Fore Street Topsham, Exeter

Reverend Paul Collings BTh (Hons) - - - paul.collings@methodist.org.uk - - - 01392 206229 - - - 07941 880768

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We are a community of faith seeking to discover the face of Jesus Christ in our Church, in our Community and in our Commitment.

Wednesday 31 March 2021

Journey to the Cross

 

Rising Gloom - Promised Light 

The Bible doesn't say what the Lord did on the Wednesday of Passion Week. Scholars speculate that after two exhausting days in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent this day resting in Bethany in anticipation of Passover.


Just a short time previously, Jesus had revealed to the disciples, and the world, that he had power over death by raising Lazarus from the grave. After seeing this incredible miracle, many people in Bethany believed that Jesus was the Son of God and put their faith in him. Also in Bethany just a few nights earlier, Lazarus' sister Mary had lovingly anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume.


This part of Jesus final week before the desolation of Good Friday is one of contrasts; precious moments with his dearly loved friends at Bethany, whist the plot to betray him gathers traction. By the end of the week, two of Christ’s disciples would face the consequence of their actions. Judas, the cost of betrayal; Peter the price of denial - both had to face the inner anguish of remorse. The book of Lamentations paints such a vivid picture. “ Look, LORD, how distressed I am; all my insides are churning. My heart is troubled within me, because I vigorously rebelled. Outside the sword brings loss of life, while at home death rules.” (Lamentations 1:4)


Remorse can kill or can purify. The ability to believe we are forgiven is crucial to our spiritual growth. This was the defining difference between Peter and Judas. Vacillating Peter went from the shame of his threefold denial to become the rock on which Christ’s church was founded. Judas could not contemplate the possibility of forgiveness and he went into unimaginable darkness. 


John Sullivan, an Irish Jesuit priest, urged participants at the start of retreats he led with the words: ‘I hope every single one of you will have broken every resolution you made before the end of the week, and if not then, at least in a fortnight.... It will do you good provided you do not flop down and lie there on the broad of your back, saying “It’s no use, it’s all over.” Not a bit of it, it’s not all over, its only beginning. So up with you and start again. Remember each time you fall that you are not back where you were before but are starting again from where you fell.’


Prayer

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. When I fall short of your glory and need your help to overcome, I pray that you light my steps and lead me out of the darkness and back into your light. Amen.


Tuesday 30 March 2021

Journey to the Cross


Confrontation

On Tuesday morning, Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. They passed the withered fig tree on their way, and Jesus spoke to his companions about the importance of faith. Back at the Temple, religious leaders were upset at Jesus for establishing himself as a spiritual authority. They organised an ambush with the intent to place him under arrest. But Jesus evaded their traps and pronounced harsh judgment on them, saying: 


"Blind guides!...For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people's bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness...Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?" (Matthew 23:24-33)


Later that afternoon, Jesus left the city and went with his disciples to the Mount of Olives, which sits due east of the Temple and overlooks Jerusalem. Here Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse, an elaborate prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age. He speaks, as usual, in parables, using symbolic language about the end times events, including His Second Coming and the final judgment.


Scripture indicates that this Tuesday was also the day Judas Iscariot negotiated with the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical court of ancient Israel, to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16).

After a tiring day of confrontation and warnings about the future, once again, Jesus and the disciples returned to Bethany to stay the night.


Lord God,The message of the cross is difficult to take. How can death give way to life? How can weakness be strength? Yet your word says that Jesus, being God, Took on human flesh And suffered the worst kind of death. How can this be? This message is indeed difficult to take. But your foolishness is wiser than our wisdom. Your weakness is greater than our strength. Help us to know that none of us can boast before you. It is only in Christ Jesus that we can boast. In his name, we ask you to help our unbelief. That we may love you, and walk in the way Jesus taught us. In his name, Amen.


Monday 29 March 2021

The Journey to the Cross


Clearing of the Temple

The morning following the triumphant entry (Palm Sunday), Jesus returned with his disciples to Jerusalem. The gospel tells us that along the way, he cursed a fig tree because it had failed to bear fruit. Some scholars believe this cursing of the fig tree represented God's judgment on the spiritually dead religious leaders of Israel. Others believe the symbolism extended to all believers, demonstrating that genuine faith is more than just outward religiosity; true, living faith must bear spiritual fruit in a person's life.


When Jesus arrived at the Temple, he found the courts full of corrupt money changers. He began overturning their tables and clearing the Temple, saying, "The Scriptures declare, 'My Temple will be a house of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves" (Luke 19:46).


Temple-goers seem not to have noticed what the unscrupulous hawkers had done to the holy place, as they changed money and sold animals for sacrifice. They were offering a service, like the souvenir shops in sacred sites around the world. Commerce tends to grow and grow when it finds a market, so the Temple, the place of prayer, degenerated into a sort of marketplace. 


Jesus needed to challenge the drift and reassert its holiness. During this Holy Week perhaps we should ask, does such drift happen in my life?


I recall hearing a preacher call Christ’s Angry display as ‘righteousness indignation’ and in the gospel narrative we can feel the growing tension, as Jesus forcefully challenges the way things were done in the holiest place of Judaism. It is so easy to lose sight of the real value of religious actions and rituals, ending up sometimes in shameful compromises.


We never think of Jesus losing his temper, yet that is what he did when he entered the temple and saw it set up just like a market place. Anger is not a bad thing as some of us might believe; it is what we do with the anger that can cause pain and upset.


Lord? You desire to dwell in this temple that is my body, but first the pressure to survive, and then the appetite for more money, can so possess me that I find little space for you. Please make my soul a place of prayer. Help me to turn to you whenever we feel that we are out of control. In situations that upset and hurt us Lord help me to call upon you to be with me and help me do the right thing. Amen


Sunday 28 March 2021

Sunday Worship

 


St Nicholas Methodist Church, Topsham 280321 Palm Sunday

https://youtu.be/VTJsFOhetZM

Saturday 27 March 2021

Lent: Keep it Simple


The cost of hope


1 Peter 1:12 “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.”


If our future is not secured and satisfied by God then we are going to be excessively anxious. This results either in paralysing fear or in self-managed, greedy control. We end up thinking about ourselves, our future, our problems and our potential, and that keeps us from loving.


In other words, hope is the birthplace of Christian self-sacrificing love. That's because we just let God take care of us and aren't preoccupied with having to work to take care of ourselves. We say, "Lord, I just want to be there for other people tomorrow, because you're going to be there for me."

If we don't have the hope that Christ is for us then we will be engaged in self-preservation and self-enhancement. But if we let ourselves be taken care of by God for the future—whether five minutes or five centuries from now—then we can be free to love others. Then God's glory will shine more clearly, because that's how he becomes visible.


When God satisfies us so deeply that we're free to love other people then he becomes more manifest. And that's what we want above all. Our willingness and desire to be obedient to the teachings of Jesus is at the heart of our entire faith walk.


Charles Wesley puts it so well that our hope in Christ comes with the cost and that cost is faithful obedience.


5 Obedient faith, that waits on thee,

Thou never wilt reprove;

But thou wilt form thy Son in me,

And perfect me in love.


Friday 26 March 2021

Lent: Keep it Simple


Christian Hope - More than Wishful Thinking

Hebrews 6:19 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain”


Hope is called the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19), because it gives stability to the Christian life. But hope is not simply a 'wish' (I wish that such-and-such would take place); rather, it is that which latches on to the certainty of the promises of the future that God has made.


In the ancient world the anchor was the symbol of hope. Epictetus, a Greek Philosopher says: "A ship should never depend on one anchor or a life on one hope." Pythagoras said: "Wealth is a weak anchor; fame is still weaker. What then are the anchors which are strong? Wisdom, great-heartedness, courage--these are the anchors which no storm can shake." The writer to the Hebrews insists that the Christian possesses the greatest hope in the world.


Let us put it very simply in another way. Before Jesus came, God seemed to be the distant stranger whom only a very few might approach and that at peril of their lives. But because of what Jesus was and did, God has become the friend of every human being. Once humankind thought of him as barring the door; now they think of the door to his presence as thrown wide open to all.


The hope that God has provided for you is not merely a wish. Neither is it dependent on other people, possessions, or circumstances for its validity. Instead, biblical hope is an application of your faith that supplies a confident expectation in God's fulfilment of His promises. Coupled with faith and love, hope is part of the abiding characteristics in a believer's life.


4 To thee, the glory of thy power

And faithfulness I give:

I shall in Christ, at that glad hour,

And Christ in me shall live.


Thursday 25 March 2021

Faith in Times of Crisis by Dr J P Hunter


Psalm 3:1-7a,8. New International Version (NIV) 

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom. Trust in God under adversity.


1 Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
   “God will not deliver him.” 

3 But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

5 I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

7 Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
8 From the Lord comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.


Meditation by Dr J P Hunter

Trusting God in adversity, such as fear from any source, in not easy. David knew that too, as he was running for his life from his rebellious son Absalom and a host of traitors. When circumstances went against him, David did not blame God. Instead, he sought his presence and called out to him, verse 4a, and received an answer, verse 4b. The holy mountain was Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, where Solomon later would build the temple. David expressed confidence that God would hear him when he prayed.


Sleep may not come easy during a crisis. But David slept, even during his son’s rebellion. What made the difference? David cried out in trust to the Lord and the Lord heard him. The re-assurance of answered prayer brings peace. It is easier to sleep well, when we have full assurance that God is in control of circumstances. If we lie awake at night worrying or fearing circumstances we can’t change, we should pour out our heart to God, ask him for his help and thank him that he is in control. Then sleep will be easier.


Prayer

Lord God, I thank you that I can come to you, even in the middle of the night, because I know that you are there, because I know that you will listen. I am only human and feel fragile and my heart is full of fear. I know I worry too much about things I cannot control, about circumstances beyond my influence. I hand them all over to you, trust them into your care and know that they are safe. You control my life and my destiny and I put my trust in you. That you will guide and help me when the dawn breaks for a new day.

In your name. Amen.



Hymn StF 351 – In Christ alone – verse 4

4. No guilt in life, no fear in death,

    this is the power of Christ in me;

    from life’s first cry to final breath,

    Jesus commands my destiny.

    No power of hell, no scheme of man,

    can ever pluck me from his hand;

    till he returns or calls me home,

    here in the power of Christ I’ll stand!                                               

Keith Getty (b.1974) and Stuart Townend (b.1963) 


Wednesday 24 March 2021

Lent: Keep it simple


Expectant Hope

Is there a difference between expectant and anticipated hope. To expect is to have in mind something that is yet to happen, with a deep down assurance that it will become a reality. Anticipation on the other hand can lead some to get ahead the actual happening or revelation and determine an outcome of our own design.


In 1 Peter 1:13 we read, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” In the original Greek, the word translated as “alert”  is a term describing physical preparation. It derives from a common practice in the ancient Near East: people gathering up their long outer garment and tucking it in to prepare for physical action, be they farmers heading out to the fields, soldiers going off to battle, or runners girding up their clothing to race without hindrance.


Today, hope is most often thought of as a grown-up version of wishing. This is why, when our hopes seem a bit too outlandish, we may call them “wishful thinking.” But Christin hope is not wishful thinking. Christian hope is an expectant leap forward.  We take action, We live in the motion.  In the Message, Eugene Peterson render the beginning of 1 Peter 1:12 this way: “So roll up your sleeves/“ Christian hope is about rolling up our sleeves and getting to work, It’s a blue-collar sort of hope, making us ready and willing to get our hands dirty to labour and toil our way toward expectation and promise. 


Charles Wesley’s hymn continues in this way.


3.Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees

And looks to that alone;

Laughs at impossibilities,

And cries--It shall be done!

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Lent: Keep it simple


Lighting a Light of Hope

"He shall burn it every morning … When Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations." – Exodus 30:7-9 


To mark the significance of a happening or memory, we are often asked to light a candle and place it in a window.  If you have ever visited a cathedral or church that has a prayer station; it is possible to light a prayer candle and pray, “May this candle be a light for you to enlighten me. May it be a fire for you to burn out of me all pride, selfishness and impurity. May it be a flame for you to bring warmth into my heart; warmth towards my family, my neighbours and all whom I meet.”


Lighting light’s as a daily devotion says something of the hope a person of faith has in God.


From the above verse we get a glimpse of such active hope. One of Aaron’s primary responsibilities as a priest was to take care of the lamps set before God. He was assigned to trim them not occasionally or often, but twice each day – every morning and evening. God wanted these lamps to burn constantly and as brightly as possible. Aaron had other duties that would keep him busy. He easily could have been distracted. But he never could forget the lamps.


While central to his ministry, this assignment also an important part of his personal life. This was a daily reminder to focus on God, to think about His Word, to evaluate his own heart and priorities, and to make sure He was serving Him faithfully.


These principles still apply to each believer. Every day, we each have many options about how we spend our time and what we do with our resources. How easily we can focus on our jobs or hobbies, our interests or families, world events or the news, even religious activities instead of on spiritual matters.


But the assignment given to Aaron reminds us why it is important to begin and end every day with God, to read His Word, to pray and spend time with Him, and to seek to be attuned to His Spirit.

Don’t ignore your “lamp,” but seek to make your testimony burn brightly. Spend quality time with God. Dedicate your life to Him. Seek to please Him and faithfully serve Him.


Here is our second verse from Charles Wesley’s hymn for this week.


2 The fact surpasses all my thought;

But faithful is my Lord;

Through unbelief I stagger not,

For God hath spoke the word.


Monday 22 March 2021

Lent: Keep it simple


An Emerging Hope

Psalm 62:5-8 Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.


During this penultimate week of Lent we are going to look at our hope as Christians. But what is the essence of Christian Hope. Notice the word ‘hope” in Psalm 62:5 above. The Hebrew term literally means “a cord, as an attachment.” Every one of us is hanging onto something or someone for security. If it’s someone or something other than God alone, we’re hanging on by a thread – the wrong thread.


 “It has been said that Charles Wesley's hymns always begin on earth and end in heaven. So it is with John Wesley's theology. He was firmly convinced of the coming day of Christ, which is not yet, but toward which humankind, with the whole creation, is moving. For Wesley, it was necessary to stress God's ultimate victory; but it was also important to affirm the penultimate reality of God's presence, now experienced as life that is drawn to God in increasingly focused love. John Wesley had a doctrine of final things, an eschatology, in which God's kingdom is being presently realised even as it points toward a consummating future. The Christian lives with the lively hope that God, who has begun a good thing, will fulfil it in the day of Jesus Christ.” ——From Practical Divinity by Thomas A. Langford


One definition for hope is: To look forward to with confidence or expectation. How confident are we do we look for with expectation although we may look forward through a glass darkly as 1 Corinthians 13:12 puts it, “but then face to face: now we know in part; but then shall we know even as also we are known.”


Here is one of Charles Wesley’s hymns of hope that we shall use throughout this week’s thoughts.


In hope against all human hope,

Self-desperate, I believe--

Thy quickening word shall raise me up,

Thou wilt thy Spirit give.


Sunday 21 March 2021

Online Service Link

 


Online Service Link for St Nicholas Methodist Church, Topsham 21/03/21

https://youtu.be/8iPDIQ5LpmM

Saturday 20 March 2021

Lent: Keep it simple


The blessing of doing

James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.


The active growth of grace must surely be the central aim in all life regardless of the situation and circumstance in which we find ourselves. Business, school, home, church, reading, pleasure, struggle, work, sorrow, are but means to this one end. It matters not how much money we made made last year; but perhaps we should ask earnestly what marked last year's living that provided the bases that enabled our growth in grace. Our growth in maturity is of infinitely greater importance than the growth of one’s fortune. 


Everything we do leaves an impression, upon our being. We are building life all the while, whatever we are doing. The work itself may fail, but in the worker’s disappointment, amid the failure of plans, the work of grace within us goes on. Even in defeats the struggling leaves a potential inner growth. In a similar way, continuing yesterdays blessed to be a blessing even though nothing good may comes from the gift, there is an inherent growth in grace within the action of giving


“ In the strength of the endeavour,

In the temper of the giver,

In the loving of the lover,

Lies the hidden recompense.


“ In the sowing of the sower,

In the fading of the flower,

In the fleeting of each hour,

Lurks eternal recompense.”


It was Philip Brooks who wrote, “We will never become truly spiritual by sitting down and wishing to become so.”


Prayer

Gracious God, what a joy and privilege to be called Your children. We long that Your Spirit works deeply within our hearts so that we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. 


We humbly pray that You will increase our desire to know You more and to love You better. Please continue to supply us with the grace and strength to abide in Your love, so that we may show the beauty of Jesus in our lives, more and more. 


May our life and all we say and do, be honouring to You and draw me ever closer to Your heart of love. In Jesus' name we pray, 


Amen.


Friday 19 March 2021

Lent: Keep it Simple


Pass on your blessing

Genesis 12:2-3 “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”


GOD does not like to bestow his blessings where they will be hoarded, but he loves to put them into the hands of those who will do the most with them to bless their fellows. The central object of true living is to be helpful to others. The true life is one devoted to Christ, to be used then for him in blessing others. By laying every gift at the Master's feet,  it can be been blessed by him, so that we may carry it out to bless others. Bring our barley loaves for  Christ to touch will enable us to feed hungry  thousands with them.


He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,

He sendeth more strength when the labours increase,

To added affliction He addeth His mercy,

To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.


When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.


Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,

Our God ever yearns His resources to share;

Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;

The Father both thee and thy load will upbear


His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,

His power no boundary known unto men,

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He giveth and giveth and giveth again.


Annie Johnson Flint, the writer of this hymn, faced a life of tragedy, loosing her mother who died giving birth to her sister whilst Annie was only three years old. Later her father succumbed to an incurable illness. Following school Annie trained as a teacher, but just into her second year of teaching the signs of chronic arthritis affected her health.


She grew steadily worse until it became difficult for her to walk at all, and she was soon obliged to give up her work, followed by three years of increasing helplessness. The death of both of her adoptive parents within a few months of each other left Annie and her sister alone again. There was little money in the bank, and the twice-orphaned children had come to a real “Red Sea place” in their lives.


In spite of her ‘afflictions’, she grew in grace and was able to write of the blessings  with those strong words of faith; “To added affliction He addeth His mercy, To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.”


Difficulty and hardships can actually be “blessings in disguise,” offering opportunities for our experience, learning, and benefit. Challenges, then, present themselves not to stop or defeat us… but to call forth our courage, determination, creativity, and strength! … How will you allow adversity in life to help you grow and improve? 


A PRAYER

Almighty God, may I continue to hear the Holy Spirit as He guides and counsels me. In all situations, help me to be obedient! Master of the Universe, my Protector, my God, in whom I confidently trust, hear my prayer. In Jesus’ mighty name, SO BE IT… Amen and Amen!


Thursday 18 March 2021

Faith in times of Crisis by Dr J P Hunter

 


Psalm 33: 1-4, 11, 13, 18-22. New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
1 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous.
    Praise befits the upright.
2 Praise the Lord with the lyre;
    make melody to him with the harp of ten strings.
3 Sing to him a new song;
    play skilfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
4 For the word of the Lord is upright,
    and all his work is done in faithfulness.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands for ever,
    the thoughts of his heart to all genterations
13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
    he sees all humankind.
18 Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
    on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 to deliver their soul from death,
    and to keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and shield.
21 Our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,

    even as we hope in you.


Meditation

This Psalm from an anonymous author, has been chosen because of its keyword hope, which appears twice in our text. The reasons for that hope we find in verse 4 and 11. In verse 4 we read: For the word of the Lord is upright, meaning all God’s words are right and true – they can be trusted. The Bible is reliable, because unlike people, God does not forget, change his mind, change his words or leave his promises unfulfilled. We can trust the Bible because it contains words of a holy, trustworthy and unchangeable God.


In verse 11a we read: The counsel of the Lord stands for ever, meaning God’s plans never change. While we may be disappointed by inconsistencies we see in others and in ourselves, his intentions never change.


Thereafter, we read twice that God looks down from Heaven. In verse 13b that he sees all humankind, becoming more specific in verse 18: Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love. Our souls wait in trust for the Lord, to help and shield us, as we place our hope in Him. 


Prayer

Heavenly Father God, in the middle of this week I come to seek your presence, seeking stillness, seeking solid ground. As my life has changed so much, I praise you that you are unchangeable, steadfast and your word is true. That you look after, help and shield, the soul of everyone who comes in faith to you. Then my fears are stilled and my strivings cease. As I place my life, my hope in you. Amen.


Hymn - Singing the Faith 351 – In Christ alone - verse 1

1 In Christ alone my hope is found,

   He is my light, my strength, my song.

   This cornerstone, this solid Ground,

   firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

   What heights of love, what depths of peace;

   when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

   My Comforter, my All in All,

   here in the love of Christ I stand.                                                                   

Keith Getty (b.1974), Stuart Townend (b.1963)       

Wednesday 17 March 2021

Lent: Keep it simple


Personal Influence.

Proverbs 11:25-27 A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell. Whoever seeks good finds favour, but evil comes to one who searches for it.

Every human life is a force in this World. On every side our influence pours out perpetually. If our lives are true and good, this influence is a blessing to other lives. Let us never set loose any influence for ill, hate or harm. When we think of our personal influence, unconscious, perpetual, pervading, and immortal, what overarching theme does our day to day living portray. How can we control this outflow from our lives that it shall always be blessing to others? It surely means being  faithful in all duties, in all obligations and responsibilities, in all obediences, in actions; word, and disposition, throughout each day, particularly those things that influences another.


Think of the all the influencers in your life. Stirring in the background of our minds are the influences of other people that affect us without our knowledge or recognition. For example when researchers showed individuals a picture of a library and instructed them to go there after the experiment, participants began to speak more softly, without being aware of why. Similarly, when primed to be rude, individuals interrupted a speaker, while those primed to be polite did not.


An African proverb puts it this way, ‘If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.’ The mosquito makes a difference in an annoying way, but the principle is the same. One person can stop a great injustice. One person can be a voice for truth. One person’s kindness can save a life. Each person matters.


Prayer

Help us, Lord, never to become inward looking or self-indulgent. May everything we do as individuals and as a community be outward focused in order to bring blessing to the world. Lord, help me and help our community to make the most of every opportunity that you have given us. Help us to revere you and keep your commandments. Help us to use our influence for good and not for evil. Help us to make the most of every opportunity that you have put before us. Amen

Tuesday 16 March 2021

Lent: Keep it simple


God in the Little things.

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

Matthew 13:32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”


From seeing God in the common things of life, today we move to the little things, the inconsequential moments and I bring to your notice the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


“Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts he has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge. experience and love that has been given to us. and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith and the rich experience that God has given to others. and we consider this lament to be pious. 


We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith and difficulty; if on the contrary we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty. so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.”


Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (SCM Press 1963) p 19


When we pray, we tend to focus on things that we think are more significant. We pray for my loved one who is battling with illness. We pray for the safety of family members who are traveling. We pray for friends who are struggling with unemployment. We pray for our government leaders and about issues happening in our nation and world. But we don’t often pray about little things like discomfort from mosquito bites. Perhaps I should.


Prayer:

Dear God, help us to be very attentive to the little things in life. Help us to just be careful not to despise them or to view them all as hassles. But like Jesus to be ready for those interruptions, ready for those additions, ready for those changes. Those little things that are on the way to big goals that we have. Thank you, in Jesus name. Amen.


Monday 15 March 2021

Lent: Keep it simple


God in the commonplace

It seems to me that all too often we miss the blessings found in the common things of life? The simple task that can be a means of grace are often overlooked as we search for bigger blessings. 

One writer put it this way, “we can finds pain and pleasure, ecstasy and misery in the common things of life. All these good natural experiences usher us, if we let them, into the presence of God” and a fuller life. George Herbert in his poem Elixir explores this notion of finding the sacred in the common daily tasks. 

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine: 
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws, 
Makes that and th' action fine. 

Nothing is worthless, however lowly, if it is done for God. Even the most everyday ordinary task, like cleaning a room, goes beyond the end result of a satisfyingly spotless room – the action of cleaning itself is made clean, made sacred. The Gospels record Jesus as saying “I am among you as one who serves”. Nor is the earthly servant, whether cleaning a room or ministering as a pastor, any different.

Action, just as silence and the word, can help us to claim and celebrate our true self. But here again we need discipline, because the world in which we live says, ”Do this, do that, go here, go there, meet him, meet her.” Busyness has become a sign of importance. Having much to do, many places to go, and countless people to meet gives us status and even fame. However, being busy can lead us away from our true Vocation and prevent us from drinking our cup. (From Can You Drink the Cup? by Henri M Nouwen)

It is not easy to distinguish between doing what we are called to do and doing what we want to do particularly if that task may be viewed by society at large as demeaning or a drudgery and seems anything but divine. Enthusing every action as a means of adoration and worship lifts the action to a level of highest worth and ‘makes the action fine’.

A Prayer 

Lord, when life is hard and the burden is great, help me to deepen my faith in You and my love for You.  Help me to love and worship You because it is good and right to do in all things as for your glory. Father in heaven, I stand before You today in Your omnipotent presence to ask that You grant me strength. I want You to give me the strength to power through all of the tasks today — whether little or big. It is by Your will that I live oh Lord. And I know it is also by Your will I will not go weak today. I will not go lazy nor will I will fail to do all things set before me because You strengthen me. Thank You for Your everlasting presence Lord and in Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen. 

Saturday 13 March 2021

Lent - keep it simple

Darkness and Light

This time of year our days are a picture of contrast; one day glorious sunshine whilst the next is overcast and drab. We can also mirror such darkness and light within our minds and hearts. Most religions share such experiences in their search for truth and fulfilment. For many there is a deep darkness, the darkness of not knowing, and there are light flashes in which the we can know the unknowable to be very close.


Through the centuries Christian teaching has emphasised the notion of darkness and light and its relationship to the time and space that each disciple finds themselves. There will be moments of beauty or excitement when light is more readily perceived. At other times, when facing calamity, rejection or the depth of depression the looming darkness seems almost palpable. 


There is a wonderful assurance found in Psalm 139:12 “even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Many find themselves living in a hinterland betwixt light and darkness where the sunlight of each day is overshadowed by clouds of darkness or within the shadows of life, the sun always seems to be on the other side of the street. 


But by faith there is light at the end of the spiritual tunnel where Isaiah writes ‘I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; “I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations.” Just one thought; it is even possible to reflect light in a dark space if we are facing the source of that light.


Prayer


God, with you there is no darkness. Your character has no shadows, and you are pure and good. Yet in our broken world, we see so much darkness around us. Pain, sickness, and disease are in our community and in many of our homes.


Bring your light and restoring presence to the dark places in our lives. Bring your hope to hearts that feel defeated. Bring your love and compassion to those in pain.


Give us faith to say with the psalmist, “ Lord, you light my lamp; my God illuminates my darkness."May your light of hope shine in the darkness for families today. Show us glimpses of your presence with us and the comfort you bring.


In the busyness of today, help us to take a moment to be still and sit with you. To slow down, breathe deeply, and release our burdens to your strong hand. You are trustworthy, good, and true, and we thank you for caring for us so deeply and beautifully. Open our eyes to see you at work today. Give us your light.


In Jesus name, Amen.