Thought for the week

Sunday 02.08.20

Sermon: Jacob wrestles with God.  Genesis 32: 22-31. (Gospel reading: Matt 14: 13-21)

In a quiet moment, Jacob wrestled. He wrestled with a stranger, who he comes to realise to be God and no doubt he wrestled with himself.

The skeletons of our past are locked in the the cupboards of our memories for a reason; they are difficult and sometimes painful to face.

When we find ourselves with no distractions, when the job list for the day has been placed aside, when we are away from people who engage us in conversations that take our concentration we come to a place that can be like a desert space.

Jacob had sent his tribe, family, livestock to places away from him.  He was about to meet his brother for the first time in a very long time.  Jacobs less than proud moment that happened years ago was about to become the centre of his thoughts.   He had received his fathers inheritance by deceit and his brother Esau, who was the rightful heir was left with nothing.

All that Jacob surveyed, cared for, built up was underpinned by that one deceitful moment, and Jacob must has buried that moment deep into his thoughts so that he could move on in life.  Trying hard to keep buried a very uncomfortable past.

There it was, the memory of what he did to his brother fully occupying his mind.  It was as large as life and there was nothing to distract him.

Jacob is a reminder of what is needed to move forward in our lives in a positive way and to accept we may have experienced wrongs done to us; or been part of a wrong done to others.

The wrestling with God is probably more about Jacob accepting his part in what happened between him and his brother all those years ago but also letting go of the guilt and allowing God to love him.

Until we come to terms with the fact that our brokenness is part of what it is to be human and until we find the courage to trust that God fully loves us we will keep on hiding away from past experiences.  Until we accept that past hurts must not stop us from moving forward and experiencing positive things in life then we will never really stop the struggle of having to try and keep them well hidden.  Like Jacob we would be far better coming to terms with what’s happened by handing ourselves over into the safe keeping of God.  Not an easy thing to do because as we read Jacob wrestled hard with God for a whole night but come the dawn it seems he had finally comes to a point of peace, so much so that he asked God to bless him and of course our loving God did just that.

Jacob ended up with a limp after the wrestling with God.  It is a reminder to us all that scars are also part of life.  When we accept we are fully loved they are just that, scars.  The wounds heal and we move on with reminders of lessons learned and past pains released.  Amen.

Sunday 12.7.20
Reflection
 
In the 70s and 80s I seem to remember any number of adverts on the television that had modern day knights in shining armour.  One that particularly comes to mind is a super slick, all round athletic guy who can ski, slide down ropes, jump out of windows and escape any number of dangers all because his lady loved a certain brand of chocolate!
In Genesis this weekend we learn of the birth of Isaacs sons; Jacob and Esau.  Esau was a ‘skilful hunter, a man of the field’ physically fit and his father favoured him because he liked to eat the food Esau hunted and caught.
Jacob, however, was quiet and far less likely to be out hunting.  The bible tells us he liked remaining around the camp. All of us are born to take a part in Gods Kingdom and despite the favouritism towards Esau, Jacob eventually (through deception) gets to inherit what should have been his brothers birthright.  He goes on to have 13 children, 10 of whom set up tribes of their own and one of his sons, Joseph becomes a character of great leadership and a wonderful example of one who shows forgiveness.
Often those who seem the most unlikely people to lead others turn out to be chosen by God to become so. As encouragement to us all they are also people that have made mistakes along the way.  God chooses us not for our bravado, or our attempts to be perfect but because we are His.  All of us play a part in the ever unfolding story of faith.  This week maybe take time to reflect on what God has chosen you to do.  Amen.
Sunday 5.7.20
Reflection
We have moved away from the Lectionary readings today so that we may reflect on our church doors opening to the public for the first time in months.  It is, of course, a positive step forward.  The Gospel reading is about firm foundations; a solid faith that doesn’t waiver when things get tough but remains faithful to the promises of God.  Jesus also doesn’t shy away from mentioning  those that have chosen to be fickle in their faith; those who will find life so much harder when difficult times come along. Without a firm foothold we are very likely to fall.
How strong a foundation have we built as a community, how solid is our relationship with God and within our various churches? As our doors open once again, who amongst us will have  lost the pattern of prayer and bible reading during the time we’ve been away and therefore find reasons not to return to our church buildings. I hope no-one.  My prayer is that all of us have trusted in our Lord to deliver back to be a gathering people once more. It will take time to build up to meeting together for services, but we will get there. Our testimony to the world will be that we returned as one people, all as passionate about Jesus and as committed to following Him as before. Strong foundations, faithful people, solid and committed church. Amen.
Sunday 28.6.20
Reflection
 
During his presidency Thomas Jefferson found himself having to cross a swollen and fast running river whilst travelling on horseback with a group of military riders. As each rider and horse fought the fast running water and risked life and limb to cross the river Jefferson watched on.  
It just so happened a lone traveller who was on foot also needed to cross the river.  He asked the president to take him across; the president agreed and both made it safely to the other side.
When asked why he’d chosen to ask the president to help him the man answered that he didn’t know who Jefferson was; merely ‘some have a no face and some have a yes face-he had a yes face!
To offer welcome and have a welcoming outlook isn’t something we can fake.  People very quickly sense wether they are truly being offered kindness.  As a church we can put in place lots of different things that we think will help newcomers feel more relaxed and at home but unless we have a genuine desire to welcome them all will be lost.  
Today the Matthew passage reminds us that in welcoming each other we also welcome Jesus.  A simple message but one that followed through has a wonderful effect on both those around us and indeed ourselves.  Amen. 
Sunday 21.6.20

Reflection

The passage in Matthew is a hard pill to swallow…”I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”.  Can these really be words that Jesus spoke; they seem so harsh and not loving at all.  

There must be many households where thoughts and ideas clash.  The old adage about not speaking about politics or religion may well be good advice but if we follow Jesus then both of these topics will be part and parcel of being a Christian.

Social justice is something that we, as Christians, are called to stand up for.  The Beatitudes that Jesus proclaimed from a mountain top are totally about ensuring everyone is noticed, valued, cared for in this world.  The oppressed are promised freedom and those that feel imprisoned by systems, boundaries and misuse of power will be set free.

To stand up, even in part, for these things means we will inevitably tread on toes, evoke other peoples emotions and in some cases we may end up excluded.

When we challenge the world about who is in and who is out we challenge old and well engrained power bases.  We cut right to the heart of what is wrong with the world as much as we proclaim what is right.  What we stand for will feel like a sword that is cutting through our society.  Yet this sword is not one that breaks people; it is one that cuts open and frees up spaces sos that everyone may be heard.  The bitter pill is one that has great healing and is one that we must take in order to make this world a better place.  Amen.

Sunday 7.6.20

Reflection 

Are you still getting up at the same time that you were before lockdown began.  I wonder if, for some of us, the getting out of bed has been creeping a little bit later than we would normally be doing.

We all need something to drive us forward in life.  When we’re younger it’s the adults around us that ensure we’re up and ready for school. As we get older the routine changes to having to turn up at work or raise families that ensures we don’t just drift through the day. The mature still may have to get up to receive grandchildren to look after, or dogs to walk and daily tasks such as the garden needing attention.  Often all of us whatever stage of life we’re at need the incentive to care for ourselves because others will notice if we don’t.  To have no one in our lives means we need great discipline to maintain the energy and desire to jeep on getting up and valuing ourselves enough so as to get things done.

The disciples were used to moving forward in their day by following Jesus. Although His presence physically is no longer going to be with them the very essence of who Jesus is remains in their lives.  They must learn to follow Him still but to seek His guidance through prayer, fellowship and the re-telling of His teachings.  To not have Jesus there physically meant they had to find their motivation to carry on in some other way. On this Trinity Sunday we think about The Father, Son and Holy Spirit working together to speak and guide the disciples, and ourselves, in so many different ways. An inner voice, a mention of a word from someone else, an unexpected opportunity or even a prompt to read a certain book; the Trinity drives us forward in faith and keeps us energised to get up and celebrate the day the Lord has given us.  Let us all make the most of our time awake.  Amen.

Sunday 31.5.20
Reflection
I’m not very good at learning new languages from a book or an audio tape.  I can’t say I’m much better at learning from hearing people around me speak but I am a little better.  I think it’s because when your are with someone who speaks a foreign language to you it’s not just the words that are being learnt but the object or action that goes with that word. It cements the new word in my memory.

How wonderful then, that on the day of Pentecost, many people understood many new languages in an instant.  It was because they were looking at each other with fresh eyes and hearing each other anew.  A gift given to them by the Holy Spirit.

Wherever we live and whatever we look like fundamentally we are all the same.  We all have feelings, need to be loved and nurtured, we all need to eat and drink and all of us are dependant on someone.

Jesus met people knowing all these things and gave them an opportunity to have all their needs met in Him.  The Holy Spirit comes to us this day to equip us to do as Jesus did; to understand the people around us so that we, and they, may speak the common language of being valued and loved.

May we all have the opportunity to experience such a wonderful gift. Amen.

Sunday 24.5.20
Reflection
Thursday was Ascension Day. The day in the church calendar when we remember that Jesus,once again left the disciples and ascended to be with His Father; our wonderful God. So what to do now!
Jesus makes it quite clear ‘You will receive the Holy Spirit…..and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’.
So, as Christians, we’ve all got a huge task ahead that means we need to prepare firstly, to receive the Holy Spirit and then to be a witness to everyone in the world.
The disciples prepared by devoting themselves to prayer. It’s a sound and sensible thing to do. Pentecost on the 31st May will see us calling upon the Holy Spirit to fall afresh on our community. Let us be ready for this momentous day by following in the disciples example and praying daily that our hearts be ready to receive such a gift and open to the task we face in the months to come; that of witnessing to the world. Amen
Sunday 17.5.20

Reflection

True story: years ago I knew a woman who had a really sweet tooth for chocolate.  Easter came around and her children received many easter eggs; some were eaten straight away and others placed in the kitchen cupboard so as to be given out in sensible rations.  This woman’s husband was also the luckily recipient of some chocolate eggs and he decided to store them in the same way.  

I remember visiting this couple only to find an air of something not right between them.  It turned out that the woman had eaten her husbands chocolate eggs and placed the foil back in the presentation boxes so he wouldn’t notice…..but of course her plan backfired when her husband decided to reach for the cupboard to eat one!

The truth will always come out.  It may not be revealed immediately but somewhere down the line false teachings, actions, words will be shown to be just that, false.

In our 1 Peter reading Jesus tells us that the Spirit of Truth will be part of our Christian lives.  If we keep attentive to what the Spirit tells us we will be given a roadmap on how to live in the truth and not hide behind false and deceptive ways.  It isn’t always easy to live by such guidance but Jesus makes it clear ‘if you love me you will keep my commandments’….’and I will love you and reveal myself to you’.  

This week let us be attentive to the number of ways we cover up or run away from the truth and ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in living a more truthful life.

Amen.

Sunday 10.5.20

An address by Her Majesty The Queen on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

I speak to you today at the same hour as my father did, exactly 75 years ago. His message then was a salute to the men and women at home and abroad who had sacrificed so much in pursuit of what he rightly called a “great deliverance”.
The war had been a total war; it had affected everyone, and no one was immune from its impact. Whether it be the men and women called up to serve; families separated from each other; or people asked to take up new roles and skills to support the war effort, all had a part to play. At the start, the outlook seemed bleak, the end distant, the outcome uncertain. But we kept faith that the cause was right – and this belief, as my father noted in his broadcast, carried us through.
Never give up, never despair – that was the message of VE Day. I vividly remember the jubilant scenes my sister and I witnessed with our parents and Winston Churchill from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. The sense of joy in the crowds who gathered outside and across the country was profound, though while we celebrated the victory in Europe, we knew there would be further sacrifice. It was not until August that fighting in the Far East ceased and the war finally ended.
Many people laid down their lives in that terrible conflict. They fought so we could live in peace, at home and abroad. They died so we could live as free people in a world of free nations. They risked all so our families and neighbourhoods could be safe. We should and will remember them.
As I now reflect on my father’s words and the joyous celebrations, which some of us experienced first-hand, I am thankful for the strength and courage that the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and all our allies displayed.
The wartime generation knew that the best way to honour those who did not come back from the war, was to ensure that it didn’t happen again. The greatest tribute to their sacrifice is that countries who were once sworn enemies are now friends, working side by side for the peace, health and prosperity of us all.
Today it may seem hard that we cannot mark this special anniversary as we would wish. Instead we remember from our homes and our doorsteps. But our streets are not empty; they are filled with the love and the care that we have for each other. And when I look at our country today, and see what we are willing to do to protect and support one another, I say with pride that we are still a nation those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen would recognise and admire.
I send my warmest good wishes to you all.

Sunday 3.5.20

Reflection

When we are small we don’t realise that our actions are watched over by our parents.  The delight in watching a child prepare a surprise is something very endearing.  The youngster will whisper in very loud corners to others about what they intend to do, the noisy sticking, colouring and gluing and rummaging through drawers to find the materials they need is an advert to the intended surprise.  Then comes the wonderfully innocent reply when you ask what they’re doing; ‘oh nothing!’.  It all, of course, leads to the look of delight on their faces when the susprise is given and the adult pretends that they never knew of the preparations and acts as if the giving of the gift is the first they knew of it.

I wonder what makes us think that as we grow older that we are any less visible in our intended actions than when we were children.

Jesus describes a flock of sheep (they represent us as a gathering people) watching and recognising their shepherd because He has walked through the very visible gate to where they are kept.  He warns of being wary of those that reach the flock through other routes.  There can be no mistake about who He is because He enters our lives in full view and with upmost honesty.

The element of surprise is in us realising Jesus cares enough to enter into our lives. This week keep on looking for Jesus, He’s not hard to spot He’s standing right beside you.

Sunday 26.4.20
Reflection
There is something about eating with others that can feel very vulnerable.
It’s a very basic need isn’t it.  We all need to take in food at some point or else our bodies start to shut down through lack of sustenance.
During my training years I often found myself at communnial meals; large tables where people from all different backgrounds encountered each other.  Some found this arrangement easier than others but all had to partake.
Looking back the meals were as formative as the classroom studies.  To eat with people you don’t know much about meant we had to learn how to converse in a way that included others.  We had to be prepared to let people watch as we dripped gravy down our tops or accidentally flicked a pea into someones lap and accept we are all fallible.  There were no aires and graces; or if there were they soon got forgotten.
Despite their pain in losing Jesus the disciples on the way to Emmaus still found it in them to invite a complete stranger to eat with them.  Would we have been so generous I wonder.  The stranger turned out to be Jesus himself.  Every time we are generous to another person, Jesus is revealed in that action.  His presence is felt and the love of God revealed.  This week our challenge is reflect on how, despite the lockdown, can we still offer generosity to the world.  Amen.
Sunday 19.4.20
Reflection
What is it that makes you feel afraid.  What stops you from doing and acting out your life in a way that you are almost stunted in being yourself, or living out your dreams and desires.
At the moment the answer might be Covid-19.  A virus that has swept across  all nations and one that has taken many lives.  We must all follow Government guidelines and rightly so; but does that fear overwhelm you sometimes.
There are, lots of other reasons for people being afraid.  I, for one, am not keen on flying.  I suspect had I a passion for being in the air that over the years I might have visited many more countries than I have.  Some people fear what others think of them, they try to ‘act’ in a way that doesn’t shine a spotlight on who they are.  Often this means that their hopes and dreams remain contained to just that and never become realities.
In the John reading today we read about Thomas not daring to believe that Jesus is alive.  He won’t take his friends word for it and demands evidence before he can embrace such a truth.  Maybe he was afraid that he would be hurt once again.  After all they had all given so much of themselves to Jesus; only to find he had died on a cross.  
The disciples met together fearing for their lives from those persecuting followers of Jesus.  They had become frozen with fear because they thought Jesus had abandoned them.  He hadn’t. This week maybe ask Jesus to show you in some way that He is alive to you and whilst always keeping to the safety guidelines of lockdown how might you be freed from your fears.  Amen.

Easter Day Reflection

These last few weeks have been more than challenging, they have been life changing; not just for us here in our parish but for every community around the world.
Today, we celebrate the rising of Jesus from the grave into a new relationship with us; one that is far deeper than the tangible, physical reality that the disciples experienced as they followed Him around the many towns and villages before He went to the cross. This new relationship is one that is felt deep in our gut, imprinted on our souls. It transcends all the uncertainties that this world offers and gives to those, that wish to embrace it, a deep peace that cannot be shaken. How do we receive this peace; we open our hands in praise, humble ourselves and accept our frailties and say ‘Come, Lord Jesus’.
Jesus will enter your life and change who you are, your life view will take on a new perspective and you will find yourself engaging in those around you in a way that you will never have done before. ‘Behold I am making all things new’ (Revelation 21:5).
Today we give thanks that our Lord , Jesus Christ is alive! Guiding us through the most toughest of times. Giving us an inner strength we thought we never had and once again making us all a people of the Resurrection. A people of Hope.
Easter Blessings to you all.
Revd Monica

5.4.20
Palm Sunday – The crowds welcomed Jesus as He made His way into Jerusalem. They took the branches off the Palm trees and waved them as you would flags. Celebration and joy. Yet we will soon discover that our love for Him is fickle, it changes so quickly and He cannot rely upon it. Yet Jesus’ love for us never falters and despite our empty shouts of praise He will stand by us when we forget and abandon Him.

 

Sunday 29.3.20

Reflection
What a difference a week makes. Our communities are changing almost beyond recognition. If you are someone who is still able to take their daily exercise you probably have crossed the road to avoid getting too close to the person coming towards you; or they will have beaten you to it and crossed before you’ve had a chance to do so.
Many of us are confined by the invisible boundaries of self isolation that keep us within our homes.
Where is God in all of this, what hope can we take from what seems a dim situation.
First we must keep firm in our faith that God is with us. Hebrews 11:1-16 has been part of our lectionary readings this week. Please do take the time to read the passage. It speaks of people who have been the mist of hard times, painful life experiences and almost hopeless situations. Yet they never lost their trust in God. They never clung to what was but what can be. They didn’t cling to the old ways but trusted new things were to come.
Already we are seeing new ideas come to fruition on how we look after each other. This website and our Facebook is been seen by many and that in turn is keeping our conversations about our faith to the front of our minds.
Psalm 18:16 says He reached down from heaven and rescued me; He drew me out of deep waters.
He will do that for us all,
May all of us be blessed. Amen

22.3.20

Reflection
As the Coronavirus takes hold and society starts to isolate how do we remain a people who belong to each other. Often Jesus spoke to those who were already isolated, He seemed drawn to those that were unnoticed. Maybe we can start a new way of being community that will carry on beyond this difficult time. Can we re-learn to look for the those who feel unloved and uncared for even when they’re in a busy world. Can we look again at our own lives and see if we have room to maybe have a heart to reach out even to one new person in our neighbourhood.
In the bible Matthew Chaspter22:verses 37-40 say:
“37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

1Jesus, Saviour of the world,
come to us in your mercy: •
we look to you to save and help us.

2By your cross and your life laid down,
you set your people free: •
we look to you to save and help us.

3When they were ready to perish, you saved your disciples: •
we look to you to come to our help.

4In the greatness of your mercy, loose us from our chains, •
forgive the sins of all your people.

5Make yourself known as our Saviour and mighty deliverer; •
save and help us that we may praise you.

6Come now and dwell with us, Lord Christ Jesus: •
hear our prayer and be with us always.

7And when you come in your glory: •
make us to be one with you
and to share the life of your kingdom.

Taken from Common worship – Daily Prayer