Reflection for Friday 19th February 2021

The Rev’d Sandra Juniper (Sound only)

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DAILY REFLECTION 19 February 2021
Today’s reflection is by our Associate Minister, Rev’d Sandra Juniper and can be heard on the Website http://tcmc.church

Hello again. The scripture reading for today is short just two verses full of thought-provoking challenges for us.

READING Matthew 9.14-15
Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

REFLECTION
Today’s Gospel embraces a concept that many of us have a difficult time grasping: the act and practice of fasting. The word has quite frankly haunted me ever since I was a young child; it meant that for some odd reason, I was not going to get my biscuit at break time!
Even at a much more mature age, I find the act of fasting confusing. In today’s Gospel reading, we are presented with the scenario of when to fast and when not, or more appropriately, who fasts and who doesn’t. The Pharisees are fasting, for Christ is not the Messiah among them; they do not recognize his holiness, his love, his divinity. Jesus’ disciples, on the other hand, need not fast, for Christ himself is in their presence. They celebrate. They believe.
So now the question arises: “Do we, as Christians in this time, truly believe that Christ is constantly living among us. He is in everything we see, touch, smell, taste, and hear. We allow him to enter into ourselves at the Eucharist. He is alive in us, as we are alive in him. Why then must we fast?”
I am no theologian by any means, but I feel that the answer comes simply. We fast so that we may come even closer to Christ, our Saviour.
As we continue to embark upon our Lenten journey, we place ourselves in a time of sacrifice; a time that represents the Ultimate Sacrifice. Yes, we have reason to celebrate our closeness with the Lord. But this is now the time to recognize that we have sinned through our own faults, in our thoughts and in our words, in what we have done, and what we have failed to do. It is the time to recognize the agony Christ went through, so that we may have life.
We give up food. We give up Facebook. We give up all sorts of stuff. It might be we take on something, by adding a spiritual discipline to our day. Perhaps we take more time for prayer or we strive to be kinder and more loving with everyone we encounter (including those who get on our nerves) But none of it comes even remotely close to what Jesus gave up—His life.
We realize that it is easy to make Lenten resolutions, but it is not easy to keep them.
Jesus wanted John’s disciples, along with his own disciples, to realize that while he was with them, it was a time of joy. This was not a time of mourning or fasting or weeping. It’s simply inappropriate to fast at a wedding feast. No, a wedding feast is a time of celebration. But as bold as this statement is about Jesus’ presence altering everything, we also find a hint that his death will alter everything again, and this time in a much more painful way.
The point: Jesus’ presence, conditions the time; it changes everything; it determines our joy. May we this Lenten season continue to fast, so that we may indeed recognize all that Christ went through for our salvation. May we grow closer in him. The gift is that each morning we have another day to make the effort. What will we choose today?

THE COLLECT
Holy God,
you know, the disorder of our sinful lives,
set straight our crooked hearts
and bend our wills to love your goodness
and your glory in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Reflection for Thursday 18th February 2021

Nigel Price

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Luke 9:22-25 (Good News)
[Jesus] also told them, “The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will be raised to life.”
And he said to them all, “If you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, take up your cross every day, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it. Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but are yourself lost or defeated? Of course not!

Reflection
So here we are, on the second day of Lent. I wonder what you have given up for Lent? And after the first day, are you sticking to your promise?
I have given up nothing – it seems to me that if I promise not to eat chocolate or drink gin for forty days, it is not going to get me any closer to God. And if I decided to put all the money I might save to some good charitable cause, then that is very laudable – but wouldn’t it be better to do that all year round? If I was to give up anything at the moment, it would probably be international travel!
Lent is a penitential season; it is a time for self-examination, self-denial, study and preparation as we move towards Easter. It reminds us of the forty days our Lord spent in the wilderness being tested by Satan.
In the reading Jesus says, ‘forget yourself, take up your cross every day and follow me’. It is easy to give something up for forty days, looking forward to a binge return in due course. What is the point of that? ‘Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but are yourself lost or defeated?’
No, Lent is for more than that. Lent is for putting aside the things that distract us, so that we may move closer to God and hear his voice. Hear his voice and act upon it. In James (2.17) we find these words ‘So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead.’ So it is also with Lent, giving up is not good enough unless we fill the space with action.
So, I rephrase my first question; I wonder what you are doing for Lent?

So we pray:
Collect (alternative)
Holy God,
our lives are laid open before you:
rescue us from the chaos of sin
and through the death of your Son
bring us healing
and make us whole
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reflection for Ash Wednesday 17th February 2021

The Rev’d Roger Elks

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One of the few services that are still open in lockdown are opticians. And I’m looking forward to next Monday to getting a new pair of glasses because these readers are not all that I need. I really need the varifocals, I broke my last ones and the eyes have changed anyway. But as we get older our ability to see outside ourselves gets worse, doesn’t it? And we need these blessed things to help us. As we also get older, our ability to see inside ourselves gets better. We see outside worse, but we see inside better. We see ourselves better as we get older, don’t we?

Our Reading this from John, Chapter 8, beginning verse 1.

Liz and I were looking at some old photos last night; I am doing some archiving, and of course there are some pictures of me looking younger with darker hair. As you can see, it’s not so dark now and it’s quite long. Another thing I’m looking forward to after lockdown is getting a haircut. When I was young, I saw things much more black and white. My hair was much darker, now, I see things grey, like my hair. It’s a good metaphor of how I see things not so black and white. The thing is, you see, things are still black and white. Sin is no less sinful. And as we begin Lent, this time of penitential thoughts, it’s a time when we say sorry to God. Things are still black and white. Sin is sin. But we realize as we get older that in this black and white world that God has created, we are grey.

Jesus said, let anyone who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. And the implication here could be that he’s talking about the same sin of adultery. Verse 9 “at this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first until only Jesus was left”. You see, this story and our ability to see ourselves in more truth as we get older, affects how we see others. Words are all very good at condemning others. But when it comes to actually doing something like throwing a stone, we realize, if we’re honest, that we are part of the sin. There is still right and wrong, but it’s God’s right and wrong, not ours, and God is far more gracious than we are.

So who are you in this story? Are you the woman caught in adultery, in sin, and needing grace? Or are you a teacher of the law or a Pharisee – needing grace? And when we learn that we all need to receive grace, then we can learn to be an agent of God’s grace to others. “Then neither do I condemn you”, Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin”.

Our Collect.
Holy God, you know, the disorder of our sinful lives, set straight our crooked hearts and bend our wills to love your goodness and your glory in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Reflection for Tuesday 16th February 2021

Jon Ellis

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Reflection Tuesday Gen 6:5-8; 7:1-5,10 16th Feb

Genesis 6
5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.
7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”
8 But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD.
7: 1 The LORD then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.
2 Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate,
3 and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.
4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”
5 And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.
10 And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.

Reflection
Have you seen the film Evan Almighty? It’s a modern take on Noah building the ark. God speaks to Evan, an ordinary man (Steve Carell) and despite his protestations, wood and tools keep being delivered to him. His family become involved in the work. One of the funniest clips is when he wakes up one morning to find he has grown an Old Testament beard, and despite shaving repeatedly, each time he looks in the mirror it has come back. Nothing will stop God’s plan for him.
As time goes on the media start to pick fun of him. On one occasion, his wife and children are in a restaurant and the TV is showing a commentator likening Noah to a Jack-ass. The waiter (God – Morgan Freeman does this so well) asks her if she is all right.
She says, “What do you do when your husband says that God has told him to build an ark?” The waiter says, “I love the story of the ark, it’s a love story. All the animals turn up two by two, side by side, just like Noah’s family. It sounds like an opportunity. If you pray for patience, does God remove the problem, or give you an opportunity to grow patience? If you pray for courage, he gives you an opportunity to use your courage. If someone prays for family, does God zap them with fuzzy feelings, or opportunities to grow in love for each other?” Evan’s lovely and caring wife realises that he needs her support, despite all the difficulties.
There is lots of humour in Evan Almighty. I always prefer serious films to be dotted with humour. Often humour speaks much more clearly to us that grim reality. I thank God that he has a sense of humour for us when we make mistakes.
Noah in the Old Testament must have been ridiculed but he knew what was right. Verse one: ‘The LORD then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.’ God chose him. In the previous chapter we are told that “Noah was a just man.” This was in an age of violence and oppression and God noticed Noah in his generation. The Lord said to him, “I have found you righteous in this generation,” as though he was the only righteous one in that generation. When the flood came, his ancestors had all passed away, and the members of his own family were not all that they ought to have been.
When we are righteous (right with God), we have an opportunity to hear him. The film’s scriptwriter says that God calls this a love story. That’s not just about two by two, it is how listening to God, however unlikely it seems, means our actions are part of his plan. Listening to people around us whom we trust are listening to God, confirms the direction and then the plans will succeed. There will be difficulties but they will draw us together more closely as we support each other.

Collect
Holy God,
you know the disorder of our sinful lives:
set straight our crooked hearts,
and bend our wills to love your goodness
and your glory
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Reflection for Monday 15th February 2021

The Rev’d Penny Body

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Reflection 15th February 2021

The Gospel Mark Chapter 8 verses 11 to 13

11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.

Reflection

Our gospel today is two short verses, but through them Jesus leads us towards a profound insight into the nature of God.

If we believe that God created the world, and everything in it, then the whole creation will be a sign of the creator. Every plant, every animal, every geological rock formation, every person, every situation – will show us who God is and they are to be found in the ordinary, everyday things of life.

The Pharisees are looking for an extraordinary sign from Jesus, something that other would-be Messiahs of the day might promise. But whilst of course God does break through into the ordinary most particularly in the birth of his Son and with extraordinary miracles of healing and feeding, and examples of both are  given in this chapter, Jesus sighs deeply at the lack of  understanding and faith of a generation that will only believe through such signs.

He tells them that no such sign will be given, and leaves that place, gets back into the boat and crosses back to the other side.

Perhaps this in itself is a sign we could reflect upon – when a person is not able to see who God is or the signs that are present all around, Jesus doesn’t spent hours and days arguing, but gets in the boat and leaves them behind. It reminds me of his instruction to the disciples to shake the dust from their feet and move on if a town does not welcome them on their missionary travels.

Instead we read in the verses that follow that Jesus spends time with his disciples, who themselves seem to have failed to understand the significance of his feeding both the four and the five thousand, asking if they have “eyes but do not see, and ears yet do not hear”. Then he goes on to heal the blind man at Bethsaida and we reach a pinnacle of understanding as he asks his questions “who do people say that I am” and “who do you say I am”, and Peter makes his most profound confession that Jesus is the Messiah.

Comparatively, Jesus didn’t have very much time in his earthly ministry. Every encounter needs to count and lead people towards understanding – like the blind man having his eyes opened and like Peter recognising the reality of his nature.

We share and reflect a lot in our Wayfarers group how we have seen God active in and through “the ordinary” – in his creation and through each other – in our gardens, on the cliff path, in praying for each other and in neighbourly interactions. Seeing the signs of him in daily life makes every day a journey of exploration and joyful discovery drawing us deeper into God’s life and love for us and all creation. Never is a day boring or without inspiration, for the signs are all around us. They may be signs that fill us with joy and wonder, gratefulness and generosity or peace and compassion in the face of suffering, but all can speak to us of the glory and mercy of God our Father.

May we always be people with eyes who are able to seek out and see, and ears able to listen and hear. Amen

The Collect for the Sunday before Lent
Almighty Father,
whose Son was revealed in majesty
before he suffered death upon the cross:
give us grace to perceive his glory,
that we may be strengthened to suffer with him
and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory;
who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen

Reflection for Friday 12th February 2021

The Rev’d Derek Arnold

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DAILY REFLECTION 12 February 2021

READING Mark 6.14-29
King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
Others said, “He is Elijah.” And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.” But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!” For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.
The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”
“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.
At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

REFLECTION
Interestingly, this reading from Marks gospel sits between Jesus sending out his disciples in pairs on a mission of preaching, teaching, and healing, and then their return.
The story begins with reports and rumours of the work of Jesus and his disciples, and it presupposes that John has already been executed; especially as some regarded Jesus as possibly being John the Baptist raised from the dead, Elijah, or one of the other ancient prophets. Indeed Herod, seems to have mistaken Jesus’ identity, thinking that he was the resurrected John.
According to biblical scholars, this Herod is not the same Herod who ordered the slaughter of the innocent children; this is his son, Herod Antipas. And according to Josephus, the secular Jewish historian of the time, Herod Antipas, while visiting Rome seduced his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, and they married.
When John learned of this new political union between Herod and Herodias, he did the right thing and spoke out against the marriage. John referring to a couple of passages from the book of Leviticus, chapters 18 & 20 (18 v16 and 20 v21), told Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’
It would have taken great courage for John to speak out against one of the highest political authorities of his day. Yet, John does not shrink from his duty, he is the Lord’s prophet and so he faithfully does what he is called to do. Like other prophets of our time such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, they also paid the ultimate price for speaking out.
But I think the purpose of sandwiching this story here in Mark’s Gospel is to remind us that John’s story is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ story. Jesus, like John would be totally innocent of the charges broke against him and would be executed by the ‘powers that be’ more out of political preservation and expedience, rather than anything else.
So what does this story tell us? It tells that words can be immensely powerful, but they must be used with great care. In the mouth of the prophet, they can change lives for the better, but in the mouths of others they can lead us to great sin, and tragic consequences, as we have seen in this story.
Yet, according to Mark such stories give us hope that God is still at work in peoples’ lives. And in the face of evil, tragedy and suffering, we can see the grace God at work! And it is to the cross where we look to see and experience this! Amen.

THE COLLECT (alternative)
God of our salvation,
help us to turn away from those habits which harm our bodies
and poison our minds
and to choose again your gift of life,
revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Reflection for Thursday 11th February 2021

Nigel Price

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Mark 7:24-30 (NRSV)

The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Reflection

If you are a regular at Holy Communion services, you are probably familiar with a version of the prayer of humble access which goes like this:

We do not presume to come to this your table, O merciful Lord,
trusting in our own righteousness,
but in your abundant and great mercies.
We are not worthy so much as to gather up
the crumbs under your table;
but you are the same Lord
whose character is always to have mercy.
Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord,
so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ,
and to drink his blood,
that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body,
and our souls washed through his most precious blood,
and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.  Amen.

In the story, it is the Syrophoenician woman who refers to crumbs under the table, but it is the dogs who eat them.  It is something of a political incident, for here is Jesus in a decidedly Gentile town trying to lay low.  The woman is desperate; she fears so much for her daughter.  Jesus wants to hide away but he cannot escape being noticed.  The woman is a Gentile and Jews often thought of Gentiles as ‘dogs’.  Gentiles were not exactly complimentary about Jews!  Jesus seems to have got rather uptight about being pestered; he knows that his vocation is not to spread the gospel to the Gentiles, but as a Jew himself to tell the Jewish people that their deliverance was at hand.  There would be time enough for the Gentiles in due course.  Hence this rather barbed comment to the woman.

Some would say the woman rebukes Jesus for his restricted viewpoint, but in fact she accepts the insult and turns it to her advantage in order to secure the healing of her child.

It will not be long before the dogs under the table would cease to be dogs; at the time of writing Mark would have had an eye on Gentiles already sharing in the kingdom promised to Israel.

Today we know Jesus as our saviour – at the point of the crucifixion the King of the Jews became the saviour of the world!

So, we pray,

The Collect (alternative)

Almighty God,
give us reverence
for all creation and
respect for every person,
that we may mirror your likeness
in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Reflection for Wednesday 10th February 2021

The Rev’d Roger Elks

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Hello, this morning’s reading is from Mark’s Gospel. How long do you think it takes a person to make a good impression, to form a first impression of someone else? We’ve heard maybe that it’s within the first 10 seconds or in the first 3 seconds. Well, there’s been some research by people at Princeton University in America. They reckon that we form an impression of another person in about a tenth of a second. So none of us really stands a chance, do we, anyway? Let’s have a look at the reading mark, 7 vs 14 to 23.

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” [16]

17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

So here we have another parable of Jesus. Remember, a parable is a comparison of something that we know to something that we don’t know. And here it is, the comparison between the stomach that we understand its function, and the heart, which, of course, is far harder to understand. But it is the heart that is important to God.

When Samuel is called to choose a king for Israel, he goes to see David and God says to him, 1 Samuel, 16v7, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”. So here we have this heart. It’s not a comfortable thought, is it, that God looks at the heart. We prefer to be assessed for what can be seen on the outside of us.

This is how we assess others, isn’t it? What clothes they’re wearing, what hairstyle they have, their countenance. Remember that study from Princeton? A tenth of a second it takes for us to form that first impression. All of us are reluctant to reveal our true selves, our inner self, and we cover our inner selves that we want to hide with a cloak, and that cloak is that first impression of the things we wear, the things we do. And the Pharisees covered there in selves with a cloak. And the cloak was the observance of the law, the culture, their identity. And particularly here Jesus is talking about that part of the law, about different foods that they were allowed to eat. And he’s saying actually it’s not about eating different foods, it is about the heart.

So God looks at the heart. And that’s bad news, isn’t it? Because as we read this list of things that come out of the heart, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly, we recognize that some maybe all of those things reside in our hearts even as potential bad works, if not in action. And God sees, those, so that’s the bad news. I guess that if we were honest, we’d have to admit that some of them were there within us and they defile us.

But the good news is the same, that God sees our hearts and the things that we hide even from ourselves. He sees the good things that we hide from ourselves and don’t want to admit. And he also sees the bad things that we hide from others and don’t want to admit to them. He sees the bad things and still loves us.

One of the big questions that every human being asks is, am I acceptable? Am I included? I loveable? And the answer is, well, maybe, perhaps in human terms, we are acceptable, acceptable to some people, but certainly not to everyone. You can’t please all the people all the time. But you are always, you and I are always acceptable to God because he sees us exactly how we are. And loves us as we are, “My dear child”, he says to us, “Come to Father”. God does accept us because he’s able to forgive us. So let’s accept ourselves and accept each other and accept his love. Amen.

Almighty God,
you have created the heavens and the earth
and made us in your own image:
teach us to discern your hand in all your works
and your likeness in all your children;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things,
now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Tuesday 9th February 2021

Jon Ellis

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Reflection Psalm 8           Feb 9

Amplified Bible Version

1 To the Chief Musician; set to gittith, a Philistine lute, or <possibly> to a particular Hittite tune. A Psalm of David.

O LORD, our Lord, how excellent (majestic and glorious) is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory on <or above> the heavens.

2  Out of the mouths of babes and un-weaned infants You have established strength because of Your foes, that You might silence the enemy and the avenger.

3  When I view [and] consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained [and] established,

4  What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of <earthborn> man that You care for him?

5  Yet You have made him but a little lower than God <or heavenly beings>, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.

6  You made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet:

7  All sheep and oxen, yes, and the beasts of the field,

8  The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, [and] whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent (majestic and glorious) is Your name in all the earth!

The musical introduction to this psalm mentions Gittith. It was probably a musical instrument that was used, or maybe a reference to the rejoicing style of the psalm. The term Gittith is applied to two other psalms (#Ps 81:1-16 #Ps 84:1-12) which also rejoice in the Lord.

                Reading this Psalm, I can’t help singing, “O Lord our God, how majestic is your name, the earth is filled with your glory…We will magnify” MP 507 or “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works thy hand has made …Then sings my soul … How great thou art, how great thou art.” MP506.

                The images of children and babies singing God’s praise, are wonderful. The Message Bible version uses the phrase, “Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs”. Super! It goes on to say that they, “drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble.” When we sing praise to God, it does indeed drown out the enemy’s taunts and discouragements.

                Each day we can go out into the garden, look at the flowers, listen to the birds and despite all the recent rain, enjoy the beautiful place we live in. A short walk and we are by the river or the sea. At night, we can see the wonder of the universe displayed over our houses. The bright moon shining, the stars sparkling. Is that Jupiter or Saturn? God made all this, as the hymn, “This is our God” says, “Hands that flung stars into space …” God is amazing!

                Then the psalm moves on to man. It revels in how God, in all this awesome universe, cares for each and every one for us. Like the grains of sand on the beach, he knows you and me. We may be “lower than the angels” but we are still special to God.

                We are, however, reminded that we have a responsibility to look after all the animals, birds, and fish. God’s grace is freely given but he entrusts us with the responsibility that gives. Covid-19 is restricting us now, but we should still be addressing our role in climate change and care of the environment that God has provided for us.

 This earth is precious to God and it should be to us.

                The reference to humanity being “crowned with glory and honour” (v5) can also be interpreted in light of Jesus, whose suffering and death for our sins, is crowned with “glory and honour” (Heb. 2:9). God sent his Son so that we can be forgiven and come and talk with our heavenly Father. That also means listening to him. The Bible is full of accounts where his people stop listening, turn to other gods, and the consequences are disastrous. The pandemic has shown us that we have not valued people over wealth as much as we should.

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent majestic and glorious is Your name in all the earth!

Collect
Almighty God,
give us reverence for all creation
and respect for every person,
that we may mirror your likeness
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Reflection for Monday 8th February 2021

The Rev’d Penny Body

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Reflection 8th February 2021

The Gospel  Mark chapter 6 verses 53 to the end

53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Reflection

Jesus was and is many things – teacher, prophet, seeker of justice and peace, shepherd of the sheep and personified lamb of God – and so much more, but in our gospel reading today it is as healer that the people run to him.

And perhaps it is in healing that Jesus makes the most profound connection with people. In his healing, in that encounter, it’s not so much intellectual understanding that is needed, but more it is as if heart speaks to heart and we are overwhelmed and filled with the compassion of Christ. We know that “he knows, he understands, he loves us with such enormous love, and only wants to look upon us with that love” (to quote Edwina Gately in Psalms of a Laywoman). 

It is the most personal of encounters. In the gospel stories of individual people that he healed, we see that Jesus is always entirely focused on the one who needs healing. He is sensitive to their needs. He often takes them away from the crowd. He never imposes but always asks what it is they want and need – though he knows more deeply than they do already. He heals them and gives them guidance for the next stage of their journey as they come to see, through his healing, who he truly is. Their eyes are opened in more ways than one. The connection is two way – he knows us, and we come to know him.

In this gospel, the people are healed if they only touch the edge of his cloak. But even then, we know that Jesus will know them. We know from the story Luke tells us about the healing of the woman of her bleeding, after she touched the hem of his cloak, that Jesus was aware of her and of the healing moment as he felt the power leave him. And so he would have known all those who touched him on this day.

The other thing that struck me particularly about this reading is about the people who brought the sick to Jesus. They carried the sick on mats and brought them to the marketplaces so that they could touch Jesus. When someone we love is sick, we want to do anything and everything we can to help them. It is awful watching someone suffer and be unable to make them better. We can do all sorts of practical things, and offer emotional support, encouragement, gentleness, compassion and kindness – and all these things matter. But perhaps the best we can do is to take them, like the people in the gospel, to Jesus. Take them through our own prayers, and through the prayers of our families, friends and churches and our wonderful prayer chains. Play our part in taking them to the place of encounter, where in Jesus’s healing presence, we can know that whatever happens, everything will be all right.

The Collect for the Second Sunday before Lent

Almighty God,
you have created the heavens and the earth
and made us in your own image:
teach us to discern your hand in all your works
and your likeness in all your children;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things,
now and for ever.
Amen.