Reflection for Wednesday 25th November 2020

The Rev’d Roger Elks

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Hello, welcome to the reflection for this Wednesday in November. I’ve going to talk this this morning about persecution. I wonder if you’ve ever had experience of persecution? I hope not. Maybe we can remember back to school when we felt persecuted or bullied, maybe because we were in a minority. And being a minority is probably a good place to start if we’re looking for persecution, not that you would be. Maybe you felt a little bit persecuted by others over the more recent years of different political debates. And it seems the more extreme that one feels one’s views are politically, the more one attracts persecution. Most of us are probably comfortable just in the middle ground, not necessarily because it’s where we believe we should be, but it’s just the place that avoids that sort of persecution and angst with others. Well, the Christian church cannot avoid being persecuted.

And Jesus warned the church of this and our reading from Luke 21 just explain some of Jesus words for us. Jesus has been talking about the end times and then he says, this is Luke 21, verse 12,

12 ‘But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

Luke’s gospel was probably written about 85 A.D., and you have to remember that Nero really started the serious persecution of Christians around 64 A.D. after the great fire of Rome. And then Emperor Damation, who was the emperor at this time of writing, also continued that persecution of Christians and Jews. There were laws against being a Christian, and you can actually be taxed just for being a Jew. And Christians were put to death because of their faith. So it’s not surprising, is it, that Christian texts written in that period focus quite a lot on persecution, talking to the church of that day, reminding them of Jesus’ words and predictions, but words of hope as well.

Persecution is a bit like health, isn’t it? We take it for granted until it turns up, we take our freedom for granted until it is taken away from us, just like our health. Until something happens, we think we’re going to be alright forever. But it is true that the church suffers and it is suffering today in many parts of the world. And we here in comfortable North Devon just take our freedom for granted, don’t we? And yet part of us is suffering. In Paul’s fantastic exposition of the church being a body of many parts joined together in Christ, he says this in one Corinthians, 12v26. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.”

And there is large parts of the Christian church around the world that are suffering, and you and I need to engage in that suffering somehow as well. One of the ways of doing that is being connected with some of the organizations that support and provide resources about the persecuted church.

And I’m going to share, if I can, my screen with you to help you to understand. This is a website by an organization called Open Doors and Opendoorsuk.org, and it’s an organization that’s been running for many years and really gives wonderful information, difficult information to read, but how to get involved in the persecuted church. And there’s a little map here that shows in different colors where the church is being persecuted. And you can see the top five places, North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan. And you can look by country, by country. You can get resources, you can offer to help in whatever ways they allow. And certainly you can pray and be involved. The Barnabas Trust is another organization; Barnabas the encourager.

So we’re called as Christians to have empathy, that’s just not sympathy, which is being part of the suffering, but empathy, putting ourselves in the place of others, feeling their pain with them, caring and being part of it, hearing the stories that are hard to hear and to read, entering into the discomfort of the part of the church that is suffering, to the suffer with it. Verse 19 of Luke 21 says to the Christians in the face of persecution to “stand firm”. And we are to stand firm as a church. We stand firm with our brothers and sisters in North Korea and those other parts of the world. Let’s give thanks for the freedom and the privileges that you and I enjoy and take for granted. And let’s enter into the knowledge, the prayers, the life, the suffering of others.

We’re going to pray our Collect it in a few moments. And when we close our eyes in prayer, if you do, one of the things that we pray for is that when we open our eyes, the world is a different place, not just because God has changed the world through our prayers, but because he has changed our vision. We can see things in a new way. We can begin to see things, see the world, as God sees it, as Jesus calls us to see it.

And again, back to this text of Luke, 21, he calls the church not to worry. (v14), but to have wisdom (v15), the wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit.

So let’s close our eyes and let’s pray.

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reflection for Tuesday 24th November 2020

Jon Ellis

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Reflection Luke 21 5-11

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.

            CHRIST HAS DIED – CHRIST IS RISEN – CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN

1-6. And as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with considerable stones and gifts, Jesus said, “As for these things which you behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
This was literally true of the temple at Jerusalem.
 It is also true of all earthly buildings and of all earthly things.
 However firm they appear to be, as though they might outlast the centuries themselves, yet the things which are seen are temporal, and like the unfounded substance of a vision, they will all melt into thin air, and pass away.
 “The things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

7. And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?

Those questions are always being asked, they are being asked today about Christ’s second coming.
They shall have no answer, for Christ himself assures us that, as the Son of man, he did not know the day nor the hour of his own coming. Excitement – Messiah – Roman occupation
 As the Son of God he knew all things; but as a man like ourselves, he was willing to be a know-nothing upon that point.

8. And he said, “Beware that you are not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ’s; and the time draws near: go ye not therefore after them.”

This passage refers, in the first place, to the siege of Jerusalem and in its second and yet fuller meaning, to the coming of the Lord.
 It looks to me that our Lord regarded the destruction of Jerusalem as “the beginning of the end,” the kind of anticipation of all that will take place when he himself shall stand in the latter day upon the earth.
 And, as before the destruction of Jerusalem there were many false Christs, so will there be the more of them the nearer the end of the world shall be.
 This will be to us one of the signs of our Lord’s coming appearance, but we should not be deceived:
 “Take heed that you are not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draws near: go ye not therefore after them.”

9. But when you will hear of wars and commotions don’t be terrified; for these things must first come to pass; but the end will not come right away.

Everywhere throughout the Scriptures there is this double message of our Lord, — “Watch, for I may come at any moment.

Jesus says, “Expect me to come, and to come soon; yet never be terrified as though the time were immediately at hand, for there are certain events which must occur before my advent.” Children being made frightened of Climate Change.

I do not know how to resolve these two thoughts
We are to be partly watching and part patiently waiting and working till Christ appears.

10, 11. Then he said to them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and great earthquakes shall be in diverse places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great sights shall there be from heaven.
But you say, “All this we have had, times without number; yet Christ has not come.
” Just so, for these signs are not sent for us to puzzle over, but to keep us always on the watch; and whenever we mark these earthquakes, and wars, and famines, and pestilences, then are we to think, “Jesus Christ will come again!,” and watch the more intently.
 You know how it is when someone is very sick.
 They say that he cannot last long; you call many times, yet he is still living, do you therefore conclude that he will not die?

No, you know the time will come.       So is it with Christ’s second coming
When some of the signs appear, but he does not come, all this is to keep us still on the alert watching for him.
When Jesus spoke to his disciples, he said it so they expected him to come at once, yet he also added words about their persecution from which they might realise that he would not come straight away.

How Bold are we?

At a service last year, when a congregation member read a prayer about giving more than sweets to Halloween door knockers, it got me thinking. We get quite a few.

I printed a sheet of little strips saying “Jesus is the light of the world” with a little heart shape and I wrapped them round each sweet. It felt really positive knowing that I was giving them more than just a sweet.

Knowing that God will give us words and wisdom, what is he calling you to do?

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. Amen

Reflection for Monday 23rd November 2020

The Rev’d Derek Arnold

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READING Luke 21.1-4 (NIV)

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

REFLECTION

In our reflection for today, we are dealing with just a few sentences from Luke’s gospel, but it still has much to teach us living in more modern times. Jesus was in the area of the court of women. The Treasury was located there or in an adjoining walkway in this area. There were seven boxes in which the worshippers could deposit their temple tax and then further 6 boxes for the freewill offerings that the widow gave.

As a poor widow, this woman had few resources or opportunities to make money, so the small amount she gave was truly a sacrifice, but she gave it willingly.

This passage follows Jesus’ warning about the religious leaders who walked around in flowing robes and loved to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats, whether it was in the synagogues or at a banquet was in direct contrast to the poor widow. Her total devotion, which no-one but Jesus would have realised, is the exact opposite of the Jewish religious leader’s way of living out there faith, all show, and no heart.

The widow gave all she had to live on, in contrast to the way most of us handle our money today. When we consider giving a certain percentage of our income a great accomplishment, we resemble those who gave ‘out of their wealth’.

In this passage, Jesus was admiring the generous and sacrificial giving of the poor widow, and in general. As believers, we should consider our giving, whether of money, time, or talents, in a sacrificial way rather than something to make us look good..

THE COLLECT (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.

Reflection for Friday 20th November 2020

The Rev’d Sandra Juniper

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Reflection 20 November 2020 –

Luke 19:45-48  – JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLE

45When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling.
46″It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”
47Every 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.
48Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words

When most of us think of Jesus, a number of pictures come to our minds.  We might think of Jesus blessing little children, washing the feet of the Disciples, or healing the sick.   Palm Sunday often seems the most baffling of all.  If all the lovely hosannas and palms and Jesus riding into town on a peace-loving donkey make you wonder how they could crucify Him by the end of the week, read on to the next part of the chapter.  
The very next day, Jesus enters the Temple and is grieved by what he sees.  He then drives out the money changers and street vendors in fact all who were selling.  The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus even made a whip for the purpose….   What on earth made Jesus so angry?   Being a Jew in Jesus’ day was an expensive business. First there was the Temple tax, which was required of every Jew every year at Passover.  The tax was the equivalent of two days wages.   But bringing your money was not enough.  The rub was, the tax had to be paid in Temple money.  The Temple had its own currency, and another entire day’s wage was charged to convert the money…hence the moneychangers.   But the issues didn’t stop there.  Worshipers at the Temple needed to bring a sacrifice, and the sacrifice needed to be without blemish…perfect.  If your animal had any defect at all, it was not acceptable.   Temple workers were there to decide whether your animal was without blemish, and if the one you brought with you was found to be defective, guess what?  The Temple just happened to have some perfect ones for sale. You can guess how many got through without having to buy another Temple animal.   .  

But that was not all that Jesus took issue with.  The place where all of this was set up was in a part of the Temple precincts known as the Court of the Gentiles.  While the Temple proper was reserved only for Jewish males, there were two other places that were set apart on Temple grounds for others to worship…the Court of the Women and the Court of the Gentiles.    It was this area, the Court of the Gentiles, that was filled with the agents of dishonesty, greed, and injustice…the moneychangers and those who sold the certified “perfect” sacrifices. Listen to what Jesus says when he has finished knocking everything over.  He says, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer you have made it a den or robbers.    

So…what does this have to do with us today?  Everything.  In cleansing the Temple, Jesus is making a critical statement about the purpose of the House of God and the calling of God’s people.   This action of Jesus invites us to ask of ourselves if our church truly has room for all people or do we have subtle ways of crowding out some of God’s children?    The priests in the Temple did not decide from the outset that they would crowd the Gentiles out of a place to pray and that they would set up dishonest and unjust systems for conducting Temple business.  But the sin worked its way in like a cancer…starting with small things that could hardly be noticed by those looking on.  It grew because no one was watching, no one was paying attention.   “It is written my house will be a house of prayer …..”  That desire of God has not changed.  This has got to be the place where everyone and anyone can come and meet God.  If we have doors that keep some from entering, if we have space that is so full of our own business that there is no room for the business of God, if we have systems in place that reflect anything other than the justice and mercy of God, we can expect that the Gentle Shepherd will come at us as He would go for a wolf after His sheep…with a whip and fury and the righteous indignation of God.  

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. Amen                                        

Reflection for Thursday 19th November 2020

Nigel

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Luke 19.41-44 (Good News Bible)

Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem
He came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it, saying, “If you only knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it! The time will come when your enemies will surround you with barricades, blockade you, and close in on you from every side. They will completely destroy you and the people within your walls; not a single stone will they leave in its place, because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!”

Reflection

Today is the feast day of St Hilda, born in Northumbria in the year 614.  She was 33 when she decided to be a nun and two years later found herself abbess of a convent at Hartlepool.  Some years later she founded a double monastery – monks and nuns living in adjoining quarters – at Whitby and in that grand conference of Whitby in 664 she voted for the Celtic side.  Here I will show my heretical leanings, for I often wonder how different things might have been had the Celtic Pelagius prevailed over the establishment figure of Augustine!

We have seen other people in tears, but now we find it is the turn of Jesus to cry.  It is the core of the Gospel, not a sign of weakness but a reaching out in love.

‘Your enemies will surround you with barricades, blockade you, and close you in on every side’.  Just recently Robert Rinder has been discovering the story of his family and a few others in the time of the holocaust.  Travelling to Germany he and a few friends learnt of events that had only been hinted at before.  We saw one standing in a basement, being told that his family were among a thousand crammed into the small space, while above the food market carried on as normal.  Few survived.  It was a terrible time in history.

For us, it capped a few days when we had also watched a film on the First World War when 700,000 died as German soldiers advanced a few hundred yards, only for another 1m to die as the ground was re-taken a couple of months later.

‘[Your enemies] will completely destroy you and the people within your walls’.  Jesus sobs as he gives this final warning to the city that has chosen to ignore the moment when God was coming.  There is no sense of ‘I told you so’, or ‘it serves you right’, just sobs and weeping of sorrow from a terrible judgement.  And there will be more tears before long, this time for Jesus himself.

The sadness today is that despite those horrors in wartime, atrocities continue.  Man’s inhumanity to man is not abated despite all our experiences.  Jesus accuses the people of not knowing the moment when God was visiting them.  The church today needs to concern itself with the important concerns for our world – to relieve poverty, counter injustice, bring salvation to the oppressed and tend the sick.  There are many other things that can be argued about, but they distract us from the real work in hand.  We can play our part by showing compassion to all, to love as He loves us, and not get caught up in meaningless side issues when there is so much at stake in our world today.

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. Amen.

Reflection fo Wednesday 18th November 2020

The Rev’d Roger Elks

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Hello. One of the funny memories I have of my first job as a vicar was in Carbis Bay. We decided to take some of the young people out carol singing around the parish. It had not been done before, so we thought it was quite a nice idea. So we went around the little cul-de-sac estate of bungalows just opposite the vicarage on one evening when it was not dark. We didn’t want to scare people and it was quiet and there were some young children with us as well. So there we were. We went round from door to door, singing away and ringing the bell. And nobody answered. Nobody came out and nobody heard us. And it was quite a surprise, really. We were expecting a little choir of children to be well received. But it wasn’t to be. I can only put it down to the fact that there was double glazing so people couldn’t hear us singing, that they were all sitting down watching television and couldn’t hear the doorbell. And they certainly weren’t expecting people to call. These days, people don’t call to your door as they used to, do they? But anyway, we enjoyed singing, but we didn’t raise any money for the church.

Our reading today is from Revelation Chapter three, and there’s a bit of door knocking going on here.

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

So the early part of Revelation is these messages to seven different churches around the first century world; messages from Jesus. And I expect that all the messages to all the churches were read in all the churches. So actually, you could compare yourself to how you understood the Lord to be speaking to others as well. But here in Laodicea, they are criticized for just not being particularly enthusiastic. And those words are quite challenging for us as well when we think we’re doing well.

But the phrase that I want to think about is that phrase in verse 20. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock”. And of course, when I say those words, you are probably thinking of Holman Hunt’s famous painting, ‘The Light of the World’ in which Jesus stands outside a door, a door that does not have a handle on the outside, a door that is overgrown because it has not been open for some time. And he stands with a lamp and is just about to knock on the door. Holman Hunt was a great figurative painter and there are whole messages in the painting; of the Lord commanding us to open, inviting us and asking us to invite him in.

So the thought I want to just reflect on today is the idea of responding to God’s initiative. It is interesting that Holman Hunt saw this verse 20 as a command, not an invitation. And we remember, don’t we, that by God’s spirit, Jesus is always present with us. We ask for his presence. But actually we have to recognize that by his spirit, he is always with us and there is always a command, and an invitation to obey that command.

In the scriptures, we read of Jesus with his disciples giving them an invitation to rest, “Come aside and rest a while”, and maybe that’s God’s call to us at the moment if we are busy. There is also that invitation to go, “Go into all the world and make disciples”, so there is that sense of being part of God’s mission and maybe that’s something we need to hear today. There is that invitation to think. Many times when Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and the disciples he is getting them to think differently, “The kingdom of heaven is like ….”; challenging words. So maybe that’s what we’re being called to do, maybe at this moment with this reflection, to think.

There was a Bible devotion series called “Every day with Jesus”, I wonder if you ever use that? And that’s an interesting phrase, isn’t it, that we walk every day with Jesus; hopefully not keeping Him outside the door, but certainly inviting us to follow his commands and to follow His leadership through the working of His Spirit, speaking through our consciences, through our knowledge of Him.

It’s an exciting thought, isn’t it, that as we sit here and reflect, as we get up and do the next thing that’s before us, Jesus is calling us to do things in a certain way, to think in a certain way, to find the good works that he’s prepared in advance for us to walk in. So it’s an exciting thought to have Jesus with us. And it’s also a comforting thought, isn’t it, to know that whatever we face, that Jesus will walk with us and be alongside us in the challenges? ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock’ and maybe today we can fling wide the door with the courage that God gives us in his Spirit to let Jesus in to this day that the Lord has given us. Amen.

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

Reflection for Tuesday 17th November 2020

The Rev’d Sue Davies-Fletcher

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Luke 19:1-10 (New International Version, NIV)

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector

19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short, he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Reflection-Revd. Sue

Good morning, you join me as I bring in my more tender plants from outdoors, to protect them from the rain that the North Devon winter gales seems to bring.

In today’s Gospel, we hear the story of Zacchaeus, the unpopular ‘chief’ tax collector.  Zacchaeus had heard about Jesus and he was curious about this man.  Strange that Jesus, Israels most talked about religious leader, is passing through Jericho and this non-religious guy goes to such great lengths to get a glimpse of him.

On the surface Zacchaeus seems to be a classical spiritual seeker.  He turns to Jesus when he realizes money and power can’t fill the hole in his soul.  But that is only part of the story.  The bigger truth is found in the last verse.  In verse 10 Jesus says: he came to Jericho, came to earth, came to wherever you and I happen to be- “to seek and to save the lost” (19:10).  Jesus is the ultimate seeker in this and every salvation story.  “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19) so it follows that we only seek because we are first sought.

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.  For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me upon high rock” (Psalm 27:4-5).

That’s taken from Psalm 27.  Written by David as he considered how his trust in God sustained him in some hard times.  He describes God as his shelter. A common image for God.  As we think about preparing for winter, as we look forward to Advent and hopefully the end of our second lockdown, maybe like me spending time tidying the garden, bringing in and protecting our more tender plants, it may be a good time to think about God as a shelter, who seeks us, wherever we happen to be, whatever our circumstances and however we might be feeling.

Father God,

You are a shelter. You are a safe place, where we can return and rest in you.  You are our refuge when life gets tough.  Help us to have the same desire as Zacchaeus to seek you as you seek us.

Alternative Collect of the day
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

Reflection for Friday 13th November 2020

The Rev’d Sandra Juniper

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Reflection 13 November 2020 Luke 8: 4-8

Today our scripture reading is probably one of the most well known being used often in country churches at Harvest Festival Service giving thanks for the reaping of a good harvest. I well remember entering church as a child and later an adult, drinking in the wonderful fragrance.   Windows decorated with bracken, chrysanthemums, an abundance of apples, eggs and vegetable produce, sheaves of corn around the font and at the altar rail as well of course the harvest loaf of bread complete with mouse to be broken at the communion service and shared at harvest supper on a Monday evening.

I will relate a happening – Monday evening service and supper with guest preacher.  The service did seem to drag on a bit and ladies in the church hall, just across the way, were fretting about keeping jackets and soup hot and rattling the church door.  A splendid feast awaited us and which we enjoyed.  However, when the time for ‘afters’ came our guest rose gave his apologies he had work to do. 

One of our ‘farmers wives, flushed, with hands on hips’ said “vicar, if yew adden ave spoke so long callin us weeds yew’d be able to ave your apple pie” Absolute silence as said vicar, rather pink departed. 

Moving on our reading for today.

Luke 8:4-8
When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, Jesus said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Reflection

It’s interesting how much Jesus was an out of doors person. He gave a lot of his sermons out of doors – and his images were so often of seeds and growth, trees and fields. Little of his preaching was done in the temple or synagogue. He met his people in their ordinary situations. This story draws in all Jesus’ sensitivity to the growth of faith, spoken in words and images, in ordinary places, that everyone could understand. He meets you and me too in the ordinary of our lives.

The very parable is thrown out like a seed; to flourish or perish in the heart of the hearer. I wonder at Jesus’ patience in giving of himself despite his knowledge that his word might not be given the attention or consideration it merits. It is easy to be become preoccupied with the fraying edge, the leaking vessel, the withered seed. They are part of the picture – but only a part. Jesus describes a rich understanding of the environment in which there is also success and growth. With God, I attend to the growth and life that is in me and ask that it spill over into such barren patches as there are.

I think we all really know what Jesus is saying but sometimes we need to revisit time and again for a fresh understanding of ourselves. The hard path represents the shut mind, that blocks out the word of God.  The rocky ground, with a thin layer of soil, is the shallow mind that does not think through the word of God or its consequences, and forgets it when under pressure. The thorny ground means those whose lives are so busy that the things of God get crowded out.

I want to pray   –  Lord, I will try to listen with a good heart and produce results. We want our community to be soil for the word of God. It only makes sense if the way we live our lives make sense of the gospel. The seed is the word of God and we are the soil – personally and as community.

Let’s hope we nourish well, the soil  which is itself the gift of God. We nourish the soil of our faith with prayer, service and love. Wherever there is real love in life, this is the soil open to the word and love of God. All God wants is that we and our world grow as best we can, as God wants us to grow.

Let us pray
God of glory,
touch our lips with the fire of your Spirit,
that we with all creation
may rejoice to sing your praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Reflection for Thursday 12th November 2020

Nigel

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Luke 17.20-25 (The Message)

Jesus, grilled by the Pharisees on when the kingdom of God would come, answered, “The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.”
He went on to say to his disciples, “The days are coming when you are going to be desperately homesick for just a glimpse of one of the days of the Son of Man, and you won’t see a thing. And they’ll say to you, ‘Look over there!’ or, ‘Look here!’ Don’t fall for any of that nonsense. The arrival of the Son of Man is not something you go out to see. He simply comes.
“You know how the whole sky lights up from a single flash of lightning? That’s how it will be on the Day of the Son of Man. But first it’s necessary that he suffer many things and be turned down by the people of today.

Reflection

There is a great danger in taking a few verses out of the Bible, on their own and out of context.  The Bible is intended to be viewed as a whole not as isolated fragments.  Today’s little excerpt of five verses itself is usually taken with the remainder of the chapter, but you have to wait until tomorrow to hear the rest and it is not for me to steal someone else’s thunder.

So, at least speaking for me, these daily reflections are not so much an exposition of the particular verses, but a series of thoughts inspired by the words.  Last Sunday, in the parable of the ten bridesmaids, we heard that ‘we know neither the day nor the hour’ and we were urged to stay alert.  Here Jesus faces an outright question of when does the Kingdom of God come?

Theologians love to ponder deeply on phrases and their meaning, and a lot of attention has been given to the sentence shown above as, Because God’s Kingdom is already among you. Some translations say, ‘within you’.  And so, some argue, the kingdom is a spiritual, private, interior relationship with God.  But Jesus never uses ‘Kingdom of God’ in that fashion.

Others say that it means the Kingdom is present, but hidden, secret and waiting to be discovered.  That is better, but perhaps the best way to look at it is not that it is there just passively waiting, but that it is tantalisingly close.  All you have to do is reach out and grasp it.  It is not the sort of thing to sit back and wait and watch – you have to do something about it.  You have to sign up for it.

The Kingdom is here among us – have you signed up?

The Collect

Almighty Father,
whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of all:
govern the hearts and minds of those in authority,
and bring the families of the nations,
divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin,
to be subject to his just and gentle rule;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.