Reflection for Monday 25th April 2022

The Rev’d Penny Body

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Reflection Monday 25th April 2022
Mark 13.5-13
5Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!”* and they will lead many astray. 7When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
9 ‘As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. 10And the good news* must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 13and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Reflection
Today is the festival of Mark the evangelist and so unsurprisingly our gospel today comes from Mark. In it, among other things, Mark records Jesus saying “…do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit”.
And if we were celebrating today with a Holy Communion service, the post communion prayer set for the day also looks forward to the day of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles, with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame, filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel.
In both the gospel reading and the prayer, the imperative is that the gospel – the good news of Jesus – needs to be preached to all people and nations.
Now it is our turn – and we are the ones who have the honour, privilege, joy and boldness to preach the gospel in our time and place.
But how often do we find ourselves unsure or concerned about what to say about God – or about Jesus – when we are asked a question about him – or when we want to comfort someone with the knowledge of God’s love – or speak words of peace into a conflict situation or hope and light into the darkness? And it can feel especially difficult these days when we can sometimes be made to feel we have to keep our faith hidden for fear of offending someone. Though I doubt our situations are ever as severe as those of the early apostles and disciples being handed over to the councils and beaten in the synagogues because of our preaching.
But as we celebrate the gospel writing today of Mark, and think of all the evangelists down the ages, who have brought the good news to our generation, we can take heart. We don’t need to worry. We can have the confidence to say whatever is given us in the moment that we need it – for it will be the Holy Spirit speaking from within us and he will put the words we need in our mouths.
We celebrate the day of Pentecost in a few weeks’ time – in fact this year it coincides with our Queen’s Jubilee weekend so we shall have a double celebration – but we have no need to wait.
God’s Holy Spirit is with us always – he is here – he is with us and within us – only ever as far away as our listening ears and prayerful hearts – and he will always give us the words we need to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Amen.

Collect for the Festival of St Mark
Almighty God,
who enlightened your holy Church
through the inspired witness of your evangelist Saint Mark:
grant that we, being firmly grounded in the truth of the gospel,
may be faithful to its teaching both in word and deed;
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 Friday 21st April 2022

Nigel Price

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Today I have chosen the Psalm that is set for the day, just a few verses from Psalm 118.

Psalm 118.1-4, 22-26 (NRSV)

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
   his steadfast love endures for ever!

Let Israel say,
   ‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’
Let the house of Aaron say,
   ‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’
Let those who fear the Lord say,
   ‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’

The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
   it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
   O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
   We bless you from the house of the Lord.

Reflection

There are some familiar phrases there.  ‘His steadfast love endures for ever!’

This afternoon I am interring some ashes in St Mary’s Churchyard.  Someone is going to read the poem ‘Gone from my sight’.  If you are not familiar with it, ‘Google’ it and have a read.  It is a particularly apt allegory of death for the inhabitants of a village that sits on the estuary.  I don’t know if you have ever paused at the top of the ‘Lookout’ to look west, over Lundy, with nothing but sea between you and America.  So the thought of one of the old clippers setting off from Appledore, cheered as she goes, to be later greeted by more cheers on arrival on the other side of the Atlantic is a good way of describing death.

On such occasions I usually remind people that nothing is stronger than love.  Not even death can overcome it – Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory? – just because we can no longer see our loved ones, we do not stop loving them.  And in the same way, just because someone has crossed that thin divide between life and death, they do not stop loving.

And to top it all we have the love of God that endures for ever.

This is the day the Lord has made – do not waste it, it is God’s gift to you, so let us rejoice and be glad in it.

And so we pray the Collect:

The Collect (Additional)

God of glory,
by the raising of your Son
you have broken the chains of death and hell:
fill your Church with faith and hope;
for a new day has dawned
and the way to life stands open
in our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen

Reflection for Wednesday 20th April 2022

Jon Ellis

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Reflection Acts 3 1-10

Acts 3
1 ¶ One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.
2 Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.
3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.
4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”
5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.
8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God,
10 they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

REFLECTION
Alleluia! Jesus is risen! That’s what we say on Easter Day. As the song says:
“God’s not dead, he is alive! Feel him my hands, feels him my feet,
feel in my heart, feel him in my life. He is alive in me!”
Alleluia! He is risen indeed!

Now what? The joyous celebrations are over. The hot cross buns eaten. What are we going to do now? It’s the same after Christmas. It all seems a bit flat. But it shouldn’t be like that, should it! It should continue to feel like the song.
We should still be feeling God in our hands, feet, heart and life.

The reading today is about what happens next after the Resurrection. I can’t resist singing!

“Peter and John went to pray; they met a lame man on the way.
He asked for alms, and held out his palms, and this is what Peter did say:
Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, I give you.
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

He went walking and leaping and praising God
Walking and leaping a praising God
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

That’s what it is all about. As the service ends with, “Our worship has ended, our service begins, Go in the peace of Christ.” There’s no mention of, “now sit down and stay permanently privately worshipping God.”

Of course, some are called to do just that. In old age when our body will not do the things our mind would like it to, we are called to prayer and contemplation. But even then, we can still witness how Jesus has been with us through our lives, and how he continues to be by our side.

But this passage is recounting how we as disciples can all see God in action performing miracles, when we trust in him and show others how Jesus can bring amazing changes to our lives.

COLLECT
God of glory,
by the raising of your Son
you have broken the chains of death and hell:
fill your Church with faith and hope;
for a new day has dawned
and the way to life stands open
in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Reflection for Friday 8th April 2022

Nigel Price

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As we finish another week, we look forward to Holy Week.  The team are taking a break from reflections – there is lots of other stuff going on during Holy Week – and we will be back on Wednesday 20th of April.

John 21.1-14 (NIV)

​ Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Reflection

John’s Gospel could easily have finished at the end of Chapter 20, but this is too good a story to leave out! Reminiscent of the story in Luke when Jesus first calls his disciples.  This time, Peter has taken out his friends to fish with him.  Like us, maybe, when things go wrong – and they have gone catastrophically wrong with the crucifixion – he busies himself not knowing how else to cope.  But this attempt to enter into his old life is a failure as well.  The disciples seem unable to enter the new, risen, life, but they can’t find a way to re-enter their old life either.  They are caught between two worlds, at home in neither.  Fishing at night was common practice, but the symbol of night time also points to deeper places of human and spiritual darkness.

There is something practical and homely about breakfast on the beach.  Tired, cold and hungry, the men relish the warmth and comfort prepared for them by Jesus. Peter’s memory, perhaps, would have taken him back to that other charcoal fire where he denied knowing Jesus.  As he took the bread and gave it to them, perhaps the other disciples were transported back to the Upper Room and that final meal.

In this account Jesus goes ahead of his disciples to meet them in their lost and vulnerable state, providing for them all that they need.  And so with us, Jesus knows exactly what we need and where we are in life.  Just being with him nourishes us and renews us to do his will here on earth.

And so we pray the Collect:

The Collect (Additional)

God of glory,
by the raising of your Son
you have broken the chains of death and hell:
fill your Church with faith and hope;
for a new day has dawned
and the way to life stands open
in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Reflection for Wednesday 6th April 2022

Jon Ellis

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Reflection on Daniel 3 14-20, 24-25, 28 John 8 31-42 Wednesday 6th April

Daniel 3
14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?
15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.
17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.
18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
19 ¶ Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude towards them changed. He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual
20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.”
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
28 ¶ Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.

REFLECTION
We all know the story. The names Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have a poetic ring to them when we say them! Some stories in the Old Testament are much more interesting than others. We can tell them to our children with gusto. This story has horns, flutes, zithers, lyres, pipes and all kinds of music too. It sounds exciting!

Strong soldiers throw our heroes in to the burning furnace, heated seven times hotter than normal. How can this be? How will they survive? Then shock, amazement. Look we see four men walking around in the fire, unbound, unharmed. I thought only three were thrown in. Who is this fourth man? “He looks like a son of the gods” the king cries.

God was with them. Through the apparently impossible trial, He came in with them, to walk with them.
When I was training to be a Samaritan, I was told that I must get down into the “pit” that the caller is in. They showed a cartoon to demonstrate climbing down the ladder into where the caller is, and letting the ladder be pulled up so that you were fully in that place. Not until after the end of the time, could we have our debriefing to help us climb back out. I protested that I still needed the ladder. But that is the point. To really empathise you have to be there listening, not thinking of how you get out yourself.

We know Jesus is with us by his Holy Spirit in the most difficult of situations. Hopefully not a fiery furnace seven times hotter than normal. But it can feel like that when our life is bad enough to consider calling the Samaritan helpline. I remember helping to train a new recruit and she kept asking me to say I wanted to commit suicide. She had not realised that not very many calls are from people who are thinking of that. Those calls are really tough. But most calls are from people who keep phoning up with the same issue. It may not be bad enough to consider ending their lives, but it is a huge problem to them. It is OK to phone Samaritans if you want a listening ear to your problems. You can do that before you get to feeling suicidal.

We are called to listen to others. I am bad at listening. I have to keep telling myself to be quiet and not to chip in. Listening means being the one who goes into the fiery furnace with people who are in trouble. We are Jesus’ hands and feet and ears. And it is not as effective if we are dressed in a great big obvious fire-proof protective suit. We have to feel the heat in order to fully listen.

COLLECT
Gracious Father,
you gave up your Son
out of love for the world:
lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion,
that we may know eternal peace
through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Reflection for Monday 4th April 2022

The Rev’d Roger Elks

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Good morning. I heard a story about a wartime incident that happened when a formidable French lady was being interviewed by the Gestapo. She was led into a room, sat down opposite a desk and her two interrogators who had this big spotlight focused on her in order to intimidate her. She sat down and looked at them and said, “Turn that thing off. How do you expect me to answer questions with that in my eyes?” And they duly turned it off, having been intimidated by her.

Well, the spotlight in today’s Bible reading is on a woman caught in adultery and then upon Jesus as the questions are asked of him. But then the spotlight turns to the questioners.

John 8

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’

11 ‘No one, sir,’ she said.

‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’

(NIV)

There are times when we want to ask God lots of questions; asking, asking, asking, and there just doesn’t seem to be a reply. He doesn’t give us an answer. And the question you have to ask of unanswered prayers and unanswered questions is, “Is God just ignoring us? Why is there this silence? What is God thinking?”

And as Jesus is writing in the sand, I guess the woman and the teachers of the law and all who are watching this are wondering, “What is he thinking in this silence?” Well, certainly he is not thinking about condemnation. He doesn’t condemn the woman, and actually, neither does he condemn the questioners. He just asked them a question.

You know, perhaps we shouldn’t be so keen to ask God questions, because instead of the spotlight being upon God who is in the dock with our questions, the spotlight turns onto us. Are you ready for that, to be in the spotlight, to have that bright light shine upon us? Job, in the Old Testament, questions God again and again. In fact, he tries not to, but eventually, he does, and God speaks back to him. Job 38 v3 “Brace yourself like a man and I will question you, (Job) and you shall answer me”. Job 38, read the chapter to see more.

So we pray, don’t we, that God will be gentle with us in our questions and our doubts. And we ask that God will also help us to be gentle with each other and gentle with ourselves. Amen.

Reflection for Friday 1st April 2022

Nigel Price

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Today I have taken the reading from Psalm 27.  We are probably all familiar with Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd, a Psalm of great comfort.  Psalm 27 is headed as a Psalm of Confidence.  On Wednesday in the Lent Course we were tackling the subject of worry, that is to say, how to put worry aside and instead look to the Lord.  One writer put it in these slightly surreal terms, don’t seek the elephant in the room, look over there – it’s a penguin!  In other words, don’t be bogged down by the obvious, the thing that will drag you down, but seek out something extraordinary, something that will distract you from the worry, the Lord Jesus himself, perhaps.

Psalm 27.1, 9-10, 16-17 (NRSV) or perhaps vv 1, 7-8, 13-14 (numbering of verses may not be consistent)

Triumphant Song of Confidence

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
   whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
   of whom shall I be afraid?”

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
   be gracious to me and answer me!
8 ‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’
   Your face, Lord, do I seek.

 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
   in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
   be strong, and let your heart take courage;
   wait for the Lord!

Reflection

A week or so ago we started opening St Mary’s, Appledore during daylight hours. Pre-Covid the church was open during the day, but for two years it became unsafe to do so.  There is nothing worse that walking up to a church and finding a great imposing door barring your entry, so we felt that it was time to go back to daily opening.

It is interesting to speculate on the reasons why people come into the church.  Looking in the visitors’ book, there are often comments made – usually praising the architecture and the stained glass windows. Sometimes there is a comment on the peace and tranquillity.  Often there are fresh contributions in our donations box.  Finding candles still burning shows that some do come in to pray, to remember, perhaps to mourn.  Sometimes we find people still in the building and can engage them in conversation.  But quite clearly, for whatever reasons, being able to come into our building is a comfort and much appreciated.  We may not see them on a Sunday morning, but it is not for us to judge their faith or commitment.

A couple of weeks ago, after the Sunday morning service, we came out to find that someone had left eleven ‘Gideon’s’ Bibles in our porch.  No one had seen who it was and there was no note, so we had no idea why they had been left.  Perhaps they were surplus to requirements following the closure of a B&B establishment.

Anyway, we decided to leave them in the porch with a note that read ‘If you would like a Bible, please take one’.  Yesterday, the last one disappeared!  What a fantastic outreach … of course it might be that being quite bulky they were deemed useful as a makeweight!  But no, they gradually disappeared over the days and it makes one wonder to whom they went, why they wanted one and why they did not already have a Bible.  I am tempted to suggest that we purchase another small supply to leave for anyone to take.  It seems to be one way of spreading the Gospel in our community.

Many are not comfortable in public worship, so if we can provide a safe, quiet space for private prayer, together with the word of God then surely we are sharing in God’s mission in this world.  And that is the thing to remember, it is God’s mission, not ours, but if we can act as his hands giving out gifts for others to make use of, then our work is indeed done!

And so we pray the Collect:

The Collect ( Additional)

Merciful Lord,
you know our struggle to serve you:
when sin spoils our lives and overshadows our hearts,
come to our aid and turn us back to you again;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Reflection for Wednesday 30th March 2022

Jon Ellis

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Reflection John 5 17-30 Isaiah 49 8-15 Psalm 145 8-18 30 March

John 5
17 ¶ Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”
18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.
21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.
22 Moreover, the Father judges no-one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,
23 that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.
24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.
26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.
27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice
29 and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.
30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

REFLECTION
The Jewish Sabbath (from Hebrew shavat, “to rest”) is the seventh day of the week—Saturday. The reading today is Jesus’ response to the Jewish leaders’ accusation that he was not keeping the Sabbath. They classed his healing as working. We think of Sunday being the day of rest. But what does that mean for us these days? How strictly do we observe it?

I remember when the Sunday Trading Act came out allowing big businesses to trade on a Sunday but with limited hours of opening. I had discussions with pupils over what it meant in practice and whether it was a good idea. I was a driving instructor at the time. When I started, I worked for a big school of many instructors. The management assumed we would work Sundays because that was when people who were working in the week were free to have a lesson. It was a new job for me and I was enthusiastic so I worked seven days a week. This lasted a year because it drove me crazy! I just could not work every day without breaks.

So when the discussion about Sunday Trading came up, and people said that it was all about people going to church, I replied that it is not about church, it is about keeping Sunday Special. One day a week has to be a break from the other days.
So back to my first questions. How do you interpret the Special Day? Should we not do any shopping on a Sunday? But what about the electricity, the gas? Hospitals? Somebody is working.

As a teacher, I used to read Laura Ingalls Wilde’s book, “Little House in the Big Woods” to children. There is wonderful account of how the father, who is very strict about Sunday Observance, falls asleep, and the children, who have a new sledge, dare to go out. It all goes horribly wrong and they have to sneak back in.

Sunday trading has evolved over the years. Now it is an opportunity for young people to earn money and let the older workers have a day off. It has also changed as our country has embraced other cultures and faiths. People use the special day for watching sport, supporting their children playing football, having a family day out.

So where does it leave us with what the Bible says about keeping the seventh day holy? Jesus answered the religious accusers by pointing out that love and care are more important that strict religious practice. That is the example for us to follow. Caring for others by sharing God’s love. Supporting may be us using to shop or leisure activity so someone can earn money. Conversely, it may also be by not expecting someone to give up their Sunday when we could ask in the week.

COLLECT – Lent 4
Merciful Lord,
you know our struggle to serve you:
when sin spoils our lives
and overshadows our hearts,
come to our aid
and turn us back to you again;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Reflection for Monday 28th March 2022

The Rev’d Penny Body

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Reflection 28th March 2022

The Gospel – John 4.43-end
43 When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee 44(for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honour in the prophet’s own country). 45When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival.
46 Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. 47When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you* see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ 49The official said to him, ‘Sir, come down before my little boy dies.’ 50Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. 51As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. 52So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.’ 53The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ So he himself believed, along with his whole household. 54Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.

Reflection
It seems to me that at the heart of this gospel story is the love of a father for his son. The royal official would have been a man of high status – and yet he was willing to walk 20 miles over rough terrain to beg Jesus – a carpenter – to come and heal his son who was sick unto death – and to persevere when it seemed Jesus did not immediately answer him.
We have seen this same love and anguish on the faces of so many mothers and fathers recently as they desperately try to protect and save their children in Ukraine – fathers saying goodbye to their families as they send them away on trains for safety – mothers trying to make life seem normal for their children in the refugee receptions centres when inside they are close to breaking point. Parents putting the needs of their children before their own. Doing anything they can to save them.
This love is what makes us human. It is also what enables us to recognise the individuals we see on television and in our newspapers as individual families facing heartbreak and loss rather than as mere statistics. It enables us to respond in generosity and love, to stand up for justice and unite against oppression.
And as we think of the royal official begging Jesus to heal his son, or see the Ukrainian father making the so painful decision to send his son away not knowing whether he would see him again, as we see the longing fulfilled on the faces of parents reunited with their children, we can gain a small understanding of the deep, deep love that God has for us, his children. A love that never fails, that surrounds and supports us always, a love that is faithful beyond anything we can imagine. A love so deep, that God sent his only Son into the world to save us, and to give us life.
Our gospel story had a good outcome. The official’s son recovered at the exact hour Jesus had told him his son would live and the official, and his entire household, believed in Jesus.
We continue to pray for good outcomes for those caught up in the terror of the war in Ukraine. We rejoice in the bonds of love that hold us together. We give thanks for that love – which both makes us human, and enables us to share in the wonder and love of God. We give thanks for its depth which can be the cause of both such anguish and such joy. And we pray for those families where love and relationships are broken, especially where children suffer and are in danger. We pray all these things in the name of Jesus the Son, bound in love with the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Collect for the 4th Sunday of Lent

Merciful Lord,
you know our struggle to serve you:
when sin spoils our lives
and overshadows our hearts,
come to our aid
and turn us back to you again;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reflection for Friday 25th March 2022

Nigel Price

Click here to read the Reflection

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. This marks the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, during which he told her that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. More importantly, since it occurs nine months before the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, the Annunciation marks the actual incarnation of Jesus Christ – the moment that Jesus was conceived and that the Son of God became the son of the Virgin. The angel’s greeting to Mary in its traditional translation forms a prayer particularly important in the Roman Catholic Church, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus!”
Luke 1.26-38 (NIV)

The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Reflection

The 25th of March is also known as Lady Day, one of the four quarter days on which rents traditionally become due. Lady Day is particularly marked by the Mothers’ Union and on Monday 28th at 2.30pm in St Mary’s Appledore the Appledore and Northam Mothers’ Union are holding a Lady Service (it is open to all). As a member of the Mothers’ Union – yes, a member – you could say it is my feminine side coming out, but maybe you knew that you don’t have to be a mother to join. Yes, as a member, there are two Marys that are dear to my heart – the Blessed Virgin Mary, of course, and Mary Sumner, founder of the Mothers’ Union.
Two Marys, two women, chosen by God for extraordinary things, but two very ordinary persons. Mary, just a teenager in a small town, chosen to be the mother of our Lord. And Mary Sumner, a vicar’s wife who felt called to support the young married women in her place, wives struggling with their young families. But a woman so unsure of herself that having called a first meeting she hid away upstairs, unable to face those whom she had invited.
Two women in whom God had far greater faith in their abilities than they themselves did! But, wow, they surely rose to the occasion. Because God equips those whom he calls, however unsure they may be. Remember that when you find yourself in over your head!
Let it be as you have said, says the young Mary. Are you able to echo that bravery?

And so we pray the Collect:
The Collect (The Annunciation)
We beseech you, O Lord,
pour your grace into our hearts,
that as we have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ
by the message of an angel,
so by his cross and passion
we may be brought to the glory of his resurrection;
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