Reflection for Thursday 7th May 2020

The Rev’d Roger Elks

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Reflection for 7th May 2020

John 13v16-20

Note to the reader: I prefer to speak from notes rather than prepare and read a script. This text is therefore a computer generated transcript of my recorded reflection for the website which I have corrected as much as time allows. This will help explain the odd grammar in places and the frequent use of “And” at the beginning of sentences!

Hello, welcome to our reflection for this Thursday. I hope you’re all surviving lockdown with us all and enjoying these reflections. And it’s nice to share and I’m enjoying watching my colleagues and bringing the scriptures to life through the Spirit, working through them. So today’s passage that we’re looking at is the gospel reading for the Communion service for today in the lectionary. It’s from John, Chapter 13. We begin to read at verse sixteen just after Jesus has washed the disciples feet.

16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.  Jesus Predicts His Betrayal 18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfil this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned[a] against me.’[b]  19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” (NIV)

There are two key themes in here. One about the betrayal of Jesus that we know will happen shortly. As Judas Iscariot leaves the meal. But also there is the sort of sandwich, the beginning and the end of the passage, about being sent and serving and I want to focus on that today.

I remember when I was in industry working in factories. Part of the joke was to tease the apprentices. Never happened to me. But sometimes t he Apprentice would be sent down to the tool room and to the stores and ask the storeman for something like a “long weight”. And they innocently went down there and the storeman would say, “Well just stand over there, laddie.” And after about half an hour, when he got bored or really started questioning, they’d explained to him that he had had his long wait and he could go back to the factory floor now. Or maybe he was ask to ask for a tin of elbow grease or something that would raise a laugh.

Being sent on errands; we all start at the bottom, don’t we? When we start work and we’re often the ones, when we do start, getting the tea, being a tea boy or or tea girl. Most of us start humble beginnings and that’s a good place to start, I think. A lot of people who now run companies started at the bottom and worked upwards. I remember a story of one vicar who told me that when after some church event, it was he as a curate and his incumbent were the only two left in the church hall. And they had moved all the chairs and then they started sweeping the floor and they were going backwards and forwards with the broom. And as the vicar passed, the curate and it was probably getting on for about eleven thirty at night. He looked and ever said, “You’re always a deacon.” And that’s true, isn’t it? We have this order of deacons, which was reminiscence of the of those early disciples who were set apart to serve at tables. But actually as an ordained person, you never lose that ordination. It’s just like the foundation on which the priesthood service is built. You are always a deacon. You don’t stop serving at tables with that humble role. It’s important not just for we who are ordained, but to all of us who serve others.

Now, in the Bible, in the Gospels particularly, there’s an awful lot of spending going on. God sends his Son. Jesus sent the apostles. Now, the word apostle actually means “the sent one”. And we read it how He sends out 12, doesn’t he? And then he sends out seventy two. And then in Matthew twenty eight, we read of what we call the great commission when he says to his disciples, go into all the world, make disciples and lo I will be with you always. And in John 13 this idea of sending has a precursor to it, which is that of humility. Here is Jesus washing the disciples feet being the lowest of the low. It should have been the slaves who did that obviously that hadn’t happened, none of the disciples wanted to lower himself to the role of a deacon or a slave to to do this humble task. And Jesus takes it upon himself. And then he says. “You’re not any greater than than me, are you? I’m going to send you and the ones who are sent are less than the one who sends. And as I have done this humble task. So you too will do humble tasks.”

Those who we serve as Christians receive not just the good work in themselves, they receive not just us, but says Jesus. Those who receive you, those who you serve, receive both Jesus, the one who sends us, and God the Father who sends Jesus. That’s verse 20 of John 13. “I am telling the truth. Whoever receives anyone I send receives me also. And whoever receives me receives him. Who sent me.”

So those who we serve receive not just ourselves, but they receive Jesus and our Heavenly Father.

When I was a Cub Scout, I remember that one of the things that we could do is do a good turn every day. It was part of the scout promise, wasn’t it? A scout does a good turn every day. I wonder if you can remember that those of you who joined me in the scout movement, and when I’d done my good deed for the day, I could get the two ends of my cub scarf and tie them in a reef knot, not a granny knot. And that would be a little tie at the end. And that would show everyone who turned up at the Cub meeting, would show that they’ve done their good deed. Now, we as Christians are to do our good deeds every day, and I’m sure we do as we look at them. But what’s special about the Christian is that the good deeds that we do are prepared for us to walk in. When we walk in the in the guidance of the Spirit and in the presence of Jesus, then the things that we do are not just ordinary things, but they become things that God works through. In Ephesians Paul writes, Ephesians 2v10,  “For, we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”

So today there are those good works which God has prepared for us to do in his providence. There are those who need our help. There are those who need to be served by us in one way or another. And I guess in lockdown we just need to be imaginative about how we do that. And it may be that they know who’s contacted them and serve them. It may be that it’s anonymous through some gift or whatever, or even a prayer where those for whom we pray do not know we’re praying. But they are there, those good works. And our job is to spot them and to do them and not to avoid them or forget them or neglect them.

But it is not just that good deed which is of benefit to the recipient. It’s not just the benefit of what we do practically or emotionally, but it is the fact that as we serve, this person is visited not just by us, but by God Himself. God himself comes into that person’s life through our service. What an amazing thought that is. Those little things that we do are the things that God uses to come into somebody’s life. Saint Francis of Assisi said “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words”. And every moment of our waking life, we are to preach the gospel, by doing those good works, by serving and it isn’t always going to be easy and nice. Sometimes it’s going to be sweeping the floor when everybody’s left. And sometimes it’s going to be washing dirty, smelly, dusty feet because no one else got round to it.

May, Lord, I not miss the opportunities God gives me today to bring Jesus into people’s lives. Amen.

And so let’s pray. The collect for today.

Almighty God, whose son, Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life. Raise us who trust in him from the death of sin to the life of righteousness that we may seek those things which are above where He reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

May God bless you and all our parishes and our communities as we continue through this lockdown period. And look for brighter and better days as we serve the Lord in humility and faithfulness. God bless.

Reflection for Tuesday 5th May 2020

Nigel Price

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John 10.2230

Jesus Is Rejected by the Jews

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’

John is very specific in giving us both the time and the place of this episode. The festival of the Dedication, also known as the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah, takes place around the time of our Christmas. Its origin lies in the time of one of the greatest ordeals of the Jews at the hands of a king of Syria. This King was a lover of all things Greek and had decided to rid himself of the Jewish religion for once and all. At first he tried this by peaceful means, and some Jews welcomed the new ways, but many were stubbornly resistant. So he resorted to a physical attack on Jerusalem and thousands of Jews perished with more sold into slavery. The Temple was desecrated, but six years later an epic struggle for freedom was won and the Temple cleansed. It was to celebrate this victory that the Festival of dedication was instituted. It was also known as the Festival of Lights, because lights would be set in the window of every Jewish home for eight days.

We are also told the place, the portico of Solomon. The first court of the Temple was the Court of Gentiles and two precincts ran down either side, the Royal Porch and Solomon’s Porch. People walked there to pray and meditate and as John tells us it is winter, it would be natural for Jesus to have sought shelter under the great colonnades.

‘How long are you going to keep us in suspense? There are two types of people behind this common question – some are eagerly awaiting an answer. They want to hear plainly that this is the long-awaited Messiah. But others are simply laying a trap, wanting to tease out a statement that will entrap Jesus into blasphemy.

I have already told you, he protests. Well, yes, but not plainly. So far by

plain statements, he had only revealed himself in private. But his deeds were there for all to see. Still the great majority of Jews did not accept the claims.

‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.’ In Palestine sheep were mainly kept for wool, not meat, so they were with the shepherd for many years. There were no sheep dogs and the shepherd would call his sheep by name. He led and they followed. The sheep got to know the voice of their shepherd and would respond only to him. Some of the Jews did believe; they are his sheep and they are promised two things:

They are promised eternal life, never to perish. The littleness of earthly life would be gone, replaced by the splendour and magnificence of the life of God.

They are promised a life that was secure, ‘no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand’. It would not mean that they were saved from sorrow, from suffering, from death. But in the depths of their darkest hours they would be conscious of those generous arms supporting them. Even in a world crashing to disaster they could know the serenity of God.

And you know what? Those very promises are made to us. How long are we to be kept in suspense? Not at all, for the moment is here and now. If we believe and if we belong to his sheep then we will hear his voice and those promises will be ours.

Today we are in a world that faces a disaster of truly biblical proportions. All that we knew and all that made us feel secure has been pulled from under our feet. But God brings us comfort and stability. We are doing things in different ways, learning new tricks, but God is our constant. The Father and Jesus are one. Believe in Him and you shall never perish. Only believe.

And now the Collect, the prayer for the day

Almighty God,

whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:

raise us, wo trust in him,

from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,

that we may seek those things which are above,

where he reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit

one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Monday 4th May 2020

The Rev’d Penny Body

Click here for the text of the reflection

Reflection for Monday 4th May

The Gospel John 12 verses 20 to 26

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.

The Reflection

Today’s reflection is a bit different from normal – and a bit longer – because today is the first Monday of the month which is when the Wayfarers Group, based in Westward Ho!, would usually be meeting, so last week we considered two questions to share as a common reflection with you all today. The questions were:

Of the changes that have happened as a result of the coronavirus lockdown – which do you appreciate and why and

What things have you found you have really missed.

There isn’t space here to share everything but I will try to summarise and I expect you will recognise many of the thoughts from your own lives too.

On the first question our answers fall into three broad categories relating to time and space, a new sense of community, and an even greater appreciation of what we already have.

We have valued both the physical quiet such as less cars on the road as well as the removal of some of our normal tasks and activities leaving space for something new. What has filled the space has generally been life-giving and full of creativity. Life-giving because of so much less rush in our daily doings – and thus more peace – and time to create some more order in those long forgotten cupboards!

People have been writing, sewing and sharing in the springtime with the wonder of listening to a wren singing, watching stonechats flitting, blackbirds bringing up a family and wild flowers blooming. As one person said “when we are confined to a small space nature seems so much more alive and wonderful to watch”. When our space becomes smaller, paradoxically our awareness and appreciation of life grows bigger. God is all in all – and in the smallest, undistracted we can see his fullness.

Second is the sense of new community – we have all been humbled and honoured by people helping us and others with groceries, medicine and just keeping us sane. Camaraderie and care between neighbours has increased with the weekly clapping and general care for each other. A new sense of community is emerging on the coast path with people making more eye contact, smiling and engaging in brief conversation. As one person said “it’s a bit like a silent retreat where deep connections with very few words are made” and as another said it’s as if the “barriers of reserve” are being broken down. We are loving our neighbours and

new community is being born.

What people have missed is the other side of the community coin. It is the lack of physical contact with friends and family, meeting together in fellowship with our church families, not being able to share hugs, not singing together, not engaging in those group conversations that take off in different directions and widen our viewpoints. Whilst contact with family, friends or work colleagues through technology is good, and may in the future save some road miles, it is not the same as being together in the flesh.

God knows this – it’s why the incarnation is so important to us – that Jesus came as a real, live physical person into our world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We are people of physicality as well as mind and spirit.

Thirdly, we all already appreciate living where we do, and belonging to our church family as we do, but in this time of lockdown people are appreciating even more how lucky we are to enjoy the environment we do, to have enough space in our homes, to have gardens, to be mobile and normally able to go out, to have access to technology to make all those facetime calls with grandchildren. We know we don’t have the same worries as lots of other people about livelihoods and keeping businesses running, many of us being older or retired, but in our appreciating we have been filled with concern and compassion for all those who are bereaved, ill, struggling with isolation or over-crowding, poverty, people who have lost livelihoods or businesses, people working in risky situations, people who are unable to access friends, family and the wider world through the internet, people who have no-ne to rely on and this compassion as led to prayer and prayerful action.

In our gospel reading today, Jesus says “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Our previous way of life has not died, but it has been paused, and new things in our lives have been springing up like the wild flowers and God is surely using this time in our lives to bring us new life in so many ways. He is showing us new ways of being with him in nature and the quiet, new ways of being with each other, barriers broken down and new ways of being ourselves. He is helping us to understand what is most to be treasured in our “normal” lives and teaching us more about those in need. I pray that these “many seeds” may produce much fruit, take root in our lives and bring us closer to Him. Amen.

The Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Almighty God,

whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:

raise us, wo trust in him,

from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,

that we may seek those things which are above,

where he reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Friday 1st May 2020

Nigel Price

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John 14.1-14

Jesus the Way to the Father

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

That reading is often chosen for funerals. Sometimes Thomas’s puzzlement is shared by others. In my previous parish we had no churchyard and most funerals were at the local crematorium at Hanworth. There was another at Mortlake only about ten miles away, but a good half hour’s drive in normal London traffic. One day I was waiting outside the chapel, waiting for the previous service to end. As I stood there, a priest came up and waited with me. After a while I asked, “can I help you?” “No, I’m taking the next funeral.” “I don’t think so, I am!” Consulting his diary, he exploded, “Oh [expletive deleted] I’m supposed to be at Mortlake!”

This week the number of deaths from Covid-19 careers towards 30,000, already 10,000 above what was hoped for as a ‘good’ outcome at the outset. Put in context though, on average in England and Wales there are some 10,000-12,000 deaths every week. It is running higher than that now, but these huge numbers mask the individual tragedies that are happening. Recently my sister-in-law’s mother died and the funeral will be in my old territory in a few days’ time. In normal circumstances I would have been asked to take the service – I conducted one for her father a few years ago. I

don’t think it was anything to do with the virus and she was well into her nineties, but even so death creeps up to surprise and unsettle us. It is an individual tragedy – fortunately close family will be able to attend – but for many in these strange times no mourners are allowed. Just at the time when one wants to give comfort, social distancing says ‘no!’ But do not let your hearts be troubled, says Jesus.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” so starts Charles Dickens Tale of Two Cities set in Paris and London at the time of the French Revolution. “it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Today we also have winners and losers. For some, such as me, little has changed. I work from home and work continues. Others have lost jobs or are furloughed. They fear for the future, wondering if they will be needed again. Some face the ruin of their businesses; others are trying to re-invent what they do. Some are in great demand – the delivery drivers, supermarket workers and of course health workers. Some may appreciate the novelty of being truly valued, but for front line health workers they face, perhaps for the first time in their career, the real prospect that they will lose their own life in the course of helping others. As Jesus says in the next chapter of John, ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’. They have always lived with death, but in this crisis it is with them day after day, one third of hospital admissions with the virus results in death, and as they go home to grab a few hours respite, they know that death will be with them again the next day.

The only inconvenience we are suffering personally is that we cannot travel to see family and friends. But when I was a boy, living in Poole, my paternal grandparents were on the Wirral and once a year my father would borrow a car from a friend and we would drive up to spend a week with them. It is a small sacrifice to pay when others are stuck in tiny homes with no gardens and no nice countryside to walk in. Others are cooped up with frustrated and violent partners. Yet more are homeless on the streets, turned out of accommodation because they cannot afford the rent. Unlike the long term homeless they are rather naïve about the ways of the streets. Some are lucky, because many empty hotels are being brought into service to house the homeless, but for those left on the streets there are no commuters to toss out coins, there are no sandwich shops turning out unsold bread at the  

end of the day, there are no toilets, no day centres, no abandoned cardboard to make a bed and many subways closed off.

In the face of all that is going on, we may feel totally inadequate – what can we possibly do? Jesus says, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.’ We can pray – do not underestimate the power of prayer – we can be nice to people. Across a suitable social distance we can shout words of encouragement. We can look out for each other. In these ways we are doing the works that Jesus does – and in his own words, these are greater than the works he does.

I am sorry to have taken so much of your time today, but let us close by praying the collect for today, the feast of Philip and James.

The Collect

Almighty Father, whom truly to know is eternal life:
teach us to know your Son Jesus Christ
as the way, the truth, and the life;
that we may follow the steps of your holy apostles Philip and James,
and walk steadfastly in the way that leads to your glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday 30th April 2020

The Rev’d Derek Arnold

Click here for the text of the reflection

Hello and welcome to our time of reflection on this Thursday the 30 April. Maybe not all of you know my name, but I am Derek Arnold, the Team Rector for the Torridge Coastal Mission Community of Abbotsham, Appledore, Northam and Westward Ho! I thought that we should have a change of venue today. So I am sitting in my front room looking out the window and I can see Rosie running around the garden and you may hear her voice in the background during the recording. Before I begin, I would like to thank all of you for your support and positive feedback about all that we are doing online during this time of lockdown and I hope you are all well. We continue with the next part of John’s gospel…..

JOHN 6.44-51

No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. Now listen how Jesus describes himself. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

THE REFLECTION

These words echo those spoken by Jesus at the unfolding events leading up his death on the cross.

I guess that most of us are familiar with the painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo Davinci. While the depiction isn’t entirely accurate, and we know that people in Jesus days reclined to eat rather than sitting at a table. However, it still captures the essence of the evening. A wonderful celebration of the Jewish Passover with his closest friends.
A proud impetuous Peter; the careful, sceptical Thomas; the unsophisticated sons of Thunder, James and John, as well as the other disciples closest to Jesus. And then there is Judas, torn between guilt and greed, who will that very evening sell his friend’s life for 30 pieces of silver.
But most important of all, there is Jesus at the very heart of this rather eclectic group of would be leaders. The whole history of humanity has come into focus at this very moment in time. Either it builds up to or on the hours that start at this table and end in an empty tomb three days later.
There was a brutal death but there was also resurrection. There was sacrifice and heroic love, victory and promise. It does not end in tragedy; it ends in hope and salvation. Jesus came to provide a way back for us to make peace with God.
It was his body that was pierced and died instead of ours. With his sacrifice we make our peace with God and the slate is wiped clean.

He was our Saviour then and he is our Lord in life now and he will be our advocate on the last day. We are his servants and disciples. We imitate the way of life that he left for us to follow and we take on his mission, either in freedown or in lockdown.

THE COLLECT (prayer for the Day)

Almighty Father, who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples

with the sight of the risen Lord:

Give us such knowledge of his presence with us,

that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life

and serve you continually in righteousness and truth

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God now and for ever. Amen.

Reflection for 29th April 2020

The Rev’d Roger Elks

Click here for the text of the reflection

Hello, our  reading is from John, Chapter six, verses 35 to 40. Jesus has fed the 5000, he’s walked on the water and now he’s teaching about himself being the bread of life.

Jesus then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry. He who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All the father gives me will come to me. Whoever comes to me, I will never drive away. But I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up on the last day. For my father’s will is, that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it, that one incident in a market in China could bring the whole world to almost a standstill? Hard isn’t it, to really believe that. Somebody said recently, I read it on a quote, “Anyone who says that one person cannot change the world has never eaten an uncooked bat”. Well, it is true, isn’t it, that the whole world has changed. We see it outside our own front doors and internationally on our television sets. Seeing is believing.

But in our passage in John Chapter six, Jesus says the opposite. Verse 36. “But as I told you, you have seen me. And still, you do not believe”. Seeing was not believing for Jesus’ hearers. Jesus had just fed 5000 men, and there were some women and children there as well, I’m sure. What more could people need as evidence to see so that they could believe? Certainly if we’d seen that miracle feeding 5000 people, if we’d been part of that crowd, we’d believe, wouldn’t we? Well, let’s not kid ourselves that we would have been any different. Even the disciples on the road to Emmaus in our reading last Sunday were slow of heart to believe. I think you and I would be among the doubters.

You see, belief is about choice as well as it is about evidence. Science and facts and logic can only take us so far. There are many people who read the same Bible as we do, but do not believe in Jesus. University theological departments have many clever people who know the Bible better than you and I, but do not believe in Jesus. You see, there are truths that cannot be proved by facts as we know them. And the conundrum of faith is that only when we choose to believe do we get the reassurance that we’ve made the right choice. And when we choose to believe in Jesus and follow him and accept him as our saviour, then the verses that we read in John Chapter six, fill our hearts and our souls with that spiritual sustaining food.

Verse 37 of John 6. “All those the father gives me will come to me. And whoever comes to me, I will never drive away”.

Verse 39. “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.”

And verse 40 “For my father’s will is, that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life. And I will raise them up at the last day.”

Today’s passage calls us to remake that choice to believe in Jesus and receive the assurance that Jesus will never drive us away.

Amen.

Now the collect for the 3rd Sunday of Easter.

Almighty Father who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples with the sight of the risen Lord, give us such knowledge of His presence with us that we may be strengthened and sustained by His risen life and serve you continually in righteousness and truth through Jesus Christ, your son, our Lord who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Reflection for Monday 27th April 2020

The Rev’d Penny Body

Click here for the text of the reflection and the collect

Reflection 27th April 2020

The Gospel – John 6 22-29

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Reflection

The people asked Jesus “what must we do to do the works God requires”. The words that strike me most in this question are first that they are asking what must we do – secondly that they are asking about works in the plural.

Perhaps I’m being a bit hard on them, but the emphasis on the “we” seems to point to something where the onus was coming from them – a sort of “just tell us what to do and we’ll do it” approach that they thought they could do of themselves – in their own power. The word works – in plural seems to suggest a series of acts – tasks if you like – perhaps something we might think of as “good works”.

In contrast, the answer Jesus gives is that the work – not works – of God – is to believe in the one he has sent – his Son. And this is not a particular task but an ongoing orientation that comes from God – in the one he has sent – and in our response – our believing – leads back to him.

And as we orientate our lives towards God so his Holy Spirit works in us – and we find ourselves naturally looking at others in love, forgiveness, mercy and compassion.

Two opposite approaches – one coming from us – one from God. God “requires” nothing, yet everything. Life with God is about turning towards him in love – and as Micah says – acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with Him, and as Jesus said – taking upon ourselves his yoke. And from all this flows life.

My prayer for this time when the physical world is a little less noisy is that in our turning towards him, in our believing in him and loving him, we may find ourselves eating more of the food that endures to eternal life – which thankfully is not reliant on an elusive delivery slot but is freely available in the one whom God has sent – who is present with us always.

Amen.

The Collect

Almighty Father,

who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples

with the sight of the risen Lord:

Give us such knowledge of his presence with us,

that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life

and serve you continually in righteousness and truth

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God now and for ever. Amen.

Reflection for 24th April 2020

The Rev’d Sandra Juniper

Click here for the text of the reflection

John 6:1-15

The Word of God

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

John 6:1-15

Reflection

Living on the farm there were always a lot of people to be fed according to the season and probably the one that is closest to my heart is hay/corn harvest. Men and women worked in the fields with horses and latterly

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with tractors and mum was tasked with sending out the ‘drinkings’. Tea, if you like. Pasties, sandwiches and cake all covered neatly with starched table cloths. Some of which had been darned many times. Huge baskets, like washing baskets with two handles carried this feast. Flasks of cold tea. Bottles of cold tea and cider.

Mum knew exactly how many people to prepare a meal for so no worries. No worries for Jesus either, he knew but teased, for want of a better word, Philip on how to feed 5,000 plus.

In the gospel of John, this miracle is shared by all four gospel writers. Jesus works with the little the apostles have to feed the multitude. Through his actions he reveals how God is towards us: nourishing, caring, lavish, and concerned for all our needs.

God also expects us to come to the aid of one another, and to share what little we have. Saint Teresa of Calcutta said about Jesus, “He uses us to be his love and compassion in the world in spite of our weaknesses and frailties.” I pray for the courage I need to risk giving even the little that I have.

I daydream and enter in my imagination into this amazing scene. I share Philip’s puzzlement; I watch the little boy as he gives up the lunch his mother made for him. I gaze at Jesus as he prays, then as he breaks the bread and the fish. It takes so long to feed everyone, but he is smiling as he works. He fills my empty and grubby hands too, and I look into his eyes and thank him.

Where do I place myself in this wonderful scene? In the crowd? With Philip and Andrew? With the boy who risks letting his lunch go? Do I offer what little I have? Do I just hold out empty hands for bread and fish? Do I help tidy up? Do I catch on to what has happened? Do I go with Jesus into the mountain?

The message of Jesus reaches into the depths of our humanity, into those  

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spaces of life where we dance and sing, laugh and cry, mourn and despair, hope and love, and where everything deeply human dwells within us. Within this story memory is found of Moses leading the people who grumbled about the manna provided for them to eat. Christ breaking bread as in that last supper which is to come and the desire of the people for a King.

The crowd had motives for following Jesus – physical healing for themselves or their loved ones, the political liberation they thought he had come to bring. What are my motives? What is he offering me? What do I offer him. I ask God to help me when I am inclined to despair, to give me heart and hope. I guess you do too.

We pray:

Risen Christ, for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred: open the doors of our hearts, that we may seek the good of others and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace, to the praise of God the Father.

CW Alternative Collect for Second Sunday of Easter