Reflection for Wednesday 16th June 2021

The Rev’d Roger Elks

Click here for the text of the reflection

Hello, no one likes a show off, do they? Do you know the story of the rather brash, shall we say, American, (why not?) Farmer who was wandering around Devon and came across an old farmer standing by his farm gate and he said, “Gee, fella, is this your farm?” He said, “Yes”. He said, “Well, how big is your farm?” He said, “Well”, he said, “you can just drive up that road there up to the hill, go on the top there and come back down that lane and your back here. That is my farm”. And the American said, “Gee, that’s a small farm. Back in America, you get in my car and you drive all day and you’re only halfway across the farm.” And the old farmer looked at him and said, “Well”, he said, “I used to have a car like that”.

Well, it’s nice to see someone who’s showing off being put down a bit, isn’t it? Jesus put down the Pharisees for showing off. Our reading is from Matthew, Chapter six, and let’s see if we can read it out.

Matthew 6. (NIV)

 ‘Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2 ‘So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

5 ‘And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 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 And forgive us our debts,

    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]

    but deliver us from the evil one.[b]”

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

16 ‘When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

I suppose when I’m preaching to a British audience, this is a passage that rings true to our hearts, isn’t it? We certainly don’t want to exhibit our faith very loudly. Faith is a very personal thing, and one of the problems with being British is that, whilst we find faith to be private, we find it so private that we have no words, no vocabulary to talk about it with others. We find, and certainly if you’re like me, you find demonstrative, very demonstrative faith rather difficult to deal with – like preachers on the street corners. I somehow find nothing to resonate with as they proclaim their faith rather loudly.

Yet when you look at the message that we believe, the resurrection of the dead, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life; when we look at the restoration of the human condition that that love of God brings, we have this radical counter-cultural message which, when put into practice, shouts to the world around us that is often in great conflict with it. And it’s a challenge to be quiet about it when we are asked to. It’s a challenge not to do the right thing and it is a challenge to others when we do do what our faith calls us to do because they see it. And that is a challenge to them. It’s a challenge not to say the things that God calls us to say, to speak out against injustice and other things. It’s not always possible, is it, to hide our Christian faith as much as we would like to be able to do that? So we are called, aren’t we, to do good works, we are called to do the good works that God’s prepared for us to walk in.

Peter writes 1 Peter 3v15. “But in your heart, revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect.”

So, yes, do the good works. Give alms to the poor. Be sure. Be a loud Christian, in your faith, not necessarily in your words. Don’t be ashamed of what you believe and stand by it. Someone is bound to ask you why you say and do that. What words will you say in response? Not to initiate, but to respond to the questions they ask about how we live our lives and that hope that we have within us? What will you say?

Well, if you find that a challenge, I’d love to help you. And maybe we’ll run a little course one day just to help us have some words to say, to help us verbalize our faith. That’ll be one day soon, I hope.

The Collect for this week.
Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth, send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the true bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you. Grant this for your only son, Jesus Christ sake, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Reflection for Tuesday 15th June 2021

Jon Ellis

Click here to read the Reflection

Reflection Matthew 5:43-End

43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’
44  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45  that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
47  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
48  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

REFLECTION

When Jesus says, “You’ve heard it said” he is using a rabbinic idiom in the word “say”. Amar means an interpretation of the scriptures and how to apply its laws to everyday life. So, Jesus is saying, others have interpreted the law this way, but I interpret in a different way.

In Deuteronomy 23, the Lord commanded his people not to be influenced by neighbouring nations with their worship of other Gods. In verse 6 it says, “Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live.”

But also in Exodus 23:4, it says “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.

Two different reasons to hate or love your enemy. It depends how you define “enemy”. Jesus calls us to be in the world, but not of the world. We must not be drawn into a way of life that is not Jesus’ way. That means keeping away from situations and the influence of people who live an ungodly life. But we need to care for those that need care whatever their beliefs and practices.

Then Jesus goes further, and as always gives practical examples. It is dead easy to love the lovely caring thoughtful people that we know. That’s not the point. The point is loving people who we don’t get on with, people that seem to be cheating us, people who make our life difficult, people whose personalities we find rub us up the wrong way, those whose views we do not agree with. These quotes from Jesus, help to show that it is not in our strength, but in His strength, that we can learn to appreciate other people’s differing views.

We live in a very insular part of Britain up in the ‘top left corner’ of Devon. You have to turn off the main holiday routes to get here. We don’t meet many people of other religions or ethnic backgrounds. When I visit London, it is so different, not just lots of people, but lots of varieties of people, languages and appearance. So very unlike North Devon! As Jesus says, it is easy to love people like us, the challenge is to REALLY love people who are different from us.

COLLECT
Faithful Creator,
whose mercy never fails:
deepen our faithfulness to you
and to your living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Reflection for Monday 14th June 2021

The Rev’d Derek Arnold

Click here to read the Reflection

READING Matthew 5.38-42
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

REFLECTION
The first part of the reading talks about retaliation and how to deal with it, and God’s purpose behind this law was an expression of mercy. The law was given to Judges who should not be too lenient or too harsh and it said, in effect, make the punishment fit the crime. It was not a guide for personal revenge.

When we are wronged, our natural desire is to get even. But Jesus says we should do good, and not do bad to those who hurt us. God never intended for his chosen people to be a people of hate, they are supposed to be a good example to the rest of the world, like the church is, or should be today. Jesus tells us that his people must act in a different manner.
God’s love embraces the entire world (John 3.16), and he loved each one of us even while we were still sinners and his enemies (Romans 5.8-10). Those who refuse to trust in God are not on his side; but he is on theirs. In the same way, we are not to be enemies of those who may be enemies to us. We may be their enemies, but they cannot be ours.
Jesus’ command for unrestricted love is grounded in our relationship to the Father, which demands a love that surpasses all conventional expectations. To bless and pray for those who persecute you is to align yourself with the character of Jesus. Evil for good is evil, good for good is human, and good for evil is divine.
The type of love that we are to have for our enemy is the same type of love that God has for us. We do not deserve God’s love and our enemies do not deserve ours. But how much impact does undeserved love have on the person who receives it. If you have a problem with someone, pray for them. It is hard to hate people that we pray for.

I suppose, one of the most common criticisms that Christians have thrown at them is that we do not live up to our faith. Even though some have a limited and often distorted idea of what the gospel is, they know enough about the teachings and life of Christ to realize that some followers who go by his name do not do all that he commanded and do not live as he lived. When we love and pray for our enemies, we reflect God’s nature in our words and actions and in them, those looking on, will see we are his disciples.
THE COLLECT
Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Reflection for Friday 11th June 2021

Click here to read the Reflection

DAILY REFLECTION 11 June 2021
READING John 15.12-17
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

REFLECTION
These few verses from John’s gospel are part of Jesus’ farewell speech, which he spoke to his followers not long before he went to the cross. Jesus is trying to prepare them, to live responsibly with God and with the world. He’s talking about loving one another, as he loves us.
So what is harder? Loving those we do not like, or loving those who do not like us? I guess most of us would be hard pressed to answer that question, and yet this week we may be required to do just that. It will be difficult but remember that Jesus loved us enough to give his very life for us.
And that is how the life of faith begins. With love. At first it is because we respond to the love of God through Jesus Christ, then we respond by loving God in return and finally that love is carried out into the world each and every day of our lives. How much better the world would be if all of the people who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ would truly act like it.
And if we profess to be Christians, if we say his life is truly in us and we are truly in him, then we do not have any option in this matter. Both at the beginning and at the end of this paragraph Jesus commanded to ‘love one another.’ But what kind of love are we talking about?
I believe Jesus’ to love one another is quite different. Jesus doesn’t just ask us, he commands us. Because real love, and that is God’s love, is a decision to act for the benefit of someone else no matter how you feel about them. And until we fully understand that there is no way we can even begin to obey our Lord’s command.
So how do we love those we do not like, or those who do not like us? Verse 9 says ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.’ There is the key. Love comes naturally and flows fully out of a heart that is itself conscious of being totally loved by the God that created us. When Jesus found it difficult, he didn’t simply grit his teeth and try to be nice. He reflected on how the Father had loved him, and he was strengthened by the fact that the Father cherished him. Jesus said that by your words and your actions, they will know you are my disciples.

THE COLLECT
O Lord, from whom all good things come:
grant to us your humble servants,
that by your holy inspiration
we may think those things that are good,
and by your merciful guiding may perform the same.
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Thursday 10th June 2021

Nigel Price

Click here to read the Reflection

Matthew 5:20-26 (NIV)
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ [Raca is an Aramaic term of contempt, similar to ‘stupid idiot’] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
Reflection
There is a line in the Holy Rule of Benedict, in the Chapter headed ‘The Tools for Good Works’ that says ‘If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.’ It is so easy for these things to fester, isn’t it? If you have a strong stomach, you can see it on BBC Parliament. One politician makes a gesture of contempt towards the opposition. Someone on the other side responds and the next thing there are dozen on their feet letting fly with insults. Crowds gather outside, rival supporters jeer at each other, then threaten each other. Bricks and stones start to fly through the air and maybe knives are drawn. Lives are at threat. Families of victims swear revenge. Is this how human life is supposed to be lived?
Jesus knew the same world – Romans, Jews, Samaritans all at each other’s throats. Occupiers and the occupied. And if we have a hard time at work, or at school, or in the shops, then the tendency is to bring it home and take it out on the ones we love.
Jesus shows us how we can be genuinely and gloriously human. The commandment to not murder was not to say that in your dispute with someone you should stop short of killing them, but that you should never even get near the thought of wishing them dead.
Of course, this is all easier said than done – some people can be truly annoying – but no-one said that this Christian life was easy, just better. So think about all the people that you have got angry with today or in the past week. Pray for them, think how you might make peace with them and as you go about your business tomorrow, resolve to be understanding of those who annoy you.

The Collect (Alternative)
God of truth,
help us to keep your law of love
and to walk in ways of wisdom,
that we may find true life in Jesus Christ your Son. Amen

Reflection for Wednesday 9th June 2021

The Rev’d Roger Elks

CLick here for the text of the reflection

Hello. I wonder who said ‘rules were meant to be broken’? I used to find it really hard to break the rules. My dad and mum instilled in me that rules were there for my benefit. I had a little bit of fear of going in the wrong. As I’ve got older, breaking rules has become a bit easier, although I still am somebody who finds rules helpful. There was once somebody who had written on the bottom of the page that quoted the Ten Commandments in one of the prayer books in a church, “Do not attempt more than one at a time”. And we often think of Christianity as rules, don’t we? Rules to be obeyed. So let’s read our passage from Matthew Chapter five, which talks about rules, all the rules that the Pharisees and scribes had written down. Matthew 5v17 to 20.

17 ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Pharisees were obsessed with the Law and some of the extra laws that they had written, laws upon laws, upon laws, and so many of the details seem absolutely ridiculous to us as we look at them. Jesus quips about them. “You strain the gnat, but swallow the camel”. It is a joke. We’re meant to laugh at that. But Jesus says here in this passage that all those rules and regulations that are in the Law, none of it will be reduced. None of it will be put aside. And in fact, he says, ‘You see these Pharisees and teachers of the Law obeying all the laws. Well, you’re going to have to do even better than that if you’re going to enter the kingdom of heaven by obeying the Law.’

Martin Luther was a very devout Catholic monk before he kicked off the Reformation in the 16th century, and he was very keen on obeying the rules and joined one of the strictest Augustinian orders of monks. But after trying to obey all the rules and regulations that his religion told him, he just felt empty. ‘There must be a different way’, he said here. I quote from his writings,

“But this blameless monk that I was, felt that before God, I was a sinner with an extremely troubled conscience. I couldn’t be sure that God was appeased by my satisfaction. I did not love, no rather, I hated that just God who punishes sinners in silence. If I did not blaspheme, then certainly I grumbled vehemently and I got angry at God. I said, ‘Isn’t it enough that we miserable sinners lost for all eternity because of original sin, are oppressed by every kind of calamity through the Ten Commandments? Why does God heap sorrow upon sorrow, through the Gospel, and through the Gospel, threaten us with his justice and his wrath.’ This is how I was raging wild and disturbed conscience. I constantly badgered St. Paul about that spot in Romans 1 and anxiously wanted to know what he meant,

Luther was talking about Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he talks about God’s justice. So there is Martin Luther struggling with this whole idea that he’s a sinner. How can he obey all these commands? And then he realized that if he could not achieve this, then it is up to God to achieve this.

So what are these rules for if God is going to forgive us anyway? Well, the rules that God has shown to us, the Ten Commandments being good examples of those, are to show us what God intends. They’re there as an example, as a standard. Paul writes, to the Romans (Romans 3v20) “Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the Law. Rather, through the Law, we become conscious of our sin.”

So rules are what we are aiming for. Now they’re going to be fulfilled in the next world, Jesus words, in our passage “until everything is accomplished” verse 18.

So you and I, well, we are meant to obey the rules, but we know that we can’t. We have all fallen short. We’re in good company. Paul writes again, Romans 3v23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. So there are the rules. They’re there to show us what God intends. They are signs. Signs that there is a right and a wrong and this world needs to know that, and so do you and I. But signs also that there is hope; hope that one day we will be in a place where the rules will be obeyed by everyone and that you and I will have the power to do that as well. Until then, let’s struggle on doing our best, knowing that the rules are signs of what God intends, signs of a new life to come, knowing that we are forgiven, we are human and fall short, by God’s grace and through Christ on the cross. Amen.

The collect for this day, oh, god, the strength of all who put their trust in you, mercifully, except our prayers and because through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without you. Grant us the help of your grace that in the keeping of your commandments, we may please you both will and deed, 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 June 8th 2021

Jon Ellis

Click here to read the Reflection

READING Mark 12:13-17

Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words.
They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?
Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”
They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.

REFLECTION

Religious leaders have a responsibility to check out anyone who they think may be masquerading as a follower but actually be a disruptive influence and spreading untruths. The Pharisees had very set rules on how to behave and what to think. So, it was understandable that they should regard Jesus as disturbing their authority. The Herodians also saw Jesus as a threat. They both tried various ways to trap Jesus into saying something that was blasphemous to their religion or anarchism to the Roman rule.

They have thought of a question that they think will be impossible for Jesus to answer. I suspect this particular debate would have been one that they had many times among themselves. If they truly served God, why should their money have to go to the hated Roman oppressors?

Jesus immediately knows what they are up to. Wisdom is a gift from God that we should greatly desire. Knowing what to say and do in difficult situations. Jesus doesn’t immediately answer back their “impossible” question. Do you watch the Impossible Quiz game on TV? One answer is right, one is wrong, one is impossible because it doesn’t fit the whole of the question. Of course, like all game shows, it is also who can answer quickest. Jesus shows us that it is not the wisest course to answer quickly. An arrow prayer is the best first response. Help, Lord! I don’t know what to say in this difficult situation. What do I say to this person who asks me about the injustices of life, and where is God is their suffering?

Well, Jesus has a practical view on the question that the Pharisees have asked. He calls on a visual aid to make the point. It is a point well made for us too. We cannot call ourselves Christians if we begrudge, or even try to evade, taxes and fines. We must be honest in all our dealings with other people, not just to the letter of the law, but also to the spirit of the law.

The Pharisees are amazed at Jesus because he gets right to the nub of the dilemma. He doesn’t skirt round it or try to bluff his way out. He lays bare the truth that they already know, but don’t like. They must pay their taxes. Not because the Romans will imprison them, not because the tax gathers will cheat them and ask for more than they should, but because it is the right thing to do. Next time we are feeling that something is unfair and why should we have to do it, this lesson is for us too.

COLLECT
Holy God,
faithful and unchanging:
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love,
that we may truly worship you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Reflection for Monday 7th June 2021

The Rev’d Penny Body

Click here to read the Reflection

Reflection 7th June 2021

The Gospel Matthew 5 verses 1 to 12

 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Reflection

The Beatitudes are some of the most well-known and most quoted verses in the bible and some of them are easier to understand than others.

Sometimes the meaning of particular words can have different connotations for different times and places. I will always remember someone I worked with many years ago saying she really wasn’t sure about “all this meekiness” in the gospels – and how could that be a good thing. She was being light-hearted – but the trouble is the word meek can sometimes be seen as meaning someone is ineffective or subservient. Perhaps we might think more about it in terms of being filled with the humility that enables us to know that without God we can do nothing – but that with him nothing is impossible, as we reflected a couple of weeks ago with the story of the young ruler.

Another element of the meaning of being meek is to be balanced between being excessive angry and being anger-less – in other words to be angry at the right time and circumstance. So this might mean to be righteously angry on behalf of others when we see an injustice – but not angry on our own account at every slight that might come our way – an idea quite different from my colleague’s understanding of “meekiness”.

Then sometimes the beatitude can be hard to understand because it’s really difficult to see, for example, how being poor in spirit, or in mourning could be blessed. It can feel counter-intuitive.

For most of our lives it’s not always so easy to know our deep need of God – to rely on him for absolutely everything – to offer him our humble and complete obedience. And yet – one of the times we come close to that realisation is when we reach rock bottom – when we are in the most abject pain of loss or despair and feel abandoned, lost, and realise our utter helplessness in the face of such grief and trouble. And paradoxically it is that very realisation from the depths, that enables us to reach out and up to God – to put our full trust in him to help us.

There’s a prayer sometimes used at the beginning of the funeral service which I think helps with this understanding …

Heavenly Father – you have not made us for darkness and death but for life with you for ever. Without you we have nothing to hope for – with you we have nothing to fear. Speak to us now in your words of eternal life. Lift us from anxiety and guilt to the light and peace of your presence and set the glory of your love before us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

So blessed indeed are the poor in spirit – theirs is the kingdom of heaven – they know their need of God and theirs is the kingdom of heaven where thy will is done on earth as it is in heaven. And blessed are those who mourn – for they shall be comforted. They will know God.

There is so much written and talked about the Beatitudes – I wonder what they mean to you?

For me, I think they are about living in God – in so far as it is humanly possible to do so. They are about leaving behind not the self of our unique gifts of talents, understanding and personality that make us who we are in God – but the self of resentments, pride, fears and wants that have nothing to do with God.

And then, how blessed to be able to walk through the portal of leaving our lives behind only to miraculously and joyously find new life in him – life that we couldn’t even imagine before.

How blessed to be at one with God – to know his will and to be able to enact it. To be truly meek – to hunger and thirst for righteousness as God himself so hungers. To be peacemakers – to be merciful – as he is merciful.

Lord, however we do so, may we come to know our deep need for you – may we put our whole trust in you – may we be obedient to you – may we see your glory – and may we find our home in you. Amen.

The Collect for the First Sunday of Trinity

O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in you, mercifully accept our prayers and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without you, grant us the help of your grace, that in the keeping of your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; 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 28th May 2021

The Rev’d Derek Arnold

Click here to read the Reflection

READING Mark 11.11-26
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

REFLECTION
In this passage, we have two unusual and different types of incidents, which are nevertheless related to one another. And they are the cursing of the fig tree and the clearing of the temple. Some might ask how? The cursing of the fig tree was an acted-out parable of the clearing of the temple. The temple was supposed to be a place of worship, but that sense of true worship was not evident anymore..
The fig tree showed some promise of fruit but did not produce any and Jesus was expressing his anger at a religious life without any substance. How often do we proclaim to have faith without putting it to work in our lives? Jesus is then saying well consider yourself a barren fig tree. Genuine faith has great potential to do wonderful things, but we need to ask God to help us bear good fruit for his kingdom.
Fig trees are a popular source of inexpensive food in Israel. It takes three years from the time they are planted until they can bear fruit. Each tree will yield a substantial crop twice a year, once in late spring and then another in early autumn.
The incident in our reading from Mark gospel occurred in the early spring fig season and the leaves were beginning to bud. The figs normally grow as the leaves fill out but this tree although full of leaves had no figs. One might say full of promise but sadly no fruit. Jesus’ harsh words against the fig tree could be applied to the nation of Israel. Fruitful in appearance only.
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. Jesus was angry, and there definitely is a place for righteous indignation. Christians should get upset when they see injustice especially if it perpetrated against those who are not in a position to defend or help themselves. In this case, Jesus was angry with those who had turned his house of prayer for all nations into a den of robbers.
Money changers and merchant made lots of money during Passover. Those who arrived from foreign places had to have their currency converted into the only currency accept in the temple to pay the tax and purchase animals for sacrifice. And obviously the exchange rate benefited the money changers and the merchants got rich off the high price of the animals.
What annoyed Jesus even more about these practices was that the stalls were set up in the Temple of the Gentiles, frustrating and causing a barrier to those non-Jews who had come to worship. We also need to be mindful that we too don’t create barriers to people wanting to come into our churches and worship.

THE COLLECT
O Lord, from whom all good things come:
grant to us your humble servants,
that by your holy inspiration
we may think those things that are good,
and by your merciful guiding may perform the same.
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Thursday 27th May 2021

Nigel Price

Click here to read the Reflection

On Monday we heard from Penny Body the story of the rich young man. He wanted to enter eternal life and follow Jesus, but given the chance he couldn’t do it. It seems he didn’t quite want to enough and he couldn’t let go of all he had. Today we approach from a different angle with the story of the blind beggar Bartimaeus, a man at the other end of the wealth spectrum. Let’s see what happens.

Mark 10:46-end (NRSV)
The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Reflection

We have probably all witnessed a person who has asked for help. Solutions are offered, but none are quite right – there, you see, I knew you couldn’t help me! Frustration all around, but actually the person didn’t want to be helped. They wanted to remain a perpetual victim.
The first question Jesus puts to Bartimaeus is, ‘What do you want me to do for you? – Do you want to give up begging? Do you want to live a different life? Do you want to stop sitting around at the roadside, blaming your troubles on all who pass by? In other words, do you want to be helped?
Bartimaeus does indeed want to change – let me see again, he says. Jesus acknowledges his faith – he knows that Bartimaeus has recognised him and called out for mercy. Bartimaeus knows that Jesus can help him, his faith is the key to his healing and at once he follows Jesus on the way – the way was the early Christian’s word for what we would understand as ‘Christianity’.
The contrast with the story of the rich young man is stark – I hadn’t before considered these two stories together. Of course, it is easier for someone who has nothing to give up everything, but that is not the point. What has to be given up is what gets in the way. The young man’s riches were his stumbling block. The blindness of Bartimaeus was what was keeping him on the roadside berating passers-by.
What is your stumbling block? And are you prepared to give it up?

The Collect
O Lord, from whom all good things come:
grant to us your humble servants,
that by your holy inspiration
we may think those things that are good,
and by your merciful guiding may perform the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen