it on staff. Over the course of the pandemic, we saw the tests improve, easier to administer, quicker to get a result and more accurate. I do think we should still be providing tests for people as the figures can never be accurate when many cannot afford to test and feel like they have been told it’s all over anyway. Recent increases in numbers have led many to wear masks again, including me. I mix with so many folks that I think wearing a mask for their and my protection is sensible. The protection of self and others is a Biblical principle. As the people rebuilt the wall there were those attacking them, trying to stop them, so they worked with protection for themselves and each other. Life for Christians can be difficult, the abuse we may encounter is usually vocal but in many places the abuse is physical, attacks, destruction of property and violence. We are encouraged to protect ourselves and others. To stand up against those who would hurt us. God knows our situation; He encourages us to look after ourselves and others. It does not mean acting aggressively but rather reacting in love. Stepping away where needed. Speaking truth gently in love. Labouring together and looking after one another as we serve Him.

29th July 2022

Leviticus 19:32 God said: Show respect and compassion to the aged; honour the presence of an elder; fear your God.

I was brought up to respect my elders and betters. I am not sure about the better’s part as I believe in equality, but respect for those older and wiser is a good thing. I must admit as I become one of the older and I hope wiser, I don’t seem to get that respect. Perhaps the societal change means we no longer respect age or life experience as we should. No one is saying that just because someone is older, they must be respected and yet if they have lived longer, experienced more, been through far more than we have, we should respect their knowledge and learning and be welcoming of their advice. It is true that some folks try to play the older and wiser card to their advantage but mostly we share with others because we do not want them to have the pain or hurt we have encountered by diverting them from making similar mistakes. God’s teaching is very much about respecting the more senior among us, respecting those who have given their lives to serving God and helping us. Respect is given, not because God says but because it is earned, earned by a lived life, by experience, by faith. We may not always agree or wish to follow the advice given but that should never prevent us from respecting those who give it.

28th July 2022

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

The word compassion is often condemned as a snowflake term these days. Those in top jobs consider compassion to be a weakness and people who rise to the top often do so because of their hard nose attitude which has no time for compassion. It is good to ask ourselves if we are compassionate, if we are concerned for others and look upon them with understanding and not judgement or condemnation. Compassion invokes feeling, concern, sympathy for another when things are difficult for them. Because it is less common in its use these days, we might need to remind ourselves why compassion is important and that it does have a link to forgiveness. Compassion motivates people to relieve the mental, physical and emotion pains of others, it is linked to justice, fairness, sympathy and empathy. If someone is not challenged by these things, then they will lack compassion and the judgements they make will show that. God’s compassion for us means He does everything to help us, stands with us, supports us, strengthens us when we need it. God’s compassion also drives His forgiveness of us as humans. Compassion is a trait our world needs more than ever and it is one we can offer in God’s love and strength.

27th July 2022

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is a faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him.

How good are you at keeping promises? We make promises and vows throughout our lives, as parents and God parents, when we marry, legally when we purchase a home. An old word for promise is covenant. A covenant often has things that must be done by the recipient to validate the covenant. God makes many covenants with His people, with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and the New Covenant through Jesus. Time and again God’s promises are put to the test, covenants are broken, not by God, but by humans as they quickly forget their part when life is good and then come rushing back when life is bad. The final Covenant is through Jesus, where all the other promises are completely honoured and kept by God and offering humans the opportunity to have eternal life not by anything they can do or earn, but through the free gift of Jesus life on the cross, the defeat of death and punishment and eternal life with God. The promises are always kept by our faithful God, it is us who struggle to keep ours. Where can you see God’s faithfulness to us as humans? If you ever struggle think of all that we have from God, then count your blessings. God’s faithfulness is immeasurable, but it helps to recognise it and remember every day just how faithful God has been to us and will continue to be to us.

26th July 2022

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

We are so much better at recognising mental health needs now. Young people are aware how their mental health is as important as their physical health. We are learning that things we harbour within us are often the key to helping ourselves move on. When we carry something for a long time it will affect us. Finding peace through forgiveness is vital. That forgiveness may be what we are looking for from another or it may be something we need to offer ourselves. Being forgiven when we have done wrong is a really freeing experience. That ideal parental love which, recognising the wrong, gives a punishment and offers forgiveness, is vital to our stability and mental health as we grow up. We learn that actions have consequences but we also learn that forgiveness is possible. As others forgive us, we learn the value of forgiving others. The idea of restorative justice is not that someone is not punished but that they meet with their injured parties and see the damage they have done and then look for a way forward. Being forgiven is a wonderful experience but so is forgiving others. We tend to be less ready to forgive than be forgiven. In God eyes if we recognise our wrongdoing, He will forgive and cleanse us. Perhaps we need to be a little more forgiving of others and a little more willing to offer forgiveness as it is offered to us by God.

25th July 2022

Matthew 27:3-4 Judas, the one who betrayed him, realised that Jesus was doomed. Overcome with remorse, he gave back the thirty silver coins to the high priests, saying, “I've sinned. I've betrayed an innocent man.”

All of us get things wrong in life. For many of us the saying; there but for the grace of God go, I is quite apt. Have you ever done something really bad and then regretted it? The fact of regretting shows your remorse. Many today, who are charged and convicted of terrible crimes, never show remorse, are never sorry or even accept they did wrong. When we do wrong it is best to own up not to keep quiet. As some of our current politicians are finding things from their past keep popping up, things they wanted to keep quiet. If they had been open from the beginning and sorry, these things would not trouble them now. It is the hiding of our wrongdoing, the unwillingness to recognise and admit the problem that causes us problems. For Judas he recognised what an awful thing he did, he tried to return the pay off, the damage was done and yet it needed to be done for Jesus to be arrested and executed. Judas found his remorse was eating away at him. The good news for us is that forgiveness is freely offered by God when we are sorry, when we show remorse. In recognising and owning our mistake God can work in forgiveness for us and in helping those we have hurt by our words or actions. You have heard the old saying confession is good for the soul; our soul, our spiritual side, can be forgiven and wiped clean when we confess our sins and wrongdoing and accept our failures and then try to change.

24th July 2022

Colossians 4:9b He is coming to you with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you.

Have you ever been described as faithful? What do you think that means? If someone is faithful, they are loyal and steadfast, is that you? Onesimus was a slave who had robbed his master Philemon, and fled to Rome, where he could hide. In Rome Onesimus come across St Paul who was in prison. This encounter led Onesimus to become a follower of Jesus and he became a real friend to Paul. Paul sent him back to his master, no longer as a slave but as a co-worker in the gospel of Christ. The name Onesimus means helpful, useful and profitable. To smooth the return Paul writes a letter to Philemon pleading for Philemon to forgive and work alongside Onesimus. Paul speaks of his faithfulness, of him as a brother and as one of them. Paul was in two minds about sending Onesimus back because he wanted him to stay with him as a faithful, hardworking friend. This is a real turn around, a conversion of someone mistreated by being in slavery, doing wrong but then becoming the faithful servant of God that he was always meant to be. God believes in second chances. Onesimus had this gift of faithfulness, loyalty, stickability. His story asks us the question, what could we do to be more faithful? Perhaps we can think this over, produce some ideas and then try to put them into practice.

23rd July 2022

Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Do you like having people round? Having a party or a meal, providing food and drink? The hospitality we offer serves others, opens homes and places to people, feeds people and without expecting to be paid back. Hospitality is that joyful welcoming of others into our group, home, church and welcoming them with love, providing for the physical as well as the spiritual. We make a choice when we have people round, do I carry on doing the practical or do I stop for a while to actually be with the people as well as look after them. Do we wash up while the guests are there or socialise and do it later? Do we expect a return invite, or to be spoken well of by others because of our hospitality? Do we prepare as much as we can beforehand so we can spend as much time with people as possible? Hospitality is as much about spending time together with people as providing for their physical needs. Why do we invite people round? How do we actually treat others? Hospitality is not just the provision of food, water, practical things, it is also about spending time with people. Making people feel welcome, feeling at home in our home, at home in our church. It is about making someone feel at ease. Cared about as well as cared for. God calls us to open our homes to others, to share what we have and reminds us that when we do, we never know just how important and special those who come into our homes may be.

22nd July 2022

Ruth 1:20 Do not call me Naomi, she replied. Call me Mara, because the Almighty has dealt quite bitterly with me.

Over the years I have met children and adults with the most wonderful names. Names that reflect God’s grace and favour, names that reflect beauty and peace, names that are positive and joyous. Naming your child is a privilege parents are given. We often try to name them after a family member, a favourite name we like, a certain meaning. In some traditions Babies are named after the first thing a parent sees, or from the first word on a page in their Holy book. We named our children from our Welsh heritage, family traditions and our faith. In the story of Ruth, Naomi wants to change her name to Mara, meaning bitter, because her life has changed for the worse. A name is important and we were sure to choose names with good, encouraging meanings. In some traditions where girls are not valued when born, they are often given names of shame. Groups and charities that work with these children when they are literally thrown out of their families, are able to change their names on a new record and so thy give them beautiful names like Precious, Grace, Favour and Joy. In that change these girls find their value, a new life and a new family. In the early church when people became Christians they took a Christian name, a name that reflected the new family and love they found in God. I had the privilege of baptising a Muslim lady into the Christian faith and she took a Christian name to reflect her new faith and her new family. Names are important so may we choose them and use them with care and respect.

21st July 2022

Genesis 22:12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him.”

In modern society being unable to have children has seen remarkable advances in science. It is still a problem and affects lives but in comparison to Bible times there is no shame in this issue, and much can be done. We understand the complexities of the human body far better. The story of an elderly Abraham and Sarah having a child, Isaac, promised by God as Abraham is declared father of the nations, is one of great hope until Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son. This is a struggle for any of us. Child sacrifice is unthinkable, how could Abraham even contemplate this? Child sacrifice was actually a common religious practice among the surrounding nations in Abraham’s time. So, here is the crux of the matter; God makes it clear he does not desire human sacrifice, we meet the God who is not like other gods. We have a revelation of the true God, He does not require the death of children to be satisfied. Our God is not like that. The only death that will be needed is that of God himself, through His son. Abraham has a real faith in God, he does not always do well in his actions, but in his willingness, he meets the one true God and discovers His true nature of love and forgiveness. In the most testing of times we learn who we really are, who we really trust and just how faithful we are. These times also show God as He really is, how faithful and loving He is and how He works in amazing and creative ways.

20th July 2022

Deuteronomy 4:7 What other people are so blessed as to have their God next to them the way the Lord our God is with us?

July means we are at the end of another school year. Students finish a year group, move on up, some move on to new schools or other places. The effects of the pandemic are still casting a long shadow in education. Things have changed, some things have returned, and some things have gone for good. Staff and student experiences of this past and previous years will all be different. Through life we meet changes daily. Most of the time we don’t even think about them, different weather, different topics and studies, different food, different people. Big changes happen year on year. We meet subtle changes, immediate changes and slow changes as we grow. The greatest assurance we have is that we never go through these changes alone. All our endings and beginnings, all our journeys happen with God right there with us, if we want Him to be. We have a choice, even though He is right there we can choose to ignore Him. That is our freedom. We sometimes equate God’s presence with us to a guardian Angel, someone who is with us, looking after us. At times we may feel alone but we are not, we have help. It is often only later that we look back and see God’s hand at work and His presence right there with us. Some call this luck, some call it coincidence, I call it God and Godincidences. There is always help when you need it. No judgement, no strings, just support for you from God and from His people who he sends to each of us for support. Do not ever feel you need to cope alone. God’s presence is there with you, day by day. It is a promise made time and again in the Bible, through Jesus and through the Holy Spirit. We are never alone, God is with each of us, wherever we go.

19th July 2022

1 Peter 4:9&10a Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling, use whatever gift you have received to serve others.

In this chapter Hospitality is listed as a gift of the Holy Spirit. We all acknowledge the practical side of hospitality, but there is more. We have a choice to make. It can be a choice about duty or about spending time with someone. What or who do we make a priority. Do we prioritise our guests, friends, our family? Time is precious, we do not know our future, Covid has reinforced the fragility of life. Everyone has physical needs, but we can be so caught up in these that we forget too just be with someone. We want others to see us as busy, hardworking, but we can be too busy to have time for others, but hey, as long as we look important that is what matters. No it isn’t. It is so easy for us to do this, to justify all we do for God but not actually spend time being with Him. To make life all about doing when it is also about being? We need to be a real friend, a fellow labourer, someone others feel at ease with? We need to make the right choice here, not allow ourselves to be so busy that we neglect just spending time with Jesus. It is so easy to think being busy for God is the most important thing, but actually to be able to be busy for God we must also spend time with Him, listening, learning, growing and becoming better people.

18th July 2022

Genesis 18:5a Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way.

The story of Abraham and the three visitors is one of the main stories on Hospitality in the OT. It is also the first visual of the Trinity in the Bible. It is this very story that Rublev’s icon of the Trinity is based around; the Hospitality of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If you look at the Icon there is a place for us, it draws us in. God invites us into Himself. Hospitality is a gift from God to us and something we are all called to offer to one another. At the time of Abraham people who came through their settlement or village were fed and cared for. They knew that travellers would struggle, would need food and water, somewhere to stay. The word Hospitality means love of the stranger. God’s people were encouraged to welcome the stranger and care for them practically, with food, water, rest etc. Many really successful study groups, youth groups and prayer meetings happen around food. Alpha operates around a meal together before studying and learning. All the successful youth groups I have been involved in have been set around food, together. We learn that the physical needs of people are as important as the spiritual. That God wants to supply our physical needs as well as the Spiritual ones. As God freely gives to us so we are encouraged to freely give to others.

17th July 2022

Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a blessing.

You may have heard the recent highlighted stories of the many thousands of women forced to give up their babies because they were not married. They had no choice in the matter. The government forced it on them and the hospital staff who did this treated these already traumatised women appallingly, shaming them and physically hurting them even more. If you have seen the film Philomena you get a real sense of how terrible this is for women, how it affects them throughout their lives, the grief they have never been able to express. As much as societal rules are important, we really do get it so wrong sometimes. Forcing women to give up their child because they were not married is just evil, persecutory and not of God. It is human interpretation, usually by men, that has made these decisions and forced them upon supposedly free people. Children are a gift from God, women have the right to not have children or refuse to have a child caused by rape or incest, or that will damage their own life. To take someone’s child by force because someone does not agree with their lifestyle or their choices is not a justified power, only an opinionated, judgemental, attitude not of God.

16th July 2022

Roman 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Much is currently made of the cost-of-living crisis and rightly so. People who are hard workers are being priced out of the food market, people on benefits cannot feed themselves or their families, more children are living in poverty than in the Victorian era, children arrive in school hungry and teachers are feeding them out of their own pockets. Wage increases don’t touch the sides and only those in high management or company bosses and politicians are able to afford anything and don’t have to worry. We have to do something about this and our politicians must start to listen and experience life in the real world. I also believe we have a cost of dying crisis. People have experienced considerable loss from Covid; lives have been treated as cheap and unimportant by government and the wealthy, leaving dying as an end with no future. In the Christian faith the cost of dying has been paid through Jesus own death on the cross and is therefore assured. The lack of people wanting to find this assurance is a testament to us not sharing our faith, not telling others about the cost of dying and not being willing to speak up about our faith. Knowing Jesus is a matter of life and death and everyone deserves to be told about it and to have the opportunity to find it for themselves.

15th July 2022

Psalm 37:7a Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not worry yourself over the one who prospers.

The last couple of years have seen us experience many awful things. If we can see any positives from this dreadful time, it has been the realisation we need a better work life balance. People have found spending less time travelling, more time with family, working from home has been good for them. The pace of life for many slowed during the pandemic and many of us realised we were chasing our tails prior to this and that we had become a nation of people who work too much. God speaks a great deal about patience, about not dwelling on things but rather allowing God’s blessing to be upon us. It is easy to become too busy, to hide away in meeting after meeting, stay late at work just to finish, to travel further away for a better job, always striving for better, for more and in fact losing out on the wonderful things we already have because we are just to busy to enjoy them. It is also easy to become busy with things that don’t matter, that just take our time and offer no blessing or encouragement to us. Sometimes we link business with importance, if we are busy, we must be doing well, we must be important because people want us to do things. In reality people will always ask busy people to do things because they know it will get done. God wants us to have a healthy work life balance and have patience and take time for ourselves. Living life at a slower, less busy pace is the way to do that. 

14th July 2022

Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

The term intercessor has gone out of fashion. Someone who stands with us and intercedes, or makes an argument on our behalf. It has been used mostly to do with the church and prayer. The idea of intercessory prayer is that the people of the church pray on behalf of others in the congregation, locality or world who need their prayers. It is an act of a corporate body, people taking responsibility for each other. We are also told that when Jesus ascended in to Heaven, he went to intercede on our behalf at the right-hand side of God. Not only that, Romans tells us that the Holy Spirit also intercedes on our behalf. Just think for a moment, at times we have lots of people, Jesus and the Holy Spirit interceding on our behalf. That is amazing and powerful and I think explains why we don’t end up in as much trouble as we could if it was just us. We must never underestimate the power of prayer, our prayers as individuals, as the corporate body of Christ, as interceded for us by Jesus and the Spirit. We can go to God about anything, anyone and know that we do not pray alone.

13th July 2022

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

I wonder what you think of the current Conservative leadership election? I must admit to feeling somewhat disappointed by the level of person putting themselves forward. Some very worrying language about grabbing power, not much said about honesty and integrity and virtually nothing about helping those most in need in the current Cost of living crisis. It shows a huge disconnect between these folk, mainly very rich, and the normal person like you and me. I am not in favour of one party or another, I do identify with proper socialism because Jesus was a socialist. I support truth, honesty and justice and want to see some real changes in policies and politics in general. Jesus came as a servant, to serve everyone, to seek and save the lost. A king, Son of God, a supreme being who did not and does not demand payment, favour or fortune to care for people. He does not write a manifesto of pledges to get votes and then not stick to them, He does not promise the earth and then make excuses as to why He cannot give it. All Jesus promises are true, are kept completely and no one suffers under them. True leadership lies in service, something all our current leaders have forgotten and, in their desire to grab power and wealth for themselves, they have forgotten that being a leader is a job only for those willing to give everything, including their life, for those they are called to serve.

12th July 2022

Matthew 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

When we disagree with someone or just don’t like them, we can be careless with our language and speak badly of others, using unpleasant language. The Bible warns us not to be unpleasant when speaking about others. In this verse Jesus says that a derogatory term used to put people down has no place in our language. The term he warns against is Raca, it means empty headed and was an offensive term that showed contempt for another. But it is quite clear that when we are angry with others, when we slander them or call people foolish, we are breaking God’s rules and laws and we are endangering our own eternity. How we treat another, how we speak to others matters, the old saying about sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me is simply not true. Names really damage people, get into their psyche, make people question themselves and do untold damage. We must not get into the name calling just because we want to be right or want to hurt others. We will not all agree but we can all respect each other and nor resort to names to try and score a point.

11th July 2022

Luke 14: 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited and made excuses will get a taste of my banquet.

As a teacher of many years, I have heard so many excuses over why homework was not done. The dog ate it, my mum didn’t put it in my bag, my baby sister ripped it up, I didn’t think I had to do it and so on. In 99.9% of cases, it is a lie, an excuse for not doing something and hoping to get away with it. Currently making excuses seems the norm in public life. Instead of being honest, admitting when something has not worked or we got it wrong, instead excuses are made, covering up in order not to appear careless or stupid. It seems now that no one tells the truth, and when we do, people just don’t believe it. Promises made to win elections are not kept with excuses as to why. Lies about events and people’s involvement in them are told and when caught out excuses are made. There are no excuses with God. We are told to show our love and faith by our deeds and actions, to be truthful and to be honest. When we mess up, we should confess up! We cannot make excuses, lie and be dishonest and then expect God to sort it out. God desires honest people who not only speak the truth but act on it. People who don’t just talk the talk but also walk the walk. No excuses, be honest.

10th July 2022

Genesis 16:13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Having taught RE for years, when teaching about Islam I would teach on the pilgrimage, the Hajj. One of things that always struck me was the running of Hagar to find water for her son in the desert. The story of Hagar is a domestic tragedy caused by Abraham who loses trust in God’s promise of a son. With his patience wearing thin and with Sarah's encouragement he takes matters into his own hands, something we all do. Sadly, the human behaviour causes a family battle where only God can protect the lives of Hagar and her son Ishmael. Abraham and Sarah do not trust their God enough, they try to force an issue and end up with an unholy mess. If we are given a promise from God, the fulfilment of that promise will be within the perfect plan, in His time and His way. This can be a problem for church leaders and for Christians who can be expected to achieve things now. Waiting can be hard, but it is far better than the temptation to cut corners in God’s plan, making an unholy mess, which only God can sort out. It is Hagar who is blessed, she has suffered at the hands of God’s people and God tells her He has seen her, he knows she has been badly treated and He will bless her. It is a reminder that whatever we go through, when we are treated badly by God’s people, God sees us, He sees us with compassion, He will bless us, and as He stepped in and delivered Hagar, He will step in and deliver us.

9th July 2022

Jeremiah 29: 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.

The political events of the last few days have shown us how quickly things can change and move on and that nothing we may plan for ourselves is ever certain. What are you plans for the future? You will have some short-term plans for the summer, for the autumn, but what about long term? Your career or profession, moving home, family etc. Only so much can be planned that will come to fruition. Much of what we look for in our future is hoped for. We look where we want to go and then work on how we get there. The longest journey starts with the smallest step. I have a poster that says “if plan didn’t work there are 25 more letters” Most of us are products, not of plan A or even B, but often of plan C, D, even J, or L. Life rarely takes us exactly where we want to go and things change as we grow and move on. I am a trained PE teacher who then ran a music department, who then became a priest, a chaplain and many other things besides. 14 or 15 year-old me would not have pictured me here, now. The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray is a saying from a Burn’s poem. It is true. The good news is that God’s plans for us are one’s promising a good future and promising hope fulfilled. Even when things seem not to be working out as we planned, we can be assured that God has it sorted. God will return us to the best place for us. The struggle will always be trying to force God into our plans instead of letting God’s great plans for us secure our future. There is nothing we can do about the past, it is over, we can learn it’s lessons, but we cannot change the events. The present is who we are now, the future is safe in God’s hands if we let it be. Can we say with St Paul I know who holds the future and he’ll guide me with his hand and as I face each tomorrow I will trust the God of miracles. Let me encourage us all to trust God and let plan A, B, G, L, P happen because it will be a good future and a great hope.

8th July 2022

Colossians 1:16 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.

I love the light evenings, warm, often sunny, pleasant to sit out and the day somehow seems longer. Instead of feeling like the day is over before it’s begun as I do in winter, instead there seems more opportunity, more time to do things, more time to be with those we love. The garden is so much more alive, the tweeting and playful behaviour of the garden birds, neighbourhood cats strolling across the lawn or laying in the evening sun. Life somehow feels more peaceful, less rushed and there seems more time to be yourself. The wonders of how the worlds seasons work, how light and darkness change, how this affects our life and our well-being. God has given us so many simple pleasures which we take for granted. Instead of appreciating the good things we moan about the bad things and see little good because we have little appreciation of just what God has given to us. These light evenings and good weather really are simple blessings from God, ones we should appreciate and take advantage of, ones that are freely given to us and ones we should be thankful for. 

7th July 2022

Matthew 10 :24 No pupil is greater than his teacher; no slave is greater than his master, each is to be treated with equality.

Over centuries we have run countries organisations etc with a view that the leader, CEO, president etc are most important and give them the power. They in turn do with that power what they wish. Often it is used to dictate to people what they can and can’t do. The recent Supreme Court ruling in USA to overturn the rights of women in abortion is one such issue. No one should have that much power and no one has the right to dictate to another human what they can and cannot do. We are equal, everyone from the homeless to the CEO not only deserves respect and care but in God eyes when we do not respect one another as equals we are going against Jesus’ teaching. We have rules and laws, based around God’s ways but over centuries we have watered these down, re written them and given too few rich people the power whilst treating the poor, disabled, sick and old as those who are lower than ourselves and we have been coerced into believing they are the cause of our problems instead of seeing that those with the power are the cause of our problems. Democracy is fragile, those who get power from it will always try to change things so they can remain in power, we saw Donald Trump try to fix an election and incite riot to try and keep himself as president. We are currently watching a prime minister erode our rights so he can dictate to us and remain in power. This is dangerous and the road to fascism. God has clearly shown us that we are equal, that power must be kept in check and used for the good of all not just the rich and powerful. We must all respect each other no matter who we are or what we believe.

6th July 2022

Ezra 8:21 There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.

We talk of going on a journey, in the car, on a plane, on a train, going on holiday or to do something. A special Christian journey is also called a pilgrimage, often undertaken together with others to make a spiritual journey and connection. Journeying often involves preparation, planning, mapping and knowing where it is you are going. Life is also often referred to as a journey, from beginning to end. On parts of that journey we travel with family, sometimes we travel alone and if we are Christians we travel always with God. When we leave on a journey we always pray for safety, for protection. The best way to journey is together, to have support, encouragement, help and company. In this verse they fast and pray for a safe journey, for all of them and all they have with them. On any journey there will be challenges, questions, obstacles, good days and bad days. Alone there is no one to pick up the slack, to keep us going but together we find a corporate strength, a camaraderie and God’s people being God’s presence to one another. The journey of life will have its good days and bad days, but we never travel alone as God is with us in every moment. We journey with one another, with God and with confidence that He will keep us safe.

5th July 2022

Hebrews 4:12 I have carried your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

How well do you know your Bible? How well can you explain your faith? In following our faith there is a lesson to be learned on travelling light from a knowledge perspective. We need to know what and why we believe. Know what the Bible says as we may not always have access to it. Richard Wurmbrand was a Christian imprisoned for his faith, mainly kept in solitary confinement because he would talk about God. He had nothing other than what was in his mind and his heart. Every day he would preach himself a sermon. No Bible or google, no congregation, nothing. Yet he knew his faith, his Bible, his belief, his God and could speak clearly about it. Can we? Do we know enough of our Bibles, our books, our teaching to manage without them if we needed to? Wurmbrand asked himself: Now the test had come. I was alone, would I continue to love Him?” Wurmbrand did continue to love God and God honoured that. We see time and again how well the followers of Jesus did with just Jesus, speaking about Him, speaking in God’s name; relying on what they knew. God forbid that we will never need to, but with things as they are and the erosion of our human rights and beliefs, huge erosion in a fair and just world, we need to know our faith in our hearts and minds, know who we believe in, why we believe and be able to share that freely with others.

4th July 2022

Luke 10:4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.

Most of will go on our first proper holiday since the pandemic this summer and the preparations will be in full swing. Clothes put aside, cases out, purchases made and lists written. Packing for one or two weeks, we need to consider the weather and we may or may not have luggage restrictions. In Luke 70 newly appointed followers are sent out by Jesus and are to take no purse or bag or sandals, that’s not just travelling light, that’s travelling with nothing at all. Not even with a 20p and hanky that cubs were encouraged to carry everywhere. These days we have our travelling necessities, must have a passport, medication, money and cards, and at least a spare pair of undies! It is true, we all pack too much, come back with unused clothes, but it’s a holiday, a special treat. The point here is about our dependence on God, not on ourselves or our world. We can all freely spout forth about God will provide, especially to the poor and those currently finding life a real struggle to buy food for their families etc. And as we tell others God will provide, we still want our salaries, pensions, pay increases; to pay the mortgage, to put food on the table, to heat and light our homes. The truth is the labourer does deserve to be paid, and to be paid fairly and properly. Equal pay, no differing rules for top fat cats and politicians. As the work is done, the correct and fair payment must be made. 

3rd July 2022

Habakkuk 3:19 The Sovereign Lord gives me strength. He makes me sure-footed as a deer to run up the hills and mountains.

It is both amazing and wonderful that the current number one single, Running up That Hill, is from my youth. The current popularity of Kate Bush reflects the teenagers of the late 70’ and 80’s who had her posters over their walls. Parents hated her, teens loved her because she was different, her music was ethereal and powerful, her vocals often gymnastic and haunting and she used interpretive dance. A current Netflix series has used this track to help a young person deal with isolation, grief and problems in their life, and has made this song a world-wide hit. A classic line and the sub title for the song is, if I only could, I’d make a deal with God. We all try to make those deals, if you do this for me God, I will give more to charity, I will go to church, I will pray, I will be a better person, and so it goes on. We try to arm twist God, the creator of the universe, into doing what we want, never mind anyone or anything else. God answers prayers, the evidence is around us time and again, but He answers with a knowledge of exactly how our prayers will affect everything and everyone else. Habakkuk tried to understand God’s ways and does a fairly good job but he also realises that in everything that happens God gives us strength to cope, to deal with situations and that He makes us sure footed to run up those hills, with no problem.

2nd July 2022

Mark 3:21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Sometimes even the best of families falls out. We can get so angry that we may even question the sanity of members of our families. It is easier to blame others than look at ourselves. We don’t know a huge amount of detail about Jesus family, mother Mary, dad Joseph and it seems some younger siblings. Here in Mark these siblings suggest Jesus is out of His mind, on top of this some of the scribes accuse Him of being possessed. Jesus reminds them all that calling God and His works evil will result in condemnation. Everyone has the chance to change their mind about God but without this change ultimately, we are condemned. If we cannot see good as good but rather call it evil, we cannot stand with God. Conflict with family is painful and difficult but we learn from this encounter that sometimes we might have to go against our family to be faithful to Jesus. Sometimes traditions and beliefs are not of God and we have to make a stand and sometimes that stand can mean a high price, a high cost to us. What does become clear is that our family extends, grows bigger when we become part of the family of God.

1st July 2022

Romans 15:4 Everything written in the Scriptures was written to teach us, in order that we might have hope through the patience, perseverance and encouragement which the Scriptures give us.

Currently there is a rover named Perseverance on the Mars surface. Its job is to collect data, photos and samples, maybe return to earth one day. The rover got its name in a competition where a 14-year-old student explained that all previous rovers had names that reflected human qualities, he felt one of the most important qualities was missing, Perseverance. Humans can adapt to differing situations no matter how harsh. Humans who have set out to explore the earth and now space, overcoming huge setbacks on the way. Humans who have the capacity not to give up but somehow find a way. That is perseverance. If we can persevere in these explorations then we can persevere in our relationships, our daily lives. We are not perfect; we make mistakes and this can upset and hurt others. We need to stick at it, not give up. Our hope comes through patience, perseverance, and encouragement, through following the example of Jesus who persevered the worst of all things in order to help humans find their way back into relationship with God. If Jesus had given up, if God had given up this world would not exist. If goodness, compassion, care and love are lost because we give up then all the good will drain from our world and evil will prevail. In God’s strength we need to persevere, even when it seems impossible, even in the depths of despair may we never give up because God never gives up on us.

30th June 2022

Genesis 2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for humans to be alone. I will make companions for them.”

Throughout our lives we make many journeys. From simple journeys to the shops, to long journeys across continents. We make journeys on our own and with others. Life itself is a journey from birth to death and then beyond. Journeys are much better, and more fulfilling when we make them with others. Journeying alone means never having anyone to share things with, to help us in difficult times, to encourage us when we are down. Life’s journey can be made with family, partners, friends and best of all with God. Each day, each situation, each obstacle, each path, each event all met with God’s help and strength. Dictionaries tell us that the word Journey means a set of experiences that someone has over a period of time, especially when they change the person in some way. Our Journey with God is a set of experiences that change us if we let them. Our journey is not meant to be a lonely one, but to be a journey together, supported, cared for, loved, encouraged and strengthened. God never intended for humans to be alone, that’s why he created a companion, someone to stand with, journey with and support us. May I encourage you to journey together, to be the companion and have the companionship God made for you and as you journey together, journey with God.

29th June 2022

Luke 8: 29 Many times evil had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demons into solitary places.

Imagine being so strong that you cannot be bound by chains or shackles because you can just break them. Imagine being so overcome that the real world no longer appears real to you. Imagine if the demons, real or metaphorical, had completely taken over your mind and no one could help. Jesus helps people just like this. The real demons even beg Jesus not to send them into the abyss. The abyss in Scripture is where Satan and demons live. Funny that the demons themselves did not want to go home. Even they did not want to go back to Satan. That says something. The demons are transferred into the swine which causes the pigs to act in a self-destructive way and run into the lake and drown. We need to realise that Demons, real or metaphorical, sin, evil, lies, fraud, manipulation, maltreatment all cause self-destruction. When the local people return they find the formerly possessed man, sitting at Jesus’ feet, clothed and in his right mind. Jesus has changed him, healed him. Jesus has power over all demons be they real or metaphorical. But Jesus does not force anyone to accept Him. Neither must we. Here all Jesus requires of this man is that he tells his story. Tells what God has done for him. We may not have real demons that need dispatching but we all have parts of our lives that need healing and changing and Jesus willingly does that for us, asking only that we tell our story of His love for us, to others.

28th June 2022

1Timothy 5:1 Do not speak angrily to an older person but speak with them as if they were your parent, with respect.

In our world we have found ways of treating people appallingly because of their race, gender, skin colour, economic status, age, life choices etc. We have looked at another, envisaged a threat and then looked for ways to humiliate and destroy them. We remove their dignity by taking their name, their clothes, shaving their heads, shackling them, beating them, torturing them, removing their ability to attend to personal hygiene, locking them up and even sometimes murdering them. The holocaust is an example of when the dignity of a whole race was stripped away. The same for black people who spent centuries in slavery because of their skin colour. Women who have and still are oppressed. Out treatment of those with Aids when it was first discovered, the treatment of LGBTQ+ people world wide, persecuted and blamed. The considered norm, established by the rich and powerful, strips anyone who is different of their human rights and their dignity. All to maintain the status quo, all to put the blame on someone else so they can retain power. If you think things are better now, you only need to see the current Government policy on sending people to Rwanda. Populist leaders always pick on someone else to blame. In complete contrast the Bible is clear that we must treat everyone with dignity and respect. Be they young or old, male or female, black or white, rich or poor, everyone is worthy of dignity and respect. God shows us all dignity and respect, no exceptions, the least we can do is treat everyone with dignity and respect whoever they may be.

27th June 2022

Luke 9:48b For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.

It seems as everyone today wants their fifteen minutes of fame and inevitably that fifteen minutes is never enough. We have succumbed to the belief that once we are a celebrity, once we have money, once we have a better and bigger house and car, once we are the top dog and in a senior role all will better, all will just fall into place. Many of us set out with the strongest belief that power, money, celebrity will allow us to make the world better for everyone. The path to self-preservation is littered with good intentions. Once we have the money, the celebrity, the power we very quickly forget our aims and then begin to feel entitled and then we will do anything to maintain our current position or improve it. In doing so all our good intentions are lost and we begin to betray ourselves and others. In God’s kingdom true greatness comes from service, from care of the other, from looking after others and putting them first. From protecting the weak and vulnerable. True greatness before God is the opposite of the world view. It is hard to stand against the world view but that is exactly what we are called to do as Christians, in God’s strength.

26th June 2022

Luke 8:27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time, this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.

We all meet new and different people on a regular basis. Some are very interesting, some lost, some hurt, some loud, some full of joy. Jesus met people from every possible background. On one occasion Jesus meets a man possessed with demons. This man has suffered for a long time at the hand of these demons. He had been taken away from his family. He wore no clothes because The demons had taken away his dignity and his name. He did not live in a house but in the tombs and contact with the dead rendered a Jew ceremonially unclean. The demons that possessed the man begged Jesus not to torment them because they had no power in Jesus’ presence. Jesus commanded the unclean spirits to come out of the man, and gave him his dignity, his name and his life back. We can have an impact on all the people we meet. We can treat everyone with dignity, we can make sure we always value people enough to learn, use and remember their name properly. We can see the need they may have and help them either ourselves or find someone who can. We can pray for everyone we meet and show God’s love by our treatment of them. Every person we meet is equally valuable and equally special. In God’s strength we must treat everyone we meet as Jesus would treat them.

25th June 2022

Luke 8:39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

How do you feel about sharing your faith? What if someone asks you a question you don’t know how to answer? What if you get into a “sticky” situation and you need to confront a major problem? What if someone brings up an “embarrassing” past, something we just don’t talk about in polite company? What if we or someone becomes angry? We all experienced similar emotions which make us feel inadequate in telling people about Jesus. It can be uncomfortable and push us well beyond our comfort zone. I also think that we make sharing our faith too hard at times. Yes, we need to share the Gospel. The Good News. But, not everyone has been so gifted as to be an evangelist. Our example is Jesus, he sees someone’s need and deals with it. Once he does this People just want to talk about Him and what he has done. If we help people, care for them, share in their needs and desires then we share Jesus’ love and people want to talk about that love and care and about what God can do. Be a friend, be a neighbour, help people, be kind, be you and just let Jesus share Himself through you.

24th June 2022

John 10:10b I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

There has always been a contradiction in the Christian faith, some believe in life in all it’s fullness while others believe that life is to be suffered and struggled with until we go to Heaven. I was given a phrase that summed this up, Life is steak on the plate while we wait, not pie in the sky when we die. I was recently at a seminar, the title led us to believe it was about life being lived to the full, actually it was completely against that. Someone was using a three-century old book to tell us we should not watch TV, not go on social media, give all our money to the church and the poor, not have anything that brings joy into our lives and spend out time suffering. No holidays, no attending concerts or football matches, nothing that is fun. This is very much the puritan ideal. The Bible has verses that do challenge our way of life, of course we need to live differently but these verses are outnumbered by those that speak of joy, living life to the full, a God of love who wants the best for us not just in heaven but very much while we live on earth. Needless to say, I and others left the seminar as when asked for our opinions they were just dismissed as wrong and we were treated with disrespect. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but everyone must also respect the opinion of others and listen with respect. I will always believe that God intends us to live life to the full here on Earth and not just wait for heaven.

23rd June 2022

Psalm 8:3&4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

I sometimes wonder what it was that drove the great explorers of the past to risk their lives to venture across rugged and inhospitable country? Willing to go into the unknown, to go where no one else had gone. These people wanted to know what was out there beyond what was known, waiting to be discovered. They wanted to find that land, the lake, the different people. Today with nearly all the world now discovered we have gone on to explore space. We want to reach other planets and solar systems and see if there is anyone else out there. Some of us seem to have the drive to want to conquer more and more mysteries. But there are some mysteries that will always be a mystery. God is one of them. We can’t physically touch Him, we can’t say how big He is because we don’t know what or how to measure that. If I wanted to take a photo of God I don’t know where to point the camera. I can’t knock on his door and have morning tea with God at his home. We can’t imagine what God is like because we always end up using human pictures, giving God human qualities so that He makes sense to our small human minds. We can’t think like God because if we could we would be able to understand why a young mother had to die, why thousands of people die in earthquakes, die of starvation, why some are severely disabled. Why so many died in the pandemic and are still dying. We are not God, we cannot understand God, we cannot understand why and what, but we can know God, know His love, know His care of us and know we are loved. God is a mystery we can believe in without understanding fully, because if we did then there would be no need for faith. 

22nd June 2022

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

We have recently experienced a heat wave. A few days of excessive heat, over 30 degrees, a muggy close atmosphere which has made life difficult, especially for the elderly and those with medical conditions. We do like to moan about the weather and it is never just right, always too hot, too cold, too wet, too foggy. We never seem to be content with what we are given. Let’s face it, we cannot control the weather, we cannot make it sunny or rainy, we cannot move the clouds away or lift the fog, it is all wrapped up in nature or creation and it is not in our control; as much we would desire it to be. Being content in life, in our family, in our achievements is important. We are reminded that we are so valuable to God, that the creatures of earth are taken care of by God and so will we. Not just taken care of but blessed abundantly. It has become to easy to always want more and not be content with what we have. We see our value in life by what we have, what we earn, what we own. Before God our value is not measured in these things. We have so much, may we learn some contentment and complain a lot less about all we have been freely given.

21st June 2022

Luke 8:8 The seed that fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.

In the Monty Python film The Life of Brian, they ask ….what did the Romans ever do for us? Of course, the list of the good things keeps increasing as the realisation dawns. Sometimes as Christians we ask What has God ever done for us? As we reflect on this, we begin to see just how much He has done for us. How God has changed our life? Those wrongs and issues we once had that we no longer carry because God has dealt with them. Just how different we have been made by Jesus’ love for us. The prayers God has answered, the weights on us that He has lifted. The strength given to us in difficult times. The comfort God offers in times of grief and the abundant provision when times are tough. Jesus has replaced our hopelessness with hope. We can share that hope and joy with others because we recognise just how much God has actually done for us. We need to understand that telling others what God has done for us, inviting someone to know God for themselves can have eternal consequences. Heaven and hell hang in the balance. But we don’t do this alone. Jesus says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” We will never do this alone and the business of sharing Jesus with others is too serious for us not to do it. 

20th June 2022

1 John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

The older I become, the less my birthday matters to me. I would rather not be thinking about getting older and talking about my age makes me feel older physically. I also think that over the years birthdays have often been disappointing, people forget or don’t bother, the hints we drop are ignored and even buying a card gets lost in the business of everything. So, we decide that it is better not to bother, it’s less disappointing and upsetting. The important things in life often lose their joy or significance as time goes on and the same is true in our faith. Much of our vigour and enthusiasm for our faith in its early stages subsides over time, as we find stuff doesn’t happen as quickly as we want, we don’t get the results in mission we thought we might, we get disappointed and upset and the longer we are involved in something, the less special it becomes. The wonderful news that we need to hear and believe is that God’s love and enthusiasm for us never fades, never diminishes, never loses its enthusiasm and is as strong and endless as it ever was or ever will be. 

19th June 2022

Mark 4:8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.

I am not a gardener but I do understand how we get our grain from the soil. In the Bible one of the most well-known stories is a gardening one, the parable or story of the Sower. The message is clear, some folk will respond to the ways of God and some will not. People can be rigid; they can be shallow and they can be easily swayed and pulled away. It clearly explains to us why sharing the gospel is difficult and why we seem to see so few come to God. I have often wondered about the idea of some people being “good soil” and others bad. Are some of us more likely to become Christians because of our nature or nurture? Because there is such loss of seed this story can seem pretty miserable. If people are who they are and are the kind of people who aren’t interested in God or religion, is that just too bad for them? Should we assess people to see if they are more perceptive and only direct our effort there? One thing is very clear about God, He does not give up on anyone. He does not only love those who may be more likely to love Him back, He loves everyone no matter who they are. God is a divine gardener who will cultivate the soil of everyone, who will soften hard soil, enrich poor or shallow soil and remove the choking weeds. We are called to work with God, to share His good news with everyone and not to decide who we think is more likely to respond. We share His love with everyone, no matter who they are or how they react.

18th June 2022

2 Corinthians 1:13 For we communicate nothing else to you than what you can read and understand.

Our new car has a satnav built in. The problem I am finding is there is no go button. I have been used to putting in a location and then press go and it finds it. On this one I can’t seem to find how to make it go. Once I put in the post code it just whirrs around saying searching and nothing happens. I can’t find a button to tell it to find the route. I have accidently done it by pressing various on-screen buttons but cannot find a go or start button. I like things simple, tell something to start or go and it does it. No go button, no start button, what am I supposed to do? Perhaps there is another word for go or start but not that my knowledge of language suggests. I do wonder that the more we integrate into cars, phones, computers etc the less clear exactly what you have to do becomes. I often cannot close things on my computer because the close cross is off the screen. I sometimes can’t answer a call because the answer button is just not there. Perhaps I am a dinosaur in a digital age and just do not see things clearly. But I don’t think I am the whole problem. I think things have become too crowded, too much information which we cannot digest in the time we have. In life we need clear instructions, when to start and stop, clear ways to close things, clear information displayed obviously and well. God has always wanted us to understand, to be clear about His love for us and how He offers it to all of us. God never offers us things we cannot understand and is clear in His love for us. We don’t need a Satnav for God, just ears to hear and Bibles to read and listen to.

17th June 2022

Psalm 8:1 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

When children say wow or awesome, they have seen something wonderful, something that really challenges them. We don’t often talk about the mystery and awesomeness of God any more these days. We have tried to become more logical and scientific about God. We have tried to put God into a box we can cope with. We now tend to think about God as a bigger and more powerful version of ourselves. We have fashioned God after our own likeness. As humans, we can’t even begin to imagine what God is like. We are restricted to describing God within the limits of our understanding and so we can only express what God is like in the vaguest of terms. We have to accept the mystery of God, the only God who is far bigger and greater than we could ever imagine, who existed before this world was made, who doesn’t need us to exist but created us and loves us anyway. We know that God has revealed himself as a God who cares, a personal God who wants to have a relationship with his people. From the very first pages of the Bible, we hear of a God who is powerful and great, He creates the earth with just words. We also hear about a God who wants to be close to his people. He loves the people whom he made so much that he even sent his own Son into the world to save them from the wickedness that had taken over the world. This God, our God, majestic, awesome, eternal, powerful but also creator and the one who loves us conditionally. If that does not deserve a wow, then nothing does.

16th June 2022

Ephesians 1:17 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.

Seeing with the eyes of our heart seems a strange idea. Our heart is an organ, inside the body. It pumps blood around and keeps us alive. The idea of seeing with it seems odd. Of course, we do talk about our heart linked to love, to hurt, heart or head ruling our decisions, so we have some notion of the heart as more than just an organ. The heart was and is considered central to our life and can be linked to our compassion, to feelings of empathy and love. Seeing with the eyes of our heart is seeing as God sees. Not seeing something for its use to us, or its value in our collection, or even its beauty as qualified by humankind. Instead, it is seeing things as God made them, seeing people as important, loved, valued in their own right. God’s love for all people is unconditional as ours should be. We should not look at people for what they can give us, or whether we like them or not, what religion or culture they are from, but see each as created equally and loved unconditionally by God. Seeing with the eyes of the heart looks past blemishes and imperfections, it looks past monetary value or selfish gain, it looks beyond what we can get out of someone or something and looks with love, compassion and empathy to the intrinsic, God given, beauty and creation. We are all valued and loved by God for who we are, when we see others in that way, God’s way, we are seeing with the eyes of our Heart.

Apologies for 15th not being available.

14th June 2022

2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Recently we celebrated Pentecost, the pouring of the Holy Spirit on his disciples and the church. Jesus said that He and the Father would send the Spirit to remind us of the truth of God's promises, to guide us, to encourage us and sustain us when the going gets tough. There is nothing more personal than the Spirit of God. It was once suggested to me that the Holy Spirit was a bit like having a conjoined twin. Affectively two live as one, joined in major organs, depending on each for life. We need the Spirit to live, we depend on the Spirit for so much of our life, energy and strength. Once we sever that link with the Spirit, we are no longer at one with God, we are no longer strong and in touch. We become weakened and lose faith. Having God close to us, closer than a brother, we are told, is necessary for faith, for mission, for knowledge and understanding. Having the Spirit is not an optional extra but a necessary basic, crucial part of our life of faith. It is He who reminds us of our teaching, of God’s word, of Jesus love and death for us, of God’s creation of us. It is the Spirit who acts as advocate, comforter, power provider, strengthener and keeps us in God’s ways. 

13th June 2022

John 16:15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me that He will make known to you.

Each year we celebrate the Trinity, on Trinity Sunday. It is a theological doctrine basic to the Christian faith. The early Christians started talking about a Triune God. Not to make God more logical and understandable to human ways of thinking. In fact, the idea of the Trinity intensified the mystery of God. They clearly saw and experienced a Jesus who had a unique relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. They saw and experienced that the Holy Spirit had a unique relationship with the Father and the Son. Against all the odds and opposition, the Church maintained that Jesus Christ is true God, equal with the Father, and that the Holy Spirit is God, equal with the Father and the Son, each with a role to play and each interdependent on the other. The doctrine of the Trinity is not an attempt by the church to unravel the mystery around God. In fact, it deepens the mystery. It doesn’t tell us everything about what God is and who he is. In fact, it raises more questions than it gives. But it does tell us some important things about God, things that are life changing; God is our heavenly Father who made us, takes cares of us and calls us His dear children. God is Jesus Christ who gave His life on the cross to re-establish our relationship with God and reveals the way to God and to eternal life. God is the Holy Spirit in us giving us faith in God and guiding us in our daily walk as a Christian.

12th June 2022

Titus 3:4 But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour was revealed,  He saved us.

I came across a homeless person recently whose sign said “Seeking Human Kindness”. He was admitting in that statement that he knew he was dependent on people’s kindness but also challenging anyone who walked past without even acknowledging him was not showing human kindness. So much of our lives are about doing for what we can get back. It is no longer kindness that prompts us but rather what we can gain from a situation. If a camera was near by recording all who gave to this man you can guarantee they would be queuing up to drop large notes into his box as visibly as possible so they can be seen to be doing good, but it is all for show. Real kindness happens quietly, without a fuss, without desire for gain. Organisations like The Salvation Army help anyone in need without expecting anything in return. The foodbanks offer help and support to needy people and families and expect nothing in return. God offers to us a freely given love, kindness and compassion, not for what He can get out of it but because He loves us unconditionally, no if’s or but’s. We are all seeking human kindness, we all have that kindness within us it is just that some of us have become so self-absorbed and self-centred that we have lost sight of kindness as something to be treasured and freely given to everyone we meet.

11th June 2022

John 14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

In order to give and keep on giving, to be consistent, to be honest and truthful, to serve the common good, we also need to receive, to replenishment; as we give, we need to be refilled. This refilling is often referred to as the well of faith from which we draw or the fountain of faith which pours into and onto us. We need to draw deeply from this well and be soaked in this fountain to replenish us, so we cannot only keep going, but do so with strength and energy. God doesn’t just want us to cope and survive but to live a full life, a life of rich, powerful faith. The Holy Spirit is that well and that fountain that keeps refilling us, replenishing us if we draw from Him. At Pentecost we remember and celebrate the coming of The Holy Spirit, but He did not just come once and that was it, no, the coming of the Holy Spirit is ongoing, on filling, a well, a fountain, overflowing and spilling out to refresh us and enable us to do what God calls on us to do. As with everything of God He will not force us. The Spirit is ours if we want to receive Him, freely offered and freely given to enable us to live our best life.

10th June 2022

John 14:12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

Can you imagine greater works than those of Jesus? Difficult and yet we are told we will see them and be part of them. Love and service for the common good of all are these greater works. Offering our self in service, staying the course, being faithful, showing love and service. These things matter. Our treatment of the other, seeing others above ourselves, is part of our mission as Christians. In doing these greater works the other part of mission follows. We are able to share Jesus’ love with others through our behaviour, our care, our service, we point others to Christ. This service, this sharing of love, this being faithful to our calling, is not easy. So, God provides us with the help and strength we need. As Jesus returns to the Father to pray for us, He sends the Holy Spirit. The Spirit that was there at Creation, the Spirit which allows our faith to become global. Our Power Source, our strength, our encourager, our comforter, our advocate comes upon us and enables us to do the necessary service, to show the Father to the world, to do His works, to show His love and to set an example for others to follow and find Jesus. 

9th June 2022

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

We are living in a time of uncertainty and challenge. Things are happening that we did not think could or would happen again. A war in Europe, cost of living crisis, more and more children and adults now living in poverty, people in public life being openly dishonest and not being challenged for doing it. We need change, we need refreshing, we need strength and help, we need power and understanding, all these come from God, given freely to us through the Holy Spirit, we only have to be open, to ask and to receive. The Platinum Jubilee has reminded us of a monarch who took an oath to serve justly and mercifully. Who has spoken openly of service which demands sacrifice. As we serve God and pray for change and offer ourselves to be part of that change, we too will have to make sacrifices. Each of us has a personal accountability before God. Each of us will have to answer for our actions, our service or lack of it, our faithfulness or lack of it, our care of all or lack of it. Jesus is our true and first example of this, after that come others of faith who we can be encouraged by, and you and I, we are also people of faith that others can be encouraged by. Our faith, our service enabled through the Holy Spirit, our example in Christ is our mission to others. Our standing for our faith through the Strength given day after day by the ever-replenishing, overflowing Holy Spirit. 

8th June 2022

Acts 17:23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So, you are ignorant of the very thing you worship, and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

If I asked you what were the gods of current society, I wonder what you would say? Money, fame, power, celebrity status? The things people currently worship are things which they see as enabling them to rise to the top. Humans have always worshipped something, usually for their own protection, to provide rain or sun, crops, food, blessing of some kind. Even in our history we can see those who worshipped multiple Gods of differing traditions in order to hedge their bets about who might provide what they wanted. In Roman and Greek societies there were lots of gods, for different things, and people worshipped as they had need. So much choice was there that they even had altars to the unknown God, just in case they had missed someone out. St Paul meets this in the Athens as he preaches Jesus, and calls them religious because they have so many gods. He uses this to speak about the true God, the one God, the creator. This place of discussion wanted to hear about this God and some came to believe. As we see so many worship at the feet of money, celebrity, power, as we hear about those who are “spiritual” but not religious, as we watch people fight for a more certain future and then find it never fulfils, we are in the position to proclaim God, creator, the one true God and to proclaim Christ, saviour and Lord. We can share what we know with others and challenge them to find a real and lasting future in God. 

7th June 2022

2 Corinthians 12:9 ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’
Our society tends to look upon weakness critically. We see any vulnerability as a reason to shun people, ignore them and actually often discount them. The way we treat the disabled, the elderly, the child, the sick shows we only rate strength; strength and power as it is dictated by those who rule. Not showing weakness is a key part of many societies and has led to much pressure on ordinary people to somehow be superhuman. We all know that challenges will come our way, most of us do not have money and influence to throw at dealing with them and so often we will just not be able to cope. In contrast God offers us His grace, His strength, His power so that even in our weakness we are able to overcome, to stand firm. In all that we face and go through, however difficult and painful, His grace is sufficient to see us through. Our feelings of weakness give us an opportunity to trust Him. As we trust in Him, we discover that He is all we need. It may seem the complete opposite to what we expect or to what we are taught, but it is in our weakness, when we are not self-sufficient and arrogant about our own abilities that God can and will work.  

6th June 2022

Psalm 136:25 He gives food to every living creature. His love endures forever.

Throughout life I have often been amazed and blessed by the power of food, home cooked meals, simple provisions but given in love. As a teenager our youth group would bring and share food each Sunday afternoon and it was wonderful, often after church we would go round someone’s house with a couple of loaves of bread and eat toast. In youth groups I have run since that time I have always had food available, toast, jam, peanut butter, biscuits, muffins and so on. We even went through a phase of everyone wanting noodles. Just that simple sharing of food has always given a community, a care for each as we come together and ultimately it simply says we care, we love you and that means physically as well as Spiritually and Mentally. Food is currently even more expensive, children are suffering, so many more now in food poverty. Basic food given to everyone says we care. The work of foodbanks has increased massively but also donations are down because everyone is struggling more. Enabling people to eat is a basic, no one should be unable to feed their family, no child should go hungry any day and yet they do. Food is given out of love for the other, God has given food for all out of His love for us, may we do whatever we can to share that with anyone and everyone whoever they may be.

5th June 2022

Matthew 5:16 Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Have you ever really looked at a pound coin? When you do, you will find Elizabeth II by Grace of God, Queen, defender of the faith, written on it. It is written Latin but that is what it means. Today we celebrate her 70 years as our Queen, who by the grace of God, defends our faith. She has said that Jesus Christ is the inspiration and anchor in her life. She has spoken of Jesus as a role model of reconciliation and forgiveness who stretched out His hands in love, acceptance and healing and that Christ’s example has taught her to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none. The Queen is not quiet about her Faith. Earlier this week David Suchet was asked if it was wise for the queen to be so out spoken about her faith, he replied yes because the basic message of Christianity is love, and she leads with love and brings us all together. Much has been said and seen about her loyalty, her service and how we can see God through her example. What about you and I, are we an example for others to see Jesus? Are we faithful to our vocation and calling, do we clearly speak out about our faith? Do we allow our God light to shine out and bring glory to Him? I hope and pray that we will.

4th June 2022

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Currently we are rewiring my husbands home office. We are attempting to make it more energy efficient and easy to switch things on and off. Being a Tech lover there is a lot of equipment and a lot of wiring. The room has had to be emptied, current wiring sorted out and a collapsed bookcase removed. Several boxes of books have been moved and things we thought we had lost been discovered. It has been a hard day so far and there is more to come in the next few days. This work is time consuming but it will be worth it. Now it seems endless, in the end it will be beneficial. This is very much like our daily life, things need rewiring, sorting, and broken things removed. When we begin to clean ourselves out, we discover things we had forgotten, we are reminded of how much clutter we have allowed to build up and although at the time it feels endless and seems time consuming, in the end it will be beneficial, it will be worth it. Sometime we need a clear out, we need a good rewire to become more efficient, it may seem hard but it is worth it. As we ask God to clean our hearts and renew us, may we be willing to experience the uncomfortable so as to become better and more efficient.

3rd June 2022

Micah 6:8 What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

The current situation with migrants and the cruel misinformation used to whip up hysteria against them is a blot on our country, it’s press and its politicians. The Bible and Jesus teaching is so clear on this issue, far clearer than on other things, and yet we seem to ignore what we are clearly told. Our attitude to the other, the migrant, the refugee, the poor, the suffering, the sick, the wrongly accused should be as that of Jesus who served them, healed them, cared for them, gave to them, loved them and never turned them away. This is our calling, how can we call ourselves followers of Christ and then refuse to help the poor, refuse to house the refugee, turn away the migrant, place children into poverty, push more and more people to use foodbanks. These challenges face us every day and we have a choice, we can see the right way, God’s way, we can know what we should do, the Spirit will prompt us, Jesus will pray for us, we make a choice. Every time we turn a blind eye, every time we justify the poor treatment of others, the loss of rights, every time we support those who benefit themselves, we are not doing God’s will. We are not working for the good of all, we are not fulfilling our calling to be holy, our calling to do what God requires of us.

2nd June 2022

Matthew 19:26 But Jesus said to them, “With humans’ things are impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

When we pray the language we use is both certain and conditional. When we pray, we can be certain that God will do what is right and best because He sees eternally, His vision is eternal, whereas our vision is mortal and so very restricted. God sees the bigger picture and Jesus shows us that although the best and most effective way for the world’s Christians to live would be in unity, God will not force us into this. We are always given a choice and often we do not choose to work with others. Let’s face it, some of those who have led us in History, and even today, have taken great pains to redefine faith to suit their own ideas, to preserve their position. Time and again the Bible shows those with power will take advantage of those below them. There are always those who will blatantly use others to get what they want, that which benefits them. When God’s people step in and step up to stop this happening, these leaders will abuse, complain and try everything to punish and remove anyone working for the good of all. Sounds familiar doesn’t it. It goes on every day, around us but that is not the right way, that is not God’s way. God will always do what is right for all, but this right way coming to fruition can be conditional on how we behave, how we play our part, whether we are willing to step in and step up in Jesus’ name.

1st June 2022

John 17:20b &21a I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.

When you pray what do you pray for? How do you pray? Often, we pray lists of requests, sometimes for the healing and blessing of others. Jesus’ prayers were often about how to pray and prayers for His disciples and followers. Not long before His arrest and crucifixion He prays what is called the High Priestly prayer. Some have also suggested this prayer is like a living will. Jesus intercedes for the church before His father, the very role He is going to take when he ascends to Heaven. The role He now plays for us at God’s side, interceding on our behalf, praying for us. His prayer is about the unity of His followers, the unity of the church. Jesus the High Priest, part of this role is to intercede on behalf of others. In the OT the priests offered sacrifices, in the temple, on behalf of the people. Our priest, mediator and sacrifice, the Lamb of God, prays for us, for our glory, for our unity and for our blessing. This is a good example for us of how to pray. To pray for others, for unity, for their glory and blessing. 

31st May 2022

2Chronicles 2:6a But who is able to build a house for Him, for the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain Him?

Covid has revealed to us many negative things, but it has also shown us that Jesus and His kingdom is not confined to a church building. As we could not meet together in person, we found Jesus in neighbours delivering food, over computer screens, on the phone, through letters and cards, on walks for exercise, in music we listened to, books we read and in silence, gardens and homes. Jesus was right in Hospitals, on iPad screens and phones as people suffered and sometimes died. Jesus was with us wherever we were. At all times and in all places as the BCP puts it. As Jesus worked in all places, we were reminded God is not Cathedral bound, not church building bound. We were reminded that where two or three are gathered, Jesus is right there, where food is eaten, bread blessed and eaten Jesus was and is right there. As we have returned to our buildings, Jesus has not left the communities, He is still there as well as in the church. I thank God that we have rediscovered His presence in every part of life, that church buildings are not just where we meet Jesus, where we worship God, but that God is everywhere. We serve, worship, bless and are blessed in every corner of our life, wherever we are, in whatever we do.

30th May 2022

John 17:18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

Sometimes I get asked why we need to be saved? Also, once we are saved what difference does that make to our life on Earth? My simple answer is that humans are saved to live their lives for God. This means striving to live a good Holy life to the best of our ability. We are called, as Christians to be Holy through the word Jesus, the Bible and the Holy Spirit in us. Let’s be completely honest, living a good life is a struggle. We are human and we get things wrong. When we do get things wrong, we must take responsibility for our wrongdoing. Be honest, some of us can be very opinionated, make decisions that get forced on others and we are all aware of decisions made in church history which have caused upset, pain, discrimination and abuse. Things which have been done in the name of God which instead of promoting unity actually promote division. This is not what Jesus came to save us for. We live on a daily basis; we face that battle of good versus evil. It is our faith that enables us to make better decisions, our prayers, the Holy Spirit in us; these help us in daily living while we strive here on Earth to live our best life for God, working always to do what is right.

29th May 2022

Psalm 18:28 For You light my lamp; The Lord my God illumines my darkness.

A recent conversation with someone reminded me of the expression “darkest hour”. There are many phrases which use this expression such as the darkest hour being just before dawn, or Britain’s darkest hour in the second world war. That darkest hour is the point at which we feel we have hit rock bottom, there is nowhere further we can go but we cannot see a way out either. We use the term dark to reiterate the loneliness, the lostness, the not being able to find our way because things are seemingly so bad. I like to think that nothing can ever get that bad and yet my experiences with people show me that it can. Sometimes the darkness is so overwhelming, so invading, so encompassing that we can see no way out. Time and again God tells us that He is the light in the darkness, that He will illumine the darkness, that He will always be the light in the darkness. Sometimes the dark seems impenetrable but there is always a glimmer of light, a way forward and God is always there, we are never alone.

28th May 2022

Mark 3:25 If a family divides itself into groups which fight each other, that family will fall apart.

Sometimes our families make us feel unhappy, even betrayed. They oppose a choice we make or a profession we chose. In our struggle to do what is best for those we love our judgement can be clouded. Jesus faced opposition from his family. They even seem to suggest He has serious mental health issues and almost seemed to agree with the scribes that he was 'possessed’. Jesus response is that if someone curses the Holy Spirit; by deliberately calling what God is doing evil; they cannot find forgiveness. Continuing to believe that good is evil inevitably puts people outside the will of God. This did not mean Jesus' family could not be forgiven, many people who were originally hostile to Jesus changed their minds about him and became disciples. There is always room for forgiveness when we recognise our sin. Jesus' conflict with his family must have been painful. But we can learn from this. Firstly, we occasionally might need to go against what our families and our communities believe and value to be faithful to Jesus. In some cultures, this is much harder than it is in the West, and we should be aware of this. Secondly, when Jesus says that 'whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother' (verse 35) far from excluding his family, he is extending it. Bringing in the outcast and the excluded, drawing the boundaries of God’s family ever wider.

26th May 2022

Revelation 21:5a The One who was sitting on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new!”

We often wish that God would make the messages we’re meant to hear a bit more obvious, louder, clearer, write it across the sky, put up spot lights, spell it out in jet lines across the sky, even a few fireworks, Lord. Working out what God is saying can be difficult, unclear. But sometimes in the Bible it could not be clearer. God says exactly what He means and we still don’t get it. He says to us; a new commandment, a new heaven and a new earth. a new all-encompassing removal of distinctions between what is holy and what is wicked and evil, a new removal of the peculiarities we use to decide who’s in and who’s out. New stuff, new things are lovely, fresh, without blemish but new can be scary and challenging. New can quickly upset our deeply held beliefs and precious traditions. If this new is right then has what I have been doing all this time wrong? Our deeply held beliefs come from our upbringing, our learning, our family and we assume they are correct, but sometimes as society changes, things happen, people betray our trust, we begin to see that God’s new is necessary because we never get it all right. God is perfect, we are not. God’s ways are not subject to the influences of money, power, gender and colour. God wants to renew us, renew our faith and belief, renew our understanding, it is up to us whether we are prepared to see, listen and change or hang onto our safe and not always good traditions and ideas.

25th May 2022

Acts 9:3&4 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Most of us have an event or events in our lives which make us stop and think, revaluate life and make changes. These experiences are often called a 'Damascus Road experience’ after the complete change that happened to Paul on this road. Aggressively opposed to the gospel of Jesus, Paul, Saul as he was then, meets the God and Jesus Christ, realising how very wrong he has been. The effect on Paul is immense, physical blindness to echo his thus far spiritual blindness. He fasts for several days. He cannot function and seems lost until a brave follower of Jesus steps in. This type of conversion is unusual and rare. Paul does not suddenly start believing in God in an instant, he begins to believe in Jesus, his physical and spiritual eyes are opened to a new way of living and as he learns and grows his life changes completely. As Saul he never expected what happened on the Damascus Road and we just assume that each day is much as the next and that our lives are in control. Sometimes God breaks in and does something completely different, turns our lives around, and we are more often than not, ill prepared for this huge life change. God will work, the question is whether we are willing to be changed in whatever way God choses for us.

24th May 2022

Psalm 34:17 The Lord hears good people when they cry out to him, and he saves them from all their troubles.

This psalm says that God sees the good people, hears prayers, gets close to the hurting and helps the crushed. God promises to be right there and yet I hear people say, “not in my experience”. So my reply is always, who sent the friend, the family member to help? Who sent that message, who provided that job, finance, help? These are what I call Godincidences, we tend to call the coincidences because then we don’t have to explain them or admit what lies behind them. Yet time and time again God steps in, through someone or something, often quietly without fanfare or fuss and then we just shrug it off as a coincidence. A famous poem by Helen Steiner Rice says God has not promised skies always blue, sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain, but God has promised strength for each day, rest, light in the darkness, grace in the trials, help, sympathy and endless love. God does not promise to prevent the difficulties, many of which we humans bring on ourselves, but He does promise to stand with us, provide the necessary help and support through others, through events and happenings, through our own developed and growing resilience. Let me encourage you to see the coincidences as Godincidences. To recognise the help of others and things given to you. To be an encourager and helper of others and be part of God’s promise to others as you support and help them.

23rd May 2022

Acts 6:12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.

Stories of conflict happen everywhere and every day. The Bible is very honest and realistic about human nature. In the early church believers fell out. The leaders of the new Church, the Apostles, spoke Aramaic, but in Jerusalem there were many Jews from all over the Roman Empire who spoke Greek. It was extremely hard to make sure both groups were treated equally and fairly, but right at the beginning of the Church we can see a concern for justice. 'It's not fair' was the cry of one group. 'It's not right' was the cry of another. While some accepted the message of the Apostles, others did not. Out-argued by Stephen and overwhelmed by the 'great wonders and signs' he performed, they resorted to making up the kind of story that would get him into serious trouble. Stephen's character meant that he was trusted to keep the peace between quarrelsome groups of people. He must have been patient, sympathetic and willing to listen. But he also knew when to hold firm in the face of accusations that were very dangerous. Very often, conflict shows us how strong we really are. Sometimes we might need to bend and compromise. At other times there's no room for negotiation. We may not be in danger of being stoned but we may find people treat us unfairly and poorly when we stand up for justice and fairness.

22nd May 2022

John 5:6 Jesus asked the man by the pool, “Do you want to get well?”

Sometimes life can appear to be stagnant. Every day we are waiting, watching, hoping; not much changes. We are unable to access the deep well of life within us. Life appears to always be over there, bubbling up outside of us, in that magic pool of water like in this story. Sometimes people believe something like this pool of water which has healing properties and can change lives, but it can be regimes, medicines, structures and often it’s too much effort, and we end up living lives that never change because we see it as all happening somewhere else to someone else. These empty promises of life changing exercise or miracle cures; when we pay up, these are an illusion. They convince us that our life is nothing more than our circumstances, that a better life is to be found outside ourselves. We are tricked into believing that as soon as circumstances change, life will be perfect. As soon as this or that happens everything will be better, I’ll be happy, my problems will go away, I’ll be satisfied and all will be well. So, we put our life on hold and are trapped. When Jesus asks do we want to change, be well, be better, do we make excuses or do we say yes? We are more than the circumstances of our life. Jesus meets us where we are and speaks words of life. Jesus doesn’t change our circumstances. He changes us. Our circumstances become more manageable and we engage with them in a different way. Life is no longer stagnant and we find life in all its fulness.

21st May 2022

Matthew 13:45 the kingdom of heaven is like a man looking for fine pearls. When he found a very valuable pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.

How are you with mysteries? Do you like good clear factual things or are you happy with a bit of mystery, where things might not be clearly black and white? The writer Richard Rohr call us to recognise humble knowing, realising that we do not and cannot know all about God, reality and ourselves. Jesus regularly allowed mystery and multiple possibilities in His teaching. Many of Jesus’ sayings did not always offer perfect clarity, meaning that our understanding cannot always be black and white. Over years of translating, reading and studying the Scriptures, some humans became certain they had the one and only interpretation of Jesus words or God’s intent, and then ignored many of the other real, wonderful and helpful interpretations. Often the most powerful and wealthiest voices were the ones to prevail and so we have had centuries of poor treatment for women, children and other cultures. Jesus taught that our ultimate future eternity, which he calls “the kingdom”, is always like something. Jesus uses simile and metaphor to invite us to further reflect and deepen our understanding, so as not to impose a single understanding or truth. Jesus teaches us through parables, stories, sayings, and even riddles. For those who like clear facts and a correct and one and only way, this can present a problem. When studying theology many lecturers cannot cope with alternative ideas and thoughts even if they are justified and evidenced. True faith, healthy faith is always unassuming about its own holiness and knowledge. Real faith knows that it does not know everything and may be wrong sometimes. This true biblical notion of faith, which balances knowing with not knowing, is rather rare today, especially among people who have come to believe that faith is being certain all the time; when the truth is actually the opposite. Anyone of us who really knows also knows that they we don’t really know at all. Both politics and religion are filled with people clinging to their certainties. This makes caring and compassionate conversations largely impossible because there's no humility. There’s no openness to difference and thus no respect of the other.

20th May 2022

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

There is excellent research which reveals that pets help with Mental Health, with resting, with relaxing. When we stroke a cat or fuss a dog, it causes a reaction within us which relaxes us, calms us and quietens our body. It is the rest and digest system, controlling heart rate and breathing, it is called the parasympathetic nerve. The way our body works is amazing, complex and wonderful. Not surprising as God created it. We have actions and reactions which enable us to cope, to build resilience, to enable us to deal with difficult times. It is the opposite of the fight or flight system which we are much more aware of. God’s intention for us has always been to people of peace and not fear or pain. But because we are human and have strayed from God’s intentions, we were also provided with systems which help us, protect us, allow us to cope with the difficulties of life. Sometimes we need help to access these things within us, having a cat or dog, a pet we can stroke or fuss is one of these ways. Being able to feel at peace, being able to calm our bodies and minds, these allow us to rest and recuperate better, just as God intended. 

19th May 2022

Psalm 119:14 I rejoice in following your ways, O Lord, as one rejoices in great riches.

Have you ever noticed how the giggles and gurgles of a baby attract people? People will just appear when they hear these wonderful sounds, and faces turn to joy with broad smiles and giggles of their own. What is it about babies which endue this attraction? Perhaps it is the gift of new life, here is a new life which hasn’t yet been sullied by the world. The needs of this little one are modest and their joy at the simplest things in life take us back to a simpler time in our lives when the world presented only excitement and possibilities. As we grow older, we lose that simple joy of life, it is harder and harder for the smiles of others to bring us joy, we are dragged down by life and things which once made us smile no longer inspire that within us. It is as if, as we grow older, we lose appreciation for life, we allow other things to crowd in and we desire more and more and believe we are entitled to things rather than appreciate everything we have been given. God’s love of us offers us joy, peace, life in all its fulness, it is us who become bored with the joy of life and dampen so much of the wonder God has given us. We need to look again at the wonder of life, of God’s love and be drawn into the appreciation and joy that the sound of a baby’s giggles brings us.

18th May 2022

John 13: 5 Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

If someone offered to wash your feet you would probably find that odd, if it was your boss or a senior figure you would probably think it was to do with getting something from you. We seem to always question why someone would do something menial if they don’t have to. What drives people to work with the homeless, the food banks, charities, shop for neighbours, cook meals and make scrubs for NHS staff? Service drives them. They want to give back, they want to care for the other because their compassion, empathy, respect and care manifests itself in service. People often do vocational jobs because they want to serve others, often these roles are poorly paid and abused because they are vocational and so seen as a cheap resource. These people are often neglected, verbally and physically abused, misrepresented and undervalued by society. Service is not being a servant or slave as in typical British history, it is not a lowly position looked down upon by wealthy powerful people with no understanding of true compassion and empathy. Service and servant hood is about how we treat each other, how we respect and care for all humans. Public service is service of the public, the other, not of self. Service is not seen as cool or exciting but without it the world collapses, just as we are seeing now. Jesus, a respected leader and teacher, the Son of God, gets down on His knees and washes feet. The job of a slave or servant, why? To show that nothing is too menial, nothing is beneath anyone, no matter who they are, when it comes to caring for each other. Life is not all about “me”, “you” as individuals but rather our part in the community that looks after everyone with equal respect and due regard.

17th May 2022

Hebrews 4:13 And none of us is hidden from God’s sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of God, to whom we must all give account.

I put a lot of store by honesty, not lying to cover mistakes, trying to divert attention elsewhere, using money and power to infiltrate and rewrite truth to advantage. All this means I am currently horrified by this country’s politics and politicians. I do not vote for any one party, I am interested in what is done for people, particularly the poor, the disadvantaged, those who suffer most. To watch the rich, get richer day upon day, those in poverty grow daily, to watch the lies and manipulation of the press, to watch the diversionary tactics of those in leadership is shocking. Once there was integrity where those who lied or misled, resigned or were sacked, now lying and breaking laws seems to be a badge of honour in politics. If you or I did what they are doing we would have a criminal record and no longer be able to apply for many jobs. Those voted in as MP’s are public servants, sadly, they neither serve or wish the public to know what they are really doing. Of course, there are exceptions, but sadly even news coverage, interviews on the supposedly unbiased BBC do not tell us the whole truth. For God, honesty and truth are central. God knows the real truth. God’s forgiveness is available for all of us, but we have to recognise our wrongdoing, admit our faults, be honest and truthful and not try to manipulate others and situations to cover our mistakes. We will have to give an account of what we do, may we recognise the value and crucialness of truth in life.

15th May 2022

Matthew 6:4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

I wonder if you have ever won an award? Perhaps at school, or as an employee or perhaps even an award from the Queen. Winning something shows you are appreciated, you have been recognised for something you have done, someone thinks enough of you to speak up and put you forward. I do find that many awards are about who you know rather than what you do and of course most of us will never win anything because we are not famous or well-known enough for anyone to be bothered about what we do. In contrast God is bothered about everything we do and everything we say. God sees what we do in secret, what others don’t see, He knows all we do and He puts us forward for awards every day. God awards us with love, joy and peace. God gave us Jesus, His son, to award us with eternal life. God wants us to know we are appreciated, seen, loved and supported every day. With God it is not about who we know around us, or how famous or wealthy we are. With God it is about our quiet daily service, those things we do without thought of reward or thanks. It is only God who truly sees what we give, truly sees our attitude and reason for doing things. It is God who knows our heart and mind, God who knows who we really are, God who knows what we do and why we do it. God awards us eternal life every single day.

14th May 2022

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Recent articles suggest that young people don’t have a problem with science and religion and don’t pit one against the other. Those first words of the Bible in Genesis are so famous: in the beginning, God created. The chapter describes, as a word picture, every part of creation being carefully and wonderfully made to fulfil their purpose, and God saw that it was good every time. If we read these words as a science paper, we lessen it’s value and intent. Genesis 1 is not an alternative to the Big Bang theory. It is a radical theological statement that our world is what it is because a loving creator God envisioned it to be so. Other creation stories such as the Babylonian story, say the world was fashioned out of a violent conflict between gods, who then made Human beings to be their slaves. Whole cultures have been founded on the belief that the world was built from murder and enslavement. Ours is built on God who made the world out of love, and blessed the humans He created with so much. Our world was made good, perfect and beautiful for us to enjoy and we weren’t and still aren't entitled to spoil it. People were and are created to be blessed and be a blessing. God saw what He made and it was good. Is he pleased with what he sees today? Some of it, maybe, but not all; and that's where we His people, are called to witness to His better way.

13th May 2022

John 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

We live in a world filled with voices and with noise, that encroach on all of us. Some of those voices carry a message of deep meaning and life, but many of them don’t. Many of the voices we hear today tell us we should only be concerned for ourselves, to live for the moment and our immediate needs. These voices have encouraged us to strip our forests and world, neglect the poor, be selfish and to live for all the pleasure, power and wealth that we can gather at the expense of other people. Some of these worldly voices encourage terrible suffering and misery. These worldly voices have contributed to a world where the powerful enjoy great wealth and privilege, while the poor and the vulnerable suffer in silence, because no one listens to them. Their voices are drowned out by the rich and powerful, the spreading of rumours, lies and doubts about their real needs. But, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, speaks with God’s voice, sharing with us a very different message. The voice of God tells us that wealth and power are temporary, that only love is endless. That true and lasting happiness and eternal life can come to us through commitment and self-sacrifice. The voice of God is a voice of love and friendship and community that includes all. Our advanced civilisation, our high standard of living, our advances in travel and communication have all come at a cost, that is our ability to feel, to build strong relationships and to hear the voice of God. The voice of our God can be heard all around us if we listen. It is the voice of compassion and forgiveness, the voice of reason and understanding, the voice of love and life. If the voices we hear are selfish, hurtful, bring fear or death they are not the voice of God.

12th May 2022

Acts 9:40 Peter knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes and sat up.

How good is your hearing? I often talk about my husband and sons having selective hearing, they only hear what they want to hear. I think that goes for all of us, particularly when listening to God. As Christian disciples, we are called to listen to the voice of God when He speaks to us, that voice that calls us to follow, to act, to be. But, what does this voice sound like? Is it one voice or many? Is it loud or is it a soft voice? How do we recognise the voice of God? In the Old Testament, Abraham and Noah heard the voice of God, strong and compelling, Job heard the voice of God from the whirlwind. Moses heard the voice of God from the burning bush. Elijah heard the still small voice of God. All heard the voice of God and they listened to it, they allowed themselves to be led to a new situation. They discover a new way of living, a new hope and deeper meaning. In Acts, we’re told that the voice of God spoke to Tabitha, though Peter. Tabitha was literally called out of death and darkness into the light. The language and voices of the modern world are not languages of love and peace and community. The voice of God is and can help us to discover hope and deeper meaning in our lives. We must listen carefully for the voice of God speaking to us; speaking from the whirlwind, the burning bush, the Bible, speaking through disciples and all the saints, speaking through the people of our church, speaking in our hearts. It can be a loud voice or a softly spoken voice, it can be one voice or many, it can be a voice that comes from within or a voice from another place or person. I pray that we will listen and respond to God’s voice when He speaks to us.

11th May 2022

Luke 16:10 Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.

We all like to be given important, large , works to do, where we give of our best and more. We want things to be successful, to be at there best and that, of course, reflects hugely on us. But what happens in the small things, when we only have seemingly insignificant and unimportant things to do, things that are often unnoticed, in these seemingly small things we quickly lose heart, get fed up and do not put the energy and effort into the small things that we do so readily into the big things. To be faithful, honest people of integrity we need to be faith in the small things so as to learn to be faithful in the big things. Whatever our political view I do believe that many of our politicians have never been bothered by small things, only the glittery, big important things which advance their careers. Because of this they do not understand real life, real difficulties, real struggles and have no respect for those on the periphery. Being faithful in the ordinary everyday of helping others, friendship, care, companionship, hard work, family relationships, charity work, just being a good neighbour and keeping our promises, this makes us people of integrity, honesty and respect. People who are faithful in the small become those who are faithful in the big things and make a real difference. Faithfulness requires integrity and integrity is tested and developed in the small things.

10th May 2022

James 4:14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

I sometimes find everything seems to come at once. Suddenly everyone wants meetings in the same week, something happens to the house and the car, several bills all come at once, visits need to be made and then a long-awaited appointment. I sometimes catch myself wishing that things could just be better spaced apart. It’s no one’s fault, no one does it on purpose, it just that the business of life can just encroach. The danger when we are so busy is that simple and important things get side-lined and we are weakened because of that, when we really need to be at our strongest. The Bible reminds us regularly that we have no guarantee of tomorrow or the future and that our time is precious and in worldly terms, short. How we use our lives is important, we must never forget to pray, to read the Bible, to spend time with God, to be good neighbours and yet when we are busy it is these things we tend to push aside. If we do not have time to spend with God then when we really are lost and things must change. Never be too busy to pray, never be too busy to communicate with God. In Him we live, we move and have our being.

9th May 2022

Luke 5:9 For Peter and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken.

In our experiences we are told about the laws of nature. Things that can happen and things which can’t. The natural laws of our world seem to dictate certain things happening in a certain way, often at a certain time. The more we discover, the more we realise that nature has the ability or adapt, to change, to accommodate its surroundings. The natural world has built within it the desire to survive. These adaptations take time, they are not instant. So, when a young teacher arrives on the scene and completely rewrites the laws of nature in an instant, there is obviously something different and special about Him. Miracles are often seen as things which defy the laws of nature, curing illness, restoring life, catching a huge haul of fish where there were none only moments before. These miracles cause people to question, they cause intrigue and suspicion, but they also cause faith and belief. When you witness something miraculous, either you will look for a myriad of excuses to ignore it or you will find faith bubble up within you. In the case of the first disciples the faith came, they wanted to learn from this man, to follow Him and to bring others to that faith. We may not witness miraculous catches of fish, but we do witness changed lives, forgiveness, peace, healing of minds and souls. We may not call them miracles in today’s world, but they are and they bring faith and belief.

8th May 2022

John 21:7b As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.

I often talk about the character of Peter because Jesus uses him even when he messes up. He provides us with hope. Peter originally lived in Capernaum at the northwest end of the Sea of Galilee where he and his brother Andrew were in partnership as fishermen with two other brothers, James and John, both sons of Zebedee. Peter was a passionate type of person, often speaking and acting before thinking. He could be hasty or rash, even capable of anger and denial. Out fishing, because he doesn’t know what else to do after Jesus’ resurrection and appearances, Peter hears John tell him it is Jesus on the shore, he puts some clothes on and jumps into the water in his haste to get to, and see his Lord again. Peter wanted to be on good terms with Jesus again, to be forgiven, to start again. It is the same for us. We will often return to what we know when times are difficult or when we are unsure. In these places we feel in control, we are comfortable, but we long to be with Jesus again, to be forgiven, to start again. The amazing thing is that even in those comfortable places, those daily mundane places, God shows up, Jesus is right there just waiting for us to invite Him back into our lives.

7th May 2022

2 Cor 5: 19 God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Forgiving someone is probably one of the hardest things we will ever do. Accepting an apology, putting another’s actions into perspective, simply accepting that we all get it wrong sometimes and none of us are more than a step or two away from doing something stupid, damaging and life changing to ourselves and others. There are many stories of forgiveness in the Bible and in society and many stories of unforgiveness and revenge. Forgiveness is not forgetting, and it is not releasing someone from the consequences of their actions, but it restores, to the hurt and wounded, their life. An amazing example of forgiveness has happened in Rwanda where Hutu and Tutsis tribes committed horrific genocide in their fight to eradicate the other. Some 8 years on these tribes are working together, developing relationships and offering forgiveness. It is a powerful story. Forgiveness is never easy, but it is the process of allowing yourself to be at peace with someone who has caused you pain and with life in general. Forgiveness offers you the willingness to let go of negativity, anger, stress and thoughts of revenge towards others. We do not lose the affect it has on us but forgiveness offers the opportunity of peace and liberty. Those we forgive have to live with the consequences of their actions. New life with Jesus takes the old and gives the new. It shows God’s loving and free forgiveness of us in our guilt. The toxic anger we hold when we do not forgive damages us, sucks out our energy, our time, causes us to lose perspective and rids us of a peaceful, happy life. Forgiveness gives us back control, puts life into perspective, gives clarity of mind and thought and allows us to become more compassionate and empathetic people. Because forgiveness is so hard, we do not need to do it alone, God forgives us and gives us the strength to forgive others.

6th May 2022

Mark 1:17&18 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

Are you a breakfast person? Cereal, toast, porridge maybe? If we are on holiday, we will have full English breakfast or sometimes kedgeree or kippers. Sometimes in our busy world people have breakfast meetings. As Jesus prepares the disciples for His Ascension, He calls them to breakfast, on the shore, a Bar B Q of fish and bread. You may now realise that we have been here before, Jesus on the shore, the brothers and partners, not yet disciples, a night of no fish, then catching an abundance of fish on Jesus’ instruction; it is exactly where Jesus called those first disciples. Now they are at a difficult, lonely, low and seemingly insurmountable time, so the Disciples go back to what they know. Going fishing is something they can do that has normality and comfort. We do the same. We take comfort in what we know, in what is natural and easy to us, and just like with the disciples Jesus meets us exactly where we are and invites us to come and eat with Him.

5th May 2022

Matthew 21:38 But when the farmers saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This son will inherit the vineyard. If we kill him, it will be ours!’

Have you ever just said to someone, you are wrong! I know I did it to my father once and suffered for daring to challenge him. Yet, when things are wrong, we need to speak up and be clear. On many occasions Jesus does not hold back. He often tells the chief priests and Pharisees that they are wrong, He is holding them to account for what they have done and for what they will ultimately do to Him. In the story of the Tenants in the vineyard we need to think where we would place ourselves in the story. As the hard-working servants or are we more like the tenants? These tenants reject the son, steal and kill for their own profit. Okay, we may not go to the extremes used here, but we are capable of openly denying Jesus through our words and actions, behaving much more like the Pharisees than the faithful servants. Jesus is once again challenging the utter hypocrisy of those who supposedly led the people in their faith and were supposed to represent God to them. Their actions and words were the total opposite of What God had wanted for His people but human nature, selfishness, power, wealth and self-aggrandisement had long replaced God as their priority. Jesus offered them and offers us redemption, forgiveness and love, it is our choice what we do with it.

4th May 2022

John 21:9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

They say Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, spending it with Jesus would really make it so. In fact any meal, any moment we spend with Jesus makes it special. We are invited every day to be with Jesus, as we are, where we are and that never changes. Spending time with Jesus whether at breakfast or in the car, or on a walk, or in the garden, means allowing God, through His Spirit, to lead us forward and remind us of those spiritual milestones of the past. Those things which made us who we are today. Jesus would often remind the disciples of how far they had come, where He first called them, how they had grown and this strengthened and encouraged them. God wants that for us, He will remind us when we first responded to His invitation; He will bring back those lessons and breakthroughs of the past that we need to remember. God reminds us of how our story with Jesus began, what we have done with Him and for Him, who we are in Him, what we have learned along the way, how we are forgiven and loved. He will encourage and strengthen us daily if we will just take the time to be with Him. The question is, will we take our invitation or not?

3rd May 2022

Luke 24: 30 When Jesus was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.

Have you noticed how after Easter, the church and we as Christians, tend to experience a “post-Easter decline.” The big celebration of Easter Sunday, the Alleluias and Easter eggs, finished for another year. The very first Sunday after Easter is even called, “low Sunday”. It can be really hard to muster the same level of energy we had two or three weeks ago. Like the disciples, we have returned to our everyday lives. Business as usual. But we are reminded that God is right there, too. God is in every part of our lives, the highs and lows and the normal every day. On the shore the disciples have recognised him as their Lord, the one who appeared in locked rooms and showed them His wounds, and now He’s going about a mundane morning task of cooking breakfast as if everything is just the same. Here we find the beautiful understanding of God about us and our lives. Sometimes life with Christ looks like the dead raised, mountains of transfiguring light, feeding the five thousand with last night’s leftovers. But more often than not, it is as simple as breakfast. It is the mundane daily life and work mingled with a little miracle. Life is the mundane and the miracle side by side, routine and wonder, ordinary and sensational mixed together as we serve our Lord.

2nd May 2022

Luke 12:11b &12 Do not worry about what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.

When I was younger and spoken to by certain people, a nervous quiet voice always received a very loud, “well, speak up child!” People often ask someone to speak up if they are hard of hearing or if a place is noisy. Here in Luke we are being told to speak up about what we believe and what we know of God and His love for us. What anyone says and does matters, particularly if the two do not match up. In recent days we have seen people question Christian beliefs as expressed by politicians because their treatment of others would not substantiate their words and behaviour. Within the last week I received a twitter message from someone I have never met asking how I can call myself a Christian because I disagreed with them over the current policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. If I had supported the policy then I could accept the accusation but as a Christian I cannot support such inhumane behaviour. Sometimes we worry about what we will say if someone asks about our faith or about God. We think people are out to trick us and make us look stupid and occasionally that might be true, but mostly people ask because they see something they are interested in and are just making an innocent enquiry. We are told, by Jesus, that we don’t need to worry as the Holy Spirit will provide the necessary words to us. All we need to do is speak from our hearts, from our genuine experience and people will hear and see God at work, they will feel God’s love. Sincerity speaks louder than anything else and as we are sincere about our faith we are called to speak up and share God’s love with everyone.

1st May 2022

Luke 16:30 The rich man said, ‘No, father Abraham! If someone goes to them from the dead, they would believe and change their hearts and lives.’ 

Recent figures from the ONS show that inequality has risen massively. Currently prices are rising and salaries are stagnating, accept at the top. The richest in our world are making money hand over fist while ordinary people are struggling to even feed themselves, let alone heat their homes. The Bible and Jesus teaching have many warning stories about inequality and caring for the poor. Jesus tells us to pay attention, while there is still time. As we sit in our decent homes with full fridges, central heating, all the creature comforts we need, it is easy to not pay attention to the needs of others, even those right on our doorstep. In Jesus teaching the rich man wants to warn his family to change their ways and priorities and, not actually learning his lesson, wants the poor man to do the job for him. The evidence has been right there all along, it is right there for us in the prophets, in the Bible, in Jesus, but we make our choices based on how good life is now. But, as the chickens come home to roost, we say “If only I had known? If someone had told me and I had realised” But all the information is there, we have been told time and time again, it is written in History. The choice is, and always will be, ours. Sadly, we think we know best and often do not listen to history, prophets, the Holy Spirit, Jesus or God. This teaching should make us feel uncomfortable, challenge us about all that we have in the here and now against those who are poor and go without. Our calling is to use what we have more effectively and more honestly. It is not the having that precludes us from God, it is the attitude that puts all we have before God, thinking we need all this stuff to be happy and fulfilled rather than God. 

30th April 2022

John 20:22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit."

After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples were in hiding. Not sure of the reaction of authorities, fearful of their future they hid away behind locked doors. We all have locked doors in our lives. Things we don’t want to own up to, things we want to hide from, things which keep us stuck in a rut. What are the doors that are locked in your life? What are the things that have kept you stuck in the same place? Don’t judge them as good or bad, right or wrong. It’s just where you and I are at that time in our lives and it’s always the place Christ shows up for us. The walls and the locked doors of the house where the disciples hid could not keep Jesus out. And the walls and locked doors of our house will not keep Him out. Jesus steps into the midst of our house, through the locked doors, and breathes peace, life, hope, courage and strength into us. He gives us the Holy Spirit; and that breath of peace, of Spirit is the key that unlocks the door. Friends, take a deep breath, take it all in, let Jesus fill and enliven you. Let Him give you the hope, courage, and strength you need to unlock and open the doors of your life, and proclaim the risen Christ.

29th April 2022

John 20:25 But Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Most of us like to look at others and their mistakes and be critical, it makes us feel better about ourselves. We tend, in the church, to be hard on doubting Thomas for his initial reaction to Jesus’ resurrection, we criticise his desire for proof, but this initial reaction is not the whole story of Thomas. He brought the gospel of Christ to India. He died a martyr after he was run through with five spears by five soldiers. That doesn’t sound much like a doubter, does it? It actually sounds like someone who grew and changed, someone for whom the resurrection of Christ was real, someone for whom the empty tomb made a difference. It just took a little time, as it does for most of us. It did not matter that Thomas struggled to begin with, we all do, but it would have been a huge tragedy if Thomas and the other disciples had refused to unlock the doors of their hiding place and go and share Jesus’ resurrection with the world. We all have rough times, times when we get it wrong, when we want to hide away but in God’s strength we keep going, we come out of hiding and we proclaim the risen Jesus.

28th April 2022

Proverbs 22:24 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered.

When we are faced with any decision in life, we try to make the best choice, sometimes we get it wrong. As we determine our choice, we weigh up our options but these decisions cause stress, we are fearful of getting it wrong. The more we regret, the more our brain remembers the wrong choices and drives up our stress levels each time making it harder. All choices have consequences. The choice to allow the Trojan horse into Troy allowed Greece to win the war. The choice of NASA to go ahead with the Challenger launch in 1986 when they knew there were problems with the O ring and seal resulted in the death of seven astronauts. The choices we make may not seem as vital as these but all our choices actually change the course of our lives. One of the major choices we make is the company we keep, the people we mix with, those we call friends. The friend who promises but never does, who only takes and never gives, who looks after self only, who leads you into trouble then leaves you to clear up the mess. These are not real friends. The company we keep matters. Friends will shape our lives and they can impact on our ability to learn, to change and to achieve. The Bible warns us time and again to be careful about our friends. To not mix with the hot tempered, the liar, the user, the betrayer, the dishonest for they will only drag us down. Choose wisely who you call friend, take time to weigh it up, to get to know and thus never regret who we choose to be our friends.

27th April 2022

John 20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!

We like to deal in facts, things we can prove, that others can’t question. These facts make us feel safe and confident. The fact of the empty tomb is the starting point for the resurrection story of Jesus. Whatever facts you and I wake up with each day are simply the starting point for our story of resurrection. What is your starting place? Whatever your life is today, whatever your circumstances are, that’s the starting point for your story of resurrection. So, if you’re dealing with deep loneliness, sorrow, and loss, that’s your starting point. That’s the room which Christ enters. If you are locked in a house of fear, confusion, or darkness, that’s your starting point and the place in which Jesus stands. If illness, old age, disability, or uncertainty are facts of your life, that’s your starting point and the place in which Jesus shows up. If you feel lost, betrayed, disappointed, overwhelmed, that’s your starting point and the house Jesus enters. If joy, gratitude, and celebration are the facts of your life today, that’s the starting point for your story of resurrection. All those things I just described and a thousand others are the many ways the doors of our house get locked. Whatever it might be for you, it is just the starting point.

26th April

Luke 6:36&37 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

How would people describe you? What words would they use? Merciful? Forgiving? Caring? Or would it be words like Judgemental, condemnatory, unforgiving? The Bible speaks time and again about our collective responsibility to live as people of mercy and forgiveness, without condemnation and judgement of others. The current plan to send people to Rwanda instead of providing proper channels for those seeking asylum shows that many have lost their mercy, their compassion in favour of a popularist policy at the cost of people’s freedom and human rights. We want others to treat us with mercy, compassion and forgiveness, the least we can do is treat others in that way no matter who they are or the colour of their skin. We will try to justify our mistreatment of others, but there is no justification! Those who live within a religious order and community all work for each other, supporting each other practically and spiritually. The life of the individual is inextricable from the group who hold everything in common. The kingdom of God is one of interdependence, just as the Trinity functions each with a role of their own but interdependent on the other. We do not make this Christian journey alone. But it is important to remember that this good life is dependent on us not condemning, not judging but giving freely to others. We need to take a look at ourselves and must also recognise when we are at fault ourselves, when we have falsely accused or unfairly judged, gossiped or condemned others and accept our shame when we rebel and act selfishly towards others. In asking God’s forgiveness and compassion of ourselves we must then offer that forgiveness and compassion freely to others. We cannot receive what we are not willing to give.

25th April 2022

John 20:31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

As we move on after Easter, has It changed our lives? Is our life any different? What difference has the empty tomb made in our lives? When we look at the world it looks pretty much the same as before. If the resurrection is such a big deal, such a life changing event, why are we still stuck in the same place as always? The disciples took a while, they hid in a locked room for a while before things changed for them. It's easy to be critical of the disciples being stuck in the same place. But we really need to look at our own lives and ask why isn’t my life different after Easter? Why do I get stuck in the same place? We know Christ’s resurrection happened and that the fact of the empty tomb is a life changing event. The resurrection does make a difference in our lives; but it can take time to happen. Resurrection living takes time. It’s something that we grow into, a process. By the grace of God, we evolve into resurrected people through our relationships and the circumstances of our lives. It’s not always easy and some days are just plain hard. Sometimes we come to Easter Sunday and the empty tomb expecting to wake up on Monday to a whole new life and world. But I am guessing that you awoke on Easter Monday to the same life and world you had on Good Friday. That is not because the resurrection didn’t happen, we know it did; It’s because it takes time. Easter is a starting point and Jesus is right there with us as we move on, grow and become resurrection people.

24th April 2022

Matthew 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

We all have people we like and people we dislike. We tend to mix with those we like and stay away from those we dislike and we tend to pray for those we like. That’s normal, surely? Jesus words on this very subject in Matthew reflect back to the laws written in Deuteronomy and take them further. There were plenty of religious followers who had declared they had fulfilled these laws and kept these commands; they loved their neighbour but they hated their enemy; Jesus challenges this belief and corruption by telling us to love our neighbours and also to pray for our enemies. The expectation here is that we should aim to be as God and Jesus are, that is perfect in our dealings with everyone. We know that this is impossible for us, we can never be Holy or perfect but we can live as close to this as possible through Jesus and God’s strength in us. We can have the Holy Spirit within us guiding and prompting us, allowing us to pray for those we struggle with, those we might consider to be our enemies. Something I was told years ago by a wise vicar was you do not have to like everyone, love them yes, but you do not have to like them. Families are the best example of this. We can struggle with liking some family members but we love them because they are family. It is not easy and we need help with this and God is right there to offer that help with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It probably makes you recoil at the thought of loving someone who hurts you, but we have to try. God gives us His strength to love those we find difficult. Jesus love for us took Him to the cross, even though we treated Him as an enemy. We can be hard to love yet we expect God and others to love us, the least we can do is to pray for others, even those who we see as our enemies, in God’s strength. 

23rd April 2022

John 14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

What are your favourite journeys? Perhaps after the past weeks of terrible queues at Dover and problems at airports you might struggle with journeys at all. Whenever I go away, as much as I love the journey to my destination and the holiday itself, it is the journey home that I love. I long to get home and sometimes struggle with journey’s home, especially if the traffic is bad. Returning home is special, the place where our loved ones are, where our history is, where we grew up, places that hold memories. The places we have called home will always remain special, the home of childhood, the home of study, the home of marriage and new family. Home is more than a place we live, it is where we are, who we are, where we can be our real selves with those we love. In the Bible our ultimate home is presented to us as Heaven and our time on earth is our journey towards that home. The difference is that we speak of returning home here on earth, whereas we do not return to Heaven, it is our ultimate home that we will go to, be welcome in and where we will live forever with God, in peace, with no more crying, hurt, pain, illness or grief. We are pilgrims on a journey to Heaven. A journey to home.

22nd April 2022

Luke 19:40 “I tell you,” Jesus replied, “if they keep quiet, the very stones will cry out.”

How do you respond to criticism? Research suggests that we tend to hear, remember and respond to criticism far more than we do to positive things. Criticism tends to nor away at us. Jesus is once again criticised by the Pharisees, a common occurrence, but His reply to them and us is that if we do not get involved in the now, in God’s work in the here and now, someone else will, even creation will shout out if we do not, and we will miss out! The crowds naively milled around their possible Messiah. They had no idea of what was to come. But the stones did. All creation knew of the utter transformation that was to come, all creation knew that the Creator had entered His creation as a human, to rescue it from death. We need to allow our hearts to enter into the now of every day and rejoice for all we have seen of Jesus in your life and the lives of others. We rejoice in our Lord today, because tomorrow is coming and tomorrow is hard, but hard tomorrows are always coming. As we experience the joy of heaven and fill ourselves with the wonder of Jesus. If we take time to fill ourselves with the joy of Heaven now, we will have the sustenance to weather us through the difficult tomorrows.

21st April 2022

Luke 19:38a Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!

I don’t know about you, but I am often far too quick to rush to the next thing. I often deny myself to enter the now, because I’m too busy thinking about tomorrow. To busy thinking about the what next, the what to do, the what needs to be done. Sometimes we can all be so busy preparing for tomorrow that we have forgotten what it means to be with Jesus today. So busy with the future we forget the present and the joy of now, now is the only certainty. Now, today, is a gift which is why we call it the present. For all of us, it is easy to rush into what is to come, we know the story of Jesus, we know that the days that lie ahead in Easter are ones that lead to the most awful grief before the most glorious hope. Those who had seen Jesus doing wonderful things, His followers and disciples, they were surrendering their cloaks, raising their voices and waving palm branches, they have so much to teach us. They remind us to enter into the now. The now of Palm Sunday, the now of rejoicing, the now of hope that fills our hearts with such anticipation they could burst with the joy and wonder of heaven. This is because as Christians we have seen with our own eyes and lived with our own lives the wonder and love of Jesus. 

20th April 2022

Psalm 66:19 But God always listens; He will always attend to the voice of my prayer. 

Sometimes people just don’t listen. You try to explain a situation or the background to something and they just don’t want to know. Sadly, I had a recent experience with an out of hours GP who had not read my E- consult form, had no desire to listen to my symptoms and wanted me out of the door as soon as possible. I take persuading to go to the doctor as I don’t like to waste their time and usually think a few days, couple of weeks and all is well. I had to stand my ground with the doctor and even then, he decided to send me back to my own GP. Listening to people is so vitally important. It makes us feel valued, it allows things to be put in context and often the answer to the problem lies in the background information. As a teenager I loved the character of Garfield and I had a poster in my room which said Teddy Bears are really good listeners. I would always talk to my teddy bears because they would always listen and never interrupt. Now I am not suggesting God is a big teddy bear, but just like those teddy bears who would listen intently so does God. God hears our worries and concerns, He listens to everything we need and want to say, He pays attention to us, He knows what is going on but will always listen to us whether we are angry, upset, confused, hurt, lost or whatever. He is never too busy to listen, never helping others so much that He does not have time for us. We are so important to God and everything we need to say God hears us and holds us.

19th April 2022

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 

The simple truth is that none of us know another person completely and no one knows us completely. Only we experience all the events and things of our lives, only we know exactly how we feel about something or someone. We are all entitled to the guarded places in our lives where the hurts of the past and the sadness’s of our past reside. These are very precious places which belong only to us, they make us who we are, we carry them with us into everything we do and everything we become. These guarded places will explain a great deal about who we are and how we react. Carrying these things means we can have a deeper respect and understanding of actions and consequences, but also it can mean we carry more anger and bitterness. The only one who knows us better than we know ourselves is God, He knows those deep guarded places, He knows how we feel about everything we come across and why we react the way we do. Being entitled to our guarded places can make us fearful of the future and make us guarded towards others. We need to share with God how we feel, not because He does not know us but because we can share our deepest things with Him in complete safety and security thus allowing Him to work in our guarded and precious places in ways which are the best for us.

18th April 2022

Deuteronomy 30: 19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. 

How good are you at choosing? This shampoo or that one, those vegetables or some others, which coffee, which tea and so on. Many times, the Bible speaks about making a choice. The choice of life or death, the choice of following God or not. The choice of a selfish life or an unselfish life and the consequences. The choice we make affects how we behave; listening to God or listening to self, choosing a blessing or a curse, choosing the whole world and losing our very self. We live in the world; our challenge is not to be of it. To not let ourselves be enticed by the promises and gains of this world and in doing so lose our very soul. The choice for us is stark, Heaven or Hell. We cannot know God or His love if we follow the ways of the world, if we listen to the worldly voices of gain, selfish ambition and me first. Following God’s way is not easy and may well involve suffering; being a disciple, a Christian, comes at a price. The world says that suffering and success cannot exist together, faith says they can. What might that mean? Does our attitude need to change? Does our routine need to change? Less TV, phone, computer, reading, radio etc and more prayer? Less money spent on me and more on giving to others? Speaking up when others suffer unjustly, even if I suffer too? These are hard choices but ones we need to make before God.

17th April 2022 Easter Sunday

Acts 10:39&40 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear.

How do you feel today? Are you overjoyed and amazed or is this just another Sunday, another Easter Day? Usually as we arrive at Easter Sunday, we feel some joy and amazement. And yet, even today we encounter comments from people telling us that dead people do not come back to life. But, over two thousand years of faithful Christians and the hundreds of witnesses that were there when Easter happened, they would beg to differ. So why are we amazed? Jesus has risen from the dead, of course that is amazing and yet isn’t it exactly what He said He would do? Go back and look, time and again Jesus speaks of His death and resurrection and explains why, but the disciples and followers and we just do not take it in. God’s promises are made to us and we often cannot see them, we are not prepared when they happen. We are so good at putting our trust in human things but not in the things of God. When Peter explained the resurrection to Cornelius, He spoke of witnesses, those who had experienced, seen and heard Jesus working in their lives. That is exactly who we are, people who know and experience Jesus’ resurrection in our lives and live every day as Easter people. Are we living as an Easter Christian, sure of God’s risen power in our life every day? Or is it all too much, it has been a difficult year or so after all, but, but, but…. We can always make excuses, but today is the fulfilment of our faith, of our destiny and so it should make a huge difference in our lives. Take time to think of the all the incredible and amazing things God has done in your life. Today is Easter Day so; Rejoice for Christ is risen, He is risen indeed, Alleluia.

16th April 2022

Isaiah 54:8 For a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you says the Lord, your Redeemer.

Holy Saturday is a mournful day even though we know what tomorrow will bring. There is emptiness, loneliness, waiting, nothingness. We are held in a type of stasis as the story enfolds. In our churches the altar has been stripped bare and the tabernacle is empty. In first century Jerusalem the disciples were hiding away in fear, feeling alone and disappointed, much as perhaps we do today. As we look back over our Lenten journey, do we feel we have accomplished all that we set out to do on Ash Wednesday? Are there things we want and can carry from our Lenten experience into the future? Today can be a day which holds us back, we can become stuck in a Good Friday and Easter Saturday frame of mind and not allow the events of Easter Sunday to fill us and enable us for the future. There is nothing we have to do or be today, we sit between the now and the not yet. Perhaps today can be a quiet day where we let go of everything, our plans and goals and just wait, bask in the silence, wait expectantly for what is to come, embrace the emptiness and open the space up for the fulness that is to come. As we stand on the edge of a new dawn, a new life, a new hope, we can think about what we might still need to let die, to let go so we can grow. Is there anything holding us back from the blessing and joy tomorrow will bring? Is there anything we are still clinging to? Today offers the opportunity to empty ourselves of all that holds us back and in that empty space wait patiently for the joy and blessing of Easter to come flooding in and fill the space to overflowing.

15th April 2022

Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

By Good Friday the abundant hope of Palm Sunday has completely drained away. Crushed with suffering, a beaten and scarred man is carrying a cross to be crucified in a shameful public place. Now we see Jesus despised and rejected and the prophecy of Isaiah makes sense. He has borne our iniquities, our sins and wrongdoing. He has taken it all on Himself! From our turning away from God in the Garden of Eden, our wrongdoing all through History, our wrongdoing even now, all of it is put upon Jesus, on the cross. As we turn away to our own selfish ways, the Son of God dies; alone, rejected, in front of His mother and friends, alongside two criminals who, at least, have actually done something wrong. Even in His own death forgiveness and love are given to those around Him. He does not stop giving, even until the physical death comes. Today we contemplate the cross. We follow the journey of Jesus through the streets to Golgotha. We put ourselves in the crowd, onlookers, trying to imagine how it would have felt. We can focus on the cross and begin to realise the difference it has made to our life. As we recognise the horror of what is happening, we are still given comfort by our Saviour, this sacrifice is made for us, out of love for us and every human being. 

14th April 2022

John 13: 27b & 30 Jesus said to Judas, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

As the disciples celebrate the Passover, The Last Supper, with Jesus; He knows the darkness in Judas’ heart and what is about to happen. You might expect Judas not to be welcome and yet Jesus does not throw Judas out of the gathering or try to talk him out of what he is about to do, instead He eats with Judas and tells him to go and do it quickly. As the bread is handed to Judas the darkness abounds, the tension grows, the world is now darker and scarier. If one of the chosen disciples can get so lost what hope is there for us? Thankfully there is always a chance, second, third, fourth and more chances. Jesus knows exactly what lies in our hearts, He does not turn us away but welcomes us back again and again. We always have a choice; we do not have to stay in the darkness of our bad choices, we do not have to choose despair and lose hope. All our shame, all our bad choices, however we feel; alone, guilty, hopeless, if we can just admit to our failures, we can find healing and forgiveness and this is essential for our growth. Our God conscience will show us how to improve, help us develop humility and make us desire to serve God better. There is always hope with Jesus, always a way back if we are willing to take it but we must recognise our sin and try to change. All Jesus asks is that we try, He will do the rest.

13th April 2022

Matthew 26:14b & 15 Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I betray him to you?’ They paid him thirty pieces of silver.

As Holy week continues, we get deeper into the story and the darkness becomes overwhelming. Wednesday of Holy Week is also called Spy Wednesday, the day Judas went to the authorities to betray Jesus for money. He has made the decision, set the wheels in motion but then without any compunction says “Surely not I” to the accusation of betrayal by Jesus. How often do we do the same? Excuse our own bad behaviour, step away from any blame, make out our innocence and inside we feel sad, alone and lost. Guilt begins to flourish in our hearts and we get eaten away in our souls. For Judas, he could not live with himself and what he had done, and yet in that very act of realising his wrongdoing he would have found God’s love even if he could not find love for himself. Jesus still calls Judas’s friend, even in the act of betrayal. Jesus still calls us friend even in our own acts of betrayal and wrongdoing. God’s love is always there if we can but see it and hold onto it even when our love for ourselves is weak and distant. God never gives up on us, we should never give up on ourselves. We need to examine the things which eat away at us and learn what needs to be done or said to get rid of these feelings? There will be times when we have done and said wrong things that we have not dealt with and need to forgive ourselves for. Self-forgiveness is vital in our relationships with God and one another. We need to be secure in God’s love for us and ask help in securing His love and forgiveness within ourselves. 

12th April 2022

Isaiah 42:3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.

I love the beach, love to walk along through the different landscapes. Last week I was on a very windy beach at Porthcawl and beaches can be very different dependent on where they are. Sand dunes, shingle, sand, rock pools and in some places, you will find blocks of reeds. On a still day the reeds will stand straight and tall but on a windy day they sway and bend low, but they do not break. It is quite a beautiful sight and for us it provides a lesson. In a world of absolutes and fast reactions, bending and accommodating is not seen as a good thing. Yet, as we see Jesus about to enter His time of terrible suffering in that first Easter, this image of a bending reed is a symbol of hope. Jesus bends to the will of those who want to hurt Him. He does not lash out, He does not fight and in the end, He controls the outcome, accepting what is forced upon Him to gain the ultimate victory over death for us. Bending is seen as weakness in our world but the lesson for us is that bending is needed to get us where we need to be with God in control. Think about situations you will be facing and how you can bend with God’s will to allow the best outcome. As we walk with Jesus through this Holy week may we see how Jesus bends with the situation and learn from His example, noticing how He does not retaliate or argue but allows the situation to happen for God’s ultimate triumph. 

11th April 2022

Mark 14: 3b A woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.

As Holy Week begins Jesus is in the house of Simon the Leper. A woman, we believe to be Mary, breaks an alabaster jar of beautiful expensive perfume and anoints Jesus. This brings a reaction of anger and disgust from onlookers because they just do not understand what is happening. People will always jump to conclusions because they do not know all the facts and here the people just did not understand Jesus because they applied their flawed, imperfect and earthly standards to Him. Jesus welcomed the people they would throw out, He pushed people’s ideas and thoughts beyond the comfortable, He saw things through God’s eyes and not the worlds. This is why it went from Hosanna to Crucify in just a few days. The simple, beautiful action of anointing Him is praised by Jesus and is imortalised in the Bible just as He said it would be. Here we are reading her story and wondering what we would do if Jesus was in our house, at our table today? Would we be shooing the woman away or would we be the one anointing Jesus? We need to ask ourselves if we had been there what would our reaction have been? Would we have seen it as a waste or been embarrassed or angry? Jesus provokes strong feelings in everyone. Mary followed her heart, not her head, she stepped out of the shadows and spoke up for her Lord? Are we willing to do the same?

10th April 2022

Luke 11:29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 

Do you know the story of Jonah and the whale? Jonah was sent by God to tell the people of Nineveh to change their ways, he did not want to go because he thought God was being too soft on bad people. In the New Testament mention of Jonah Jesus is using harsh words about people and their behaviour, what are we to make of this? If we look around us, we see evil everywhere and even we sometimes think; is the world really worth saving? We, like Jonah, would rather run the opposite way than tell people about their sin and wrongdoing. The world has always had good and bad, light and dark, and we have a part to play in spreading the light and the good; but, we would all like to see a huge bold, unavoidable, flashing sign telling everyone what is wrong and how to change it. Then we all want reassurance that everything is not lost, that we still have a chance. The great news is that we know the world was worth saving and that God sent Jesus for just that purpose; and that sign we want; it is a huge wooden cross, occupied by an innocent man who is unjustly crucified so that we still have that chance. Not just us, but everyone, even the people we do not like or find difficult, even those who do not agree with us or see life differently, He died for them too. He dies that we might be forgiven, He defeated death so we might live forever.

9th April 2022

Matthew 6:8 Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 

As a teacher, even when writing on the board, I would know exactly who was misbehaving behind me and usually what they were doing. I had a father who knew exactly what I was up to even when I thought he could not see me; it is almost as if he had eyes in the back of his head as well the front. Parents are often good at knowing when their children are up to mischief. Knowing what is going on, even when not seeing it, is a talent or skill we develop with experience over time. As God is omnipresent, He has eyes everywhere at all times in all situations so He must know what is going on and yet in the Lord’s Prayer we are told to pray asking for food, forgiveness and deliverance, and we are also told that God knows what we need anyway. So why bother asking? Can’t God just step in when we need something? Why do I need to ask? Life would be much easier if God just did it all for me, no effort on my part. We can communicate with God without spoken words, God does know our needs but expressing them, realising our needs and asking for help builds and deepens our relationship with God, it draws us closer, it builds a bridge between here and there. The Lord’s prayer is one of integrity and honesty that demands forgiveness from us to others if we desire God’s forgiveness for ourselves. There are many forms of prayer and we can experiment to see which helps us draw closer to God.

8th April 2022

Matthew 16: 18&19a Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

I have been very blessed to have been to Rome, to the Vatican City and to visit St Peter’s Basilica. It is a stunning, wonderful and uplifting place to visit. You feel close to God and get a real sense of His presence. Not very far from the entrance is a statue of St. Peter holding the keys to the kingdom; the toes on the right foot have been worn smooth by the years of people reaching out to touch and receive a blessing; you are naturally drawn to it and reach out for the rock. Peter is a character who draws us to him, and Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the Messiah was one of his virtuous moments. But, you do not need to look far to find the many mistakes he made including his terrible denial; his lowest moment. And yet Jesus builds His church on this rock, Peter or Cephas means rock. Jesus gives him the keys to the kingdom. He is the first leader of the church. The lesson here is that we are not called to be perfect, but to be faithful. We will make mistakes, run away, deny our faith, say the wrong thing, hurt ourselves and others, but God’s love and mercy keeps us, blesses us and uses us anyway. We reach out to Peter in solidarity, we gain hope from what God did with this imperfect human and trust God to do the same in us. Peter was the first leader of the church who cared for the flock entrusted to Him by Jesus. We will all have our good Peter moments and bad ones too, but like Peter we have the opportunities of forgiveness, unconditional love, growth and service.

7th April 2022

Matthew 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 

We are all in relationships of one type or another all our lives and that means we rub up against each other and things can become difficult or even explosive. Families, friendships, marriages can all end up being spoiled because as humans we all get angry. Be honest, who hasn’t held a grudge, judged others, been angry with someone. We all have things in our lives which need to be forgiven and healed, as well as things which need to be concluded and fixed. We are all subject to wounding by others and we have all dished out a few wounds ourselves. This cuts deep; how can we ever find all those people we have hurt in some way and apologise? How can we be expected to even remember them all, let alone be able to find them and sort the issue out? We, quite simply, cannot. People will be long gone from our lives, we cannot find them all or remember them all, so to make amends we start with ourselves. Can we begin to let go of the pain we have? Begin to allow God’s healing of our wounds? We need to give these things over to God, pray them out to Him. As we do this, we will begin to have the capacity to forgive others, to realise that each of us does exactly what we judge others for, and this begins a change in ourselves and in others because as we change, it radiates outward and touches others as well.

6th April 2022

Luke 5:31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” 

It is the sick who need a doctor, we seek the expertise and treatment of a doctor when we are unwell. We realise our need and do something about it. Jesus came for sinners, for everyone who recognised they were in need of help! Jesus called a Tax collector to be a disciple. They were the lowest of the low, so the onlookers criticised Him for the company He kept. Jesus was a light in a dark world, He still is today. Jesus said to Levi, also called Matthew, Follow Me! This was not about following Him along a physical path as such, but following Jesus completely in every part of life; it involves complete surrender and it is scary. Yes, Jesus will lead the way but it will be difficult, it will require everything we can give, it will not be straight or easy. Levi does not hesitate, he gets up, leaves everything and follows Jesus. This is bold, prompted and energised by the Holy Spirit. What about us? Do we get up and follow? Often, we procrastinate; can I do it later God? I will follow when I have more time, when the family have left home, when I retire, but not right now as life is too busy. Jesus is calling us right now. What is our response? Our heart says yes, our head says no, it’s too uncertain, I am not quite sure, I can’t take the risk. The call to us is the same as it was to Levi, Follow me! Are we ready to accept this call? Are we ready to accept that as the sick need a doctor so we need Jesus? Having someone to follow when you don’t know the way is comforting and helpful. Jesus is the one who says follow me, we decide whether we will follow or not.

5th April 2022

Exodus 1:11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labour, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 

When you see pictures of people in small boats crossing the channel, what do you see? What do you think? Do you look down on them, see them as scroungers coming to take our jobs, our homes? Why do we see them differently from Ukrainian refugees? Injustice and unfairness start with our thoughts and then our words. It starts when we look at another human and see them as less than us, we see less worthy, less entitled to love, compassion, dignity, we make them less human because they are not us. Once we think these things and then vocalise them, share them on social media, actions follow. Our “taking back of our country” has turned us from a country of welcome and compassion to one of xenophobia and fascism. Leaders who see a way to manipulate our fears by turning us against our neighbour, while keeping themselves in power and hiding the real truth. Lying, drip feeding lies so that it becomes a fake truth which promoted even more fear and suspicion. The people of Israel experienced this, from welcome and honoured guests in Egypt they quickly became slaves, perceived as a threat, manipulated by fear and lies they were turned upon. They were seen as less than the national people and so were maltreated. We must not let our thoughts be manipulated by fear, by lies and by those who would scapegoat the “other” so as to remain powerful and popular.

4th April 2022

Deuteronomy 10: 13 Observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good and the good of all. 

I get very cross when I see people who have broken the law get away with it. I especially find the fact that money and power seem to get a person out of being prosecuted a really difficult thing to cope with. No one is above the law! We have laws to preserve our freedoms and to allow us to live in safety. Laws are supposed to stop injustice, unfairness, the oppression of people. Laws should allow us all to flourish, but the law cannot deliver this just, fair society alone. The law makes it possible but only when the underlying attitude is a good one. What lies behind laws are the need to care for the poor, to help the stranger in need, to not allow the powerful and wealthy to become so dominant that everyone else suffers. We must treat each other well, not because the law says so but because every human is made in the image of God and every human is loved equally and unconditionally by God. Our response to God’s unconditional love for us must be a love for our neighbour, a concern for their wellbeing, their needs both physical and spiritual. In loving and serving God we love and serve our neighbour whether down the street, on the street, refugee, homeless, sick, black, white, rich, poor, male, female, child or adult; everyone a child of God.

3rd April 2022

Leviticus 25:10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. 

This year we celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The term Jubilee comes from the Old Testament. As the people came to the Promised Land there was the importance of work and law, BUT also the importance of resting regularly, 1 in 7 days for the people and 1 in 7 years for the land and then after 7 x 7, 49 years, Jubilee, the 50th year, saw the writing off of debt, the return of land to the original owners, a resetting of the economic and social clock every 50 years. This was a way of starting afresh when mistakes have been made and starting a better future with lessons learned. It also encouraged the redistribution of wealth, so all had enough and no one horded wealth whilst others starved. We use Jubilee to celebrate 50 or more years of someone or something. Very quickly the writing off of debt, redistribution of wealth and return of land were forgotten. Those with are not going to give it back, their wealth means power, power to maintain their wealth and keep others down. As we celebrate 70 years of our Queen, perhaps we can be involved in more of the true meaning of Jubilee, of not hoarding our wealth while others starve, of returning things to their rightful owners, of not allowing our wealthy to dictate laws which favour only them. We can act in the way of Jubilee and remind others of its true meaning.

2nd April 2022

Esther 4:16 Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me.

Esther was a brave woman when women were not allowed to do anything. She was prepared to step out in faith, supported by the prayers and fasting of the Jews. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament there are supplementary texts which show Esther and her family petitioning God for the opportunity for Esther to speak to the King about the treatment of the Jews. In doing this she is risking her life and yet as she prays and asks, it happens and she receives; the opportunity opens up to her. Jesus also tells us that we should ask and receive as well as seek and knock. He uses the illustration of parents and children to get His point across. If we, as parents, will do the best for our children, how much more will God, our Heavenly Father, do the best for us. Esther knew she could not do her task alone, she needed God, she needed support, so, she asked for help and received it. God has our best interests at heart, so we need to ask, seek and knock knowing and believing that the best will always be done for us. Esther had the prayer support of her people, we have the prayer support of family, friends and church people. I have often heard prayer support described as a wrapping around, surrounding and supporting the other. May that be our experience.

1st April 2022

Mark 1:15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

There is an old quote that timing is everything. Jesus has been threatened and yet He continues to come into Jerusalem, He even proclaims that the time, His time has come. This is a time critical event and a time critical response. Repentance, turning from sin, needs to be done while the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Noah had experienced a time limited offer with the flood, he had listened to God, he acted built the ark, took his family and was saved. The mark of this story is the rainbow. Even today with all we have people still stop and stare at a rainbow, they still take photos and share them on social media. Even today people notice a rainbow and recognise it as a sign in the sky. As the beautiful colours spread across the sky, we marvel in this beautiful expression of God’s promise to never again destroy His creation. We live in a fallen world; we are daily attacked by the sin around us and we cannot be in total control of all that happens. BUT, God is in control and only He can give us the meaning and purpose to our lives through Jesus. We can only have this forgiveness, this meaning and purpose when we repent and believe the good news. Try to recall the last time you saw a Rainbow and how it made you feel, let that help you to remember some of the promises of God. 

31st March 2022

1 Thessalonians 4:11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and rest well, just as we told you.

I am currently looking forward to a few days off and away to a hotel. These breaks were not possible during the first year or so of the pandemic and I really missed those few days change and rest. Getting away to somewhere different, sleeping in a bed someone else makes, eating food someone else cooks and just visiting places and resting makes a real difference. We become so overrun in daily life that it becomes like a treadmill that never stops and we just keep going becoming more and more weary and struggling to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Being able to physically stop, to not have to deal with everything but instead rest and do some mindless or different activities just for fun is great for our physical and mental health. We need to do things for fun, for enjoyment. We need to expand our horizons and our experiences; we need to experience something other than work and home. God is generous with everything, and He is generous in telling us to take time, to rest and recuperate. Humans were never created to just keep going, but were created to balance living with resting. We are to both serve others and enjoy our God given life. God gave us life as a gift and He wants us to enjoy it.

30th March 2022

2 Samuel 8:15 David ruled over all of Israel and made sure that his people were always treated fairly and justly.

Everyone of us, particularly as children, have said time and again, “It’s not fair!” When I would say it as a child my father would reply, “life’s not fair”, and as much as I did not want to hear that, it is true. We have created a world where life for the majority is not fair! While the few become richer and more powerful, the majority do not. Recent reports have said that we are now in a worse situation for the average person than since just after the end of World War 2, and there was still rationing then!!! More people now live in poverty, rely on foodbanks, can’t afford household bills or to feed or clothe their families. This is simply not fair. It has been created by the wealthy and powerful who have no worries and thus no empathy for anyone else, they are not interested in anyone but themselves. Wealth is not shared but gathered by the few, unfairly lining their pockets with the hard work of the ordinary people. Even though we celebrate mothering Sunday the position of mother’s women and girls has worsened. Just look at the leaders of the nations and see just one woman in a sea of men, Afghan girls forbidden access to schools. LGBTQ+ people are still barred from certain places and roles because of who they love, people starving to death even though there is more than enough food for all. The wealthy and powerful dictate their own way and as a result the world is an increasingly unfair place. King David’s rule was often categorised by his fairness and equity to all his people whether rich or poor, male or female. Being fair starts with us and our attitude to others, if we are selfish, care little for others and are only interested in lining our own pockets, then fairness can never be achieved. We need a vision of fairness, respect for every human being, the desire for everyone to be equal and live equitably. Our words, our actions, need to be fair, right and true through out our life so we fight for a fairer society where everyone has enough and is treated equally.

29th March 2022

Luke 13: 19 The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.

Sometimes we all get to the stage where we think, what is the point. I have been giving to the food bank for years and there are now even more people having to use them or I have been writing to my MP over important issues and nothing seems to change. Sometimes we feel as if we are just getting nowhere, like walking through treacle my grandad used to say. Jesus tells many parables about the little things which go on to do amazing big things. The little seed which grows into a huge bush which then becomes food and shelter for birds and creatures. At the time of Jesus there were 12 disciples and various followers, yet they became a worldwide religion. From the small acorn the mighty oak grows. Nothing we do for God is pointless. Everything we say, we do, we work on, has value, and is used by God. We may never the results, but God uses us. You may never see the person serving as a doctor or nurse because of something you did or said. You may never know about the child you sponsored who became a social worker, engineer, carer etc. Be encouraged, nothing you or I do for God is wasted. He uses it all and it all brings glory to Him, so please do not give up and try to always remember there is always a point and God has it in hand.

28th March 2022

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

One of the most difficult things about grief is the blame we place on ourselves or that others unjustly place on us. We all believe we could have or should have done more for someone or their family, we are plagued by thinking we should have visited more, phoned more, send cards or flowers regularly, and sometimes families in grief will lash out and say why didn’t you… It is a painful time. What we need to remember is that often people do not want us there constantly, they may well not tell us the severity of their condition, they may want peace and quiet and often even their families do not know exactly how they feel or what they want because the person may not want to upset them. All we can ever do for someone is our best to love them, pray for them, offer them help without pushing too hard, accept that they may not want to see us or speak on the phone to us and realise that just because we think we haven’t done enough, that is not necessarily true. We are not perfect; we cannot do everything, and we are not responsible for other people’s actions or reactions. As long as we have tried our best, we can be secure in the knowledge that God has ministered to them through us and be comforted in our grief.

27th March 2022

John 19:25b Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Mothering Sunday can be a special day for some and very difficult for others. For those who are not Mum’s, for whatever reason, for those who have lost their Mum’s bless you. One thing all of us have in common is we are all children. Children like to be watched and seen by their parents and family. I expect many of you spend a lot of time saying Mum, Dad, come and see this, watch what I can do, look at me… and they watch and look and see and they love it. They love you. Women, girls and Mum’s actually don’t get seen. They are often invisible. In many places girls never become visible at all, stopped from going to school or working because they are female. Mum’s become invisible to their families, their children, husbands, partners. They become just a pair of hands to fix this, tie that, open this, wash that, clean up, feed me, get my, change me, take me, find the, shop, cook, provide and are taken for granted. Women, girls and mums get lost in a role given to them by society who rather than treasure and value them, criticise them, make them out to be weak, and keep women in the invisible place they want them. I am sad to say that the role of girls, women and Mum’s has been dictated by a male dominated society since time began. Mum’s, girls, women, aunts, cousins, God sees you and all you do and just how wonderful and valuable you are. God made the equality of everyone completely clear to us and yet so many of us have been disrespectful and have lessened the role of women, of Mum’s, of girls and made them invisible. Being female, being a mum is not being second class, we are special and were created by God to play our part in an equal society. That society has taken that specialness away. In God’s eyes we are special, we are loved, we are valued and appreciated. 

26th March 2022

Luke 13:2 “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no!

No matter how hard we try part of us always thinks that perhaps someone who is hurt or suffers deserves it for some reason. We like to try and justify bad things happening. Sadly, in our imperfect world, bad things happen and they happen to everyone whether good or bad. We live in a fallen world, that means that all of the world, creation, life, governments, people are impacted by bad as well as good. It means there is disease, there are those who defraud and cheat under cover of authority, there are incurable illnesses, there is war, famine, storms, droughts, pandemics and people suffer whether they are good or bad. The pandemic has seen many NHS workers give their lives treating covid patients. We are seeing men women and children being slaughtered in war because of lies and manipulation by the powerful. We want to see the wicked suffer not the innocent, we want to see the liars and cheaters punished and not the truthful. Those who suffer are no more sinners than anyone else and we need to recognise that. We need to accept that if we want something done to make things right, to challenge wrongdoing and unfairness then we have to play our part and not just expect it to change because we pray. Yes, we must pray and our prayers do change things but our action, our willingness to challenge and stand for justice, that has an impact too. God calls us not only to pray for a solution but to be part of that solution. May we be Christians of prayer and of action!

25th March 2022

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all equal in Christ Jesus.

There is a wonderful book, also now a film, called The Shack. It explores God in some diverse ways, meeting someone in desperate need in ways that are different but completely needed by him. One of the most wonderful parts is when the central character meets God; expecting, as we all do, a bearded white grandad figure, she is actually a black woman standing by the sink in the kitchen. Within black, feminist theology God can be seen as the sacred black feminine, the God who is with and for black women because she is a black woman who stands for black women in a society where currently they exist below white men, black men and white women in the established pecking order of society and, very sadly, the church which lowers women and black women to the bottom of the pile. Seeing God as our gender, our race, our class, declares that we are all sacred, we all matter, we are all equal before God. Of course, the majority of males do not give any credence to this type of theology as it challenges their superiority and both male dominated church and society will never allow anything that takes away it’s usual and accepted traditions and power base, even when they maybe wrong. You and I may struggle with God as a black woman, but perhaps if we see God as our gender, our age, our class, our colour, we may find more confidence in our God given equal place in both society and church.

24th March 2022

Romans 14:10 But why do you judge your brother? or why do you look down upon another? for we will all answer for this behaviour before Christ.

We have all heard that old comment about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes to understand them a little, sadly it has become a joke by adding that you are a mile away and have their shoes so what can they do. I know people like to be funny, but in doing that here you take away the importance of realising how people’s situations and experiences affect how they live and how they respond. If I know someone has a background of abuse, I will make allowances in relationships and reactions, if I know someone has been seriously Ill, I will make allowances as to their responses and reactions, If I know someone has been let down time and again then I understand why they are loathed to trust and so enable trust to happen. We are all products of our upbringing, our experiences and often we react to a situation because of those past experiences. If we are once again just written off or treated badly, it is not surprising when we become negative over things. We will all answer before God for our behaviour, for how we treat others, for not giving others the benefit of the doubt which God gives to us daily. We must always hold the thought in our mind and heart that the reaction we see, may well be because what we have had said or done has touched a nerve or opened an old wound. A little less self and a little more of God’s love will change their world, and ours for the better.

23rd March 2022

1 Corinthians 12:12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

There are a plethora of books and stories about people being forced to live alone, Robinson Crusoe, Life of Pi, Cast Away, Moon to name a few. The common theme across all of them is the desire to find someone else, to find companionship and friendship again. These stories present us with a realisation that human’s need each other and that we often take this companionship for granted. Right at the beginning of the Bible God says it is not good for humans to be alone. We are not designed to be alone and because we are all different, all unique, we need each other’s gifts, talents, strengths and abilities to enable our world to function. The idea of the one body, many parts is a Biblical picture of this. We cannot all be hands, or feet, or noses, or mouths etc. We need to appreciate that in life we cannot all be nurses, teachers, bus drivers, engineers, care workers, shop assistants….. but we all need all these folk and we each have a skill set which makes us a part of this necessary whole. From the most senior to the most junior, no one has the right to look down on anyone else’s skills, talents and abilities. Each of us has a God given part to play and each of us is needed to make that work. Remove one small seemingly insignificant part from an engine and it stops working. Put the wrong size cog in a machine and it causes damage and loss of function. Each of us have a vital role to play in life, in family, in friendships, in society. Archbishop Desmond Tutu would often speak of Ubuntu, which translated means I am because we are! A way of living where only in terms of other people does the individual become conscious of their own being, gifts, abilities and their responsibility to others.

22nd March 2022

Luke 13:31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you."

Whenever we journey from one place to another we pass through places, we travel up and down, sometimes we are held up and sometimes we move swiftly. The Gospel readings during Lent follow the physical journey of Jesus starting at the Jordan river, as he moves through Galilee and Judea on his way to Jerusalem. Jesus passed through Galilee, the territory of Herod. He was warned by the Pharisees that he should leave because he was in danger of being killed. But Jesus had no intention of leaving. He kept doing what he does, healing and teaching. He knew He had nothing to fear because the final act hadn’t started yet. Jesus had seen this story unfold from the beginning. For hundreds of years, he had watched as his prophets made this journey only to meet their end in Jerusalem. Any epic journey does not end on the fringes, the climactic scene for Jesus isn’t going happen out there in the provinces. It will end in Jerusalem. During Lent, we travel with Jesus along His chosen path. We know what is going to happen, God has written the script and we are following Jesus as He gives all to save us. 

21st March 2022

Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Currently we are seeing the results of powerful people never being told no! As a result, they believe they are always right and that anything they do is okay. The result is war, unnecessary death and suffering. People who were free are now dictated to. What is being done to others in Ukraine is not something Putin would want done to him but as he is safe, protected and has no compassion or empathy, it does not affect him. If he were living a normal life, if he were not protected, if he had to offer his own life and not that of soldiers or ordinary people, he would behave very differently. The results of absolute power, wealth and status which are completely protected and unchallenged mean that reality is lost and the desire to take and keep and gain more takes over. In normal life, where we work alongside each other, live alongside each other; respect, compassion and empathy demand that we treat others as we would like and expect to be treated. If I am rude, selfish and greedy then others will find it hard to treat me well but many will try anyway. Why should anyone be nice to me if I cannot be kind or civil to them, and yet so many are kind, caring, respectful of others even when they are maltreated. Jesus is the chief example of this, and our world only works if we look after each other as God commanded of us. It speaks volumes that every world religion has a version of the golden rule within their teaching. The need to ally ourselves with how others think and feel, allows us to realise the need for all humans to be treated with respect, compassion and empathy, just as we would like to be treated. Let us never become so cut off from reality that we lose our empathy, our compassion and respect for others as well as ourselves.

20th March 2022

Esther 4:17 Remember, Lord, reveal yourself in the time of distress. 

In the story of Esther, time and again the willfully evil man seems to triumph. His wicked plans make him powerful and wealthy and seem to always work even though they are evil. The prayers of Esther, her family and her people seem to go unheard and unnoticed. Esther takes risks to do what she believes is right before God. In the midst of what seems insurmountable the prayers are heard and are being answered, but God’s ways are not ours and His answers often come unexpectedly and differently to what we expect. Esther cries out, remember, Lord, reveal yourself, do something! Many of our prayers will be like this one, particularly with regard to current events in Ukraine. As the willfully evil leader pushes to make himself more powerful, wealthier at a cost to everyone but himself. He is seemingly succeeding and all we can do is cry out, Remember, Lord, reveal yourself in this time of war and do something!!!! We cry out, we pray and we must keep doing so, keep helping where we can, doing what we can and knowing that our prayers are not in vain, they are being and will be both heard and answered. We must not give up! Esther’s world changes in the light of prayer and so will ours. Be encouraged, do not give up, keep praying and know God is hearing, God is doing and God is answering.

19th March 2022

1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

The trouble with lending things to people, or letting then use something of yours is that often it is not returned to you as it was. I was always brought up to leave a place as you found it or return something in the condition it was lent to you. Day after day in school I have to put chairs back because classes move them and don’t put them back. In church often the piano, the screen or chairs are moved to accommodate a group but then not put back, just left. I don’t think it is necessarily done on purpose but I think people just don’t respect other people’s property anymore. The pristine book, lent to a friend that is returned dog eared and with a coffee stain, the borrowed tools returned rusted and damaged, the mower returned now emptied of petrol. There is little regard for other people’s belonging’s, perhaps a consequence of our throw away society. We are all guilty of it, we are all good at not returning God’s creation to what it was, but rather our lack of respect means damage to land, sea, animals, birds and fish as well as humanity; particularly the poor. We are just not respectful enough of what God has given to us to look after. We have been asked and blessed by God to be His stewards and caretakers of our planet, of our gifts and talents; instead we have purged, ruined and spoilt our world, all for our own gain and greed. We really must change our habits and ask God’s forgiveness as we learn to respect and return God’s blessing to Him as we found it.

18th March 2022

Luke 13:34b How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

There are many images of God and Jesus in the Bible, one of the least remembered is that of the mother hen caring for her wayward chicks. God is like a mother hen and we are like chicks in need of gathering. Chicks move swiftly in whatever direction strikes them as interesting at that moment in time. They are totally random in their movements; they are the essence of free will. Most parents, aunts and uncles and family members can relate to a mother hen. When kids are toddlers, it is a constant battle to keep up with them as they run in every direction, on a playground, in a park or at the shops. As they become young adults, we try as best as we can to keep track of them. Like a mother hen, we run in circles trying to gather them in, circles that grow wider and wider until we can no longer keep up with them. We have our moments of lament, as our chicks stop listening and go astray. But no matter where they go or how far they may drift, we are still prepared to step in front of them and spread our wings to protect our loved ones against any danger. Jesus is our mother hen, gathering us to Him. And when danger appears, He will protect His chicks. It is a very moving image. A maternal side to Jesus we don’t discuss very often. A mother hen is not the fighter who always emerges victorious, she can only stand in front of the danger, spread her wings, and offer herself out of complete love, in defense of her young. Jesus spreads His wings on a cross and offers Himself out of love, to save His children. Like a mother hen would do.

17th March 2022

Galatians 5:9 A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.

I am not a regular bread maker but have done so on may occasions. I do like seeing the dough rise and doubling in size, it is almost magical, but it is a chemical reaction caused by yeast. The importance of yeast in bread cannot be stressed enough. On one occasion I used some old dried yeast as I was unable to get any fresh. I mixed it and worked the dough and left it to prove, it did not double in size, it did not even grow at all and I was left with a solid brick like texture with no air inside, both heavy and hard. When yeast is fresh and new you only need a small amount to work through the dough. It reacts and releases the bubbles into the dough causing it to expand, to grow and be light and full of air. This makes it wonderful to eat. Only a small amount of yeast is needed to make a difference. We often feel we are too small, insignificant and that we cannot make a difference, but, like yeast, if we are fresh and full of God then we can make a difference. We can sow love, compassion, joy and peace in every situation, but we need to have it working in us to spread it to those around us. Daily prayer and Bible reading keep our faith fresh and our relationship with God strong, this will make a difference everywhere we go in life.

16th March 2022

Luke 13:22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

We all like heroic stories, difficult journeys, adversity waiting at every turn, its why film makers make them. Stories like Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter have become ever popular. Each has an epic quality, usually starting humbly but building over time as the hero travels to the climactic finale where good vanquishes evil. On Ash Wednesday, we began a six-week spiritual and liturgical journey, Lent. We are early on in this journey but it is a familiar path and we know exactly where we are headed. Waiting for us at the end is the climactic finale of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is an epic story; one we know well. We’ve read the book. We’ve seen the Hollywood movies. Along this path lies pain, suffering and death. In a classic heroic epic, our hero would be driven by anger, perhaps revenge, and settling scores on their journey to the final battle. Jesus has seen how his prophets were ignored and killed. He knows what his enemies have planned for him, but there is no anger, no attack, no revenge. Instead, Jesus laments, He is broken by the brokenness of the world and seeks only to bring healing and love to all. Our Hero will die on the cross on Good Friday but He will also rise again on Easter Sunday after breaking the hold of death on all of us who choose to follow Him. 

15th March 2022

Psalm 42:9 Deep calls to deep in the thunder of your waterfalls, all your breakers and waves have gone over me.

I have always loved the sea, standing and watching waves break on sand or shingle, when it is stormy, you can see the power of the waves. I will happily attempt to swim in the sea even when it is windy and the breakers are high. I have been tossed about, got a few scrapes and bruises and even been sunk down quite violently, coming up spluttering for air. We cannot control these waves even if we would like to think we can, but the fact we have lifeboats all round the coast, proves that water, sea, breakers and waves cannot be controlled and can damage boats and ships as well as tow people into danger by the undercurrents. At times life is like this, breakers and waves come over us, the seem to flatten us, sink us, we seemed to be towed out into danger by life’s undercurrents, and we wonder, where is God? I have, over the years, learnt that God is the lifebelt, the wetsuit, the buoyancy aid that keeps us afloat and always returns us to the surface and the shore. Within God’s beautiful creation is power, within the creative is also the ability for destruction. We cannot tame God or nature and creation but we can hold onto God and allow Him to raise us from the deep time and again.

14th March 2022

Luke 4:1&2 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He was tempted by the devil. 

We all have wilderness times, times when we seem to be in the desert and we feel dragged down and struggling with life. Problems seem harder to cope with than normal. As with so many things in life Jesus knows how we feel and has been through it Himself. In the desert, Satan tempted Jesus to doubt himself and who he was. He tempted Jesus to abandon the love and calling from God. The devil tempted him with food, popularity, and power. He made it seem that everything would have been easier for Jesus if he’d just give in and take what Satan offered him. We know that Jesus did not give in. Jesus relied on God’s word to stand up to these temptations. So often we feel that it would be easier to give in and take what is offered. We are tempted, these temptations often urge us to try to take the easy way out of a hard situation. Just a little lie, no one will know, just declare more on my expenses that I spent, no one will know. Why spend money on something I want when I can just take it? Why be nice to someone I don’t like when it’s easier to just be mean to them instead? Why do our chores if we can get away with not doing them? Why? Because we know that it is the right thing to do and it is what God asks of us. God will help us resist temptation if we ask Him, and just like Jesus, we can rely on his word, the Bible, to give us the power to make wise choices and do the right thing.

13th March 2022

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of humans, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. 

Do you remember the times when your children, or you, stamped their foot and shouted “it’s not fair”. They couldn’t have their favourite ice cream, or TV programme. They could not go and play at a friends house or spend their pocket money. For me, it was me, as the girl, expected to wash up after meals while my brother always disappeared and did nothing. Even as we grow up, we might not stamp the foot but we still think “it’s not fair” when we don’t get an interview, or the job, when the bills go up and our pay doesn’t, when liars and cheats just keep getting away with things and we know we would be prosecuted and punished for, when our government behaves in a totally selfish manner and is not held to account by the very processes supposed to protect our democracy. “It’s not fair” we think or say out loud. Sadly, unfairness is a huge part of life, it is actually more common now than fairness. When we express this deep feeling of unfairness it is as if something within us harks back to when things were fair, when everyone was equal, except that has not been case since humans turned their back on God at Creation. Deep within us, as created beings, there is a longing for that fairness, for that equality that was God’s intention for us and for our world. It is the same inner desire that sees the unjust war in Ukraine and wants punishment for the aggressor and safety for the people who have done nothing to cause this. It is the same inner desire that sees the children starve in Africa or die from dirty water because they do not have access to all that we have, and we want to help. Life in our world is not fair, God did not create it that way, we created the unfairness and it us who can do something about it if we are willing. 

12th March 2022

Luke 3:22b And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” 

We all like to have things confirmed, that we are at the right address, we are on the right road, we are good at our job and so on. Even Jesus had confirmation of His calling firstly at His Baptism and then as He is led into the desert or wilderness for 40 days. At the moment of his baptism, Jesus experienced the confirmation of His calling; the Holy Spirit had descended upon him and God the Father had proclaimed His love for His Son. After that, Jesus is led into the desert to prepare for his life of ministry. The Holy Spirit can also lead us into solitary places with the purposes of making us rest and prepare for greater events to come and to contemplate and pray, to seek God. It is why those who are being ordained go on retreat before ordination. It gives time to listen and be quiet. All of us have this time of Lent to do the same. Giving things up allows a person to concentrate more upon God and to seek the way forward. It is a giving up of Earthly things so we can concentrate on our relationship with God and our calling. Jesus took 40 days; time apart to prepare for His earthly mission. Let us take the forty days of Lent to re-dedicate our lives to God. Take quiet times to read our Bibles, learn what it says about things. Giving up things so we can grow closer to God, preparing us for the mission set before us. Use this Lent to prepare, to learn, to be challenged, to seek, serve and follow Jesus.

11th March 2022

Genesis 3: 17b Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.

I was reading an article recently about our “Broken World”. This piece was showing how we actually have more than enough food for everyone, more than enough living space for everyone and how the inequalities of nations, people and cultures have caused the catastrophic affects we are seeing. The greed of the few has caused an incredible imbalance in nature and resources, leaving much of the poorer world even more damaged and broken. It is now undeniable that climate change is happening, and we are the main cause. Where did this brokenness happen? It might be a simple story but in Genesis we are shown the human desires for power and control, the want to decide their own morals and practices and the desire to excerpt power over each other as a sign of success. This rebellion against the truth and harmony of a life with God, a life of equality for everyone, where everyone has enough, took us from abundance to hard work, from equality to dominance of the few over the rest, to broken relationships with God and with one another and all this has had a devastating impact on the world, on creation, on animals and plants who never had a choice. This brokenness, of the world and us, is exactly what Jesus came for. He took the brokenness of humanity upon Himself, on a cross, so that the relationship could be restored. This option is still available but is regularly tossed aside in Humanities belief in its superiority and greed. For those of us who chose God’s way we do what we can, in God’s name, to change what we can, but it starts with us, with you and me and our relationship first with God and then with one another.

10th March 2022

Luke 4:3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 

Do you ever think about that little word if? It is a word that even though it is very small can cause enormous fallout. When Jesus is tempted by Satan, he uses the if word every time he tries to tempt Jesus. That little word if, casts doubt, it makes you wonder if you are right, self-confidence is lost. We have all experienced that. Jesus is very clear in His rebuttal, it is written, no ifs no buts, it is written or it is said. We also see how Satan even uses words from the Bible to tempt Jesus. That shows us that words out of context are very dangerous and we need to know what the Bible says. If Satan does this type of temptation to Jesus, he is going to do it to us. And we can say, it is written…. We don’t have to know chapter and verse, just know what God said, what Jesus said and speak it out. It is written we must not lie, steal, judge, hurt, get angry, dishonour, abuse strangers, cheat, abuse our bodies…. Remember, when Jesus was tempted, he turned to Scripture to help him resist Satan. You and I should do the same thing. It isn't a sin to be tempted, Jesus himself was tempted. It is only sin if we then do what we are tempted to do even though we know it is wrong.

9th March 2022

Matthew 6:27 Can any one of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?

My husband often tells the same jokes over again, particularly when we move parishes. As I have heard them so many times I don’t really laugh anymore, and as they come round again people might politely smile or nod, but they don’t laugh at the same jokes, they want something new. Let’s turn this on its head. We don’t laugh at the same jokes when they are repeated but we do cry at the same issues, when they are repeated, we get angry at the same problems when they are repeated, we bristle at the same people who have been rubbing us the wrong way for years. What’s the difference? We do like to harp on about things, we do like to have things to worry about and argue about, but actually worrying over the same things just expends energy and changes nothing. Not worrying is hard, we have been doing it all our lives, but we cannot add time or blessing to our lives through worry, actually we may well be shortening our lives through worry. Sometimes we can actively change things but the effort is too much and we do rather like to have something to worry about, to tell people we are struggling with. The message from God is clear, we must commit these things to Him, do what we can to change it and begin to move on from the same old, same old.

8th March 2022

Philippians 4:7 And God's peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will guard your hearts and minds keeping them safe in union with Christ Jesus.

Just one tap in the wrong place and suddenly you can’t find something on the computer, your TV is on some random channel or different operating system, your alarm doesn’t do off, the house alarm does go off when you are there, the washing machine just stops, the lights go out, the hoover blows rather than sucks…… one little tap or finger in the wrong place and chaos happens. This shows us that even the littlest of things that we see as unimportant can actually have a huge effect. Sometime called the butterfly effect, it shows us that even the smallest of actions or words have consequences. That criticism, that not turning up, that missing an appointment, that phone call we didn’t take, that look of anger to a stranger, that laughter at an inappropriate time, that not listening to someone, that being preoccupied when working or driving. So many little things which can have an enormous effect. We are told so many times in the Bible to guard ourselves, our hearts and minds, against these distractions and little things. What might seem small to us can have a catastrophic effect on others as well as ourselves. It is so easy for bad things to happen when we are distracted, when we do not guard ourselves against the things in life sent to trip us up. We need to keep our hearts and minds on and in Jesus where they guarded and protected.

7th March 2022

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

I am going to ask you a rather strange question. In life are you like potatoes, eggs, or coffee beans? I ask because this is all about how we respond to life and its’ problems. If you place each of these in boiling water the reaction is very different. A hard, unyielding potato will become soft and weak in the boiling water. A soft fragile egg with a thin shell will become hard and strong in the boiling water and coffee beans will take the water and create something new, a pleasant cup of coffee. As we face issues in life, we can react in anyone of these ways, we can yield to it and go soft, or we can harden to it and become unyielding, or we can allow it to work on us and change us into something new. It is easy to put up the walls and protect ourselves when things go wrong or to just let it happen, but it is far more beneficial and useful if we can adapt, use the adversity to change us and let us be more creative as we come out the other side. It is the old idea of leaning into those things we struggle with, allow ourselves to be changed and shaped instead of losing ourselves or becoming hard. God created us with the ability to change, to try new things and to adapt to our surroundings.

6th March 2022

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches.

Do you watch The Apprentice? I must admit I have a love, hate relationship with it, but it is easy to get drawn in. I find some of the people very difficult to like, their behaviour is so self-centered, blame is on everyone but them, no willingness to accept when they are wrong and constant arrogance. There is a real sense of self belief which a person has to have to be involved in this programme. They are incessant talkers who state the obvious. When they come up against the real professionals, they really do look silly. The skills they say they have in spades, seem to be very sadly lacking. What I find so sad is that these arrogant selfish attributes are now valued over truth, honesty, respect, humility and compassion in our society. But God is looking for these good attributes in us, He longs for us to work together, to lift each other up, to be truthful, compassionate and encouragers of each other. Why do we lap these programmes up? Do we like to watch others doing what we can’t get away with? We really need more programmes that show the compassion, the humility, the honesty and how that enables people to progress in life without being loud, aggressive show offs.

5th March 2022

Philippians 2: 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death; even death on a cross! 

Much of life is a journey, going from A to B, B to C and so on. Just like with any journey we want to go the fastest route, to get to the end, and we are not always ready to make the necessary preparations. As with physical journeys we can get diverted, road closures, hold ups, we have to turn back on ourselves or change direction. All of this challenges us, but it also helps us develop resilience and prepares us for our goal. Jesus’ preparation for His goal took Him through birth as a human, family life, humility, servanthood, persecution, trial, lies and maltreatment to arrive at the cross and death. This was an incredibly difficult journey and death was not the ultimate goal. Beyond death and the defeat of it was eternal life in Heaven, not just for Jesus but for all His followers. That was the goal. To get to this point took huge amounts of patience, tolerance, respect, compassion and learning; He was taken to the limits of His being in preparation for the cross and in preparation for defeating death. As we prepare for Easter, we have the 6 weeks of Lent, from Shrove Tuesday and giving things up, through Ash Wednesday where we admit our faults and desire to change. We go through tests and trials as well as good days like Mothering Sunday. We arrive at Palm Sunday and experience the celebration and rush of support and on through Holy Week; despair, rejection, loss, betrayal and finally to the cross. It is a journey of pain, of hurt and of learning. It prepares us for the coming season of Easter. A recognition of the defeat of Death and the reality of eternal life in Jesus. Lent offers us the opportunities to give up things that drag us down, to spend more time with God, learning to become better people who are prepared for the changing directions of life. In this journey towards Easter may we desire to learn, to improve and to look towards the goal with God given strength and hope.

4th March 2022

Isaiah 44:21 I, the Lord, made you, and I will not forget you. Always remember, you are not forgotten. Not by God. 

How good are you at forgetting? I find as I get older, I forget a lot of things very quickly. In life many organisations and politicians want us to forget things very quickly. We are constantly being gaslighted into believing that the situation has changed and there is nothing to see here, so move on folks. Research suggests that that for most things we forget in 3 to 6 months. In the current climate our political leaders are really hoping we will forget the illegal parties, the illegal contracts, the huge death toll, the loss of our freedoms and signs are this is already happening. By kicking things into the long grass, always being told to wait for reports that are never released, we begin to forget. If we are okay and have what we need and are comfortable we very quickly forget about those who do not, those who are hungry, homeless, cold, lonely and those who getting richer at the expense of those who are poor and of us. We all have selective memory when it comes to ourselves, God does not. He remembers our selfishness, our disregard of the poor and needy and the plain greed many of us exhibit. We must not forget the wrong doing, the lies and the fraud, we must not forget the disregard for others and we must challenge those who think they can get away with it because God won’t disregard it and neither must we.

3rd March 2022

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes

The way we dress tends to reflect what we going to do or where we are going. We all have smart clothes, casual clothes, clothes for the gym or a run, clothes for the beach, clothes for bad weather….. our attire can often be an indication of our activity. Armour is a covering used to protect a person, animal, vehicle or object from physical injury in a potentially harmful situation such as a battle. Early armour was made from leather, skins, wadding and wooden shields. But the working of metal gave rise to helmets, chain mail and plate metal coverings. The point was to clothe oneself against harm. Today armour comes in the form of Kevlar vests, flak jackets and polycarbonate shields. The point is still effective protection for the body. St Paul used this practical idea to help us understand about protecting ourselves spiritually and mentally as well as physically. As we have seen over the pandemic mental health and wellbeing have suffered. Paul offers us a pointed strategy to protect ourselves by putting on the armour of God. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. These are the tools of protection for our everyday living. Truth, honesty, right living, people of peace and faith who know the promises of God and know His protection and presence with us. In an ideal, perfect world this would not be necessary, but our world is far from perfect so we need all the help and protection we can get. When the slings and arrows of life come at us, when we are shot down with words, lies and broken promises, when we are struck by insults and social media trolling; the armour of God is there to protect us, to allow us to be who we are and give us the courage to keep going and to ask for help when we need it.

2nd March 2022

Luke 17:3b If there is repentance then you must forgive.

I note on many TV shows these days, the words “can you forgive me” are used quite a lot. So often this results in everyone being happy and friends again but the reality is far from this. Forgiving someone takes a huge amount of emotional energy and is usually tied up with feelings of hurt and betrayal. We don’t just get over these. Once trust is lost, we struggle to trust again. Yet the Bible is very clear that we must forgive, even if the offence is repeated. God is so free with His forgiveness to us that we must do the same. But there is always something tied to forgiveness, that is repentance, being sorry, being remorseful and recognising what we have done. Just as we must recognise our sin when we go to God for forgiveness, those who come to us must also be remorseful, recognise their wrong. Being sorry can be mimicked, people can lie about their remorsefulness, but in most cases, we can usually see the genuine reaction and that they are going to try and not do it again if they are truly sorry. God forgives us when we truly repent, we must forgive others and we are able to do this, not in our own strength, but in God’s.

1st March 2022

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to prepare for His ministry. 

The Church year is filled with different festivals and seasons. Today is Shrove Tuesday, or pancake day. Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, will begin the Christian season of Lent. Lent is an old English word meaning 'lengthen', because Lent is observed in the spring, when the days begin to get longer or lengthen. Lent is the period of forty days, not including Sundays, which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar, traditionally a time of fasting and reflection as we journey towards Easter. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, and begins with Ash Wednesday. It commemorates the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert after His baptism. Shrove Tuesday was traditionally the last chance to use up the foods, eggs, milk and fats, Christians would not be eating during Lent. These ingredients with some flour make pancakes. On Ash Wednesday many Christian churches will hold services during which Christians are marked on the forehead with a cross of ashes, which is a sign of repentance. Ash is what is left after a fire consumes everything and is therefore pure. The Ash is often made from burning the Palm crosses from the previous year. Many people give up things like sugar, biscuits, chocolate etc for Lent. But we can also give up other things which help us concentrate more fully on God. Less TV, phone use, social media etc less spending on ourselves and more giving to those in need; with more time to pray and be with God. May Lent be a blessed time for you as you journey towards Easter.

28th February 2022

Luke 17:2 It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around your neck than to cause anyone to stumble and do wrong. 

We all do things we shouldn’t do; it is a fact of life. Sometimes things overtake us and we react and in doing so cause upset or someone else to stray. We are told here that this is one of the worst things we can do, lead someone else into sin or evil. Temptation is something we don’t take seriously these days, instead we use it as a term for something a little naughty and nothing to worry about. In positions of leadership people carry much responsibility and part of that is not causing those they manage or lead to do wrong. Unfortunately, it has become almost a badge of honour to see how much they can now get away with passing the buck to juniors rather than as it should be, the buck stops at the top. We are all responsible for our actions and words and if we lead others astray, we are responsible before God. We will answer for our actions and words not only for ourselves but for those we tempt and encourage to stray from God’s path of truth and honesty.

27th February 2022

Psalm 139:13 For you O Lord, created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I was recently struck by something that seemed incredibly cruel and yet was part of life for centuries. All stillborn babies were not allowed to be buried on consecrated ground because they had not been baptised and therefore were condemned to limbo or hell. No records were kept of these children. Sometime the rules of the church really do shock me. Perhaps they shouldn’t by now, especially as women played no part in establishing those rules and therefore were the ones who suffered the most by them. Because a 5th Century leader, Augustine, declared that the unbaptised could not go to Heaven, with no evidence for this idea, we spent the next 14 centuries believing that even if we had a place in Heaven our unbaptised children did not. It is only in the last 40 years that things have begun to change, that the grief and trauma have been recognised and we are now encouraged to have memories, burials and cremations. Sadly, a great deal of what leaders in the past and even now do, is to rule by fear. To make people obey by fearing for their family, their future and their eternity. This is not what Jesus does, it is not what God does, but it is what men particularly have rewritten and interpreted for their own ends to make the rest of us submissive. God’s rules are about love, compassion, fairness and justice. No one is to be left in pain or grief, to be treated improperly because of their gender, to be brutally ridiculed for medical conditions or disabilities. Personally, I have had enough of bullies and those who rule by fear and particularly those who say God behaves like that. They are liars and fraudsters, cruel and unfeeling, they do not represent God. The truth is that God loves, God’s love is unconditional and everlasting, God’s love does not depend on our behaviour but on our accepting Him as our saviour and friend. I am secure in the knowledge that there are no babies in limbo or hell, but all are safely with God in Heaven.

26th February 2022

James 4:10 Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He shall lift you up. 

Did you know there was a humility day? There seems to be a day for everything now. In both Greek and Roman times humility was considered a weakness, something for children and slaves. For Greeks and Romans, it was important to show off, to shout about their achievements and power. This arrogance is something recent world leaders have adopted, not admitting when they are wrong, not correcting their faults or wrongdoing, not listening to advisors, totally fixated on themselves and their power, deliberately misleading by declaring and repeating something good to deflect from the wrong doing and arrogance. No humility! The change came in Roman times with a man allowing Himself to become vulnerable and humble, He preached love, compassion, peace and equality for all. It took Him to the cross because it challenged the status quo. His humility challenged us to be humble, to show humility and to recognise the need and equality of all. Being humble is the biggest strength we can have. Only in humility are we willing to listen to others and formulate plans in the interests of all, not just for ourselves or those with power and wealth. Many of our leaders and public servants seem to have forgotten that with great power and wealth comes great responsibility. 

25th February 2022

Luke 10:40a But Martha was distracted from Jesus with other things

When the boys were younger, we lived fairly near a small group of shops, including the paper shop as it was known, it had sweets and comics! We would often walk to the shop and it could be quite a time-consuming trip because young children have a wonderful fascination for the world. We would stop and examine every interesting stone, little flowers, moss, something someone had dropped, a shiny wrapper that would catch attention. It could be only a couple of steps before the next thing caught their attention. That is until they saw a friend, then all attention would be taken, little voices shouted out names and little legs would run as fast as possible to get to their friend. It was a joyous moment and the excitement was palpable. Our life is often like this, we journey along distracted by the things around us, we find something to take our attention, then something else and every shiny thing takes our attention away from what we are supposed to be doing and where we are going. At some point, when we are vaguely on track, the voice of God breaks through, calling our name, excited and so wanting to see us and be with us, and when we hear and see we at last have our attention fully focused on Him and we run and we shout out and the excitement is palpable. God is always waiting, always ready but we are so distracted, we allow so much to crowd our mind and stop us from being with Him. He is always waiting; we need to be less distracted and more focused on Him.

24th February 2022

Hebrews 6:1a Therefore let us leave the simple doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity in faith.

However much I try I always struggle with anything new on the computer. When they change the layout, add something, display something differently it can take me ages to grasp it and sometimes I never really do. I often end up do things one by one even though I can apparently move things in much bigger amounts, and yet I cannot seem to find the way and no one is able to spend the time showing me how. It is an issue I had with my parents and videos then CD’s and any new phones. As we grow older, we take so much longer to process and understand information. We cannot start doing things quickly and we need help in our understanding. That help needs to be patiently given and more often than not be repeated. I will often write down processes in order so I can do them and then keep them nearby. Within faith much the same applies. We never stop learning or experiencing God and often the things we hear, see or experience will take along time to sink in, to become part of normal everyday happenings that do not need to be such a huge task for our brains. Learning and trusting God’s unconditional love for us takes along time, it is affected by our relationships with imperfect humans whose treatment of us affects how we see ourselves and how God sees us. I often write down key verses or find little cards or pictures which remind of that love and put them where I will see them regularly, reminding me just how much I am loved. If it helps, why don’t you do the same or whatever helps you to learn, grow and deepen your faith.

23rd February 2022

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?

I am someone who likes to give, I will happily give gifts, buy things for people but I am not good at letting others buy gifts for me. My son’s will sometimes appear with a small gift for me, something they have seen that they know I will like. When they do that, I am really touched, it means an awful lot that they firstly know what I like but also that they have thought of me and taken time to buy something for me. Knowing that others think of us is something so special to us. To know that people love us, care for us enough to appreciate what we like and to want to give to us is fantastic for our self-esteem and our self-respect. Being treasured by others is just wonderful. Being treasured by God is simply an amazing and true fact. God thinks so highly of us that He knows all about us, our foibles, our mistakes, our brilliance and our failure and yet He loves us completely and utterly. He gives to us every day, offers us love, care, protection and blessing. God knows what we need and gives it to us. Sadly, humans are very good at turning away things that are good for them by being obstinate, by refusing to see what is right in front of them. Yet God wants to give, to keep giving to us and so it is up to us to choose to accept those gifts and not turn them away.

22nd February 2022

James 2:23 And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” and he was called a friend of God.

I have often been told that a true friend knows all about you and still loves you. We all have friends of some sort or another, some of us are blessed with a best friends, old friends and family who are also friends. Many married couples speak of their spouse as their best friend. With friends we talk, chat, confide, often sharing our deepest thoughts and ideas as well as our fears and worries. We do that because friends listen, don’t judge and offer advice and support. St. Teresa of Avila, a Spanish, Carmelite Nun spoke about prayer as an intimate sharing between friends. Just as we would spend time with a friend, sharing things, so we share everything with God through prayer. We are able to speak to Him about all our needs, difficulties, worries and challenges. We can share our successes and triumphs, we ask can ask for advice and seek guidance; we can share our hurt and grief, our anger and hurt; all with our intimate friend and Lord, all with the one who loves us unconditionally, God. God does know all about us, all the things we try to hide from everyone, God knows, and God still loves us. He is our deepest, longest and most true friend, our Lord and saviour because He loves us, unconditionally.

21st February 2022

Luke 6:24 But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made. What you have is all you’ll ever get. ( From The Message Bible) 

How self-opinionated are you? Do you think you are pretty good, done okay for yourself, would like more but deserve your successes? Jesus, calls us out of our complacency and away from the safety and security of our successes and says that the reign of God, here and now, is about more than just our own accomplishments. In fact, these very accomplishments might just be our undoing. There’s trouble ahead when we live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests. Our task is to be true, not popular. God does not take kindly to half-heartedness. We are not called to maintain the status quo, or protect institutions and empires built by humans. Our well off, full, comfortable lives are not bringing God in to the world but rather pushing Him away as unnecessary. We are challenged to look at our lives and our world with new eyes. To clarify our values and examine what are the things in life that we will take a stand for in relation to faithful living. We are challenged to change our relationships and reverse the social, economic, and political injustices that surround us so that we might live the best we can in the Kingdom of God here and now.

20th February 2022

Mark 4:39 Jesus awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

I wonder if Storm Eunice from last Friday will have a place in our history like the hurricane that wasn’t going to happen in 1987. I remember that weather forecast, the night that followed, the very dangerous trip to school the next day and the state of the school after several of the roof skylights had been ripped off. My parent’s garden was never the same, we lost all three trees and were fortunate none of them came down on the house. Because these events are quite rare when they happen, they are newsworthy and become part of the collective memory. Villages and towns round the country remember their floods, the power cuts and damage to possessions and property. Of course we remember, these events get into our memory because they are powerful, they cause damage and hurt those things we value. We tend to remember the bad things in life because they leave scars on us. We often find scars unattractive and we cover them and can be embarrassed by them and yet scars tell a story, the speak of our survival, of our ability to get through the worst and still be standing and living. Jesus scars are the wounds of love, they came from His willingness to die for us, to bear the worst punishment humans could devise so we could have life, life that is full but can also have difficulties and problems. We may collect scars both physical and mental during our life, but these scars are marks of victory, of survival and they make us who we are, God’s chosen and loved children. 

19th February 2022

Luke 6:20 Looking at his disciples, he said: Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.

In all performance management, line managers are trained, not always well, to give a positive first and then a negative, they are supposed to balance the good and the bad. These are the “roses and thorns,” which remind us that within any day, any life, there is beauty and blessing as well as prickly thorns that might take us by surprise. We are told in Luke that our blessings are the poor, the hungry, the weeping and those who are excluded and persecuted, because blessing here is about our relationship with our creator. To be “blessed,” means living in the presence of God, not necessarily being free from struggle, but to live as God’s Kingdom demands us to. Jesus is on our level, telling us the truth of our lives, and confronting us with our responsibility to be a part of God’s kingdom with how we respond to what is happening around us and in the world. God calls us to be a part of the kingdom that Christ modelled. Jesus who attended to the very real needs of the poor and suffering. Jesus who acted with love and compassion in a powerful ministry of presence and healing, and who calls his disciples and us to do the same. We can reach out to those who are hungry. We can offer comfort to those who weep, we can stand up for the abused and downtrodden if we choose to.

18th February 2022

Deuteronomy 5: 12 Observe the Sabbath keeping it holy, resting, as the LORD your God has commanded you.

Half Terms are always really welcome in schools. Staff are usually tired and beginning to run out of steam so a few days break is exactly what they need. I am always aware of some who do not take their break, who use the time to catch up on work, or start new work and really do not get a recharge to their physical or mental needs. I get really cross when I hear government and media say teachers have long holidays and short days, it is completely untrue. Most teachers work very long days, over the weekend and come in during holiday times as well as preparing for the new term. Most teachers work a good 75 hours a week, some even more. Preparation, marking, planning alongside actual classroom teaching. I am concerned about the push for longer days and shorter holidays for pupils and teachers who already need the modest amount of time they actually take off. God is a massive fan of work life balance, of people taking time for themselves and looking after their mental health and wellbeing as well as their physical health. God did not design us to be consistently working, no breaks, no time off. As soon as we live like that, we become ill, drained and very tired. No one should criticise others about their workload, especially when they work a lot less for a lot more money and see themselves as superior. There are so many people who work so hard, we should be appreciating them, encouraging them and thanking them just as God does.

17th February 2022

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

A family member is a real jigsaw fan. As soon as they receive one, it is opened and completed as soon as possible. At Christmas one of their presents was a jigsaw, received with great excitement and completed before lunch; except that they could not finish it as there were three pieces missing, all blue sky. This particular jigsaw company gives a helpline you can ring and report any problems. Very quickly after Christmas a whole new bag of pieces arrived. So, the choice was, sort through and find the pieces needed to complete the first one or start again from scratch. An interesting choice. Do we fill in the gaps once we find the pieces or do we start again? The Christian faith is about starting again, realising that we cannot just look for, find and fill in the missing pieces, especially as our lives are so disorganised and damaged, but that we need to start afresh, make a complete change or turn around and begin again to construct a better life. The old word for this is repentance, turning around and starting again. Needless to say, our family member decided to do the whole thing again, from scratch, because they love jigsaw puzzles. Because we love God we need to start afresh, to rebuild and work towards a complete life built around and with God.

16th February 2022

Joshua 1:8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. 

From an early age we learn to read, we absorb and take on board huge amounts of information and hopefully retain huge amounts of it. As we grow and go to school, we learn more, study subjects and eventually are tested to see how much we have learned and retained. We learn to read around subjects, do research and projects. We study some things in more depth as we look to our future and careers, we begin to become experienced and even sometimes experts in our field. We learn through both study and experience, so it is not surprising that to learn about faith, about God and Jesus, we need to study and experience the Bible and faith. We can use study notes, be part of church groups, use reading plans, look on the internet. We have sermons and teaching and so can tap into many things which improve our knowledge and interaction with the Bible and with our faith. It is far too easy to become a Christian then never look at Bible and Church history, or our Church and faith background and as such never really understand what and why we believe. We are called to study the scriptures, to keep them on our lips, to meditate on them and to learn about our faith and traditions. It is only then that we can grow as Christians and understand how we should live and serve God; what it is we believe and be able to share that faith and belief with others.

15th February 2022

Luke 5:30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 

Human beings love to criticise; look at them, we say, look what that person is doing or saying, can you believe that? And so it goes on. By criticising others, we make ourselves feel better, it gives us a sense of superiority whether we deserve it or not. In picking out the faults of others and exposing them we deflect attention away from ourselves and onto others. We misdirect people “nothing to see here… look over there”. This is a huge tactic of the present government, redirect attention away from their faults and mistakes by comments, actions and general underhand misbehaviour. This type of criticism and underhand tactics happened to Jesus. He was constantly criticised for being with unholy people, strict, pious religious leaders constantly referred to how He behaved, who he mixed with, what His disciples did and spoke. These pious religious leaders were desperately trying to misdirect people away from their dishonest practices and powerful status towards Jesus. Jesus simply points out that only the sick need a doctor. Every one of us needs help, needs Jesus and Jesus came for everyone, but many never accept that, or recognise their need of Him. Instead, they rely on their status, religiosity, piety and reputation and would rather point the finger at others, at Jesus or God than look at themselves honestly and accept their need of Him. We all need to recognise our need of Jesus and be honest to ourselves and others without pointing the finger.

14th February 2022

Luke 5:10b Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 

Do you have any special hobbies or talents you like to participate in? Do you play sports, or cook or sew, or have a group that you’re a part of? What would you do if someone told you that you had to give up that thing you really enjoy doing? You would be sad, right? But what if they told you that by letting go of that one hobby you love, you would be able to do something amazing? Something that will change people and change history. It might be hard to imagine what could be better than your favourite thing, but following Jesus is even better. Jesus was gathering His group of friends, His disciples. Some of the disciples Jesus chose were fishermen. Jesus came and found them working, and He told them to follow Him. He told them He would make them fish for people! They didn’t ask Jesus to wait for a three-week notice period, they didn’t even question what Jesus meant about fishing for people. These fishermen were so inspired they left their fishing gear and their careers, and went with Jesus immediately. We need to put Jesus in the top spot of our lives. We might need to be willing to let go of some things, so that we can serve Him wholeheartedly. And as the disciples found out, it is completely worth it! 

13th February 2022

Luke 2:22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 

People still bring their children to our churches for Christening or Baptism. Jesus was also part of a similar event at the Temple. Forty days after Jesus’ birth, He was presented in the Temple as was the law of His religion, Judaism. This event was a time of comings and goings. Mary and Joseph came to bring their son, Jesus came into the world to save us; but elderly Simeon finally had permission to go because; in his past the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would see the Lord’s Messiah before he died. On this day Simeon was aware of the Holy Spirit nudging him to go to the temple and when he saw Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus, he knew that this was the moment he had been waiting for all these years. This is how the Holy Spirit works, nudging us, leading us, directing us if we are willing to listen, to see, to recognise. Here is a strange and holy meeting of a young couple come to fulfil their religious duty and an old man who is something of a mystic as well as an old lady who lives in the temple. All of them belong in this one story. That is the gift of buildings like the temple, like our Cathedrals, like our Churches; they are big enough and prayed-in enough for there to be room for all who come, for whatever reason, and they can and do bring together the most unlikely people in God’s story. We are part of this story. 

12th February 2022

Ephesians 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 

In recent years we have finally acknowledged that as human beings we have struggles and we sometimes need help with our mental health and wellbeing. The still upper lip approach has succeeded in damaging millions who needed to be heard and offered help. Humans have the ability to communicate, we have speech and hearing as well as touch. Sometimes we need to talk, to offload, sometimes we need to listen and sometimes we need to have our hand held or to hold another’s hand. In all cases we need to be humble, gentle, patient and bearing with one another in love. We stand together to be strong, in support and in hope. When someone needs to talk, they need to know they are safe, respected, cared for and are going to be accepted without judgement and with compassion and empathy. When we listen, we need to be patient, caring, empathetic and compassionate, treating the other as we would like to be treated. All of us need to remember that everyone has struggles and need’s help sometimes, that will make seeking help a little easier. If we are self-aware of the need for help, we can also offer help and signpost others to that help. As God’s children we are encouraged and expected by God to look after ourselves and each other. Never be worried or frightened to ask for help because we all need help sometimes.

11th February 2022

Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. 

A good marker for anything in life is how we feel if someone does something to us or those we love. Think about how you feel when someone is rude to you or your family and friends; or when someone lies to you, hurts you or your loved ones, disrespects you, takes something that belongs to you, cheats you…. That feeling that reaction we have, is exactly how the other person feels if we do those things to them. The more we do or say anything, the easier that behaviour becomes. If we are unkind, disrespectful, if we lie or cheat, the more we do it, the easier it becomes. We damage our moral compass. The more good we do, the better we treat others, the more honest we are, the easier it is to become like that all the time. Jesus reminds us that those we care for and who care for us, will want what is best for us and do right by us, we in turn, should always do the best for them, for others. We make a choice to be selfish, arrogant, rude, unpleasant, hurtful or we choose to be kind, helpful, encouraging, and caring. Quite simply we do or say to others what we would be happy to have done or said to us. We must allow ourselves to be dragged down into unfairness, anger and hurt but rather be lifted up to kindness, be people of honesty and integrity, encourage and strengthen just as we would like for ourselves. It is simple courtesy, simple good manners, simple honest and good living and it is how Christians should behave and we hope and pray that everyone would behave this way and make life better for all.

10th February 2022

Psalm 32:8 The Lord says, I will teach you and make you wise and show you where to go. I will guide you and watch over you. 

In recent years there has been an educational leaning towards mastery. The problem being, as is common with educational policy, that no one could really define exactly what this was. It has gone out of fashion as quickly as it came in. If you look at a definition for mastery it talks of being proficient, of knowing something so well that you can apply it correctly and accurately to everything. You are, in effect, an expert. One thing to remember about an expert, they do not know everything, no one can. We are encouraged as Christians to become proficient in our faith, to learn and know it well so that we can apply it correctly. As we pass on the faith and the Word, we encourage, teach, engage in study and prayer and in doing so we become more proficient. A word of warning, there are many Christians who really do believe they are experts, that they know it all and that they are never wrong. We are warned about these people in the Bible. Anyone who believes they know it all is dangerous. The Christian faith can never be mastered by us because we are human and therefore fallible, but we can learn, grow, and become more proficient as we pray, read the Bible, study together and listen to teaching and preaching. We all start learning the basics, then we grow and learn more and become better and wiser people of faith.

9th February 2022

Luke 5:11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. 

Do you like to know what is going to happen, to make plans, to set things in place for the future? The disciples called by Jesus didn’t know every detail of what life in future would look like. They didn’t know this teacher was going to die in a few years, or that almost every one of them would die for their faith in Him. But they knew that following Jesus was the most important thing that they could do. They were willing to take the risk, to set aside their other priorities, and to spend time with the Jesus while they could. They knew it was better and more meaningful than anything else they would do. Life with Jesus is better than anything else we can do or even imagine. Following Him isn’t always easy, but it brings us true love, joy, peace and eternal life. Jesus promises to be with us and to provide for us. He uses us to share His love and good news. Sometimes we might need to make sacrifices. If our job wants us to do something that goes against God’s rules or hurts our family, we might have to challenge this or even change job. If something in our life is taking up so much time and attention that it takes the place of prayer and worship, it might be time to set that aside. Sometimes our priorities need to change, just as they did for the disciples. So, let me encourage you to trust Him. Trust in His word, and be ready to serve Him, whatever the future may hold, whatever it might take, because I promise you it is worth it!  

8th February 2022

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 

The winter Olympics is currently taking place, I love to watch the incredible skill and ability needed to propel oneself at 75 miles an hour down a bobsleigh track, or ski with twists and turns at high speed, doing incredible aerial tricks on snowboards, it is just breath taking. These people have spent years, often had accidents and falls and yet they compete with such grace and ability. They are hurtling down a track, in ski jumping without any hand control, toward a huge ramp which propels them into the air, and yet they are in control, they have incredible ability and self-control as well as endless training and practice. Life can sometimes seem like we are hurtling towards a ramp that will propel us into the air and we do not know where we will land or if we will land safely. Life is full of the bumps and turns that are not easy to navigate and yet we can cope. We too, have ability, self-confidence, training, grace, all given to us by God and even more, we have God upholding us, we will land safely, not always where we wanted, but God will keep hold of us, strengthen us, keep us in the right way. It is a bit like that steadying hand on the bike when we learn to ride that is ready to keep us upright, that hand ready to grab the toddler as they learn to walk, scooping them up before they fall. God is right there upholding us with His hand.

7th February 2022

Exodus 19;17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 

Where do you meet with God? At home, in the park, the garden, in church; it could be anywhere. Churches, Cathedrals, temples can often be a place of encounter with God; sometimes this can be one to one, sometimes it can be mediated through meeting with other people. Our sacred buildings offer a safe space to genuinely listen to people’s stories. To say your story is my story, my story is your story, and to respond in the most appropriate way. Can I encourage you to think about how you can help to sustain our sacred spaces as a place of encounter with God? When you come into church, do you enter expecting the unexpected? As you look around, do you expect that maybe the people there could be a means of God’s blessing for you by their care, compassion and ministry to you? What can you do to help keep churches open as a place of encounter with God? How can we be God to our visitors? In these places we will tell the Christian story, the good news, so that everyone who come to us might find the Christian faith and have an encounter with God. We can also consciously ask God to meet us where we are and see how God leads us to help ourselves and others.

6th February 2022

Exodus 27:20 Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. 

As a child I was afraid of the dark, I don’t really know why, but I needed to have light when I went to sleep. For this reason, while I was a child, we kept the landing light on. As I grew up this was turned off and I had to learn to cope. Once I lived on my own and then had a family, I have always kept a light on at night, it brings comfort, security, and safety. One of things I love about our churches and Cathedrals are the everlasting lights which shine. Usually, a seven-day candle or sometimes in another form. It shines as a reminder and sign of God’s constant presence. If I arrive in church on a cold dark morning or evening, there is always this light, shining in the sanctuary, over where we keep the reserved bread and wine. In Judaism this light is called Ner Tamid or eternal light or flame. We tend to call it a Sanctuary Lamp or light. Moses was commanded to keep the lamps burning at Ark of the Covenant and to continue this practice as a sign that God was there, constantly. It is no accident that the presence of God is marked by light, Jesus is the light of the world, light brings security, comfort, and safety and that is exactly what God gives to us. We don’t need a symbol to tell us God is present with us always, but especially in the dark times it is good for us to be reminded.

5th February 2022

John 16:13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 

When we visit a church or the Cathedral who do we expect to see there? Often there are helpers, guides or staff who can show us things or guide us round the wonders of the building. In the Temple Jesus was brought to as a baby, there were others there. Anna was an elderly widow, someone who found a home in a sacred space after she was widowed as a young woman. The temple is where she belongs, where she has found a home. Her life was one of prayer and seeking God’s way. She was aware of God’s Spirit and allowed herself to be nudged by the Spirit. As she is led, she finds the baby in the arms of a spiritual man who is blessing His parents, and at once she knows this ordinary looking baby is actually someone very special. We too can be led by and nudged by the Spirit into special situations where we can be God’s representatives, offering support, encouragement and wisdom. Where we can see God at work and be witnesses to His mission. Like anyone in God’s story we need to be aware of God working, of His Spirit moving and leading us wherever we are.

4th February 2022

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.

Each Sunday we celebrate Communion, also called the Eucharist or Mass. We take the bread and wine as symbols of Jesus broken body and shed blood. This meal is a remembrance of the last supper shared with His disciples and given to us as a symbol and a remembrance. We symbolically eat and drink together as family. This communion meal is a microcosm of our faith and belief. In this one small meal we hold all that God did from the beginning and all that He did in the sending of Jesus for us. It encapsulates all God’s love and Jesus’ teaching and life; as we eat and drink together, we are one, we are equal in dignity, we all eat of the same divine food, and Jesus still and always “eats with sinners.” Jesus ate the last meal with one who was going to betray Him, one who was going to deny Him and others who would run away in fear but He still ate with them and He still loved them and He still went to the cross for them and us. Our table is a table of welcome, welcome to all who want to come, no one is denied because we are all sinners and Jesus is there for every one of us. We have no right to judge another, to deny another because Jesus does not deny us. 

3rd February 2022

1 John 4:16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

We speak a lot about love in Christianity but we are not always good at it. The teaching we receive about love speaks of God as love and as much as we speak of loving God, I would suggest that we need to learn to let God love us. Karl Rahner, a Jesuit priest and theologian, speaks of the entire history of the universe being the history of the outpouring of God’s love. We are reminded that grace is God giving Himself to us in love. God created the world, the universe and us in order to give Himself away to us in love. All that we and creation has ever been invited to do is accept this gift of love, not to earn it, buy it or beg for it, but just accept it. Regrettably, in our human interaction, we have forgotten that we only need to receive it. Being loved, accepting that love disarms us, brushes away our ego, breaks down our defences, and then opens us not only to God, but to ourselves. Of course, when we have to face ourselves, we are at our most uncomfortable. God is shouting and whispering, “I love you, just let me love you.” All that God asks of us is to receive His love. That is our role, our goal in life which allows us to live life to the full in God’s love. 

2nd February 2022

2 Peter 1:19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 

I have, over the years, been involved in some productions, I have also had drama groups associated with church and who use the church halls for rehearsing and shows. We have lighting around the halls, especially for productions. One of those lights is a spotlight. This powerful and direct light is used to shine on a specific place and person. They become the centre of attention, of action and the spotlight makes sure we know it and give our attention to it. At this moment the person is under direct scrutiny, if they misspeak or mess up then everyone will know. It is also the case that as they move the spotlight will follow them, to keep them in the prime place. For that time, they cannot escape the light that is upon them, exposing all their actions, words and behaviours. We are all followed by our actions and behaviours, we are all under scrutiny and social media has meant that people doing ordinary things can become objects of attention because of their actions, language, dress and mistakes. The spotlight of media attention can mean we are exposed to cruelty and vitriol as well as popularity. Our lives have always been under God’s spotlight. We have always been and will always be the centre of His attention. The difference is that God knows we will mess up, make mistakes, stumble, fall, say things we regret but He still loves us unconditionally. He still asks us to do things for Him even when we have failed before. God never gives up on us, He knows all about us and still loves us completely and utterly.

1st February 2022

Luke 4:43 But Jesus said, "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns and people, because that is why I was sent." 

We all have our comfort zones, where we feel safe, appreciated, loved and secure. Jesus had places where they did appreciate Him and respected Him, but He had a calling, to tell everyone He could about the gospel. This meant going to places he was not welcome or respected, going where He was not safe but going in God’s strength. We like our comfort zones, we want to be safe and secure but we too have to step out of them. We, too, have a calling, we are asked to go where we are needed, where we will do good, where we can help. That may for some mean moving away, abroad, doing new things, training, working in different fields, or it might mean just stepping into a new role in church, in work, in life. It may mean the courage to make a call to someone who God has laid on your heart, it might mean prayers for those we struggle with, it may mean doing things differently, Whatever it means for us we are promised God’s strength and support. We never go anywhere alone and even if those we go to do not appreciate us, are disrespectful or even hurtful, we are still called to go and we are given all that we need to do God’s work. If we need our ultimate comfort zone, our truest safe place then that is in God, through Jesus who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

31st January 2022

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

We have heard a great deal about levelling up in the last few years. The promise that areas of poverty will be given more, that poorer people will be helped more and treated more fairly, that those at the top will do what they can to help those struggling….. we are not seeing it yet that’s for sure, just a lot of empty rhetoric and empty unfulfilled promises. Within our society we have those who see themselves as superior to others by their birth, education, job, wealth, status etc. There are those who like to be the centre of attention and hold court, you find this at parties and dinner parties. There are certain foods which I believe should be served at parties but which some avoid because of how they are eaten and the mess they can cause. Great levelling foods are spaghetti bolognaise, noodles, doughnuts, meringue, ribs and unpeeled prawns or shrimp; anything that is difficult to eat without making a mess. As soon as mess happens to everyone it breaks the ice. Messy food is a great leveller and once people are levelled then discussion and decision is much fairer and more honest. If the boss has sauce on their lapel, they cannot criticise you for have crumbs down your front. No one is better than any other. This is just as it should be, all equal, no one should lord it over anyone else or force their opinion by rank or privilege. True democracy is honest, levelled opinion and discussion which takes into account everyone and their needs, where all opinions matter and honest true consensus found. 

30th January 2022

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, His beauty, created in His image and through Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We have quite an obsession with physical attributes and beauty, we have defined who fits into these characteristics and who does not. Often those who are not of the correct size or height, who do not wear certain clothes or enhancing products are condemned, often bullied and looked down upon. I was reminded that God does not see us in this way, in God we were all created beautiful, wonderful, with a combination of gifts and talents that only we have. I tried to bring my sons up in positivity, reminding them of how wonderful they are, reminding them about their kindness and compassion, encouraging them to see themselves and others through different eyes than the world sees. As we look at those we love, those we know, how do we see them? Do we see their kindness, their compassion and empathy, their strong values, their honesty etc and do we tell them? Or do we see their looks, their hair cut, their clothes, their job and judge them by these things. God looks at each of us with total joy and absolute love. He looks at our heart, who we truly are, who He created us to be. He created us to be beautiful, complete, wonderful, and caring and even though we mess up sometimes that does not change. We are seen through the creators’ eyes, through Jesus’ love, and we are beautiful. May we not only begin to see ourselves as God sees us but also begin to see others in that way and show them the appreciation and love that God shows us.

29th January 2022

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s good, pleasing and perfect will is.

Life is constantly changing, the recent pandemic has meant we have had to find new ways of doing things, new ways of meeting, working, being family, teaching, doing church, playing games, exercising, visiting, giving birth, having treatment…… the list is endless. As humans we are not fond of change. We like things to remain the same as it provides security, familiarity, and routine. For some change is a good thing and there are things we are now doing which have improved our quality of life, as well as things which we now know we must do better in our society. We have also witnessed where we are failing, where we have not learned lessons and have actually made life worse for some. Change is necessary but not mandatory. I like that old saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If things work well and are doing a good job then we need not rush to change them, but where there is need, where things clearly are not working, then change is necessary and must happen. Sadly, especially where the status quo is concerned there are those whose vested interest is not served by change and therefore they will obstruct as much as possible with lies, diversions and supposed enquiries. If, as God intended, we were always looking out for the common good of all then we would never stand in the way of change if it meant a better life for everyone. Unfortunately, once people have influence, wealth, power, the good of all quickly becomes the good of themselves and their circle. We may not be able to institute huge change, but we can be catalysts for change, we can be God’s hands, feet and mouths in this world. We can stand up for the good of all and make our voices count. We can write letters and emails, be positive forces on social media and live our lives for the common good, setting an example of God’s intended life of fairness and justice for all.

28th January 2022

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Last year the school suffered a cyber-attack. It is much more common than people think. We discovered several more schools in our area, as well as hospitals, businesses and councils who had all been targeted. The attack meant we lost everything, all lesson plans, work, projects, photos, letters, the compilation of years of work and school life was wiped out. The recommendation was not to pay the ransom as in cases where it had been paid nothing was restored and in fact systems were then completely useless because of the traces left. This attack was orchestrated in other parts of the world and is being dealt with by task forces from many different countries. Once the attack was discovered everything was closed down, machines wiped, nothing could be saved. We had to begin again, from scratch, rebuilding our plans, structures, policies, lessons, calendars, strategies……. Things that were in place for the new term had to be done all over again and the summer break, so needed by weary worn staff during the pandemic was spent, not recuperating, and resting, but rebuilding and rewriting everything. This process will go on every term of this school year as we discover more that needs to be done. We were all really upset, and I know I cried a few times. It was only when I spoke to someone in the autumn that they reminded me that we needed to grieve what had happened. Things we had created, given much of our lives to, had been stolen from us. We were hurt, violated, cheated and we had suffered great loss. We tend to only think of grief when we lose people, but there is also grief when parts of our lives are taken, when that which we have worked for is taken from us. Anything we lose or is taken from us has to be acknowledged and grieved for so we can begin to rebuild. We don’t get over these difficulties and loses but we adapt to them, we learn to live with them, and we begin to rebuild as we are able to acknowledge our loss.

27th January 2022

Galatians 6:9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 

Do you get frustrated when things that are supposed to happen, don’t? I sometimes catch these consumer programmes where experts tell you that legally a company must do this or do that and yet nothing is done and these people have no way of actually dealing with the law breakers. Even these so-called experts don’t seem able to force large companies or powerful people to obey the law. I find this frustrating and very annoying; if the law says, then why it is not being followed and enforced? Why can some people, get away with everything when ordinary folks like us would be found out and punished? The law may be on our side, officially, and yet we don’t seem to be properly protected. I believe in justice, fairness for all, as God requires of us, and yet so many with power, money, high positions and status seem to do what they like with no consequences. At times all we can do is pray and even that can seem to be ineffective. Yet God is quite clear that He will and is doing something. Patience is not a strong point for many of us but we need to cling to and trust that God will and is changing things, in the right time and the right way. Faith is the risk we have to take as we trust God to do what is right.

26th January 2022

1 Corinthians 6:12a We think we have the right to do anything and have everything, but not everything is beneficial for us. 

A recent big family birthday tea had a huge, very chocolatey cake at the centre. It had been chosen and asked for. Everything was chocolate, including several favourite chocolate bars and sweets adorning the outside. In all honesty when I had a piece it was actually too much. It looked fantastic, it was a brilliant design and make but it was just too much chocolate when we came to eat it, well for the older ones amongst us. I had to eat round a great deal of the chocolate cream and icing layers as well as huge pom poms of chocolate icing. Life can be like this, we long for things, thinking they will be wonderful, everything we want and desire and then when it comes our way it is all just too much. Too much attention, too much power, too many decisions, too much responsibility, too much sweetness which in the end clags us up, causes us issues with our digestion, slows us up and is too much indulgence which we try to work round. Remember those old sayings “too much of a good thing” and “it’s too good to be true”. Sometimes we just want too much and we cannot see the consequences of our desire. God has never promised us everything we desire or want; He has promised everything that we need. He knows that too much is bad for us and that we need things over time, as we can cope with them so we are not overwhelmed. We can rely on God to not give us too much, too soon, but all that we need as and when we need it.

25th January 2022

Galatians 6:1&2 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught out, we should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfil the law of Christ. 

How do you decide on a best or close friend? We often hear the term “friend for life” these days, but what does that entail? Being a real friend is something deep, something special. It is a bond that continues no matter what. One of the problems with us as humans is that we make mistakes, we get angry and annoyed, we misread a situation, we make bad decisions so do we then abandon a friend because of an argument, a petty squabble, a misunderstanding or a difference of opinion? A true friend, they say, knows all about you and still loves you. Jesus is a prime example of this. When Peter denies Him Jesus not only forgives him but calls him to a senior role in the early church. When James and John seek the top jobs, Jesus reminds them about honesty, friendship and servanthood, continuing to bless them. Jesus does not shun the tax collector, his betrayer, those who turn away in fear. Jesus loved each one for who they were, He stuck with them, and they stuck with each other even at the bleakest of times. Our job is to stick with family and friends, to hang on it there come hell or high water, to persevere through the bad as well as the good. Family and friends will say and do things that hurt us, and we will say and do things that will hurt them. We must weigh up what is more important, People or things and events. It is to easy to hold grudges, to become bitter and angry over little things and in doing so lose the love and support of those who are important to us. People matter, lives matter, relationships matter. We all have faults, and we all need forgiveness and we all need friends and family more than anything else. May we stick with each other and carry one another’s burdens.

24th January 2022

1 Peter 3: 16 Have a good, clear conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame. 

At some point in life, we all get falsely accused of something. From the child accused of stealing another’s pencil or ruler, to the adult accused of breaking a confidence, to those accused of crimes they did not commit. The outcome of false accusations or blaming others is a loss of trust. No matter that the accusation is false, it places doubt in the mind of others about our integrity. We all let things slip sometimes, we all tend to blame others if we think they had a reason but often we do not check our facts, we do not look from their side, we do not allow ourselves to walk in the shoes of others. If we do lie, cheat, break confidence etc then yes, we deserve to be challenged and exposed for what we are but when those accusations are false and unjustified, we become embarrassed, even haunted and begin to doubt ourselves and our own integrity. Of all the false accusations ever brought Jesus’ ones were the most dishonest and untrue. The man who healed, spoke only the truth, challenged the dishonesty and lies of leaders had to brought down. Those with so much to lose, their status, power, wealth and authority, they could not allow this honest and truthful man to continue and so His downfall was plotted, lies, fraud, false testimony was given in order to destroy His legitimacy. Not only was He false accused but ultimately, He was killed to try and keep Him down. Those with a lot to lose, will always suppress the truth when it damages them. We must never compromise the truth, never allow others to be falsely accused and always stand for truth, justice and mercy. In God we stand vindicated and we stand in truth.  

23rd January 2022

2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.

Real fear is an emotion most of us never really experience. When I read and hear stories of those so desperate that thy risk their lives and their families to escape persecution and imprisonment, I realise that we will never know that kind of fear. We live in a democracy, increasingly being attacked, but we are still free to believe as we wish, we are protected by laws and characteristics and yet on a daily basis people are harassed, ridiculed even physically harmed because of their life choices, the colour of their skin, their religion, their upbringing, their income or lack of it. Whether we agree with someone or not we should always defend their right to their ideals and choices, and we must stand against any persecution, any harm that others may wish to inflict on them. The minute we walk by and ignore maltreatment and persecution then we become complicit in it, we are saying it is acceptable when our very faith says it is not. Being protected from harm, from evil is a basic human value and right. It is in our rule of law and in our faith. We are called upon to promote mutual respect and mutual flourishing. In Jesus time and all through history there have been wicked people who would seek to harm others for their own selfish pleasure and gain. Around us right now are those who seek to exploit, to damage and harm others for their own personal profit and desire. As Christians we learn and live as those who desire the flourishing of all and the exploitation of none. We should be aspiring to make sure all are free; all are protected and all are treated fairly. It is not an easy calling, but it starts with us in God’s strength, God’s faithfulness, God’s protection for us and for all.

22nd January 2022

Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.

When people left our school, my first Head Teacher used to talk about an invisible thread which attached them to us and if they ever needed to come back, they should follow that thread back to the school. This is a similar idea to that of a Homing pigeon, they can find their way back to where they belong, no matter where they are released from. Within us God has given the Holy Spirit who is in effect our Homing device. As humans we are not perfect, we make errors of judgement, we make mistakes, we drift away and sometimes lose our focus and yet within us lies this moral compass, this homing device of the Spirit that guides us back, leads us back into the fold. We are ultimately the sons and daughters of God, created by Him and as such we carry Him within us. No matter how lost we get, how far we stray, how distant we become, there is always a way back, always a connection, always the Holy Spirit as our Homing Device, prompting us, directing us and leading us back to God. 

21st January 2022

1 John 4:16 - We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

The prime minister Margaret Thatcher was renowned and ridiculed for adopting the use of the Royal We, in other words referring to herself as we rather than I. It was done to give her authority, to try and make her like the Queen and therefore making her appear to be far more important than she actually was. In contrast, Jesus did not operate as an independent I of power and authority but actually put himself in the context of God the Father and The Holy Spirit, as part of the Trinity. The whole of the Bible is based around the relationship of Father, Son and Spirit, all present at Creation, all part of the whole. In the Icon, Trinity, Rublev places all three around a table, each facing each and drawing us to sit with them around the table. It is an Icon of relationship and it is a relationship that doesn’t not keep us out but actively invites us in. God is Love, we are told that many times in the Bible, and love is completely built around relationship. Once we begin to recognise that we are part of a relationship with God, Father, Son and Spirit and with one another; we begin to understand that our life is not about I any more but is very much about we. Not the Royal We, but the we that means we are never alone, we never cope alone, we never have to rely on our own strength or ability but always have God, Father, Son and Spirit on our side. We stand together as Christians, support each other and share that love of Christ among us. 

20th January 2022

Hebrews 4:9&10 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their work, just as God did from his. 

Most of us love going out for a meal. Someone else cooks for us, serves us, cleans up after us so we can sit and chat and just enjoy being. Meanwhile around us people are working, cooking, serving, clearing and cleaning, busy and on the go. This is quite a useful metaphor for life. Some folks are able to just sit and be while life goes on around them at full pace and more. In the past, and even today, this was what Monks and Nuns did in monastic life. They stepped away from life and concentrated on being and praying. It is what contemplatives have done and still do, take a step back and remain distant and quiet while all else goes on at speed, some even choosing to live in deserts and deserted places. Most of us cannot just stop and be, while all else continues, but yet we all need to take time out sometimes, a retreat, a holiday, a few days away from the rat race of life. For most of us we are so involved in daily life, we work, raise our families, shop, clean, wash….. we can so easily just keep going and not stop and not take time to step back and just be; but we need to! Even God took a day of rest, even Jesus stepped aside and rested. So, we need to give ourselves time, time to step away, time to rest, time to pray and contemplate. This way our lives can remain in balance and in God where they belong.

19th January 2022

Luke 12:7 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

When I watch programmes from times past, I think about the people that lived then, their life, their faith, their treatment of and by others and I wonder about the part they played in history and how most of them would never be remembered or even known about. Programmes like Who Do You Think You Are have encouraged people to discover more about their family history and many websites now offer access to old records, but we still, will never really know who these people were or what they were like. The wonder of God, our creator, is that He has known each one. God has loved and cared for each one, He has counted the hairs on each head, He has seen the good and the bad of each one. God has been the stalwart and guide of many and the challenge and judge of many. We may wonder how can God can see and know it all, but He does and has and will always see every moment, even the smallest, the most insignificant act. He hears and has heard and will always hear every prayer, every utterance, every cry of joy and despair. God has always and will always know and love us. We must decide if we will always know and love Him.

18th January 2022

1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

As a child I really disliked going to a new club or group. Where I was known and was settled, I was fine, but the thought of meeting new people who might judge me, not talk to me even laugh at me was something I dreaded. You may be surprised to know I still struggle with it. We all have issues we struggle with and put in place ways to deal with them. God is aware of these struggles; He is aware when we take that deep breath and make ourselves do something we dislike or struggle with. I can imagine the humanness of Jesus meant that at times He was struggling with what He had to do, what He had to face. Having to face the derision and hate of the very people He had healed and helped and cared for. There are times you can see Jesus’ struggle with His role, with His mission, not least in the garden, in prayer, sweating drops of blood as He contemplates the awfulness of the next few days, of the essentialness of what He has to do. The public set ups, mistrials, trumped up charges, flogging, crucifixion, death, descent to hell and His eventual defeat of death and return to life. In that Garden He shows His dread but also speaks His willingness to do God’s will, not His own. God’s promise to us is that we are never alone, that He goes with us into every situation and provides the strength we need to deal with every situation we will ever face. It also shows us clearly that Jesus has been there before us, knows what we face and how we feel and stands with us each and every day.

17th January 2022

Luke 11: 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness. 

In classical study the eyes were often seen as the window of the soul. Even as far back as Cicero and picked up by Shakespeare. It is not a literal expression but more metaphorical as in the sense of the mind’s eye, our knowing and consciousness. This is exactly the point here in Luke. If we direct out thoughts, our consciousness to something, our actions and life choices will direct us towards achieving that. Our life’s direction is determined by our consciousness. So healthy eyes mean a healthy mind where our whole self will focus and work towards good. To have that healthy eye we need to direct ourselves towards good, to prayer, reading the Bible, going to church, communion, living with justice, fairness and mercy. This way we shine as a lamp or light to others. God is our lamp, our direction setter who leads us through life, particularly in the dark times. It is only through God that we find a healthy life, a healthy mind. Sadly, the human consciousness is often selfish, self-centred, unhealthy, polluted by greed and envy. But God leads us toward light, towards goodness and sets our mind and heart on healthy things. 

16th January 2022

Psalm 8:5 You have made us a little lower than the angels and crowned us with glory and honour. 

Have you ever wondered why am I here? Why me? Why now? As we grow up, we realise that humans are not all we are given to believe we are as children. We soon learn that many people still die of starvation, of simple curable diseases, are still imprisoned and tortured for being different or wanting a better life. Somehow only a minority ever get power and wealth and often they live selfishly with no regard for others. A seemingly bleak picture. And yet we have the blessing of hope. Hope that we can make things better, hope that even as we mess up, we can start again. Life has the possibility of not only first and second chances but constant chances of a fresh start. Every moment of every day offers the opportunity to start again. When the sentence come out wrong, we apologise and start again, when the relationship turns sour, we apologise and start again. As Humans God has made us special and thinks about us all the time. We are on God’s mind. We are incredible, special and crowned with glory and honour and we need to know that and believe it. Because we are Human, we will make mistakes, we can be very selfish and foolish people, but God cares and offers us a fresh start, not just once or twice but as often as we need it. May we take that fresh start every day and as often as we need it.

15th January 2022

Psalm 56:8 You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book, O Lord. 

The older I have become the more I appreciate the ability to cry. At times when I am hurt physically or mentally, when life gets too much, when I need to let off steam then crying offers me and all of us a way to let our bodies release the pressure. Society has often criticised crying, particularly amongst men, but actually much recent research clearly shows that tears, crying, allows us to release so much stress from within and allows the processes of healing to begin and work in our lives. If we are honest, who doesn’t feel better after a good cry. I was really encouraged and blessed to discover that St Ephrem the Syrian understood this healing, cleansing blessing of crying centuries ago. He was a prominent Christian theologian and writer, born in the 4th century, who is also recognised as one of the earliest hymn writers in Eastern Christianity. Ephrem spoke of our eyes as two baptismal fonts, that release tears; just as Baptismal water cleans, heals and renews life so our eyes provide tears that cleanse, heal and renew life within us. These tears are also seen, valued and collected by God who will never allow us to cry alone.

14th January 2022

Isaiah 43:1 Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 

Do you ever think you are untouchable; nothing can get to you? I did a lot more when I was younger but life experience has taught me that the sorrows and losses of life, the struggles and difficulties of life, touch us all. At some level our existence, identity, and value are not limited to time and space. We are more than our biological existence; we know ourselves as God’s beloved and this comes through the gift of baptism. Baptism does not eliminate our difficulties, fix our problems, take away the pain, or change the circumstances of our lives. Instead, it changes us and offers us a way through those difficulties, sorrows, problems, and circumstances and ultimately, a way through death. Baptism transcends our biological existence and offers us a vision of life as it might be. Through baptism we no longer live according to the biological laws of nature but by relationship with God, who through the Prophet Isaiah says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine”. When we pass through the waters of sorrow and difficulty God is with us; when we walk through the fire of loss and ruination we are not burned. To know this, to trust this, to experience this is the gift of baptism and baptism always takes place at the border of life as it is and life as it might be. 

13th January 2022

Genesis 2:8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the humans he had formed.

Many of the stories we tell our children or even read to them come in different versions. Even the Bible comes in different versions. So, it is not strange that stories in the Bible sometimes come in different versions. Genesis chapter 2 offers us a different version of the creation story which complements Genesis 1. This time the focus is not on the majestic planning and construction of the universe, but dwells more on the human world. The first man, Adam, is formed from the earth, but he's more than just another creature. It is only humans that God breathes life-giving breath into. Eve shares in this. As Matthew Henry wrote, ‘The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, or he her, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him. ` This is clear thinking theology about the equality of Humans be they male or female. In this story we meet the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. From this place come the rivers that water the earth and give life. What happens here in Eden, the choices made, flow out from it into the lives of all throughout history. This is not just the creation story, the story of Adam and Eve, it is our story. We are all created to live in harmony with God, with one another and with nature. Our constant desire for knowledge, supremacy, power, wealth and eternity has brought us disharmony with God and each other and our beautiful natural world now under threat. In God’s strength we have the ability to change our story, to rewrite a better version, to restore harmony but we must want to do that.

12th January 2022

Psalm 19:12-13 Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I know it all; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.

When I began teaching, we had blackboards, if you were really lucky you had a board that moved round so you did not have to wipe it after every lesson and could leave work up for longer. We used chalk to write, draw etc and then this could be wiped away at the end of a lesson. The term a clean slate picks up on this and the old way of children learning by using a slate and chalk to work; I say old but in some countries of the world this is still the way children learn if they get the chance of education. Unlike our screens, computers and exercise books, once the slate or board was wiped that was it, no getting it back, no recycle bin or deleted folder. Once wiped the slate was clean and no evidence of the past, good or bad, could be found. So, when the Bible uses this term to speak of God’s forgiveness, the meaning is clear. Our past is not only forgiven but forgotten, wiped away. No evidence of the mistakes are kept, they are gone. There is no deleted folder with God, no recycle bin that drags out the past, instead our sin, our wrongdoing, our mistakes, and imperfections are wiped clean away to be seen no more and to be judged no more.

11th January 2022

Psalm 145:14 God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.

How have the New Year resolutions been going? I must admit that many folks I talk to have already given up or pretty much forgotten what they had planned to change in the New Year. Can you remember what resolutions you made? Have you been able to keep any? We often start something with such great resolve, this time it will be different, this time I will not give up, this time I am determined…… time moves on and we fall away so quickly. I freely admit that I don’t do resolutions anymore, I have learnt that each day offers me the opportunity to change, each situation offers me the opportunity to stop, apologise if necessary and start again. The New Year does offer us an excellent time to revaluate our lives and make changes but so does every day, every week, every month. There is never a point when we cannot change our lives for the better. There is never an time when God says no more. When things are tough, or we fail once, twice and so on we often feel we need to quit, to give up and yet God never quits on us, never gives up on us, never stops loving and forgiving us. In fact, as this Psalm reminds us, when we are struggling God’s hand is right there offering support, help, comfort and strength. Just because we did not manage to keep our resolutions on the second day or fourth day, just because we haven’t managed to keep them every day does not mean we have to give up. Achieving 20% is better than none, achieving 50% is better again, we won’t get it all right, all the time, but our willingness to try, to reach out for God’s hand is what counts. If you are struggling, don’t quit, just ask and God and He will give you a hand.

10th January 2022

Luke 3:22 You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.

At this time of year, we celebrate Jesus Baptism at the Jordan River. Jesus’ baptism is the border between the wilderness and the promised land; the border between life as survival and a life that is thriving; the border between sin and forgiveness; the border between death and life. We all stand on that border at multiple points in our lives. Some of us stand there now. Some of us experience that border as a place of loss, fear, pain. For others it is a place of joy, hope, and healing. In reality it is both at the same time. The only reason we can stand at the border of baptism is because Jesus stood there first. We stand on the very same border on which His baptism took place. As He was baptized, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove. And the voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus’ baptism is for our sake and salvation. His baptism makes ours possible. Physically we are baptized only once. Yet throughout our life we return to the waters of baptism through living our baptismal vows; belief in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, reading and studying the Bible, taking Communion, loving our neighbour as ourselves; striving for justice, peace, and dignity for every human being because that is how God has treated us and how could we do any less for any other of His children.

9th January 2022

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father with whom there is no variation or shadow of change.

I am not one for just going shopping, my mum has often despaired with me not wanting to go hunting for clothes, house goods, shoes etc. I really struggle with the queues, and the business of places, especially at sale time. I finally braved the Shopping Centre after the schools had gone back and it wasn’t too bad, but after walking round twice, dropping into some stores all I bought were Tea Spoons. There really wasn’t anything for me and I found the sale prices, if they existed, were really not money saving. I left thinking, that’s why I don’t go to these places, there is nothing there for me. What did strike me was how many shop units were empty and how many shops no longer exist, they have gone due to covid and money pressures. Things which existed for a long-time, high-street names, businesses we know and love have gone, nothing, as they say, lasts forever. I would never have believed Woolworth could go, it was a staple of my childhood and yet it has been gone many years. This uncertainty, this inconsistency shows us that when we have something special, we should value and treasure it because we will mourn it when it is gone. We need to appreciate what we have, value it, treat it with respect and realise that there is only ever one certainty in our lives and that is God. As the hymn says; He changes not, His compassions they fail not, as He has been He forever will be. Great is God’s faithfulness. Constant, never changing, never closing up, never running out of time or money, never disappearing from our lives. With God there is no variation, no shadow of change.

8th January 2022

Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.

I love the end of a book or story where everything resolves and understanding comes. At the end of the Bible, in Revelation, we are shown many things to help us. In Chapter 21 we are shown a vision that is as relevant today as it was when it was first written. It does not show us being taken from the Earth up to heaven, as many of us picture it. Instead, it shows a New Jerusalem coming down from Heaven to Earth. This new city doesn’t have a temple or church for God to be present in, because His presence is everywhere in this new city. There is no need of a sun or moon because the light of Christ irradiates everything from within. The gates are never closed, and all peoples are welcome to accept the treasures and gifts that life here offers as each of them brings the joys and blessings they can offer to the city. At the centre, from God’s own throne, a river of life flows out. Along the banks grows the Tree of Life. Here we see a picture of the original creation story and God says “Behold! I’m making all things new!” We see this as a vision of the future and yet it is actually an insight into present life to be had on Earth. God’s intention has never been about us struggling until we escape Earth and go to heaven. But rather about God coming down to us, to dwell among us. Emanuel, God with us. God was never a distant, terrifying monstrous puppeteer waiting to wreak retribution at the end of time. God was always and still is about coming to us, being among us here and now, making life worth living, joyous and full right now. The river of life flows now, the tree of life blossoms right now and we do not have to wait until Heaven, the fruit is available now and we are invited by God to come and be part of it, right now. 

7th January 2022

Isaiah 1:4 Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.

How many games have you played over the holiday? Christmas has always been a time to play games, they are often given as presents and family time offers the opportunity to play together. Card games, board games, games of hiding and seeking out; We always played hunt the thimble on Christmas afternoon, singing an old song louder or softer as someone got nearer or further away. As I had loved it, so my sons did. Games allow us to share together in fun, the feelings of achievement but also learning how to lose. I find many children these days who have never learned to lose, who have always been allowed to win games and become angry when they didn’t. Games are part of our life learning, how to cope with winning and losing, how to cooperate, how to work together and how to live by rules. It has become easy to forget God, to forget goodness and honesty, to become estranged from the reality of life with God. As we get older many of us stop playing games, yet they are a valuable and fun exercise, worth remembering and worth doing together. Perhaps the games of this past holiday need to stay out, to be used more regularly and enjoyed with those we love on a regular basis. To enjoy and share but also to remind us of how sometimes we will win but often we will lose and we need to accept that, learn from it and grow into better people who live as God intended us to.

6th January 2022

Isaiah 60:3 Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Do you like to travel? Many of us have had to curtail our holidays and trips in the last 2 years. We are introduced to travellers in the Epiphany which we celebrate today, 6th January. Wise men, Kings or Magi refer to astronomers who served in royal courts throughout the ancient near eastern world. By the 1st Century AD, Magi were more broadly known as men who studied sacred writings, signs and stars and associated with the Parthian Empire located to the east of Palestine, present-day Iran. They would have studied Hebrew Scriptures among the many sacred writings they studied in their pursuit of wisdom. These Magi travel because of the sign of a regal star and in a moment of weakness towards the end of their trip, allow themselves to be side-tracked, because logically, a king would be born in a palace, so they take their eyes off the prize, off the star, and go to Herod. We are very good at taking our eyes off the prize, of second guessing ourselves and God. Jesus is given gifts of great value, gifts fit for a king and priest are given in an act of worship. All three gifts are linked to Jesus’ life and ministry. What about us, what gift can we bring? In the beautiful carol Christina Rosetti reminds us that If I were a wise man, I would do my part, yet what I can I give him, give my heart. We may not have Gold, Frankincense or Myrrh but we do have our hearts and they belong to Jesus.

5th January 2022

Amos 5:8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, the LORD is his name.

When I sing with young children a firm favourite is Twinkle, Twinkle, little star, it features in many nativities and all young children can open and close their fingers as a twinkling star. The simplicity of it hides the question of what a star is? Links it to a precious stone and places them in the sky above us. I love a starry night; but light pollution means we just don’t see many stars in our towns and cities. As a teenager I would follow the path of the stars through the year as the seasons changed and could identify many of the constellations. I loved the Greek and Roman legends behind the constellations and bought endless books as well as visiting the then London planetarium many times. As telescopes have got larger and better, we now see more, understand more and have discovered so many stars that they have numbers and letters now not names. You can even purchase a star and have your name logged in the international register of stars. Stars are amazing, from the simplicity we see to the incredible science and physics behind each one. The Bible also speaks of stars, their importance, their creation and their messages. They feature as guides, as signs, as light in the darkness. They declare God’s glory and handiwork. The pole star has guided explorers and travellers for centuries and the faces of children have lit up at seeing the shapes in the stars above them. The joy of stars is realising that they were created as part of God’s landscape, as a blessing from God for us. Look and see the glory of the King, reflected in the Heavens, and shine as stars in the world.

4th January 2022

Romans 15:7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Since I started working in schools’ things have changed massively. Particularly the security measures. To enter a school, certain rooms or offices you have to enter pass codes, swipe a card, negotiate various levels of security. At clubs, some restaurants, hotels you will often encounter bouncers or security guards. We have become a very security conscience society because some have taken advantage of the rules we used to have which often depended on people’s goodwill. We have also become very security conscience in churches with working alone policies, not leaving churches open and clear protocols because of those who cannot be trusted. Sadly, we have got to a point where we have become bouncers and security guards as to who comes to church and who belongs in or out of God’s family and heaven. We have developed protocols and ways which mean we decide who is suitable for the Christian life. We decide who Jesus would seek out or talk to and we seem to have forgotten that God welcomes everyone, that Jesus spent His time with outcasts, poor, sick, prisoners, even thieves and fraudsters. We like to place conditions on people finding faith and coming to church, we set our rules and standards instead of applying God’s rules and standards. Of course, we need security, safety and protections but we also need compassion and care, forgiveness and help. If Jesus was here, He would welcome everyone with open arms and we must do the same.

3rd January 2022

Job 14:1 Humans born on Earth have but a short time to live and are easily caught up in trouble.

As we begin another year, I become increasingly aware of my age, of my past and of what remains. God has put us in a world of transitory things where everything changes and nothing remains the same. The things of childhood become treasured memories, things can hold an attachment, people come and go in our lives and constancy only occurs in a few places. The most important of these being God. This changing landscape should help us appreciate that everything we have is a gift. It does not actually belong to us; we didn’t create it and we certainly do not deserve it. We begin to appreciate that it will not last, but while we breathe it in, while we live within it, we can enjoy it, and know that it is another moment of God, another rich moment of life. Life’s rich tapestry is a gift from God to be enjoyed, appreciated, shared with others and the opportunity to make sure everyone experiences the best life they can, as God intended for them as well as for us. Our time on earth is comparatively short compared to the world and the universe but it is to be treasured and used for good, the good of all.

Apologies, no internet since New Year.

1st January 2022  New Years Day

1 Peter 5:10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle us in hope.

We begin 2022 today. A year ago, many of us thought we would see the back of covid in 2021 and we had hope to return to normal life. Sadly, that did not happen. So, this New Year’s Day what is our hope for this coming year? Our Christmas has yet again been overshadowed with Covid, extra restrictions which although not as rigid as perhaps thought, have caused folk to cut much of their lifestyle in order to see family in safety. Extra quick builds are going up in Hospital car parks to treat the further increase in patients while more and more staff are off sick with the new variant. Trust has been further eroded, selfishness has increased, particularly in the those with have more, poverty is rising, more people accessed food banks over Christmas than ever before and we face huge price rises particularly in our energy bills. 2022 does not seem to be as hopeful as we might wish. But, as long as we are here, we have hope, we look to the past and see terrible times that we came through, where God was with us and saw us through; we see possibilities, a future, ways forward and it is these we must cling to, search out and encourage. After all we go into 2022 with the God of the past the present and the future on our side, with promised hope, with Christ as our Saviour and with a future that is certain in Heaven through Jesus.

31st December 2021

1 Peter 4:9 Show hospitality and welcome to one another without grumbling.

Do you have a welcome mat? One that says welcome as people enter your home? Welcome is a manner of greeting, an exclamation, a salutation that makes people feel at ease. It comes from the old English, Wilcuma, which means a guest who brings pleasure. How welcoming are we? Do we show our happiness when someone comes round, or we meet up somewhere? Or are we good at being very mute about someone’s presence? Know we are welcome somewhere means we are so much more relaxed, happy, involved than if we are made to feel unwelcome. In many cultures of the world welcoming someone to your home means feeding them. You are offered a chocolate or piece of cake and the guest may well have had to get a loan to buy it but giving your guest hospitality is so important that it must be done. Peter is very clear about welcoming, hospitality and welcome without grumbling, he goes on to tell us it is also about service, love and using all God has given us to make sure the other we are welcoming flourishes. Over Christmas we show much hospitality to family and friends. Do we do it without grumbling? DO we serve others out of joy at having them in our homes, do we love others so they can flourish and feel valued? It is often said you can measure a home and family by the welcome they offer. May it be said of us that we show hospitality and welcome to all who come to us. 

30th December 2021

1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

I find this week between Christmas and New Year a nothing time. We seem to be neither one or the other, the events of Christmas have come and gone and the New Year is yet to come but is also not hear yet. It is often a time of spending, clearing up, annual leave, visiting friends and family. Late nights and late mornings, where grey and wet days sit. This week, between the two, has been referred to as the hinge of the year or the bookend of the year. Seemingly the unimportant bit and yet crucial to holding everything together which lies between. We experience the backend of the past year and the front part of the new year. Much hinges on this time. Our experiences and levels of thankfulness for the past year which then lead us into our expectations for the coming year. We may be sad to see a year end, and may have good memories to treasure, or we may be glad for the passing of the year, hoping for better to come, regrets and losses which we want to leave behind. These days that lie between offer a time of reflection, a time to review the past and set goals for the future, an opportunity to look for the now and the not yet, as the Bible puts it. The now is our preparation for the not yet, our mirrored life, our partial life until that time we are fully known and fully seen.

29th December 2021

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I expect you, like everyone else have watched quite a lot of TV over Christmas, a lot of Christmassy films, a lot of Christmas specials, a lot of repeats. Depending on what you watch depends on whether you get a feel-good programme, about redemption and changing life or something that reflects the loud, boozy side of Christmas where people just drink, use bad language and have a huge hangover. As much as I enjoy a drink, I have never seen the appeal of being out of control and saying or doing things which could be offensive or dangerous. It is not about enjoying life, real joy and real fun does not need anything to make it feel better, or make it supposedly good. All that is happening when we need something to allow us to release ourselves is we are trying to forget, trying to erase the bad memories, trying to be what we are not. Real joy and fun does not need anything to make it happen, no stimulants which leave you in a stupor or at risk, these provide only a few moments of pleasure and forgetfulness only to feel more awful afterwards. Real joy, real fun and pleasure come from knowing Jesus, knowing we are loved and saved, knowing we have the best of life to come and knowing that our lives should be lived so that everyone can flourish and find the real joy for themselves. 

28th December 2021

John 1:11 He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.

One of the greatest human failings is that we believe that we are the centre of everything and we replace God with anything and everything we can find. The time of Christmas becomes partymas, foodmas, telemas, moneymas, presentmas…. Anything but Jesus Christ to fill the gap. You would think we, as humans, would have noticed by now that when God, when Jesus is not the centre of everything; when He is left out; everything is out of sync, out of step, off kilter. We try and fill the gap with everything but Jesus, with everything but God, because we just won’t accept God, we want there to be another reason, one we can control, one we, as humans, are at the centre of. That is why the world is in such a mess, we try everything but God and it just hasn’t worked. The great news of Christmas is that God never gives up, Jesus came that first Christmas to make it all okay, to offer the way back to God. That is what Christmas is really about. Jesus, the first present, given to the world if only they would accept Him. As always, the choice is ours. May we all know God’s first and greatest present for ourselves.

27th December 2021

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This baby we meet at Christmas, who is he exactly? The Prophets told everyone, time and again that the messiah was coming. The one who would save us from Sin, corruption, evil, wrongdoing. He would announce peace and bring good news. This baby is the appointed heir, the one with whom and through whom the world and the universe were created. This baby will reflect God’s glory all through His life, death and resurrection. This child is the exact imprint of God’s very being who sustains all things by His powerful word. If we have not quite got it yet, Jesus is God! Part of the Trinity. Jesus is God’s word. Remember God spoke and the world was created. God’s word is Jesus. God’s word created life, created everything. Jesus is also the light in the darkness. The hope, the future for all, who came but was not accepted. Came to change lives, came to bring light and hope but was turned away. Not wanted. Rejected. But even in that rejection He makes the space for those who want to, to become God’s people, God’s children, cared for and loved by the father. This is the Baby we meet at Christmas. How? By this Word becoming flesh, becoming human, God becomes human, lives as we do, experiences what we experience, understands exactly what the world is like, how people and society behave, what is accepted and what is not. He experiences it, lives it and changes it for us. He is full of truth, He is truth. This is the Baby we meet, Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the son, God incarnate. Born in a pauper’s stable, born with a mission and a message for the world.

26th December 2021 Boxing Day

Acts 7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Boxing day seems a strange name for the day after Christmas. It comes from an old tradition of those who were in service, or delivered regularly to a family, or were assistants to the family, errand boys, postmen etc being given a Christmas box, a bonus for their work. It could be monetary or a gift. Servants who had served faithfully over Christmas were often given the day off and sent home to their families with boxes of food and gifts. It was also the day that the rich would give gifts and food to the poor in the form of a Christmas box. Within the church it is the feast of Stephen, as in the carol Good King Wenceslas who looks out on the Feast of Stephen. He then goes out and helps the poor in the depths of winter. Within churches there would be alms boxes, these collected donations from the people and these would be opened and distributed to the poor on St Stephens Day, the day after Christmas. St Stephen was one of the first Church Deacons and the first Christian Martyr. He was the one who took the role of distributing money to the poor in the early church. He was an honest, upright man who spoke well and preached the gospel with power and great results. As a result, he was falsely accused of blasphemy and other accusations and was dragged into the street and stoned to death, this was witnessed with glee by Saul who was to become St Paul. Representations of St Stephen show rocks and stones on his shoulders and head.

25th December 2021 Christmas Day

Luke 2:6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.

And so, we arrive at Christmas Day. The Prophets told us, told everyone, time and again that the Messiah was coming. The one who would save us from Sin, corruption, evil, wrongdoing. <span style="font-size: 1rem;">He would announce peace and bring good news. We are told that this baby is the appointed heir, the one with whom and through whom the world and the universe was created. This baby will reflect God’s glory all through His life, death and resurrection. This child is the exact imprint of God’s very being who sustains all things by His powerful word. If we have not quite got it yet, Jesus is God! Part of the Trinity. Jesus is God’s word. Remember God spoke and the world was created. God’s word is Jesus; God’s word created life, created everything. Jesus is also the light in the darkness. The hope, the future for all, who came but was not accepted. Came to change lives, came to bring light and hope but was turned away. Not wanted. Rejected. Even in that rejection He makes the space for those who want to, to become God’s people, God’s children, cared for and loved by the father. God becomes human, lives as we do, experiences what we experience, understands exactly what the world is like, how people and society behave, what is accepted and what is not. He experiences it, lives it and changes it for us. He is full of truth, He is truth. This is the Baby we meet today. This Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son, God incarnate. Born in a pauper’s stable, born with a mission and a message for the world.</span>

24th December 2021

Luke 2:20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The Eve of Christmas always holds so much excitement and anticipation. Children are eager to get to Christmas morning but not so eager to go to bed. Many parents find themselves hastily wrapping gifts at midnight and beyond hoping little eyes won’t see them. Many will spend it in the Pub or with friends and many of us will go to Midnight Mass and welcome Christmas Morning with the first communion of Christmas. I have always loved being able to say the first Happy Christmas as Midnight comes. We wait and prepare, we buy and we wrap, we sing and we celebrate in the weeks before, all leading up to this special day. The world celebrates Christmas but not always for the reason of its name, Christ Mass, the birth and gift of Christ. For many the season of Christmas has become just a winter festival, a season of gifts and lights, and the religious part of it has long been forgotten. Yet, I am encouraged hearing people on TV talking of going to midnight Mass, of family traditions which make Christmas about family, about love and care and compassion. As I drive home after Midnight Mass, every year, my mind always turns to the Angels and the Shepherds. I look to the sky, often dark and cold but bright with stars, I hope that I might just catch a glimpse of an Angel choir and once more I am transported to that first Christmas Eve, that first gift of a baby, born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. May the joy, peace and love of Christmas be yours today and tomorrow.

23rd December 2021

Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them.

The lowly, poor shepherds have been visited by Angels. They have experienced a vision; it has challenged them to go and see the new king. Had this been you or me would we have hurried to see this baby? It seems odd to us that God would choose to tell poor lowly shepherds about Jesus’ birth when Jesus was a king. These shepherds were the lowest in society, often ostracised and treated with contempt, and yet God tells them of the birth. The message here is that no one is off God’s radar. Everyone, no matter their status, position, influence or opinion is beyond God’s love or saving grace. Jesus was born not just for the rich and powerful, not just for the influencers or status seekers. Jesus was born as God made human for everyone. Both shepherds and kings came to see Jesus. As Christmas approaches, we need to examine what’s important to us this Christmas? We need to remember that Jesus came for all and perhaps offer some help to those who cannot celebrate Christmas because they are homeless, poor, hungry and ostracised by society. There are plenty of organisations who will care for these folk if we can just spare a moment, some money and maybe some time to help all who Jesus came to save and share the true meaning of Christmas.

22nd December 2021

1 Thessalonians 5:5 For you are all children of light and children of day. We are not children of night nor of darkness.

We are at the shortest days of the year right now. The darkest, dankest times when life seems dark and light seems in short supply. For the people of the past, they needed a way of encouragement to hang on in there during these difficult times. There were festivals during the year to help people chart a course and in the middle of winter people celebrated the nativity of the sun, the rebirth of the sun as the days began to get a little lighter. The Sun god, Sol Invictus, has become known as the winter solstice. As the Christian faith began to spread worldwide, the nativity of the Sun, the celebration of rebirth tied in with the Nativity of the Son, the rebirth of light in the world. The discussions of when Christmas was celebrated, early December or later December or even early January, finally became December 25th, the festival of rebirth of light gave the time to celebrate Jesus birth and became accepted worldwide. We don’t know the exact date but the church settled it into a position when light was needed, when nativity was central and December 25th is the day we celebrate Christmas. The other dates played their part as well, early December provided the celebration of St Nicholas and January 6th became the celebration of the Epiphany. As you see the Christmas lights all around, remember at the darkest of times is when we really appreciate the light. Enjoy the lights, look for those longer days as they begin to creep in as the new Year comes in. Let the light shine in and appreciate the light of the world.

21st December 2021

Matthew 2:11 The wise men bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

Christmas and the surrounding weeks present us with many stories. We find several in the carols that we sing and as a result we tend to place the events of several weeks and months into a few days. The Magi or Kings are often set in church at a distance from the nativity scene and move slowly towards the stable until arriving at Epiphany, celebrated on January 6th. These Kings were set out on their journey a long time before this, they were prompted by the appearance of a star, the sign for a birth of a King. They spent long months travelling, thinking, preparing for someone special. Why is this baby so special that Magi/Kings come to see him? For the Magi, any regal arrival portrayed in the sky meant this one was incredibly special, this one was more than just an ordinary King because the sign of a star only happened very, very rarely. These Kings do not come empty handed, they bring gifts, gifts with a message of their own. In Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh they show Jesus to be King, Priest and one who will die for His people. These gifts were thoughtful, personal, appropriate. I wonder, what will you give to others this Christmas? 

20th December 2021

2 Corinthians 4:8&9 We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.

I love rivers, ever since learning about them for O Level Geography and who doesn’t remember Oxbow lakes; we can learn some lessons from nature, particularly from rivers, about determination and resilience. Rivers make their way through cracks, slowly eroding, changing and adjusting so as to find a way through. As we navigate the river of life, we will each meet obstacles, hurdles, difficulties that seem to block our path. The rocks of tragedy and despair, the fallen trees of redundancy, the bends of family life, the silt of illness. How we overcome them and work our way through is based on resilience. Resilience is how we recharge or recover, not necessarily how we endure. When we cannot process and rest a while our minds weaken, our health is eroded. Each time we meet rocks or branches we need to try but then to recharge and recover before we try again. Picture if you can the Grand Canyon or the Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon, the strength, resilience and power of the rivers over thousands of years has eroded away rock and mountain, what was once flat land is now cavernous, deep canyon. It has been slow and steady work. Times of rest and recharge. To build our resilience we need to be open, to explore new paths and ways, to rest between difficulties and recharge our capacity to cope before stepping out again. If we again look at nature, now in winter the seemingly lifeless gardens and trees and yet life is there, underground, resting, recharging ready for spring and the release of life and growth again. This is resilience and resilience takes time. Resilience is a quality we can learn and strengthen within us. We are helped by others, by safe spaces, by rest. We need to have others who can help us in times of need, real friends and family, a support network for those twists and turns in life. St Paul is telling the Corinthians this very information. That though sometimes we may be down, we are never out. We have friends, supports, helpers who can and will sit with us and listen. We all need help sometimes. So, set up your support network if you haven’t got one, strengthen it when you can. Be a good friend. Give yourself and others space to grow, space to explore, space to rest and recharge. We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. 

19th December 2021

Luke 2:11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, Christ the Lord.

When the angel speaks of Jesus, he speaks of a “saviour” that is “Christ the Lord”. This tells us immediately about the identity of Jesus. ‘Christ’ is a Greek word and is the equivalent of the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’. Both words mean ‘the anointed one’ or ‘Lord’ which is a title that is used for God in the Old Testament. Those hearing this message would know that. This baby will be a saviour, not in a political or military sense, but he will save his people from sin and death. This is a saviour who will change lives, attitudes, behaviours. A great company of angels then appear and sing praises to God. This Glory to God in the Highest is now known as the Gloria in Excelsis and is sung in churches across the world. Twenty first century Christmas has become about presents and food and drink. A festival the world enjoys even if it does not believe. Yet the message in all the Christmas story is one of the Christ, the Messiah, being for everyone. No one has more right or more claim to the promises of Jesus than anyone else. Everyone has equal claim to Christmas, but it is up to us what we do about it. Jesus came the first Christmas to offer us life, life in all its fulness. He was the first Christmas gift, and we have given gifts ever since. We give because we love and care for friends and family, we celebrate the joy associated with giving gifts to each other. May we remember those who cannot celebrate and give as we do, Jesus came for everyone, including them, and may we not forget those in difficulty at Christmas and do something to make their Christmas a little brighter and happier. Spare a thought and maybe a simple card or gift for an elderly neighbour, a single parent who may live nearby and would really be blessed by you keeping an eye on them this Christmas.

18th December 2021

Luke 2:15b The Shepherds said to one another Lets go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.

In Luke’s Gospel, shepherds are the first to hear about the birth of Jesus. Being a shepherd in first century Palestine was not a privileged position in society. They were poor, lived outside and were left alone by townspeople. The Jewish leaders often criticised shepherds because the nature of their work meant they could not always keep to religious rules like strict Sabbath observance. The Angels coming first to the poor, lowly shepherds shows that the message of Jesus was for all people, even those considered to be insignificant or poor or marginalised. Do we allow Christmas to just be about presents, parties and food or do we allow the real spirit of Christmas to make us kind, caring and compassionate? To make sure no one is left out. Organisations who work all year round to help the marginalised, the homeless, the poor work even harder at Christmas to help. You will have seen the adverts for organisations such as the Salvation Army, Crisis and the like. One of the ways we can help is to give to them. They can at least provide food, clothes, a bed, a warm gathering place, gifts for poor children. This is the least we can do. What did the shepherds do? They didn’t just sit there and say well that was nice, pass the drink. They got up and went to find the baby. It challenged them into action. May it be the same for us.

17th December 2021

Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots and horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Would you describe yourself as a trusting person? I know I am a lot less trusting now than many years ago when I thought no one would really want to hurt to me or do wrong by me. Even though that trust has been betrayed at times, there are still things I put my trust in. I trust my family, who get it wrong sometimes, but have my best interests at heart. I trust my doctor who has always been wonderful. I trust the vaccines I have had to keep me protected. I trust my car to get me from A to B.
Who and what do you put your trust in? My ultimate trust lies with God, with Jesus. Although I have moaned at times, I can honestly say that time and again God has not let me down. That does not mean everything is rosy, but rather that whatever is going on I can trust God to provide the strength, wisdom, confidence and ability to get me through. We all need to think about what and who we trust, how we protect ourselves from harm and how we keep going in the difficult times. Ultimately our trust is in the name of the Lord our God.

16th December 2021

Ecclesiastes 9:10a Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.

At this time of year, I get told by people that this is a busy time of year for me. They say things like you must be busy, how many carols have you had to sing? When will you take a break or even, you look tired. The truth is I am busy and tired but I love singing carols and celebrating the season, even if it is several times a day. That is my calling. To put it into context though, my tiredness is nothing compared to the NHS workers who are trying to fulfil a prime ministers’ whims with less people, less money and less protection than they need. My business is nothing to the workers trying to help those on the streets, hungry families with no money for presents let alone food or hot water. My business is part of my life, I know that at particular times in my ministry I will be working at full stretch but I prepare for these times, I have experience and resources at my disposal. I will get my post-Christmas break and will not have to worry about feeding my family. For me the joy of this time of year is tinged with sadness for those who live in poverty, those who are homeless, children who will go without. I wish I could change this, I know you do to. So, let us play our part, give where we can, offer support and help where we can, encourage the workers with love and support, kind words and practical support for those who need it. We are never too busy to spare a thought or help someone else. However you do it, do it in the name of the Lord and make sure everyone has a better Christmas in some way or another.

15th December 2021

2 Corinthians 3:4&5 Such is the confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God.

Have you noticed how some people just ooze confidence. They speak up and out even if they are not that well informed. They can make others feel intimidated just by their presence. This confidence is often bravado, a recognition that if we act in a certain way and are confident in that, others will just accept us. Many interview techniques are about confidence, answering with confidence even if you are not clear on the question. Like most things in life, we need a balance. It is good to have confidence in the right things but not to be so overconfident in ourselves that we neglect to learn, to grow and to change when necessary. Our real confidence should come from who we are in God. Recognising that even though we are not perfect, that we do not know all the answers, we are children of a God who does. That confidence comes from our relationship with Jesus. When we accept Jesus for who he is, what He has done for us, we can be confident that we are accepted and forgiven by God and as such be confident in our future with God. Even if we are not confident in ourselves, we can be confident and certain in God and that is not just bravado but absolute reality and truth.

14th December 2021

Daniel 12:8 Daniel heard, but did not understand. So he said, “My lord, I am curious, what shall be the outcome of these things”.

Being a lover of cats, I struggle with the old phrase, curiosity killed the cat, but I do get the sentiment behind it; particularly when a nosy cat gets stung by a bee or topples the Christmas tree that must be explored. Being curious helps our learning and our progress in life. If we were not curious, we would never open our post, or unwrap a present, or go into a strange or different place. Of course, some of us are more curious than others and that maybe reflected in the job we do or the hobbies we enjoy. Most of us want to know why something happens, what caused a situation, or what the result of our actions or the actions of others might be. Sometimes we just don’t get it, we look for answers and they don’t come. Daniel just could not see the wood for the trees and so he asks the obvious question, what will be the outcome? It is okay to ask the obvious question, it is okay to ask God what is happening and why. It is okay to be curious about life, about the future, about what is happening; but we must always remember that curiosity can get us into trouble if we go too far. Questions are good and need answers, but curiosity is not the same as being nosey.

13th December 2021

Luke 3:11 Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.

Advent is not only a season for waiting. It is also a time of preparation – a time of looking for the coming of the Lord, for the fulfilment of God’s promised restoration, for the peace that overcomes all violence, and for that perfect love that casts out fear. John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jesus. He was sent into difficult, complicated times, not unlike we are experiencing presently. John’s message was simple: repent; turn your lives around; turn back to God. For John, repentance was not about beating ourselves up for things done or left undone; to repent meant total transformation, a transformation that bears fruit. John the Baptist calls the people who venture into the desert, a brood of vipers, yet they do not turn and run. Instead, they listen; you must bear fruit, he says, do not rely on your ancestry, your tradition, or your history. This is about preparing for the One who is to come. When John finished preaching, they asked what they should do and John doesn’t ask the people to change the world, but rather to change themselves. He doesn’t tell them to leave their lives and stay with him or start a revolution; he tells the crowds who come to him to consider sharing what they have with the cold and hungry. He told the tax collectors to be honest and fair. The soldiers, he told to act with integrity, avoiding abuse of their power. Go home, John tells them. Go home to your families, your neighbours, your jobs, your friends. Go home and live your lives as deeply and as generously as you can right now. Do what the Lord requires of you and do it now. Be generous now; Be merciful now; Do justice now. 

12th December 2021

Zephaniah 3:8 Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem!

This Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday. “Gaudete,” when translated from Latin, means “rejoice”. We know that Advent is a season of waiting and today we are called to be joyful as we await the coming of Jesus Christ. God, through Zephaniah, offers us glimpses of a hopeful future and calls us to rejoice with all our heart. We are reminded of the ways God has delivered us, is delivering us, and will deliver us in the future. St. Paul, strongly urges us to rejoice in the Lord always. We have been experiencing tough times recently. With the suffering, loss, uncertainty, and state of our beautiful and broken world and a pandemic. So, how can we hear these words and rejoice? In our minds, joy tends to overlap with happiness. Happiness is often connected with what is happening to us and around us. Happiness usually lasts for just a short time. When we are discouraged and afraid, rejoicing in the Lord can be a hard sell. But the truth is that joy is not usually inspired by happy circumstances. Real joy, unlike happiness, lasts, no matter what the challenges. It lies deep within us, within our hearts and minds and souls. It is God given and God inspired. We will sing together over Christmas, Joy to the world, the Lord is come.

11th December 2021

Acts 17: 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears and we would like to know what they mean.
One of things I love about children is the questions. Yes, it can be wearing at times, but the thirst for knowledge is wonderful. I have a family of men who love to take things apart to find out how they work, they are not so keen on the putting back together. I love the curious minds in school that want to know why something happened. I personally love to know the story behind the story, and I particularly love to find out the background to songs and hymns and why they were written. We have in built desire to learn, to want to know why and that has led to human’s discovering so many amazing things. Our brain is not capable of understanding everything, but it is capable of learning, of being challenged by new ideas, of being changed when we learn new things and are willing to listen to new thinking. It is not our job to know all the answers, but it is God’s. It is our job to listen, to learn, to ask questions and to be willing to listen to the answers, even if we disagree, but then it is our job to let those answers inform out thinking, our living and our faith.

10th December 2021

Lamentations 3:25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

Waiting for an exciting event is difficult, much more so in children, but if we are honest, none of us like to wait. On a positive note, waiting is a time to look around and recognise that all is not as it should be or could be. Waiting is the time when we can lean into these feelings of longing, that not all is right, and that there is something better to come. Waiting gives time to prepare and get ready. As a blessing for us, waiting is a time to dream; it is a time to imagine. When we wait, though it seems that death and suffering run rampant and unrestrained through our world, we dream of being comforted. We dream of being reunited with loved ones. We dream of a time when God is going to make everything alright. To echo the words of Jeremiah, we dream of a time when God’s promise is fulfilled, and all will live in safety and will flourish. We dream of a day when God will execute justice and righteousness throughout the land. Advent offers us this waiting time and reminds us that our dreams are not pie in the sky but assured by faith, by belief, by hope and secured by the promises of God and the salvation of Jesus.

9th December 2021

Daniel 7:9a As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat.

The Old Testament refers to “Ancient One” or “Ancient of Days” which are other names for God. It also refers to “one like a Son of man” who comes “on the clouds of heaven” this is Jesus. Already in the Old Testament we have an early vision of at least two persons of the Holy Trinity, God the Father and God the Son. The Spirit is also mentioned clearly in Creation and beyond. Jesus’ favourite form of self-reference in the Gospels is “Son of Man.” The one who receives all authority at the final judgment. This is Christ, our King and saviour. In identifying Himself as Son of Man Jesus is clearly showing us that even though He is God, he is the Ancient One, He is also human, very much a human who lived as we did, who experienced our fears and emotions and therefore knows exactly what we go through each and every day. Jesus, for a time, forgoes the power, kingship, knowledge and understanding of being the Ancient of Days to become a human and experience life as an ordinary human, even experiencing more than most of us do, the taunting and ridicule of Satan, the painful, suffering and relinquishing of life to defeat death and so make humans once more perfect in the sight of God. Jesus Christ, fully human and fully God.

8th December 2021

Micah 7:7 But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

In the coming weeks of Advent, we will hear of the prophets who came to prepare the way for Jesus, especially John the Baptiser. We will hear a message of repentance and of a baptism of fire. And of course, we will hear of Mary and Elizabeth. The task before us is to read and hear these stories in the spirit of Advent. It is a time to stop and to hesitate. It is a time to dig into the discomfort and seeming incongruities Scripture presents to us. It is a time to linger with questions rather than rush to answers. These moments of delay or disruption create space to feel. In these coming weeks leading up to Christmas, may we all pause and look around. May we notice those things which are and those things we wish would be. Certainly, we believe in Christmas and the theologies of Incarnation and of God’s presence with us. But we also believe in the not-yet. We hold onto those feelings of discomfort and of doubt. We believe in Christmas, but let us also believe in Advent. What does it mean to believe in Advent? To believe in Advent is to believe in waiting. And may our waiting be full of dreams for a better world, full of God’s justice and love made present to all. 

7th December 2021

Revelation 1:18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

We all knows that the Church is facing various forms of persecution across the world, some blatant, some subtle, in almost every country of the world. There are few places on the globe where the political powers are even a little sympathetic to the Church, usually because it benefits them. This can lead us to feeling that history is out of control, and question God’s power as King. It’s helpful to remember, however, that this phenomenon is nothing new. St. Augustine, on his deathbed in AD 430, heard the Vandals were besieging his beloved city of Hippo, and it looked like Latin Christian civilization was going to be completely and violently destroyed. More recently, many believers met their ends in the Cristeros rebellion in Mexico (1926-29) or the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) under conditions where it was not at all clear the Church would survive at all. Yet these saints and martyrs did not give up their confidence that “The LORD is king! Revelation 1:5-8: is about the end of history and the return of Christ the King. It refers to Jesus as Son of David and King over the House of David, which was to rule the whole earth. This covenant promised that they and we will become “a royal priesthood.” Israel rejected God’s covenant but it is granted to all those of us who join themselves to Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega. 

6th December 2021

John 18:36a Jesus said, my kingdom is not of this world.

John’s gospel is a great reminder to us all about the nature of Jesus kingdom and his kingship. It is not of this world. That does not mean it is not in this world. The Kingdom of Christ is very much in this world. Its visible in us the Church. Things everyone take for granted like the hospital, the university, and “human rights” came squarely out of the cultural heritage of the Church. Even the welfare state, the care of the poor, education all have religious roots in the church. As Christians, we distinguish the Church Triumphant (the saints in heaven) from the Church Militant (us struggling here below). But the heart of the Church, and the Kingdom, is with the Church Triumphant, the future to which we are joined by faith and the sacraments. Our world, our country is a long way from the “Kingdom of Christ.” Political involvement is a duty of the Christian, as we fight for holiness, for communion with God, for the salvation of souls, and eternal life. As we share Christ the king with all through our care of the other, giving of our time, out of our abundance to make sure all have enough to flourish and find Jesus for themselves.

5th December 2021

Revelation 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Another of the names used for Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. This term is used in Revelation, the prophetic end book of the Bible which refers to the end of times. The term sets Jesus as being Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, in other words the beginning of everything, putting Jesus as in the beginning with God at creation. Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet, in other words the end. This sets Jesus as being there at the end of times just as He was at the beginning of times. Just as the beginning and end letters of the Greek alphabet encapsulate all that lies within them, so it is with Jesus who has been there throughout all times from the beginning to the end. There is one other thing to note about the letter Omega, it represents a constant, Jesus is our constant, always with us, never giving up on us, always available to us. Jesus’ role as Son of God, as part of the Trinity, as part of creation and the constant throughout everything, sets Him as first and last, as Creator, King and Saviour.

4th December 2021

Ecclesiastes 1:8 No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.

The word discover means to make known, to make available and visible. In law discovery is a vital part of the process of the story behind the story. There is a TV channel called Discovery which started life as a channel for education and discovery but seems to have lost its way now, the longest serving of the Space Shuttles was called Discovery and of course there is the up-market Range Rover discovery just in case the ordinary Land Rover was not enough for us. Being curious, wanting to learn and find things out for ourselves is what has led to the great discoveries which have changed lives, people such as Louis Pasteur, Alexander Fleming, Thomas Edison, James Watt, Edwin Hubble and so on. This desire for discovery is built into our nature. God gave us brains with which to learn, to discover, to create and make. In the world of religion and faith the discovery is in finding God for ourselves through Hope, believing in the good which is to come, discovering God within us through our abilities and gifts which come from God via the Holy Spirit. We discover God works within us as we learn new things about ourselves and our world and uses our discoveries to works all things together for good, the good of all. May we be people of discovery, people who want to learn and help each other and our world through the discoveries that God offers us every day.

3rd December 2021

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

At this time of year days are very short and it gets dark early and the light of morning gets later and later. We see Christmas lights appear, ever earlier, to make the days seem brighter and bring some well needed light into our lives. So, when Jesus uses the term Light of the World, He is declaring that He is cutting through the darkness of the world and making things bright and well-lit once again, that way the works of darkness can no longer hide. The term light of the world is rooted in Jesus’ relationship with His Father. Jesus speaks from God and for God and as God. Apart from Jesus, apart from God, we live in darkness. We have a limited capacity to understand who we are or what we see in the world. The light of Christ, is the brightness of God shining into our human soul and then out through us. Life can be okay on earth, but not fully complete or worthwhile without Jesus. We are all created with a God shaped hole in our heart which means we long for and crave our Creator, our Father. It is only through our relationship with our Saviour Jesus, that the dark parts of our hearts become bright again. It is only through Jesus that we become bright and whole, no longer living in the shadows or the darkness.

2nd December 2021

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

As we begin to listen to the readings of Advent and Christmas, we discover that there are many names used for Jesus. The most famous of the Advent hymns is O come, O come, Immanuel. Immanuel is a name used for Jesus that means God with us. The whole point of Jesus coming was to restore the relationship between God and humans which had been severed. God’s plan, which runs like a gold thread through the Old Testament, was to become one with His people again by becoming one of them, in other words God with us humans. This name of Immanuel, also Emmanuel in Greek, was used in the Old Testament, in the prophecies of Isaiah and then in the gospels. It reinforced the presence of God with His people to call Him Immanuel. When Jesus was born all doubt about Isaiah's prophecy being fulfilled, was gone. Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the prophet's words because he was fully man yet still fully God. He came to live in Israel with his people, as Isaiah had foretold. The name Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew, means the LORD is salvation. Jesus the Saviour came so God was with His people once again.

1st December 2021

Daniel 2:23b Now you have enabled me to understand what I requested from you. For you have enabled me to understand the king's dilemma.

Every now and again we face a moral dilemma. Should I do this or not, should I support this or not, should I help this situation or not. We can feel guilty for not helping or supporting but also, we can know inside that perhaps we should not be involved in something because we are uncomfortable, or it breaks the moral code we live by. People asking for help in the form of money can be an issue like this. A big organisation we know we can trust is one thing, but individuals who send a letter, an email, or approach us in the street is another. We are currently experiencing huge amounts of scams, people making huge amounts of money by pretending to want a relationship, have a terrible illness and no medical cover, promises of paying it all back several times over if you lend them money and so on. We all think we won’t fall for it but many of us do. That compassion and empathy within us can tug at the heart strings and also the scammers are hoping for the greed we often feel to kick in as well when we think we could earn a nice lump sum. Our goodness, compassion and empathy come from God, from our creator, sadly Satan has also sown evil, greed, lies and cheating within us and therefore knowing what to do is difficult. It is okay to say no when we are not sure, when the little voice within says, just hold on, this is not quite right. The uncomfortable feeling we can get is our gut working, it is our sense of right and wrong at work and worth listening to. If we are not sure, it is good to look at it again, examine the situation and if it seems immoral in any way, if it is not what a Christian would be involved in then best to steer clear.

30th November 2021

John 6:8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up.

Today is November 30th and is St Andrew’s Day. St Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland and of any church bearing his name, like ours. Bible references to Andrew show him to be the quieter, more thoughtful brother of Peter who is often in the background but yet is the one who quietly gets on with the job of being a disciple, bringing his own brother to Jesus, bringing the boy with the packed lunch which goes on to feed 5000. Andrew is one who does not rush into things but thinks things through, he develops wisdom and self-confidence as he follows Jesus. He is allowed to be himself and grow into who God made him. It can’t have been easy with strong, brash Peter as your brother, but Andrew learns to be his own person, to be the person God called him to be. Andrew goes on to take the gospel far and wide, his influence in Scotland made him their Patron Saint and ultimately, he was martyred for his faith insisting that his cross of execution could not be the same as Jesus because he was not worthy. The flag of Scotland portrays the Saltire, the X shaped cross on which Andrew died. May we be willing to develop our wisdom and understanding, to listen and to learn and then have the confidence to speak up for God in the right way at the right time.

29th November 2021

Psalm 25: 2 I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies’ triumph over me.

Imagine being part of that first generation of Jesus’ followers who experienced His teaching and miracles first hand, saw Him die and also saw Him rise again. Jesus promised these folk that He would return. But now, people are dying, and understandably, the church is a bit confused. Awkward questions are being asked by the community in Thessaloniki. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is about precisely this issue. Jesus was expected to have come back before this generation passed away. Now, people are dying, and the community is concerned about the place those who have passed will have in the coming kingdom. When is Jesus coming back? Was Jesus wrong? Is Jesus coming back at all? Has Jesus left us alone with our death and our suffering, and what enemy seems more triumphant than death? Wasn’t Jesus supposed to come by now? Wasn’t He supposed to come and save us? Paul’s response to the Thessalonians is both theological and pastoral. Paul addresses the community’s fear about those who have already died, affirming that they will experience resurrection and have a place in the coming kingdom of God. He also acknowledges those feelings of grief, helplessness, and powerlessness that accompany that feeling that God has forgotten them. Paul declares that we need to wait with faith. Acknowledging that the waiting is not pointless, but to believe that the waiting will be worth it. Paul is waiting to see this community again and his faith influences the way that he waits to be reunited. Paul reaches for the joy of Christian connection through faith as well as naming the fact that he misses his friends.

28th November 2021

Jeremiah 33:6 I will bring health and healing; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the season where we are looking; in everyday life as well as liturgically; toward Christmas. But as we move forward there are some other things we must think about. We must set this season in the context of Jesus’ triumphant return and the prophecy from Jeremiah which signals the coming of the fulfilment of God’s promise when all shall live in peace and justice. This era of justice and flourishing for all has not yet come to pass, we can all see that. The coming Messiah was meant to usher in this age of peace on earth, end to war, and an end to the woes of humanity. But Jesus clearly says that the time has not yet come, this will happen at the second coming when there will be difficult, painful times, when the Son of Man returns and that will be in the future. Here we are, approaching another Christmas, nearly two thousand years later, and the second coming of Jesus has not yet happened. But to be seasonal, let us, in this season of waiting, hold off from that immediate jump to make sense of it and try and explain it. Instead, let us be patient. Let us lean into the discomfort that the second coming brings us, remembering and trusting that God knows what He is doing and use this advent as a time to remind us of our secure future with Him.

27th November 2021

1 Thessalonians 5:18 In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

This week has seen the American Tradition of Thanksgiving. We don’t tend to celebrate here, but being thankful is something we can all benefit from. The tradition of telling everyone around the table what you are thankful for before you eat seems like a great tradition and worth doing whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not. It is good every day to recognise the things we have been blessed with, but when times are difficult, when we are feeling down or struggling then remembering the good things and giving thanks for them is really beneficial to our well bring and mental health. We become so expectant and entitled that we forget that actually we came into the world with nothing and we leave with nothing so everything we ever have is a blessing, something to be thankful for. The more we recognise this and are thankful the more appreciative we are of life and the more we want to share with those who are less fortunate than we are. So whether you celebrated Thanks giving or not, make sure you thank God for the abundant blessings He has given you

26th November 2021

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

We celebrate new year each year as December ends and January comes round again. We make resolutions and hope for things to be better. It is a time of hope and promise. The new church year begins with the beginning of Advent, the preparation time before Christmas. Depending on which day December 25th falls on, means Advent can begin in the last few days of November, as it is this year. The churches year, called the liturgical year, begins with Advent, a time of preparation, of self-examination. We tend to see Advent as the preparation for Christmas and the coming of Christ, that is part of it, but it is also a preparation for Jesus return as foretold by the Bible. The term means arrival and coming, taking from the Latin. The arrival of Jesus at the nativity and the coming of Jesus as eternity dawns and God’s plan finally comes to its conclusion. It has existed since about the fifth century and included fasting as usually observed in Lent. One of my favourite traditions is the advent candle marked up for each day with a different name for Jesus. It is only lit for about half an hour but it is to encourage prayer and thought about who Jesus is and to make sure we are prepared for His return. As we start Advent in this coming week, may we remember what Christ has done and what He will do when He comes again.

25th November 2021

Matthew 25:32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

What kind of Christian are you? One of those who think Christianity is for the elite, impenetrable for all but the few? Or are you the sort of Christian without much real spiritual discipline at all? Don’t bother studying the Bible or reading and learning about faith. Both are tempting ideas about faith but neither will do! In the church some still cling to an idea of a cultural Christian, the occasional attender, who are tentative, often conservative, very supportive, but uncomfortable with a full commitment to faith. It is a traditional Anglican view point; a large feature of cathedral ministry and it covers a multitude of sins. But it is not a substitute for the reality of faith, which-like it or not, calls all of us out from where we are: sheep, goats, lukewarm, hot or cold, to make a full and complete commitment to God. As Augustine said “To love God and the world equally is to live neither for God nor the world”, We cannot hedge our bets. We need to love God first and foremost then from that full commitment to Him comes our deep love for the world that causes us to want to share the love we have found with everyone. 

24th November 2021

Mark 8:29b Peter answered him, You are the Messiah.

How’s your balance? Do you feel balanced, happy, on point? No sooner has Peter expressed his conviction of Jesus as the Son of God than Jesus completely knocks him and the others completely off balance with what discipleship entails for them. At the first hurdle Peter is labelled an opposer. As we seek to serve Jesus, declare His glory and share His good news there appear to be plenty of things to knock us off balance. But in the same few verses Jesus offers ways to keep us balanced. Humility and love to keep us standing and Two feet to keep us walking along the straight road and leading us on through to Heaven. There are those of us who want to approach faith through our brains and through argument and then there are those who disregard the dogma and teaching altogether and are guided only by their feelings or intuitions. The challenge is to find the balance. Those doctrines which reveal the radical nature of God’s love, but also that experience of God is not an idea to be understood or an argument to be won. God is love, we love Him and he loves us. There is a risk that we don’t listen and learn, that we neglect reading and study, that we forget sound argument and solid ideas. There is also a risk that we forget the personal love of Jesus and the servant attitude we seek to imitate. The gospel of Christ is Himself. If we keep these things in balance then we cannot be knocked off course.

23rd November 2021

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.

If nothing else Cop 26 was an example of looking at the bigger picture. Examining the danger to our world now but in the future and across all lands and seas. Our selfishness and short-term values as human beings have left many in the world already suffering the consequences and it will only get worse. Our willingness to look at the bigger picture affects how we think, act, work and live. Being willing to see how what we do as individuals in the context of others and the world, gives us a bigger and better perspective. We can begin to see beyond money, possessions, success to how we as individuals affect others. We have running water in our homes, proper toilets and so we easily forget those across the world who have neither. Those who walk miles for dirty drinking water, those whose lack of sanitation causes illness and disease. Because it is not “our personal problem” we forget, we carry on because we are okay. The bigger picture reminds us that others are dying because they cannot access the basic of life. Everything we do, read, study, think etc has a context, it can open our eyes to the bigger picture. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians is being encouraging, faithful, helpful and yet he writes from prison. Even in a small room he is able to see the bigger picture, to remind others of the God given resilience, strength and hope needed to keep going, to value what we have and to share it with others. Whatever is true, right, lovely etc, think on those things and see the bigger picture.

22nd November 2021

Jeremiah 32:40 God says I will make with them an everlasting covenant that I will not turn away from them.

A friend of mine recently spoke to me of their desire to see true disability rights actioned in this country. By this they meant that they could call the station and book for the ramp to access the train but more often than not they arrive to find no one to action it. They can complain but nothing can legally be done. The will to really change things is not there. Accessibility in shops, museums, parks, transport etc is still not imperative, there are still excuses that can be made and accepted while disabled people are excluded. This goes for many in our society who are excluded because of disability but also gender, skin colour, religious belief, life choices, orientation and so the list goes on. God does not exclude anyone from His love, His care. We often exclude ourselves by our own behaviour and choice, but God never turns away from us. He has made an everlasting covenant or promise to never turn away. The nature of God and so our nature as His creation, His children should be to never turn others away. To never abandon those who are disabled or different, to never judge another by our own standards. We can make a difference if we treat everyone as chosen and precious before God because that is exactly what they are.

21st November 2021

Matthew 8:5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.

How is your resilience? In recent times many outspoken MP’s and commentators have been quite rude about our young people and even called them snowflake generation. As someone who is working with young people, I can tell you that is wrong. As we move on, still living with the affects of the pandemic and its ongoing clutches, it is young people who are coming back stronger. They are looking forward, being positive while many of us are struggling and in affect grieving over these lost couple of years and lost lives and ways of life. The reason for this, I believe, is the spring of youth but as we have adapted in schools, we have created an environment where asking for help is okay. We have provided counsellors and pastoral workers so if someone needs to talk, seek help, then they can, no shame, no worry. Just having that support gives strength and encouragement to move on. We need to give ourselves this opportunity. To be reminded that it is okay to ask for help, to seek out a counsellor, mental health first aider, a doctor; whoever can help us and not be embarrassed to do so. People in the Bible came to God for help, to Jesus for help. It is okay to need to help and God gave us each other and people trained in areas so we can access that help for ourselves. If you need help, please ask for it. Resilience is built when we have support and learn strategies to help us cope and build back better and stronger.

20th November 2021

Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

We all wish for more time, if only there were more hours in the day, more days in the week, more months in the year. And yet if there were we would only fill them and wish for more. Time management is one of those things often asked for in Job interviews. Can you fit everything we want into the time we are giving you and can you do it well? We are seeing increasing demands on people in their work and home life and our human resilience means we try, we try our best to do more and more in less and less time. Time is precious, if we have learnt nothing more over the pandemic it should be that life is precious and we do not know how long we will be on the earth. Many lives have been cut short and these have not just been older people. The Bible tells us that there is a time for everything under heaven. We are encouraged by God to use our time wisely because He knows that there are so many things in life that can distract us from what truly matters. We must not waste our time so that we look back with regret, we simply do not know what tomorrow holds! How we spend our time is far more important than how we spend our money. We have time but we have to chose to use it properly, to give time to what matters, to what God calls us to do. In respecting time and our use of it we will gain a heart of wisdom.

19th November 2021

1 Samuel 16: 7b For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

If you were asked to describe yourself, what would you say? Perhaps it would be what you do, who you are, your role, your hobbies and so on. I wonder, would you use words such as fallible, vulnerable, restless or perhaps angry, open, fearful? If we are honest with ourselves many of us have worries and concerns and hide parts of our lives from others and from God. Being a Christian can be costly, it can demand of us a willingness to be vulnerable, to accept our weaknesses and not hide them, to accept our brokenness and that Jesus is the one to heal that, maybe through counsellors or doctors. We are all in need of God’s grace, thankfully He offers it in abundance. We can often condemn others, because it helps us feel better about ourselves. If we look strong and opiniated we can hide our weaknesses from others and look powerful. God’s grace is not about strength or power, it is about weaknesses, needs, fallibility. Our need to control others and situations rises out of selfishness and not out of service, compassion, empathy or love. As we walk the way of the cross, our example is Jesus, and we should be able to describe ourselves in ways that reflect Him.

18th November 2021

Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

How are you at disagreeing? I have met many folks who are convinced their job is to disagree with everything no matter what it is. Disagreement is not necessarily a bad thing; we need to know all the pros and cons of anything to make good decisions and by thinking deeply about our attitudes and behaviour we can nurture understanding and respect between people who disagree. If we recognise ourselves as the body of Christ with differing gifts, abilities and talents, all God given, then we can be open to each other, honest with each other without any hidden agendas. What is in both heart and mind needs to be shared gently and lovingly so that conversations can be had about difficult things without folk feeling embarrassed or hurt. In this way we can learn together, flourish together, grow together. We can be faithful to the Bible and to Tradition by reasoning, listening to differing perspectives, differing lived experiences, and valuing them with the same value we place on our own ideas. Together does not mean in full agreement, but it accepts the other as a fellow child of God who is just as valued and loved by God as we are.

17th November 2021

Romans 15:7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

Across our world and in our neighbourhood are communities of Christians. These communities are, hopefully, held together in the love of Christ. We are all different, God made us that way and these many differences are God given gifts that can enable us to flourish and create mutual respect for each other. But they can also damage the image of Christ that we are called to show all through our life together. The quality of our relationships is devalued by certain behaviours. We need to address these to live as better Christians. We need to accept that we have prejudices and ignorance’s. We all see things differently, but our way is not necessarily the right way. We need to recognise our own hypocrisy in pointing out others faults but ignoring our own. We need to pay attention to and call out those in power so as to drive out fear and speak up for all. We are called to welcome and love people as they are, unconditionally. That means seeing Jesus in the stranger who walks into church, in the homeless, in those who have to use foodbanks, in the shop worker and delivery driver, in everyone. If we can reflect Christ in these ways, we can bring others to know Him because they see Him in us as one who accepts folk just as they are.

16th November 2021

Romans 12:10 Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another.

At the end of the sermon on the Mount, a discourse on how followers of Jesus should live, the people who hear Him are astounded by His authority and teaching. Are we? Do we recognise Jesus’ authority and does our teaching about Jesus have authority? The Church of England says the Bible contains all things necessary for salvation, but we also learn from history, nature and sciences. The Bible is the source for Jesus’ teaching, rooted in His time and place. We are to use the Bible to reason our ideas, to learn and to set these into the context of our traditions. The church teaches that there is no fear in love and that marriage is the ideal commitment for sexuality and family. It also recognises that there are many voices in the church, and some different interpretations of Scripture. The Church of England tradition is marriage between a man and woman, but it also supports same sex civil partnerships. Clergy cannot yet do same sex weddings although Church in Wales is now allowing blessings. The ideal is lifelong union, seen as marriage, but it also recognises and accepts committed relationships. The church also teaches that Sex is also about Joy, given as a gift from God, to be a blessing to both and bring them closer. There are many issues currently being discussed over relationships, but one thing is clear, the abiding view of God, of Jesus, is love and respect for each other and not judging one another because our view maybe different to another.

15th November 2021

Mark 8:36 Do you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not!

At the time of Jesus, becoming a disciple required an unwavering commitment to submit to the rabbi’s authority, living every day with Him in close proximity. This meant that every day was full of opportunities to learn new things about God, to study, to discuss, to grow. We may not be those first disciples but we still need to recognise who Jesus is; the Messiah, the Son of God, our saviour and Lord, and then submit to His authority by obeying His commands and living as He lived; learning new things about God every day through prayer and the Bible. We have a choice, to live our life all about worldly gain, the wealth, power, fame etc or all about Jesus’ ways, being a servant of others, loving and caring for them. We must decide what really matters to us, and if our eternity with God is what we desire. If we are ashamed of God, of Jesus, then we cannot expect Him to be anything but ashamed of us. If we deny self, take up our cross and follow Him then we will see the bigger picture, we won’t be blinded by worldly things and we won’t become a stumbling block to God’s mission.

14th November 2021

Mark 13:8a For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines.

What do you do with your poppy after Remembrance Sunday? Do you throw it away? Or keep it for next year? Does it go in a drawer until you come across it in a few months’ time? Perhaps you have a very particular place for it? The Poppy is a symbol of our remembering. So, what will you and I do with our remembering after today? Today there are many acts of remembrance, but what happens on Monday, and the next day and the next? Will we put our remembering away in a drawer until next year, when we will get it out again and remember for a few days once again? For some of us the remembering is more personal, because we are grieving what has happened to a family member, a colleague, a friend, a parent, a child. That isn’t something we can switch in and out of for one day a year. How we remember and what we do with our remembering, matters. What we do once today is over, matters. Because if we just put our remembering, along with our poppies, to one side, to forget until next year, then we have not remembered rightly today. Remembering rightly is about how we live and what changes because of what all these service personnel did for us as a community, as a nation. Right remembering, means we must remind ourselves of the facts of wars and conflicts, past and present, and remember with sorrow, pride, gratitude, wonder. Remember those who gave their lives. Remember that behind each name we remember is a family, colleagues, a group of friends, a community, a nation that is different because of that one person and their sacrifice. We will remember them.

13th November 2021

Matthew 16:24 If anyone would follow me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

As Christians we are called to live every day in such a way that it is apparent to everyone that we have died to ourselves, to our selfish ways and ambitions, and live lives for God. It is what is meant by taking up our cross and following Jesus. Yet as soon as something unfair happens we instinctively want to get even. But we have died to that, haven’t we? We have prayed “not my will but yours be done.” So, hopefully as we become more like Jesus we will humbly submit our will to God’s will, and we will respond to difficult things in kindness and humility. Will we always do it right first time? No, but life is a journey. God knows we are fighting the habits of a lifetime and He is patient with us as we learn to walk the right path. Nevertheless, we are called daily to take up our cross. It is good for us to remember that many Christians still bear the cross of persecution, imprisonment and death for their faith. Something we can’t even imagine. Taking up our cross is much simpler and easier than theirs.

12th November 2021

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

For most of history we have been contented to make temporary patches to cover the holes and problems in society which in fact have served to maintain the very structures that created the holes to begin with. This way of life disempowers those on the margins, it always has. Now it has caught up with us as well. Those we have supported are now turning in on us. We are called by God our creator to love our neighbour and that is the very foundation for re-establishing and reclaiming the common good for all. The common good has fallen into cultural, political and even religious neglect, while we have put ourselves first and others second. The commitment to the common good of all dates to the very beginnings of our faith and is rooted in both the Old and New Testaments. Presently our western civilizations appear to be in a state of spiritual emergency. For Christianity to be effective in its re-establishment with the common good, it must create a universal hope that both brings peace to and unshackles the human soul. The mystery and blessing of the poor is this: that they are Jesus, and what you and I do for them we do for Him. The common good of all provides a larger moral perspective, living for the good of everyone not just ourselves. It ties into the current climate change emergency and the need to change for the good of all now and in the future. This must challenge us to deepen our faith, to reach deeper into our relationship with God and to work tirelessly for the good of all and the good of the Earth God gave to us to sustain us. 

11th November 2021

Matthew 6:10 Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

As we follow Jesus, we should start to look and be more and more like him; and as we look more like him, we look less like the world. As we deny ourselves it means we say “No” to ourselves and “Yes” to God, to humbly submit our will to God. It means we go through life repeating the words that Jesus said the night before he died in the garden, he said to God his Father, “Not my will but yours be done.” It is what millions of Christians pray in the Lord’s Prayer. “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. Becoming more like Jesus, St Paul tells us, is imitating Him, putting Him on like an actor takes on a role and becomes that character through study, learning, following, using the same language and attitude to become like them. We often speak of good role models, those we should look to as an example of how to live. Jesus is our chief role model and as we become more like Him we should become good role models as Christians for other people to look to.

10th November 2021

Ephesians 1:18 I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people.

How good are you at learning new skills? I wonder if you enjoyed your time at school and felt you learnt well and valued that learning? Learning is very much a lifelong process but the majority of what we learn is learnt in our early years. Our young brains are hotwired to soak up as much as we are willing to let it. We are very much independent people, with strengths and weaknesses. We learn through life whether we actively chose to or not, we are challenged, we grow and we learn to support others and they us. Paul encouraged all the places he visited with His letters, he tried to show them the value of learning, of growing in faith and in supporting each other through life. As each person made their independent choice to follow God Paul prays for them to receive a spirit of wisdom and revelation and that they would be enlightened. He knew that as we all grow as Christians we need to learn, to value that learning and to become wise and enlightened in our faith. How we grow as Christians depends very much on how willing we are to learn, to pray, to listen and to grow. We are independent people but we also need to be team players in our community and society. God never gives us more than we can handle, we need to be willing to learn each day, to value our learning, our opportunities, to allow ourselves to become wise and enlightened and to share this given learning with others as a valued gift from God.

9th November 2021

Mark 8: 32b So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

As humans we have times when we are at our worst and times when we are at our best. Peter is a disciple we see at his worst and his best. His moment of glory, declaring who Jesus was, one of his worst moments, Peter tells Jesus that what He is saying about having to die is wrong. In other words, Jesus, I Peter, know better than you or God do. Peter has his moment of seeing things from a basic human and selfish point of view, we all do that. We think as Peter did, come on Jesus we are fine as we are, let’s just keep doing what we are doing, nothing rash. Jesus words to Peter might seem very harsh, but at this moment Peter is acting like the opposition and by promoting the status quo is actually thwarting the very mission Jesus came to fulfil. If Jesus does not fulfil His mission, then Peter and all the disciples and all the believers through history and us today and those to come would have no access to God, no forgiveness, no salvation. As Jesus reminds Peter; you are thinking in earthly terms not heavenly ones. Peter is not seeing the bigger picture at this moment, how often is that the same for us. Peter goes on to make an ever-bigger error when He denies Jesus, but is he lost? No! He is forgiven, loved, blessed and given the job of leading the earthly church. Just like Peter we can be forgiven, blessed and given a new mission. God never gives up on us, even at our worst.

8th November 2021

James 3:13 Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts.

We like to think about life and living well, we don’t like to think about death or dying. Jesus shows us how to die. We have been given life and then Jesus demonstrates how we are to give it up and give it away. For most of us, this is an idea that runs contrary to all that we want to believe. Yet, Jesus makes it absolutely clear that God is not about giving us all we want, all the creature comforts. What God does care about are matters of the heart. Jesus makes it clear that if you want to have a deeply meaningful life that truly matters, you are going to have to hand over your ideas and mistaken priorities. Quite frankly, following Jesus means living a very counter-cultural life and letting go of the intense narcissistic focus on self, that runs rampant in our culture. Christianity is more about loving than being loved, more about working to understand than being understood, and more about forgiving than being forgiven. <span style="font-size: 1rem;">The life that Jesus speaks about is not something we can buy or earn. Like love and grace, it is a gift and can only be freely given away. The deep truth Jesus is trying to tell us is that only when you give your life away for the sake of others, only through serving, loving and caring for others, do you really discover life, life that truly matters. When we are able to finally let go of the ego, the cult of false self, that part of ourselves which believes we are in charge, or self-sufficient, then we finally begin to live a life that truly matters. 

7th November 2021

Acts 7:56 Look! he said. I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!

When someone speaks of Heaven, we often think of it as an ethereal place somewhere out there, that brings some comfort in times of loss. Jesus himself speaks about heaven. He calls it “my Father’s house”. Heaven is the place we identify as where God lives and yet we are also told that God is everywhere, He is omnipresent. So, what of Heaven, perhaps it helps to think of it as that place where God’s glory dwells. Our human nature is such that we need a place, a physical identification that we can point to. In the Bible we are, from time to time, given a glimpse into heaven where God is worshipped day and night by the heavenly hosts and the saints who have passed from this world into glory, His father’s house. This is what Stephen sees as he is stoned to death in Acts 7, Jesus waiting to welcome him home to His father’s house, Heaven. Jesus in His teaching, also has in mind the new heavens and the new earth that those who are in Christ will enjoy for all eternity as told in Revelation 21. A wonderful place with ample room for all his people, for everyone who has and will ever live if they choose God and Jesus. When talking about heaven people are accustomed to speaking of pearly gates, streets of gold, and mansions on hills; we also speak often of no more sin, sickness, or death. We long for these things, but we also need to see “God with us” as the most treasured feature of Heaven. He is what makes heaven, heaven. He is what makes paradise, paradise. Just as in the first creation, we will again walk with God in the cool of the evening. We will enjoy unbroken, unhindered, non-restricted fellowship with God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, forever.

6th November 2021

John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Most of us choose religion and come to believe important things deeply because we believe they are good for us, in all honesty we like a religion that makes us feel good. We like a faith that fits our comfortable, recreational life styles. We tend to like a faith in which we can participate when we choose to participate and that does not demand too much from us. We want to follow a strong God who heals us, provides wealth and success, guarantees our security, leads our sports teams to victory, and keeps us happy. When Jesus speaks about suffering it is not something we want to hear. When we are offered a life of suffering versus a life free from suffering, you can bet your bottom dollar we are going to go for the one that is pain free! So, this is where we must be very honest about the Christian life. Nobody’s life is ever going to be pain free or free from suffering and Christianity is not about living an easier life, with a personal Genie type God to give us everything we want. It is about following Jesus, allowing Him to share the load, to give us the strength we need to cope with life’s ups and downs and knowing we will never face anything alone. When we are finally able to let go of self, to let go of our worry, to let go of our anxiety, to let go of our need to control, then we discover that God is already in that place, walking with us and holding us in love. It is then that we discover what the cross really means.  

5th November 2021

John 14: 1 Do not be worried and upset, Believe in God; believe also in me.

These comforting and hopeful words which are so familiar to us are made as an imperative in the Greek, a command that we are given to act upon. When our hearts are anxious, when our hearts are troubled with the cares that come with living in this world, we need to hear the command of our Saviour saying, do not be worried and upset. There is substance to this command. There is weight behind it! You and I might say to one another, “don’t worry”, or “be happy”, but there is little substance in platitudes we just say. We might respond to encouragement like that saying, but why shouldn’t I worry? Or, why should I be happy? Jesus gives us a clear reason. He directs our attention to God, our Father and urges us to take comfort in Him! To believe in the God who created you, the God of Abraham and the patriarchs, the God who cared for His people again and again, who blessed people and kept them safe and helped them in times of trouble, a God of miracles and of complete love for His people. There is no greater reason to not worry or be troubled, than to remember the God who made us and the love that He has for us in Christ Jesus. This is where Jesus directs our attention. “Believe in God”, He says. And “believe also in me”, the one He sent, the promised Messiah, who came to save us through the cross. So, when we are troubled, worried and struggling we are to turn to God, tell Him everything we feel, we think, we need and place our trust in Him to be the strength, support, comfort and protector we need.

4th November 2021

Mark 8:31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will rise to life.

Over the years there have been huge numbers of books written about Christian Discipleship. Discipleship is currently a big thing in the church, they want people to become disciples rather than followers or church goers. In his book Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “When Christ calls (someone) He bids (them) come and die.” These words, and many like them, cut straight to the nitty gritty of what discipleship and following Jesus is all about. Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Impetuous, impulsive Peter gets all excited and confesses that Jesus is the long-promised Messiah. Jesus next few words are hard to hear. He will need to suffer, be tried and found guilty by the high priests, be killed, and after three days rise again. Peter’s reaction is to step back and reprimand Jesus, his words shatter the attraction of following this long-expected Messiah, not what any of them or us want. Leaders don’t suffer and die. This is simply ridiculous. Who in their right mind chooses to suffer and die, and who in their right mind wants to follow a leader who is on this ludicrous path. Jesus doesn’t hide what following him really means. Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead, He says. You’re not in the driver’s seat, I am. Don’t run from suffering, but embrace it. If any of you want to follow me, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. Self-sacrifice is the way to true discipleship.  

3rd November 2021

John 13:33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, Where I am going you cannot come.

Picture, if you can, Jesus in the upper room with his disciples. He had walked with them for over three years. He taught them many things. He performed miracles before their eyes, and in the sight of others. They believed that he was the Christ, the Saviour of the world, and they expected him to remain with them forever. But now he is talking about going away. The disciples were really troubled by these words. The thought of their Master going away. You can imagine the questions; Why does he need to leave? Where does he plan to go? Will we see him again? And how will we possibly get along in this world without him? These are feelings and thoughts we also experience. As always Jesus brings comfort and reassurance to his disciples and to us. Jesus, at times, was troubled in His spirit, after all He knew what was coming, the agony, death, battle with Satan and then the resurrection; He knew that we could not go through these things but He could, on our behalf. Even with the weight of the world on His shoulders Jesus still comforts His disciples and offers them and us words of hope. Don’t worry, don’t be upset, God the Father and I have got this, believe in God, believe in me and your future is assured, not just in the distance but now, today, your future is assured and we will be with you through everything, every day, every hour, every moment, you will never have to cope alone if you just believe.

2nd November 2021

John 6:40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.

Today, 2nd Nov, is All Souls Day also called The Commemoration of The Faithful Departed. It is the day in the church year when we remember those of our family and friends who have departed this life and are with God. As such it is also a day when we are confronted with our own mortality, as well as with the great hope we have in Christ bringing us to our future in Heaven along with those who have died. Recalling the death of our loved ones we are confronted with a perhaps startling reality, that we too shall die. That our life has bounds marked by birth and also by death. There was a time when we were not and there will come a time when we are not again. In the deaths of our loved ones, we come to see our own death before we die. As those who have come to know, or are coming to know, the reality of our existence, we are taught by Scripture to number our days, that we may gain wisdom. And so, we are called to serve God in our own generation, as our loved ones did in theirs and to which their lives bear witness. It is to the tremendous reality of resurrected life, that Christ will bring with and in Himself all the faithful departed including us. So let us rejoice, even as we remember our loved ones and face various trials in our life, and let us pray for those of our loved ones who have departed this life in faith, and for ourselves as well, and thank God that the good work which God did begin in them, and has begun in us, may be completed unto the day of Jesus Christ.

1st November 2021

1 Corinthians 1:2 To those who have been blessed in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I wonder what comes into you head when you hear the word Saint? Our Cathedrals and old churches have statues of them in various niches and many churches have them in the stained glass. We can read about their exploits and good deeds which have caused them to be remembered. The disciples are addressed as saints, as are the writers of many of the Bible’s books. There are Patron Saints for every manner of things. Countries have them, St. George is England’s, St. David is Wales’. St Andrew for Scotland and St Patrick for Ireland. Every kind of activity and craft has a patron Saint, for example St. Amand who is the patron saint of bartenders, brewers, innkeepers, merchants, vine growers and vintners. St. Clare of Assisi who is the patron saint of theatre performers, embroiderers, gilders, laundry workers, goldsmiths. Christians worldwide recognise more than ten thousand saints, so there are many that you and I have never heard of, but they are still Saints, recognised for all they have done. Today, November 1st, is All Saints Day, a special day when the Church commemorates all those saints, men and women from history, who were ordinary people and were extraordinary in the life God gave them. We have the opportunity to be saints too, to be people who serve God in the ordinary each and every day and in doing so, do extraordinary things through God’s strength. So, just like the Saints in our Stained-Glass windows and picture books, brush up your saintly halo and be an ordinary person doing extraordinary things for God.

31st October 2021

John 6:58 This, then, is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the bread that your ancestors ate, but then later died. Those who eat this bread will live forever.

At times Jesus loses followers because His teaching is difficult; even many of his disciples turned their backs and no longer went about with him. What about us? Do we stay when teaching is hard and takes us out of our comfort zone or do we just give up? Sometimes the crowds couldn’t wrap their heads around what Jesus was saying, they struggled with his very life giving them eternal life, that it was His sacrifice of flesh and blood that would secure their salvation in Heaven. From our side of the resurrection, we can understand Jesus’ words as speaking about his death on the cross and his resurrection on the third day; we can understand that his words are about the way his very flesh and blood opened the pathway of salvation for all people; but even with this knowledge, we can find his teaching hard, we can find it provocative, words that turn our world upside down. The crowds of His day often did not believe, they did not find the gift of faith. This question lingers for us today; do we also want to abandon Jesus because his teaching is just too hard to bear, too radical, to life-changing, to all-encompassing? His desire for us, and for the whole world; is to experience the very life of God in the midst of this broken world; His desire for us is to be restored to a right relationship with the Father and with one another; His desire for us is take in his body and blood so that our lives might be transformed, so that we might commune with God, and experience His eternal and abundant life. Is that too hard for us? Is it just too difficult to follow Jesus, to do things differently to the world, to think differently and act differently? To stand up and challenge when things are wrong? That is a question only we can answer.

30th October 2021

Genesis 3:23 So the Lord God sent them out of the Garden of Eden and made them cultivate the soil from which they had been formed.

When we speak of the human condition we tend to lean toward the idea of original sin, we forget that actually humans were created originally good and perfect. It was Augustine who pushed this idea of original sin even though it never appears in the Bible. His teaching was that all humans were born into Sin because Adam and Eve turned away from God by eating the forbidden fruit and were then cast out from the garden and perfection. We tend, these days, to see sin or wrongdoing as personal choice and personal responsibility. The idea of original sin was something passed onto us from Adam and Eve, not something we actually did. It has its value because we recognise that everyone is frail, vulnerable and imperfect, but it also devalued the goodness we all have inbuilt in us. This idea of original sin should make us more compassionate, more forgiving and self-accepting of ourselves and our imperfections and I believe that Augustine meant the doctrine to be a compassionate one, but in fact it led us away from our ability to trust, we became negative instead of positive and it became a problem to be solved which has kept us imprisoned in an idea that we can’t seem to escape from. We became entangled with the doctrine of original sin when actually we need to be freed with the doctrine of Original Goodness. At the beginning we were made perfect in God’s image, created to reflect God’s goodness in us. We are innately good! When we accept this about ourselves it puts everything else into perspective. When we start from a point of goodness then we are compassionate, forgiving, positive people. We are generous in our life; we trust and see the innate goodness in others as well as ourselves. Our faith in God should never be based on fear and punishment but on the positive vision God had and still has for us. 

29th October 2021

Psalm 30:8 Weeping may last for the night time but joy comes with morning.

Why does everything seem so much worse in the night time. I remember when we were up with very young ill children the daylight brought a comfort, a clarity. Most attacks take place in the darkness and in the dark of night life doesn’t seem to make sense. The night is a time of vulnerability, of questions, and of wrestling with life and we all know that old saying about the darkest hour being just before dawn. Our world orbits around day time living, even though we have all night shops and jobs, day time is still the main living time where we establish who we are, gain recognition and approval; it’s safe and predictable. Daytime life is the life we create for ourselves. The problem is that daytime life keeps us stuck on the treadmill of always having to re-create our lives. Somehow, we can never quite get there. It seems that which we most desire is always just out of reach. It means we keep doing the same old things and yet expect a different result and that is the definition of Insanity according to Einstein. This life will always be less than the life God intends and desires for us. Here’s the irony. This very life we create for ourselves often becomes the very thing that take us into the darkness because it is not of God. We keep doing the same old thing but nothing changes. We’re so exhausted we can’t muster the energy to re-create our life one more time. We have everything we want, everything is fine, but something is lacking. There lies our darkness. We cannot be part of the kingdom of God without being born again into God’s ways. No matter how successful daytime life appears to be it will always be incomplete, fragile, and transitory because It’s the life we have created for ourselves and is not of God. 

28th October 2021

John 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.

In the age of constant media, social media, 24/7 connectivity via the internet, information is constantly at our fingerprints. We see news from across the world just moments after it happens. There is information and offered wisdom concerning just about any question, any problem or any issue. Want to know the best investments to make, there are a hundred-thousand experts giving you contradicting advice; the same for being happy, parenting, studying, vitamins to take, self-help etc. Supposed experts are a dime a dozen as we search for wisdom and advice. This search and thirst for knowledge and wisdom isn’t new, in every generation of human history, people have looked for guidance and wisdom. This was just as true in Jesus’ day, a fact we see from the great crowds who followed him, often hanging on his every word. Many of them were happy to simply benefit from his miracles, whether it was healing, or being miraculously fed. Many people today see Jesus as just a great teacher who provides excellent wisdom and truths about life, the universe and morality. In fact, there are even atheists and non-Christians who see value in the teachings of Jesus, trying to harmonize him with other religious teaching or with general moral teachings. Jesus, however isn’t just a teacher, He pushes the boundaries of the crowds’, disciples and our comfort level, His words are more than just good advice, or food for the soul. Jesus is the bread of life, the living water, the one and only who gave His life for ours. He is the one who has the words of eternal life.

27th October 2021

Matthew 8:24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.

When Jesus calmed the storm, if Peter or any of the disciples had been millionaires what good would that money have done to save them. If John had the wisdom of Solomon, what would it have done to save him? Sometimes, all the resources we have at our disposal cannot deal with certain storms in our lives. Certain problems we encounter cannot be solved with our experience, wisdom, money, the services we can buy, and so on. For the unbeliever, when they get to a point in life where every means to get a cure, or a job, and or a better life fails, in despair, they are easily driven to break down, even suicide. But for the Christian we shall never run out of hope, because if everything fails, we have faith at our disposal. Faith enables us to tap God’s supernatural power to overcome any storm that will rear its ugly head in our lives. ‘Jesus calms the storm’ teaches us to apply faith in our lives, especially, against the problems we are powerless to overcome. I do find it odd that Jesus would sleep while the disciples were struggling. In fact it makes me a little cross. Why is God not noticing when they and I am in trouble? Well, Jesus knew how they felt, just as He knows exactly how you and I feel. He also knew that the storm would not overtake them, but He calmed it in order to calm them and to reinforce exactly who He was. God’s son, omnipotent, omnipresent and powerful. God is never asleep in our storms, He is right there, but we need to reach out, to let Him work, to either calm the storm or to calm us and strengthen us to face the storm and ride it out.

26th October 2021

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life in all its fullness.

Just recently medical professionals and religious leaders have warned peers against backing a fresh attempt to relax the law on assisted dying. A new bill to enable terminally ill adults to legally seek assistance to end their lives has been debated by the House of Lords. Campaigners say a change in the law would give them greater control over how and when they die. But opponents argue a change in the law would threaten vulnerable people. The proposed new law would enable adults who are of sound mind and have six months or less to live to be provided with life-ending medication. The person wanting to end their life would have to sign a declaration approved by two doctors, which is signed off by the High Court. However, a group of 1,689 current and retired doctors, pharmacists and medical students has urged peers to reject it. In an open letter to Health Secretary Sajid Javid, they say a change in the law would "threaten society's ability to safeguard vulnerable patients from abuse," and "undermine the trust the public places in physicians". "It would send a clear message to our frail, elderly and disabled patients about the value that society places on them as people," they added. Jesus Christ calls his followers to compassion. But compassion must not be drawn too narrowly. It must extend beyond those who want the law to provide help to end their lives, to the whole of society; especially those who might be put at risk. Our choices affect other people. The common good demands that our choices, our rights and our freedoms must be balanced with those of others, especially those who may not be so easily heard. We know that the sad truth is that not all people are perfect, not all families are happy, not everyone is kind and compassionate. No amount of safeguards can perfect the human heart, no amount of regulation can make a relative kinder or a doctor infallible. No amount of reassurance can make a vulnerable or disabled person feel equally safe, equally valued, if the law is changed in this way. 

25th October 2021

Isaiah 48:17b I am the Lord your God, who teaches you, who leads you in the way you should go.

I have been watching the Cycling World Championships this week. These athletes are quite incredible, it seems to us that they just go round and round in circles, sometimes play cat and mouse, sometimes just follow, other times break away. There are tactics being used dependent on whether you are a sprinter or more of a long-term hard worker. Sometimes it all goes incredibly well but other times it can go wrong in a flash and someone can crash out. I think this is a good metaphor for our Christian lives. Daily life can often seem like going round and round in circles, like playing cat and mouse with events and people. We might spend a long time following someone and sometimes we can break away from everyone else and go for it. We can sometimes be Christian Sprinters, all or nothing, do it quickly, go out hard and fast, others of us can be those who are in it for the long term, steady life while others stream back and fore around us. Life for us can go really well for periods of time, we keep well, healthy, on track and everything seems fine and then it can all go wrong in the blink of an eye. We can seem to crash or be brought down by events or people. We go up and down in life, we have good days and bad days, we have slow and fast times and sometimes we win through and other times get left behind. The great news is that God is our constant guide, with us in every moment whether good or bad, whether fast or slow. To carry the analogy one step further think in terms of s tandem and Jesus is in the front seat with us behind. As long as we allow him to lead, to push us on we will always make it to the end and we shall always be rewarded, blessed and encouraged for living our best life for the Lord.

24th October 2021

Psalm 56:5 All day long they distort my words and actions; all their thoughts are against me for their evil gain.

I have recently been in the situation where I was unable to attend the funeral of a friend. Not because I had other commitments but because of certain other events, no friends were allow to attend. This happened as a knee jerk reaction to other things which took place and these overtook an event that should have been the opportunity for friends and family to celebrate the life of someone who made a difference to many lives. So often things can be hijacked by other situations, people, events or political gains. In recent times we have seen people misrepresented, mis quoted and used to promote lies and misinformation. It is part of the human condition, using and misusing others for personal gain. For those of us who live honestly and with integrity, who seek to do the best for others, it is frustrating and upsetting when we are misrepresented, used and mistreated for someone else’s personal gain. So, it may not surprise you to find that God has been misrepresented many times, even by His supposedly own people. Abraham misrepresented his wife Sarah as his sister to protect himself instead of trusting God, Isaiah, Jeremiah and other Biblical books are full of those false prophets who misrepresent God to get personal gain. Stories of Kings who only employed people who agreed with them and did not tell them God’s truth. We see these things happening today, people surround themselves with yes people, pay for lies rather than truth and treat anyone who is honest and truthful with contempt and remove them. This behaviour exists in society but also in churches and in the hierarchy of our institutions. We are called to be people of integrity, we must look to God and His ways and not allow ourselves to be hijacked by politics, self-promotion or aggrandisement. If you have been misrepresented, I am sorry, stand firm, challenge their treatment of you and keep standing in honesty and truth because God is on your side.

23rd October 2021

John 3:2a One night Nicodemus went to see Jesus.

The use of night time in the Bible is often about darkness, hiding in the shadows, doing wrong things, not wanting to declare openly a belief in God or Jesus. It is also a way of categorising us into people of the day time and people of the night. We begin to realise that we can be one thing in the day, confident at work, with family, reputation and then another at night, in the darkness, worried, not sleeping, full of questions and concerns. By day Nicodemus knows who he is. He has an identity, a Pharisee. He has a status as a leader of the Jews. He knows and applies the law. People listen to and follow him. He has a place in society with security and power. He fits into this world. By night it is different. Nicodemus is misplaced and muddled. He cannot see or recognise. He’s living in the dark. His work, actions, reputation, and place in religious society do not provide constancy or answers. He’s faltering in the dark. The certainty of Daytime has given way to questions and uncertainty. By day he keeps the Pharisaic beliefs. By night his life comes up empty. He’s searching for something the daytime life cannot give him. We all know what this is like. We live daytime lives and we live night-time lives. By day all is well. We live with a sense of purpose, identity and security. But by night everything is different and hidden. We stumble through the darkness, grasping for something to hold, searching for answers and explanations for the events and purpose of our life. Nicodemus comes to Jesus to seek the way; this is exactly what we need to do. Come to Jesus, be honest and ask Him to help us be born again each day.

22nd October 2021

Matthew 8:26 Jesus replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

Sometimes we refer to difficult times in life as storms, it could refer to any undesirable thing we face in our lives such as temptations, persecution, marital problems, disease, unemployment, infertility, poverty, debt and any other thing that we meet and see as a problem in our life. The story of Jesus calming the storm reminds us as Christians that God has a solution for all the storms of life. During this storm on the lake, some of the disciples, being fishermen, applied their years of experience and their strength in an attempt to save their boat and their lives, but the storm triumphed over them and their efforts did not pay off. It was only then that they called on Jesus and Jesus spoke, “Peace be still.” and there was calm. His disciples were gripped with wonder because, for them, it was impossible to overcome such a storm and they were wondering how Jesus was able to command away a storm of this magnitude that had outdone their wisdom, experience, and strength. Self-reliance didn’t work. This is a lesson for us. Jesus knew very well that they had a terrible storm on their hands, yet he remained sleeping until they called upon Him for help, and then he responded. The event of Jesus sleeping during the storm is a picture of God’s response towards the storms in our lives. Though He knows and sees our situations, He will not force Himself on us, we must call upon Him for Him to step in and help us. We must recognise our need for God and ask Him to step into our lives each and every day.

21st October 2021

Romans 12: 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed and changed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is; His good, pleasing and perfect will.

I have asked several people recently if they are ready to change, I also ask it of myself regularly. We are being challenged by St Paul here to not conform but to change and renew our minds. So, what are some things we can change? We can change our relationships, making sure we are surrounded by those who support us, strong, positive people there for us in both bad and good times. Each day we need to make meaningful connections, a sense of accomplishment that we have achieved something today. All of us need to learn from past experience, we band this phrase around but very often we just don’t learn from the past, but yet we can see where we did cope, where we didn’t and what strategies we used to help ourselves and others. All through life we need to strengthen and develop new skills, be lifelong learners in our Christian life and within life in general. We also need to participate, to do things for ourselves and others, hobbies, taking a walk in God’s amazing world, playing sport, gentler as we get older, or supporting others, and we need to sleep well, to allow ourselves quiet, restful time where worry is handed over to God and we rest awhile. The biggest tool for us to grasp is Hope. Hope keeps us going in the darkness of times, it is crucial to our life and to change. We must never ignore when things need changing, we need to figure out a way forward, be proactive and when we need help to never be worried about asking for help. If we are struggling then be reminded that we are not alone, we have our strong relationships, we have places to go, we have God who will point us to people who can and will help us. As we do not conform to this world then we do not allow it to dictate to us, to tell us who we are, to drag us into the often vileness of social media and cause us to lose hope and heart. We can be transformed, changed, by the renewing of our mind, by allowing the elasticity of the incredible brain God gave us, to create new pathways, new ways of thinking and doing, and the blessing that we can do this every day, as we start a new day and all through the day. Step by step, day by day, we can change things and God is right there providing us with the strength we need.

20th October 2021

Colossians 3:8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

The events of the last few days, the murder of an MP, have prompted people to take to social media about how we speak to one another, how we become aggressive towards those who disagree with us and instead of listening to one another resort to insults and rudeness. The ability to debate has been in our education system for along time, but in recent times it has seen insults, banter and supposed humour replace the presenting of an argument and the willingness of folk to listen and reason what they hearing. Our politics have become politics of insult, of ignoring questions and honest comment in favour of making the questioner look small and stupid. We cannot ask why this kind of behaviour is prevalent in society without looking at our politicians, our leaders whose poor example is watched and reported on and thus becomes acceptable. The Bible reminds us time and again that the way we act, the way we talk, our attitude must be considerate, wholesome and peaceful towards everyone, even if we disagree, even if our ideas are worlds apart. The French author Voltaire, said “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” in an attempt to calm things in his society and to support the principle of freedom of speech. It seems we no longer want to defend the rights of others to speak out if their opinion is different to our own, but we cannot be right all the time; growing up and learning teaches us to respect each other, to respect that others might have better ideas or answers than we have. We all, no matter who we are, must calm our tongues, speak in peace and consideration of each other and not fan the flames of aggression, anger, slander or malice. Only then will society be a better place for us all to live together.

19th October 2021

Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Have you noticed that some people can never be pleased or helped? You try everything, make exceptions, alter things, accommodate them and they are never pleased, never say thank you, never appreciate the effort and just keep criticising. In trying to help them you often upset others or make others feel they are not as important. The trouble is we try our best to be good people, to help others and we can be taken advantage of. I was told when I was younger that being kind, generous and caring to others does not mean being a door mat for them. Jesus stood up to those who used His Temple as a place of iniquity, it is okay to get to a point where you can no longer keep allowing certain people to dictate to you and gobble up your time. It does not stop us praying for them, being kind and helping them as we would any other person, but it does mean we no longer allow them to dictate to us, hurt us or demoralise us. We need to do this because we need to look after ourselves, our wellbeing and mental health, and because we have God’s love for the other person, we have to show them, honestly and kindly, that their constant abuse of us is not acceptable. 

18th October 2021

Ezekiel 18:4a Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the parents as well as the soul of the child is mine. 

I have noticed the costumes and pumpkins in the shops, the big bags of sweets and the colourful buckets and cauldrons to collect the sweets in. As October marches on we will arrive at Halloween. This year it falls on a Sunday, the last day of the half term break. Because it falls on a Sunday, we are going to be marking three days in one. It is All Hallows eve (Halloween) on the 31st, All Saints Day Monday 1st and All Souls Day on Tuesday 2nd. The eve of All Saints was always considered to be a thin time, a time when the gap between Earth and Heaven became thin enough for souls to move between the two worlds, it is why Halloween is linked to ghouls and ghosts and witches etc. The 1st sees us celebrate all the Saints, all those who have gone before in the life of Christ and all those of us still on Earth serving the Lord. Then on the 2nd we remember those we have lost, those we love yet see no longer because they have died. In the space of three days, we celebrate life, death and a half way house of unpleasantness and wickedness. Halloween is a human invention, a myth born out of wanting an explanation for that which could not be explained at the time. A desire to tinker with evil and wickedness and prove that it is not really harmful or bad. We currently let our children approach strangers for sweets, dressed in costumes, when every other day we tell then to not accept sweets from strangers and not to go near them. It may seem like a bit of harmless fun but actually it opens the door to evil and bad things because none of us is immune from the pull of evil and sin. At the vicarage we never give sweets or encourage this practice. We pray for those who pass our door and for all children who are learning that things of evil are fun to play with, that God will guard their souls and protect these little ones from harm.

17th October 2021

Jeremiah 22:3b do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

I expect, like me, you were saddened and probably angry at the report of how the Government initially handled the pandemic and the many unnecessary deaths and mishandling of events. It is almost like a burial of their heads in the sand, a blinkered approach which was not going to change no matter what, and with no acceptance of their failure. The huge loss of life, the treatment of the elderly, the stranger, the bereaved and those who were working to help these people was unashamedly disrespectful of the sanctity of life. Time and again we are told in the Bible that life is sacred, special and that taking life is the prerogative of no one. Those in positions of power have a role of protection and care of their citizens and when they do not do all they can to protect them they are not respecting the sanctity of life and therefore, not worthy of their position. As humans we are capable of mistakes, forgiveness is available and the Bible is clear, when we are wrong, we need to apologise, recognise our errors and change our approach. I have not heard an apology; I have not seen a recognition of error and certainly no willingness to change. Instead, we have witnessed even crueller treatment of the stranger, orphan and widow as well as still seeing higher daily death rates and an NHS pushed to beyond its limits and blamed for something it had no power to change. Our role has to be that of those who do follow God’s teaching, who do not mistreat anyone and do our utmost to prevent any loss of life where we can. The least we can do is remind those in power of their obligation to care for all and to listen, learn and make the necessary changes for the good of all.

16th October 2021

Job 12:9 Who among beasts and birds, bushes and fish does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?

However we look at creation, whether we accept scientific explanations or spiritual ones, there is no doubt that creation gave us the world we live in and has enabled us to live and grow and develop. Sadly, it is also now very clear that we have so mistreated creation that it may well reap its revenge on us if we do not change our ways. St Francis of Assisi was a hermit who lived within creation, within nature and saw God within it. He preached not only to humans but to animals. We are now also recognising that getting into nature and creation is hugely beneficial to our mental health. Walking in forests and trees, alongside the sea, camping out, even just going to the local park, it all helps with how we feel as humans. Just getting away from the voices, the pressures, the rat race and into God’s creation brings a balm to the soul, a joy to the heart, a peace to the mind. It is much harder to live the life of a hermit these days, to be in and of nature, but some still make that choice. We all do have the opportunity to take time, to go on a retreat or chose to step away from life for a few days. To take the opportunity of letting God guide our time, speak to our minds and hearts, not rush but take time and literally smell the roses. A new appreciation of daylight and darkness, sunrise and sunset; what happens to plants and flowers, the changes in nature and how fresh the air is. We have chosen, through our life styles, to separate ourselves from the natural world. We have paid for this in losing our spiritual side, our ability to contemplate and see things differently. Spirituality and faith are blessed, enhanced, strengthened when we ground ourselves in God’s creation, when we appreciate how much God has given us and how poorly we have treated it. Being in God’s creation, having that channel between us and God opened and cleared in the peace of creation allows us to realign, revitalise, reappreciate who God is and what He has done for us.

15th October 2021 

Deuteronomy 15:7 If any among you becomes poor, in any land or community, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against them.

On the 16thand 17th of October we have both World Food Day and Child Poverty Day. It is somewhat shocking that in the 21st Century with all it’s advancements that we still have to be reminded of child poverty and food poverty across the world. At present about 2.4 billion people do not have access to decent nutritious food and many are starving to death daily. This is just over a quarter of the world’s population. We mustn’t be complacent here in the UK where 5 million, just over 9%, of our own population are going hungry on a regular basis. 4.3 million children live in poverty, that is 31% of the children in the UK. So, in a class of 30 between 9 and 10 of those children are in poverty. You and I are probably safe, well fed, have enough to heat our homes, eat well, clothe ourselves and have some nice things. For so many this is not the case. More children are now living in poverty than in the time of Queen Victoria. A shocking indictment on our world and on our country and it’s leaders. As Christians we cannot sit by and just accept this as the norm. We cannot just allow things to get worse for the majority while the privileged few benefit. God is so clear in the Bible that no one should be hungry, no one left without basic food and clothes and a roof over their head. In fact, all religions are common in their approach to the poor, that all of us who can give to others must do so. It is only when we share that all will have enough. Sadly, the human view is generally that if I am okay then I just need to dig in and keep myself in a reasonable state and let everyone else deal with the less well off. It is a clever leadership ploy to give just enough to those with enough that they will be happy and not want to upset the apple cart by fighting for others. We should not need a Child Poverty Day or a World Food Day but we have them because we do not follow God’s plan and God’s clear teaching on how we treat each other and how valuable and unique every human being is no matter who they are or where they are from.

14th October 2021

Colossians 3:17 Everything you do or say, then, should be done to your best and more in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks.

Over the years I have met many children who were not expected to do well, to even function in society and yet time and again I have seen them surpass expectation because family and friends have never given up Hope and worked for the best outcomes. It is far too easy to take the easy option, to accept something rather than challenge it and make a difference. As we enter a winter of difficulties and problems, we need to know that 5 million people in this country are living in food poverty, that can only worsen with the removal of the Universal Credit uplift, rising gas prices and rising food prices. This situation does not inspire or exceed hope and it certainly doesn’t positively surpass expectations but, as we look forward, we have a choice to make. I will be honest and say it looks hard and difficult and I wonder if anything I do will make a difference but my very faith, my very belief in a God who surpasses all my expectations and constantly renews my hope is that I can make a difference. All of us can do something because lots of somethings soon mount up. We have the possibilities of giving time and talents, of contacting Local Councillors and MP’s not just once but regularly. We have the opportunities to give out of what we have and share with those less fortunate, even help at a food bank or community fridge, a night shelter or debt counselling. We can donate to organisations who will make life better for others and we can be a good neighbour and friend to those we know whose life might be difficult right now. It might seem a lot to ask but God will always give us the strength we need to do these things. Our Hope is in God who made everything and therefore can enable us to work for change. Do not give up, tap into God’s hope, into Gods love and strength and that way you will be able to exceed in hope and surpass expectation.

13th October 2021

Romans 15:2 Let each of us think well of others, for their good, to build them up. 

I have often heard people ask if someone is a team player, it is even asked in interviews these days. The question being asked is whether a person is concerned for themselves or will work with others for the good of everyone. We live in quite a selfish society today, yes, we saw glimpses of goodness in the pandemic, but with a government who promote me first, selfishness, leave the weak and protect yourself etc we are now finding people just don’t want to help others, don’t want to put themselves out to help someone in need. We have made things about ourselves first. There is nothing wrong with looking after ourselves and our family but if we do so to the exclusion of all else, we become selfish, blinded to the needs of others, we accept standards for others that we would not accept for ourselves. It is too easy to be selfish and yet time and again the Bible tells to share, to think well of others and to build each other up. It is as simple as the language we use, if it is derogatory or negative it only serves to hurt and upset others, but the simple manners we were taught as children, to say please and thank you, makes everyone's lives better. To be willing to go that extra mile when someone is in need, that is our calling as Christians who serve each other in God’s family.

12th October 2021

Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

We will not forget 2020 in a hurry, COVID-19 wreaked havoc upon the health and economic well-being of all people across the world and this will continue for years to come. It emphasised the inequalities that exist between countries and continents and within counties themselves. The poor and marginalised have been far more affected by the impact of the virus. Alongside this racism and racial injustice has been seen throughout the world. We watched in horror at the killing of George Floyd and witnessed the officer’s brutality and lack of action from those around him who became complicit by their failure to stop him. This clearly showed us that racism is still prevalent and accepted even in countries who claim to be multicultural and multifaith. We have a history of slave trafficking from Africa, racial stereotyping according to skin colour, and we still use this for discrimination and inequality in our communities and our world. In Jesus time and the early church people were branded by their nationality, their gender, their freedom or slavery, yet the teaching of the early church is clear, in Christ there are no distinctions. It is not enough for us as Christians not to be racist; we must actively stand against it, and clearly oppose racial injustice. This is not easy, but no one ever said following Jesus was easy. Despite our call to behave as if we are all one in Christ, no distinctions, the deep inequalities that exist between people of different colours, cultures and ethnicities continues. But we must make a stand, hard as it might be, because when we do nothing we are complicit in allowing it to continue and that does not honour God or our calling in Christ.

11th October 2021

Genesis 2: 15 Then the Lord God took humans and put them into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and take care of it. 

St Francis of Assisi is a saint most people know of and usually talk of him having something to do with animals. There are many statues, pictures and representation of Francis surrounded by animals. Francis lived a frugal lifestyle, tried not to overuse commodities so as to look after creation properly, even then Francis saw a danger in our overuse of resources. He and his followers lived a simple life and saw God in everything. The popular hymn All Creatures of our God and King is the hymn attributed to Francis and all through Earth, it’s creatures, rivers, lakes, wind, clouds, sun, moon, fire and even death are exhorted to praise their creator. He addresses all these as brother, sister, mother and friend. Each is shown in its unique place and glory before God. Francis did not see humans as superior to the rest of creation, he saw us those given the blessing and responsibility of caring for it, being stewards of God’s creation not aggressive rulers who take all we want, who asset strip creation and then want to walk away. We are finally waking up to how much we rely on the eco systems of the world and how we have damaged our world because of our selfishness. Living a simple life is not easy but it is possible, it does not have to mean becoming Tom and Barbara in the Good Life, or wearing sacks and living in a commune. It means being careful, not over indulging, recycling, reusing, avoiding damaging products and being ethical with investments and endorsements. Treating God’s creation as our friend, brother, sister and mother.

10th October 2021

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. 

The fruit of the spirit is quite simply what we are called to be. As we come together in church and in faith we learn as followers of Christ as we grow in these fruits and develop them. Sadly, not everyone finds a welcoming safe caring church when they try and join us. Certain things seem to make us unwilling and reluctant to welcome folk. Yet we are clearly called to live well together, to accept one another, to do our best to welcome everyone; to love, to care and be inclusive of all. As we welcome people, we should enable them to speak up when they are ready and if they so wish. Within the family of God everything should be confidential, no gossip, our churches must be safe spaces, where we recognise that we all learn differently and have individual relationships with God. The fruits of the Spirit call us to listen to God and each other, to speak in love, to be patient with each other and faithful to each other as we grow and learn together. This means we need to listen well, pay attention, not interrupt, notice feelings, and definitely not judge. The term Disciple means learner and we learn by a combination of seeing and doing, hearing and feeling, asking questions and telling our stories. The world got lost by turning away from God, but God never turned away from the world, He sent Jesus to save us all, He gave us hope. We are all imperfect, complicated and lead messy lives. There are many voices, many people but one church which must bear fruit together.

9th October 2021

Acts 2:4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

The gift of The Holy Spirit at Pentecost offered the ability to communicate across barriers and boundaries, people heard the gospel in their own languages, the Holy Spirit was and is for everyone just as Jesus was and is for everyone, just as God was and is for everyone. The Holy Spirit enables God’s intended equity, equality, unity and flourishing across all cultures, ethnicities, genders, nations, peoples, young and old, rich and poor, anyone and everyone. As Christians we are charged to build an inclusive kingdom of God from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, to stand before the throne and before the Lamb Revelation tells us. We as the body of Christ need to understand that we are all the body of Christ. This is central to our social justice, and how we offer mercy, equity and righteousness. Racism of any kind is a sin; it is against God. It is born out of our denial that all humans are created equal in God’s own image and that in Jesus we are all one and all equal. Slavery still exists in our society, people are still treated differently because of their skin colour, gender, disability and economic status. This should have no place in our churches, in our society or in our life. We have, in the past, weaponised the Bible to justify slavery, to treat others as lesser than ourselves and assert our own white Christian superiority, even picturing Jesus as blonde, blue eyed and very white. When the Spirt came at Pentecost it enabled the disciples to bridge and transcend ethnic and cultural differences, this same Holy Spirt enables us to do the same. Much work remains for us to overcome racism in our context and in the culture of racial inequality that has long been accepted by too many in our society and in the Church. The question is are we willing to be part of that work and change things for the good and flourishing of all?

8th October 2021

Deuteronomy 5: 29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to me and keep all my commands, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!

We don’t seem to talk about respect much these days. Respect is defined as a deep admiration for others because of their qualities as a person, we hold them with esteem and have due regard for their feelings and rights. Respect carries with it courtesy and politeness. Treating everyone with respect no matter where or when we meet them, who they are, their background, ethnicity, gender, disability or life choice. We may not always agree with someone, but we should respect them as a fellow human and treat them well. Working on the streets with the homeless found me speaking to a university graduate for whom things had gone wrong, he spoke of the verbal abuse, the kicking and hitting from people and having liquids thrown over him. He then spoke of the dignity and respect that the volunteers showed him and how that had helped him. None of us has the right to judge someone else’s situation and certainly we have no right to abuse or condemn because someone is different. God has always desired that we follow His ways so that everyone is respected and treated equally well. He tells us that if we do that then all will be well for us and our families. God’s way means everyone is cared for, everyone looks after each other and all of us would be respected and esteemed by each other. We have forgotten that if everyone is treated well then everyone wins, everyone benefits, everyone has a better-quality life. Life in it’s fullness for all has always been God’s plan, God’s intention for all, but we have a choice whether we follow that plan or not.

7th October 2021

Galatians 5:13 But do not let freedom become an excuse for letting your selfish nature control you. Instead, let love make you serve one another.

I heard the story of a man today who works 6 days a week, paid minimum wage which is so low he receives Universal Credit. By the time he and his family pay bills, rent, food, transport, clothes and shoes etc there is nothing left. On Wed 6th October the Government took £20 a week away from him and thousands like him saying it will force people into work, he is working, his fuel payments are up, food is going up, he will pay extra National Insurance. He and so many are going to suffer terribly, will be turning to food banks and will live in more poverty this winter. More than half the people who use foodbanks are in work; nurses, labourers, carers, students, apprentices, working but not able to afford to live. What an indictment on our society. The governing classes of this country have used their freedom to force and hold down others so they can maintain their power and wealth. Taking from the poorest to supposedly balance the books whilst paying vast sums to the rich for mythical supplies and work. This is not the world God created or intended. God’s way is about fairness and justice for all, about love of our fellow people prompting us to serve them not take from them. The money that the wealthy throw away on trifles and expensive brands would feed poor families for weeks. We must, as Christians, fight for the rights of the poor and downtrodden, challenge our governments and be selfless rather than selfish. That is what God requires from us as we serve one another in love.

6th October 2021

Matthew 14:14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Compassion is something most of us want to have. But it isn’t something that can be taught, you can’t just buy it from Amazon. Compassion has to be felt it comes from inside, sometimes it happens without us even realising it is there. We can’t produce what isn’t there, but we can create a lifestyle where it can flourish. A start is being open to others, allowing them to get close. This is fairly easy with the people that you already feel love for and want to be close to, but we need an openness to everyone. Those we work with, those we see around us, people in our church or local clubs. As we are more open, then we become more open and it grows. Our capacity to understand and accept difference deepens. We can begin to accept everyone with open arms not because we have been told to, but because we realise that we are all deserving of love and compassion. We are all God’s creatures and we are all equally deserving of love and compassion. This in turn opens us to the poor and homeless, the sick and dying, and prompts us to help where we can. When we choose to be compassionate, we are allowing the compassionate nature of God to flow in and through us. Compassion is within us, in our hearts because a compassionate God created us but we are not forced to release or develop this compassion. As with all life and how we live, we are given freedom to choose. If we choose to open ourselves, to practice God’s compassion in our lives then we will be compassionate people and make a difference.

5th October 2021

Matthew 11:2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples.

When we think about Jesus who do we think He is? In Matthew Jesus’ identity is as an unexpected Messiah, as the fulfiller of Isaiah’s prophecy and as God’s wisdom. Jesus was regularly rejected by the Jews, especially their leaders, because they had their own misconceptions about the Messiah that was to come and Jesus completely failed to meet these. Even John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus’ coming and who baptized Jesus in the Jordan, has his own expectation of Jesus as the Messiah. John was in prison and sent his disciples to Jesus asking him if he was the one who was to come, the Messiah, or was there another. John had expected the Messiah to come with fire, brimstone, with a winnowing fork in hand to exercise judgement just as Isaiah had prophesied. Jesus’ answer to John are His works as a healer, preacher and teacher. This answer shows that His messianic identity is defined by signs that include healing the sick and preaching the good news. He was a Messiah who came to judge but also came to have compassion and mercy for all. What do we expect of our Messiah? Who do we think Jesus is? To grow in our faith, we need to know who Jesus is and what He means to us and for us.

4th October 2021

James 5:10 As an example of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

The story of the poor being oppressed by the rich is as old as time itself. Once people have money, they exercise power over those who do not. James of Jerusalem was encouraging his oppressed members to have patience in their sufferings. In fairness, this was quite demanding for them, why should they wait? Why should they suffer? These were the poor Christians oppressed by the rich but James was encouraging them to patiently wait for the coming of the Lord. To look o the future and the Hope of God’s promises. He gave them and us, two examples of how to do this: first the farmer who patiently waits for his harvest, even though it takes time to grow and mature, second the example of the prophets like Job who had given them examples of patience and endurance in times of suffering. Despite the disasters he faced, and the lack of his friends support, Job kept his faith and did not abandon his trust in God. As a result, the Lord finally brought about the restoration of Job’s life, as He will ours. James message is given to strengthen their hearts to keep the faith, patiently waiting for the coming of the Lord and not grumbling to their fellow Christians. The term suffering probably refers to a broad category of all different kinds of suffering. In our society today, people are suffering. You and I may well be suffering. Can we learn the lessons of patience from the Harvest and the example of job to help us deal with our own suffering? Can we be an example of suffering well to those around us? In God’s strength we can.

3rd October 2021

Isaiah 35: 10a The redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing to Zion and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.

Isaiah is a prophet who speaks about the day of God’s glory when there will be rejoicing, gladness, blossoming, and shouts of joy. Sounds good doesn’t it. Isaiah says the people will experience a sense of renewal, and he assures them that their salvation includes being saved from their enemies and their restoration to their place in God’s kingdom. Isaiah is clear there is no place for fear in God’s coming kingdom. God will restore all those who are in need: the blind, the deaf, the lame and the mute. The chosen people who rejected God’s way and suffered the consequences of judgement and alienation still have hope and will again be the objects of God’s undeserved favour. God provides a way for them and for us, which has the qualities of holiness and joy. The people who walk in this way are described as the redeemed of the Lord who will come with singing into Zion, the Holy City. The place where God brings full liberty and freedom to all His people. The words of Isaiah served as an encouragement to the people to never give up, they are the same for us. Encouragement not to give up, to keep serving and working for others. To walk daily with God in holiness and joy.

2nd October 2021

Psalm 146:6 Praise the Lord who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps His promise forever.

The psalms are expressions of anguish, questioning and challenge but they are also expressions of faith and great joy in praising God. How do you express your feelings of joy and praise? Can you say with the Psalmist, Praise the Lord? We don’t know who wrote this particular psalm or when it was written; but we can see that with confidence, the psalmist proclaims that God Almighty is the one who keeps His promises forever and who will always respond to the needy by; giving justice to the oppressed, food to the hungry, freedom to the prisoners, eyesight to the blind, lifting up the humble, caring for the stranger, sustaining the orphan and widow, and loving the righteous. The psalmist may well have experienced or witnessed all of these occurrences and we experience them as well. We can see them in our own lives as we serve God and His people, but also we see it in the lives of others who serve God. The psalmist expressed faith and great joy in praising God through writing this psalm, but how do you express your faith, your joy? Through prayer, action, writing, worship. We are all different and express things differently, but most importantly we need to recognise our joy and faith and express them in praise of Our God.

1st October 2021

Romans 12:6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them for His glory.

Some years ago, I heard the then Bishop of Southwark talking to Children. He explained the shape of his Mitre as a symbolic flame of the Spirit placed upon his head when He was made Bishop. Then he also referred to it as a type of Spirit sorting hat, as in Harry Potter, where the Spirit blesses the person with the gifts, they need for the life they are living. These gifts are given within our personalities, our talents. Yes, when necessary, any gift can be given to any person at any time, but we tend to have gifts that are innate to us. We need to cherish and celebrate these gifts in others as well as ourselves. We need to accept our gifts and not long for the gifts of others and use all of them for the common good. I have witnessed miraculous healing, but I also witness the gift of healing in every nurse, doctor, carer every day. I have witnessed incredible discernment and see it every day in people who just know what to say or do at the right time. I see wisdom, faith, prophecy, understanding, service, care, creativity, strength, gentleness, compassion…….. being shown every day around us, by us, by others. I am so grateful for the encouragers, for the listeners, for the fixers, the cooks and cleaners, the prayer warriors, the Sowers and the reapers, the carers, the wise, the knowledgeable, the poets and writers, the artists, the teachers and preachers. There are so many wonderful gifts and we need to cultivate them in our lives so we can work together as the body of Christ and make things better for everyone. We need to be willing to let the Spirit into our lives. We need to be willing to be faithful in allowing God to work in whatever way He chooses and be the conduit for the gifts God has given as we let the Holy Spirit gift us in whatever way is necessary. 

30th September 2021

Acts 2:38 Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As Christ’s body on Earth, we need a presence, a power, a guide, an enabler, and that is God’s Spirit living within us. Just as Mary became God bearer in having Jesus, we become God bearers as we bring God to everyone we meet. The challenge is for us to always act and speak as bearers of God. We cannot do it all, so thank God that there are millions of us to help one another, to cover the gaps we leave. We are much better God bearers when we do it together as God’s family, God’s church. Pentecost celebrates the birth of this church, of this God bearing Community of Christians. We are in Communion with God and with each other and that is utterly amazing. When we talk about the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost, we tend to like the comforter, counsellor parts of the Spirit and not the wind or the flames. We like the quiet, slow and subtle working of the Spirit……we want to see things change, people come and churches grow but we want it “our way”. Trouble is the Holy Spirit can be loud, bold, raucous, obvious and signs and wonders can and do happen. The Spirit can be both a thunderstorm and a gentle breeze. There is both a terrifying power and gentle peace and nurture. This powerful Spirit is available and bearable because of Jesus. Don’t forget Jesus had his wild side, He had harsh words for those who treated others with contempt and profited from God’s laws. He cleared the temple; He raised the dead but He also showed love and compassion beyond our imaginings. Jesus is both the beauty and the terror of God and is the outpouring of God’s love in restoring us to Himself. God comes in three parts and we need them all to be God bearers on earth.

29th September 2021

Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

We all hear things incorrectly sometimes; we all know the joys of Chinese Whispers and the final message bearing no resemblance to the original. The first time I heard the hymn There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, I thought it was There’s a wildness in God’s mercy. I quickly discovered my mistake but sometimes I am not so sure that I was wrong. Wildness is extravagant, exuberant, abundant, challenging and sometimes uncontrollable. God’s mercy is all those things but wildness, extravagance, exuberance, abundance, challenging and sometimes seemingly uncontrollable is very much the Holy Spirit. I am a big fan of CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and the character of Aslan. Descriptions of this Lion who represents God, talk of Him being both frightening and beautiful. A being who can eradicate life with one swipe but who also gently picks up the needy and holds them protectively. The depth of power is frightening, the wielding of that power can also be gentle and fair. We are rightly fearful of the unknown and of power wielded incorrectly and perhaps that prevents us from understanding and accepting the Holy Spirit of the New Testament. After Jesus crucifixion the disciples were scared and fearful for their own lives, they needed something to allow them to step up and step out to do what Jesus had asked them to….enter the Holy Spirit. We too need something to help us, empower us…..enter the Holy Spirit. Christians become the active body of Christ on earth through the Holy Spirit. The outpouring is powerful, it is unpredictable, insuppressible, formidable and fairly messy. Incredible things happen and that might have been okay for the early church we think, but it’s a bit too wild for us now. But people who are seeking God are naturally drawn to the power because if this God is real then He must be powerful, and we will see that power at work. 

28th September 2021

Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? You may have watched the ones on TV at Easter. Go back to Jesus’ time and thousands upon thousands of faithful pilgrims would travel “up” to Jerusalem to the holiest of holy sites on earth. They would arrive in the Holy City with very little and the Roman imperial money in their pockets had to be exchanged for Tyrian coins, at a very high rate of exchange, which then could be used to purchase animals for sacrifice. On the first day of the Passover festival, thousands of pilgrims would purchase their oxen, their paschal lambs, their pigeons, and doves and bring them to be sacrificed. For hours animals would be sacrificed to remember Israel’s liberation from Egypt. There were various areas where certain people were allowed depending on gender, religion and status. And then there was the Court of Gentiles where everyone else was allowed to stand and watch the religious ones allowed enter. Anyone was welcome here, but between the Court of Gentiles was a wall separating the Gentiles from everyone else, and inscribed above that wall was a warning that any Gentiles that entered would be killed. You could call this a wall of hostility. We all put up walls of hostility which stop people finding the God they set out to find on their pilgrimage. The Apostle Paul talks about how Jesus tore down the “dividing wall of hostility” and truly called us all to be one, together, no matter who we were or where we came from. No longer strangers or aliens but citizens with the saints. May we be those who tear down walls for everyone to come to God, to be pilgrims on a journey who find God who is waiting for them.

27th September 2021

John 2:15 So he made a whip of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.

I love a good fair or bazaar, look for the bargains, help out a good cause. For many of our churches and community groups this is one of the main ways of funding things. In Jesus time people came to the Temple, not to support the work but to do what they were told was expected of them. The message of the religious elite in that day, propped up by the Romans, was built and communicated in the very structure and system of the Temple. God was at the centre, and only certain people could come close to the centre. Only certain money could be used so huge profits were made. There were all sorts of merchants selling overpriced food and cheap souvenirs. It was not really a holy, spiritual place. It had turned into a unholy bazaar. A shopping mall. Very far from its original intent. Jesus is going to do something about it. He drove all of them out of the Temple, the sheep and the cattle, poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told them to stop making God’s house a marketplace! A place of robbery! For it is a place of prayer! Jesus occupied the Temple because the people who believed they were in charge had rewritten the script and were now excessively involved in injustice. The Temple had become a private enterprise. A big welcome to those who towed the line, paid the money, followed the protocols, but not inviting, nor inclusive to others who didn't, which was what God had always intended. Jesus is stating very clearly that God rejects and is angry at the exclusion of anyone from Him and His love, that no one can be forced to pay to meet Him. Perhaps we might overturn a few tables today, when we do not justify and excuse the injustice, the poverty, unfairness. When we call out those in leadership for their mistakes and stand up for everyone. We must not stop challenging, praying, working until everyone is included and treated equally and fairly.

26th September 2021

Ephesians 4: 16 The whole body depends on Christ, and all the parts of the body are joined and held together. Each part does its own work to make the whole body grow and be strong with love.

As a young person I played a game called Consequences. A group of people each have a scenario in their head writing their story line by line but each time folding over the paper and passing onto someone else so they cannot see. The final line is….. and the consequence was…. the final scenario is filled in. The story could be amusing, confusing or strange, but there was always a consequence, always an outcome based on the actions and events leading up to it. Everything we do and say has consequences. When we lie, it gets bigger, harder to cover up and it has consequences not just for us but for others. There are consequences to the flippant comments, to peer pressure and being forced to do something just to be accepted. There are consequences to carrying weapons, to hanging around with the wrong crowd, consequences when people are stolen from, abused, attacked, defrauded and lied to. There are consequences when we overwork, don’t take care of ourselves or our world and we are seeing that now. Being honest people, who speak the truth, deal in the truth and live truth we are aware of consequences and we help each other and live as people of God, people who care, who are patient, humble, gentle and forgiving. This is basic to our core human needs and the balance of God’s created order. Being someone of truth and integrity, who can be trusted, who keeps their word, these are the people the world needs, our country needs and our community needs. People will see and recognise honesty and truth and people will recognise something of God within us.

25th September 2021

Matthew 14:29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

I like to paddle, in a stream, a river, the sea. It is lovely to take off shoes and socks and feel the water on my feet and legs. If you are in a boat, you might dip your feet in over the side but you don’t step into the water as you do not know the depth and you will just sink unless you swim. Peter is invited by Jesus to come out onto the water and walk on it. Jesus invites, come, trust me, I will look after you. The impossible happens. People have tried to recreate this, tried to prove it is possible but they always have to use technology or cheat to do it. There is a lovely version of this story in the film The Shack, well worth watching as it challenges many of our ideas about God and make us think. As long as Peter keeps his eyes on Jesus, he is safe, he walks on the water. From this we deduce that the impossible can happen when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and He invites us to come. As soon as Peter takes his eyes from Jesus and lets everything else crowd in, he begins to fall, to drop down into the waters where Jesus’ hand reaches out and lifts him back up again. God is God of the possible and the impossible and we can be a part of that when we keep our eyes fixed on Him and follow Him. But we can also be assured that even when we begin to fall, to let everything crowd in on us, He is always there to reach out and restore us.

24th September 2021

Luke 10:40 Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

If you have siblings, how alike are you? Often siblings can be almost the antithesis of each other as well as sharing certain traits. In the gospels we meet a family close to Jesus, sisters Mary and Martha with their brother Lazarus who Jesus brought to life again. Mary and Martha were quite different in their attitude to Jesus. Martha was the hostess, cooking, cleaning, attending to His every need. Mary was much more contemplative, preferring to spend time with Jesus, listening and learning. Often, we are almost forced to take sides, who was right, who was wrong? Both sisters are icons in the scriptural world; Martha of the traditional female role as set out by males; Mary more of an icon of feminism, contemplative, disciple like, much more of the independence women have fought for, not dictated to by males. As such we can identify with either or both. We can be like Martha, feeling hard done by, that it is not fair. We can be like Mary, spending time with Jesus, listening, learning. We may feel a little cross that Jesus seems to side with Mary and not Martha, that He doesn’t tell Mary to help a little. In the form of service, it is Martha who is the example, in the form discipleship it is Mary. When their brother dies and Jesus finally arrives it is Martha who confronts Jesus, she is strong, bold with spiritual insight. Here are two sisters, both followers of Jesus, is one right and one wrong? No, certainly not. They are two sides of the same coin. We are to love God with heart, soul and mind and love neighbour as self. That means we need both contemplation and listening as well as action and service. The rules of God’s Kingdom are not those of society; equality, injustice, fairness are things we still need to fight for. We must be people of prayer, contemplation and listening but we must also be people of action and service. Life is not either/or but both. If God is at the centre, if God is priority all the rest will fall into place.

23rd September 2021

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

Have you visited The Shard in London, if not it is well worth a visit. It has 11,000 glass panels, 44 lifts, 306 flights of stairs and took three and a half years to build. Within its construction plans it had to have a deconstruction plan as it is made of so much glass. It is an amazing building. In the Bible the Temple built by Solomon was an amazing building, ornate, costly and magnificent. It took seven years to build and then the second Temple, after the exile, reconstructed and expanded by Herod, took twenty years to build. In the Old Testament the Temple is used as a visual aid to proclaim that what is to come from God is so much more. The prophet Haggai speaks God’s message of the final piece of the covenant to come, Jesus, the Messiah, God encourages His discouraged people to stay strong. As we move to the New Testament Jesus speaks of himself metaphorically as the Temple, He will be destroyed but rise again in three days. The people of the time took it literally, they knew how long it had taken Solomon to build the Temple so how can one man, not even a worldly king, possibly do it in three days. Impossible! Buildings are important to humans; they are signs of power and wealth. They are also signs of God’s presence; we have put God in a box so to speak. Jesus comes as the living temple, with us all day, every day, by His Spirit. His death and resurrection are the key, His rebuilding in three days. His living presence who walks alongside us day by day; but can also be a stumbling block to those more concerned with worldly trappings. Jesus is the living Temple, the cornerstone on whom we build our lives, the sure foundation to our lives as Temples of God here on earth.

22nd September 2021

Hebrews 1:3 Our world was spoken into being and is maintained by His power.

If I asked you to describe ordinary daily life, what would you say; We eat, sleep, work etc. Once in a routine we easily allow the wonders of our life and world and of God to be lost, because it has all become ordinary, everyday experiences. As we grow up, we lose that childlike quality that looks with awe and wonder at everything. Our ordinary lives are daily miracles, the healing of a cut finger, the food grown in our fields and gardens, the flowers and trees around us lining our paths and replacing CO2 with oxygen, the ability to communicate by speech, the ability to taste, hear, touch, see and smell, the fact we can travel so far in amazing machines. So much that we see as just ordinary life is a miracle, is a blessing obtained by people’s hard work, discovery and God’s gifts. God is everywhere, in everything we do, see and experience; as creator God He is in everything, including us, however ordinary it may appear. Ordinary is only ordinary because we have made it so, actually it is given, it is offered, it is blessed and it becomes a way of life that we just expect instead of appreciate. We need to see God in the ordinary, thank God for the ordinary, for our food, our work, friends, family, homes, gardens, parks, education and so it goes on. If we see God in the ordinary it will no longer be ordinary, instead we will see the blessing, the wonder, the miracles given by God to us and for us every day.

21st September 2021

Psalm 16:3 As for the saints who are in the earth, They are the majestic ones, the heroes in whom is all my delight.

Do you like the superhero movies of recent years? Marvel or DC, Batman, Superman, Wonder woman, The Flash etc. These are all comic book heroes who find a way to save the world one way or another, often at personal cost to themselves. We have a fascination with Superheroes, they fight for Good, they succeed against the odds, they may have their flaws but somehow, they come through and save the world. We love the ideas of superpowers, something miraculous and wonderful and we, of course, would always use them for Good if we had them. We have had a longstanding joke in the vicarage from when the boys were small that my husband’s alter ego is “clergyman”. Joking aside, we can all actually be superheroes. We are Superheroes because we are in God, of God and we fight daily for good in His Strength. We can and do turn up into situations and perform incredible acts by being kind, by loving and caring for our neighbour, offering a helping hand, listening, doing and being God’s presence in all situations. We might not have x-ray vision, but we do have eyes which can see needs and help. We may not be able to fly but we can arrive in people’s lives just when we are needed. We might not be able to stop a speeding bullet, please do not even try, but we can stop or deflect a bullet of hurt or harm directed at someone. The desire to do good, to do the right thing, to live as God desires us to, makes us superheroes. So chose your name, your badge, your cape and serve God as you fight for good and God every day.

20th September 2021

Psalm 38:4 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

I enjoy a glass of wine with a meal as many of us do. I have favourites that I buy because I like them. For a while I fell into the trap of being told what I should like and what I should not. Being told what was the right price to pay for “good wine” always more expensive than others of course. As a result, I drank some unpleasant and tasteless wines which cost too much! I have now come to a point where I buy and drink wine that I like. I have my taste just as you have yours. Some wine snobs I know criticize and ridicule my choices but I have learnt what suits my palate and now I enjoy my wine far more. Funnily enough I have experienced a similar thing in churches. Just as there are wine snobs there are also church snobs. People who like to tell others what they should and shouldn’t do, how they should worship, pray, what books to read, what is good and what is bad, in their opinion of course, but sadly that opinion is one they consider to be expert. As an older and wiser Christian, I now realise that the only input I or you need on our Christian life is from God and His word, with help and advice from those with no hidden agenda and are called to be teachers and leaders. We are all different, with differing palettes so we all find churches and faith groups which allow us to grow and learn and become the people God desires us to be, not what the church snobs want us to be. The breadth of the C of E means we can worship in a way we find comfortable, read books which help us, pray and communicate with God in the way that works best for each of us and Him. Instead of forcing others to do things the same as we do, we need to encourage them to find what works for them, what tastes best to them and to find and enjoy God in that way.

19th September 2021

Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the ways you should go; I will counsel you with my eyes upon you.

In my younger days I was a walker, exploring places like the Lake District, using maps to find, safe and hidden paths, rivers, roads, villages and places of interest. I love maps, so much information in a flat one-dimensional picture. But you need to learn how to read a map, I learnt for Duke of Edinburgh awards and as part of my Geography O Level. You learn what the symbols mean, the lines as they curve or are close or far apart, how to distinguish roads and rivers, crossings, forests, terrain, hills, mountains and so on. A map is of little use to someone who cannot read it. For hundreds of years ordinary people were reliant on those who could read to tell them what things meant, what books and texts said. This depended on those who could read telling the truth and being reliable. In churches those in the congregation were reliant on the priest to decipher and explain the Bible to them. Like a map can be confusing and unreadable if you do not know its language so it is with the Bible and church. Even today we have our own language and symbols which are not clear to those who are not from a church background. We are very good at using church speak, images which are unclear to the new, offering a code which the ordinary person struggles to decipher. God never intended for anyone to be left out, cut out, turned away because they did not understand the cues or the language. The gospel message is basically simple, God loves us, sent His son Jesus to die for us so we could be forgiven and made whole again. It is us who have complicated it all, it is us who need to change our language and attitude to allow everyone to understand and grasp God’s love for them.

18th September 2021

Acts 1: 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.

Saints are ordinary people who let the love of God shine through them. Each of our nations of Great Britain has a patron saint and November 30th is St Andrew’s Day in Scotland, but as well as being patron saint of Scotland Andrew is also patron saint of Russia, and of Sicily, Greece, Romania, Amalfi, and Luqa (Malta); and patron saint of Army Rangers, mariners, fishermen, fishmongers, rope-makers, singers and performers, sore throats, spinsters, maidens, old maids and women wishing to become mothers. Quite a lot of areas covered here. Andrew receives only a tiny mention in the Book of Acts, listed as one of the witnesses of Jesus’ ascension into heaven, going onto preach the Gospel in Greece, Asia Minor and in Scythia, along the Black Sea as far as the Volga and Kiev. This is how he became the patron saint of Romania and Russia. Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at Patras but he did not die in the same way as Jesus; Andrew was bound, not nailed, to an X-shaped cross, now commonly known as a "Saint Andrew's Cross" or Saltire which became the national flag of Scotland. Andrew considered himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross that Christ was. We are not worthy to be given all that Jesus offers us and yet it is freely given to each of us. Like Andrew we need to serve Jesus as best we can, let God’s light shine through us and always give the credit and glory to God.

17th September 2021

John 1:40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.

As the vicar of St Andrews, I have a soft spot for Andrew. We know that he was a son of Jonah, or John; that he was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee, and that both he and his brother Simon Peter were fishermen, hence the tradition that Jesus called them by saying that He will make them "fishers of men". Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, whose testimony first led him to follow Jesus. The name "Andrew" comes from the Greek and means valour and brave. He was brave enough to follow John the Baptist who was a rebel, he was brave enough to give up his job and livelihood to follow Jesus, facing opposition from the Jewish authorities almost every day. Through the Holy Spirit, Andrew recognised Jesus as the Messiah, and very quickly introduced him to his brother Peter. For the rest of their lives the two brothers were Disciples of Christ. Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. This is the challenge for us: if we recognise Jesus as Saviour, do we do all we can to introduce our relatives, friends and neighbours to Jesus? Are we fishers of men, women and children? Without Andrew, no Peter, without you or me well who knows who might never hear about Jesus. God does and wants to use you and I to share His love with all. Andrew went on to do many amazing things for God, many of which we are not aware of, but exist in the history of the early church. You and I will also go on to do amazing things that will exist in the history of the church but only if we let God work within us.

16th September 2021

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

It is always great for our self-confidence when we are chosen to do something, chosen for a promotion or new job, chosen as a representative. It means people have a high opinion of us. How much more wonderful to know we are chosen by God whoever we are. Jesus who chose the poor, the broken, the sinful; Jesus who healed and transformed lives; Jesus who excluded no one; Jesus who assures us there is a room for us in his Father’s house; Jesus characterised by love, forgiveness, and welcome. Jesus chose us to die for and then sends His Holy Spirit so we can share this chosen love of God with everyone. This Holy Spirit is not some formless, invisible, floating essence. It is God’s Spirit present in our life. In our choseness we are given the Spirit to enable and strengthen us. The Spirit challenges and supports us to live as Christians and live our lives as Jesus commanded through our thoughts, words, and actions. We feel the Spirit as the restlessness of our hearts, challenging, calling, provoking a response in real daily life situations. As we live as chosen people, with the Spirit within us, we are the ones who make God’s life present and tangible here on earth We are the ones who give flesh to Jesus’ words. You and I are the presence of God filled with the Spirit of God. We are the chosen hands and feet of God in the power of the Spirit, we offer love and affirm life. When our heart breaks for the pain of the world, when we reach out in compassion, when we weep over another’s loss that is the Spirit working. When we offer or seek forgiveness, when we refuse to judge, when we offer mercy and not condemnation that is the Spirit at work. When we speak words of hope, hold another’s needs and concerns as important as our own, when we pray for another, the Spirit is at work. The Spirit in us strengthens us to sit at the bedside of another, to care for the sick and dying, to console the bereaved. Each of us has that promised Holy Spirit within us but as chosen people we also have a choice; whether we allow the Spirit to work in us, or keep Him unused and hidden away.

15th September 2021

James 4:14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

We often ask young people what they want to do with their lives, we also look at own lives and think about what we have done with them. What we refer to as life is actually our life situation. We are alive whether we are young or old, women or men, black or white, rich or poor, it is our situation that we actually live in and change through the things we do. Our life situation is our past, present and future. Things from our past will always affect us, for good or bad, will strengthen and weaken us. How we live in the present will be affected by our past. As we live, we keep going, we have hope, it focuses us on the future and the possibilities in front of us. Hope is definitely God given. Of course, the focusing on the past and the future can become so dominant in our mind that we look there instead of right here and now and so we can become unhappy with our present life situation. As with so much in God’s gift of life, we need to find a balance. It is good for us to focus on the value of life and being alive and less on our current situation. Life, life in its fullness is now, not yesterday or next week, but now, that’s we call it the present, it is a present, a gift which is ours to do with as we wish. The past and the future are the stuff of our mind, right now is reality. The present is the narrow moment of time we are presently in, it is the narrow gate of now that leads to real life. Our life situation may be difficult, with issues and problems but right now is it an issue? Not tomorrow, next week or next month but right now. When we are full of problems, there is no room for anything new, no room for a solution. Whenever we can we need to make room, create space, so that we can find real life in its fullness because that is what God desires for us.

14th September 2021

John 18:11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

As we look back, we often speak of life before the pandemic, which we call normal, and then there is life during and now with the pandemic; the new normal. It has completely changed how we are with one another, how we see life, and we are reassessing what is important. The pandemic has been a pivotal moment. It’s one of those threshold moments that calls into question everything: priorities and values, the way we live and relate to one another, the things that truly matter, where we want to invest our time and energy, how we want to be in this world and what we want from life. Pivotal moments are when life gets truly real. They hold before us questions about who we are, who we want to be, what we’ve done, and whether our life matters and makes a difference. When Jesus came to these pivotal moments in His life He didn’t isolate or close in on himself. He didn’t get angry or resentful. He didn’t resist or fight back, run away or try to escape. He didn’t complain or deny the reality of what was happening. Instead, Jesus faces up to His life. He’s in touch with his humanity. He feels, He grieves, He weeps, He gathers with his friends and He prays. This is the example we need to follow in our lives. Take our cue from Jesus, come together and pray, feel, weep, grieve, laugh and stand together and we move forward together.

13th September 2021

John 17:9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

We follow Jesus’ example of prayer each week as we pray the lord’s prayer but in other places His prayers are different. In John 17 the prayer is a bit rambling and confusing. Moving back and forth, folding in on itself; as much about Him as it is the disciples. But quite simply Jesus asks three things of his Father: that God would enable the disciples to be one with Jesus, that God would protect them from evil and that God would purify them in the truth. The rest of the prayer is Jesus working through what’s happening. Have you had those kinds of conversations? Where we are thinking out loud, wrestling with life, making statements, asking questions. The conversation goes in all sorts of directions. It circles back on itself. It’s anything but straight forward. We’re listening to ourselves as we talk and trying to get clarity and come to terms with what’s happening to us and within us. Sometimes these are conversations with a friend. Other times they are prayers to God. Jesus’ prayer isn’t so different from the way you and I have prayed at times. Threads of grief, trying to get some clarity, what we have done and what is coming next. Moments of life and death. These are the things we pray about, that we need to pray about with God, being honest, open with questions, choices and struggles which change our life. Here is Jesus standing in solidarity with us and our humanity, working out his life with God just as we do.

12th September 2021

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.

I wonder if you are a fan of bridges? I particularly love the little stone ones in places like the Lake District, but also the feats of engineering Like the Clifton Suspension Bridge or the beauty of Tower Bridge. Whether we pay much attention to them or not they are vital to our lives. Bridges offer us a safe connection between two sides, shortening journey’s considerably, provide a link to places nearby but effectively cut off. Of course, particularly in the past, they could also provide a way into a city or land for the enemy and we saw many bridges destroyed in the wars to give protection. These were then rebuilt as places healed and recovered. Bridges work by keeping tension and compression in balance, opposing forces which give incredible strength when held in tension, this tension is like a constant battle. As a teenager, Jesus was presented to me as a bridge, someone who came to bridge the gap between Humans and God, whose death on the cross spanned the gap that we could not get over by ourselves. In building this bridge God opened the way to all humanity to achieve holiness, to become part of the family of God again, to find freedom from the enemy and this bridge also works in tension. Bridges of any sort are beautiful but very hard to build, the bridge of Jesus is beautiful but cost so much in its construction. Jesus came and lived as one of us, experiencing all that we experience and then was falsely accused and murdered on a cross so that we might live. This incredibly high price was what Jesus was willing to pay for us to be able to once more have full and free access to God. That tension continues, every day, the battle between good and evil, held in tension by Jesus on the cross and allowing us access to the eternal life God has always desired for us.

11th September 2021

John 14:16 “I will not leave you as orphans,” Jesus says. “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate.”

When someone leaves or moves away, we are sad, we don’t want them to go, we find it difficult and upsetting. Jesus’s disciples were bewildered when He told them, He was going away. How could they who witnessed His miracles and learned from His teaching be better off without Him? But Jesus promised them that Him leaving meant the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, would come to be with them. The advocate who represents us, helps us, defends and protects us. When we accept God’s offer of new life, we are given this gift of His Spirit living within us. From this Spirit we receive so much: He challenges sin, He brings us comfort when we ache, strength to bear hardships, wisdom to understand God’s teaching, hope and faith to believe, love to share. This Advocate will teach us everything, remind us of all that He said and taught. We all need an Advocate, the Spirit within us. We all need to be reminded, especially when the future is uncertain, when life has been turned upside down, and we’re afraid or overwhelmed. We need to be reminded when we’re angry or frustrated. We need to be reminded when we are sad and grieving. We need to be reminded when we’re busy, successful, and self-sufficient. We need to be reminded when we’re lost and don’t know the way. We need to be reminded when we feel like an orphan, alone and lonely, on our own, having to look out and fend for ourselves. None of us get through life alone. We need God’s reminding, God’s support, God’s Spirit to be our advocate, our comforter. “I will not leave you as orphans,” Jesus says. “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate.” 

10th September 2021

Matthew 25:18 But the servant who had received one thousand coins went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master's money.

Are you an Ostridge? You may not look like one but some of us are very good at burying our heads in the sand. In fact, we are very good at burying the very things God has given us to use for His glory. We say, I'm going to play it safe! I won’t use this just in case I get it wrong, or get laughed at or use it wrongly or get embarrassed. We think I’m not really good enough, there are others better than me. Don’t let fear keep you from developing your talents and gifts. We often play it safe because of fear, fear which leads to self-doubt, self-pity and self-consciousness. We cannot please God by playing it safe. We must take risks in life. If everything is safe in life you don't need any faith! Doing nothing is inexcusable. God would rather have us try to serve him and totally blow it, than do nothing. I'd rather attempt to do something great and fail than attempt to do nothing and succeed. What matters is the effort, trying! Trying to make your life count, trying to make an impact with your life, trying to do something significant that is going to outlast you. It's not whether you reach it or not, it's the effort that counts. But doing nothing is inexcusable. Sadly, we think we are nothing special; thinking I'm not going to do anything; I'll let the pros do it; they have more than me, since I only have a little, I'll just bury it. We decide we are not going to make any attempt in ministry with our life. I love being a Christian, it excites me, I do what I do because I want everyone to find this fantastic God that I have found. I want to heal the worlds ills, save the planet, help the poor and make the rich realise they can do so much good with all they have got. Most of all I want to see every Christian alive and excited by what God has given them and yet so often I see sad Christians, the fizz, the sparkle has gone out of their life. The Christian life is not a relationship any more, it's become a routine. There is no joy like it used to be. Their spiritual life has gone flat. Why? Because they are sitting on the side-lines, they are not in the game, spectating and not participating. These folks have buried their talents. It is so wrong to waste our life. I sometimes shudder to think of some of the excuses I will try to give when God asks, excuses as to why I made no attempt to get involved in helping other people and serving others. Those excuses will seem pretty inadequate at that point. Don’t sit on the side-lines, take what you have and use it. Go for it, you might get it wrong, I regularly get it wrong, but God would far rather we try and mess up than not try at all.

9th September 2021

Romans 12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us.

There are three things we can do with our life: we can waste it, we can spend it, or we can invest it. There are plenty of things to spend it or waste it on, your hobbies, on acquiring certain possessions, the high life, partying, or you can invest it. Jesus taught that the greatest use of your life is to invest it in that which outlasts it. The parable of the talents gives us principles for investing our life. We invest our lives because everything we have belongs to God. God made it all. We really own nothing. We didn't come into this world with anything and we’re not going to take anything out of this world. What we have we simply get to use for 60, 70, 80, 90 years. It's God's. We just get to use it. God made us to manage his resources. God has entrusted some things to us to use. God has given each of us some talents. We all have God given talents. Talents are abilities, resources, skills or opportunities, all of the things that God has given us. Anything that God has trusted us with; our children, our job, our home, our family, our voice, our love, our cooking, our writing, our sport, our garden, our encouragement….. everything can be considered a talent. Everybody gets something. There is no such thing as a person with no talents. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. We are all unique. God has given each of us gifts, talents, skills, abilities, experiences, personality traits, temperaments, all to make each of us who we are. You and I are unique. There's nobody else like you in the world. You are so special and He made you for a purpose. God expects us to use these gifts. God has made an investment in our life and one day God is going to ask us, "What did you do with what I gave you?" The greater the privilege we have, the greater the responsibility we have to use everything for God’s glory. God’s challenge to you and to me is to use what we have been given. He stands alongside us, gives us the strength and helps us overcome the fear. It’s not always easy BUT As we use what we’ve got for God watch what happens. Little becomes more and more when we put it in God’s hands. By the things we do, the words we say, the love we give, the things we challenge, we can and do change our world for the better.

8th September 2021

Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

What are your priorities in life? Do you care about others across the world? Are you constantly looking for more money, bigger and better cars and houses, better more expensive holidays? As Christians, although we must do the best for our families and loved ones, our selfishness is not what God needs from us. Instead, God needs us to care, to be compassionate and empathetic, to act, to challenge unfairness and make a difference not just for ourselves but for others, particularly the less fortunate. If our life is all about worldly gain, the wealth, power, fame etc and that is all that matters to us, then in reality our eternity is lost. If we are ashamed of God, of Jesus, of our faith, then we cannot expect Him to be anything but ashamed of us. If we deny ourself, take up our cross and follow Him then we will see God’s purpose, God’s priorities and we won’t be blinded by worldly things and we won’t become a stumbling block to other people or to God’s mission. But, be encouraged, even though we fail, sometimes spectacularly, we are still used by God. We may mess up but if we recognise this and are sorry, looking to change, then God will still use us, bless us and work with us, even though we get it wrong. God will change our priorities if we let Him. God never gives up on us, we should never give up on God or each other.

7th September 2021

Matthew 6:10 May your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

When I was younger, I was often told to look more deeply into things and to expand my thought processes. This is often called looking at the Bigger Picture. As Christians, how do we do this? As we follow Jesus, we start to “look” more and more like him; and as we look more like him, we look less like the world. We learn to deny ourselves which mean we say “No” to ourselves and “Yes” to God. We humbly submit our will to God. It is what millions of Christians pray in the Lord’s Prayer every day, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” Every day we are to live in such a way that it is apparent to everyone that we have died to ourselves, to our selfish ways and ambitions, and now live for God. So, when something unfair happens and instinctively we want to get even, we have as Christians, died to that “right,” we have prayed “not my will but yours be done.” Hopefully, as we become more like Jesus, we will humbly submit our will to God’s will, and we will respond in each situation in kindness and humility. We will not always do it right first time; but life is a journey. God is patient and knows we are fighting the habits of a lifetime as we learn to walk the right path. We are called daily to take up our cross whatever that might be. As we become a disciple of Jesus, we seek to live every day with Him, recognising who Jesus is, as messiah, as the Son of God and then follow Him in living as He lived and learn new things about God every day.

6th September 2021

Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.

In our world, even today, people are still enslaved, some because of rules and laws, some hidden away, some quite legally in unjust systems. More and more of us find ourselves in a place of being enslaved, not in the form of slave labour but our slavery is often self-constructed, self-imposed, and therefore far more difficult to detect or overcome. We have become enslaved to notions of success, and therefore put few limits on our work. We are enslaved to ideas about our children or grandchildren having every opportunity possible, and therefore schedule them into frenetic lives and wonder why they have a hard time focusing and sleeping. We are enslaved to the belief that the only thing that will bring contentment is more; more money, more space in our homes, bigger homes, more cars, more things to put on our resumes or in our closets, more, more, more. Such levels of wanting more don't permit time for anything but work, at the job, at home, working even during our so-called leisure time. This is the slavery we call success, and the rat race we call life. How much quality time do we spend together with family or friends? We are so busy working to make a better life that we miss out on actually living it. God desires more for us, but it is quality, quality of life. God wants all of us to have life in all its fullness, abundant life. Where we look at all the Lord’s provides and are thankful, we appreciate all of creation, we spiritually soak in it, marvel at it and really enjoy it.

5th September 2021

Mark 8:33 But Jesus turned around, looked at his disciples, and rebuked Peter. “Get away from me, Satan,” he said. “Your thoughts don't come from God but from human nature!”

I expect, just like me and everyone else you have good days and bad days, times when we are good Christians and times when we really aren’t. The disciple Peter is the perfect example of just this and as such is also a real encouragement to us in our messy lives. In one of his moments of glory, Peter declares exactly who Jesus is, not long after in one of his worst moments, Peter tells Jesus that He is wrong…. In other words, Jesus, I know better than you and God do. Peter, just like we do, is seeing things from a basic human and selfish point of view. Jesus we are fine as we are, no change needed, let’s just keep doing what we are doing. We all recognise this attitude in ourself sometimes? When we act like this, we are actually thwarting the very mission Jesus came to fulfil. If Jesus does not fulfill His mission of the cross then Peter, all the disciples, all the believers through history, Christians today and those who are yet to come would have no access to God, no forgiveness, no salvation. God’s mission is for everyone, we must not be a stumbling block to this. As Jesus reminds Peter, he is thinking in earthly terms not heavenly ones. Peter is not seeing the bigger picture; do we see the bigger picture? We must learn to think in heavenly terms, not earthly ones so that we aid God’s mission and not thwart it.

4th September 2021

Mark 6:31 There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his disciples didn't even have time to eat. So he said to them, “Let us come away and rest a while.”

I wonder if you need to come away and rest a while! Maybe you are exhausted, work, family, commitments, the coming and going, no time to even eat. The pandemic has reached further and further into our lives, for longer and longer and we struggle. Testing, mask wearing, distancing, do we, don’t we, it is exhausting, confusing, frustrating; we need to come away and rest a while. The key thing about rest is that it gives us a chance to step back and stand apart from all the things that usually drive us and consume us. This is so we can once again find God's presence, love, wisdom and blessing, experience a sense of contentment, peace and rest. We cannot just keep going or our bodies will pull the plug somehow. Jesus knows first-hand how difficult this is to do, but also how vitally important it is that we rest. Before we can do the Lord’s work and help others, we need to be rested and grounded, breathing Him in. How good are you at caring for yourself, at coming back to Jesus for a while to be recharged? Out of this resting and recharging comes a new healing, increased sensitivity and compassion for life; an ability to be with people in a way that is not possible when we are tired and exhausted and short tempered. We must be deliberate, make ourselves find time for rest. We must regularly make time to come away and rest a while.

3rd September 2021

Isaiah 29:13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on human rules they have been taught. 

Traditional pharisaic Judaism believed that humans were made unholy by what they put in their bodies. Jesus taught that it is what is in the human heart that matters, that makes humans unholy. In a time when hand washing and sanitising is a high priority we can sympathise with the idea of not washing hands but not everyone does the same thing, not everyone prioritises hand washing the way we might. Isaiah reminds us how easy it is to honour God with words lips, but not with our hearts. In other words, many of us are hypocrites, abandoning the commandments of God in favour of human traditions. This leads to empty worship practices; a misrepresentation of tradition in order to avoid God’s law, deliberate and selfish interpretations of traditions and teaching. The only way to not be a hypocrite is to have a heart for God. What is the state of our human heart? Whatever our practices, whichever traditions we do or don’t uphold, these are not the things that ready us for God’s kingdom. Unlike food that simply passes through our digestive system, that which comes from the heart affects the whole person. It is from within, from the heart, that evil intentions can come. The heart is understood here as the centre of human will, rationality, and desire. It is the place from which all our intentions come, both bad but also good. Evil things come from a desire to take, to grasp, to own, to devour. The corruption of the human heart is rooted in desire, want and greed. We can become insatiable consumers: of things, of pleasure, of people, even of our own energy. What is in our heart matters. If they are cold and hard, unfeeling and sarcastic then God’s desires are not in us. If they are full of selfishness then we are not of God’s kingdom. May our prayer be; Lord make my heart to be like yours.

2nd September 2021

Galatians 5:1. It was for freedom that Christ has set us free, no longer to be subject to a yoke of slavery. 

Nelson Mandela spent many years in prison for fighting for the freedom of black people in South Africa. Amongst other things he said that “For me to be really free I must live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Mandela realised that only when everyone was free to live in their way would everyone be free. Our own freedom of expression, lifestyle, religion, personality depends on others also being free to express themselves, their lifestyle, religion, personality. The freedom of all depends on the common good of all. Across our world so many are still oppressed, girls forced into slavery and prostitution because of family debt in India and Nepal, domestic workers treated as slaves and not paid along with child trafficking, begging and prostitution in places like Tanzania. Even in the UK we have domestic slavery that we can’t seem to combat effectively. There is a circle of slavery; no schooling, education, no knowledge of rights, therefore others have power over you and they exploit it. This is why people will sell everything to pay unscrupulous traders and people smugglers to sail them into Europe and across the channel to the UK, believing they will at last be free. The freedom that we take for granted, others never even have. We are currently more polarised and fragmented in society than ever. The quest for individual rights and profits, complete selfishness above all else has meant the loss of community trust and the working together of all to gain freedom for everybody. The result is weaker local institutions and communities which become marginalised and identity politics divides allowing the selfish to gain even more power and thus squash the freedoms of others. Our freedom was paid for in Christ, we were to no longer be slaves but to be free, and that was all of us no matter who we are. God’s love of us means freedom, freedom for everyone.

1st September 2021

Psalm 19:8 The laws of the Lord are right, and those who obey them flourish. 

In recent years we have used the term flourishing a lot more. Flourishing means someone reaching their full potential, being allowed, encouraged and facilitated to become the best they can be throughout their life. For this to happen each person needs certain basic things, we call these Human Rights. Across the world there is agreement as to what these are but even so they are regularly not implemented, even here in the UK. Each human being has the right to life, liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, a good education and work prospects, adequate living standards, a home and food, freedom of belief and religion, justice, fairness and dignity. As human beings if we desire these rights for ourselves, we must also desire them for others, for everyone regardless of who they are, where they are from, what they believe, the colour of their skin, their culture and nationality. Human Rights can only work if everyone takes part. If I demand one rule for me and different for others then I am not an advocate of Human Rights, I am just selfish. All rights come with responsibilities, as each of us demands our rights we must also fulfil our responsibilities. As I demand my right to life and liberty then I am responsible for making sure that others gain their life and liberty. If I demand good a good education for myself and my family then I have the responsibility to fight for a good education for everyone here in this country and across the world. If I demand fairness and justice for myself then I am responsible for treating others fairly and with justice and demanding our government and governments across the world treat their citizens with Justice and fairness. God asks of us that we treat others as we are treated by Him. As Christians we must always fight for the rights of others as well as ourselves because only then will all be able to flourish as God intended us to.

31st August 2021

Ephesians 4:28 Let no one steal, but rather let them labour, doing honest work, so that they may have something to share with anyone in need. 

Do you like shopping? Are you someone who likes to stroll round the shops, looking and buying? Are you an armchair shopper, looking at websites and ordering things to your door? Are you a bargain hunter, looking for the best deals or do just like to treat yourself? I am not a great shopper, I just go and get what I need, although I will have a good look in the sales, as I like a bargain. I was thinking how we can treat our Christian faith in the same way as shopping. We can be Christians who stroll around our faith, looking and applying our faith in different situations. We can also people who are armchair Christians, read a book, look at a service on You Tube, have a comfortable form of Christianity that never really steps out into the world. We can be bargain hunting Christians, looking for a church or a service we like, that doesn’t challenge us, that is cheaper and costs less to us as a person in the changes we need to make to our lives before God. I have met many Christians who regularly move churches because they want to be a Christian in their own way rather than God’s way. When they are challenged or asked for commitment they move on, find somewhere else. Christianity is a form of living that means we look to abide by the teachings of Jesus, the ways of God and so we will be challenged, we will need to change, we will need to pay the costs associated with being honest, true, caring people who want to expand the family of God to everyone. We need to be active Christians, people who pray, people who read the Bible, people who challenge wrong doing, people who fight for the rights of everyone. That means we can’t be armchair Christians, we can’t be cheap Christians, we can’t be Christians who just wander from place to place without commitment. As a Christian we are God’s representatives on earth, His hands and feet, we are the ones who can and must make a difference.

30th August 2021

Colossians 3:13 Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a grievance against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. 

Friendship is one of life’s blessings. We like the company of friends, to go out together, share experiences. We choose our friends so they are people sensitive to our ways and ideas. They are people we can trust and share things with, people we can talk to about things. And yet friendships sometimes suffer or are lost because of events, moves, disagreements and life changes. A recent survey on friendship asked the question about the difference between Christian and non-Christian friends, the same word kept coming up, forgiveness. Christian friends are more willing to listen, more willing to understand and to forgive. There is understanding from Christians that just as they need forgiveness, recognising their own imperfections, others need that forgiveness to. The human condition is that we are not perfect, we do make mistakes, we do say things we shouldn’t and sometimes do stupid things. Jesus speaks a lot about forgiveness, some of His last words from the cross are asking forgiveness for those who crucified Him, asking forgiveness for all of humankind as we do things we shouldn’t. Jesus own example was to forgive, He forgave Peter for his betrayal and gave him the role of leading the church. He forgave the disciples for abandoning Him and equipped them to continue spreading the gospel. We are forgiven on a daily basis as we confess our sins to God, as we recognise our imperfections and strive in God’s strength to do better. As Christians we are called to forgive as we are forgiven, it is good to hear that people are seeing that forgiveness being practiced by Christian friends. May we be good Christian friends.

29th August 2021

Genesis1:31a God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

From an ostensibly privileged white British perspective, I have sat with the very serious issue of what Jesus actually means for those at the margins of our society: the poor, the suffering, those that are mistreated and oppressed in our world? Contemplative Richard Rohr says, “God loves things by becoming them.” Quite simply this is the Incarnation, the great Mystery of the universe that God is not just present in us because He created us, but He also became one of us in Jesus. If God is present in each of us and became one of us then everyone of us is holy, loved and special. The asylum seekers and refugees at our borders, the disabled person, the transgender person, the gay person, the incarcerated person, the Muslim person, the black person, the women and children, all are equal and loved by God and all should be treated with respect, with parity and equity. What I believe and understand is that we are all loved, we all belong, and that no one is a mistake or a problem to be solved or a public policy to be fixed, or a threat to be rejected. Each and every human being is a holy part of God’s creation and we need to remember that everything God created He saw that it was very good. If we can believe that we are all loved just as we are and that everything and everyone else is equally loved just as they are, then we finally recognise the reality of the goodness of all creation and accept all our brothers and sisters equally and without qualification. 

28th August 2021

Amos 5:24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

I like to watch the documentaries of Louis Theroux. He gets to the heart of the matter and has a way of getting people to open up. I recently saw a follow up to one he did with a Baptist Church group in the USA. Both programmes unsettled me because of the vile behaviour and language used against anyone who does not believe exactly as they do. They very much fit into cult status rather than Christian status and they are led by one man who has no accountability and is surrounded by bodyguards and has great wealth. Their vile judgement is against anyone of race, ethnicity, origin, tribe, sexual orientation, pro-choice etc but these distinctions actually have very little meaning in a cosmos created with original goodness and universally shared dignity. Many of us have spent our lives trying to fight racism, sexism, gender, sexual identity bias, racial and cultural stigmas. We all struggle with the -isms of society longing for true justice to flow like rivers. Our intentions are good, but our efforts can often be clouded by presumptions such that if our western culture would just include others and their ways, all would be well for everyone. This is not true. Jesus makes it quite clear that everyone and everything was included in the very beginning. It is us who have constructed the hierarchies, the values, the supposedly right culture, the political systems and allegiances. For these people of the Baptist Cult, they have weaponised the Bible to justify hatred, persecution, bad language, suppression, even extermination in the belief that all but them are destined to hellfire and need to be helped on their way as soon as possible. It is so awful to see Jesus being used in this way, to equate their doctrine with the true God of love who sends His son that all may be saved. God made us all, as we are and who we are, we have no right to decide who is of God and who is not, nor do we have the right to decide that we are always right and others are wrong. We are all God’s children, created in His image.

27th August 2021

Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught. 

Sometimes we are convinced that at some point others will find out that we are not who they think we are. We live divided lives. Jesus has been dealing with division from the beginning. He has healed People, cleansed people, enabled the lame to walk and the blind to see. Within all these situations there is division. Each person’s life is not their own, we all live with inner turmoil, with division, disconnected from community and family, all that gives identity. Illnesses can point to inner conflict both physically and spiritually. This division and inner conflict is a major part of today’s world and each of our lives. Just think, a marriage becomes divided and ends in divorce. The product of nations being divided offers us the vitriolic politics we are seeing, and in some places even civil war. A divided economy has given us and many places poverty, poor health and injustice. Once the community is divided it becomes individualistic and tribal, prejudice and aggression abound, anonymous persecution happens through social media. Humanity divided makes sure the few prosper at the cost of the rest. You and I know what it is like to live divided lives, when our outsides and our insides don’t match up? We are one person at work another at home. We act one way with certain people and a different way with other people. We have that phone voice and our other voice. Life gets divided into pieces and behaviour, beliefs, and ethics change depending on where we are and who we are with. Work life, family life, prayer life, personal life, social life. We’re a bunch of pieces like an unmade jigsaw. We are forever trying to put the jigsaw pieces of our lives together into the perfect picture on the front of the box. Jesus provides unity, wholeness, as part of the Trinity. He can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He puts our divided lives back together. Jesus offers the best and right image of what life could and should look like on the front of the box. Jesus wants to put that jigsaw together. There is nothing about our lives that cannot be put back together by the love God in Jesus.

26th August 2021

Luke 24: 30/31 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. 

Do you recognise people by their actions or certain words and phrases? We all have quirks that we do and say and make us recognisable for who we are. In the Bible it is when an unrecognised Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, and breaks it, that they finally recognise Him because of the same gestures He did at their last meal together. Jesus gives the disciples two ways to find him. He opens up the scriptures for them and he breaks bread with them. The good news for us is that Jesus has given us those same two ways to open our eyes to his presence: opening up the scriptures and the breaking of the bread. We are people of word and sacrament. People of the Book and People of the Mass/Communion. We are called to Jesus by the central acts of our worship, by reading God’s word, hearing the word preached and then as we meet around the Lord’s table breaking bread together. In the meeting together and breaking bread together the early church had a source of confidence and power. The encounters with the risen Lord Jesus moved the disciples from despair to hope. It does the same for us today. It is that encounter with the risen Jesus that opens our eyes to the truth, to the love of God for us, to the promised saviour set out before us in the Bible, the Holy Book, that we should be reading, studying and learning. It is the opening of our eyes in the breaking of bread together, the symbol of our redemption, the re-enactment of what Jesus did for us that first Easter, in the meal He left for us to celebrate together. The early Christians clearly felt the Holy Spirit burn within them and if we want to walk with Jesus like the early disciples, we must open the scriptures and break the bread and allow the Holy Spirit to ignite and burn within us, opening our eyes to God’s purpose and plan because that is how Jesus blesses us, uses us, inspires us and ultimately brings us home to him. 

25th August 2021

Luke 24:15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them. 

Have you ever been driving somewhere, and you realize you’ve gone to work instead of the Supermarket, for example? I have a tendency to do it at our junction of the A2. My internal map sends me to the old, expected place instead of to the other one. We are, after all, creatures of habit. So it is in our Christian life, we can be heading in one direction and end up in another. The disciples found this to be true, they thought they were going to one place and ended up in a totally other place, literally and spiritually. Two disciples are walking on a road to a village called Emmaus, just after the women have told them about the empty tomb. They are deep in conversation with each other, they are sad, confused and discussing all the happenings with Jesus, the crucifixion, and the empty tomb. A stranger walks up to them and asks what they’re talking about. They don’t recognise Him. They tell the stranger all about how they hoped Jesus was going to redeem Israel but now He’s been killed, and the tomb was empty, and they went to check it out and Jesus wasn’t there. You can almost here the rambling. They just can’t see for looking. They don’t recognise Jesus on the road. Jesus needs to reveal himself to them in a new, unexpected, way to shake the disciples out of their old way of thinking. Just as we sometimes need to see Jesus differently to change our perspective on life, to shake us out of old ways of thinking! These disciples had a map they expected the Messiah to follow, a map that had been given to them by history and tradition. A map that included their saviour being a king and conqueror, freeing Israel from its Roman occupiers, and since that didn’t happen, they believe they’ve reached the end of the road. They had been expecting the journey would end with a conquering hero. The old way of thinking is keeping them from getting to the new place Jesus wants them to go. Jesus questions them, He challenges their foolishness, and their understanding of all the scriptures shows them! He does the same for us. They and we sometimes need a very clear history lesson so we can remember exactly who Jesus is and go in the right direction.

24th August 2021

Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. 

Recently I was given a favourite book published in the year of my birth, making it even more special. We all have books that are special to us for a number of reasons. Within all religions there are Holy Texts, books which hold the teaching of that belief and are studied and held with esteem and reverence. Why do we read and study? It builds mental capacity, it makes sense of our world, we learn new things, we improve our life prospects and future career options. Studying increases our confidence, our self-esteem and it reduces the stress and anxiety of exams and interviews. A number of job recruitment agencies offer reasons people should study, they suggest it helps us figure out where our passions and skills lie, qualifies our learning, fulfils our ambitions, makes life worthwhile and makes us more rounded people. Imagine if we begin to apply all that about studying to our Holy books; you can see why Joshua tells us to study the law, learn it, meditate on it and so be strong and courageous. If you carry the Holy words inside you, you carry God with you! The words of our Holy Book, the Bible, gives confidence, increases self-esteem, widens our horizons, makes sense of our world, reveals our passions and interests and improves our life completely. The Bible is key to our Christian life, to growing closer to God, to living more like Jesus, to being the people God intended us to be. We need to read it, study it and carry it within us and in doing so we will carry God with us.

23rd August 2021

John 19: 25 Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 

In the churches calendar Mothering Sunday acknowledges all women in the church in their motherly role of caring for others and we of course look to Mary, Jesus own mother, as our example. There are many images of Mary in mourning, and pointing the way to her Son. Mary is present at the foot the Cross, not only as a loving mother, but also as a disciple who follows her Lord to the hour of His death. Suffering is not something that attracts us. It is hard to stand firm when those we love are suffering, not just physically, but spiritually, especially for a mother who is watching her son die. This is saying something very profound about love and suffering. We cannot forget that Mary is not just a mother, she is a Jewish mother, she knows that her role is not only to be a loving mother for her children, but also their teacher. She is also a disciple that follows her son to the cross. She is giving her spiritual sons and daughters, us, the example of a witness who follows the Master’s footsteps and lives in constant prayer. Prayers are important when you have to see your loved one suffering and you cannot do anything to stop it. Through Prayer we offer our pain to God. How often is it that all we can do is pray. It may seem little but it is actually vital, a gift and a blessing, never to be underestimated. Mary is our example of one who stands up for Her son, in love, prayer and witness no matter the cost. If we are willing to stand with Mary at the foot of the cross, we too become sons and daughters of Mary, part of this new family of God who witness Jesus’ cross and resurrection, who look after each other as family. 

22nd August 2021

2 Samuel 6:14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might.

When was the last time you danced? Strictly Come Dancing has brought a popularity to dancing for all ages and is one of the BBC’s most popular shows. The celebrities who take on this challenge all speak of falling in love with dancing, of the physical and mental benefits it has. We tend to lose the dancing as we grow older and we no longer live the nightlife we used to. Yet dancing is so beneficial we really ought to try and do it, even if only in our own kitchen or living room, even if only when we hoover or dust, yes that is a thing. Dancing features in the Bible, people danced before God, as an expression of their love, in celebration of what God did and just out of pure joy. Dancing was seen as a form of worship because to dance you use your whole body, your mind, your heart, your soul and your breath. In dancing you completely give yourself to the activity and so to the one you dance in honour of. When you watch people dance, they are so focussed, so totally invested in what they are doing because it is a total mind and body experience. Far from the thoughts of the past that all music and dancing was of the Devil, it is rather a Biblical and God given expression that we can use. Using our bodies for worship is not a new thing, in the Bible people danced, raised hands, fell prostrate, stood, moved, knelt and so on. Yes, we may feel too old for some of these things but we do them not for others but for ourselves and God. Why not dance round the kitchen, why not listen to music and move with the beat, why not move your body in praise and worship of God in many of the things you do around the home? No one else needs to see, it will do you good, it will bless God and it will improve your wellbeing.

21st August 2021

Ephesians 5:1 Be imitators of God as His beloved children.

Being a Christian or follower of Jesus is such an amazing and wonderful experience that we cannot and should not keep it to ourselves. We have great, amazing, life changing news and we should readily share it with others. We are all called to reflect the love of Jesus to our local community, to our friends, families and neighbours, as we introduce people to Jesus and help them discover God’s love for themselves. We are called to be imitators of God, to be like Him in our lifestyle. We need to reflect the love of Jesus to the world so that others will be inspired to come to know him for themselves. If you remember the 9/11 tragedy in the USA we saw the images of people streaming out of the Twin Towers but you will also remember the Fire Officers who were running into the burning buildings to save people. A wonderful metaphor for what Jesus has done for us; Jesus rushes into the burning building of sin and death by dying on the cross for us. Through Jesus Christ, we are free to live and that is a life changing gift we need to share with others. It is not enough for us to show one random act of kindness and then think we’ve done our bit. It is not enough for us to be nice to someone to their face and then join in the gossip about them behind their back. We are to be full of God, of Jesus, full of grace and truth all the time: consistent in our words, actions and behaviour with others, whether face-to-face, through social media, or e-mail and so on. We are the only Bible some people will ever read, we are the hands, feet and voice of Jesus on Earth, so it is up to us to share the love of Jesus with everyone, to share the Good News we have been given and not keep it to ourselves.

20th August 2021

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

What was the last gift you were given? We all like a present, that special gift given on a birthday or Christmas, it says we matter, we are important and special, someone thinks so much of us that they want to give us something to show their love. When it comes to gifts Jesus Christ is the most incredible and wonderful gift that God could ever give to the world to show His love for us. God becoming human flesh and living among us is the ultimate gift of love and hope for us as human beings. The news that God does not leave us alone in our mess but is willing and able to leave heaven and get his hands dirty here on earth, WOW! God doesn’t just watch from a distance, doesn’t just impassively sit and watch us, but we are so special, so important that He loves us enough, to come down here and get fully engaged in every aspect of our life, quite utterly astonishing! God cares so much about us that he wants to be involved in every aspect of our life: all the good, all the bad, all the hopes, all the fears, everything! In Jesus, God is amongst his people in a way that he never had been before; actually living in physical, human form, and personally becoming one with his people in the most incredible way so that he could experience everything that you and I experience. The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. A simple truth that can transform our lives. God became human so that he could experience what we experience and so he could identify with us in how we live our life, empathise with our struggles and give us the strength and support we need to live well, every day with Him right by our side.

19th August 2021

Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

As children we love the idea of treasure, finding the treasure chest left by pirates. I remember borrowing some of my mum’s jewellery to place in a tin or box, drawing a treasure map and pretending to find it. Treasure is a romantic idea we play with because it means wealth, it means no more worries for the future, no working, no struggling, it offers us security in this world. As we grow older the treasure chest we longed to find is replaced by the treasure of better paid jobs, cars, houses, lottery wins, windfalls, anything to make life easier for us, and to gain it we are often willing to spend on the never, never, putting off the reckoning to the future, sometime. The Bible has a different view on treasure because it sees the affect it has upon us. The Bible knows that what we treasure we hold dear, it is where our heart is, it is the most important thing to us. It is why we have such phrases as put your heart and soul into something, that is the heart of the matter etc. The Bible calls us not to treasure money, wealth and possessions but to treasure people, family, friends and God. In other words, our hearts should be in our relationships. Someone once told me that their partner loved his car so much that when there had been an accident, he was not concerned about her but only about the damage to his precious car. He treasured the car more than the person he was supposed to love. Knowing the value of something and appreciating it is a good thing but placing that above life, above relationships, above God means we can never be fulfilled, never be truly happy and never put our heart and soul into our relationships with family, friends or God. We need to examine our priorities and learn where our treasure really is and then treat those treasures; family, friends and God, with the value, love and respect they deserve. 

18th August 2021

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of Mary, born under the law.

A great deal of nonsense has attached itself to the figure of Mary over the centuries. She sums up the ambivalence of a Church which took 600 years, to declare officially that women had souls, and at least 600 years to begin to take seriously the theology of Jesus being both fully human and fully God, the incarnation, God with us in human form. Mary, his mother, is an ordinary human being like the rest of us, her humanity is not a matter of shame, to try and be explained away by male dominated theology. The very point of Mary is that she is indeed human; for if Mary wasn’t human then neither was Jesus, and if Jesus was not born human then we are not saved. Mary’s existence as a human physical woman has been problematic. Mary’s virginity, her motherhood and just being a woman, have been used down the centuries to limit options for all women. Even today in the 21<sup>st</sup> century there’s still a bias response against women in many fields of life. We still live in a world where senior politicians can openly be little women in parliament, in the press and get away with it. We still live in a culture which thinks it can tell women (and men too, for that matter) what to eat, how to look, how to behave. Mary is and has the vision of a better world where the hungry are fed and the powerless enabled, where wealth and influence are equally distributed, where women have parity and equity and nobody is made more perfectly in the image of God than anyone else, whoever they are. Mary has been treated poorly and ignorantly throughout history and yet she is central to the Christian story and a wonderful example to us. Mary said yes to God and miracles happened. If we say yes to God then God will use us, ordinary human beings like Mary, and miracles will happen.

17th August 2021

Luke 1:52 God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.

At my primary school, we had weekly hymn practice with music teacher Mrs. Brookes. She had a profound impact on me and my love of music. Her favourite hymn, because of her Welsh background, was Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah (Not Redeemer but Jehovah!) which we sang week after week, always followed by: When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old. This hymn goes on to describe some of the clichés of chivalry. Knights are gallant and bold and they kill dragons. As a person who defines as being Welsh, I’ve always rather enjoyed the fact that the book of Revelation contains dragons, and red dragons at that. In our very science based and factual modern society we can no longer afford to believe in romantic visions of the past, but there is still a role for faith in the constant earthly battle between good and evil. Mary, the mother of Jesus, helps us to root that battle, and our faith, firmly in the real world instead of a world of fantasy. Her song or hymn, the Magnificat, is a rallying cry for the transformation of the world. This young woman, whose whole place in society is marginal because of her gender and an unexpected pregnancy, sings with absolute confidence of a God who confounds expectation. Mary names the dragons of her own day, and of ours: poverty, power imbalance, injustice, hunger, pride and speaks of God’s utter commitment to their destruction. Mary’s song is not a wistful ‘if only the Kingdom were like this’; it is a profound and radical call to put our faith into action, to challenge and change and to build the Kingdom of God here on Earth.

16th August 2021

Philippians 3: 20 But we are citizens heaven through our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you ever think about Heaven? Is it a word you band about as you say heaven’s above or for heaven’s sake? Jesus calls heaven “my Father’s house”, a place we identify where God dwells and yet we know God is everywhere, He is omnipresent, but heaven is that place where His glory dwells. In the Bible we are sometimes given a glimpse into heaven where God is worshipped day and night by the heavenly hosts and the saints who have passed from this world into glory. Jesus refers to this place as “my Father’s house”. This is what Stephen sees as he is stoned in Acts 7, Jesus waiting to welcome him home to His father’s house, Heaven. When talking about heaven people are accustomed to speaking of paradise, pearly gates, streets of gold, and mansions on hills. We speak of no more sin, sickness, or death, and it is true that we long for these things, but it is being with Father God that is the most precious part of Heavenly life. He is what makes heaven, heaven. He is what makes paradise, paradise. The promise of Heaven is for all of us if we chose to take it. The promise of eternal life with Father God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit forever. This is such a comfort for us, such an encouragement and blessing because what we actually deserve is to be cast from the presence of God into utter darkness and eternal hell; but God made a place for us in heaven through Jesus’ resurrection to new life. So, we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a Holy nation belonging to God because of Jesus who made for us an eternal place in Heaven.

15th August 2021

John 14:2 My Father’s house has many rooms; I am going there to prepare a place for you.

Picture Jesus in the upper room with his disciples. He had been with them for over three years. He taught them many things. He performed miracles before their eyes. They believed that he was the Christ, the Saviour of the world, and they expected him to remain with them forever. But now he is talking about going away. The disciples were troubled at these words. They were bothered at the thought of their Master going away. After all, they expected him to remain forever! They thought to themselves, why does he need to leave? Where does he plan to go? Will we see him again? And how will we possibly get along in this world without him? Jesus brings comfort to his disciples. That is what John chapter 14 is all about. Jesus is comforting his disciples concerning his departure, but he also comforts you and I who live now in this difficult unprecedented time. Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Or “Do not be worried and upset, Believe in God; believe also in me.” We know that he himself was troubled in spirit, and yet, even with the weight of the world upon His shoulders, He gives himself to the task of comforting his disciples and also us. These words are an imperative in the Greek, a command and something that we are to do. When our hearts are anxious, when our hearts are troubled with the cares that come with living in this world, we need to hear the command of our Saviour saying, “let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.” There is substance to this command, it is not a platitude but a direction to creator God who made us, cares for us and has our future in His hands.

14th August 2021

John 1: 43 Jesus went to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’

We all like an invitation, to be invited to a party or a big wedding, that special event or celebration, an invitation out for dinner, to the theatre etc. Of course, any invitation we receive needs a response, an RSVP from us, will we choose to go or not? This verse and it it’s context passage from John’s Gospel is one of invitation: the invitation to follow me, the invitation to come and see and the invitation to experience God’s promises. All of these invitations require a response. Will we follow, will we come and see for ourselves, will we allow ourselves to experience God’s promises? We are invited to become a disciple and join the Christian family. This invitation to follow is open to all, all of the time and it requires a response, a choice to follow or not, we have the choice to come and see for ourselves. A choice to cut through all the rubbish, the arguments and the false truths to come and see Jesus, find that Jesus is all we need, and that God will do the rest. God’s promises are for everyone, whoever they are, whatever their background, culture, gender, race or sexuality. God, through Jesus, is available to everyone who wants to follow Him, but we must be willing to both respond to the invitations given to us and offer these invitations to others so they can also respond. 

13th August 2021

John 8:32 You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

One of the things that has bothered me during the Pandemic is those who have decided it is not real or is some conspiracy. Conspiracy theorists have been around forever. Those who would rather believe something because it offers a simpler idea. For many the theories they believe are not really harmful or worrying. But when affects people’s health, when it prevents those in need from taking a vaccine that will save their lives, when it means not using technology that can help and instead end up very ill or unable to communicate it is dangerous. At Jesus time there were conspiracy theorists as well. People who believed Jesus was a political activist, someone who was subverting the true way of the people. Jesus was actually the truth teller, the one who was preaching a simpler life based around God where all the demands of their religion was what was actually leading people astray. The conspiracy then, as also exists today, are those who will do everything to maintain their power and authority by leading people astray, by bending the truth, stretching reality so as to dictate the situation. Truth is important, it is vital, how can we trust anyone if we are being lied to. It is always good to check things out, to not take things at face value. Jesus never stopped people from questioning Him, from challenging, from seeking the truth. Jesus taught us to seek the truth and that the truth will set us free. There is no conspiracy in faith, no conspiracy to fool us or mislead us, only truth and honesty and those bring us true freedom.

12th August 2021

2 Corinthians 9:6 Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 

As a young person I was often told that there were givers and takers in the world. Those who will give and give, even though they are taken for granted and often abused; and those who will take, take everything they can get their hands on and don’t care who they trample on to get it. I expect you have met both kinds. Most of us probably sit somewhere in the middle. As Christians we are called to be givers, to offer to others out of our blessings, to give our time and energy to support people, pray for people, help where we can. We follow the example of Jesus and the disciples, the teachings of the early church and try to be the best of ourselves we can be before God. BUT, we also need to take. Take energy and love, support and help from one another and from God. Jesus took time to be with God, to be refreshed and blessed by Him, so must we. We need to take from the fellowship of Sunday worship and Bible study, from sermons and thoughts, from Books and programmes. We need to take things that bless us, encourage us and help us, these in turn enable us to give out to others because our store is never bare. We never run out of love, compassion, empathy etc because we are taking from God’s endless, unconditional love to enable us to give on out to others. Our form of taking is not selfish, not aggressive, not egotistical or for our own aggrandisement, but instead it is for replenishing, strengthening, enabling and ultimately giving to others. We need to be givers but also takers from the abundance of God’s love and provision for us.

11th August 2021

Matthew 5:37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ be ‘No.’ Anything more comes from the evil one. 

How good are you at communication? Are you one of those who can get your point across easily or do you struggle to show and tell others what you mean. Sometimes we allow our emotions to get the better of us and instead of communicating clearly, we are not able to be clear what we mean. In saying that we do need to own our thoughts and feelings because they are God given. Once we decide to communicate our message, to act, we need to be clear in what we are saying and doing, clear in our message and follow through with what we are trying to say. Clarity in thought and communication is vital. Jesus is quite clear in His message to us to let our yes be yes and our no be no. In other words, we must be completely honest, truthful and clear in our dealings with others. It is so easy to be dragged down or drawn into making compromises to make ourselves look good. To manipulate a situation or information to make sure we come out well or get a promotion, or to keep certain contacts or friends. We often think we will never compromise our beliefs, never let others down, always stand up for those in need until opportunities present themselves and we believe that if we take the opportunity now, even if it means a compromise, a small lie, a grey area, it will be okay, we justify it because we think we can work from the inside and change things. That never happens. Once we compromise, we cannot then re-establish our credentials, once we sell our soul to achieve something, we no longer hold the higher ground and our power to help others is lost. Honesty and integrity are the key to being the best people we can be as Christians in this world. Jesus did not compromise His message for anyone or anything, neither must we.

10th August 2021

Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed the human from the dust of the ground and breathed into their nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living creature. 

I’m only human after all, is a line from the Rag and Bone man song, Human. It is an experience we can all relate to and because we are human, we get hurt, we feel pain, we get our hearts broken, we cry, we experience both love and loss. We experience disappointment and agony. Through all the sad and difficult times in our lives we experience feelings of anger, disappointment, sadness, loss and stages of grief. Each time we hit another low it is compounded by previous experiences of difficulties and loss. Because we are human, and we equate strength with not allowing ourselves to grieve or feel, we also try to escape the stages of grief and pain that we actually need to go through. We want to get back to normal as quickly as possible and as a result we never really recover fully, we just cope and we can only cope for so long before we crumble. All traditions and religions respect the need for us to take time, to not run from difficulty or hurt but to allow it to teach us, to change us, to make us better people. It is not about getting over things but rather learning to live with them, allowing them to become part of us and our lives. No human will ever escape loss, pain, hardship, grief or death but we can share in it, learn from it, live with it and become better people, more empathetic people, more caring people because of it. This is God’s love and grace at work in us, we are human, but we were created human by Father God and He is always with us, supporting, encouraging and strengthening us in our human lives.

9th August 2021

Romans 10:9 If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 

When our boys were younger, we would often visit family in Dorset and they had some wonderful walks nearby and a small river. Amongst other things we would play pooh sticks on one of the bridges. Pooh Sticks is a game Pooh, Piglet and their friends would play where you drop a stick over one side of the bridge then go to the other to see whose would come through first. The boys and their cousins would love to play and carefully chose sticks for the race, not too long, not too short, no bits sticking out, a slightly pointy end and so on. It is such a simple game and yet brought such delight to small children. Pooh discovers the game by accident, dropping a fir cone in the river and watching it float away. So much in life is quite simple and yet we complicate it. So many people have tried to take this game and add new rules and change how it is played but it is quite simple, a game for friends to play on a hot sunny day Pooh says. We, as humans, are very good at complicating things, at inventing new rules to make ourselves superior, to try and give ourselves an advantage. The same is true in faith and being a Christian. Over the centuries humans have tried to change the rules, expand the ideas, give advantage to some rather than others and yet it is quite clear that faith begins with Jesus. Yes, there are things to be done once we find faith but becoming a Christian is simple, we believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour. No if’s or buts, if we believe Jesus died for us on the cross and rose again defeating death, then we are Christians and no one can take that from us or complicate it. God never intended for life or faith to be complicated, He made it simple for us, it is us who have complicated faith and in doing so have often made it unattractive to others.

8th August 2021

Psalm 138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand will save me. 

Unable to take our usual holiday this year, we as many, opted for the seaside on the south coast. Pebbly beach, good waves, lovely view but an incredibly windy few days that we were there. I was determined to go into the sea, I put on my wetsuit and trainers for the water and dutifully tried to get into the water. I would get into about the tops of my legs and then was knocked over by the wind and waves, getting up was really difficult and in the end, I found myself sitting in the surf, being pounded by the waves. The situation was just too difficult to overcome so I decided to go with it, to sit and allow the waves to crash over me, to push me up the beach, I would straighten myself after each wave and move back down before the next wave came. It was hard work; it was a little battering at times and when I removed my wetsuit, I had a lot of small stones and grit stuck to my body as well as a few bruises. As I sat there in the water it struck me that this is what life is like. We step into each day with our protection on and sometimes we don’t get far before we are battered to the ground, we might keep trying and are constantly pushed back. We can keep pushing and sometimes in God’s strength we may well break through, but we also can lean into it. Accept the situation and see how best to remain safely within it. We can sit in or lean into each wave that comes, it will knock us, it will deposit stones and grit into our lives but it will also wash over us and we can we straighten ourselves and prepare for the next wave. It is good to know that not every day is like this, eventually the wind slowed and the waves became smaller and it was easy to navigate into the sea, but sometimes we will have days, even longer periods when things will seem rough and hard and almost insurmountable, we can keep fighting and maybe make it through, or we can lean into the situation, protected by God’s care and enabled by God’s strength and we will be able to make it through the difficulties, maybe with a few bumps and bruises to show for it, but we will be okay and we will be better people because of it.

7th August 2021

Isaiah 43:1b Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 

How important is your name? Does it have a special meaning, is it a family name, is it unique… whatever it is, it is your name, you are identified by that name. As Mary Magdalene went to the garden on that first Easter morning, she cried, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Mary didn’t recognise the risen Jesus at first. She thought he was the gardener, the tears in her eyes, the lack of sleep and she was not expecting to see Jesus. Jesus was transformed that morning. God had taken death and transformed it into life, into hope. Jesus speaks to Mary and simply says, “Mary.” Jesus calls Mary Magdalene by name. “Mary.” And it is only in hearing her name spoken that Mary is able to conceive the possibility of resurrection. It is only in hearing her name called that Mary is able to understand that here in the garden, Jesus is alive. This transformation of both Jesus and Mary is a transformation we too can experience. That hearing our name called by Jesus, by God changes our lives. It is personal, God knows us by name, we are His and He knows us. Jesus’ resurrection teaches us to believe in things that seem impossible. It tells us that what we see is not all that there is. It holds before us the hope of new life, abundant life, spring life; whereas before all we could see was winter, fear, and death. Most especially, and most importantly, the transformation of Jesus resurrection encourages us, compels us, to roll the stone away and step out of the tombs of our lives, as our name is spoken, so that we can embrace new possibilities. So that we can be filled with hope. So that we can live the resurrection life of change. We can step, run, or even leap, out of the tombs of our lives, and we can live: freely, fully, abundantly. That’s God’s hope for us. That’s God’s dream for us. That’s God’s promise for us. Jesus was raised, so that we, too, will be raised. Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” May we, with Mary, with the disciples, also see the Lord alive and live the life of resurrection ourselves, today, tomorrow, and always.

6th August 2021

Zechariah 9:9 This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet: "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

A clergy colleague I know got a phone call from a parishioner asking what time Holy Commotion was on Sunday. Commotion, not usually unless we go back to Palm Sunday. Now imagine you’re one of the disciples, and Jesus tells you to go ahead into the village to fetch a donkey and her colt and bring them back to him. What would go through your mind? Why me? Why this? But he sends the disciples on this mission, and he gives them a backup plan in case anyone starts to question. God always give us more than we need. Everything seems very arbitrary and chaotic, giving up a donkey is giving up an essential part of your working life, your economic security; but even a donkey gets to be used by God. God uses everyone and everything. Yet even as things can seem so arbitrary and chaotic, God is doing something through these characters. God is also doing something amazing through each one of us, despite the fact that we’re afraid, that we have a pretty mundane existence and don’t think we have much to offer, even when we feel that following Jesus might cost us too much. God is still calling us to serve, to be used by him. This verse is really the centre-piece of the text here. There’s a comforting word of hope: Jesus is the king of their prophecies, but He is not on a mighty steed with a sword but is gentle and on a donkey. The disciples go where Jesus directed them and did as they were commanded, they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and He sat on them. There is a celebration of this gentle king’s arrival. They shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” the one who will save Israel. He has authority over heaven and earth. The crowd doesn’t quite get it, but we do. When we see this man, we see who God truly is, the gentle King, the One who loved us so much that He laid down His own life for us. Jesus not only shows us what true royalty looks like, and what true power is, but reveals God the Father to be this way.  

5th August 2021

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 

Some years ago I heard the then Bishop of Southwark talking to Children. He explained the shape of his Mitre as a symbolic flame of the Spirit placed upon his head when He was made Bishop. Then he also referred to it as a type of Spirit sorting hat, as in Harry Potter, where the Spirit blesses the person with the gifts they need for the life they are living. These gifts are given within our personalities, our talents. Yes, when necessary, any gift can be given to any person at any time, but we tend to have gifts that are innate to us. We need to cherish and celebrate these gifts in others as well as ourselves. We need to accept our gifts and not long for the gifts of others and use all of them for the common good. We become God bearers as we bring God to everyone we meet. The challenge is for us to always act and speak as bearers of God but we cannot do it all, so God, in His wisdom, has given millions of us to help one another, to cover the gaps we leave. We are much better God bearers when we do it together as God’s family, God’s church. I have witnessed miraculous healing, but I also witness the gift of healing in every nurse, doctor and carer every day. I have witnessed incredible discernment and see it every day in people who just know what to say or do at the right time. I see wisdom, faith, prophecy, understanding, service, care, creativity, strength, gentleness, compassion…….. being shown every day around us, by us, by others. I am so grateful for the encouragers, for the listeners, for the fixers, the cooks and cleaners, the prayer warriors, the sowers and the reapers, the carers, the wise, the knowledgeable, the poets and writers, the artists, the teachers and preachers. There are so many wonderful gifts and we need to cultivate them in our lives so we can work together as the body of Christ and make things better for everyone. We all need to be willing to let the powerful, exuberant, wild, energetic Holy Spirit into our lives. To not be fearful but faithful as we open ourselves to a different Spirit than just the one we like. We need to be willing, to be faithful in allowing God to work in whatever way He chooses and be the conduit for that as we let the Holy Spirit gift us in whatever way is necessary. 

4th August 2021

John 2:11a. This, the first of his signs, turning water into wine, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee. 

How do we expect Jesus or God to act for us? There’s a problem we want to be fixed so we tell Jesus and expect Him to sort it out so the party or life can continue just as before. But is that it? Is all we want just more of the same? Just fix this problem Jesus and let me go on with the same old life like before? Sometimes all we want is Jesus to show up, wave the divine wand, and make it all better. But that’s not who Jesus is and that’s not what the gospel or Christianity are about. Jesus turning water into wine is about new life, and transformation. There is a wedding, two people coming together to create and live a new life, to grow and change together in a future of possibilities. Running out of wine is not a problem to be fixed, but the beginning of something new. A calling and invitation into a new and deeper life. Nobody likes to run out of wine or out of anything, but sometimes it’s necessary for our progress, wisdom and change, and that can be difficult and painful. In life if we run out wine, literally or metaphorically, life is empty, colourless, tasteless. Nothing seems to be happening, or maybe we still have some wine but it’s turned sour. What parts of our life are dry and empty today? In what ways has life become sour or colourless and tasteless? I’m not actually talking about actual wine. I am talking about the wine of faith, hope and love, the wine of integrity, honesty and justice, the wine of peace, joy, forgiveness and mercy, the wine of friendship, relationships and family, the wine of generosity, patience and belief, the wine of truth, strength and self-respect, the wine of prayer, social action and welcome for all. When the wine gives out and life is dying on the vine, we no longer feel empowered. Every prayer we make is telling Jesus about where the wine has run out. We tell Him the situation and leaves it to Him to deal with giving us new possibilities, the way to a new life, a way of hope. When we pray, we are offering to God the need, the rest is up to Him.

3rd August 2021

Nehemiah 8:3 Ezra read the word of God aloud from daybreak until noon in the presence of the people. 

From Friday 1 September 1939, the BBC changed its religious programming to meet the wartime needs of our people. C.S. Lewis, began to present broadcasts that would take the word of God and apply it to the circumstances of the nation. These talks would become the basis of C.S. Lewis’s classic, Mere Christianity, well worth a read. The impact of these talks was widespread: At a time of crisis, a nation was captivated by the reading of God’s Word and the explanation of what God’s Word meant for their lives. The story of Nehemiah speaks of a similar moment in Israel’s history. The people had been exiled because of their selfishness but by the grace of God the people returned to their land, and began to rebuild; part of this was a new listening to God’s word. Christians are known as the people of the book, but we not only need to read the Bible but hear it and act upon it. The people came together to hear God’s word read aloud. God spoke to His people, revealed who He was, and how to live, they rediscovered the gift of God’s Word. At this crucial moment in Israel’s history, the nation was transformed by hearing God’s Word. It is the same for us now. We could see our nation transformed, if we hear God’s Word and act upon it. At moments like this in our nation’s history, when there is great uncertainty, where there is fear, when people are looking for answers and there are many competing voices, we must listen and hear what God has to say. As individuals, as a church, as members of our nation we can make a difference. We need to do more than just read and hear the Word of God; we need to understand God’s Word, it’s relevance for today and then respond, Recognise the wrong that has been done, be sorry for the mess we have created and turn to God to help us. As we gather together as Christians and we hear God’s Word to us, we need to respond with prayer, with change, with a willingness to do whatever is needed to help make this nation be what God intended. That change starts with us.

2nd August 2021

Isaiah 43:2 As you pass through the deep waters, I will be with you, and they shall not overwhelm you. 

A White House official died unexpectedly in 1917, another person seeking uplift hurried to the White House to tell President Woodrow Wilson that he would like to "take the deceased's place." The President answered, "If it's all right with the undertaker, it's all right with me." No one can take the place of someone else in their death. And we don't have to. Jesus did it once and for all, for all of us. But no one can take the place of someone else in their life either. And when we experience a loss in our lives and have to go on living ourselves, we experience every emotion we know in that grief: anger, love, fear, hope, insecurity, abandonment — you name it, and we all have our losses. They come in many different forms. They come as separation, children leaving home, moving, conflict, job change, retirement, ageing, disappointment. And these are all experiences in which we feel real grief, and all our strong emotions rise up in us and flow over us like the deep waters that Isaiah talks about going through. And we wonder: If we start to cry, will we ever stop? Or will the flood tide take us with it. We hold back and hide our grief because we imagine that once we begin to really feel it, we won't be able to bear it. Many people hide their grief for years, and it gnaws away at them from the inside. Then comes the torrent: 2 months later, 5 years later, 20 years later. But eventually our grief catches up with us, and we know that it did happen, and there was nothing we could do about it. When Jesus comes to find his friend, Lazarus is dead Jesus looked at those people He loved and saw their suffering, He felt all the same things you and I feel when someone we love dies. And He wept. The people said: "See how He loved him." But others said: "If He loved him so much, why didn't He save him from this death?" And that's the question we all ask in that situation: If God loves us, why did He let this happen? Why didn't He get here sooner? And why wasn't our love enough to save this person? Do we really think the Lord doesn’t know all of that? Not a sparrow falls without the Lord knowing it. He knows the number of all our days, and He is there. That doesn't mean things don't go wrong or that there will not be evil that effects our lives and deaths but He has also assured us that before it even happens, He has already overcome all of it and is able to bring good out of all of it for those who love Him. He is there before and during and after. We have to go through these deep waters and let go of the bad grief before we can enter into the good grief. After the pain and guilt and anger, then there is an awakening, a morning when you remember the good memories that bless and finally no longer burn. It is not that we have got over it but that we have learned to live with it, to accommodate it in our lives. This loss, whatever it is, should teach us to appreciate far more what we have for we never know when life may change for any of us.

1st August 2021

John 20:19 The Disciples were together; the door was locked and Jesus came among them.

We all have those days when we prefer to just stay in bed, pull the covers over our head, and close out the world. Some days it seems easier and safer to lock the doors of our house and avoid the circumstances and people of our lives. Sometimes we just want to run away, hide, and not deal with the reality of our lives. For some of 202 and 2021 we have had to do just that through Government imposed lockdown. But every time we shut the doors of our life, our mind, or our heart we imprison ourselves. For every person, event, or idea we lock out, regardless of the reason, we lock ourselves in. That’s what happened to the disciples after Jesus Crucifixion. The disciples are gathered in the house, the doors are locked with fear. They are in lockdown. A week later they are in the same place. It is the same house, the same walls, the same closed doors, the same locks. Nothing much has changed. Jesus’ tomb is open and empty but the disciples’ house is closed and the doors locked tight. The house has become their tomb. Jesus is on the loose and the disciples are bound in fear. The disciples have separated themselves and their lives from the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. Their doors of faith have been closed. They have shut their eyes to the reality that life is now different. All this, and it has been only one week. what about us? Where are we living? In the freedom and joy of resurrection or behind locked doors. The locked places of our lives are always more about what is going on inside of us than around us. What are the closed places of your life? What keeps you in the tomb? Maybe, like the disciples, it is fear. Maybe it is questions, disbelief, or the conditions we place on our faith. Perhaps it is sorrow and loss. Maybe the wounds are so deep it does not seem worth the risk to step outside. For others it may be anger and resentment. Some seem unable or unwilling to open up to new ideas, possibilities, and change. Jesus is always ready to enter the locked places of our lives. Standing among us he offers peace and breathes new life into us. He doesn’t open the door for us but he gives us all we need so that we might open our doors to a new life, a new creation, a new way of being. This is happening all the time. Christ stands among his people saying, “Peace be with you,” breathing life into what looks lifeless making a resurrection difference in whatever circumstances we are in.

31st July 2021

Matthew 22:1 The kingdom of Heaven is like a King who prepared a wedding banquet for His child. 

When were you last invited to a big event? Wedding, 21st, 18th, Silver Wedding, Golden Wedding, Baptism, Christmas or New Year party? It’s a big thing, it matters to people, it matters that you are invited, someone invited you¼ but sometimes we are so busy that we may have to apologise. That can be really sad for them and you. I remember being devastated because the person mainly responsible for me being a priest today couldn’t be at my wedding. If you read novels set in the 17th and 18th century a big party at the manor was something everyone went to and it was the talk of the village or estate and there was a dress code, everyone dressed up and came together to celebrate. Heaven, through Jesus, invites us to a very special party. Eternal life in peace and joy. Question is do we chose not to go, do we forget, do we make excuses, are we too busy, do we want to go and if we do, do we follow the dress code? The Pharisees, religious leaders of the time, were challenged as to their behaviour as they chose not to follow the Covenant God had made with them. They knew all the promises of God but chose to turn away from Him. A useful aide-mémoire for us about What God does is the hymn Praise my Soul, which says that through Jesus we are Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven and this leads to the ultimate wedding banquet, the party we are invited to in Heaven. So, we are all invited, do we go? Do we make excuses? Too busy, not gifted, poor, needy, unwell, tired, too old, too young, family to care for, job to do, don’t like this way, that way, the church doesn’t need me, I’m not sure a party is a good idea, God didn’t mean it that way, etc, etc. With God there are no bystanders, the character of God affects all of us, everyone, one way or another. There is a dress code, but it isn’t anything other than clean clothes. Only clean clothes are necessary at Heaven’s party, clothes made clean through Jesus’ death on the cross. But we have to make that choice and decide to follow the dress code. It is our choice whether we accept the invite and whether we follow the dress code. I hope and pray that you do.

30th July 2021

Matthew 18:21 Peter asked Jesus “How many times must I forgive those who sin against me? Up to 7 times?” 

Not being able to forgive is a stumbling block and we pay a terrible price for it. It creates baggage in our lives which holds us back and can cause us to stumble, and yet, we do it all the time. We carry unforgiveness around with us and it tinges everything we think, say or do. More than that, it keeps us from becoming who God wants us to be. Life is just better when there’s less baggage. That’s why we need forgiveness in our lives. When we forgive we are not justifying another person’s actions, we are not saying that what they did was OK. We are simply letting go of the baggage that is holding us back. Forgiveness is not waiting on the passage of time. Time does not heal hurtful wounds, in fact over time people who haven’t forgiven become hardened and distant. Forgiveness is not denying you’re hurt because we are and if we don’t deal with it causes infection and pain. Forgiveness is about accepting we are hurt and dealing with it in a Godly way. Just because we forgive someone doesn’t mean we have to trust them. Forgiveness is a choice we make. Trust is something a person earns through wise choices and actions. Perhaps the most difficult thing Jesus calls us to do is to forgive and yet it is absolutely essential for our lives and our well being. Sometimes what has happened is just too horrific and forgiveness seems impossible, at that point we ask God to give us the grace to forgive, in time, when we are ready and to let Him do what is needed within us to offer grace to those who have so deeply hurt us. We never have to face forgiveness alone but we do need to deal with it in some way for our health and well-being, so that another life is not damaged unnecessarily.

29th July 2021

Matthew 18:15 If you brother or sister sins against you, go and show them the issue between the two of you. 

They estimate that in today’s society one out of every five people has an anger management problem. Anger related violence is the reason stated for 22% of divorces. Road rage seems to be increasing exponentially. How do we handle Conflict? Disagreement? Anger? Hurt? Human beings are not very good at dealing with these things. “They’re not my friend any more” “They said this” “They did that” It happens through school, and we carry on as adults and keep doing it. Sadly, If you do something that really annoys me and I throw a custard pie at you everyone else will find that far more funny than if we sit down reasonably, sort our problem out, and become best of friends again. Stories about how people handle things badly are treated as much funnier and appear all over social media and YouTube than stories about people handling relationships well, but the reality is that conflict is corrosive. Conflict causes damage and Some damage cannot be repaired. In churches we like to finger wag, to turn away those who do not agree with us and we are not good at conflict. We need to change our perspective, our prism and realise that actually things may need to change, just move the prism slightly and the colours are different. The problem is that far too often we read the bible with a pair of scissors or the loose-leaf edition. We cut out the bits we want to keep and throw the rest away. We read things out of context. Jesu tells us we should never set a limit on our forgiveness, God doesn’t, neither must we. The point isn’t about finger wagging and telling people off it’s about restoring relationships. The thing we most commonly do, but is the worst possible thing we can do when someone has upset us; is we go and tell EVERYONE else about it. We talk to the entire community, bar the one person we should talk to. Everyone hears about the terrible thing so and so did, or at least about the terrible feud that lies between me and so and so. It is all just made worse. So, we are clearly told, don’t go and talk to everyone else. Just go privately and talk to that one person. After all it may be a misunderstanding. Or they may have perfectly good reasons for what they did, which if you heard would make perfect sense. Or they may have not understood how much it would hurt you. They may just say sorry. Jesus’s language is all about reconciliation. We are all flawed. We may need to change our view, to move the prism so that we see differently, we may need to change our perspective, to compromise BUT the purpose is always forgiveness and reconciliation. It is about building bridges and not walls, loving neighbour as self, living honourably, not quarrelling or being jealous but being like Jesus. It is not easy but we need to try our best, in God’s strength.

28th July 2021

Nehemiah 3:10 The Joy of the Lord is your strength. 

You may have the heard the idea that the internet was invented for cat videos. I do find myself enjoying the things cats get up to, just as I enjoy the things my own cat does. These cute, sweet and mad things cats do somehow make us feel better, make us smile and laugh, get the chemicals in our bodies, that make us feel good, working. It is actually true that the more we smile and laugh the more we want to smile and laugh. As the dopamine is released in smiling and laughing, we feel better and want to laugh and smile more. There is real values in taking pleasure in the simple things we have like smiling and laughing with loved ones, over little things; who doesn’t smile at new babies, kittens, puppies, at children having fun, at other people enjoying themselves. We can be so caught up in life that we no longer see and appreciate the simple things in life that make us smile and laugh. As we grow up and older, we easily lose our awe and love of life, we take for granted the fun things, we smile and laugh less as we are caught up in the pressures of life, work, family etc. God’s intention has always been for us to have joy in our lives. He has always wanted us to know happiness and joy, laughter and fun. It may be that we need to learn to smile more, laugh more, to look again with wonder and awe at the world around us. We might need to watch a few cat videos or see a few new babies or children playing; get out the old photos, remind ourselves of the treasured memories, allow ourselves to laugh and smile more and because we do, we will find ourselves smiling and laughing more and find strength in the joy of the Lord.

27th July 2021

Romans 7:15 What I want to do I don’t do and what I don’t want to do, I do. 

I recently heard an interview with a top, now retired, sports person. They spoke about the selfish streak needed to be a top sports person these days and how it conflicted with their own desire to be a kind supportive person in daily life. Our Christian teaching encourages us to be a kind people, to be supportive and helpful to others and yet we all have a selfish streak. The part of us that doesn’t want to share, that wants to keep what we have earned for ourselves, that wants a better life with a nicer home, better holidays, more meals out etc. This creates a tension and means we are constantly performing a balancing act in daily life. St Paul understands this with his comment on doing what I don’t want to do and not doing what I want to do. Even for St Paul it was a struggle to be the person he should be in Jesus. This balancing act we live is how to be the kind, loving, supportive person we are called to be whilst also taking care of ourself. If we look at Jesus, He regularly took time for Himself, time to pray, to be with God, to rejuvenate. This is not selfishness but self-care. If we keep giving then eventually the well will run dry and there will be no more for us to give and we will be dry and lost and damaged. Therefore, we must keep replenishing the well of our soul, keep ourselves well cared for, making sure we leave time for ourselves and God.

26th July 2021

Acts 2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 

We all hear things incorrectly sometimes, the first time I heard the hymn There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, I thought it was There’s a wildness in God’s mercy. I discovered my mistake but sometimes I am not so sure that I was wrong. Wildness is extravagant, exuberant, abundant, challenging and sometimes uncontrollable. God’s mercy is all those things but this wildness, extravagance, exuberance, abundance, challenging and sometimes seemingly uncontrollable is very much the style of the Holy Spirit. I am a big fan of CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and the character of Aslan. Descriptions of this Lion who represents God, talk of Him being both frightening and beautiful. A being who can eradicate life with one swipe but who also gently picks up the needy and holds them protectively. The depth of power is frightening, the wielding of that power can also be gentle and fair. We are rightly fearful of the unknown and of power wielded incorrectly and perhaps that prevents us from understanding and accepting the Holy Spirit of the New Testament. In the early church the coming of the Spirit was tied into the Jewish festival of Shavuot, 50 days after Passover, Pentecost is Greek for 50 and is 50 days after Easter, its colour is Red, picking up the tongues of fire, and celebrates the outpouring of the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. It was and still is the birth of the church on earth without the presence of physical Jesus, humans become the active body of Christ on earth through the Holy Spirit. The outpouring is powerful, it is unpredictable, insuppressible, formidable and fairly messy. Incredible things happen and that might have been okay for the early church we think, but it’s a bit too wild for us now. We tend to like the comforter, counsellor parts of the Spirit and not the wind or the flames. We like the quiet, slow and subtle working of the Spirit……we want to see things change, people come and churches grow but we want it “our way”. Trouble is the Holy Spirit can be loud, bold, raucous, obvious and signs and wonders can and do happen. The Spirit can be both a thunderstorm and a gentle breeze. There is both a terrifying power and gentle peace and nurture. This powerful Spirit is available and bearable because of God’s love.

25th July 2021

Luke 1:29 She asked herself what this greeting could mean. 

Mary heard from the angel those powerful words: “The Lord is with you” and “asked herself what this greeting could mean” Mary is a woman of contemplation, of deep thought. After the visitors came to see Jesus, Mary treasured all the things and pondered them in her heart. When Joseph and Mary took the baby to the temple, Mary wondered about what Simeon and Anna said about Jesus. When the 12-year-old boy Jesus was found in the Temple Mary stored up all these things in her heart. Mary is constantly portrayed as wondering and pondering in her heart. We call this contemplation which is a prayer of the heart. In contemplation there is a movement from the head; the thinking unit, to the heart; the feeling centre. Contemporary neurobiology suggests that besides the brain and the spine, there are at least two spots where there is a concentration network of neurons: near the heart and closer to the large intestines. Therefore, it is not by chance that we identify the heart and the gut as centres of a deeper form of knowing. This knowing is at an affective level, it is intuitive, it is awareness, and it is transformative. The Bible tells us this about the heart and the gut long before neurobiology said it was fact. We are invited, as Christians, to imitate Mary in her attitude of listening to the movement of God by pondering in our hearts the situations of life. Contemplation will allow us to move nearer to God and His wonder, it will allow us to move closer towards ourselves and humility and it will allow us to move towards others in compassion. That in turn will bring others to God. This is the core of our Christian life: God, others and self. 

24th July 2021

Isaiah 40:29 God gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 

In the summer months we often put up a gazebo in the garden to provide shade as we spend more time out there. Currently we are experiencing quick flash storms with heavy rain. As I went outside, I noticed that the gazebo had collapsed on one side, the heavy rain had pooled in an area and the weight became just too much for the frame joints underneath and the fixing bolts sheered. Only 2 of them broke but it was enough for one side of the frame to cave in as a result. Sometimes things just can’t cope with heavy and quick pressure, sometimes the joints in some places are a little weak and need tightening, sometimes it is the proverbial straw that breaks the camels back and we cave in under the pressure. Life has its ups and downs; it has its pressures and we can never know what is round the corner for any of us. Now, to fix the gazebo we needed a couple of longish bolts and nuts, the right size, which fed through the holes and tightened up. Suddenly it was all back up and happy, supported, the right shape, providing the shade we need. We were able to fix it quickly and effectively with what we had in our house tool kit. As humans literal nuts and bolts are not what we need, but the nuts and bolts of our faith is what we need. Part of our Christian tool kit for coping with life. A simple and basic knowledge of what God has done, is doing and will do for us each and every day. A belief that He desires the best for us in all circumstances and a knowledge that God will never let us down or leave us to face anything alone. For the times when the pressure is raised, if we constantly make sure that our basics are kept tight and strong then in times of pressure, we will be able to stand straight and tall in God’s strength.

23rd July 2021

Acts 12:1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.

Stories from the early church show that early Christians were heavily persecuted. Peter was put in prison by Herod who was murdering and imprisoning people linked with the Church because it would please his citizens. Herod put extra guards on Peter because he wanted to make a display of Peter’s captivity to demonstrate his power. Herod desired the praise of others, he liked being flattered and wielding power. He liked to show off and his guidance was self-interest. This attitude is one that has persisted in kings, governments, dictatorships, across the ages. But alongside there has also been those who witness truth to expose it. We know that respect, honesty, and truth will produce a better outcome for everyone than pleasing the popular vote and yet we so often strive to please others, forgo our high standards so as to gain their support. Peter, on this occasion, is freed from captivity by an Angel. He had been commissioned by Jesus to care for His people, to build His church, to hold the Keys of the Kingdom. As Peter does strive to do as Jesus has called him, he incurs Herod’s wrath, as do many other disciples and followers; yet the early church grows quickly despite the persecution. They make a stand for their Lord and things happen. We don’t see that type of persecution in the UK, but across the world many do. People are still imprisoned, brutally punished, even killed for believing in Jesus. Yet even where persecution is virtually non-existent, we would still rather seek the approval of colleagues, neighbours and friends than do what is right and stand up for our faith. Being a Christian is not a popularity contest, people will comment, say unpleasant things, even be rude and aggressive, but God calls us to make a stand for what is right not what is popular. 

22nd July 2021

James 3:9 With our tongue we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. (Part 2)

Imago Dei is the belief that we are all made in God’s image, the image of the creator God, and therefore all life is valuable and is not something you can destroy on a whim, and yet we still see genocide, terrorism, exploitation in our modern world. We praise God with the same tongue that we use to vilify other people. The image of God is broken in us as Human Beings, we reflect God, we represent God, and we reflect and represent humans back to God. We were created to reflect God’s Goodness, His glory, His character, to represent Him to the world and we have a duty to do that accurately. If we reflect God’s glory to the world then we fill the world with it. It is a relational creative, we are relational creatures made to reflect the original. It makes us spiritual people, reflecting the light that comes from God. We have God’s glory in us and we reflect it outwards. We cannot create our own glory or light, our sense of worth comes from outside, from the face of God, the face of love; we have this image of God in us and we either bring life by reflecting it or death by not. If we know our worth and value then we serve the other not ourselves, if God is the source of our glory, then we will serve the other, If our value is our job, our education then we work too hard, we overdo it, we overthink, we protect it no matter what, it becomes so important that it becomes more than God to us and therefore the image of God is broken in us. We trample on it and we trample on others. Jesus is the perfect image of God, so He is the example of how we should live as Christians, transformed into His likeness, attracted to the heart of God, to the centre of our image. We have to allow Jesus to transform us and if we do not believe or accept who we are in God then we can never be transformed. God fixes us as we gaze on Jesus, and we stop trampling on others. Jesus was poor, tortured, falsely accused, beaten, trampled on and yet He is the only perfect image of God, and He saves us, He loves us so much. As Christ is perfect, His representation of God is perfect and in that He turns us back to God, to the image of God, and if we are back being the image of God, we will treat others better.

21st July 2021

Wisdom of Solomon 2:23 God made man to be the image of His own eternity. (Part one)

Every human bears the image of God, when we get hurt or damaged, when we ridicule another person or they us, we are doing that to God. We all belong to the one race, the Human race. Within that we might belong to a culture or a country or a religion, but we are all human and all humans deserve respect and tolerance. God can see humans and they can see God, a bit like an angled mirror, we reflect God on earth to each other and we reflect the world to God. How we treat the world and others has to be affected by this, as I look at you and you look at me we see God in each other, it is why we exist and therefore we need to value all people and creation. Every human reflects God no matter what their past is. We are valuable, we are treasured and sometimes we need reassurance we have dignity, we have value, we have worth, we have rights and that’s no joke. Each one of us is valuable to God. The Bible tells us that the way treat people who come across our path, who we interact with is so important, we must treat everyone with dignity, with worth. We cannot trample on other people’s rights, human rights come from the Bible, from God, and we are accountable for our treatment of others. God says, in Genesis, that humans are made in our image and Martin Luther King Jr was quite clear because we are made in the image of God, that means we all have human rights. The secular society loses the value of human rights because it does not see humans as made in God’s image. It is being made in God’s image that gives us a value. If we do not accept that then the reason, the morals, the capacity disappears. Are we worthy of protection, are new born babies worthy of protection, are the senile, the elderly, those with mental illnesses worthy of protection? Suddenly they lose their value, their rights and that is how we ended up with slavery and poverty, we left the sick and poor to die because we saw them as worthless, and that is happening again today around us. That is not right, we must treat people with reverence, with sacredness, with grace, with gentleness and respect; just as God treats us.

20th July 2021

Matthew 17:2 He was transfigured, His face shone like the sun and His clothes as white as the light.

The story of the Transfiguration is a strange one, it looks both forward and backwards, it is a 360 degree story that reaches into everything. The presence of Moses and Elijah reminds us that Jesus came from the Jewish faith. It says clearly to Jesus followers that the God of the Old Testament is o longer veiled and distant, and that we God’s people, no longer need to approach God in fear or with our guard up. We can come to God just as we are. The story is also about power and radiance, about Jesus being the Light of the World, who is now literally illuminated in front of them. It brings to life in a very physical sense His statement that He was a light to the Gentiles and to the people of Israel. To you and I, to everyone. He is changed and we are changed by God, by Jesus and so are able to shine His light into the dark corners of the world. We are the light of Christ, here and now. Jesus is physically and spiritually illuminated and transformed, so that He with power and authority can enter the chaos of this world. The very first thing He does after this power and authority is shown is to heal a boy who is demon possessed, who has been overwhelmed by the chaos of this world. Jesus uses His power and authority to change things, to do good, to heal. If we are going to follow in that path of Christ, we need to allow ourselves to be transformed and then we need to get out into the chaos and disorder of the world and work for God’s healing. Work to do good, to change things. Our efforts don’t necessarily need to be dramatic, but we must try on a daily basis to make a difference. Jesus’ faith allowed Him to see the world and its people as God sees them. Our faith allows us to see the world and its people the way God sees them. To achieve this, we need to ask God to transform us from within, to illuminate and transfigure us so that we can point people to a better future. As we increase in holiness, we become the sort of people who can bring real and lasting healing. We don’t need to become superheroes, just ordinary transfigured Christians

19th July 2021

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; we are God’s field, God’s building.

None of us ever really knows the impact that we make on the world, we may never see all the people whose lives are different because of us. But just as an encouragement, there are stories that we sometimes learn that make us realise the difference we can make. If we go back about 65 years something happened in history that changed the world. A small black boy went to work with his desperately poor and neglected mother to a Johannesburg hospital where she worked as a cleaner. She was very much a lower grade of citizen and treated badly. The boy was quite sensitive and very saddened by the way his mother was treated and was angry at a system that was so prejudiced and full of injustice that treated his mother in such an appalling way. That day a tall man in clerical clothes came into the hospital, approached his mother, smiled, greeted her and asked her how she was. He took off his hat and gently bowed toward her in respect. This man was Trevor Huddleston, a white English priest who had gone to work in South Africa because he was appalled at the injustice of Apartheid. The young boy had never seen a white man before, let alone any man who smiled and spoke to his mother with respect and care. In this moment the boy decided that he wanted to know more about this man and the God he served. That young boy is who we now know as Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In that moment, in that simple act of respect and care, Trevor Huddleston made a difference, changed a life, just be being a good Christian. He did not talk about his faith, he was respectful, showed the care and love of God through his simple actions toward someone considered lowly and poor. The cleric changed the world for this young boy, for his mother, and through them the world was made a better place through the work of Desmond Tutu. The cleric did this out of the faith and love he had as a Christian, seeking to serve God. He saw people through God’s eyes. If we are willing to live as Christians who see others through God’s eyes, we will always give respect, love, care, compassion, to whoever we meet and because of the way we treat them they will want to know about this God that we serve.

18th July 2021

Luke 2:22b They took him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.

When a child is born in this Country, we have to register the birth, give the child a name and identity which will allow them to function in society. As a member of society that child has obligations as it grows; to obey the laws of the land and to pay taxes into the common pot to keep society functioning for everyone. Our laws are here to allow everyone to flourish and live safely. Yes, sometimes they need to change and we may well fight, as legally as we can, for change to happen. At the time of Jesus, the people lived under the occupation of the Romans but under the law of Moses, the Jewish law. This gave them clear obligations for every child born into their society. They had to be circumcised, if a boy, then presented at the Temple and offerings made to God. As Jesus is brought into the Temple for these offerings to be made, He becomes part of God’s chosen people. In the Temple are not only thankful parents in Mary and Joseph, but also Simeon and Anna, prophets, people of great faith who held onto the promises of God over many years, and in this moment, they see these promises fulfilled in Jesus. They were both where God wanted them that day, they had listened to God’s voice, do we? Are we in touch enough with God to hear when He calls, to go where we are sent. Simeon and Anna heard God because they listened, believed God’s promises even when they were a long time coming and praised God for what they saw in front of them. May we listen, believe His promises and praise God just as they did.

17th July 2021

Isaiah1:17 Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.

How we live matters, what we say and do matters. We leave an impression on daily life and on everyone else we meet and every situation we are in. We are called to be just and fair to everyone, to allow every Human being to flourish and reach their potential. If we are just and fair then we will make sure that everyone, whatever their skin colour, gender, culture, religious belief, life choice, disability and age we treat with dignity and respect. None of us should disrespect anyone else, or disrespect nature or creation. If we do then we are guilty of disrespecting God. Being Just and fair doesn’t only mean that we share what we have, but that we restore to others what is rightfully theirs. Building a just and fair world is playing our part in bringing God’s kingdom to earth. This is not easy, when you are shrugged off as a child, or a woman, or old, or disabled, or black and so it goes on. The society we live within will always fight to keep itself as it is because those who maintain the status quo do so because it suits them. We can and must work to restore creation, to protect it, to work for justice and fairness for all. If we do not speak up, if we walk past and accept the mistreatment of others, if we do not make a stand then we are saying that we accept the unfair treatment of others by our very silence. How we live matters, what we say and do matters, God has called us to justice and fairness, if we ignore that call we ignore God and that is exactly how we have got into the mess we are in.

16th July 2021

Isaiah 44;21a I created you, you are my people; I will not forget you.

Much of the structure of our year and our life revolves around remembering through common events, celebrations, holidays (from Holy days) etc. Memory is a record of our personal and community experiences. Memory makes us who we are, it is our Data Collection Point if you like. We acquire, store, retain and then retrieve information or memories. As a priest I visit care homes and hospitals and often meet people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia their memories are of mixed up or only from long ago but one thing always amazes and blesses me; when I start saying the Lord’s Prayer they join in, they know it, it is memory of comfort and help, a remembrance that God is there too. Whatever happens to our human memories, God does not forget us. So many times, in the Bible, we are told that God created us, loves us and will never forsake us. Our memories, good or bad, make us who we are, they make us people who either become angry, aggressive and ungrateful or people who realise that we face nothing alone and that whatever happens we are cared for by God. People who count their blessings even when life is tough. People who will always help others and share God’s love. Yes there are memories we would like to forget, there are memories we treasure and keep blessing us. Whatever our experiences God is there and God will never forget us.

15th July 2021

Psalm 51:2 Wash me thoroughly from my wrongdoing, and cleanse me from my sins. 

There is an old word we do not use much these days, Penitence, it is linked to repentance and means the feeling of sorrow and regret at something you have done wrong, asking for forgiveness and trying to change your ways. We are not a very penitent people these days, which is why the word has probably been lost. Presently we are more like to brazen out our mistakes than to admit them and try to change. The word sorry is used freely, without real meaning, and with no intention to change. It is also used as an excuse to pass the blame; I am sorry if you…… The key to penitence is recognising the fault, to accept that we have done wrong, to understand that we are not perfect and we all make mistakes. It is common to play the blame game, right back in Genesis, Adam blamed Eve, she blamed the serpent, in the Old Testament thy had a scapegoat, an animal to carry away all their wrongdoing. Our current society is very much about blaming others, finding excuses because we do not want to admit our faults. We hide our shame through bravado and confidence when what we all need to do is recognise we are wrong and admit it. Be remorseful, recognise things have consequences, look to change and rectify the wrong and know that when we are sorry, we can be forgiven. Wherever we turn in life, in religion, it is wrongdoing that puts a divide, a wedge, between God and humans and between humans. We have the opportunity every day to change that. We can recognise our wrongdoing, be penitent, admit it, be truly sorry and try to rectify it. In doing this we can be forgiven, we can be cleansed and renewed. As this happens to us, we can forgive others. We can show the compassion shown to us by God, to others around us. We can forgive others because we have been forgiven. 

14th July 2021

 Luke 11:36 If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.

I love the longer summer days, light late into the evening, travelling to work in day light, it lifts our spirits, makes us feel better. Did you know that all humans glow? Especially our faces. It is linked to metabolism and body clocks, the glow is less than we can see with the naked eye, but we actually omit light. We need light to see, we us the language of light in our conversations, being enlightened, seeing clearly, shining out etc. Light is a key in all religions with festivals and celebrations around light and it triumphing over darkness, and the key role it plays in our lives. God is referred to as light in all religions and there is so much teaching about making things visible, seeing things clearly and finding truth as we expose darkness. God called for there to be light in the very beginning of our earthly story and Jesus came as the light of the world. As created beings we reflect the light of our creator, of our faith. We don’t hide light we use it to guide us, to enlighten us. Light dispels darkness; within darkness bad things occur because people can hide their evil intentions. The light in us means we can choose to look, see and ignore bad things or to look, see and expose bad things, fighting for good, for justice. Put symbolically we need, as our reading tells us, to be full of light. We need to shine in the darkness and expose the bad, to speak up and out. There is a difference between looking and seeing, we can look and ignore, shrug it off, walk past or we can really see a need, the unfairness, injustice and act as we shine a light on that which needs exposing. We have light within us, we can use it for good, to dispel the darkness, to sow light and goodness. May we shine as lights in the world.

13th July 2021

Romans 8:39 nothing can separate us form the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

At school we are heading for summer break, it marks the end of another school year and we will move onto new groups, new classes, new places and new education experiences. Some will have spent their whole first y