Women of Worth Reflection Monday 8th March 2021

Tamar – a Woman of Hope

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Monday 8th of March 2021: Tamar-a woman of hope
Bible Reading: Genesis 38 1-30
(Ruth 4:12 1 Chronicles 2:4)

Reflection:
Hello and welcome to a series of reflections this week that ponder on the lives of five biblical women chosen to celebrate International Women’s Day today. We hope we can all learn from the challenges they faced so many centuries ago, and become stronger, bolder, wiser, and more courageous ourselves.
Tamar’s story falls in the middle of the Genesis account of Joseph and his brothers. Tamar’s story is messy, but she is “a women of hope” .
Before you watch my reflections, I invite you to read the Bible passages and reflect on them yourself. “And when you pool your reflections with mine, we might find that, together, our insights become so much richer.”
You might like to pause the video now and do just that and read of Tamar in Genesis 38 1-30.
(Pause)
Tamar is passed as property from one man to another. At no point does Tamar have any choice or control. Her future is bleak as a childless widow. She has no social standing, nor the security of someone to care for her in her old age.

While emotional details are scarce, her story reveals a lot about her relationship with men who controlled her life. Tamar’s first husband is put to death by the Lord for wickedness. But being married to a wicked man and all the trials that come with such a marriage, was preferable to no marriage at all. And her father-in-law not only cheats her out of marriage but seems to have been a man of questionable morals. Tamar chose the disguise of a prostitute, implying she knew that Judah would be likely to use such services.
This is not a family anyone would choose to join willingly, but Tamar has few options so takes control of her own future through the only means she has. She has nothing to barter with, but her own body, and a capacity to bear children, so this is the way she provides herself with some security.
And yet this dysfunctional family is one that God has chosen to bless. Matthew’s Gospel recounts Jesus’s genealogies and there in verse 3 is Tamar.
She changes her life story from that of the desperate victim of circumstance to a woman who is praised for her righteousness by her family. Tamar’s story is difficult, but that is why it is so powerful.
The Bible does not edit out the difficult parts, just as we cannot edit out the painful, messy, and difficult parts of our lives. Because God is there in the difficulties, in the mess. He works through imperfect and flawed people like Tamar and her family, just as He works in our lives in both bad times as well as in the good.
It is easy to feel God with us and working through us when things are going well. But Tamar reminds us that he is also with us in the depths of our despair, in the lowest moments of our lives as well.

Tamar’s story does not belong in biblical times, she embodies the female experience of so many women around the world who live under oppressive political or social systems. But she also embodies that hope for us all, even in the worst times, God is with us and working through us.

A Prayer for International Women’s Day (8th March 2021)
God of all, God of hope,
we pray for women and girls today.
That they will be all they can be.
Give us courage to speak and work
for equality and justice.
Until the earth is filled
with righteousness and love.
Amen

!!Happy International Womens Day!!
I look forward to you joining us tomorrow when we will reflect on Rahab-a women of faith you can read about her in Joshua 2, 6.

Women of Worth Reflection for Friday 5th March 2021

Invitation – The Rev’d Sue Davies-Fletcher

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Friday 5th Reflection-Introduce series
Bible: Matthew 1:1-17
Hello everyone.
I would like to use today’s reflection time to invite you to join us next week for a series of daily video reflections to mark International Women’s Day next Monday.

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911. The campaign theme for this year is ‘Choose to Challenge’. “A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change.”

And so, we thought a series of short reflections, pondering on the lives of five biblical women would inspire us and challenge us all to act with the same boldness, courage, wisdom, integrity, and intelligence as they did.

If you would like to read ahead then on Monday, we will be joining Tamar-a woman of hope, Tuesday, Rahab-a woman of faith, Wednesday, Ruth-a woman of love, Thursday, Bathsheba-a woman who received unlimited grace, and on Friday we will close with Mary, mother of Jesus- a woman of obedience.
You may have noticed they are the five women that God chose to refer to in the list of Jesus’ ancestors in the Gospel of Matthew. (1:1-17) You may like to read that today or take time this weekend to look at the Bible readings for next week-there are at the end of this video.

I look forward to you joining us next week.
Have a lovely week-end
See you soon

Bible Readings for the week:
Day 1-Tamar, a woman of hope, Genesis 38:1-30
Day 2-Rahab, a woman of faith, Joshua 2, 6
Day 3-Ruth, a woman of love, Book of Ruth
Day 4-Bathsheba, a woman who received unlimited grace, 2 Samuel 11:3, 12:24
Day 5-Mary, Mother of Jesus, a woman of obedience, Luke 1:39-56

IWD Website, 2021

Reflection for Thursday 4th March 2021

Nigel Price

Click here to read the Reflection

Jeremiah 17:5-10 (NIV)
This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
“I the LORD search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.

Reflection
The readings for our daily reflections are taken from a ‘lectionary’. A generally accepted calendar of readings set by church authorities for each day. They usually include something from the Old Testament, something from the New Testament and a Psalm. The main advantages are that the pattern is designed to give a fuller understanding of the Bible and also the comfort in knowing that millions around the world are reflecting on the same passages on the same day. A feeling of ‘togetherness’. Usually we choose the Gospel reading for the day as maybe it is the Good News of Jesus that is most relevant to us today. But this day’s readings are all about the distinction between good and wicked people and from them I have chosen the passage from the prophet Jeremiah.
These days it is not always that easy to spot the difference between the good and the wicked, particularly when the wicked spread false stories announcing themselves as the good guys and blaming the ills on everyone else. It is easier perhaps to categorise people by male and female. Monday is International Women’s Day and the week leads up to Mothering Sunday. Tomorrow we have the World Day of Prayer – which used to be known as the Women’s World Day of Prayer. Now, I know I have the disadvantage of being a man who grew up in the world of the 1950s and 60s but it rather seems to me that in general women will aspire to joining men only institutions, feeling excluded, while men tend to shy away from anything that has ‘women’ in the title and try to re-name it before taking any interest. Perhaps it is a ‘macho’ thing. Perhaps because church leadership has been so dominated by men that women’s involvement is seen as a challenge.
So the Women’s World Day of Prayer has become the World Day of Prayer – possibly because it was difficult to encourage men to come along, or just because gender descriptions are seen as ‘bad’. Nevertheless this year it has been written by women as usual, and comes from Vanuatu.
The Mothers’ Union takes a very great interest in the World Day of Prayer and Mothering Sunday, being very much a supporter of family life. I am a proud member of that organisation as are many men, but we are in a minority. I am pleased there are no thoughts of changing the name, but I do wish more men would be ‘man enough’ to join!
As well as the World Day of Prayer, tomorrow also sees an introduction to a very special week for our Reflections. Do come back tomorrow to find out all about it!
And if you are able to, please do join us at 2.30pm tomorrow, Friday, for the very special service compiled by the women of Vanuatu. Details are on our website and appear magically on your screen now if you are watching this!
So we pray:
Collect (alternative)
Almighty God, by the prayer and discipline of Lent
may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings,
and by following in his Way come to share in his glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
To join The World Day of Prayer Service, Friday 5 March, link open from 2pm:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83361910625?pwd=OXlkM1l4ZXdVT2J6Z0hNNG5Ib3NDUT09

Meeting ID: 833 6191 0625
Passcode: 733988

Reflection for Wednesday 3rd March 2021

The Rev’d Roger Elks

Click here for the text of the sermon

We all know the image of Captain Sir Tom Moore, who passed away recently and has been celebrated around the country as, maybe, one of the great men of our time. We know, don’t we, of the lives of great women and men of our time? They are inspirational. They are interesting. Shakespeare wrote, didn’t he, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”. Well, our passage from Matthew 20 is about an understanding of what greatness really is.

17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!’

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favour of him.

21 ‘What is it you want?’ he asked.

She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’

22 ‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’

‘We can,’ they answered.

23 Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.’

24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

Are you ambitious? I think secretly I am very ambitious and I think one of my problems is that I’m just not pushy enough to be honest about it. But people who know me know that I am. And of course, when I got to midlife in my 50s, it became a bit of a challenge because greatness had not been my lot. I was not born great. My dad was just a civil servant, not a senior one. I did not achieve greatness. I never really got that great invention that I wanted to change the world with and become very rich. And I certainly didn’t have greatness thrust upon me. I was not in the right place at the right time. And no one yet has discovered my internet preaching prowess and has asked me to work for a great salary to bring these reflections to the world.

We think greatness is something to do with comparison to others. Great people are better, higher, more important than others. They are great men and women because we are not great. I’m sure Captain Sir Tom Moore didn’t want to be greater than anyone else, he just wanted his life to be significant. And I think that’s something we all share, isn’t it? We don’t want to be great, but we do want to be significant.

Jesus says that significance is possible for us all. This form of greatness is not being greater than others, but great in God’s eyes not in the world’s eyes. Worldly greatness usually looks down on others. As Jesus says, the Gentiles rulers ‘lord it over them’; too easy for those in charge to do that.

But in Jesus’ kingdom, we find significance and greatness through service. And not everyone will see this, but nothing will go unnoticed by our Lord.

Greatness may not be within our grasp today, but greatness through service will. There are opportunities that you and I have in our very hands this day. So let’s use the greatness that God offers to serve others and to serve him.

Almighty God, by the prayer and discipline of  Lent may we enter into the mystery of  Christ’s sufferings, and by following in his  Way come to share in his glory; through  Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Amen.

Reflection for Tuesday 2nd March 2021

Jon Ellis

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REFLECTION MATTHEW 23 1-12 March 2nd

1 ¶ Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.
3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach.
4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;
6 they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;
7 they love to be greeted in the market-places and to have men call them ‘Rabbi’.
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.
9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father’, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.
10 Nor are you to be called ‘teacher’, for you have one Teacher, the Christ.
11 The greatest among you will be your servant.
12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

LOOK OUT FOR FALSE TEACHERS!
Jesus addresses large crowds and teaches his disciples about what will happen next.

“There will be fake news! You will hear from conspiracy theorists. People will trick you into doubting what I have said is true. They will claim that I am a fraud and a trouble maker. That I don’t follow the Law. They will make rules for you that turn people against me.
And worse of all, it will be the spiritual leaders that you follow. It will be the priests and the those who sit in the highest places of worship, who tell you what is right and what you must religiously follow and obey. You think you must do what they tell you to, but how can you follow these people?
They make up extra laws to put extra burdens on you and yet they don’t lift a finger to help you when you need it. Look at them! Think of all the extra laws they have added! How many do you have to dutifully do that are on top of Moses’ laws? Everything to make you feel inferior and them more important. What a fuss they make of being more religious than anyone else. Look at how decorated are their robes, showy long scarves, and impressive places of worship!

I tell you, my disciples, this is what really matters. You are all brothers and there is only one Master, God! He is the one and only Father and he is in heaven, not sitting here with these hypocrites.
And that’s why you won’t be calling yourselves priests or teachers. You believe in me. The only teacher is me, Jesus, and I am telling you that if you think you are better than others, forget it! Think yourself special? You’re not.
Only God is special. Not the leaders, not you. I tell you the only way to live, what is the most important thing. It is to humble yourself. That’s the only way. Then, and only then, you will be exalted in God’s sight.”

Wow! What a message! He is here right now talking to us, and making no bones about telling us the truth. This is our Lord, Jesus Christ. Listen up!

COLLECT
Almighty God,
by the prayer and discipline of Lent
may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings,
and by following in his Way
come to share in his glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Reflection for Monday 1st March 2021

The Rev’d Penny Body

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Reflection 1st March 2021
The Gospel Luke chapter 6 verses 36 to 38
36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Reflection
Amongst other uses, Collins online dictionary defines mercy as being where someone in authority chooses not to harm someone they have power over, or they forgive someone they have the right to punish. On another site I read that mercy and grace are two sides of the same coin “Grace is a gift we don’t deserve, while mercy is not getting the punishment we do deserve”. Put like that, I feel so thankful for the merciful nature of God – and see why mercy is at the heart of the Christian understanding of life with Christ.
I found two news stories about people who have been arrested for shop lifting which I think illustrate the idea of mercy well. In the first, a woman living in a temporary accommodation stole two ready meals from a shop. When the police officer went to arrest her he found the two empty packets and the woman told him she had stolen them because she was awaiting a crisis loan and she and her boyfriend were very hungry. The newspaper article says “taking pity on her the officer bought her a food parcel”. She was still arrested and taken to court, but given a conditional discharge and told to pay back the money. She could not shirk the judgement of the court, but the judgement of the police officer was to have mercy.
In the second story, an unemployed shoplifter was given a food voucher by the police as he was released after admitting stealing. The man, who had spent his benefits on vet bills for his dog, said “I was given a caution and well and truly learnt my lesson. As I was leaving a sergeant beckoned me and said, “We don’t often give these out, but take this please”. It was a voucher for a food bank which I redeemed the next day. I apologise for my actions and am thankful we have such kind people working in the force”. A police spokesperson said “the arrested man made an honest and frank disclosure and handed the stolen food back straight away”. However, the scheme of police officers being able to give food vouchers to those they felt were in genuine need was later suspended as the police and crime commissioner ordered a review and said it was “absolutely not acceptable that criminals should appear to be rewarded” and the chairman of a nearby residents association said “this is ridiculous … it is encouraging people to shoplift … I wouldn’t want something I had given to be given to a criminal”.
In both cases, the judgement of the law of the land was upheld, and those who had stolen the food were held accountable for their actions, but in both cases the people were shown mercy by the police. However, in the second story – we see that others in positions of power adopted a more judgemental approach. Offering mercy is a choice.
God is merciful. When he could rightly condemn us, he offers us his grace and shows us his generous, compassionate mercy and forgives us. And as we pray always – he forgives us as we forgive those who trespass against us.
The gospel tells us to be merciful, just as our father is merciful. Not to judge or condemn and we will not be judged or condemned and to forgive and we shall be forgiven. That in the measure that we give, we shall receive.
The passage fits with our gospel last Monday about offering mercy to the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the prisoner and the stranger and as a result being judged mercifully ourselves by God.
So, being a follower of Jesus is to be merciful. And in so being, we shall have mercy shown to us. But, I hope, not in a transactional “quid pro quo” kind of way, but because we are so aware of the grace and mercy shown to us by God that we cannot help but let it overflow into our relationships and dealings with others.
And when faced with a situation, in which we might have right on our side, we can choose to leave aside our rights, and offer mercy instead. Without expecting someone not to be accountable for their actions, as in the stories earlier, we can choose not to judge the person, remembering that there but for the grace of God go we.
The secular saying – what goes around, come around – of which the Russian equivalent is apparently “as the call, so the echo” – seems to reflect our gospel reading today. Imagine, if all that flowed around the world was justice, mercy and peace – how would the God’s echo change the world? His kingdom would be made manifest in mercy. Amen.

The Collect for St David’s Day
Almighty God,
who called your servant David
to be a faithful and wise steward of your mysteries for the people of Wales:
in your mercy, grant that,
following his purity of life and zeal for the gospel of Christ,
we may with him receive the crown of everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Friday 26th February

The Rev’d Sandra Juniper

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Hello… unusually I am drawn to the Psalm in today’s reading and not the gospel. By way of explanation: Psalms of Ascent are (a collection of 15 psalms (120-134)) are songs that were often sung by pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem journeying up to worship at annual festivals. As God’s people traversed the dirt roads and winding paths to the city, these psalms would fill their lips and act as prayers to tune their hearts for hope filled worship.

READING Psalm 130
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

REFLECTION
There are times in all of our lives where finding our hope in Christ seems like a fruitless endeavour – or at best, a wrestling match where we can never quite grasp the hope we so desperately long for. Our prayers crumble under the weight of our guilt and we don’t know how to climb out of the hole we find ourselves in.
This psalm opens with a desperate cry for the Lord to have mercy. Crying from the depths can feel like your insides are turning outward and your entire being groans audibly for the Lord to show favour and grace on your distress. Instead of remaining in despair by dwelling on personal failures, that psalmist looks upward.
No one could stand before God if He marked our sins – that is just what verse 3 is saying. God designed it that way but in Him there is forgiveness; by the shed blood of Christ on our behalf, the chasm between us and God caused by sin can be closed. Hope is the answer.
Our hope lies in God. A hope so our deep in our very being it is sacred.
This hope will start to dawn for us as a watchman awaits the sunrise, seeing a glimmer of light at the break of dawn and increasing more and more each moment he waits.
However, our hope is more than that of the watchman – for our hope rests not in everyday occurrences like the sun rising – enjoyed by all men righteous and wicked. No, our hope rests in the grace poured out to those in Christ. Hope or acceptance by a holy God, a new life here on earth and eternal life enjoying God’s presence in heaven.
Hope will start to dawn in our lives as the gospel takes root in our hearts.
(from Luke 1:78) When Jesus, the Sunrise from on high, visits you with God’s tender mercy you will know the joy unspeakable that comes from having His abundant redemption applied to your soul. Our past record has been destroyed! Our sins and lawless deeds He remembers no more! Honour Him. Love Him, Praise Him. God wants you for yourself. Confess you sins, repent and turn to Christ. Have you done it?
Did you know that He has redeemed you from all your sins? Yes, He Can!
There is forgiveness with the Lord.
I wonder if you have come across this nugget of information. On a night before August 1,1830 the slaves of the British West Indies never went to bed. They stayed awake because at daybreak, they would be set free from their slavery. Tens of thousands of them went to their places of worship and spent the night signing praises to God, waiting for the first glimmer of daylight. Just before dawn, they sent some onto the tops of hills, so they could signal the others that day had broken. Out of the depths of the horrors of slavery, when daylight came, they would taste the joys of freedom (In Spurgeons, Treasury, 7:80-81)
May this first psalm take you from the darkness of depression the feelings of guilt of things left undone to the dawning of a new day filled with the love and grace of our Lord Jesus and the warmth of the Holy Spirit spreading from the inside out radiating as the sun upon each person you meet.

THE COLLECT (alternative)
Heavenly Father,
Your Son battled with the powers of darkness,
And grew closer to you in the desert.
Help us to use these days to grow in wisdom and prayer
That we may witness to your saving love
In Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Reflection for Thursday 25th February 2021

Nigel Price

Click here to read the Reflection

Today the reading comes from the Book of Esther, Chapter 14. So the first test for you is have a look at your Bible, see if you can find Esther (here’s a clue; it’s before Job which is immediately before the Psalms). But Esther finishes at Chapter 10! So how do we get to Chapter 14? Perhaps there is a misprint in the lectionary? Well we have to delve into the Apocrypha where we find Additions to Esther. Your Bible might have the Apocrypha, sandwiched between Old and New Testaments, although most will not. So you may have to rely on my reading.


Esther 14:1-5, 12-14 (NRSV)
Then Queen Esther, seized with deadly anxiety, fled to the Lord. She took off her splendid apparel and put on the garments of distress and mourning, and instead of costly perfumes she covered her head with ashes and dung, and she utterly humbled her body; every part that she loved to adorn she covered with her tangled hair. She prayed to the Lord God of Israel, and said: “O my Lord, you only are our king; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, for my danger is in my hand. Ever since I was born I have heard in the tribe of my family that you, O Lord, took Israel out of all the nations, and our ancestors from among all their forebears, for an everlasting inheritance, and that you did for them all that you promised.
Remember, O Lord; make yourself known in this time of our affliction, and give me courage, O King of the gods and Master of all dominion! Put eloquent speech in my mouth before the lion, and turn his heart to hate the man who is fighting against us, so that there may be an end of him and those who agree with him. But save us by your hand, and help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, O Lord.


Reflection
We’re going to have to delve into the dictionary a bit today! First, what is this thing called the Apocrypha that I have read from? The dictionary says that it is ‘those books … not accepted as canonical by Jews or Protestants’. So fast forward through the dictionary to canonical and we see that it is ‘orthodox or accepted’. It brings to mind another word – heresy, or heretic. Let’s look at that before we put the dictionary away. ‘belief contrary to the authorised teaching … an opinion opposed to the usual or conventional belief’. That makes me think of one of the monks at Alton Abbey. Unfortunately he died before I got to know him, but one of the phrases he often came up with was ‘I love a good heretic!’
Because being heretical is not always a bad thing; sometimes it is our mission to challenge accepted ideas. Jesus did a lot of that. What we have to do is be true to God, not to man’s idea of what God is about.
Anyway, let’s have a look at Esther now. Esther was a beautiful Jewish girl, raised by her cousin Mordecai after her parents had died. She became Queen to King Xerxes, but had to share his attention with hundreds of other women. When Mordecai and in consequence the whole Jewish nation was threatened with death by the evil king’s adviser Haman, Esther acted with cunning to save her kinfolk. To this day the Feast of Purim is traced back to these events by the Jews.
In the section of the story we have heard today, Esther prays to God. Having learnt of the plot against Mordecai, she spent three days in prayer, humbling herself, casting aside all the attributes of her Queenly status and throwing herself upon the mercy of God for inspiration to save both her cousin and her whole race. She promised her cousin that she would act, but she knows that she cannot do it by herself; she needs the support of God.
As we find ourselves in the midst of Lent with a National lockdown, we also need to throw ourselves on the mercy of God. Our freedoms will return but now is the time to humble ourselves, listen to God and be prepared to challenge the accepted norms.
So we pray:
Collect (alternative)
Heavenly Father,
your Son battled with the powers of darkness,
and grew closer to you in the desert:
help us to use these days to grow
in wisdom and prayer that we may witness to
your saving love in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reflection for Wednesday 24th February 2021

The Rev’d Roger Elks

Click here to read the text of the reflection

20210224 Roger.mp3

When I was frightened as a little boy, watching a film, or scared and I was watching with my mum, my mum would say, “Well, it’s only a story”. And we probably said that to children as well, to reassure them, “Don’t be afraid. It’s only a story”. But we, when we’re small, really believe things that we take literally. Then, of course, I think of Victor Meldrew, ‘One foot in the grave’ star and his catchphrase, “I don’t believe it”. And of course, he didn’t believe it because it was all going wrong. Well, let’s have a look at two stories that Jesus mentions in this reading of Luke from Luke 11 29

Luke 11:29-32 New International Version

29 As the crowds increased,  Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It  asks for a sign, but none will be given it  except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah  was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the  Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The  Queen of the South will rise at the judgment  with the people of this generation and  condemn them, for she came from the ends  of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom;  and now something greater than Solomon is  here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at  the judgment with this generation and  condemn it, for they repented at the  preaching of Jonah; and now something  greater than Jonah is here.

So here are two stories from the Old Testament that Jesus mentions and his hearers would have recognised them. The great story of Jonah, which we’ve all heard in Sunday school, about being swallowed by a whale or a large fish for three days. But actually, the main part of the book of Jonah is the story of God calling Jonah to go and preach to Nineveh and tell the Ninevites to repent. And he doesn’t do that, which is why he gets distracted by the whale. But he does eventually go and they do repent from their evil ways. And the second story is the story of the arrival of the Queen of Sheba, which is a great musical piece, isn’t it, by Handel. But the queen came to visit Solomon because she’s heard of his wisdom. 1 Kings 10, a great story to read.

Stories – things that may or may not be real. As soon as something happens, it becomes a story and we have to listen to someone else’s account of it. And we can start doubting, can’t we? Rather like those who might try and doubt the Holocaust happened. That’s called Holocaust denial. And that’s why it’s so important, particularly for those who are survivors and the families and survivors, to keep telling the stories because the stories are not just made up, they are based on real events.

Why do we tune out stories that we don’t want to hear? We tune them out because they can have an effect on today. They can actually change today if they’re true. And sometimes the stories that we hear, the stories on the news about the suffering and injustices in the world threaten our choices and our freedom to self-determination. And therefore we dismiss them. We say perhaps they aren’t true. I’ve had lots of conversations with people who perhaps don’t want to believe in Jesus, because if they did, they would have to change their lives. Jesus challenges his hearers here. ‘You want proof of who I am? A sign? You’ve had more than enough proof because you have the stories. You have the stories of the Ninevites listening to Jonah and of the Queen of Sheba. You’ve had enough evidence in the scriptures and in the stories that you’ve known for when you were growing up. And something greater is here, but you refuse to recognise it.’.

What we read in Scripture are not just stories. We are called to act, to repent, to stop doing what God tells us not to do. We’re called, as was the Queen of Sheba, to seek wisdom, not to stop doing something, but to know what is the right thing to do. These stories are God’s messages to us. So what are we to do with the evidence that is before us? ‘It’s only a story’, said my mother to me. ‘You don’t have to be worried about it’. Well, there is truth in the stories that we have, and they do demand us to respond to them with our minds and our hearts and our lives.

Almighty God, whose son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness and was tempted, as we are yet without sin, give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit. That, as you know, our weakness, so we may know your power to save through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Reflection for Tuesday 23rd February 2021

Jon Ellis

Click here to read the Reflection

Reflection Matthew 6: 7-15 Tues 23 February
7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 ¶ “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Reflection
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray.
It was the tradition that rabbis would have a unique prayer that their followers would use. In Luke 11 verse one, they ask for a method of praying, ‘just as John taught his disciples.’ They were wanting more than some tips on how to pray. They were asking for a statement of faith.
Jesus gives them a creed, in a form that was we see repeated three centuries later in the Council of Nicaea. It is gives us a guide in how to live our lives as Christians. It is good to use it regularly and the First Century Didache instructed Christians to use it three times a day. This is not the same as reciting it without thought. Many of us find prayer difficult. We are too busy and we find silence uncomfortable. The Lord’s Prayer helps us to overcome these difficulties by giving us a framework.

Our Father starts us thinking about our relationship with God and our families.
Hallowed be your name moves us into worship.
Your kingdom come gives us opportunity to pray for problem situations, people, places.
Give us this day our daily bread helps us to think about our needs.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us is a call to repent of wrong thoughts and actions, whilst also reminding us that though the cross, God has forgiven us, so must forgive others.
For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory focus us on the awe and majesty of God

It is often good to pause at the end of each line and add specific prayers.
In this prayer we have covered everything. Then it is up to us to live it out!

Maybe Lent in 2021 is the time to start using the Lord’s Prayer in a more structured pattern to our days. The lockdown has certainly given us time to reflect on the way we live. Would reciting the Lord’s Prayer three times a day at say 9am, 12nn and 6pm make us pause and think more carefully about what we are doing in each part of the day?
I am now going to say the Lord’s Prayer and few seconds between each line.

Our Father in heaven…
Hallowed be your name…
Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…
Give us this day our daily bread…
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us…
For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory…
Now and for ever, Amen

Collect
Heavenly Father,
your Son battled with the powers of darkness,
and grew closer to you in the desert:
help us to use these days to grow in wisdom and prayer
that we may witness to your saving love
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen