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2020 Lectionary Ramblings Lectionary Ramblings March 2020

March 17th 2020: Psalm 38 and Hebrews 6:13-20

As my ramble through some of the daily readings offered by the lectionary (the set readings many Churches use throughout the world for their daily prayers) you’re welcome to join along if you would like to. You can read today’s readings here:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+38&version=NLT

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+6%3A13-20&version=NLT

18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.’

What a fantastic promise we’re given from the letter to the Hebrews today. God bound himself with an oath and he’ll never change his mind because it is impossible for him to lie.

It all feels very uncertain in our world today. I’ve been ‘isolating’ at home for three days already and it has to be said that the initial shine of having plenty of time to do all the things I’ve been meaning to do for ages hasn’t taken long to start wearing off. When times are scary, uncertain, or just very different from what we are used to, the easiest thing for us to do is to look to ourselves for the strength and the force of will to get through things, to make it out the other side of whatever issue we face – Covid 19 at the moment – and to think about how much we’ll congratulate ourselves when the troubles of this moment are over and things return to ‘normal’. The thing is, the more I think about it, the more I realise that there’s no such thing as ‘normal’ at the best of times, even less so now. This can send me into a spiral of doubt and uncertainty about what’s at the centre of my life. What am I about? What is this life for? What should I be aiming to do with the time I have? Of course there could be not much of it left, so how do I make the most of it? It’s tempting to flee, but if I was going to do that, the only place to flee to that truly makes any lasting, life-giving sense is to flee to God. He is firm and unchanging in uncertain times

I love Psalms. Songs, prayers and hymns from a time long ago, but a time when people seem to be just as disgruntled and discombobulated as we are often today. David writes the one that we have today and he is not happy. Everything is going wrong in his life and, a little bit like I do when I list my various entirely justified complaints to God, my wife, my family or anybody else, the majority of the song today is about how it’s all falling apart, but David is clinging on to God, clinging on to the hope that he believes will see him through. I wonder how many of us feel like we’re already clinging on. Or perhaps we feel like we’re rising above it all, but have a little note in the back of our minds that we might need some kind of safety net if it all eventually goes wrong.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews that the second reading up at the top of the post is from points to Jesus as the proof of the truth of God’s promise. His goodness, or holiness,  is astonishing enough, but the invitation that he extends to us to follow him, to take refuge in God and to invite others to take refuge in God too, that is all the more astounding. Who would give their whole life so that others could experience what it was like to be truly free, truly loved, truly the people that they were made to be? As we try and love and serve our families, our communities and ourselves in these testing times, perhaps there’s a moment or two available to us each day to ask the question what if? What if Jesus really is not just good, but Good? What if the hope and peace we’re all searching for is within touching distance? If it was, wouldn’t you want it? Wouldn’t you want it for all the people you are concerned and fearful for and about at the moment? I know I would.

Something to pray for

Pray for all people who are scared and fearful at the moment, that they would have the courage to ask God for help and peace.

Something to do

As you’ve been reading this, I’m fairly sure at least one person has crossed your mind. Phone or message that person and give them some of one of the most precious gifts you have to offer: your time and attention.

 

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March 2016

March 4th 2016: Hebrews 7:11-28

You can follow today’s reading by clicking on this sentence.

‘…accordingly Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant’.

The Christian life can be so hard, a series of tests and challenges, one after another. We can, if we’re not careful, spend a very large portion of our faith-lives seeking to ensure that the deposit God made in us with the gift of the Holy Spirit comes to fruition. If we just do this, do that, say this, say that, all will be well.

But then we fail and fall, we think the wrong things, say the wrong things, do the wrong things. Again, and again, and again and blasted again, and we know that the deposit is being wasted. Or worse, we essay along in blissful ignorance of what we’re doing, its consequences and the impact we are having on ourselves and others. We’ve all been there at times, I would wager.

Jesus, because of his obedience to God and the call that was placed on his life, has GUARANTEED a better covenant, a better relational contract, between God and his people. It isn’t a might or a maybe. It is a done deal. It is God’s promise, as our eternal pursuer that this new relational status, won for us by Jesus, will be honoured. We can live forgiven and free, spending our whole lives working out what that actually means, every time we come to a conclusion realising there is more forgiveness and more freedom to be had, all because of Jesus. I can’t do it alone, earn it alone, or satisfy the right demands of it all alone. Jesus has done it all. All glory to him.

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February 2016

February 18th 2016: Galatians 5:2-15

You can follow today’s reading by clicking on this sentence.

‘…but through love become slaves to one another.’

It’s a big challenge this one. I’ve been wondering recently, how much of a sacrifice for the sake of the Church I’m part of leading is enough? Would it be where I live? The hours I put in? The parts of my life which shrink to accommodate it? The songs I lead? The things I teach on and the things I don’t?

And then a sentence like this one pops up.

We’re not called to relationship with God and one another for anything other than to serve one another. I am to serve the people I lead, as I seek to serve God, giving back to him from the abundance that he gives to me. That, as they say, is the whole ball game.

Not to say I don’t have to look after myself. Members of Emmanuel have been telling me for quite some time now that I need to look after myself, take care of myself, but I am also called, by Love, to do the sacrificial things, the difficult things, the frustrating things, as well as the joyful, the life-giving and the exciting things, that best serve my community, as the transforming power of the Spirit works in me, just as it does in others.

 

 

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A Song A Month

A Song A Month – January – Kingdom

The first song i my A Song A Month Project for 2016 is Kingdom. I wanted to start the year with an uptempo, joyful song. These don’t always come naturally to me! It’s about the Kingdom of God, based around a Taize chant, whose words are

The kingdom of God is justice and peace
And joy in the holy spirit
Come Lord and open in us
The gates of your kingdom

I’ve always found this chant quite affecting, as to me it boils down the essence of what some of the key elements of being a Christian are, to act justly, seek and love mercy and to live joyfully wherever possible.

Of course, the biggest thing about the Kingdom is that it is God’s not ours, but we are part of it, and he is building it with us. It’s here and now. As we sing praise, as we live seeking to follow the Way, we’re showing that there is a better way, a hope for now and a hope for the future. I’ve heard it said that the local church is the hope of the nation. I hope that singing this song might encourage some of us to lives of justice, peace and joy in the holy spirit as we show that hope to others.

Big thanks to Pete Thorn for playing percussion in the video and for his help with putting the video together.

Without further ado, watch the video below.

If you’re interested and would like to donwload the lyrics and chords to the song, you can do by clicking here

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2014 Lectionary Ramblings Lectionary Ramblings

August 17th 2014: 2 Peter 3:14-18

Read 2 Peter 3:14-18 here

“…make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him”

Today’s reading from Peter’s second letter exhorts us to prioritise our relationship with God. If His patience is our salvation, it makes sense that we make every effort not to try it too much. This is not a call to legalism or rule-keeping (although we should remember Peter’s struggles with accepting the gospel of grace and the offer of life to non-Jewish believers which might make him prone to aiming for a structured life of faith).

We have been made at peace with God in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. We should hold on to that today. But we shouldn’t rest on our laurels. It is a waste of a life lived with God if we do not walk closely with our saviour. What does this look like? Love the poor and needy, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, live generously, justly, show mercy and walk humbly with our God. Fine words indeed perhaps, but in fact it’s an every day choice, or even a several times a day choice, are we going to seek Jesus and His kingdom first, or something else? If we seek the kingdom, we will be people of love, and we will show the love of God to those we meet.

Make choices that enable you to live in the peace of Christ today.

Couldn’t be simpler could it?

 

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Faith

The Contents of My Head

As I begin writing this, I’m a couple of hours away from going away on retreat, before I am ordained a deacon in the Church of England on Sunday.  If I was a proper blogger, I’d have been thinking about this for quite some time in readiness for dazzling whoever reads my writings with some wisdom, insight or humour which makes them at once stop in their tracks and marvel at the gifts and talents (coupled with humility) that God has given me. Sadly, this isn’t the case. I’ll never be a famous Christian blogger. Instead, as it ticks past midday, here are the contents of my head.

I said goodbye to my wife a couple of hours ago. I won’t see her until Sunday. Next time I talk to her properly I’ll be a deacon/curate and have a bit of white plastic round my neck. I don’t know whether people will notice that first, or the black cassock I’ll be wearing, the white surplice that I’m pretty convinced makes me look like a levitating soufflé, or whether my seemingly-defining features (suave, debonair good looks and/or wheelchair) will draw the most attention. I don’t know how I feel about ontological changes. I don’t think I understand ontology well enough to know how I feel about it, and the idea that when the Bishop puts his hands on my head on Sunday (must wash my hair) and prays a powerful prayer, I will become something, or someone else. What I do know is that once a person makes a step like being ordained, nothing is quite the same again. God does something, the Church does something, I do something, but almost equally, those who love and care for me do something too, and everything changes. I was struck as she left this morning as Jo left that she has committed and sacrificed so much so that I can be and do this, that neither of us really have a clue what we’re getting into, but that there’s no-one I’d rather be getting into it with.

I’ve got to be silent from after dinner tonight for most of the next four days. I don’t know how you feel about being silent, but I have a busy mind, sometimes troubled, sometimes rejoicing, but hardly ever quiet. Lots of books and leaflets exist on how to be silent and how to make the most of the gift of silence and I really appreciate them, but the truth of it is I’ll likely find the next few days a challenge. Be thinking of me!

I’m looking ahead to a new life and a new job (I know it’s a vocation really) as a colleague and team member of the Emmanuel Group of Churches in Northampton. Rather unbelievably, as this move has been a long time coming, I start there on Monday. I have so much to learn, but I’m very excited and feel very honoured by the welcome that I’ve received there so far. Come visit sometime.

You’re supposed to say that you feel unworthy at times like this. It’s the done thing. I often feel unworthy. It’s my default position. I find it easier than confidence, peace, happiness or anything else. The thing is, this time I feel like I’m in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. This is strange, and oddly frustrating (don’t ask how my mind works). I feel pretty good about the whole thing though. I suppose I could theologically reflect about why that is while I’m away. If I come up with any answers I’ll probably blog about it! Anyone who knows me or has spoken to me in the last few years knows that the last few years have been something of a journey (hate that phrase, but it’s true) and that there were a lot of times when I didn’t think I would be here doing this. There were even more times when I didn’t even want to be here. The thing is (and here comes the vaguely spiritual bit) sometimes you can’t run from the thing that God wants to gift to you. Ordination is a huge thing, it’s a responsibility, but it’s also, next to Jo and my family, probably the biggest gift and privilege I’ve ever been given. I don’t know from my own experience yet but I’m pretty sure it’ll turn out to be the case. God has been constant and abundant in His provision throughout my life, perhaps unsurprisingly as that is His character and mode of operation, but on a day like today it feels important to stop and acknowledge that truth afresh. I’ve tried hard to escape from His love, grace and generosity, often a lot too hard, but “where can I flee from your spirit?” Nowhere. There’s nowhere that any of us can go which is beyond the welcome of the Spirit. Wherever you are at this morning I hope you know that somewhere deep within.

And so, in spite  of a maelstrom of thoughts and concerns, I can go in to what is next knowing and believing what hindsight tells me loud and clear. God is with me. God is with us. God is for us. This is His life, His ministry. I’m me. Bizarrely He wants to partner with me in doing the next part of something. It’ll be fun finding out what it is.