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(Genesis 28, v.12), the episode generally referred to a “Jacob’s ladder”, when God renewed with Jacob the covenant originally made with Abraham, that through his descendants all the families of the Earth should be blessed.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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Ever-flowing abundance

Sunday  7th July 2019

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What is the message we are being sent out with? It is the coming of the kingdom of God; it is the kingdom of God in our midst. It is the power to heal and deliver. It is the power that caused Satan to fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. This is the blessing that blesses us and is a blessing to the nations; the kingdom of God has come near, the true light which gives light to everyone. We are being called out of exile into the ever-flowing kingdom, freed from the tyranny of Sin.

God loves us, and he finds us. He loves us as he finds us. In believing, our eyes are opened to the depths of his love. We are transformed; translated from the kingdom of Sin and Death and see the Kingdom of God in our midst. More of God’s love pours into us as heaven and earth become one.

We are vessels of love, formed to be filled with love that spills out refreshing others. The meek inherit the Earth. God is gentle, and we are called to a spirit of gentleness. God loves as we are enabled to receive love. This is God’s grace that in opening our eyes to God’s love, Love forms us so that we experience more Love and we in our communities are gentle with one another.

Our circumstances are tough. What has formed us and entangles us is powerful. It is Sin that binds us and rules us and in our blindness we are exiled from God’s presence. We look to God to defeat the power of Sin, give us Peace and Abide in us. This is what the law and the prophets promise; salvation and hope.

All is beautiful: all is spiritual. Love flows endlessly even under the mess and suffering we see. This is the message of the Cross, an event that reveals the ever-flowing Love of God that is in all and for all and carries the message of the hope of salvation.

The Cross at once reveals to all the depths of the power of Sin and to those who believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, the depths of Love. The One on the cross is the One ascended to heaven, victorious, at the right hand of the Father.

Jesus, God in the form of sinful flesh, is slaughtered. The One who came proclaiming the Kingdom, suffers death. In resurrection, Christ defeats Sin and we are redeemed from the power of Sin. All our transgressions are washed away. In Christ the way, the truth and the life, the beauty of creation, is revealed.

Faith opens our eyes to this grace that has been overflowing from the beginning. God longs to forgive us. Death has no sting as our eyes are opened to the reality of the ever-flowing kingdom: truly in this moment we are new creations. A spiritual circumcision is done in our hearts and on our lips.

Everything is new, yet nothing has changed. We hear the call to live in abundant life yet all round sin and death reign. In our suffering this reality, we inaugurate the kingdom we now see.

The eyes of our heart have been opened to the ever-flowing life that is there for all and in all. We see loving kindness, beauty and compassion. Our eyes are open to the good that is in all, the light that is in everyone. In our suffering we have hope, seek the lost, clothe the naked and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. The blind see, the weak are strengthened and each is delivered from guilt and shame, from the power of division and judgement. All is grace: all is peace. We take this message out and bless the nations. You are not saved by works but by faith; believing is enlightenment not a work for which you are rewarded, and it is an ever-flowing spiritual gift.

This is good news to share and to be so grounded in, that you can face rejection. In fact, you can wipe the dust of rejection from your feet and still proclaim the Kingdom. You do not need to carry the rejection or call down fire from heaven on those who reject the message.

But we do need to proclaim the message with all our hearts and with all our strength and see all freed from the power of Sin and Death now. With this proclaiming will come division and hate, so we need to listen to  God’s call, hear the message and plumb its depths while we can and in the times of calamity draw strength.

Isaiah 66:10-14

Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her– that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom… you shall nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bodies shall flourish like the grass; and it shall be known that the hand of the LORD is with his servants, and his indignation is against his enemies.

Psalm 66:1-9

Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; …Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.
Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16

My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.

..Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith… For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! …

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 

… Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ …He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

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.

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.

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

·       The Church;

·       Creation, human society, those in authority;

·       The local community;

·       Those who suffer;

·       Our community.

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

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