Welcome

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives
May you never give up praying.
When you pray, may you keep alert and be thankful.
Pray that together we may make the message of the mystery of Christ as clear as possible.
Amen
(Based on Colossians 3 and 4)

Readings for Sunday: Vanderbilt Divinity Library

Reflections for the week: Lyfe Devotionals

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Sunday 17th March 2019                               

SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT

The past two weeks have seen us focusing on prayer and our experience of prayer.

The challenge was, what does it mean to pray without ceasing and to ask. There were beautiful testimonies to seasons of prayer, especially with children and how the innocence of their prayer is a memory that calls us back to a childlike heart.

Seeking the face of God, we find our hearts stirred to a vision, an expectation of the way we hope for things to be. Faith arises, and we pray out words; we ask. It is a relationship and our vision is that we are engaging with our heavenly father. We believe that we ask from where we are at, not where we reason we should be; it’s a conversation.

John Wesley taught that: God does nothing but in answer to prayer…

God’s purpose is that we through prayer are prepared as the bride of Christ, our lamps are filled and we have what we need. Through prayer we act as ambassadors and have authority in the heavenlies to resist evil and bring life.

In the Psalm we saw a rhythm of resting in God and allowing God to lift us up to see the bigger picture, secure in him.

John Wesley wrote:

God’s command to “pray without ceasing” is founded on the necessity we have of his grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one moment without it, than the body can without air.

Whether we think of; or speak to, God, whether we act or suffer for him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than his love, and the desire of pleasing him.

All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done in simplicity, according to the order of God, without either adding to or diminishing from it by his own choice.

Prayer continues in the desire of the heart, though the understanding be employed on outward things.

In souls filled with love, the desire to please God is a continual prayer.

As the furious hate which the devil bears us is termed the roaring of a lion, so our vehement love may be termed crying after God.

God only requires of his adult children, that their hearts be truly purified, and that they offer him continually the wishes and vows that naturally spring from perfect love. For these desires, being the genuine fruits of love, are the most perfect prayers that can spring from it.

From A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, as believed and taught by the Reverend Mr. John Wesley, from the year 1725, to the year 1777.

Psalm 27 

…Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!

“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”

Your face, LORD, do I seek.

…I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD;

be strong, and let your heart take courage;

wait for the LORD!

Philippians 3:17-4:1  

…But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 13:31-35 

…Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you…

We meet at the chapel on a Wednesday evening at 8pm until 8-40 pm for a period of prayer including 20 minutes silent prayer during school term time.

Photo by Meg Kannan on Unsplash

This resource is an offering from The Vanderbilt Divinity Library at: http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu. New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings copyright © Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress. Reproduced by permission.

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Wicked and crooked?

Sunday 3rd March 2019

TRANSFIGURATION SUNDAY

So, we can see in the story of the transfiguration that it was the disciples who were transfigured and that it was part of Jesus’ revelation to them of his mission. They remained awake and received the revelation and heard the voice of God

( https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/the-transfiguration-in-luke/).

In 2 Corinthians we also learn how in Christ we are transfigured by the gospel of Jesus, moved from glory to glory. In Jesus we find the righteousness revealed in the psalm and are enabled to see its true meaning found in Christ.

This however was not the focus this morning. We were directed to how we reacted to the story of the healing of the demon afflicted boy. Where did we position ourselves in the story? For most of us we were afraid that we were the wicked and twisted generation who lacked faith. Many commentators would agree and berate their readers for their lack of faith.

But if we look at the earlier commentaries we find something different. They reflect on how rude the father was and how critical he was of the disciples, calling them out in front of the crowd. A closer reading reveals that Jesus appears to be addressing the father, the one who represented the wicked and perverse generation.

If you search the phrase in the scriptures you find that, as in Philippians 2:15, the wicked and perverse generation are those who grumble and argue! Soon you realise that the phrase is a trigger phrase that recalls the lack of gratitude of the people of Israel, including their apostasy at the base of the mountain. Yes, we may be in that group, but Jesus is not having a go at the disciples or us, he is calling out the father I think.

But even if we feel the rebuke sticks, Jesus will stick with us and bear with us. It has to be so that a grumbling and argumentative heart is poisonous. And note how it veils our minds to the truth of the good news in Christ.

Psalm 99  
… Holy is he!
Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity;
you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob…

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2  
… But their minds were hardened… whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
…And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Luke 9:28-36, (37-43)  
..Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” …

We meet at the chapel on a Wednesday evening at 8pm until 8-40pm for a period of prayer including 20 minutes silent prayer during school term time.

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

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Sunday 24th February 2019

kyle-loftus-1334807-unsplashJesus tells us that the spirit of God is like the wind; we don’t know where it comes from and where it goes. He tells us not to fret and he proclaims blessings for the poor and woes for the rich. The whole world is seemingly at his feet as he works miracles and wondrous works. But his kingdom is not of this world.

Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, lead us not into temptation. We can understand this, in light of the blessings that God brings and the troubles of the day, as an appeal to God to save us from our selves.

We need to pray in all things. History has brought us to a place, good and bad, but we must not go on without first waiting on God. Without peace on our journey we fret and sin crouches at our door.

Control, power and success are intoxicating and can lead us to follow our own ways and trust our own understanding. We begin to believe God is blessing us because of what we are doing and how we are achieving it. We fear God is not blessing us because we are not loved. It’s dangerous and each day we need to pray that God does not lead us in to temptation, that he saves us from having ungrateful hearts.

As a community living with abundance, we need to stop and consider, if all we had were lost, what treasure would remain. Jesus sets out what the treasure is, a people that knows radical forgiveness and practices it.

In Jesus’ teaching we have a mirror to hold ourselves up to, which gives us a vision for how we are meant to be. Coming to Jesus honestly, knowing his teaching, we have the hope of transformation. Jesus’ words are like a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through to the daily issues of life and death. If we take them to heart we will be empowered to resist evil.

Each of us is first physical and is raised up spiritual. There is first a death that begins with a death to unforgiving ways. If we wrestle with Jesus’ teaching and come to him, we will know rest and fruitfulness.

 

Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40

… Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.

Do not fret–it leads only to evil…

1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50  

…If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body…But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual…What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Luke 6:27-38

.. “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

We meet at the chapel on a Wednesday evening at 8pm until 8-40pm for a period of prayer including 20 minutes silent prayer during school term time.

Photo by Kyle Loftus on Unsplash

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GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee;

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow…”

This is the opening of a poem by W.B. Yeats (1865-1939). I think the desire to leave the big city and reconnect with the natural world, the longing for peace and solitude, for simplicity, for useful manual activity, is something we can readily identify with.

And just think, Yeats wrote this long before the advent of consumerism, before the invention of television, computers, the internet and mobile phones, before the noise and stress of the M25, Facebook and twitter.

True, Yeats was a public figure and involved in Irish politics, so there was plenty of stress in his life too, but he expresses a general human need for a place of peace where we are in contact with what is really important.

It is difficult for us to simplify our outward lives, caught up as we are in “the system” and complicit with it. All the more important then that we cultivate an inner place of detachment, a solid centre, a place to stand, a place where we get in touch with ourselves and from which we see things in a truer light, if only so we can laugh at the sheer absurdity of much human activity.

This is one of the most important functions of prayer, meditation, sitting in silence, making ourselves open to God, call it what you will.

You can listen to a recording of Yeats reading the whole poem at: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/lake-isle-innisfree

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Sunday 10th February 2019

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Prophecy can sound so strange: Isaiah hearing God is told to preach his heart out, exhorting Israel to listen and keep looking but they will take no notice and to preach so that the people’s minds become dull and they stop their ears and shut their eyes. Jesus uses this prophecy to speak of his own teaching as a preparation for the destruction of his body. In history, destruction came to Israel as Isaiah preached and the prophecy speaks of a green shoot sprouting from the hewn stump. From the destruction of the cross, victory was won as Jesus rose from the dead. What is this prophecy saying to us now?

To me it speaks of the unrelenting love of God and the fact that our response matters. Just as when a kindness is done to us we might receive it as patronising or as it was intended, affirming, we gather what we plant. Our attitude can cause death where life was intended.

It also, for me, illustrates that God speaks to the heart; the same words can bring joy or despair. The turning away of historical Israel from the ever-present word of God meant that they could not receive the unrelenting call of God to justice and mercy. Justice was served through their destruction, but God’s voice continued to call for mercy. In Jesus this word became flesh, and all was made well.

One of us this morning spoke of a time this week when she was walking out with a colleague and the clouds parted and revealed a beautiful sky. Her colleague looked up and said it was almost biblical. This totally unexpected comment was followed by a moment when the billowing clouds formed two straight lines and made a cross. The lady gasped and exclaimed how beautiful it was. Our friend was astonished and silenced and wonders where all this is leading in how she now relates to her colleague!

Constantine in ancient history witnessed a similar phenomenon before a battle and his heart said to follow the one whose symbol it represented. He was victorious in battle and Christianity enjoyed a period of peace, but “pagan” Christianity began: the message of peace through Christ becoming a battle cry used to bring the peace of the empire. One of our number had been translating an article on the True Cross that week, said to have been found by Constantine and his mother who added it to the relics that ensured the success of the Roman Emperor. What would Jesus say!

The message of the cross in the sky in Hertfordshire I hope has a deeper and more compelling significance.

The aroma of the Spirit in us will bring out the true significance of the message of the crucified Christ and our hearts will direct us to choose life. We can say with Paul that with the grace of Christ we are who we are and expect the word of the cross to be winsome. When Peter say the catch of fish Jesus had brought to him his reaction was not wow, but he recognised the holiness of God and asked Jesus to leave him as he was a sinful man. Jesus gave him a job instead and it wasn’t to be a relic hunter and carry a nail in his helmet and shield.

So much of what the church is today is not in accordance with scripture, and the way we behave conceals the message of the transforming work of the cross and God’s unrelenting reaching out to us in love. We need to be those who call out to God to be saved, not asking him to put a stamp of approval on our traditions and works and expect him to bring in the catch.

We heard a story of one of our friends going in to sing at a category A prison church. She felt welcomed and blessed. As she left, she noticed at the back of the chapel was a food bank point. The prisoners earn a little over £12 a week and yet their heart is to provide for the needy outside their prison gates. Some of them will never live again outside those gates, they have done dreadful things, but they feel compelled to share what they have of Christ for the good of others. Truly the Spirit is at work!

‘God of the day and of the night, in me there is darkness, but with you there is light. I am alone, but you will not leave me. I am weak, but you will come to my help. I am restless, but you are my peace. I am in haste, but you are the God of infinite patience. I am confused and lost, but you are eternal wisdom and you direct my path; now and forever.  Amen.’
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/explore-the-bible/daily-reflection/prayer-alone/)

 

FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY

Year C, Revised Common Lectionary

Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13)

…The holy seed is its stump.

Psalm 138 

…The LORD will fulfil his purpose for me;

your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.

Do not forsake the work of your hands.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

…For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received:

that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures

… by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain…

Luke 5:1-11

…But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken…

 

We meet at the chapel on a Wednesday evening at 8pm until 8-40pm for a period of prayer including 20 minutes silent prayer.

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