Thursday, December 20, 2012

Luke 1: 26-38.

For most people the next few days are going to be very busy.  There’s food to prepare, presents to wrap, last minute shopping and, most importantly, special services in church.

Perhaps you’ll have guests coming to you - or maybe a journey to take yourself.  On top of all that there are all the ordinary things of life.

Children, though, are just getting excited.  Christmas Day can’t get here quick enough.  Many parents, harassed enough at this time of year, may be tempted to say, “yes, whatever” to almost anything simply to keep the children out of their hair.

“Yes, whatever” – or as the Beatles put it, “Let It Be”.  Those words are loosely taken from Mary’s response to God’s amazing news, given to her by Gabriel.

The trouble is that “let it be” sounds like a tired, passive response; like saying “yes, whatever” to the children because we haven’t really got the energy to say anything else.

But that doesn’t do justice to the force of Mary’s “yes” to God.  She replied to the angel with a declaration that she was the Lord’s servant and with a definite faith-filled “yes” to God’s invitation.

As you reflect on the wonder of Christmas, remember that it began not with acquiescence, or weary “whatever” fatalism, but with Mary’s faith-filled enthusiasm.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Micah 6: 2-7b

We like to think we know what’s best, and often we do.  We know what’s best for our children - ­their schooling, behaviour, routine, friendships.  For ourselves - the type of work we do, what helps us relax, what sort of church we want to attend. 

But the Bible has a word for the person who thinks they know best all the time.  They are called ‘fools’.

Only the fool thinks that what goes on in their own head is the end of the matter.  This is why the Bible frequently tells us to ‘listen to what the Lord says’.  We don’t need to remain in the dark when the giver of light has spoken.

As God’s spokesman, in the middle of the 8th century BC, Micah realised that God’s word must be heeded.  Speaking largely to the southern tribes of Judah, probably in Jerusalem, Micah knew he must get a hearing for God. 

Idolatry, injustice and immorality were rampant, but the people were so used to thinking that they knew best, that they had forgotten God’s laws and ways, and so Micah calls them to listen again to God.

Have we given God time to speak his word to our hearts?  What was the last thing he said to us?  Have we responded?  Or deep down, do we think we know what’s best?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

READ: 1 Peter 5: 1-7

St Boniface was a great Englishman - yet hardly anyone in this country has heard of him, even though he was our Patron Saint for 300 years. It’s very different abroad where he is still the Patron Saint of both Germany and the Netherlands.

Boniface was born at Crediton in Devon in 675. He became a monk, but felt a calling to be a missionary, so at the age of 43 he left his monastery, never to return.

He embarked on 35 years of missionary work in various parts of Germany. In 722 he was consecrated by the Pope as Bishop of the whole of Germany to the east of the Rhine.

But being bishop didn’t give him a sense of self-importance. Like Peter in our reading, Boniface stressed the need for humility and service. When Boniface wrote to other bishops, he had a way of invariably reminding them that Christian authority meant service.

Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet was the supreme example for him, and so, whenever another bishop sent him a present, back went a towel from Boniface.

Humility is a difficult quality to cultivate. We might think that it means being a door-mat, but that’s not so. Christian humility can include assertiveness (which is different from aggression, of course).

Above all though, humility means acknowledging that we are sinners, saved by grace.

Monday, April 2, 2012

John 13: 1-17, 31-35 and 1 Cor 11: 23-26

On Maundy Thursday we shall remember the last night Jesus spent with his disciples – his washing of the disciples' feet, the Last Supper, and his betrayal and arrest.

The word ‘Maundy’ is an old English variation of the Latin word ‘maundatum’, which means ‘commandment.’

And so on Thursday night Christians around the world will remember 3 commandments of Christ from the night before his death: "do this in remembrance of me," "love one another," and "wash one another's feet."

Communion, love, and service.

Being in the presence of God, loving our neighbour, and serving the world.

At the Last Supper Christ showed his disciples what it means to be a Christian, a disciple of his.

Communion, love, and service.

And then he went out from there, to show that love and service in practice, as he faced his death on the cross, for me, for you.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Psalm 22: 1-10, 22-24

Lent, a time of self-examination and penitence, can unfortunately lead to an extreme of self-loathing, as we see our faults in the perfect light of God’s holiness. There are, sadly, many people who have low self-esteem. I, often, am one of them. Verse 6 in this Psalm is something I could often say about myself:

‘But I am a worm, not a man.’

The worm, as an image of something lowly, beneath contempt, undeserving of love or affection, is something that appealed to the 18th Century mind of Charles Wesley. It’s an image that appears in more than one of his hymns:

In age and feebleness extreme,
Who shall a sinful worm redeem?
Jesus, my only hope Thou art
Strength of my failing flesh and heart,
O could I catch a smile from Thee,
And drop into eternity.

The point is, of course, that however lowly, unlovely or useless we may feel ourselves, however much we may feel we do not deserve the love of anyone, far less that of God, his grace is great than our self-loathing; his love is greater than anything.

So I pray, with Wesley, that:

Spirit of faith, inspire my consecrated heart;
Fill me with pure, celestial fire, with all thou hast, and art;
My feeble mind transform, and, perfectly renewed,
Into a saint exalt a worm, a worm exalt to God!

Monday, February 27, 2012

John 17: 13-23

‘That they may have my joy within them’. Strange words for the start of Lent, a time we normally associate with fasting, confession and repentance.

But just as Lent will lead us into Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Day, so Jesus is preparing the disciples for the same events.

Jesus has been teaching them about his death, and assuring them of his Resurrection. He is equipping them to go out into a world that will be hostile to the Good News, and promising them the gift of the Holy Spirit to be with them, the truth of God’s Word for them, and the protection of God’s Name over them.

Jesus longs that every Christian, even in tough times, should have the full measure of his joy. He had already promised this - for example:

‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.’ (John 15:11)

‘Until now you have not asked for anything in my Name. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be complete.’ (John 16:24)

Even at a solemn time like Lent, or in times of difficult personal circumstances, we can still experience the complete joy of the Lord, as we open our hearts and minds fully to his truth and purpose, and his presence.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Jeremiah 23: 1-8

Jeremiah lived at a time when the Jewish people were under attack from their enemies, leading ultimately to Exile.

The loss of their land and heritage, their national pride and standing among the nations was a deeply traumatic experience for Judah and Israel.

Whether it’s for political or economic reasons, to escape persecution or ethnic cleansing, the experience of forcibly having to leave your homeland is painful.

The situation of migrants and refugees is generally one of displacement and distress.

This was the case for God's people, and it’s what many experience today.

The mass movement of refugees – or asylum-seekers – who now number many millions worldwide, is becoming an increasing global problem.

Migrants are forced to live in a second-choice world. They carry the scars of loss: the loss of belongings, of cultural identity and relational networks.

Do we care ?

God does.

In his Son he identified personally with all who suffer – including refugees. Joseph and Mary were forced to flee with the infant Jesus to Egypt to escape King Herod's fury. The holy family became political migrants.

But through Jeremiah, God promised to bring his people home, under his protective covering. He would rescue them from their enemies, heal them and deliver them from their fears.

Jesus came so that we might experience deliverance from our fears, and salvation from all that oppresses us.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Luke 2: 1-7

We will soon be in the season of Advent, a time for quiet reflection and preparation for Christmas.

Well, that's the theory!

In practice, this is the busyest time of year for many people - especially those who put on red costumes, and play the part of Father Christmas. I read recently that a shop manager had sacked Father Christmas, because he was wearing trainers. The manager said that he wanted his grotto to be neat and tidy, and provide a pleasurable experience.

Perhaps some people wish the churches would tidy up their Christmas scene, the Crib. The baby should have a proper cot, not an animals’ feeding trough. The walls should be draught-proof. The family should have their own room, not shared with cows and sheep.

But to tidy up that scene would be to take away its meaning. Jesus was born in a messy, bleak environment. He DID live in a chaotic, confused world. And the discomfort of his birth was nothing compared with the agony of his dying.

The point of the Crib is to remind us that when God chose to come and be part of our lives, he did so in a manner that showed us he didn’t expect VIP treatment. He came to be part of human experience at its toughest and most demanding.

This gives us a reassurance that lasts well beyond Christmas. Few of us have lives which go to plan and leave us untroubled. The fact that Jesus experienced the same kind of messiness that we do, gives us confidence that when we seek God’s support in dealing with our troubles, he knows what we’re on about.

Magically tidying it all up is not usually what he does, but the Crib guarantees that he will be with us in our confusion, and help us through it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hebrews 12: 1-3

I'm just back from a three-week break in Scotland and the Orkneys. All of us need a break from the routine of life, and a chance to re-charge our batteries, otherwise we can become weary with the unceasing demands of home and work, and all the things that life throws at us.

There comes a time, for most of us, I’m sure, when we long for some freedom, rest and peace, so I'm relieved that the Bible recognises that we get weary, and invites us to do something about it.

Isaiah wrote: ‘He gives strength to the weary... even young men grow tired and weary... but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength... they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not be faint.’

Jesus issued a similar invitation: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

In the passage I suggest we read, the writer to the Hebrews gives a similar invitation, to think about Jesus, so that we will not lose heart and grow faint.

In Greek, this literally means ‘set your whole mind upon Him and be fully occupied with Him’.

This is an invitation we would be wise to accept each day, whether or not we need a holiday.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Violence, Looting and Riots in our Cities

Loving God, you call us into community, and we only become truly ourselves as we are there for others.

Forgive us our brokenness and heal the hurts of communities damaged in the recent troubles in our cities in the United Kingdom.

We pray for an end to the violence, looting and riots that have brought fear, terror and destruction to local neighbourhoods across London and other UK cities. We pray that the underlying reasons for the riots can be quickly, fairly and properly addressed and that the Government, the police and local communities will work together to rebuild trust and security.

Help us to repair the harm done to neighbourhoods, buildings and relationships and to rekindle hope.

Give to the Church in areas of trouble the courage and creativity to be there for others, and to be part of your gracious work of restoration and recovery.

We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, who is our peace and who keeps breaking down the barriers that divide us from each other.

We pray in faith, trusting in our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Psalm 24

Today is Ascension Day.

This Psalm is about the worship of God by his people, in the Temple at Jerusalem. It’s made up of three distinct parts:

First, worship of God, the creator and sustainer of the earth and all that it contains.

Then it asks who will, who can, go up to worship him ? ‘Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord ? And who shall stand in his holy place?’ The worshipper should be a person with clean hands and a pure heart,who does not direct his thoughts to wrongdoing or swear deceitfully. Such a person God will bless.

Then we come to the so-called ‘Gate Liturgy’. In some symbolic way God is being brought into the Temple. This may go back to the first time that the Ark of the Covenant was taken in procession into the Temple. Perhaps there was a festival to celebrate this, and also, maybe, to re-enact God’s entering his holy place.

But it’s possible to re-read Psalm 24 as a psalm about Jesus: ‘Who shall ascend (to) the hill of the Lord ?’ This is Jesus going back up, at the end of his earthly ministry, to the place where God lives: ‘his holy place’.

Jesus is qualified to do this, because he, above all human beings, has clean hands and a pure heart. He has never set his mind on wrongdoing or sworn deceitfully.

He goes to receive justice and blessing from God. The gates and doors of heaven are told to open to receive Jesus back in.

Who exactly is Jesus ? He is a glorious king (because that is what ‘king of glory’ means) returning from a mighty victory.

This is where the Christian reading of the Psalm makes sense - for God is there, inside the ‘holy place’ - ready and waiting in heaven to bless.

But the one who is entering now, returning from his earthly mission - this Jesus, king of glory: he too is God ‘The king of glory IS the Lord of Hosts.’

The psalm gives us a vehicle to celebrate our risen and ascended Lord, both Man and God.

But Ascension is not just for Jesus, just as resurrection is not reserved for him. The whole point of his victory is that we should share its fruits.

The Ascension is the completion of Jesus’ story - birth, growing up, ministry, passion, death, resurrection, ascension. The story is complete - except for our part - our acceptance of his salvation, our following where he leads.

The carol reminds us that:

For that child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in Heaven above;
And He leads His children on
To the place where he is gone.

The great promise of the Ascension is that, after death, and in spite of death, we shall go to live in heaven. The details of when, or how, are not ours to understand, but in Jesus we have a sure and certain hope for a world, and a life, beyond this one.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Psalm 51: 1-12 and Isaiah 1: 16-18

I’m no artist, but I do enjoy dabbling with paint. For the last few years I’ve been experimenting with acrylics; before that I always used watercolours.

Whenever I look at a blank sheet of paper I feel a mixture of excitement and anticipation. I see the paper’s whiteness, its texture. It offers so many possibilities, but I’m often reluctant to start painting, because it could be the beginning of something good or (more often) a complete failure.

When I do begin, the first washes of watercolour usually feel good. That lovely blue running boldly across the sky, the texture of a cloud edge on the rough paper, and above all the happy accidents – the gifts when one colour runs into another just right.

More often, though , it begins to go wrong. The more washes I put on the muddier it all gets. The more I try to correct it, the more faults I see. I can’t seem to realise my original idea. Yet another spoilt picture. Another sheet for the waste-paper basket.

The story of my life. Getting up each morning, looking forward to the day. And what I make of it depends on what I put into it, what other people contribute and those happenings which are God’s gift. And they’re the most important, and the most reliable.

But above all, the thing which gives hope to each new day is the clean sheet in front of me, given through God’s grace, God’s forgiveness of my past failures.‘Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow’ says the Psalmist.

The Lord, speaking through Isaiah says ‘Though your sins are scarlet, they may yet be white as snow.’

Lent is a time for new beginnings, a time for putting our past failures behind us, for asking God for his forgiveness, and then starting out with him again, with a clean sheet.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Numinous illuminous

The stained-glass poured its
Semi-precious light upon the altar,
Rainbow colours washing over
Sheets of sacred scripts,
In that numinous moment
When the transcendent becomes immanent.

In the rows of bowed heads,
One, fixed in a beam of light,
The lustre of her hair the
Radiance of glowing copper.

Later, extinguishing candles, an
After-image burnt into my eyes,
I heard ‘Let there be light’.
It was so. And it was good.

© David East 2011.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Revelation 7: 9 – 8: 1

Silence doesn’t work very well on radio. I believe that some radio stations have a back-up system which automatically transmits music in the event of a long silence, which it presumes is a technical fault.

So the first ever broadcast of a Quaker act of worship on Radio 4 had hardly any silence, certainly compared with what would be expected in a normal Friends’ Meeting.

In ordinary life too, silence is normally taken to imply ‘a technical fault’. Something must be wrong if silence falls in the middle of a conversation, or if someone present is not contributing verbally to what’s happening.

That passage from the Book of Revelation tells us that, at the end of time, ‘there was silence in heaven’. It comes at a moment when it seemed essential just to stop the noise and absorb the enormity of what was happening.

Nothing else - not words or music or any activity - does justice to the occasion.

A silence in the middle of a conversation, whether in a group or on more intimate occasions, can be a time simply to be present and enjoy the moment, to absorb what’s happening or being said.

Silence, in the presence of God; time to be still and know who he is, is even more important.

Perhaps today we might resist the temptation to prevent a silence developing, to break into one that’s started, or to put pressure on somebody who is being silent to speak.

It may not work on radio, but in our relationships and conversations - and especially in our time with God - silence can make a valuable contribution.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Numbers 24: 17

The prophet Balaam said: ‘I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star will come forth out of Jacob, a comet will arise from Israel.’

The prophet seems to mix the present and the future. He sees someone who is not yet there. You might think that he is looking into the future. But it's not exactly that.

He sees the one he sees in the present, yet that one has still to come: Balaam is experiencing what science fiction fans might refer to as a time warp.

It's the kind of time warp we find throughout the Bible. Jesus said repeatedly that the Kingdom is with us and that it is not yet with us. He gave a whole series of examples to explain what this means.

His kingdom, he said, is like a treasure which we have already found, but still need to dig out of the ground. It is like a precious pearl which we would like to buy, but we will have to sell all we have to do so. It is like a yeast that has already been mixed in with the flour, water and salt, but still has to do its leavening work throughout the dough.

Jesus and his kingdom are present in our hearts and our minds, in our world. And at the same time (in that this world is not yet perfect – for none of us are perfect) the Kingdom of God is not fully present.

That tension between 'yes-it-already-is' and 'no-it-is-not-yet' is the reason we celebrate Christmas again and again.

Jesus was born among us. In a sense he was even born IN us.

Yet, at the same time he has still to be born. He is among us, and yet we have still to work out the effects of his presence in our lives and in the world in which we live.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Psalm 85

Have you finished all your Christmas preparations?

I know someone who usually starts his shopping on Christmas Eve – he says the shops are quieter then.

I, on the other hand, like to be prepared a bit earlier, so my presents are all bought and wrapped, cards are written, food is in the freezer.

Advent is a time for preparation: not only hectic preparation for Christmas parties, the exchanging of presents, and family reunions, but for spiritual preparation too.

Sadly, people think they’ve prepared everything, yet find they’re NOT ready to meet the Lord. It’s one thing being ready to be in Jesus’ presence at Christmas services, or to be close to Him in occasional acts of kindness; but are we ready to meet Him when we die?

In this Psalm, God’s people were in difficulty and pleaded for help. He’d helped them recover in the past and they’d learnt that he was ready to hear and answer their prayers. They cried out to the Lord before it was too late. They’d turned from wrongdoing to God’s love and he’d forgiven them (verses 2-3).

Please don’t think you’ve ticked everything off your Christmas list, unless you’ve taken time to do business with God. Spiritual things shouldn’t be left to the last minute.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hebrews 12: 1-3

Well, we’re moving now into the Summer Holiday season. All of us need a break from the routine of life, and a chance to re-charge our batteries, otherwise we can become weary with the unceasing demands of home and work, and all the things that life throws at us.

There comes a time, for most of us, I’m sure, when we long for some freedom, rest and peace.

So I'm relieved that the Bible recognises that we get weary, and invites us to do something about it.

Isaiah wrote ‘He gives strength to the weary... even young men grow tired and weary... but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength... they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not be faint.’

Jesus issued a similar invitation ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

The writer to the Hebrews, in the passage I suggest we read today, gives a similar invitation, to think about Jesus, so that we will not lose heart and grow faint. In Greek, this literally means ‘set your whole mind upon Him and be fully occupied with Him’.

This is an invitation we would be wise to accept each day, whether or not we need a holiday.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Philippians 4: 10-13

I read recently about 72 year-old Kamaruddin Mohammed, who married 51 times. The length of the marriages varied from 2 days to twenty years, but at the time of his last marriage he said: “I am not a playboy. I’ve never believed in marrying more than one woman at a time.”

The sense that there might be something better round the corner haunts many people, who in one way or another are unhappy with where they are. Even those who are moderately content sometimes wonder if, even so, they might be missing out.

During the general election campaign we have heard politicians talking a lot about a need for change. We may well find on Friday that everything has changed - or maybe it will all be exactly the same.

The drive to move ahead in life is important, and is often stimulated by curiosity. In the Bible, God regularly calls people into new ventures in their lives, and new ways of living. But the capacity to be content with whatever situation we are in is also seen as a valuable quality, as we see in the Bible passage shown in the heading to this post.

As we reflect on our Church, and ourselves, it may be that we are so concerned to move on to something new that we fail to see the value of our current situation.

Or maybe the way we are now may make us so content that we no longer look out for new possibilities. It’s always worth checking to see whether we have the balance right, and to be prepared to listen to what God may be calling us to do.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Romans 3: 19-24

It is Easter Day, the day when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ, and the promise of eternal life that brings for his followers.

The passage I have chosen for us to read, though, is not about Easter Day - if it relates at all to this time of year, then perhaps it speaks to us of the promise of the cross.

Imagine, if you will, being hooked up to a lie detector, and asked if you had kept every detail of every law.

I wonder how many of us could say ‘yes’?

Even, I, for instance, may have inadvertently allowed my car to stray slightly above the speed limit on a couple of occasions.

The thought that God knows all about our failures terrifies some people. If I were to die now, they think, and had to answer for how I have lived, I would be found guilty on so many counts. How could I hope to be acquitted by God?

Religion seems to say we must keep God’s law in order to stay on the right side of him, but we are constantly breaking the law, so we have no chance of being at peace with him, or being acceptable to him.

But that’s not what Christianity says. The good news of Easter is that God isn’t like that at all. He is not the God of law, but the God of grace.

His way is not about what we do, but about what we believe. God is not waiting to trip us and judge us, but to forgive us and accept us. And, as Paul explains, it took Jesus to make this clear.

So we can start this Easter Day, as we can start every day, with a clean sheet when we turn to the God who waits to forgive and accept us.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

John 13: 3-11

It's Maundy Thursday today, which is when that passage from John's Gospel is set.

I used to play cricket. The scene in our changing rooms after a cricket match wasn’t something for delicate eyes. Eleven sweaty blokes aren’t exactly a fragrant sight. But I expect this is the sort of thing that God sees regularly. He must look on humanity sometimes and wonder what on earth his children are like.

Judas was included in the foot washing, and Jesus made reference to him, because he already knew it was this particular man who would betray him. He explained to the disciples that even if they'd had a bath and were clean from head to toe, what he was really concerned about was inner holiness.

Someone once said that receiving blessings and love from on high, is like being in a shower and being completely saturated by the Holy Spirit of God; turning your face towards heaven and soaking up the living waters; being drenched in love and forgiveness; being inundated with thoughts of praise and worship.

But for many people this never happens, because they get into the shower with an umbrella which they firmly put up! All the out-pouring, overflowing love of God bounces off the umbrella and washes away down the drain. What a waste!

God doesn’t just call us to get our feet wet. He wants us to let down our barriers and receive all his blessings.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Matthew 5: 38 - 48

I went to school during the days when children learned grammar ­– things like the declensions of nouns and the conjugation of verbs. So the word ‘perfect’ reminds me that there is a difference between the ‘perfect tense’, and the ‘imperfect tense’ – but I must admit, I can’t remember what the difference is!

However I've looked it up: the perfect tense means that something has been completed, and the imperfect tense indicates a continuing action.

I also understand that one layer of the meaning of ‘sin’ in Jesus’ native Aramaic is the sense of ‘unripeness’.

This passage from Matthew reminds us that what Jesus expects his people to be like seems utterly unreasonable to common sense: ‘there must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly father’s goodness knows no bounds.’

We are all called into a fullness and completeness, but we are still a long way off – but by God’s grace, and through the actions of his Holy Spirit, we can grow to be more like him.

I’ve got a t-shirt which says on the front, in big letters: ‘Perfect Man’. Underneath, in small letters, it says ‘under construction’.

God hasn’t finished with any of us yet. We are still far from perfect. But we can respond to the call to completeness by asking for the grace to grow. Perhaps that is something we might like to meditate on, this Lent.

Monday, January 25, 2010

1 Corinthians 11: 23-25

I visited The Sacred Made Real exhibition at the National Gallery last week.

In 17th-century Spain, a new kind of realism in art emerged. In order to revitalise the Catholic Church, painters and sculptors worked together in an attempt to make the sacred as realistic and accessible as possible.

Venerating/praying to painted statues is not really my religious cup of tea, but I could see something of the potential power of them. After all, is one not, in a communion service, attempting also to make the sacred real and accessible?

I don't mean in the sense of transubstantiation (for that's not my cup of tea - or bread and wine - either), or even in the attempting to remind folk of the actions of Christ in lifting a chalice, or breaking bread - although that is partly what I have in mind.

I'm not making myself clear, even to myself. A sacred mystery here which I'm only clouding. And that's not what I want to do, for Christ is present, in and through and with his people, perhaps especially real and remembered when we share together in bread and wine.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Jeremiah 31: 31-34

I took a Covenant Service yesterday (the first I've led since retiring early due to ill-health, as they are normally taken by the minister of the church). Methodists traditionally have an annual Covenant Service at the start of the year, to renew their commitment to God and his people.

Although I hope that by this time next year I may be well enough to at least be working part-time in a church, nevertheless the words Your will, not mine, be done in all things, wherever you may place me, in all that I do and in all that I may endure; when there is work for me and when there is none; had particular resonance for me.

The entire covenant promise:

I am no longer my own but yours.
Your will, not mine, be done in all things,
wherever you may place me,
in all that I do and in all that I may endure;
when there is work for me and when there is none;
when I am troubled and when I am at peace.
Your will be done
when I am valued and when I am disregarded;
when I find fulfilment and when it is lacking;
when I have all things, and when I have nothing.
I willingly offer all I have and am
to serve you, as and where you choose.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hebrews 1: 1-4

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, writing to Jewish Christians who were facing tough times, reminds them at the start that God has spoken to his people in various ways and at various times.

God spoke through his prophets, through angels, through circumstances and through miraculous events.

But now, with the birth of Jesus Christ, God has spoken to us through His Son.

That first Christmas God spoke to various people - an expectant Mum, an anxious father, lowly shepherds and learned magi.

Christmas is a time when we may hear from people we’ve forgotten about. Their Christmas card, or the annual letter, will bring us up to date with their news, but sometimes the busyness of preparing for Christmas means that we haven't properly read them.

We haven't taken in what someone else was saying to us.

Christmas is a time of knowing that God has spoken. We have the heart of His message in His Son Jesus Christ. But have we taken the time to hear all that God has to say to us?

God has spoken. We need to listen.