Reflection for Thursday 2nd November 2021

Nigel Price

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Matthew 7.21,24-27 (NIV)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Reflection

We were away last weekend and so we missed the wind and storms that battered Appledore. But it was with mixed feelings – we were pleased to have been somewhere where the weather was kinder, but we were a little concerned about how our house was standing up to the gales. For a moment we thought of contacting neighbours for a report; maybe in this technological age we should have a security camera set up so we can observe from anywhere. But those thoughts were quickly dismissed because there would be nothing we could do.  Far better to not know, pray, and hope that all was well when we returned.  In the event, apart from the electricity having tripped out at some point, all was well!

Jesus was talking about building strong foundations based on his words.  Those who did not take him seriously would find their faith crashing about them like the house built on sand.  Scripture is one of the components of our foundations and I pray that these short daily reflections will help you to become more familiar with the words of God.

The invitation to Holy Communion can sometimes include these words ‘Come to this table, not because you are strong but because you are weak. Come not because you love the Lord a lot but because you love Him a little and would like to love him more.’  May these words help to strengthen your own foundations as you continue learning.

So we pray:

The Collect from Advent Sunday (alternative)

Almighty God,
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin to the light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you in our Lord and Saviour,
Jesus Christ. Amen

Reflection for Tuesday 30th November 2021

Jon Ellis

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Isaiah 52
7 ¶ How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.
9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the
salvation of our God.

REFLECTION
I don’t about you, but I immediately thought of the hymn Mission Praise 192. The words are taken almost exactly from this passage from Isaiah. That is one reason why it is so good to sing hymns.

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him, Who brings good news, good news,
Proclaiming peace, announcing news of happiness, Our God reigns, our God reigns.

You watchmen lift your voices joyfully as one, Shout for your King, your King.
See eye to eye the Lord restoring Zion: Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Waste places of Jerusalem break forth with joy, We are redeemed, redeemed.
The Lord has saved and comforted His people: Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Ends of the earth, see the salvation of your God, Jesus is Lord, is Lord.
Before the nations He has bared His holy arm: Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Our God reigns, Our God reigns, Our God reigns, our God reigns!

How many more hymns can you think of that are taken so closely from a Bible verse? Here are some.

Amazing Grace
(John 9:25) ” He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!””

Great Is Thy Faithfulness
(Genesis 8:22) ” “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
(Lamentations 3:22-23) ” Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

O For A Thousand Tongues
(Isaiah 42:18) ” “Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see!”

Seek Ye First The Kingdom Of God
(Matthew 6:33) ” But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Hymns are such a good way to help us learn Bible verses. Words of comfort and hope, words to express our troubles, words to rejoice and sing aloud our praise to the Lord our God!

COLLECT
Almighty God,
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin to the
light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

Reflection for Monday 29th November

The Rev’d Penny Body

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Reflection 29th November 2021

I’ve chosen the Old Testament reading for today …

Isaiah 2.1-5

2The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 In days to come
   the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
   and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3   Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
   to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
   and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
   and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more.

5 O house of Jacob,
   come, let us walk
   in the light of the Lord!

Reflection

Yesterday was Advent Sunday and so today I’d like to offer you some prayer and a short meditation as a way to begin this season of Advent. Half way through, I will invite you to turn off the light where you are, to sit in the darkness and pause the video or close your eyes as you spend some moments in contemplation – and you may also like to have a candle ready to light at the end, as a symbol of Jesus, the light of the world for whom we wait.

We start by praying one of the bidding prayers for an Advent service of light …

As we enter, eager and expectant, into this solemn season of Advent, looking forward to the birth of the Christ child, let us renew in ourselves that vision of God’s perfect kingdom which is the end of all our strivings and the consummation of God’s loving purposes for us.

In sorrow and penitence we confess our failures and shortcomings, and seek pardon for those sins which frustrate his redemptive purposes and hinder the advent of his reign of love.

So in prayer, praise and song do we give voice to the hope set forth in the scriptures, that his kingdom shall come; and, as we prepare for that day to dawn upon us from on high, so we commend ourselves and the whole human family to his keeping.

May he guide us into the way of peace, give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, and kindle in us the fire of his love.

Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

So with the themes of the coming of God’s kingdom and his light coming into the darkness, of repentance for our sin and contemplation of the darkness of the world and Isaiah’s words encouraging us to walk in the light of the Lord, for the next part of our reflection, you might want to sit in darkness, as we listen to a reflective prayer from Joyce Rupp…

In this sacred season, we remember and celebrate the gift of Divine Love who leapt from the Holy Womb into the heart of humanity. This loving presence became for us a source of hope, compassion and courage. This Love Incarnate came as a light radiating compassion, a Torch bearing truth, a Beacon offering guidance.

As we welcome this light we begin in the dark. Be attentive to darkness. Recognise that some darkness is good and nurturing. The Christ was nurtured in a womb of darkness and came forth from this blessed darkness to be a light for us. Other darkness is destructive and bleeds love from the world. It is the darkness of war, racism, hatred, greed, and all non-loving in whatever form it takes. The Christ came to stand up to this destructive darkness and to light our paths with goodness.

So now we pause as we reflect on the darkness in our world as we sit without light. When you are ready, begin again, as we read words of light.

Pause …

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness
on them light has shined (Isa 9.2)

O House of Jacob, come let us walk in the light of the Lord! (Isa 2.5)

If you have a candle, please light it now if you would like to, as we pray …

May the light of our candles be a reminder of the divine radiance of Christ who dwells within us. And as we carry these candles may we walk with hope and confidence in the power of God to dispel all destructive darkness.

The Alternative Collect for Advent Sunday
Almighty God,
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin to the light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

Reflection for Friday 26th November 2021

The Rev’d Derek Arnold

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READING Luke 21.29-33

Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

THE REFLECTION

This is called the lesson of the fig tree and it sits right in the heart of his words to the disciples about his return and a bit later in the passage about how they should keep a constant watch for his return. And although, over 2,000 years have passed since he spoke those words, their truth remains: Christ is coming again, and we need to be watchful and be spiritually fit, living our lives at all times, in such a way that we see the signs and are ready when he returns.

But how can we possibly do this, when our lives are filled to the brim and overflowing with all sorts of things?

We have responsibilities to certain things and certain people and they rely on us. We have obligations and we don’t want to let people down and we worry about things. We worry about our health, especially with the pandemic lurking close by. We worry about family, how to pay the bills, our jobs, the church, and the world. Some people don’t even feel safe in their own communities or in public places. And I guess we all worry about the safety of own children.

There are also those that live in constant fear of tornados, earthquakes, floods, and other devastating events. I guess there is a greater sense of fear lurking in our minds as we live out our lives today.

However, rather than being terrified by what is happening in our world, we should confidently await Christ’s return to bring justice and restoration to his people. Jesus doesn’t just want to leave us at the stage of fear about the anxieties of life. Because if we do that, we will not be able to think straight and that day will come and will not be ready. Be prepared and you will not be caught out.

No matter where we are in our spiritual journey, no matter how mature we are in our faith, this world and all that we encounter each day, will challenge us and our faith. All of us still have much room for growth. Every day we must find ways to draw closer to Christ, then we will be prepared to stand for truth in any and all circumstances.

Let the assurances of Jesus help us to rise above the fearfulness of this world. And as we journey ever closer to the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and remember his promise to come again, take time out and slow down for Reflection. Live a ready life, so that you won’t have to get ready.

THE COLLECT
God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.

Reflection for Thursday 25th November 2021

Nigel Price

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Something a little different today. The Old Testament reading is the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. Read it in Chapter 6, verses 12 to the end. But I have found a poetry version.
Daniel In The Lion’s Den
There once was a king in Babylon,
who had an adviser he counted on.
Daniel was his name,
no other was the same,
most honest and most wise,
he didn’t cheat the king with lies.

Other advisers wanted him dead.
They put an idea in the king’s head,
no man should pray to anyone but you,
if their loyalty is really true.
The king declared, “So, let it be,
do not pray to anyone but me!
If any man should disobey,
feed him to the lions that day!”

They knew that Daniel would continue to pray,
to his Living God three times each day.
Daniel still prayed, as they knew he would.
They ran to the king as fast as they could,
“Daniel has not obeyed what you said,
now, to the lions, he must be fed.
We will throw him in the lion’s den,
that will end all of his prayers then!”

So, into the lion’s den Daniel was thrown,
for the faith in God that he had shown.
God’s love was faithful, kind and true,
like always, God knew just what to do.
God sent an angel to Daniel’s side,
those lions could not eat him if they tried.
The angel closed their mouths up tight,
the hungry lions could not take a bite.

Next morning Daniel was brought out,
the king himself, was heard to shout,
“Daniel’s God is the Living God!” He lives,
and God’s protection from harm He gives,
to all who will follow Him this day,
and live by the words He has to say.
© PennyB

Reflection
This is also the commemoration of St Catherine. By tradition, she was from a royal family but protested against the persecution of Christians. The Emperor brought in 50 philosophers to convince her the error of her ways, but after a long debate some of them were actually converted to Christ. However, all were put to death because they had failed to silence Catherine. Refusing a proposal of marriage, Catherine was thrown into gaol and promptly converted all the prisoners and gaolers. The Emperor was so furious she was tied to a spiked wheel (yes, she is the Catherine of the Catherine Wheel firework) and when the wheel broke she was beheaded. She became the patron saint of girls, students and nurses.

Darius, the king in our story, seems well-intentioned but weak. Officially he has absolute power, but he is easily manipulated by his scheming and bullying advisors because of his weakness for flattery. The king is clearly fond of Daniel, but is tricked into throwing him into the lion’s den. But of course Daniel miraculously escapes because of his faith.

This story brought great comfort and inspiration to the early Christians who faced persecution. And in some medieval Muslim traditions Daniel’s resistance to oppressive power is prominent. More recently Mahatma Gandhi cited Daniel as an example of ‘satyagraha’, the essence of his nonviolent resistance to the rule of the British Empire.

It is possible to resist the ways of the world without resorting to violence. At the moment the Mothers’ Union is taking part in 16 days of activism against gender-based violence and one of the most powerful protests will be just to stand in a line with every third person having a purple scarf over their mouth or eyes. Silence can actually speak volumes. Nonviolence can bring about change.
So we pray:

The Collect from Christ the King (alternative)
God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory. Amen

Reflection for Tuesday 23rd November 2021

Jon Ellis

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Reflection Luke 21 5-11 Daniel 2 31-45 23 Nov
Luke 21
5 ¶ Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said,
6 “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”
7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”
8 He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.
9 When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”
10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

REFLECTION

The disciples, are admiring the beautiful stones of the temple. Jesus, on the other hand, tells them the startling fact that it does matter how beautiful was, not one stone will be left. They will all be thrown down. He foretells wars, nations against nations. All sorts of horrors: earthquakes, famines, pestilence. Great signs from heaven. It sounds very like the warnings that we are hearing now, but Jesus then says that they should not be frightened. The kingdom of heaven on earth is stronger than any nation.

The reading from Luke is related to today’s second reading from Daniel chapter 2: 31-45.
King Nebuchadnezzar was having dreams, and the Bible says that they troubled him. So much so, that he asks if anyone can tell him what they are all about! The astrologers couldn’t. But Arioch, the Commander of the King’s Guard, suggested Nebuchadnezzar ask Daniel to interpret the dreams. Daniel said that no man could, but God can.

It was a vision of the future of the nations that would successively rule the kingdoms of the earth.

  1. The head of gold signified the Chaldean empire, as was then.
  2. The breast and arms of silver signified the empire of the Medes and Persians.
  3. The belly and thighs of brass signified the Grecian empire, founded by Alexander.
  4. The legs and feet of iron signified the Roman empire.

Do we have dreams like this about the future? Which kingdoms are going to rule the earth? These days we are all much more aware of what it happening in the world than when we were young.

What we can be clear about is that whatever happens, Jesus’ kingdom and his return are above all the earthly events around us. The temple is not as important as the cornerstone, on which it is built. Jesus is the cornerstone. He will reign not only to the end of time, but when time and days are no more.

COLLECT Christ the King
God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory. Amen

Reflection for Monday 22nd November 2021

The Rev’d Penny Body

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Reflection 21st November 2021

The Gospel Luke 21.1-4

21 He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’

Reflection

This short passage gets right to the heart of the act of giving. It is not the actual amount that is important – but the manner in which it is given and what the gift represents to the person who is giving.

We probably all think it is fair that we pay our taxes on a sliding scale – those who have less income pay less tax and vice versa. The other side of the coin is given here, where the value of the widow’s contribution is magnified enormously because it represented so much of what she had – indeed it was all she had to live on. She has offered everything – as Jesus offered everything to us.

We have just passed Remembrance Sunday when we remember the gift of countless lives of people who gave their “everything” for others.  And Jesus also says in John’s gospel “Greater love has no man than that he lays down his life for his friends”.

Our giving takes many forms. We may give money towards the ministry of the church or a charity whose work is close to our hearts; give a donation of food to the food bank for a hungry family, or perhaps we may give the gift of a listening ear or a compassionate word, or maybe a practical gift of a cooked meal or lift to an appointment when someone is poorly.

Whether the gift be small or large, the generosity of a loving and compassionate heart comes both from the joy of giving itself – of being able to freely share and give back the gifts we ourselves have been given – and as the response to the need we see before us – mirroring the love and compassion we have received from our Father. And the sacrificial nature of our giving is interesting – because the more joy with which we give, the less we feel the sacrifice as anything other than something we have been glad to give.

The bible tells us in the Old Testament and the New that our gifts should be given generously and freely – from a place of love – and without any grudging – and that such generosity is blessed by God. We are only able to give at all because God first gave everything we have to us – and our giving is one way of acknowledging that and sharing all that he has given us – generously and with love. Amen.

The Collect for Christ the King, the Sunday before Advent

Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Friday 19th November 2021

The Rev’d Derek Arnold

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DAILY REFLECTION 19 November 2021

READING Luke 19.45-48 (Jesus at the Temple)
When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

THE REFLECTION
This passage of scripture is traditionally called the ‘The cleansing of the Temple’ and that is exactly what happened. Jesus comes to cast his critical eye over what the Jews have made of their very special relationship with God. And sadly, for him, he finds much that needs cleaning up and plenty of grime and rubbish that needs removing.
Thereafter, many of the episodes that follow in chapter 20 are on the surface attempts by the Jews to entrap Jesus. However, each time, whatever it is, Jesus turned it around to expose them. The faults, and evils of their traditional, distorted, religion are mercilessly revealed.
In fact, in this passage, we question, who were these “leaders among the people” in verse 47? It was a group that probably included the wealthy, leaders in politics, commerce and law and they had several reasons to want Jesus dead or maybe just silenced in some way.
He had damaged business in the temple by driving out the merchants. In addition he was preaching against injustice, and his teaching often favoured the poor over the rich. Furthermore, his popularity was in danger of attracting Roman attention and the leaders of the Israelites wanted as little to do with Rome as possible.
The evils that had accumulated in Judaism at the time of Jesus are not peculiar to the temple Jesus exposed them in all areas of their daily living. We may all find that as Jesus enters our own temples’ and inspect our faith and life, that there are things that need to be thoroughly cleaned out of it.

THE COLLECT
Heavenly Lord,
you long for the world’s salvation:
stir us from apathy,
restrain us from excess
and revive in us new hope
that all creation will one day be healed
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Reflection for Thursday 18th November 2021

Nigel Price

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Today we celebrate St Elizabeth of Hungary, and as I am sure you know by now, I never pass up the opportunity to talk about the saint of the day! At the age of four she was sent off by her father, King of Hungary, for an intended political marriage. She married at the age of ten and by all accounts it was a happy marriage and she bore three children. She was much influenced by the Franciscans, developing a reputation for charity and she gave away much money in founding hospitals and providing for orphans. But when her husband died of the plague she was forced out of court. Now aged just seventeen she renounced all her goods and became a Franciscan Tertiary, spending her days caring for the sick and the poor. She was only 24 when she died.
The reading is taken from the Common of the Saints and is just three verses from the letter to the Hebrews.

Hebrews 13.1-3 (NIV)
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Reflection

In the Greek, the word Philadelphia is used for brotherly love. It appears in four other places in the New Testament, but the root word adelphos is used many times in the Acts of the Apostles and other Epistles. This is another of those very short passages that packs in a great deal of meaning in just a few words.
What does it mean for us today? It is certainly something we should aspire to. For a start we do not look on the world with disdain, keeping ourselves at a distance. Even in these days of Covid sensitivity we can radiate an engaging warmth as we walk amongst people.
Further, this ‘brotherly’ love insists that we love each other despite our differences. The phrase that comes to mind time and time again is to be able to ‘disagree well’. That is to say we can love and accept others, even when they take different views to ourselves.
It is a parallel to the love that Jesus had for the suffering of the world – our acceptance into the family of God through the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.
Paul goes on to urge us to show hospitality to strangers. The word used for ‘forget’ has its root in meaning to ‘escape notice, to be hidden or forgotten’. It is so easy for us to fail to love the unusual, those of strange cultures who display unfamiliar behaviour. We can become embarrassed and unsure of ourselves in such surroundings, but when we engage and draw in people who are not like us, what a unique blessing it can bring into our lives.
Paul then talks about another category of person; the prisoner. Embarrassing for another reason – who wants to associate with those who have transgressed. But we need to stand alongside the outcasts, discover why they are imprisoned for that is the way to establish why they are there and how they may be guided back into society with the knowledge of God’s love for all.
This is quite a tall order and it calls for us to put ourselves into some rather uncomfortable circumstances, but our calling is to spread the Gospel and that can only be done by living it out in our own lives.
So we pray:

The Collect
Lord God,
who taught Elizabeth of Hungary
to recognize and reverence Christ in the poor of this world:
by her example strengthen us to love and serve the afflicted and the needy
and so to honour your Son,
the servant king,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Tuesday 16th November 2021

Jon Ellis

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Reflection Matthew 7 13-29 Nov 16
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
15 ¶ “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
16 By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.
21 ¶ “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’
23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching,
29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

REFLECTION
Who do you think of when Jesus says beware of false prophets? People who claim to the new Messiah? The ones who walk on the high street with billboards strapped to their back and front, declaring the “End is Near”? The preachers who draw huge crowds and claim to cure people but arrive in posh cars or helicopters and ask for donations? These are the obvious people we see, whose message does not match their lives and how they live.

Or, is it people who proclaim a different version of the Bible, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses? We had a letter through the post from Jehovah’s Witnesses recently. During the pandemic they moved to that instead of door knocking. We cannot fault their commitment to proclaiming their version of the Bible.

However, Jesus adds the warning that false prophets come in sheep’s clothing. So are the people we think of first, not the only false prophets we need to be wary of? The ones we need to watch for are much nearer to home! I remember one time we had someone come to our church in Derbyshire who seemed very plausible. A keen follower of Jesus who had lots of Bible knowledge. But there was something about him that did not ring true. The world calls that intuition, the Bible calls it wisdom and discernment. Then there was the man who came to church with a very plausible story of need. He was careful to target couples after the service. We spotted him quite quickly and later found out he was doing the rounds of all the churches.

Jesus is talking about the people we meet. One of the illustrations in a Bible study was of two people who were married to non-members of a house group, who were telling the group how God was telling them to leave their present partner and live with the fellow house group member. We have Jesus’ words, God’s answers to our prayers, the Bible, and also the wisdom of fellow Christians. All these are important sources in our Christian walk. But we also need discernment when listening to fellow Christians. They are not always a reliable source!

Jesus gives the striking examples of those who build their houses on sand and are washed away in any storm, compared with those who build on a solid foundation. Of course, that solid foundation is Jesus. He is always right. Every passage in the Bible that is a quotation from Jesus is full of wisdom and truth. And not always the truth that we like to hear.
How often do we read that Jesus’ response to a question, is, another question? In other words, we know what we should do, it just needs his prompting question, to direct us back on the to “narrow road that leads to life”. (V2)

COLLECT

Heavenly Lord,
you long for the world’s salvation:
stir us from apathy,
restrain us from excess
and revive in us new hope
that all creation will one day be healed
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen