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

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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