Thomas: Sunday 19th April 2020

Sunday’s ‘virtual’ meeting this week was focussed around the story of the time when the disciples were together after the resurrection and Jesus appeared to them.

We spent time in the conversation considering what that might have actually been like. Some people expressed empathy and understanding for Thomas (remembered as “doubting Thomas”) and we discussed what tone of voice Jesus might have used in inviting Thomas to come and touch his wounds.

Many of us agreed that Jesus‘ motivation for appearing would most likely have been to reassure and affirm his friends rather than to reprimand or shame them for doubting. It is likely that he understood the trauma and anguish they had gone through by watching him die and how unbelievable it would have been to them that he was in fact resurrected back to life.

This led to us considering the impact this might have had on the disciples for their futures. They had witnessed a gruesome, traumatic and devastating event as their friend was killed on the cross but here a week or so later they see he is alive and well. Imagine the safety and security this would bring in knowing that even if the worst possible thing happens- it turns out all right in the end.

Maybe this was the key to their strength in facing the ordeals that they each did as they were martyred at the end of their lives?

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Lock-down meeting

We continue to meet each Sunday remotely, using google meet. Our format is first to be the community and share a coffee, swap stories and report on the week. We then continue to use the excellent resources provided by Vanderbilt Divinity Library and read in turn from the readings for the day. In addition, we follow through by watching together the presentation, put together by the Library, of art round the world to represent the words in the readings.

And then we discuss how each of us has been spoken to through the readings.

This is fruitful and it sets us up in our prayer, which includes the Lord’s Prayer, and for the blessing of the week to come.

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Reflections on Jacob’s ladder

By Catedrales e Iglesias Album 2646

Enrique López-Tamayo Biosca / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

There is an intriguing passage early in St John’s gospel where Jesus is recruiting his disciples and says to the sceptical Nathanial:  “… You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” (John 1, v.51).

The reference is clearly to Jacob’s dream at Bethel in the Old Testament (Genesis 28, v.12), the episode generally referred to a “Jacob’s ladder”, when God renewed with Jacob the covenant originally made with Abraham, that through his descendants all the families of the Earth should be blessed. This covenant and Jacob’s prophetic dream are fulfilled in Jesus, who is the bridge between God and man.

Jesus’s life here on Earth demonstrates this two-way angelic traffic. He was constantly in communion with his Father, a relationship cultivated in prayer, meditation on scripture, waiting, listening and growing sensitivity. In return, he heard the Father’s voice, receiving grace, direction, power and authority. Not only this, but Jesus made clear to his followers that the same relationship was open to them: he both exemplified it and taught them to live it.

Thinking of Jacob’s ladder and how it might be interpreted, an old hymn from my childhood came to mind: “Oh happy band of pilgrims”. The writer rather grimly evokes:

“The trials that beset you, the sorrows you endure,

The manifold temptations that death alone can cure”,

and goes on:

“What are they but the ladder set up to Heaven on Earth”.

While not wanting to deny that suffering, embraced in the right spirit, can bring us closer to God, this seems to me very typical of the human approach: How do I get up there? What must I do? There is a wonderful gospel song, known to me in a version by the Golden Gate Quartet, on this theme: “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder”:

Heaven is to be scaled with scaling ladders by “soldiers of the cross”.

Of course, images and metaphors can only be stretched so far before they collapse in the heap, but the scripture that comes to my mind at this point is: “As he is, so are we in this world.” (I John 4, v.17). Jesus is the bridge, the ladder. So are we. Isn’t that what he called us to be? Rather than seeing the ladder as something external, difficult and dangerous we have to climb, rung by painful rung, might we not see ourselves as the ladder, individually and collectively. To quote Psalm 84: “The highway to your city runs through my heart”.

The traffic between Earth and Heaven passes through us, and in both directions. This is not something we have to strive for. God in his grace has made us the go-betweens, the priests of the new covenant (to use another metaphor!). We enter into this role by cultivating our communion with the Father, just as Jesus did and taught his disciples to do. So relax, chaps. We are perfectly loved and accepted. By the grace of God we are what we are. Abide in him. Let the grapes grow on your particular branch of the vine.

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Famous prayers – Late have I loved you – Augustine | Reflections

Famous prayers – Late have I loved you – Augustine | Reflections
— Read on kathwilliamson.blogspot.com/2009/04/famous-prayers-late-have-i-loved-you.html

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Perseverance and Patience

Sunday 20th October 2019
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As the story goes widows are submissive and needy and judges corrupt and powerful; but Jesus turns this upside down in his parable despite the efforts of the translators. This widow is rude and vengeful; the judge feels threatened by her violence. The Greek for justice is vengeance (ekdikeo) and where the translation says “wear out” the Greek uses a term from boxing which is more correctly understood as doing violence to the judge. Widows certainly don’t seem to have been that submissive in New Testament times if we read our Bibles and read about the problems they caused to the church. And what of the judge? He was prepared to serve out vengeance without a trial so as to avoid work.

I see Jesus preparing the followers for the times to come when they would need to be earnest in their prayer, a time when judges would turn against them to keep the peace.

Followers of Jesus need to be faithful to the message of salvation and persevere in the same measure the vengeful, disrespectful widow does. And surely, God is the source of our help. Our weapon is love and our commitment to each other is to, “…convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.”

We may find ourselves having to wrestle “…with God and with humans” and may limp away from the fight but we will draw our confidence from the fact that we have seen God face to face in Jesus and he will not abandon us.

 

Genesis 32:22-31

… “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” … The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills– from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

… All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. … I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching

Luke 18:1-8

… “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'” …

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.

As God leads, let us be constant in our prayer for

The Church;

·        Creation, humanity, those in authority;

·        The local community;

·        Those who suffer;

·        Our community.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

 

Numbers 6:24-26

The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

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