Reflection for Tuesday 18th May 2021

Jon Ellis

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Acts 20:17-27
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.
When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.
I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.
“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.
Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men.
For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.”

Proclaiming the Gospel
Recently the Gospel reading has been Jesus telling his disciples that he is going to leave them but they are not to worry because the Holy Spirit to be with them. Now in Acts, we have Paul telling the leader of the church in Ephesus that he is going to leave them.

Jesus has told his disciples that they will do even greater things than he has done. This scene speaks of the reality of following Jesus. Paul is not boasting of all that he has done. Neither is he defending it. He simply states what it means to do what Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, has asked him to do. In humility he recounts the suffering and pain he has endured. This was a tearful scene. The leaders were seeing the outpouring of a man who had not hesitated to preach the Gospel wherever he went. In today’s language, he had shown no racial prejudice. His only concern was to bring people to Jesus. This was a man with a mission. Just like in the films, his mission, that he chose to accept, involved much danger, and whatever the difficulties, he would complete his mission.

But now his mission was to be even more dangerous. He was going to Jerusalem despite the knowing exactly what that would mean. Like all true film heroes, he was undeterred. The Holy Spirit had a mission for him and he was going to undertake it, whatever the consequences. His mission was to testify to God’s grace. And we know from all the accounts in Acts that Paul was witness to that fact.

He says that they will probably never see him again. As I said, his must have been a tearful meeting. This scene reminds us of the haunting images of people watching as their loved one went in an ambulance, alone, with the early signs of Covid-19, never seen again. That has certainly made us wary of this horrible disease.

But this is an uplifting account. The Holy Spirit’s presence in that meeting must have been so real to them all. Who are the people we know that the Holy Spirit is at work in? We know it because we can see it in their lives, their manner, everything about them. We remember those we have known who have left us to be with Jesus in heaven. We miss them but their lives inspire us to continue being a faithful witness to Jesus. Their wise words and humble caring attitude speak to us in all we do and say.
As the apostle Paul says:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

Risen, ascended Lord,
as we rejoice at your triumph,
fill your Church on earth with power and compassion,
that all who are estranged by sin
may find forgiveness and know your peace,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen 

Reflection for Monday 17th May 2021

The Rev’d Penny Body

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The Gospel John 16 verse 29-33
29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”
31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In the verses preceding our reading today, the disciples have had questions about what Jesus is telling them and they asked each other “what does he mean” – though they didn’t voice their questions to Jesus. But Jesus seeing what they wanted to ask answered their questions anyway. So then in verse 30, because the disciples see that Jesus knows their questions and answers them before they have even asked him, they believe that he really comes from God.
One of the questions we might ask ourselves in the light of this, is how do we feel about Jesus knowing our questions to him before we even ask them? Or indeed him knowing all the secrets of our hearts – as we pray in the prayer of preparation on Sundays – “Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden”.
If we were making a comparison with some of the monitoring and tracking we are increasingly subject to in daily life – with cookies on our computers, CCTV watching our movements and automatic number plate recognition cameras recording our journeys – some of us might be a bit worried. Others may feel in the oft spoken phrase “if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear”. But even with nothing particular to hide, some people would rather not be watched, preferring to live in privacy and with as full a freedom as a human being as possible. And part of this is because in the secular world we are never quite sure what the motivation is for monitoring us – is it for marketing purposes – or to track wrongdoers – or to provide better services – probably all these things – but it’s very easy for mission creep to develop.
How different it is when it is God doing the “knowing”. Because we know that his purpose is always love, we truly have nothing to fear from him knowing our questions before we ask them. We can be comforted and strengthened by Psalm 139 which begins of course “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me …” and continues to describe how God knit us together in our mothers wombs, and how there is nowhere we can go that is outside his loving gaze.
As Roger said in his reflection last week – there may be times when we are so upset we don’t know the words we need to pray – but because God knows – the Spirit himself prays within us. And the same will apply to times of joy and huge happiness – sometimes we just can’t put our feelings into words but God knows them and our hearts lift to him in praise and wonder. And sometimes, because God knows something that we are unable to put into words – he can help us to know it too and act accordingly.
But what if there is something we are ashamed of? What if there is something we would rather God didn’t know? Even then it is good that he does, because nothing is so awful that God will turn us away. And how amazing is it that even knowing exactly who we are, and what we might have done or be about to do, God still loves us unwaveringly and will lead us into repentance, forgiveness and peace?
In our reading today, Jesus goes on to tell the disciples what they will do after he is taken away – the time is coming he says … – something they do not yet know themselves. He tells them they will be scattered and will leave him all alone. Yet even knowing this, Jesus wants the disciples to know in advance that he already knows – that when the time comes they may be comforted because his father will be with him – that they may have peace and courage in knowing that He has overcome the world.
Our relationship with God depends on his knowing and our not hiding away from him. Anything less – the desire to live our lives in privacy – may be fine for an overbearing Big Brother – but would represent a sad separation from our heavenly Father – reminiscent of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they had partaken of the fruit. The separation that Jesus came and lived, and died, and rose again to bridge for us for ever.
So thank you Lord – that you know our questions before we even ask them – thank you that you know us more deeply than we know ourselves – thank you that in your presence we have no need for guile or deception – that you enable us to be ourselves and be transformed by your love. Amen.

The Collect for the Sunday after Ascension Day – the Seventh Sunday of Easter
O God the King of glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
we beseech you, leave us not comfortless,
but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us
and exalt us to the place where our Saviour Christ is gone before,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Reflection for Friday 14th May 2021

The Rev’d Derek Arnold

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The gospel reading from the principle service was the reading I dealt with last Sunday so I have used the gospel reading from the EP for the Daily Reflection for today.

READING Matthew 7.15-27
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“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. 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 in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
“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.”

There are those in the world today that believe that all roads lead to heaven. It doesn’t make any difference what or who you believe in, whether you follow the beliefs of the New Age Movement, or Spiritualism like Palm Readings, tarot cards, and Psychics. According to some, all roads lead to heaven.

Jesus however, never taught that. He is not one of those ‘all paths lead to the same God’ kind of person. As a matter of fact, He said that if eternal life is what you want, there is only one way to get there. You must follow the road, where you enter through the narrow gate. Belief in him, is the only way to heaven, because it was he alone died that for our sins, and made us right before God.

He also reminds us that it’s not always the easy road. It’s not always the popular choice. It’s not always without its difficulties and you may even suffer persecution at times. After all, even Jesus was mocked and ridiculed. Not only that, but Jesus said that your journey on the narrow road must begin with him.

‘Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”’. (John 14.6) In other words, he is the only way to the Father. (John 14.6) This same idea is taught in the beginnings of the early church and is recorded in the books of Acts. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12)

The world we live in says that there are many paths to life, but we believe there is only one path to God and that is through Jesus Christ. The world today says that to hold such a view is being narrow-minded, intolerant, bigoted, and fundamental. However, Jesus said that such a view is true, right, necessary, and essential. So whom are you going to believe? Only when you begin with Christ will you reach your desired destination

Not everyone who talks about heaven belongs to God’s kingdom. Jesus is more concerned about our walk than our talk. He wants us to do right rather than just say the right words. Our house, which Jesus talks about later in this passage, represents our lives and it will only withstand the storms of this world if we do what is right, instead of talking about it. If we think about it, what we do and how we act cannot be separated from what we believe.

In conclusion, on the day of judgement only our relationship with Christ, our acceptance of him as Saviour will matter. Many people think that if they are good people and say religious things they will be rewarded with eternal life. But in reality, when it comes to where you will spend eternity, only faith in Jesus Christ will count at the judgement? And we just need to check that we are on the right path?

Risen Christ,
by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples:
help your Church to obey your command
and draw the nations to the fire of your love,
to the glory of God the Father.

Reflection for Ascension Day Thursday 13th May 2021

Nigel Price

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Today is Ascension Day and it is the start of ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, an initiative of prayer from Ascension Day to Pentecost. Do please visit their website, mentioned at the end, and from which material for this special reflection is taken.
Prayer is the bedrock of Christianity and today I am going to introduce you to a Novena. A Novena is nine days of prayer that usually encourages us to pray with a particular intention. (Praying for other people is known as a prayer of intercession.) These nine days of prayer are sandwiched by reflections for Ascension Day and Pentecost Sunday to help you prepare and give thanks to God.
So in the days between Ascension and Pentecost, I would urge you to commit yourself to pray for friends and family to come to know the love, hope and peace found in Christ. This year, some of the psalms are used as a structure and guide for prayer and reflection, holding on to the thought that ‘God has willed to make himself known in the mystery of the psalms.’ [Thomas Merton, Praying the Psalms] In order to do this, you might like to think of each of the chosen psalms as a conversation, often with several voices. Usually, though not always, God is there. Then there are the human voices, the praise singers and complainants, the rested and the discouraged, the angry and the forgiving. And thirdly, there is your voice, silent or urgent. The question remains: whose are the many human voices that we hear in our chosen psalm, whether we recognize them as friends or foes, neighbours or strangers, people we pray for often or those we have never thought of praying for, praying for the greatest gift of them knowing Christ for themselves? Sometimes the conversation in a psalm is straightforward. At other times it may feel like a babble, with voices talking across or against each other. Our task – the discipline we might undertake during these days – is to carry out a kind of spiritual eavesdropping! As with any kind of ‘listening in’, we try not to analyse or jump to conclusions, simply wanting to be there, to be present with God, for the world. In particular, we may want to look for places in our daily psalm where we can hear the voice of our friend or family member. As we listen patiently, certain voices come to the fore while others fade. The task for us who pray the psalms is to hold the insistent voices in our hands, lift them up to God with tears or laughter and stay there until God bids us go. Each day, there will be a psalm, some text and a picture. The opening and closing days of Ascension and Pentecost are like bookends to the nine days of prayer in between, setting the theme and drawing it to a close. The picture does not illustrate the psalm, but may help enrich your prayer. Enjoy it, use it, or ignore it. But whatever you do, please do look at the website, details given at the end!

Psalm 47:5-7 (NIV)
5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.
We cannot know what the disciples thought when they saw Jesus ascending into heaven, though ‘What do we do now?’ might have featured prominently. Luke reminds us that their experience makes them ‘witnesses’, but they would have to wait until Pentecost when the Spirit descended. This wait was not passive, with life on hold. It was active and engaged: ‘they were continually in the temple blessing God.’ This brings us neatly to our psalm, which is a song of God’s people who have experienced the repeated power, triumph, and grace of God in caring for them. This is the song of the witnesses, and it does three things:
• it broadcasts the story of the wonderful acts of God;
• it invites those who hear to become part of that story;
• it calls on them to make a lot of noise about God.
At its heart, this is a reminder to us that our witnessing begins with worship which is full of heartfelt gratitude, and contagious and unrestrained joy. Such witnesses to the power of God do not hold back. The second point is easy to miss in modern translations of verse 7. ‘Sing to him a psalm of praise’ should read ‘sing praises with understanding’. Witnesses, Christians, are also called to the hard graft of thinking, of standing up for our faith in the face of apathy and opposition. Sing loudly, sing intelligently and pray
‘Come Holy Spirit’. Come, Holy Spirit, and fill us with overflowing joy;

The Collect for Ascension Day
Risen Christ,
you have raised our human nature to the throne of heaven:
help us to seek and serve you,
that we may join you at the Father’s side,
where you reign with the Spirit in glory, now and for ever. Amen
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Reflection for Wednesday 12th May 2021

The Rev’d Roger Elks

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Hello, welcome to the reflection for Wednesday, the 12th of May 2021. I live in Abbotsham, and one of the things that is a rare occurrence to see in Abbotsham is the postma. Not because he doesn’t come very often, but because he runs everywhere. He’s in and out of the close where I live very quickly and does it all in the run. He must be one of the fittest people about. A postman takes something from one place and delivers it to someone else. He brings stuff to us from other people. So when I think about a postman I think about the Holy Spirit who takes from God and brings to us. And that’s in our reading from John 16 verses, 12 to 15.

12 ‘I have much more to say to you, more  than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the  Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into  all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he  will speak only what he hears, and he will tell  you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me  because it is from me that he will receive  what he will make known to you. 15 All that  belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I  said the Spirit will receive from me what he  will make known to you.’

So one of the important roles of the Holy Spirit is communication; communication with God. Jesus says the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you. It’s like the postman. He brings us those messages from Jesus and reveals them to us and helps us to understand them. The Holy Spirit is essential in our listening to God, particularly when we read his Word and we reflect upon it. And Jesus says, sometimes the message is more than we can bear and the Holy Spirit, the comforter will support us as we hear those truths that Jesus speaks.

So the Holy Spirit’s role is in helping us to receive communications from God, but also the Holy Spirit helps us to communicate to God, to speak to him. And of course, sometimes that’s very difficult when we don’t have the words to say. Paul writes to the Romans, Romans 8v26 “In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans”.

I wonder if you’ve ever been in that place, in such a bad place, such an upset place, that you can’t find the words to pray. And yet the Holy Spirit within us brings forward just groans, which God himself understands and hears. Prayer is impossible without the Holy Spirit. It is not just a human activity; it is a spiritual and human activity. We pray to the Father in the name of the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So the Holy Spirit is essential in our relationship with God, isn’t He? He helps us hear communications from God, listening through the Spirit today. And He helps us to communicate to God; to speak to him even when we have no words to say. We all need help in our relationship with God. Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to us to do exactly that.

And so let us give thanks today for the Father, the Son and the Holy Post. Amen.

Our collect for today.

Risen Christ by the lakeside, you renewed your call to your disciples, help your church to obey your command and draw the nations to the fire of your love. To the glory of God, the Father. Amen.

Reflection for Tuesday 11th May 2021

Jon Ellis

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JOHN 16:5-11
“Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:
in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

The disciples are still bewildered and cannot understand where Jesus is going. Is he going another town, another country, and if so, why doesn’t he say where it is? And more importantly why is he leaving them? They have travelled a long way together. Jesus has taught them much and has said they will do great things:

John 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

But he has been talking about pruning.

John 15: 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

Maybe that sounds like he’s going to cut down the number of his followers. Perhaps he is going to test whether they are true followers. If he leaves them, they will see who that will be.

It is like the images we see of mother and father birds enticing or even pushing their fledgling offspring into flying. Or that time when teachers are heartened to see their protégés managing without help. Jesus is not going to be with them physically, but the Holy Spirit will. When I was a driving instructor, sometimes I would meet pupils I have taught and they would say, “I can still hear your voice when I am driving.” The disciples would still be able to hear Jesus’ voice when he was no longer with them, guiding, correcting, reminding them what he had taught them.

Jesus then talks about sin and righteousness and judgement. If the Holy Spirit is continually reminding us of sins that we haven’t allowed God to deal with in us, then it will stop us hearing the Holy Spirit’s voice. Jesus was telling the disciples that he was going to bear all our sins on the cross. By dying for us and rising again we can hear God’s voice in all our actions. We can turn to him for help. Jesus warns us the prince of this world is prowling round, but Satan is condemned and we are safe as long as we focus on Jesus.

Where would we be without the Holy Spirit!

Risen Christ,
by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples:
help your Church to obey your command
and draw the nations to the fire of your love,
to the glory of God the Father.

Reflection for Monday 10th May 2021

The Rev’d Penny Body

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Reflection 10th May 2021
The Gospel – John 15.26 to 16.4
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you …

In the first two verses of our gospel reading today Jesus tells the disciples about the ways people will learn about him when he is no longer with them in person. The first is through the testimony of the Holy Spirit, the second through the disciples testifying about him themselves.
The Holy Spirit, sent from God, works within us – deeply and mysteriously. When we feel an urge to pray, a hunger for God, a great peacefulness or joy – or a deep compassion and call for justice, it is the Holy Spirit working within us. When we hear about Jesus, read about him, listen to the words of the gospel – it is the Holy Spirit who confirms within us the truth of what we are hearing. When we wander, it is the Holy Spirit who brings us back, when we despair it is the Holy Spirit who comforts, when we sin it is the Holy Spirit who leads us into repentance and mediates God’s forgiveness.
The Holy Spirit is variously called the comforter, the advocate, the counsellor, the helper, the spirit of truth, wisdom, knowledge, understanding – the Spirit of Life – the Spirit of God and more. The Holy Spirit is our link with God our Father and God His Son Jesus and He leads us into all truth.
Though we see the evidence of the Holy Spirit around us in our lives and in creation, the most miraculous thing to me is that the Holy Spirit works from within, directly sent to us from God, and to hear his testimony we only need to turn our ear inwards and tune in to his presence.
Then we come to the disciples who are also to testify about Jesus – because they have been with him from the beginning. They have – from the very beginning of his public ministry travelled alongside him – listened to him – watched him – learned from him. They have been able to question him and discuss the meaning of what he is saying. They have had special access to explanations of the parables that Jesus gave them after they had withdrawn from the crowds and the public speaking and preaching. They knew everything that it was possible for human beings to know about Jesus through his constant presence and so they are in a unique position to be able to testify about him.
All these years later, we then have received the testimony about Jesus in both ways – from the Holy Spirit within – and from the testimony of the disciples through the gospels and their letters to the early churches – which of course the Holy Spirit has helped us to understand and has confirmed us in our belief.
So now we also may testify about Jesus with confidence and joy and continue in the footsteps of the apostles. We have spent many years listening and learning, in prayer and fellowship. We have been led by His Holy Spirit. We can testify about Jesus because we have personal knowledge and understanding of Him and because of what we see in the world around us and what we know, we want and need to testify and witness to His truth so that His kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven – and though we may face trouble – as Jesus warned his disciples at the time – we will have the confidence that comes from long experience and the strength of the Holy Spirit with us always.
To end
God is love: and He enfoldeth
all the world in one embrace;
with unfailing grasp He holdeth
every child of every race.
And when human hearts are breaking
under sorrow’s iron rod,
all the sorrow, all the aching,
wrings with pain the heart of God.

The Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

God our redeemer,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:
grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life,
so by his continual presence in us he may raise us to eternal joy;
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.

Reflection for Friday 7th May 2021

The Rev’d Derek Arnold

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READING John 15.12-27
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.

Which do you think is harder, loving people we don’t like, or loving those who don’t like us? I guess most of us would be hard pressed to answer that, and yet this week we may be required to do exactly that. It will be difficult, but if we are to love each other as Jesus loves us, then we need to remember that Jesus loved us enough to give his very life for us.
In the first few verses of this chapter, under the symbolism of the vine and its branches, Jesus has already revealed the fundamental secret of Christian living, out of which everything else flows. And that is, when he said, ‘You in me and I in you.’ If we profess to be Christians, if 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 we are commanded to ‘love one another.’
Some of us may have a problem with this statement. I mean, how can you command love? Surely, love is a feeling, isn’t it? Some people you love, and some people you don’t. And if you don’t like them surely you can’t make yourself love them. You can tolerate them, but you can’t love them, can you.
But the command of Jesus to love one another is quite different. It is put as a command because real love, God’s love, is a decision to act for the benefit of someone else no matter how you feel about them. And until we understand that there is no way we can even begin to obey our Lord’s command.
Have you ever considered how difficult it was, at times, for Jesus to love his disciples? They were people just like you and me! They could be stubborn, selfish, ambitious, often presumptuous people. They insulted him, ignored him, and disobeyed him at times. I am sure he didn’t always automatically feel the greatest of love for them.
When Jesus had difficulty loving his disciples he didn’t simply grit his teeth and try to be nice. He reflected on how the Father had loved him, how wonderful it was to be approved and loved by God. He was strengthened and steadied himself with the fact that the Father cherished him.
And when we struggle with loving somebody, when someone irritates us, and we do not feel like loving them, then think about, how much Christ’s love us. Think not only of the cross, but of his present dealings with us, how he cares for us, supports us, and acknowledges us as one of his own. You did not choose me, but I chose you. We just need to know that God loves us and out of that realization flows our love for others.

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

Reflection for Thursday 6th May 2021

Nigel Price

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John 15:9-11 (NIV)
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

These few verses are part of a long discourse by Jesus following a question from one of his disciples, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Yesterday we heard about the vine and the branches, tomorrow we will learn what Jesus commands – you will have to wait for that, there is no need for a spoiler alert! You will also have to wait until tomorrow to learn the results of the elections being held all around the country today.
As I have said many times before, it is dangerous plucking just a few verses out of the Bible and expecting to find a true meaning. At the heart of this short section, you need to bear in mind that the law – the commandments – were given to his people by God not to oppress but to give freedom; to give a framework by which the people could live and know that they would be loved. In other words, to help them, not to regulate them.
There is a great mutuality here – the Father loves me, and so I love you, with the implication that you will also love me – and the Father. If you have read the novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ you will see the clear contrast where the totalitarian ruler (Big Brother) commands his subjects to love him, when he has done nothing but oppress and terrify them. At the end of the book, when the hero eventually capitulates – ‘He loved Big Brother’ – then at that point you know that he has lost his humanity.
The command Jesus makes is nothing like that. The Father loves him, he loves us and ‘if you keep my commands, I will carry on loving you’. I think you probably know what the command is, but wait for the reveal tomorrow…

The Collect (additional)
Risen Christ,
your wounds declare your love for the world
and the wonder of your risen life:
give us compassion and courage
to risk ourselves for those we serve,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen

Reflection for Wednesday 5th May 2021

The Rev’d Roger Elks

Click here for the text of the reflection

Hello, I’m sure you know the saying birds of a feather stick together. Well, we all like to be around those who are like us, don’t we? We like to be with our sort of people. Now the question is, of course, what sort of people are we going to have to mix with in heaven? Are they all going to be like us? Our reading is from Acts Chapter 15, beginning verse one.

So the debate continued and you’ll hear more of that as the reading goes on, if you continue to follow it in Acts 15. So this is the big debate in the years of the church after Jesus death. You see Christianity started off as a Jewish sect, and so to become a Christian, you became a Jew and then you joined the Jewish sect called the Christians. And then the revelation came, particularly to St. Paul, that you don’t have to become a Jew in order to become a Christian; that actually you can be a Christian without being a Jew. And this was the big debate. This was the big challenge to the early church and read on in Acts 15 to find out how that was addressed by the apostles and the elders.

One of the problems with dealing with difference for all of us is that we put up barriers to others who are different from us. It can actually be unconscious bias. We’ve had unconscious bias training in the diocese recently – trying to understand that we ‘don’t know what we don’t know’ about ourselves. And our barriers to others who are different can be very subtle. And unfortunately, sometimes they can be very obvious to ourselves and to others. And this then moves into inequality and even racism.

Unfortunately, in putting up barriers to others, we can also be guilty of putting up barriers to the gospel. We add things to the gospel. We say in order to be saved, you must believe in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross and also believe …. It’s called ‘gospel plus’ theology. And we all do it. We need to be aware of what it is that we add onto the cross of Jesus Christ. Rather like the stereotypical old-style missionary where we go to foreign lands and we teach people to become British so that they then can understand the gospel and become Christians. And if you go to places that used to be in the British Empire, you’ll find churches that look very British indeed, because we exported our culture as well as our faith.

We are called by Jesus to see others as God sees them, not with our unconscious bias. Paul writes to the Galatians Galatians 3v28. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor there is male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus”. So our reflection today is exactly a reflection. Go and find a mirror and look at your reflection and say to yourself, “If I can be included in Christ, through the cross, then so can he or she or anyone else in the world. If I can be included. Then so can they. For we are all one in Christ.” Amen.

The collect for today, this is the week of the fifth Sunday of Easter.
Almighty God, who, through your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life, grant that as, by your grace, going before us to put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help, we may bring them to good effect through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God now and forever. Amen.