Reflection for Wednesday 18th May 2022

Jon Ellis

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Reflection Acts 15 1-6 Psalm 122 1-5 John 15 1-8 Wednesday May 18

Acts 15
1 ¶ Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”
2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
3 The church sent them on their way, and as they travelled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad.
4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.”
6 ¶ The apostles and elders met to consider this question.

Who do I want to have in my church? That is the debate that was going on in Antioch. Should non-circumcised men be allowed? Or could only Jews be members of Christ’s church? Fortunately for us, Jesus made no distinction. Everyone who turns to him is a member of his church.

However, even if we repent, we still have difficulty in getting on with everyone in our church!
In C. S. Lewis’ book “The Screwtape Letters”, the chapters are divided up into “Letters from a senior to junior devil” who is called Wormwood. Wormwood has the responsibility of ensuring one man, “the patient”, does not become a Christian.

In one letter, he gives advice on what to do when the patient starts attending church.

“I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian. … There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the Enemy’s camp and are now with us. …
One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. …. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity …
“All your patient sees … is just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. … Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous. …
“You see, he has an idea of “Christians” in his mind which he supposes to be spiritual but which, in fact, is largely pictorial.”

Christ’s church is full of all sorts of people, different personalities, different temperaments, different backgrounds, different intellects, different ideas of common sense, different ways to dress, different ways to speak, different musical tastes, different wealth… I could go on. The point is, we rub along with them because Jesus calls to be one body.
But basic human nature rears its head every so often. Our prejudices show, no matter how we try. Sometimes it shows openly in arguments. More often, it is subtly in moaning and gossiping. Only the Holy Spirit can deal with this. We can’t do it alone.

It is not MY church. It is CHRIST’S church.

COLLECT 5th Easter
Risen Christ,
your wounds declare your love for the world
and the wonder of your risen life:
give us compassion and courage
to risk ourselves for those we serve,
to the glory of God the Father.

Reflection for Friday 13th 2022

Nigel Price

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Today I am leading a Quiet Day for a number of Mothers’ Union members across North Devon. The text is the story of Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well. You will find it in John 4.4-42. Today’s Gospel comes from a later Chapter.
John 14.1-6
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’5Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

A text very often used at funerals, a comforting text of reassurance – an insistence not to worry because there will always be a place for you.
The story about the Samaritan woman is quite remarkable. A man on his won would never talk to an unaccompanied woman and Jews just didn’t associate with Samaritans. A double reason for him just to pass by. But they enter into conversation, and as a result the woman becomes an evangelist to her own people, even before Jesus’ own disciples can spread the good news! The woman’s testimony brought her townsfolk back to the well, but it was the love that Jesus displayed which convinced them he was the saviour of the world.
You’ll be hearing a bit more about the love that Jesus had this Sunday, whether you are attending one of our churches, or if you listen on line.

And so we pray the Collect:
The Collect
Risen Christ,
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice
and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen

Reflection for Wednesday 11th May 2022

Jon Ellis

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Reflection Acts 12.24-13.5 Psalm 67 John 12 44-E Wednesday May 11

Acts 12
24 But the word of God continued to increase and spread.
25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.
1 ¶ In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
2 While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
4 ¶ The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.
5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

Can you sense the excitement in the church at Antioch! The word of God continues to increase and spread!

Barnabas and Saul have returned from their mission in Jerusalem, and have also brought John Mark. They were no doubt telling lots of stories of what they had seen and done in the name of the Lord. The church was buzzing. See the list of the names of the prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul. It shows the variety of their backgrounds.

They were worshipping and fasting so that they could hear the Holy Spirit speaking to them. They were sending out disciples. Laying hands on them so that the power of the God would be with them. And this was not just to go round their town and spread the good news of Jesus, it was to go on a journey across the sea to Cyprus.

As a new believer, I remember the times in joint activities with the Churches in Clay Cross, I would be so encouraged by meeting with believers that I had not known before, who were on fire with the love of Jesus. Do we still have that sense of excitement when we meet with other disciples of Jesus? I remember a woman coming to our church. She married a long-standing member of the church. He sold his house and they went out to Japan working as missionaries. I often quote him. He used to say, “We mustn’t be shy to use the ‘J’ word.” (Jesus). The stories I read about the organisations that work abroad, of people who give up jobs here and raise money to work far away from home, in a different culture and dangerous situations, are awe inspiring.

There are lots of ways that we serve God. There would have been many in Antioch who would not leave. Many who would be quietly working in the background, watching and praying for the disciples doing and seeing amazing things in the name of Jesus. We all have a part to play, but we must never lose that sense of excitement in what God is doing in our lives.

COLLECT 4th Easter
Risen Christ,
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice
and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father.

Reflection for Monday 9th May 2022

The Rev’d Penny Body

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Reflection 9th May 2022
The Gospel – John 10.1-10,
10‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

We have for our reading today perhaps one of the most well-known and loved passages in the gospels – and there is so much in it to ponder upon. However, I’m just going to take the very last sentence “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” to reflect on today.
Jesus’s wonderful amazing promise to us – that he came that we may have life. But what I wonder does abundant life mean to you?
We can have a very busy life – full of good works, friends, family, work we do domestically and to earn a living, hobbies and so on – this would give us a very full life – but is it life in all its fullness – as this verse is sometimes translated?
Then there is the saying that he or she “lived life to the full” – sometimes even used in the context of Jesus’s words. But sometimes this can just mean the person concerned lived a life full of excitement – of travel – fun and parties – and dare I say it sometimes rather exuberant indulgence in “wine, women and song”! But whilst such things can certainly be enjoyable – and holidays and rest are really important for our wellbeing – the test is whether these things leave us with a lasting sense of fulfilment – of peace or joy – or do the memories sometimes fade away leaving us feeling a bit empty?
The life – in all its abundance – fullness – that Jesus brings is special. It can be found nowhere else but in him. It can be difficult to describe in words – yet once experienced is known and recognised.
In Ignatian spirituality – as I am sure you have heard me say before – we are encouraged to “Choose Life” whenever faced with different courses of action, thought or word. And to discern Jesus’s life we are encouraged to reflect on how we feel. Does a particular scenario, in the future or the past, make us feel as if we are being drawn closer to God? Do we feel a sense of his deep peace? Perhaps his joy rising inside us like a spring of living water? Do we feel drawn to someone or something in compassion seeing with Jesus’s eyes for the poor, the broken hearted and the marginalised? Do we feel awed and awakened with an understanding of the beauty and complexity of his created world? Do we feel energised, enlivened, encouraged? Do we feel loved – and safe in the knowledge of God’s unconditional love for us? Are we flourishing like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field?
Or conversely do we feel drawn away from God, driven or distressed. Do we feel dry within? Perplexed, muddled, confused? Do we feel shut down or shut away? These things are the opposite of Jesus’s life and represent the death he saved us from.
Recognising this, and consciously turning our hearts, souls and minds back to him, trusting in and praying for his mercy and compassion will bring us back from darkness to light and life.
This is not to say that life ever can or will always be a bowl of cherries. Sometimes it is hard. Worries and anxieties come along. We – and people we love become ill. We lose people we love and grief can seem never ending. And yet even in these circumstances – if we can feel close to God, if we can feel his peace, his arms around us, his support to comfort us, then we can still live in his life.
Through his forgiveness, through restoring us into our relationship of love as children of our heavenly father, and through his teaching, and in the power of His Holy Spirit, Jesus enables us to live life abundantly – in him and through him.

The Collect for the 4th Sunday of Easter
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Friday 6th May 2022

Nigel Price

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Short and sweet today!
Psalm 117
Praise the Lord, all you Nations!
Extol him, all you peoples!
For great is his steadfast love towards us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!
The Psalmist only takes a few words to say what he thinks and believes. And his upbeat call is to us to join in praising God. God who never deserts us, whatever we do. God who always loves us for whom we are and whom he calls us to be. The unfailing God of compassion caring for his ever failing flock. There is just so much for us to be thankful for, so all that remains to be said is:
Praise the Lord!

And so we pray the Collect:
The Collect
Risen Christ,
you filled your disciples with boldness
and fresh hope:
strengthen us to proclaim your risen life
and fill us with your peace,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen

Reflection for Wednesday 4th May 2022

Jon Ellis

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Reflection Ecclesiastes 2 10-17

Ecclesiastes 2
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labour.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
12 ¶ Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king’s successor do than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realise that the same fate overtakes them both.
15 Then I thought in my heart, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?” I said in my heart, “This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!
17 ¶ So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Solomon was famed for his wisdom. The story of how he dealt with two women claiming to be the mother of the same baby is often quoted. He simply asked which one really loved the child, and which one just wanted it.
One of the most important gifts we can ask God to grant us is wisdom. People talk of common sense and that many people don’t seem to have it. Common sense is like wisdom. But wisdom is more. It implies thinking of others more than yourself. It also is about whether we are asking God when we make decisions, rather than simply looking at the world’s values.

Solomon sometimes put God first and sometimes he didn’t. He married many wives. It was the custom to have more than one wife, but he had hundreds! And he chose wives who were not Jewish. There was peace during his reign, but that was accomplished by political marriages. Solomon is famous for building the magnificent temple. So he could see the result of his great work.

But in Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes of how this has become meaningless. The peace of the kingdom must has contrasted at times with the conflicts of interest of his many wives. What do you do next after you have built such a magnificent temple? The reading is like someone having a midlife crisis. The point in our lives when we wonder what life is all for. What is the reason why we are here on earth? Going out every day to work to pay the bills. Having a loving family is wonderful, but why am I here? The catch phrase in the film, “What’s it all about, Alfie?”

Well… actually it’s all about God! That’s when it all makes sense. When I was forty, the Vicar in Clay Cross said to me, “You are talking about God, what are you going to do about it?” Two weeks later I was sitting in church, in tears, singing “Great is thy faithfulness”, and realising what Jesus has done for me by dying on the cross and being raised to life again. My life changed for ever.

We are here to be partners in God’s plan. I am not just here to live. I am not here to be a spectator. I am called to be a participator in what God is doing. Life is not all meaningless. We have a purpose! And, like Solomon marrying lots of foreign wives, it is not just to do what we think is right to bring peace, God may have a very different way that he wants to bring that about. It’s not about simply building, or maintaining, a wonderful temple, it’s what God wants us to do with that temple / church. Like Solomon, it is whether we continue to follow God’s leading, or not.

COLLECT 3rd Easter
Risen Christ,
you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope:
strengthen us to proclaim your risen life
and fill us with your peace,
to the glory of God the Father.

Special May Day Sunday Service at St Margaret’s

Sunday 1st May Special Morning Service with The Rt. Rev’d Jackie Searle, Bishop of Crediton and The Rev’d Roger Elks, to mark the 100th anniversary of the casting of the bells. Due to Covid, both the service and the peal were delayed by 2 years.

After the service a visiting team of Bell Ringers rang a full peal on the Church Bells.
5120 Bristol Surprise Major – R Baldwin
1 Simon E Adams
2 Richard Harrison
3 Christopher M Bennett
4 Brian P Diserens
5 Andy Mead
6 Andrew C Ogden
7 Andrew B Mills
8 Roy LeMarechal (C)