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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.

Tuesday 30 November 2021

Excerpts from Becky Lovatt’s Book “Beyond the Chocolate Window”


The Voice of Abraham

What a life I have led! A life of waiting — waiting on God, the author and protector of my life and of my faith. I am old, and I have waited all my days. I am still waiting.


I remember the beginning as if it were yesterday. I wasn’t young then. Some might even say I was ‘over the hill’ to start with. However, God plucked me out of my security and set me on a journey of discovery and hope.


I was spoken to by the God of my youth. “Leave everything,” he said, “your country, your extended family and your father’s home. Leave everything! I will show you a new land. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you and all those you know. Leave everything!”


So, I left. Well, that’s not exactly true. I mumbled and I grumbled, and I tried to do everything in my power to walk away. However, God did not stop. He kept on calling , and I kept on waiting for it all to pass, but it didn’t.


We argued — God and I - but he is God, and there was only ever going to be one winner. So, eventually I left, leaving everything had been instructed to do.


Sarah, my wife, came with me, and my nephew, Lot. We travelled together, waiting every moment on God’s provision. Lot and I began argue. He wanted one thing and I wanted what God wanted. More waiting... for Lot to leave and for my next instruction. 


It came in the form of a promise. God told me not to be afraid; that he would be my shield and my great reward. I was terrified, and every day of waiting played tricks on my mind. He promised I would be the father of a great nation and that my descendants would populate the earth. Yet, how could this be? Sarah couldn’t have children, and with every day that passed, I was getting older.


Years later, some visitors arrived. I welcomed them. Sarah cooked up a storm — and then they broke their news.


“You’re going to have a child,” they said.


You could have knocked me down with a feather - and Sarah, well, she could not contain her laughter.


After more waiting, We did have a son, just as God had said. We named him Isaac, and he grew big and strong. God wanted to test my faithfulness and asked me to sacrifice him — but that’s not my story to tell.


More years of waiting, then I lost Sarah. She was my rock and and confidence. She was called home to be with God, and I was left alone. 


Now I wait for death. My sons have grown and have sons of the own. Thus, the nation that God has promised will come into being nation from which will rise up a great king, equal to God himself, who will rule the kingdom of God as God intended.


Abraham spent his whole life waiting. Advent is about waiting too. How will your prepare to wait for the coming king this year?


Prayer


God of Abraham,


thank you that you are close to me

as I wait for you to ‘break through’ in my life.

Help me to wait on you with faith and confidence,

and to put my trust in your unfailing love.

Stand with me even as I wait on you.

In the name of Jesus, I ask.

Amen.


Monday 29 November 2021

Excerpts from Becky Lovatt’s Book “Beyond the Chocolate Window”


The Voice of Eve by Becky Lovatt* (Used with permission)

I guess you could say that humanity’s downfall began with us — Adam and me, and that wretched snake. If it hadn’t been for the snake everything would have been fine. Well... that’s what I like to tell myself: anyway.


God created heaven and earth, and sea and sky. Then God made Adam, and from Adam he fashioned me. He set us both over and above all the other animals and plants he had formed.


“Roam in my garden,” he told us. “Make it your own; name the beasts and flowers for me. Just don’t eat from the tree in the middle.”


We had so much to choose from - the whole garden was ours — and yet I was drawn to the one tree we were told to keep clear of. I was attracted, it’s true. Somehow, it seemed to draw me to itself, almost as if it was silently calling my name. However, I am sure I could have stayed strong — if only it hadn’t been for that snake.


The creature goaded me, tempting me. It told me all kinds of untruths about how God wouldn’t know — or wouldn’t mind. I fell for it, hook, line and sinker.


It would not have been so bad if had left it there, but I didn’t. I got Adam involved as well. I became the tempter - the ‘devil on his shoulder’, the barbed wire pricking at his skin.


Before long we had both eaten from the tree whose fruit had been forbidden. Suddenly, our eyes were opened; we recognised our naked bodies. We had become like God, with the knowledge of good and evil.


We heard our creator coming, walking in the cool of the evening. We hid, but God called to us. “Come close, my children, and walk with me,” he said.


When we finally appeared, our father knew that we had betrayed him. He knew instantly that we had eaten from the tree. We had to come clean and confess to what we had done.


Adam blamed me. I blamed the snake. Yet each of us had to endure the punishment. The snake and all his kind were sentenced to crawl on their bellies and eat dust for the rest of their existence. I, and all of womankind, would experience pain in childbirth. Adam, and all

mankind, would have to work hard their whole lives in order to eat, and would ultimately die.


We were banished from the garden — left to go our own way and fend for ourselves. We had become separated from God — a wedge driven between us; a wound that could only be healed though another’s life laid down and a sacrifice made. The tempter had gained the upper hand; God, it seemed, had been defeated.


However, we were cradled in love. Even though we had been so easily lured, God did not abandon us. We had children of our own. They grew into a strong and powerful race that populated the earth. We had eaten from the tree of knowledge and opened a crack that would become a chasm, a void between God’s people and their creator. Even then, there was a plan in place — a plan for repentance, for healing and for grace.


Creator God, help me not to succumb to the temptations I face on earth and to keep my eyes fixed on the goals of heaven. - When I am tempted, keep me strong; and if I fail, remind me that I am still loved and cared for by you. Amen.


If you would like your own copy of Beck’s book @ £9.99 please contact me.

Sunday 28 November 2021

Through the Chocolate Window by Becky Lovatt


The Voice of Hope 

Read John 8:12-16


Jesus says:

“Do not be afraid. I am the light in the darkness; the voice of hope, in the midst of despair.


“At the beginning of time, as one — Father, Son, and Spirit — we spoke creation into being. God uttered. The Son become the Word that was spoken. And the Spirit of wisdom hovered over the waters.


“In the beginning, there was nothing; chaos ruled, and darkness covered the whole earth. Yet, item by item, day by day, millennium by millennium, life came into existence — breath from breath, bone from bone, being from being. Hope was alive.


I am the gate to the good Pastures; and I am the shepherd who will gather the scattered flock. I am the bread to feed the hungry and the living water of new life. Follow me and be guided by my voice: the voice of hope that will rally the remnants of God’s people; and build a new nation. It will be a nation not built on location or with bricks, but a movement

built on love, where justice and peace are the driving force. I am the for the hopeless, the candle in the darkened room. I offer an invitation into a personal relationship with the Almighty.


“Still, after all these years, after everything — after God became human and lived among his people; after God was hailed as king, then betrayed, rejected, denied and crucified; after he was raised to life, to sit on his rightful throne in glory — even now, the darkness lingers on. The bombs still fall. Brother still raises arms against brother and the blackness of hate still penetrates the light.


“Yet, it does not have to. Shine, light, shine! Do not let the dark claim the victory. Do not allow the hope to be squeezed out. For I am the  light — claim it for yourself and banish the darkness once and for all. 


“Come with me on a journey — a journey of hope and acceptance where you will be valued and claimed as children of God. Come and enter into my new kingdom — a kingdom where I am the king, and where all people are judged as equal, where God is friend and loving father.


“Come and let me light a candle for you. I will be your light, you; peace and your hope.”


Prayer


Light of the world, shine your light wherever there is darkness in my life; bring hope to the hopeless and joy to all hearts. Help me to be salt and light to those around me and walk in support of all people in their journey with God. Amen.


I am grateful to my Colleague, Deacon Becky Lovatt for permission to use extracts from her Advent Book, “Through the Chocolate Window” . Becky Lovatt is a Methodist deacon living and working in East Devon. She holds a master’s degree in Theology and Ministry and is passionate about reaching out to those on the margins of traditional church. If you would like to purchase your own copy of Becky’s book for £9.99, please get in touch with me


Saturday 27 November 2021

An ABC of Faith


Joy

It almost seems counter intuitive that when Jesus is facing the relentless move towards Jerusalem and what now seems his inevitable death that he finds time to speak of joy. “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” John 17:13


I am reminded that on this day before wHe enter the season of Advent that I recall a childhood Sunday School song that could be sung to the tune of Jingle Bells that had the words, “J-O-Y, J-O-Y surely that must be, Jesus first and yourself last and other’s in between.” Although seemingly trite, there is perhaps a deeper truth within this simple rhyme.


Perhaps today, we need to hear Jesus continue to pray for his followers – for us! We need to hear him ask his Father for three gifts for us: Joy, Protection and Holiness. May we reflect on where in our lives we  might need to use each of these gifts, which are now ours, thanks to Jesus’ prayer for us. Let’s take time now to reflect on each gift, one by one, and  ask the Holy Spirit for guidance on where and how to use these gifts. 


Surely this is the essence of Joy In these final chapters of John’s Gospel, Jesus is trying to sum up what his life and mission is all about. He speaks at length of the bond between him and his Father and it is from this bond of love that he is ‘sent’.


Jesus tells us that we too are ‘sent’ to continue his mission. Friendship with Jesus is being with him, and being sent in his name. Our mission as his followers is in the midst of and in the depths of the world. He wants his love and message inserted in the centre of the world, the city, the neighbourhood. In following him in mission and love, we are ourselves sanctified. How do we experience this Joy of being sent ‘being sent’? With “Jesus first, ourselves last and others in between.”


Name above all Names, please allow our eyes to see the way You do. Keep our outlook filled with hope and positivity, remind us to be thankful for each moment, and let our trust in You carry us daily. Show us how to find our joy and give us the power to do it. By trusting in Your promises and letting joy lead us, we know our struggles will become easier. Help us to see past the problems of today and keep our visions of eternity with You foremost in our minds. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.


Friday 26 November 2021

An ABC of Faith


Joined

Ephesians 4:16 has the words, “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”


A question, are you a joiner or a separator?


I recall the story of a young lad  who was going to be l enrolled as a member of a Chruch organisation the following week, who, when he got home announced to his parents that he was going to be ‘envolved’ next week. Maybe that is not a bad description of what it means to be part of the body of Christ; we are involved with the whole living, breathing, working of the the body of Christ.


In the gospels we are encouraged to be joined to the vine. However, if a branch is cut off from the tree and tossed to one side, it can no longer produce. It doesn't have the life of the tree in it. It is no longer connected to the source of life. This is how it is in the spiritual realm. Being cut off from union with Christ, we no longer are joined to our source of power. The power to live the Christian life, and to overcome the trails in the world; to know the joy of the Lord despite our circumstances, and to have intimate fellowship with God and hope for eternity. We need to stay vitally joined to the vine (Christ) to tap into the resources that are ours through Christ.


Ephesians and Colossians emphasise that no human being, or even group of human beings, is head of the Church. Jesus is head of the Church. He sets our direction. He is our example. He is our goal for ministry. In addition, Jesus also arranges us in his Body as he chooses, gives us gifts to use to bless each other and God, and holds us together so that we can effectively serve as his presence in the world. So let's set our hearts on Jesus. Let's use his life and love to inspire us and show us how to serve. Let's give him our allegiance and loyalty. He alone is head of his Body, the Church. Let's let him lead!


Righteous Father, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for his example, service, obedience, love, and sacrifice. Thank you for his resurrection, exaltation, power, and presence today in your Church and in my life. Father, please use me, and my brothers and sisters in Christ with me, to do his work in our world and share your grace with all who we meet. In the name of the Lord Jesus I pray. Amen.


Thursday 25 November 2021

An ABC of Faith


Jealousy (Today’s illustration is of Rembrandt’s “Return of The Prodigal Son”)

Irish novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett received great recognition for his work--but not every one savoured his accomplishments. Beckett's marriage, in fact, was soured by his wife's jealousy of his growing fame and success as a writer. One day in 1969 his wife Suzanne answered the telephone, listened for a moment, spoke briefly, and hung up. She then turned to Beckett and with a stricken look whispered, "What a catastrophe!" Was it a devastating personal tragedy? No, she had just learned that Beckett had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature!


No wonder Jealousy is included in the list of 7 deadly sins as it has the power to squeeze the life out of living.


Perhaps the greatest teaching of Jesus on the subject of jealousy is found in the parable of the prodigal son. In this parable we clearly see three clear reactions to the wayward son’s homecoming. Firstly the distress of the younger son, suffering hunger in a foreign country, made him long for something better. Deep down he was eager to find true love. He could have decided to be a criminal, as the only way out of his difficulty. But he felt in a big way that he needed the support of someone who loved him.


Secondly we see how the Father shows what mercy really is. His welcoming his son back, as if nothing had happened, is strikingly generous. His total love for his son was creative, giving new life to him.


But then we find the elder son was caught in the justice trap – he wanted justice not mercy. He desired that all things be measured and fair. But he had no idea of the originality and grandeur of forgiving.


Again I turn to Fred Buechner for enlightenment where he says, “ENVY IS THE CONSUMING DESIRE to have everybody else be as unsuccessful as you are.“


The corollary to jealousy is surly following the guidance of Jesus in that we should love our neighbour as ourselves.


Lord Jesus, my sincere desire is to become holy like you. Set me free from anxious thoughts that cause me to become jealous towards others. Please give me the grace to control jealous emotions when they arise. Please teach me how to be happy for my friends and family when they succeed. Purify my mind from ungodly thoughts and help me to walk in the way that is pleasing to you. In Jesus’ name, I believe and pray, Amen.


Wednesday 24 November 2021

An ABC of Faith


Justice

Our media relentlessly screams for justice but in reality is this not more a code word for revenge for something done to us or someone close to us. Justice, masquerading as revenge is a far cry from the Prophet Micah’s words, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”


Biblical references to the word “justice” mean “to make right.” Justice is, first and foremost, a relational term — people living in right relationship with God, one another, and the natural creation. From a scriptural point of view, justice means loving our neighbour as we love ourselves and is rooted in the character and nature of God. As God is just and loving, so we are called to do justice and live in love.


As a matter of fact, the Scriptures most often conceive God's justice, or righteousness, as the action of His mercy. Just as with human justice means the relief of the oppressed and needy, so God's justice is His kingly power engaged on behalf of humankind, and justice and mercy are constantly joined together. He is "a just God and a Saviour" (Isaiah 45:21).


At a funeral Mass for a friend of Archbishop Romero who was murdered by the government because of her faith in Christ, Romero invited those present to follow this Lord who died, this God who sacrificed himself for others, this obscure Israelite teacher who, we confess, is the hope of the world.


Holding the communion wafer aloft, he said, “May this body that was immolated and this flesh that was sacrificed for humankind also nourish us so that we can give our bodies and our blood to suffering and pain, as Christ did, not for our own sake but to bring justice and peace to our people.”


Perhaps this is what it means to “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”


God,

You are the source of human dignity,

and it is in your image that we are created.


Pour out on us the spirit of love and compassion.


Enable us to reverence each person,

to reach out to anyone in need,

to value and appreciate those who differ from us,

to share the resources of our nation,

to receive the gifts offered to us

by people from other cultures.


Grant that we may always promote

the justice and acceptance

that ensures lasting peace and racial harmony.


Help us to remember that we are one world and one family.


Amen.


Tuesday 23 November 2021

An ABC of Faith


Jubilee

I am sure than many of us will have experienced Royal Jubilees, such as the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and then there is the nation’s  anticipation of next years 70th celebration of Queen ELizabeth’s accession to the throne.  However, in biblical terms, Jubilee has another significance.


In Scripture, we see the Israelites place an important emphasis on certain days of the week, certain holidays and observances throughout the year, and even certain years. The Year of Jubilee, which came every 50th year, was a year full of releasing people from their debts, releasing all slaves, and returning property to who owned it.


This year was also dedicated to rest. During this year, the Israelites were not supposed to reap or harvest; it was a time for people to return to their families and loved ones. 


So why did this happen during the fiftieth year? The Bible places a special emphasis on the number 7. After all, there are seven days in a week, and the seventh day is supposed to be the Sabbath, a day dedicated to rest and worship: 7 x 7 = 49 years. So, after seven years of Sabbaths, we reach the 50th year. A year dedicated to rest, to restoration of property, and to freeing people from debts, servitude, and slavery.


Perhaps, the sense of Jubilee is what is missing from today’s society and culture. With that said, what Jubilee's year and the requirements to rest show Christians is that rest is to be taken seriously. Workaholism is a rising problem all around the world. The Lord doesn’t want the people of God to make work an idol, thinking that if they work hard enough at their job or whatever they do that they can provide for their needs on their own. 


The Lord, for the same reason, wants people to step away from their busyness. Sometimes this can look like taking twenty-four hours away from the day to day things that occupy us to focus that time on worshiping the Lord.


Whatever this looks like, for you, the Year of Jubilee emphasises the need to trust the Lord each moment of each day, month, and year of our lives. Christians should dedicate our whole lives to the Lord, which is the Jubilee year's larger goal. Each person can find times to rest, forgive others for how they have wronged us, and trust the Lord.


Monday 22 November 2021

An ABC of Faith


Jot

In Matthew’ gospel we find Jesus using the phrase 'jot or tittle'. Both jot and tittle refer to tiny quantities. A modern rendering of Jesus words could be “For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished.”

The reference to jot and tittle resonates with the english language saying, “to dot the i's and cross the t's”. This in turn is defined as to pay a great deal of attention to the details of something, especially when you are trying to complete a task. Jesus life was all about living, acting and teaching in such a way that the words of the scriptures came to life. Perhaps we should think of how the scriptures come to life in us by what we do and what we say.  


We could think of all those who have taught us, and calling to mind the people who have helped us to understand God’s ways. Through such recollection we can give thanks for them and ask for blessing. In turn we to can then pray that we may be such a person for those around is.


Jesus pointed to the continuity in God’s work and action.  Think of the traditions and teachings that have brought us to where we are and ask God to continue to draw us to life.


Jesus saw a continuity of God's message as he spoke as had the prophets of old. Perhaps we should realise that we too have a history and tradition - some of which are known to us and we thank God for all of those whose insight builds us up.


In doing this may we be led to ask God to continue to bless is and to lead is into the wisdom that Jesus had. Then through prayerfully respect for all who teach the faith that has come to us from the apostles.


The law of God is truth and when we live according to that truth it produces the fruits of righteousness, holiness, peace, and joy.  Jesus taught reverence for God’s law — reverence for God himself, for the Lord’s Day, reverence or respect for parents, respect for life, for property, for another person’s good name, respect for oneself and for one’s neighbour lest wrong or hurtful desires master us.  Reverence and respect for God’s commandments teach us the way of love -- love of God and love of neighbour.  What is impossible to men is possible to God and those who have faith in God.  God gives us the grace to love as he loves, to forgive as he forgives, to think as he thinks, and to act as he acts.  The Lord loves righteousness and hates wickedness.  As his followers we must love his commandments and hate every form of sin. Do you love the commands of the Lord.


“Lord Jesus, grant this day, to direct and sanctify, to rule and govern our hearts and bodies, so that all our thoughts, words and deeds may be according to your Father’s law and thus may we be saved and protected through your mighty help.” 


Saturday 20 November 2021

An ABC of Faith


Inheritance

There are no portraits of Jesus, but the beatitudes offer a glimpse of his interior landscape, of the sources of his happiness. Bismarck was right to remark: ‘You cannot govern with the Sermon on the Mount’. It is not legislation, but an interior vision, fired by a hunger for justice in this world, and confidence in a future when the mourners will be comforted, the poor will be enriched, and the meek will inherit the earth.


An elderly master carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family.


He would miss the wage packet, but he needed to retire. They could get by. The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favour. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.


When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.”


Inheritance is all about gifted ownership. A wise person once said, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” It was the writer to the Ephesians who penned, “Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…” Ephesians 1:18


Known for their luxury watches, Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe has also become well-known for its clever advertising slogan: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe; you merely take care of it for the next generation.” So it is with what we “own”: money, gifts, ministries, time, and our very lives.


Father, forgive me for living like a spiritual pauper rather than a child of the King. Help me to let go of my scarcity mentality and take hold of the riches of my inheritance. Help me to take hold of the precious promises. And Lord, I know this isn’t about money or the treasures of this world. Oh, your precious promises go so much deeper than anything this temporary world has for us. Open my eyes to see what is important...the blessings You have given me.


In Jesus’ Name,


Amen.


Friday 19 November 2021

An ABC of Faith


Image - Today I want to share with you a passage that I read from from  John Mark Corner’s book, “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World. Copyright © 2019 published by  WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC


“Our defining narrative says that we’re made “in the image of God,” but also: we’re made “from the dust.”


Image and dust?

To be made in the image of God means that we’re rife with potential. We have the Divine’s capacity in our DNA. We’re like God. We were created to “image” his behaviour, to rule like he does, to gather up the raw materials of our planet and reshape them into a world for human beings to flourish and thrive.


But that’s only half the story.


We’re also made from the earth, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”: we’re the original biodegradable containers. Which means we’re born with limitations. We’re not God. We’re mortal, not immortal. 


Finite, not infinite - Image and dust - Potential and limitations.


One of the key tasks of our apprenticeship to Jesus is living into both our potential and our limitations.


There’s a lot of talk right now about reaching your full poten­tial, and I’m all for it. Step out. Risk it all. Have faith. Chase the dream God put in your heart. Become the Technicolor version of who you were made to be.


But again, that’s only half the story.”


Every single human being, no matter how much the image of God is marred by sin, or illness, or weakness, or age, or any other disability, still has the status of being in God’s image and therefore must be treated with the dignity and respect that is due to God’s image-bearer. This has profound implications for our conduct toward others. It means that people of every race deserve equal dignity and rights. It means that elderly people … and children yet unborn deserve full protection and honour as human beings.


Loving Lord,

You have searched me and you know me,

I am created in your image.

You know all my thoughts and everywhere I will go, 

I am created in your image.

You knit me together in my mother’s womb,

I am created in your image.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made,

I am created in your image.

Your works are wonderful and I praise you because, 

I am created in your image. Amen


Thursday 18 November 2021

An ABC of Faith


Incarnation

We recite the words in the creed, “Incarnate of the Virgin Mary,” but what does that really mean. Incarnation, is a central Christian doctrine that God became flesh, that God assumed a human nature and became a man in the form of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the second person of the Trinity. Christ was truly God and truly man.


Some also speak of living incarnationally. The basic idea is to live as Jesus lived while he was on earth. Although a simple and accurate definition, it begs several important questions. How did Jesus actually live? What did he actually do? Which specific actions of his are we to imitate? In short, when we say we are to live incarnationally, what does that actually end up looking like in the real world?


Another surprise for me as I looked through the gospel accounts was some glaring omissions. This is not the way we would write the gospels in today’s church. Jesus didn’t say much or even model much behaviour about church/temple attendance or religious duties. There was surprisingly little on swearing or sexual morality, and he said nothing at all about drinking, abortion or homosexuality. Jesus did talk about giving and serving, but those activities were mainly focused on those in need rather than on the church/temple. I’m not saying that these other issues don’t matter at all.  But apparently they are hardly central to living as Jesus did.


The followers of Jesus are called to imitate God in all things (Eph 5:1-2). “You are God’s children whom he loves, so try to be like him. Live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us as a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice to God.”This includes imitating his incarnational love in the ways we fully enter into the life of others. We are called to live incarnationally. Jesus reveals that God is a God who is willing to set aside the blessedness of his own domain and become fully present to others. So too, we are called to be a people who are willing to set aside the comforts and conveniences of our own lives and become fully present to others. This is part of what it means to “be imitators of God” and “live in love as Christ loved us and gave his life for us”. As we live incarnationally, God himself is continuing to be embodied in the world.


Thomas a Kempis (1379-1471)

O Lord God, holy Father, be you now and forever blessed. For as you will, so it has been done; and what you do is good. Let your servant rejoice in you, not in myself or in any other. You alone are my true joy. You are my hope and my crown. You are my gladness and my honour. O Lord, what has your servant but what has been received from you without deserving it? Yours are all things that you have given and have made. Amen. 


Wednesday 17 November 2021

An ABC of Faith


I AM

How do you introduce yourself when meeting someone for the first time? There are usually pieces of information that we relay, our name, where we are from and what we do or have done if we are retired. But what if you heard from your new acquaintance the words, “I am who I am.”


This is what Moses heard when he encountered God as we read in Exodus 3:13-14. God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and told him to go to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of slavery. In response, Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’


When God identified Himself as in such a cryptic manner, God’s-self  stated that no matter when or where, God is there. It is similar to the New Testament expression in Revelation 1:8, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’” This is true of God for all time, but it would have been especially appropriate for a message in Moses’ day to a people in slavery and who could see no way out. I AM was promising to free them, and they could count on the Almighty!


In the New Testament Jesus gives substance to this I Am with John reporting the Christ is the Bread of life, the Good Shepherd, the Door, the Light of the World, the Resurrection and the Life, the way the Truth and the Life and the true Vine.


In the last of these descriptive titles we find something profound. Where we are invited to recognise our close relationship with Jesus, which he compares to the relationship between a vine and the branches that grow on it. What does it mean for our lives that the life of Jesus flows into us? What does it mean for us personally to know that we are as much a part of Jesus as the branch is a part of the vine? Are there things in our lives that would be different if we consciously realised this? What are they? We reflect on these things, we talk to Jesus about them and we ask the Holy Spirit to guide and enlighten us. Just consider for a moment that we are included in the great I AM and enabled to profess, “I am” abiding in the great I AM - Christ Jesus.


“A beautiful question for us Christians is this: do I abide in Jesus or am I far from Jesus? Am I united to the vine that gives me life or am I a dead branch, that is incapable of bearing fruit, giving witness?” (Pope Francis).


Teach me, Lord Jesus, what it is to live in you, and for you to live in me. Amen


Tuesday 16 November 2021

An ABC of Faith


Immediately - Have you ever noticed when listening or reading the Gospel, how following a particular event, the word immediately follows and in turn leads to some new action.

For example, in Mark’s gospel we see he is fond of the Greek word euthus, often translated “immediately,” which appears 41 times. Though the word does not always mean “just then,” it serves to propel the narrative forward with speed and urgency. This is a Gospel on steroids!


We find it in the call of the disciples, where as soon as Jesus said, “Follow Me” they left their nets and did just that. 


The question is are we immediate Christians or something quite the opposite, “delayed-disciple” , “sluggish-students”, “tardy-travellers”.


Perhaps its a little like my grandmother used say, “be penny-wise and pound-foolish” and Jesus warned about counting the current cost and ignoring the benefits of immediate action.


It was Ignatius of Loyola who prayed,


“Lord, teach me to be generous;

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

To give and not to count the cost;

To fight and not to heed the wounds;

To toil, and not to seek for rest;

To labour, and not to ask for reward - 

except to know that I am doing your will.”


Saint Ignatius of Loyola was the principal founder and first Superior General of the Society of Jesus. The compiler of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius was described by Pope Benedict XVI as being above all a man of God, who gave the first place of his life to God, and a man of profound prayer. 


How do we respond to God? The call of God is not always to a glamorous vocation, and its fruit in this world is often bittersweet. Yet God calls us according to our gifts and talents, and directs us to paths of the most useful service to His kingdom. How impoverished we would be if Jonah had made it to Tarshish, if Paul had refused to preach, if Jeremiah really had turned in his prophet’s card, or if Jesus had politely declined the cup.


Monday 15 November 2021

An ABC of Faith

Immanuel - You shall call his name Immanuel. 


Have you got a Nickname? For some reason or other, my father nicknamed me Bimbo and the way that he would say it was always underlined with a sense of endearment. Evidently, at the time there was a song recorded in 1949 that had the words, “Bimbo, Bimbo, whatcha gonna do-e-o, Bimbo is a little boy who's got a million friends, And every time he passes by, they all invite him in.”


In the case of Jesus, Joseph was instructed to give the name Immanuel, why, because the name personified the reality that in this given son - God was and is with us. Read the whole event in Matthew 1:18-25.


Joseph is faced with a heart-breaking dilemma. His life is in turmoil because he loves Mary so much. Let us imagine for a few moments how welcome the angel’s message must have been to him! How quickly he acts, allowing himself to follow his heart and not allowing his sense of legal obligation to rule.


Is Joseph  being taught a lesson about the surprising ways in which God works? Surely God is saying something here about the divine ability to bring good even out of situations the world thinks scandalous! ‘Nothing is impossible to God.’


‘God is with us!’ reminds us that every time we pray, God is with us. And every time we respond to the promptings of the good Spirit, God is with us in what we do. God is now present in the world as never before. We are surrounded by God.


No wonder that John Wesley’s last words were, “The best of all is, God is with us.”


Lord, I thank you for Joseph’s generous, courageous risk-taking. He trusted completely in your words “do not be afraid” and allowed his carefully made plans to be unravelled. May I too be open when you invite me to risk. In in that risk know that “God is with us” Amen


Friday 12 November 2021

An ABC of Faith


Honouring

Biblical teaching on honour transcends any particular time and culture. Honouring the Sabbath, marriage, and father and mother reflect God’s eternal character and commandments. These institutions were established at creation, and thus they have enduring significance. Furthermore, biblical commands to honour others do regularly go beyond cultural norms. Paul tells Timothy to “honour widows” in a culture that typically did not (1 Tim. 5:3). He also exhorts Timothy not to let anyone despise his youth in a time and place that honoured elders as examples of wisdom and virtue (4:12).


In fact, the Bible commands Christians to “honour everyone” (1 Peter 2:17) and to “outdo one another in showing honour” (Rom. 12:10). All human beings are made in God’s image and are worthy of honour. As the psalmist writes, God has crowned humanity “with glory and honour” (Ps. 8:5). Significantly, Peter exhorts us, “Honour the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17), at a time when believers were being persecuted for the faith. Honour is not tied to our feelings for someone.


The biblical emphasis on honouring others has everything to do with the biblical command to honour God. God fashioned human beings in His image. When we honour others, no matter who they are, we honour God. As we honour God, we increase His esteem in the world and attest to His ultimate value.


What Does Glorify God, or Honour God Mean? How Do We Glorify and Honour God?


It means to bring Him glory and honour through everything we say and do – Doing everything for the glory of God. Honouring God, Glorifying God with our lives, words, thoughts, actions, songs, dance, food, drink and in all we do. Acknowledging God’s glory, Appreciating who God is, Valuing God far above everything else.


We glorify God by loving him, by obeying him, by trusting him and walking with him. We honour God when we have faith and trust in him, when we love him, and when we truly desire to know him, obey him and please him in all that we do. We were created to glorify God, enjoy him and walk with Him. When we glorify God and honour God, we get closer to him and enjoy him immensely. God is really pleased and rejoices over us when we glorify him and live for him.


Loving Father, thank You for Your love. I pray that You would pour Your godly love into my heart so that Your love may stream through me to all my brothers and sisters in Christ – that I too may love with a brotherly affection and considers the needs of others before my own, in Jesus name I pray, AMEN.