Lent Blog 2019

Easter Day, 21st April

Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ’What are you making?’ Isaiah 45.9

 If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 2 Corinthians 5.17

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

There isn’t really much else to say on Easter Day. Singing, dancing (I would love some dancing in church on Easter Day), laughing, being a bit silly, stuffing our faces with Easter eggs. All this should keep us pretty busy and stop us from talking too much. (I promise I’ll keep my sermon short, so we can spend a bit more time doing all the other things.

Everything is new. Nature is doing its thing and all around us we see new life sprouting and buzzing and chirping around us – the noise at dawn is amazing this time of year. Let’s give thanks for this new creation. We know that the old world is still lurking around, but God’s kingdom has announced itself to us today. Let us for this day forget the worries of the old and focus on the glory of the new that is already emerging all around us.

Christ is risen! Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

Alleluia,

Fr James

Holy Saturday, 20th April

Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. Deuteronomy 6:4

And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3

Who wants to live forever? A good question and one often put forward by religious sceptics.

It’s a theme that also seems to pop up in films and stories. Someone living forever; seeing companion after companion grow old and die; always having to reinvent themselves into contemporary ways; seeing familiar places constantly change; very lonely. Indeed, I doubt we would be able to keep up with the accelerating pace of technological progress or cope with witnessing the world’s suffering cumulatively over many generations. And then, of course, if everyone were to live forever, we’d very quickly fill up the planet!

So, of course, this is not what Jesus is offering his followers (Matthew 19:27-29 for example); it is not the free gift from God that we have through faith in the Son of God (1 John 5:13).

The verse following on in Deuteronomy is the first of Jesus’ two “greatest” commandments: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”. Through Jesus’ incarnation, suffering and death, God has revealed to us that, if we have faith, He is impossible not to love. We are compelled.

And eternal life is knowing our God; knowing and being in the presence of that love.

As Christians, we have hope and faith that when we die physically we indeed will be in the presence of our eternal Lord. But we may also know God’s presence in this life, albeit as through “a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12), for example, at the Eucharist : “May the body and blood of Christ keep you in eternal life.”

When we’ve been there a thousand years,
Bright shining like the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.

 Lord, our God, grow our faith in Christ so that we may have Eternal Life.

 James Askew

Good Friday, 19th April

 The second he named Ephraim. For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes Genesis 41.52

Then he said, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you today you will be with me in paradise” Luke 23.42-43

It never ceases to amaze me how the actions of God help us through our lives   God was active in the stories of Joseph  the last of the Patriarchs   Joseph had two sons Manasseh  and Ephraim   both boys names represent God’s  actions  with Joseph    Manasseh name was  remind Joseph to come to terms with his new identity in the land of Egypt and Ephraim complemented this by reminding Joseph of his origins , his family connections back in the Promised land where his father Jacob still lived

In the second text we see Jesus in action ,even on the cross he concerns himself with others.

God is a God of action .  He feels our anguish, he feels our pain, he feels our separations and frustrations

 God is ceaselessly at work bringing good out of evil.  He inspires us to face our negatives through practical actions ,  He is there to help us to face our Calvary moments with his action of support and love .

 Dear God, help me to understand your actions in the world , help me to see your actions in all events that affect my  everyday life and always remember me when I  get distracted by the things of this world      Thank you for the example of the penitent thief

Pat Alden

Maundy Thursday, 18th April

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. For man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16.7

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 22.61-62

 Appearance seems to be all these days and perhaps it started at the Nixon-Kennedy T.V. Debate with Nixon’s 5 o’clock shadow showing him visually disadvantaged against the young, good looking Kennedy. Whilst this wasn’t the only factor in play, it did seem to have some influence on the outcome of the election. Today of course all public figures are carefully groomed and coached in what to say.

In Isaiah 52, we read “……He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him.” Yet people were attracted to him, although with the Son of God, this is hardly surprising. People could obviously see beyond the outward appearance. At least ordinary people could whilst most of those in authority could not or would not. Do we see the same thing in parliament today?

The thief on the cross with Jesus was certainly in no position to think about the theology of his religion or his faith in Jesus but just displayed it in what he said. Oh that our own faith could so easily be expressed!

After what had probably been a pretty miserable life and certainly a miserable end, he would suddenly have been transported to paradise. How amazing it must have been for him; imagine all those wonderful, beautiful, exciting experiences rolled into one. I like to think that Jesus introduced into heaven, “ look who I have brought with me”, before descending to the dead (Apostle’s Creed) and all the angels in heaven would be celebrating and rejoicing over this one man.

Dennis Wears

Wednesday of Holy Week, 17th April

The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth. 2 Samuel 23.3-4

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden Matthew 5.14

 I wonder if you sometimes look at the way ‘bosses’ rule things and feel that it could be done a lot better. I suspect we all have feelings about certain decisions that this or any government makes and wonder if they really are supposed to be for the good of the population in general or whether they are done to keep taxes low to ensure re-election. I guess every person reading this blog would have a different opinion about that. Scripture is pointing out to us here though that when one rules justly over people, ruling in the fear of God it’s going to be good. Actually it’s going to be better than good. It’s going to be like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning.

All of us are in charge of something no matter how big or small. Do we all rule in the way that God wants us to? Do we even know how that would be?

The verse from Matthew reminds us that we are the light of the world. We know that this light will shine and show up all things, both good and bad.

If you are the person at the top, this could be in a family, organisation, business, church – anything, you are the town built at the top of the hill. You are the one on show, it’s your decisions that will affect the people around you. The light will reveal whether your ‘ruling’ is in the fear of God or if it is for other purposes.

 Heavenly Father, please help us to discern your will and how to be leaders in the way you want us to be.

 Angie Letteboer

Tuesday of Holy Week, 16th April

Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me, O Lord God of hosts; do not let those who seek you be dishonoured because of me, O God of Israel. Psalm 69.6

This psalm is a prayer offered up by David at a time of hopelessness, although I don’t know what troubles inspired the psalm. We learn from reading the Bible that David, in this psalm, was speaking prophetically in the role of Jesus Christ.

David wholeheartedly believes in God’s holy cause and prays that dishonour and reproach do not fall upon anyone who is also a faithful believer as a result of what is happening to him. I ask myself if I am as concerned as David was for any detrimental effect that my influence might have on my brothers and sisters in Christ. I question if the thought of distressing others who also seek God is as painful to me as it was to David.

We should all have these same concerns.  Our actions are being watched and studied by others, in light of our faith in God.  We are witnesses for God, for good or for bad, in everything we do and this is a big responsibility. 

David prayed that he might endure his trials with courage, knowing that God is in control; with righteousness, not compromising virtue in the face of pain; with steadfastness, always looking to God for strength, and I pray that I might also. 

 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6.13

I believe that this is a prayer for spiritual protection. God is not the cause of trial or ‘temptation’ as some scholars express it, but our only protector against it. To me it makes perfect sense to not only ask God for forgiveness when necessary, but also to pray to him for help to specifically not do the things that require us to ask for God’s forgiveness in the first place.

When I wake in the morning I always ask God to lead me through the day. Despite having a job, a routine and many planned things to do, I don’t know what experiences may come to me and so I ask God to be with me. The prayer below is a beautiful example of a prayer for spiritual protection.

 Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer:I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee to keep me this day also from sin and all evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Tina Robertson

Monday of Holy Week, 15 April

 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord and grant us your salvation.
Psalm 85.7

As part of my regular prayers I thank God for ‘All this love’ and I ask that this love will grow and spread until it encompasses all mankind.

Lately I have given this more thought and have come to realize that really forgiveness and tolerance and understanding will have to come first before all the world’s people can love each other. There has built up such anger and hate and suspicion between neighbours (cultures and countries) that love doesn’t stand ‘A hope in hell’ until we can start to forgive those who have hurt/injured or insulted us.  So now I pray for forgiveness and understanding to spread until it encompasses all of the world’s people.

So you have pain now; but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. John 16.22

The promise of joy in our afterlife/heaven is such a blessing that I really feel sad for those who have no faith. What a grim thought that life is no more than ‘We are born, live out our existence and then nothing……? How bleak to think that we will never again see those loved ones who have gone before us? Never to know of the future lives of our children, grandchildren or great grandchildren. Never to truly understand the meaning of life and never to come to fully know God.

 Dear Great and Glorious Love grant that we may all come to forgive those who have wronged us and that we may all know the joy that faith in you will bring.

 Penny Joseph

Palm Sunday, 14th April

Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel. Deuteronomy 26:15a
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy. Luke 1:54

“Hosanna   blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Today we begin the final journey with Jesus to the cross. We enter Jerusalem with Jesus and his disciples. Passover is imminent the place is heaving.  At the same time Pontius Pilate and his Roman legions enter through another gate on the opposite side of the city.  Direct opposites, the power of God humbly riding on a donkey to be judged and condemned, juxtaposed with Pontius Pilate  riding on a charger with the Roman legions, the symbol of Caesar power. Both moving toward each other for that historic showdown on Maundy Thursday.

For a moment close your eyes and imagine the sights and sounds of first century Jerusalem as Jesus enters the Holy City, with his disciples.

Are you one of his chosen   or an onlooker in the crowd waiting to be invited in.?

Listen to those words of adoration

Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Soon the crowd would disappear, and a new and hostile crowd would gather. Jesus would stand, alone, his disciples absent, and   the words of Hosanna would become “Crucify him, Crucify him”

But you are living in the moment oblivious to what lies ahead, you are with Jesus waving palm branches in front of Jesus, laying them down in front of Jesus, leading him to his death.

Soon the waving palms would become wagging fingers and the words of adoration become condemnation,” If you are who you say you are save yourself and us.

Keep a few moments in stillness and silence and then offer your thoughts and prayer.

Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant,
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation:
give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen

 Erika Howard

Saturday 13th April

 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15.1

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Sons of God. Matthew 5.9

When I first read Proverbs 15.1, two of my Aunts came to mind, my Mothers sister and my Fathers sister.  One attend Church ‘religiously’ every Sunday, the other attended when she could, as she had a busy life as a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend to many.  The one, who attended every Sunday, could ONLY give a ‘harsh’ word.  Never could she be nice, kind, forgive or forget.  Her words only ever stirred up anger, hatred, bitterness and pain.  The other Aunt, in total contrast, was the most loving, caring, gentle person, I have ever known.  I never heard her say anything mean about anyone.  She ONLY spoke in a ‘soft’ answer.  In her business, in her family life, people were drawn to her, loved unconditionally by her, prayed for by her and helped by her.  Much like people were drawn to Jesus, He, like my Aunt, loved unconditionally, He gathers us into his embrace, nurtures us and encourages us.  My Father was once described to me, as a ‘Gentle Man’ (I do not have many memories of him, as he passed away when I was a young child), then truly, in this world and the next, his sister was/is a ‘Gentle Woman’.  Over the years I have learnt that to speak harshly, will only receive a negative response.  Children learn by example, love, nurture and encouragement.  My Aunt was a ‘Peace Maker’ here on this earth.  When I was in trouble with my Mother, my Aunt loved me unconditionally, she loved me with her whole heart, in her eyes I was perfect, and she never criticised or judged.  Just as we are all blessed by God, to have found Christ in our lives, I am forever blessed to have had a lady in my life, who sits in Heaven and is now and will always be, a Daughter of God.

Dear Lord of all, we give thanks this day for your Son and for sending such very special people into our lives, to enrich us and to love us, unconditionally. Amen.

Vanessa Thompson

Friday, 12th April

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again. From the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my honour and comfort me once again’. Psalm 71. 20-21

I have come to realize that we should not regret troubles and bad experiences in our life because through them we grow and learn. If our lives were perfect in every way, what would be the point? What would we learn? It is through acknowledging our mistakes and learning to move on that we acquire wisdom. Wisdom is not something that can be taught, it is through mistakes and troubles that it is acquired.

A friend was recently telling me about her early years. She said that her Mother was a single mother and she was the result of a brief affair and so she and her Mother were alone for her early years. Then her Mother married and she acquired a step father and two step siblings. Her step father was very strict and unloving and she had to share her Mother with these others. She said it was very hard and she was very unhappy. But in recent years she had come to forgive her stepfather, and had realized that her experiences had made her resilient and independent. It had made her who she is and she thanks those early experiences.

For it is not the will of your father in Heaven that one of these little ones should be lost. Matt 18.14

I’m not sure if Jesus meant those who had faith and knowledge of God’s love and had turned away, or one who had no knowledge of God’s love. Either way I believe that the joy and rejoicing in Heaven when someone finds faith or it is restored to them is great indeed. 

My ex partner who was a confirmed Atheist used to say to me “You live in cloud cuckoo land” with reference to my faith in God, and I would reply that it was a darned sight nicer place to live than where he lived. (Life is the survival of the fittest, Dog eat Dog and when you die the lights just go out) As he got older, and I would like to think maybe due a little to my influence, he began to (very subtly) talk about heaven and how he might to see his beloved Mother again. So indeed there would be great rejoicing if one such as he ‘saw the light’! 

Dear Great and Glorious Love help us to help others to come to know the wonders of your love and to ‘See the light’ that shines in our lives when we let it in.

Penny Joseph

Thursday 11th April

 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. Psalm 25.8

Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. Matthew 18.21-22

When I was about six or seven I was given a little book about a girl who struggled to say sorry. I’ve no idea who gave it to me or why but it had a lasting impression on me. I remember it to this day. The girl in the story was getting herself into trouble but was unable to apologise. Until she learns to write, when she starts writing little cards to say sorry.

It can be embarrassing to say sorry. I see it every day how difficult it is for Ronja to say sorry, and I’m not much better. We make ourselves vulnerable. If we admit to something we have done or omitted to do we might have to bear the consequences.

This is why the church offers the sacrament of reconciliation, or confession as it is traditionally called. We are called to atone for our sins so that we may be at one with God and our neighbour. By doing so we are able to come out of the isolation to be reconciled, healing the relationships we have damaged. How many times are we to do this. As often as it takes, because we can be sure that if we do we are assured forgiveness, by God and hopefully also by our neighbour.

Lord may I always forgive, so that my sins may also be forgiven.

James Grant

Wednesday 10th April

I made the earth, and created humankind upon it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. Isaiah 42.12

For in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. Colossians 1.16

 The wonder of a daisy, the bleating of a lamb, the excitement of seeing a crab or small fish in a rock pool.  Beautiful, simple pleasures, that we can all enjoy, particularly in Spring.  Sometimes though, the way we treat our environment, like it’s a finite resource that we can use and discard rubbish on however we like, amazes me.  How do we feel when litter is left on the pavement in front of our homes; along motorway verges; rubbish left on the beach?  I don’t think there are many people who haven’t see the image of a seahorse holding a cotton bud and weren’t inspired to action.

What can we do?  We recycle at home, have a compost bin, try to reuse jars, containers and bottles, and donate old toys and clothes that are in good condition to charity shops, to help others and reuse.  More recently though, my mantra has been Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. I want a beautiful world for my children and my children’s children and future generations to enjoy.  Even doing the basics at home, I was keen to recycle more and reduce our plastic use. So, after a bit of research, I started to recycle milk bottle tops and pump dispensers through Recycling in Lancing. 

It wasn’t long before I persuade our joint benefice to be a collection point, for everything from crisp packets to cleaning pump sprays. As a benefice we have delivered a large car boot full of recycling to Lancing every month since the end of October. I’m also hoping to send our first lot of biscuit and crisp wrappers direct to Teracycle by the end of Lent too.

Being a collection point does have its challenges, with the wrong items being collected but I try to remember when I’m sorting it that we’re trying our best!

Together we can make a difference.

Dear Lord, teach us to use carefully the good gifts of this planet, our first home. Let us be mindful of the hundreds of generations that might yet come, to minimise waste, and to recycle all that we can.   Loving God, let us model our approach to recycling on your grace which teaches us no  one’s effort is too small. Amen

Sarah Ringshaw

Tuesday, 9th April

 But I will defend my house against marauding forces. Never again will an oppressor overrun my people, for now I am keeping watch. Zechariah 9.8

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16.18

The force and power that comes through in these two passages reminds us of God’s power and strength. The meaning of Christ is the great rock upon whom the church is built. The strength of rock/stone – solid and steadfast. Yes – he is the God of Love but he is also our protector. The fact that he will always be there to guard us from evil, to ensure the wicked will not prosper. Being a mother of a near teenage boy who is finding his freedom and going out with his friends, reminds me of our vulnerability and how we want to protect our families from harm. These passages remind us of God the Father, a father’s desire and role as protector in the household, one who guards us, who is always watching over us, and shielding us from harm. This gives real strength in hard times to know that things can be difficult, we can’t always foresee what will happen, but what we can be confident of is that we are never alone.

Lord, we thank you for always looking out for us, for being our protector and guide. Help us to look after each other, to protect the vulnerable and weak, and to turn our back on evil ways. Amen.

Amanda Pistocchi

Monday, 8th April

 My  soul waits for the Lord more eagerly than the watchman for the morning’Psalm 130.6 

But you my friends must fortify yourselves in your most sacred faith. Continue to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Keep yourselves in the love of God and look forward to the day when our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy will give eternal life. Jude 1.20-21

I am sure I am not alone when I say there are times when I cannot sleep at night, probably because of some anxiety or thinking about a previous busy or difficult day or even thinking about the future.   I may try making a hot drink or other things but with no avail.  However I do find that when I pray at these times – thanking God for so many things – above all for his presence, that this helps me.  Jude said we must continue to pray jn the power of the Holy Spirit, keeping ourselves in the love of God. Often after this prayer, when morning comes we can face the challenges of the day in confidence that God will give us strength to meet them.

When I was youngish i.e. 21 I worked in a bank in an office of about 100 people and I remember hearing that one of the staff who was aged 25 was getting married.  I felt quite sorry for her as I thought she had left it a bit late and was too old!!    I remember also that it was quite rare to think about death and Eternal life.  Now that I am (so I have been told) old – I, like Jude Look forward to the day when our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy will give me eternal life

As we read Psalm 130.6  My soul waits for the Lord more eagerly than the watchmen wait for the morning. Thanks be to God.

Sister Gillian Mary CSP

Lent 5, 7th April

My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. Psalm 84.2

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. John 15.9 &11

 Joy: if we take a moment to consider the last time that we felt ‘joy’, when would that be? Not just happiness, but pure joy – an emotion described by some, and indeed here in the psalm, as an emotion of the soul. Too often, we can become caught up in the day-to-day business and routine that we have in place – the school run, work, house work, play groups, cooking, meetings: the list is endless. Let alone the impact of the economic and social turmoil that we find ourselves currently in. If I am honest, the day-to-day grind and constant barrage of negative news can often overshadow those moments that should be joyful for me.

Jesus reminds us in John 15.9 that joy is actually an accessible, ever-lasting emotion. As he puts it quite simply ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you’ so that ‘my joy may be in you.’ God loves us. Jesus reminds us that as they have loved one another, we in turn have been united with their love thereby enabling us to feel joy. We are loved unconditionally, without exception and this should be safe in our knowledge. Perhaps we should remind ourselves of this more often. When we inevitably feel burdened by the day-to-day or events outside of our control, we need to remind ourselves that we always have the love of God and that there is always something to feel joyful in.  Maybe it is singing your favourite song; seeing an old friend; sitting in that rare bit of sunshine; being part of a community or watching your children and family grow. We have so much to be joyful about; so much love given to us. So take time to reflect, to consider what brings you joy in your life or perhaps how you can enhance the joy God has already provided.

Lord, help us to seek joy in all those around us. Help us to rejoice in your love and to be thankful of the blessings that we already have in our lives.

 Sam Mason

Saturday, 6th April

 I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Job 42.2

The centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. Matthew 8.8

 When I looked at these verses I was trying to remember times where my faith in God was truly put to the test. There have been times of severe pressure, but they either passed and were resolved so quickly that they didn’t really have an impact on me or they always seemed to be a way out. There was the time when Franziska was born she couldn’t keep her temperature up, but fantastic nurses quickly saw the problem and dealt with it. A few days later we took her home. It was only months later reflecting on it that in different circumstances this could have been a lot more serious. Or there was the time when I didn’t get a grip on my life and things were pretty much in free fall but I always had someone to turn to, someone I could talk to.

Never did I experience the desperation of a family seeing their daughter head for Syria to join ISIS and not knowing whether you would ever see her again. Never was anyone very close to me so hopelessly ill that it seemed prayer was the only thing left.

I am very fortunate, and my time may yet still come. I don’t know if I would ever be able to have the faith of the centurion who moved heaven and earth to save his servant. Will I still be able to say that God’s will cannot be thwarted after losing a family member, let alone the whole family. It’s testing we never want to experience. But our hope must be that God will give us just enough strength to be able to cope. Cope that we can still see God’s will be done. Cope in order to still know that God is carrying us through our despair.

Lord may your will be done always. May I find comfort in your ways and consolation in your presence.

 James Grant

Friday, 5th April

So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Genesis 32.27

 Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well. Matthew 9.20-22

Jacob was a sinner. He stole his father’s blessing from Esau by clever trickery. He obtained profitable flocks from Laban by devious manipulation. But that sinner was granted visions of angels and a painful encounter with God. He was even given a new name and became the father of the children of Israel. If a man with his history can be generously forgiven, perhaps there is hope for all of us.

A woman, sick and ritually unclean for twelve years had such faith that she did not ask for help but trusted in touching Jesus’ garment. (Was this the seamless robe the soldiers gambled for at the foot of the cross?) Jesus was on his way to heal Jairus’ little daughter, but stopped to speak to the woman and give her comfort. In our busy-ness and clock-watching, should we be prepared to stop and pay attention to those needing help and comfort? We might never know what a difference the gift of five or ten minutes can make.

Lord, grant us forgiveness of sins in this season of Lent and always.     

Mary Blane

Thursday, 4th April

Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Ezekiel 37.11-12

 Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. John 5.25.

I wonder if any of you, like me, despair of the lack of interest in Christian worship amongst our friends and neighbours. I sometimes think that a lot of society has removed itself too far away from church and formal religion and that it could never find its way back.

In the beginning of Ezekiel Chapter 37 we read how he had discovered the dry bones in the valley. Not just recently dead people but completely dry skeletons.  God restored these bones, through Ezekiel, to living people again.

We need to read these verses again and again and again. God can use us to spread the message of the gospel to everyone and then, as John tells us, those who hear will live.

Remember the prayer that Jesus himself taught us:

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.

Angie Letteboer

Wednesday, 3rd April

Who is like you, O Lord among the Gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, Awesome in splendour, doing wonders? Exodus 15.11

Moses and the Israelites are praising God for saving them from the Egyptians here.  It’s not the sort of language that we often use today when speaking of God which I think is a shame. I often think that although we now acknowledge that there is only one God, when we always refer to God as ‘Father’, apart from the obvious masculinisation of God, which not only is not what God is, we make him smaller. In my mind we don’t use language that describes the full depth of the enormousness of God, the amazing and awesomeness of the creator of all things when we speak of the ‘Father’, as wonderful and necessary as Fathers are they are not the whole picture.

I know that when we use Jesus’ prayer we pray to the Father, and I understand that we need to ‘condense’ God as it were, in order to be able to have a personal relationship with him and Jesus knew that and chose ‘Father’ because in those days it had a different meaning. The Father was most definitely the head of the family, the one in authority. I understand that it would be hard to imagine ourselves speaking to something of the breadth and depth of who God truly is, but I do think that we could sometimes use better words to describe The ‘I am that I am’, The Alpha and the Omega’ the amazing concept that God is.

And we know that the son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true and we are in him who is true, in his son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 1 John 5.20-21

I’m afraid I’m going to be rather controversial here because although I am no biblical scholar, my understanding is that Jesus mostly referred to himself as ‘The Son of Man’, which I believe is exactly what he was. I believe that our life on earth is a journey of evolution and indeed each generation evolves ever more God like. (very slowly I’m afraid)  I believe that Jesus is indeed our son, in that he is from our future generations, a highly evolved and more ‘God like’ version of ourselves and he chose (or volunteered to God) to come back to us to ‘show us the way to God, to put us on the right path and to save us from our ignorance. He was indeed the ‘Son of God’ in that he was is much nearer to Godlike than we. That doesn’t I believe change things when we say ‘that God sent his (only begotten) son to us, because Jesus was obviously deliberately ‘begotten’ in a very unusual way by God for a specific purpose. When Jesus said that ‘I and the Father are one and you and I are one’, to me it means that we are all ‘son’s of God, albeit rather more lowly than Jesus, but hopefully getting there, ever so slowly, or maybe not, maybe we can speed things up in this life if we really try.                                                                          

Penny Joseph

Tuesday, April 2nd

But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. Judges 3.9

Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,  and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Revelation 1.5-6

 Judges is a book that describes to us about disloyalty leading to disaster and that Israel’s survival depended on loyalty to God. The people however forgot the LORD their god, sinned against him and worshipped other idols. The LORD became angry and let another king rule them. Eventually after 8 years the Israelites cried out to the Lord who sent them Othniel who freed them. Peace then came over the land for forty years. This teaches us that, even if one is disloyal to God and therefore disaster comes, if you repent and turn to him again then God is always ready to save his people.

Revelations demonstrates Christ’s divinity, being faithful and true and not able to lie. It is establishing a pattern for all his brethren to rise from the dead as he did describing how Jesus is the ruler of all men today even though most do not realise this is the case. It highlights how God gave his son on our behalf. The use of blood for atonement is related to its life giving qualities. It goes on to say that we are to minister to God and not to men and to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. As we minister to God, he will minister to men through us. This reminds us of the sacrifices that were made for us to enable us to live and how we must not forget but continue to give thanks and praise.

Dear Lord, please enable us to see what lies ahead so that we may not live in fear but be comforted in the knowledge that your will will be done and all will work out eventually.

Emma Carmichael

Monday, 1st April

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,. Psalm 10.17

 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. Romans 15.13

These two readings made me think pf an old saying my Mother taught me especially appropriate when you literally HIT THE WALL .  When you cannot see the end to the issue

A problem shared is a problem halved

Sharing a problem, issue with a trusted friend can often help to resolve the problem.  Just acknowledging that there is an issue will help to rectify the problem. I cannot trace the origin of the phrase but it certainly brings some positivity to something you are burdened with.

If we share our problems, if we can trust our friends or family then it actually helps us to address the negative issue that is bothering us

It is comforting to know that we have a friend in Jesus  someone wh we can talk to in prayer when all else is falling apart   We are told so many times in the Bible that God is there and we have to trust him  , Sometimes the answer to our petitions are not answered in the way we think they should be but in Faith and hope we share our inner most thoughts  with God . When all else fails we hope and trust that God will be there for us Just as he was in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus had HIT the WALL and wanted to be released from the future sufferings he knew he had to bear for all of us.

The Romans passage gives us hope that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will be with us, we just have to ask and trust.

Lord be at our beginning and end of all we do and say.  Prompt our actions with your grace and complete them with your all powerful help.

 Pat Alden

Lent 4, 31st March 2019

But all things considered, this is an advantage for a land: a king for a ploughed field. Ecclesiastes 5:9
Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:33-34

I find the passage from Luke challenging; reminding me, as it does, of Jesus’ response to the rich man seeking eternal life only that he lacked the one thing money cannot buy … poverty (Luke 18:18-24).  He was told to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor before following Jesus. To truly follow Jesus, do we have to relinquish our worldly belongings? Our security and peace of mind is tied up with what we possess but maintaining that security costs us time, effort and worry; only to risk having it eaten away by time and moths! And of course it is valueless to us when we die.
The passage comes at the end of a series of exhortations not to worry; God provides for us. Jesus is both challenging us and comforting us. Let go our attachment to the material; “strive first for the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) and we shall have treasure of true worth that is everlasting.
Ecclesiastes is a bit like Proverbs but with a pessimistic view of life tempered with an optimistic one. This verse suggests an upside to a system of government, described in the previous verse, that oppresses the poor and violates justice and don’t be surprised; it’s down to human nature!
I’d like to think there’s a link with Jesus’ description of the Kingdom of heaven being like treasure hidden in a field. And a man, “in his joy”, sells everything he has to purchase the field (Matthew 13:44). The field is ploughed, the Kingdom of Heaven revealed, human dominion, with all its flaws, is ended and Christ is King.

God of Eternity, grant us the wisdom to live and work in the recognition that the only treasure worth striving for is your love for us. Amen.

James Askew

Saturday, 30th March

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.when you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd. Exodus 23.2

Let mutual love continue. Hebrews 13.1

I have always had an interest in “the law”. My ambition was to study the law but life got in the way.

It is ironic that this passage and advice comes so early in the Bible. Seems to me that Pilate didn’t know of this text otherwise we would have enjoyed a fuller life for Jesus. Who knows what that would have meant?

The crowd now seems to be the majority of the population and we must remember that in not following them. Keep the faith !!!!

Heavenly Father. Please give us the faith and strength to follow our faultless Christ and help us to live a life of forgiveness to others and love for all even the guilty.

Ian Muzio

Friday, 29th March

Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. Micah 5.3

 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” with power and great glory.  Matthew 24.30

 It is interesting to discover from Micah’s prophecy that he tells us that the promised Messiah will come as a baby born of a woman after her nine months pregnancy. This makes clear for us the truth of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem all those years ago.

In contrast to this Matthew describes the second coming of Christ as a very different matter with Christ appearing on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory in judgement of his people. This it seems to me should always be in our minds and cause us to remember the words of Christ himself when he preached to the people. Whatever we do be it giving to or helping others in any way it must always be done willingly and with love for without this it is nothing worth. We have a wonderful example in the life of Christ himself. At the end of each day perhaps we should pause and ask ourselves if we have done anything for anyone to make their day a little better. Even a smile or a greeting can very often help. Lent is a very good time to make an extra effort so we should set ourselves to do just this at this special time.

Dear God, please help me to be the sort of person you would have me be. Give me strength to help where I am needed and the will to follow it through. Amen

Ann Burton

 

Thursday, 28th March

Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. Deuteronomy 6.16

Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6.10

It is quite poignant at this time of national indecision to hear of God’s power which is beyond all our understanding. 

In contrast to our kingdoms what we want to do (and what we say we want to do) doesn’t always happen. This is the major difference to God’s kingdom. When God creates the heaven and the earth, God says, it happens, and God sees that it is good. In our case even “very good”. There is an immediacy from God willing it to happen to it actually becoming reality. God says and it is so! I can’t count the number of times I say or want to do something and it then takes another week until it actually happens – or it never actually happens at all.

It always seems too complicated. Our (grand-)children are marching now against climate change asking for things to change that were known to help solve the crisis 25 years ago at least. Indecision and competing agendas have made it difficult to actually tackle the problem that will affect life on earth for generations. 

When we pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven we are praying longingly to be able to act together, cooperate, that God’s will be done here and now with an immediacy mirrors heaven. This will only work when we are able to listen in prayer to hear God’s word today.

Heavenly Father, may we be able to listen to your word for us today, that your will be done and we may glimpse your kingdom. Amen 

James Grant

Wednesday, 27th March

He said, ‘Do not fear, greatly beloved, you are safe. Be strong and courageous!’ When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, ‘Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.’ Daniel 10.19

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.These two passages talk about Peace. John 14.27

The concept of peace can be seen as two separate things – Peace as opposed to War, or else personal or inner peace.

We often pray for world peace but it is difficult to see how it will ever happen. With Peace goes Justice and there will always be people who think they don’t have Justice and so need War.  Examples are Palestine, Somalia, Yemen , Afghanistan. Wikipedia lists 45 current conflicts in the world. How can we pray for them all? We pray for people caught up in these conflicts when they hit the news but then forget about them again soon after. A curate once wisely said to me that Intercessions should not be about the Daily News! This happens so often and is worth thinking about.

Personal Peace is another matter and is what we wish each other when we shake hands during the Eucharist. It is a moment to reflect on our blessings despite our busy lives.

People work for personal Peace by sorting out their lives. A Happy family, good income, friends, satisfying hobby and so on. The Government tells us we can get inner peace by doing our tax returns by January 31st. Well that’s a good example. These are things you can only sort out for yourself. However things can go wrong. Illness, redundancy, arguments and so on. When this happens we need God’s help.

And so we must remember the words of Jesus as recorded by John.  “My peace I give to you” “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Les Alden

Tuesday, 26th March

Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord! Psalm 25.7

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2.4,5

I think we can be sure the psalmist did not believe sin was confined to the young. Those of us in more mature years know that is definitely not the case. Rossini famously referred to his later compositions as the sins of his old age, but few of us commit “sins” that give pleasure to many succeeding generations. So I must not generalise but take a subjective approach and acknowledge that I continue to sin although perhaps mainly in thought, occasionally and sadly in deeds. Each week I say the words of the confession but does God think “here he goes again, promising to lead a new life”? No, I believe God knows I will fail and in this mercy gives me a chance (in the words of Samuel Beckett) to fail better.

But God’s mercy is so abundant and this love for us is so great that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace that you have been saved.

I admit that I often find Paul’s letters difficult, but these verses are crystal clear and a perfect response to the plea in the psalm. In these few words Paul gives all the reassurance that sinners, young and old, need. All that us required of us is that we become properly repentant; possibly that is the easier said than done, but surely it is worth the effort to gain such a prize.

Never let us forget Lord that you are ready to forgive us our trespasses if we are truly sorry and prepared to show the same forgiveness to others.

Frank Burge

Monday, 25th March

 Your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just’, when it is their own way that is not just. Ezekiel 33.17

 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.    John 14.15

 It looks like I’ve got to come clean today. There are times I moan. I love moaning and complaining at times. There seems something very cathartic about just letting go and channelling all my frustrations on how rubbish everything else is and how I’ve been caught up in matters I can’t control. However, if I’m honest, the most likely cause for trouble is of my own doing. My dear wife calls it making excuses, and I’m a professional!

At whatever level, failings small or large, it is so much easier to focus on the things we can’t control rather than where we might be able to make a difference in our own lives as well as our neighbour’s.

The best cop out it is to blame God. Here we truly have no control. But to blame God is kind of senseless. God is and wants for us to flourish. When it gets difficult then I have to start with myself first.

The verse in John has often been used to put people on a guilt trip. If something goes wrong – well, you simply haven’t loved Jesus well enough. But can we really love and follow Jesus the way we should. No, not all the time! But we can try to follow and love Jesus. It is then that we can own up to the fact that it is our way not God’s that is often unjust.

Lord, help me to love you more each day. May I have the humility to look at my own failings first. Amen.

James Grant  

Lent 3, 24th March

I am twittering like a swallow, I am moaning like a dove, my eyes turn 
to the heights,take care of me, be my safe guard. Isaiah 38.14

And going into Peter’s house, Jesus found Peter’s mother in law in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. Matthew  8.14-15

The first verse from  Isaiah is from the longer, Canticle of Hezekiah, King of Judah, written after his illness and recovery. While the illness referred to, appears to be physical  I feel there is also a reference to spiritual illness. Hezekiah prays to the Lord to make him better as we pray for healing both for physical illnesses and and for 
our sinful lives.
The verses from Matthew refer to one of many  miracles narrated in this  chapter and it also tells of healing, in this case Peter’s mother in law. In both cases, Hezekiah  and Peter’s mother in law go to great lengths to show their gratitude for relief from their wretchedness.The former by singing his thanks  and praise to God and the latter by serving Jesus in a practical way.
When we are ill and and are healed, I wonder how many of  us say Thank You to our doctors or pharmacists. When  God answers our prayers , do we say Thank You.

Dear Lord,  we are often taught how to criticise and complain. Please help us  to say Thank You for all the good things we have  we have received.

Elizabeth Shepley

Saturday, 23rd March

Nevertheless, I am continually with thee; thou dost hold my right hand. Thou dost guide me with thy Counsel, and afterwards thou wilt receive me to glory. Psalm 73.23-24

 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4.7-8

 As a child I lived near some hills and woods and me and a friend would often go exploring as far as we could after school. One summer evening, when I was about 9 years old, we went probably too far too late. To get home was a long way but there was a short cut through an old abandoned railway tunnel. The tunnel was maybe 150 yards long but we had never before gone through it. We decided we would, not because we were brave but because it was late and we needed to get home. Forty yards into the tunnel, it was pitch black dark. In front of us were lots of little beady eyes moving about -rats. We instinctively held hands really tightly. I am not usually a physically affectionate person and I would never normally do that but holding hands in that situation was powerfully comforting. We walked side by side together through the dark, past the rats and out the other side. Holding hands got us through the tunnel!

These days at the Para-Olympics on TV you see blind sprinters running side by side with their guides. They hold hands and usually have their forearms strapped together. In this way they can run with confidence, incredibly fast sometimes.

In the same way we can run with confidence, God is with us, is our guide and is holding our hand. We can get home.

Russell Whiting

Friday, 22nd March

 Let us, your servants, see your mighty deeds; let our descendants see your glorious might. Psalm 90.16

 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6.26

 Both of these passages have many words and meanings that I can relate to. It is quite fitting I was asked to write a blog on these. While looking in to writing this blog I can’t believe how many different ways people interpret these. Is this not what religion is all about? How we interpret the guidance God gives us and amend our behaviour upon this? During my teenage years I did lose touch with my faith. In the past few years I have started attending church again and I was also confirmed in the summer (something that I am very proud of) As one of Gods servants I can clearly see all of his mighty deeds and I can also see the smaller deeds he does each day. As I have now been confirmed I am now in a position to give my daughter full support and guidance in her faith journey. When we attend church, pray and talk about God I am passing on my knowledge and teaching my daughter that God is all around us, we have so much to be thankful for. You are never alone and if you are ever stuck with what to do just think What Would God do? – Can I ask the girl on the playground to play? Can I share more of my toys? How can I do selfless deeds for others? My husband and I work hard to provide a support system that is guided by god so our daughter can grow in her faith journey to her full potential.

Should we all be worrying about being provided for? Or will God provide every time? Each month families worry about food costs, bills etc, how many families think that if the birds are provided for they will be provided for. An example of this is food banks, the church collects for the food banks so we could argue that God is providing for those in need? In the verse Jesus tells his followers not to be anxious about food but that God will provide. Perhaps if more people let God in to their lives they would feel less anxious? I know I find comfort in my faith and when I am feeling anxious I would always turn to my faith.

We cant rely on God providing for us all the time however we can seek for help when we are in need,  just think is there something we could do for someone in need?

 God please give us strength and guidance to be the best people we can be. Please help us not to worry and remember that family, love, friendship is what is most important We pray for those less fortunate than us and we promise to do the best we can. We pray for all the children who are starting their faith journey and for those who have also discovered faith. Thank you for the support and strength you give us each day. Amen

Larissa Roberts

Thursday, 21st March

 The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. Psalm 146.8

For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 3.7-8

 God does indeed open the eyes of the blind, for we are all blind without faith in God. He enables us to see things as they really are.To see through the fog of everyday mundane things that we humans get wrapped up in, the minutiae of life. God lets us see the bigger picture that our lives are really all about. How unimportant are many of the things that we stress and worry about. With faith in God our eyes are opened to the truth that love and forgiveness and empathy for others is what brings us most joy and what our lives are really about.

And God does indeed lift up those who are bound down. If we put our trust in God we are lifted out of the depression and stress of our human life and cares with the sheer joy of the love that he inspires.

God does indeed love the righteous but I believe that he also loves the unrighteous. Just as we love our children regardless of whether they are good or not. We may not always like them and can sometimes be disappointed in them, but we will always love them, just as in the story of the ‘Prodigal Son’. I believe that God loves all his children.

Paul is writing about his relief that those people ‘The Thessalonians’ whom he had taught about the life of Christ, had stayed strong in their faith and not strayed even though they had been persecuted and a period of time had passed since he had seen them. They had remained firm and committed to Christ and Paul’s sheer relief is palpable. He had obviously been worried about them. It is difficult to imagine in this day of instant communications just how cut off they must have felt in those days when they were not with those who they cared about. It must have taken many weeks for Paul to hear back from them.

Dear God we ask that we may hold fast to our faith in your love. That we may keep our eyes open to the real meaning of our life here on earth and not be fooled by the false distractions of the useless and unimportant minutiae of everyday life.

Penny Joseph

Wednesday, 20th March

Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient. Exodus 24:7

 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. Matthew 12:50

 Obedience isn’t a very popular word these days. When I was a child I was supposed to be obedient to my parents without question. Those who know me well will not be surprised that this didn’t always happen. God made a covenant with Moses and the people of Israel and in return they were required to be obedient – specifically to do his will. The verse from Exodus shows us that they had good intentions but we all know what happened.

In Matthew’s gospel we find Jesus is asking the same thing – that we do the will of his/our Father in heaven. Amazingly, if we do this then we become the brother, sister, mother to Jesus. It seems that Jesus’s own family don’t get any special privileges for being related to him. We can all be raised to being as his relatives if we do the will of God. What an incredible place to be in. It’s all ours for the asking if we can bring ourselves to be obedient and to do God’s will. 

Heavenly Father, help us to discern your will and become obedient to it.

 Angie Letteboer

Tuesday, 19th March

 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior and your Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob. Isaiah 49.26

 The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all who they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. Matthew 22.2,10

 Praise the Lord! That we may be open to the meaning of these verses. Amen.

 In the two New Testament verses it appears that our Lord and Heavenly Father will accept anyone into Heaven bad and good. The story which continues does not support this. One such man gathered from the streets does not have a wedding garment on and he is thrown out. What does the wedding garment look like? Is it my best and finest clothes? Is this what our Lord in Heaven on High is thinking of? I believe the wedding dress is the one we have personally woven in life through our daily thoughts, words and deeds.  Those thoughts, words and deeds that reflect the fruits of the spirit of the Christ which are love, joy, obedience, long-suffering, brotherly love and kindness.

“And if anyone should thwart you, you who accept me as your Lord and Saviour, they will be punished. “ In this Old Testament verse our Lord and Saviour will take action against those who harm the house of Jacob. Our Lord discerns his children in the Old and the New Testament. We have before us always the choice to walk with our Heavenly Father, to remember Him at all times or not. Those who seek to oppress His people will be severely punished and no one can hide for his dress will show who he is. God protects his own. God knows you from your carefully woven wedding dress.

Dear Lord, we thank you for everything in our lives,  for the breath of life, for the opportunity to give thanks to you each day and for freedom of choice to choose you at every moment. May our wedding dress ever be prepared through the fruits of the spirit of the Christ.  Amen

 Julia King

Monday, 18th March

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. Isaiah 10.1-2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.   Romans 12.2

 The prophet is clearly indignant at what he sees in the nation whereby those who hold political and economic power misuse it for their own selfish ends. Taking care of the poor is not simply a matter of compassion but also a matter of justice. Because God is just, he requires us to be just. Justice, love and compassion are part of the very nature of God and because we are his children it should be part of our nature too.

In our nation today there is an enormous disparity between the rich and poor. One only has to look at the salaries and perks of CEOs and the bonuses paid, especially to bankers. Yet when things go wrong these are the very people protected by the measures put in place ‘in the national interest’. I’m not an economist and perhaps the government measures are necessary and yet the selfishness and greed that creates so many problems are ignored.

I don’t know if governments set out to make unjust laws, probably not, but there are certainly many injustices abounding. Are these the result of poorly thought out proposals, lack of foresight or incompetence on behalf of those who draft the laws?

Woe to those who make unjust laws would seem to apply to our nation at the present time when we consider the turbulence over Brexit, Universal Credit, the Probationary Service etc.

 Lord help me to show the same care and compassion for the weak as you showed

 Dennis Wears

 

Lent 2, 17th March 

It is the living who give thanks to You, as I do today; A father tells his sons about Your faithfulness. Isaiah 38.19

 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Matthew 19.14

 To all come together and be united in a faith and to give thanks is a wonderful way to live, to pass this onto a younger generation is the gift that we can give to them. All of the community and friendships that can be made through the church is a reason to keep talking about how faith can be showed in so many different ways.

It is so nice to be welcomed with a baby to church and not feel a nuisance for them making a noise during the service. It can be hard to enter a church for the first time and so it is important to always make sure everyone including children are welcome. This is something I have encountered and so I am encouraged to keep coming to church, due to the welcoming nature of its parishioners.  It is important to keep the door open for whomever wishes to enter. 

Gillian Kavanagh-Clarke

Saturday, 16th March

For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. Psalm 11.7

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5.48

It is interesting that the Greek word “τέλειοι (teleioi)” in Matthew 5:48, which is translated into English as “perfect”, was “完全 (complete)” in most Chinese translations. In fact, many scholars believed that τέλειοι means “brought to its end, finished; lacking nothing necessary to completeness”.

It is only possible to be whole, be complete as God is when we completely and wholehearted trust and rely on Him. In this content, we were particularly asked to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, sincerely and wholehearted as God always has been. This has never been easy. The latest news about the British teenager, who fled to join ISIS and considered the 2017 Manchester Arena attack as “retaliation”, reminded me how difficult it can be but also given me some new thoughts.

I have faith in my righteous Lord and his perfectly fair justice in all cases. However, I have been feeling particular difficult to face the anger and sorrow of terrorist victims, those who were tortured, those killed, those who lost their love, hope and home. Do I betray them by loving these criminals? It sometimes, inescapably, felt that way. Inevitably, my love of enemies was not completely sincere and wholehearted anymore.

The British teenager, the young mum, has just touched me. My love of her and many others is complete, sincere and wholehearted.  The ISIS bride, and every terrorist, those who with or without blood on their hands, are also victims of extremism and sick societies. I hate the sin of terrorism and other crimes, sincerely, completely and wholehearted. Reversely, the complete love with no doubt lay on every victim, the persecuted people, the witness and the persecutor. I pray for them with my love and my faith in the Lord.

 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Matthew 5:44

 Hengyi Wang

Friday, 15th March

 Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. Jeremiah 22.3  

 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Ephesians 5.8-9

 Sometimes it is quite useful to be told what to do.  You do not have to think for yourself. As children we often had decisions made for us by parents and teachers and as we become more elderly and frail towards the end of our lives this pattern is often repeated. We are cared for by people making decisions for us   But what happens in between?

We have been studying Rites of Passage for the forthcoming GCSE at school and we had a very lively discussion on the question of decision making. The students discussed the following:

Religion is a personal thing and people should make decisions for themselves therefore it is wrong to baptise babies. We embarked on a very lively and informed discussion and when I looked at these two short reading I could see the connection about guidance and conduct. We have laws to obey and rules to keep and we are blessed with common sense but we are more than individuals we are also have a collective responsibility to our God through our faith, as well as having some responsibility and care for family our locality, national and international areas of responsibility. We are given guidance on our conduct to others.

So what is this wrong Jeremiah is talking about? It has something to do with attitude, Jeremiah and St Paul are teaching us options through the concept of opposites   Light and darkness, right and wrong, positive and negative .

We all have been given a choice as well as a responsibility, so during our Lenten Journey we can ponder on both the small and larger issues that affect the wellbeing of God’s creation for which we are part. 

Pat Alden

Thursday, 14th March

 I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts. Psalm 119.63

 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. Colossians 3.16

 Quite often I come across people who say that they believe in God but don’t really have much time for organised religion. And I can understand them. The way we treat each other at times within our church communities, the cold and bureaucratic structure in diocesan and national church structures would put anyone off.

However, there is another element here. Today we are deeply suspicious of large institutions, including churches. We feel that as individuals we can easily get lost and sucked up into a machine we cannot control.

But can we be Christian without community. These verses might suggest that we can’t. There is talk of companionship. Teaching and admonishing can only be done in community, when we are committed to one another. No point admonishing if we just walk away. Singing alone might be fun at times but fades in comparison to the rousing experience of a large community joining together in song.

The word companion is key. We are called to be “bread sharers”, coming round our Lord’s table. We are called by God to be a community of Faith, Hope and Love.

Lord let me be open to being in community, opening up myself to the other that I may be truly shaped by you.

     James Grant

Wednesday, 13th March

I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.  Psalm 13:6

Are any of you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.    James 5:13

Psalm 13 is an example of the many psalms of lament which start with an anguished cry to God in suffering and end in praise. There is the recognition that there may well be times of sorrow and difficulty when it appears that our “enemies” are prevailing and that God has forgotten us. But that this should not cause us to lose our faith in God. Indeed, even at these times we should affirm our faith by singing praise to Him as the psalmist does.

James also speaks of both suffering and joy. Exhorting us to bring both before God.

By coincidence we came across a poem by George Herbert which seems to echo the contradictory nature of Christian life addressed in these readings:

Bitter-Sweet
Ah my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.
I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve;
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament, and love.

At Lent we naturally dwell on such things as sin, our seeming distance from God, temptations and the many difficulties of life and faith. But these readings seem to suggest that, even in the midst of those things perhaps we should at all times and during all times offer prayer and joyful praise to our God.

Heavenly Father, give us the courage to be honest in our prayers and to honour and praise you as the author of life, whatever life holds for us.

Anna & James Askew

Tuesday, 12th March

 You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbour’s house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour. Deuteronomy 5.21

 A good friend of mine returned to Sussex about ten years ago bringing with him a certain amount of livestock, including two donkeys. I can in all honesty confess that I did not covet either of them. I did though envy where he lived; in the midst of 20 acres of countryside, a small copse and pond and with only one neighbour in view. His house was a renovated, extended 16th century cottage with sloping floors and ill fitting doors and having a magnificent original inglenook fireplace with a bread making oven in the sitting room. What I didn’t envy was the cost heating such a draughty dwelling and maintaining the boundaries for animal safety.

Can you show envy without being covetous? Is it wrong to envy another’s success or ability or can you rejoice in it at the same time? I envy people with great musical ability but in no way would I like them to be deprived of it just because I don’t have the same ability.

I suppose the nub of the matter is that if you covet something which would deprive another of it then you are breaking God’s commandment whilst envying someone of something and at the same time rejoicing with them over it would not break God’s commandment.

Lord make us sensitive to your instruction and obedient to your teaching

 Dennis Wears

Monday, 11th March

 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it. Genesis 28:16

 For he says: “In the time of my favour I heard you and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.   2 Corinthians 6:2

 When I first read the verse from Genesis and particularly the phrase ‘surely the Lord is in this place’ I was immediately reminded of all the visitors who come to St Julian’s church and say ‘this is such a holy building; you can feel the prayers from down the centuries coating the walls.  That may or may not be so but we all know that in fact God is to be found everywhere. He doesn’t just reside in buildings set aside for worship.

The day of salvation is now and we can be anywhere in the world to experience salvation.  The important thing is to receive the salvation now because today  is the day of salvation.

Let us all join in with Jacob and awaken from our sleep and know that God is to be found in drug dens, brothels, prisons, board rooms and every place that exists. God is here and the offer is for today as we know not whether tomorrow will come.

Angie Letteboer

Lent 1, 10th March

While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
My strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”
And you forgave the guilt of my sin.  Psalm 32.3-5

 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Luke 15.10

I chose to reflect on these passages as they resonated with me and my life story.  When I was younger I learnt to bottle up my thoughts and feelings and keep my opinions to myself.  This meant that I could easily lead myself astray as it was only me that had any control over my impulses.  It was only when I met Maurice that he showed me a different way and explained that communication is key in a relationship.  It took a while for me to change but I found it was like a huge weight being lifted from me.  Then when doing the Alpha course a couple of years ago I discovered the ‘Bible in One Year’ app and I have come to know the Bible better and tried to live my life according to God’s word.  This is even more difficult!  I am used to being an organiser and relying on my knowledge and skills to get things done.  The idea of giving things over to God seems to go against the grain.  I also tend to worry about what I should be doing and how to do it and yet I know that God is there and will rescue me.  I discovered the quote from Corrie Ten Boom “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength” and try to think of this whenever thoughts are overwhelming.  Of course, confessing my sins when praying to God is all part of this emphasis on communication.  My friends within our Church community will have to let me know how I get on with this!

Lord, keep me talking and praying and giving up my worries to you.

 Susan Saunders

Saturday, 9th March

 Just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. Jeremiah 31.28

For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5.9

These are the very words which God gave to Jeremiah at his anointing. They were spoken of course to the kingdom of Judah, but I often wonder to what extent O.T. Prophecies can apply to present day situations and particularly our own nation. Idolatry, wickedness, immorality and rebellion against God had led to the current situation where the Babylonians were laying siege to Jerusalem and about to take them captive.

Could we be accused of the same things? It would certainly seem we are guilty of rebellion against God. The following are just some of the parliamentary acts passed in my lifetime which seem to contravene God’s wishes.

Abolition of the Witchcraft Act              1951 Deut. 18.10-13

The Abortion Act                                        1967 Gen. 4.10-11; Ps. 139.13

The Sexual Offences Act                          1967 Lev. 18.22; Rom. 1.26-27

The Divorce Reform Act                         1969 Mark 10.2-12

The Sunday Trading Act                         1993 Ex. 20.8-11

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 Rom.  1.26-27

Some may argue that with the coming of Jesus all the O.T. Laws are redundant but Jesus himself said he came to fulfil the law. (Mt. 5.17-19)

Supposing we have rebelled against God in the ways mentioned, then have we experienced uprooting, tearing down, overthrowing, destruction and disaster? We are certainly experiencing turbulence and troubled times with family breakdown, knife crime, increased selfishness, increased violence both physical and verbal, lack of respect for others and a turning away from God.

If I sound like a grumpy old man, it’s probably because I am but the points raised are certainly worth reflecting upon.

Lord, reveal to me my hidden faults so that I do not blame other people or “circumstances” for my own sins and thereby miss your blessing.

 Dennis Wears

Friday, 8th March

I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. Isaiah 42.8

Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.        1 Corinthians 8.6

Why does God need our praise and glory? God wants our praise not because he will not be complete without it; rather he seeks our praise and glory because we won’t be truly happy until we give it freely and joyfully. God wants only the greatest good for us, and what greater good is there than God himself.

I frowned at the thought of giving praise to an idol – it all seems a bit too Old Testament and surely these days everyone knows better than that. Then I thought of the times that I have taken the credit for doing something such as coming up with a smart solution at work and I have realised that by believing in my own capabilities, without first acknowledging that everything and all things come from God, that I am guilty of worshipping my own false idol of vanity, rather than God.

Everything comes from God, our whole life and our death too. Our life with God never ends; our lives are about dying as well as being born into the world and into a relationship with God. God holds us the entire time and we are truly blessed by this knowledge and hope of everlasting life with him.

Lord, let me be your vessel. Help me to live my life so that people can see the light that you have put into my heart shining out a message to others of your praise and glory.

Tina Robertson

Thursday, 7th March

The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shake. But the Lord is a refuge for his people, A stronghold for the people of Israel. Joel 3:16

So that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, Hebrews 6:18-19

God is trying to help me! A couple of times recently I have been reminded that I was in the Boys’ Brigade for a short time aged 11 or 12. Its motto is “sure and steadfast” and its emblem an anchor. We sang its hymn at St Julian’s last Sunday (24th Feb). And now this reading from Hebrews.

Work becomes ever more stressful and, unfortunately, I have given way to the temptation of giving my anxiety and anger expression and openly losing my temper. The trouble is the more I do this the easier it is to do it more. This is self-destructive as it perpetuates stress. Worse, it is far from the kind of Christian witness that I want to be at work!

How do I change this? I can try to suppress the effects of triggers which will go some way to helping or I can actively focus on something positive. I can evoke the hope that is “a sure and steadfast anchor”; that the Lord is my refuge and a stronghold. At Christ’s death on the cross the Temple curtain ripped from top to bottom (Mark 15:38) showing us that God is not accessible only at the Temple in Jerusalem as it was but that we can enter “the inner shrine” by professing Christ as Lord. And what power it is that we have in our God that the heavens and the earth shake it His roar.

So, this Lent, I will be having readings such as these to hand to strengthen me in my resolution to be calm and a proper Christian witness at work being the work God has set me to do.

James Askew

Ash Wednesday – 6 March

Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love. Psalm 31.16

And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.                                       Luke 1.46-48

Last Sunday we heard how Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face glowing after he had seen God face to face. So much so indeed that he had to veil his face until he went back up the mountain to receive more of God’s commandments for Israel.

During the priestly blessing we ask for God to bless us by making his face shine upon us and to be gracious to us. We are blessed by God’s presence.

I hope that we may experience God presence at all times, but particularly again during this season of Lent. It is here during Lent when we relive Jesus passion, death and resurrection that we truly see how God has made his face shine upon us. This face shining upon us is the face of Jesus looking down to us from the cross in both pain and great compassion. God had truly shared our experience of life and death and has walked alongside those who are persecuted, marginalised and forgotten. In Jesus we see God’s face shining upon us, God’s servants – we who have been saved by the steadfast love; a love that didn’t shy away from the cross.

Father, may I see your face in your Son hanging from the cross. May I see your face in those who are on the margins today and may we be blessed by and through them.

James Grant

Dear Reader,

Our congregations in the United Benefice are producing a series of reflections throughout Lent again this year. Contributors, members from the churches of St Julian, St Giles and St Nicolas, have been given two short bible verses as a starting point (one from the Old and one from the New Testament). These Bible verses are taken from the Moravian Church’s Daily Watchword. For more information on these follow the link: http://www.moravian.org.uk/index.php/information/daily-watchwords

From Ash Wednesday reflections will be posted on this page. Every day until Easter Day you will find a breadth of approaches and opinions. They are not necessarily our own but we hope that among these you will find something to help you on this journey through Lent 2019 and they may give you inspiration for your own journey of faith.

Richest blessings,

Fr James