PAUSE FOR THOUGHT
Sunday 27 September 2020
“There’s is time for everything, and season for every activity under heaven” Ecc.3:1.
In a few days we will be into the month of October and our return to ‘Greenwich Mean Time’ at the end of the month. This thrusts us into another annual cycle. Again, it reminds us of the transient nature of our days. The spring passes into summer, the summer into autumn and the autumn into winter. The church year from now on will bring us to a time of Remembrance which is a very significant time in itself. Advent and Christmas are again in sight, and each of these times will colour and shape our worship and activities. Each time points us to special period of preparation and celebration.
At a personal level the passage of time can bring changes in us, leading hopefully to a little more maturity in our faith, and a little more understanding in what it means to faithfully live out our Christian lives in this present age especially at this unfamiliar time in which we are living. Perhaps this is what St. Paul meant when he wrote, “You are changed from one degree of glory to the next.” This, of course, can only happen if we are tuned in enough to let God mould and shape us from the inside out. The challenges and the opportunities are real for us today, and the issues society raises for all of us are complex. We know the world we live in is changing rapidly in the political, environmental, scientific, cultural and technological spheres alone.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and wonder where does faith and practice fit in amid all these changes? Let us not forget that the gospel is not yesterday’s Good News. It always seeks to address the present realities from a God’s eye view perspective on life. Christ demonstrated that God is at the centre of human existence. No matter how clever we think we are, no matter what advancements we may have made, and yes, some of them are undoubtedly for the better, but we should not get too arrogant. Many people will ask, is society getting better in all areas? Are there threats and uncertainties today which we have never faced before? Are we as tolerant as we think we are? Have we got time for the other as we once did? Affluence does not necessarily bring about happiness or a fairer society. The values and principles that Christ gave to life are more needed than ever. So let us not be discouraged. ‘We have a gospel to proclaim. Good news for all throughout the earth. The gospel of a Saviours name: We sing his glory tell his worth’.
In some places we may not be able to sing but we can live the Good News day by day of a Saviour who loves us unconditionally.
Stay safe and be assured of my ongoing love and prayers for you all. Rev Pat
Sunday 20 September 2020
Another story I was reminded of as I have struggled with important decisions over the past couple of weeks.
Some years ago, on a hot summer day in South Florida, a little boy decided to go for a swim in the old swimming hole behind his house. In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes, socks, and shirt as he went. He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming toward the shore. His father, working in the yard, saw the two as they got closer and closer together. In utter fear, he ran toward the water, yelling to his son as loudly as he could. Hearing his voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his father. It was too late. Just as he reached his father, the alligator reached him.
From the dock, the father grabbed his little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs. That began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger than the father, but the father was much too passionate to let go.
A farmer happened to drive by, heard his screams, raced from his truck, took aim and shot the alligator. Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal. And, on his arms, were deep scratches where his father’s fingernails dug into his flesh in his effort to hang on to the son he loved.
The newspaper reporter who interviewed the boy after the trauma, asked if he would show him his scars. The boy lifted his pant legs. And then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, “But look at my arms. I have great scars on my arms, too. I have them because my Dad wouldn’t let go.”
You and I may be able to identify with that little boy. We have scars, too. No not from an alligator, but the scars of a painful past. Some of those scars are unsightly and have caused us deep regret. But, some wounds, are because God has refused to let go. In the midst of your struggle, He’s been there holding on to you.
The Scripture teaches that God loves you. You are a child of God. He wants to protect you and provide for you in every way. Unfortunately, sometimes we foolishly wade into dangerous situations, not knowing what lies ahead. The swimming hole of life is filled with peril – and we forget that the enemy is waiting to attack. That’s when the tug-of-war begins – and if you have the scars of His love on your arms, and in your heart, be very, very grateful. He did not and will not ever let you go.
I’m spending a few days away at my caravan in Cardigan Bay. I plan to swim in the sea with my Black Labrador ‘Betty’. I’m confident I won’t encounter alligators, but I’ll be on the watch out for God’s arms of love holding me close and safe. What about you?
As always – with my love and prayers, Rev Pat
Sunday 13th September
I dreamed I had an interview with God.
“Come in,” God said. “So, you would like to interview Me?” “If you have the time,” I said.
God smiled and said: “My time is eternity and is enough to do everything; what questions do you have in mind to ask me?”
“What surprises you most about people?”
God answered: “That they get bored of being children, are in a rush to grow up, and then long to be children again. That they lose their health to make money and then lose their money to restore their health. That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live neither for the present nor the future. That they live as if they will never die, and they die as if they had never lived…”
God’s hands took mine and we were silent for a while and then I asked… “As a parent, what are some of life’s lessons you want your children to learn?”
God replied with a smile: “To learn that they cannot make anyone love them. What they can do is to let themselves be loved. To learn that what is most valuable is not what they have in their lives, but who they have in their lives. To learn that it is not good to compare themselves to others. All will be judged individually on their own merits, not as a group on a comparison basis! To learn that a rich person is not the one who has the most but is one who needs the least. To learn that it only takes a few seconds to open profound wounds in persons we love, and that it takes many years to heal them. To learn to forgive by practicing forgiveness. To learn that there are persons that love them dearly, but simply do not know how to express or show their feelings. To learn that money can buy everything but happiness. To learn that two people can look at the same thing and see it totally different. To learn that a true friend is someone who knows everything about them… and likes them anyway. To learn that it is not always enough that they be forgiven by others, but that they have to forgive themselves.”
I sat there for a while enjoying the moment. I thanked Him for his time and for all that He has done for me and my family. And He replied, “Anytime. I am here 24 hours a day. All you have to do is ask for me, and I’ll answer.” (Author Unknow)
My prayer for you this coming week is that you will find time to have an interview with God, and that you will continue to know how much he understands you, loves you, and wants only the best for you. He’s there for you 24/7.
With my love and prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 6th September
Once, a psychology professor walked around his classroom full of students holding a glass of water with his arm straightened out to the side. He asked his students, “How heavy is this glass of water?” The students started to shout out guesses–ranging anywhere from 4 ounces to one pound. The professor replied, “The absolute weight of this glass isn’t what matters while I’m holding it. Rather, it’s the amount of time that I hold onto it that makes an impact. If I hold it for, say, two minutes, it doesn’t feel like much of a burden. If I hold it for an hour, its weight may become more apparent as my muscles begin to tire. If I hold it for an entire day–or week–my muscles will cramp and I’ll likely feel numb or paralysed with pain, making me feel miserable and unable to think about anything aside from the pain that I’m in. In all of these cases, the actual weight of the glass will remain the same, but the longer I clench onto it, the heavier it feels to me and the more burdensome it is to hold.” The class understood and shook their heads in agreement.
The professor continued to say, “This glass of water represents the worries and stresses that you carry around with you every day. If you think about them for a few minutes and then put them aside, it’s not a heavy burden to bear. If you think about them a little longer, you will start to feel the impacts of the stress. If you carry your worries with you all day, you will become incapacitated, prohibiting you from doing anything else until you let them go.”
Don’t carry your worries around with you everywhere you go, as they will do nothing but bring you down. Put down your worries and stressors. Don’t give them your entire attention while your life is passing you by. The Moral of this story is ‘Let go of things that are out of your control. Don’t carry your worries around with you everywhere you go, as they will do nothing but bring you down. Put your “glass down” each night and move on from anything that is unnecessarily stressing you out. Don’t carry this extra weight into the next day.’
How many times have you read Matthew 6:25-27 where Jesus says “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. And in Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” We have all come through a tough time; and trying times may still be ahead. So its important that we take Jesus’ words to heart. My prayer for you all is that you will know the peace of God that passes all understanding and will not worry.
With my love & prayers, Rev Pat
Sunday 30th August
I have read this story before and it always makes me think. Some of you may know it.
One day, a man went to visit a church. He arrived early, parked his car, and got out. Another car pulled up near him, and the driver told him, “I always park there. You took my place!”
The visitor went inside for the service, found an empty seat, and sat down. A young lady from the church approached him and stated, “That’s my seat! You took my place!”
The visitor was somewhat distressed by this rude welcome, but said nothing.
After the service, the visitor went into the lounge area of the sanctuary and sat down. Another member walked up to him and said, “That’s where I always sit. You took my place!”
The visitor was even more troubled by this treatment, but still said nothing.
Later, as the congregation was praying for Christ to dwell among them, the visitor stood, and his appearance began to change. Horrible scars became visible on his hands and on his sandaled feet. Someone from the congregation noticed him and called out, “What happened to you?” The visitor replied, “I took your place.”
The Bible tells us to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. –1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
In these very difficult times we have all had to learn to do things differently. We have had to step away from our usual routine. In the coming days I pray that you will continue to find God’s grace sufficient to hold you safe and allow you to see that it doesn’t matter where you sit, or park. What really matter is Jesus is with you and he loves you and wants only the best for you.
May you all be aware of his presence daily and when you go to your bed at the end of each day may that deep inner peace that passes all understanding rest upon you.
With my love and prayers,
Sunday 23rd August
As I have been walking or driving over the past few weeks, I’ve been aware that even the most mundane things since the beginning of Covid-19 seem to have a renewed beauty about them.
For example, I am not a huge fan of cars. In fact at times I actually find driving them pretty tiring and feel drained when I arrive wherever I am going. On a good summer’s day though, when I’m able to wind down the window and don’t have the extra strain of seeing through a wall of rainwater, it’s just so much better.
Before September comes and we have to get working hard on the challenges that face us as a church, in the New Methodist Year in ‘these unpredictable and different times’ I want to encourage you all to ‘wind the window down’ and for a brief time relax and enjoy wherever you find yourself.
Over the past weeks we have all done a ‘lot of coasting’ in driving terms. So, unless you are going to create a really special, but different holiday look around. If you can walk through your neighbourhood more slowly than usual, look at your own life also for a moment, and pause each day and ask God into it in a new way.
Ephesians 3:12-21 is a great text and I think it’s a great passage to reflect on over the rest of the summer. I suggest you read it a few times, perhaps a few times this week!
I draw your attention to part of Paul’s prayer at verse 16: “I pray that, out of His glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.”
I pray that for you all, through the rest of this month and the summer. I also pray that we all may become stronger in Christ as He renews us in the power of His Spirit.
Have a truly blessed week. Stay safe and take care. Remember you are special to God; He loves you unconditionally and wants only the best for you.
With my love and prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 16th August
I came across this story again recently it made me smile.
A field mouse looked through a crack in the wall to see a farmer and his wife open a package and wondered “What food it might contain?” He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning. “There’s a mousetrap in the house! There’s a mousetrap in the house!” The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said “Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it.” The mouse turned to the pig and told him “There is a mousetrap in the house.” The pig sympathised, but said “I’m so deeply sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers.” The mouse turned to the cow. She said “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose.” So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer’s mousetrap alone.
That very night a sound was heard throughout the house — like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she didn’t see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmer’s wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she returned home with a fever.
Well, most folk know that you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient. But his wife’s sickness continued, so friends and neighbours came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer used the pig. The farmer’s wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral; the farmer had the cow killed to provide enough meat for all of them.
The moral of the story is – the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn’t concern you, remember — when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.
EACH ONE OF US IS A VITAL THREAD IN ANOTHER PERSON’S TAPESTRY; THROUGHOUT THE LOCKDOWN WE HAVE BEEN ENCOURAGED TO STAY SAFE AND FOLLOW THE GUDELINES. OUR LIVES ARE WOVEN TOGETHER FOR A REASON. So keep smiling and spread a little joy with those you meet this coming week. Remember – we have a great God who loves us and wants the best for us. Take care and may God Bless you all. With my love and Prayers
Sunday 9th August
In this last week, we may well have experienced the hottest day ever recorded in the UK.I have been extremely blessed by the cooling breezes from the sea, as I spent a few days away at my caravan in Mwnt Bay near Cardigan in Wales. But even in the time I was there I did experience warm days, overcast days and more extreme weather. It seems clear to me that climate change is a reality, something affirmed by so many who declare a climate emergency.
Whatever we may think of climate emergencies, all of us can see the degradation of the natural environment around us. Apart from the pollution we see in river, field or air, many of us will have noticed that we no longer see the number or variety of nature species we once took for granted. It may well be decades since I last saw a water vole or grass snake, and the hedgehogs that once bumbled through my garden seem to have decreased. Despite the summer sunshine, I have seen only a few butterflies on my buddleia and the summer skies seem quieter as migrant bird numbers decline. It is apparent that all is not well in this garden of God’s creating.
Whilst wildlife numbers do vary and climate does fluctuate, science and experience tell us that we live on a planet with fewer species on this earth that is getting warmer.
My Grandson tells me the heart of the problem is in us human beings, and because of our enduring carelessness and insatiable desire for more things will get worse.
I think that the root of the problem is a spiritual one, where so many people living among us are restless and unhappy and who console themselves with acquiring more in the hope that they might satisfy their deepest longings. Many struggle to find contentment in who they are and what they already have.
I was reading recently about the unconventional Church of Scotland minister and founder of the Iona Community, George MacLeod, who used to say that “matter matters”.
God is known through the creation he has given and the experience of it through our own physical bodies. God in the incarnation of Jesus has become a very part of that creation, affirming it as sacred and proclaiming that matter reveals the divine. Matter matters to the God who breathed life into creation, who delights in it and who, in Jesus, is renewing it. Matter should matter to us too – both for our own wellbeing and to honour God.
I pray and hope that we can believe the answer to this ultimately spiritual problem. Jesus of Nazareth is the answer, and he teaches us to recognise God’s hand in creation and to love our neighbour whether that be person or beast, tree or flower.
This coming week take time to be still and look around you and give thanks to God for life and the beauty of his creation. May God continue to bless you.
With my love and prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 2nd August
Usually when we celebrate the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, thousands of folk make a pilgrimage to Stonehenge to watch the sunrise. But not so this year with the lockdown restrictions.
No one has ever fully understood why the stones were erected at Stonehenge but the accepted theory is that the stones were erected to mark the position of the sunset during the winter solstice and the sunrise for the summer solstice—the longest and shortest days of the year. It is incredible that over three thousand years ago, people wanted to make some record of the rhythms of the sun and the movements of the cosmos. Even when humanity could only conceive of a flat earth, we were mesmerised by the meaning and the beauty of the created world upon which we live within the vastness of stars and space and a sun that rises and sets and a moon that moves predictably and meaningfully through monthly phases that influence the earth and its tides.
The Psalmist recorded in Psalm 8 As people of faith, we do believe God cares, not only cares but is involved and even intervenes. When the angel told Mary that God wanted to bring his Son, a human and divine man into the world Mary asked, how can this be possible? The angel replied, “With God, nothing is impossible!”
When we look back at the history of humanity and the mess we have sometimes made of the gifts God has given and the mess humanity still makes of many things, we remember that with God, things are possible. This is an historical time when many people are passionately fighting to secure the environmental safety of our fragile and delicate planet, and that is to be commended. We all need to do our bit. This year on the 21st of July we commemorated the 51st anniversary of humans landing on the moon . . . taking one step for humankind. It was a tremendous leap and all the world wanted to watch. What we do not often hear about from this huge Small Step is that when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin approached this new place upon which no human being had ever walked, the astronaut Buzz Aldrin was also an elder at Webster Presbyterian Church and before he headed into space in 1969, he got special permission to take bread and wine with him to have communion with his Lord and Saviour on the moon. A good reminder that with God, nothing is impossible.
As we start reopening our churches may we come with open hearts that are full of praise. Please also pray. We are sometimes short of time or funds but I know. … well, you know also . . . nothing is impossible with our mighty God.
God Bless, stay safe and take time this week to read Psalm 8 … “When I look at the sky, which you have made, at the moon and the stars, which you set in their places— what are human beings, that you think of them; mere mortals, that you care for them?”
With my love and prayers. Hope to see you soon.
Sunday 25th JULY 2020
I do hope that you are enjoying the summer weather we are having.
I have had some wonderful days enjoying the garden, being out and about in nature with my dogs and just enjoying the company of friends. Some of you may be heading for a summer holiday, it’s probably going to be a different kind of holiday that you are used to because you won’t, for at least at the time of writing this article, be able to travel too far from home, so you will have to have some thoughts about the kind of holiday you will enjoy. Perhaps travelling around the coast or heading for a local beauty spot on a pristine day is on the menu rather than the coast of Spain or roaming the Mediterranean Islands. Whatever your plans might be, I do hope that you will have a carefree summer break.
As you read this I am heading off to my caravan in Wales for a break by the sea for a few days.
We are coming out of the restrictions of lockdown, and I do appreciate the bigger freedom we can have and also I am looking at creation from a different point a view than in the past. There are so many things that I perhaps took for granted which now have a new and special meaning to me.
Our circuit services of the past few weeks have been on a different level, bringing church to us in a different way. There are still so many things we can do to create a stronger community and a stronger sense of belonging, but in this unprecedented time we really were church. Reaching out, caring, loving and restoring has been part of our journey over the past few weeks. And yes, we are also looking forward to the time when we can see and meet each other again in our buildings. We have also embraced new technology during this time and hope to build on this in the future because this is also part of being church.
As we reflect on the past few weeks, the words of the Hebrews 4: 16 comes to mind:
Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
These words are so true as we start to come out of lockdown and realise that in God’s presence, we receive so much grace and comfort. Yes, we may have had to deal with the loss of dear family or friend over the past few weeks; we may have heard sad and discomforting news. But, we may also have celebrated birth and new life and were able to love and reach out to one another. In all of this if we have approached God and journeyed with Him, we will have found grace. May we continue on our journey of grace and may we know that even in our time of need, God will be the one to show us His mercy and comfort.
Can I take the opportunity to thank everyone for their continued support during this time.
Look after yourselves and take care.
Sunday 19th JULY 2020
Sometimes people come into your life and you know right away that they were meant to be there. Everything happens for a reason. Nothing happens by chance or by means of luck. Illness, injury, love, lost moments of true greatness, and sheer stupidity all occur to test the limits of your soul. Without these small tests, whatever they may be, life would be like a smoothly paved, straight, flat road to nowhere. It would be safe and comfortable, but dull and utterly pointless.
The people you meet who affect your life, and the success and downfalls you experience help to create who you become. Even the bad experiences can be learned from. In fact, they are probably the most poignant and important ones. If someone hurts you, betrays you, or breaks your heart, forgive them, for they have helped you learn about trust and the importance of being cautious when you open your heart. If someone loves you, love them back unconditionally, not only because they love you, but because in a way, they are teaching you to love and how to open your heart and eyes to things.
The past weeks of ‘Lockdown’ and Isolation have been difficult to say the least, and we are still not sure when it will end completely. But we can make everyday count!!!
Tell yourself you are a great individual and believe in yourself, for if you don’t believe in yourself, it will be hard for others to believe in you. You can make of your life anything you wish. Create your own life then go out and live it with absolutely no regrets. There are so many blessing in life. This coming week give thanks to God for all the blessings and you’ll soon see and feel a positive change in your life. God longs for you to know that you are unmistakably His. In Him, you will find the confidence you need to do all He has called you to do.
Remember nothing in all creation can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39)
In Isaiah 49:16 we read: See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. That’s how much we are loved by our great and faithful God. Rest in his love; know his peace; and trust him for all will be well. As Mother Jullian of Norwich wrote: ‘all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,’
With my love and prayers
Sunday 12th July 2020
I came across this story again recently, it really blessed me and made me think. Some of you may have heard it before.
His name is Bill. He had wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans, and no shoes. This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of college. He is brilliant. Kind of esoteric and very, very bright. He became a Christian recently while attending college.
Across the street from the campus is a well-dressed, very conservative church. One day Bill decided to go there. He walked in with no shoes, jeans, his T-shirt, and wild hair. The service has already started. So, Bill made his way down the aisle looking for a seat.
The church was completely packed, and he couldn’t find a seat. By now people were really looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one said anything. Bill got closer and closer and closer to the pulpit and, when he realised there were no seats, he just squatted down on the carpet. (Although perfectly acceptable behaviour at a college fellowship, trust me, this had never happened in this church before!
By now the people were really uptight, and the tension in the air was thick. About that time, the minister realised that from way at the back of the church, a Steward was slowly making his way toward Bill. Now the Steward was in his eighties, had silver-grey hair, and a three-piece suit. A godly man, very elegant, very dignified, very courtly. He walked with a cane and, as he started walking toward this boy, everyone was saying to themselves that you couldn’t blame him for what he was going to do.
How could you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid on the floor? It took a long time for the man to reach the boy. The church was utterly silent except for the clicking of the man’s cane. All eyes were focused on him. You couldn’t even hear anyone breathing. The minister couldn’t even preach the sermon until the Steward does what he had to do. And then they see this elderly man drop his cane on the floor. With great difficulty he lowered himself and sat down next to Bill and worships with him so he wouldn’t be alone. Everyone choked up with emotion. When the minister gains control, he said “What I’m about to preach, you will never remember. What you have just seen, you will never forget”
I think that story reminds us that we must all be incredibly careful how we live. We may be the only Bible some people will ever read. Over the past few weeks its not been easy to live the Good News of the love of God. With so many difficulties around us it may have been hard to see Jesus walking the journey with us. But He has always been by our side. In the coming days as we see new light at the end of a dark tunnel may we give him all the praise and all the glory for our lives and our blessings. And may those we meet see hope through Jesus living in us.
Take Care and look after yourselves. With my love and prayers
Sunday 5th July 2020
Whenever I was studying, I loved the scent of the small public library: a combination of old books and secrets, floor polish and copies. Not the old musty, makes-you-want-to-sneeze-and-get-out-of-there-fast smell of the big university library where I spent many hours as an undergraduate. This scent evoked the feeling of opening the door to a home-cooked meal or visiting a friend’s house. It welcomed me, enfolding me in a world of knowledge and fantasy, beckoning me to come and explore, to learn about far-away places and possibilities.
From the time I began school I loved to visit the library, usually riding my bike the few blocks that spanned the distance from my house. I would sit and read then lug home a stack of books in the little basket on the front of my bike. When I got too old for a basket, I would just tuck them under my arm and ride with one hand. (This was years before backpacks were cool, or anyone I knew even owned one.)
When I got my first library card, I was able to read and read from then on. Sometimes I went with my brother to the library, other times with friends. But my favourite times were when I went alone and could take my time to peruse each title, thumb through the card catalogue and examine the choices on the “new selection” shelf. By the way, I had my original paper library card until after I got married and had to get a new one because of my change of address. I rarely took the card, just told the librarians my number and they wrote it in. They all knew me anyway. Now the system is computerised, and the plastic cards have a bar code like everything else. If you don’t bring the card you don’t get the books!
Books have always been a huge part of my life and I’ve always loved my local library as their source. I love to buy books as well and trade them with friends, but there’s nothing like finding a great new author or an undiscovered title by a favourite author, borrowing it for free and having two weeks to indulge your imagination.
Although I find familiar comfort in books of many types, I have drawn a different kind of comfort from reading Christian writers of both fiction and inspirational genres. I also have become more comfortable with the ultimate words of wisdom in the Bible. The more comfortable I become with God’s Word the more I realise how everything else comes back to God. Even in all my other readings I see the influence and the evidence of God.
Authors are either trying to glorify Him, find Him, understand Him, undermine Him or flat-out deny Him – yet His words are unchanging and indisputable!
It says in the Psalms “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts . . .” — Psalm 119:103-104
This coming week why not find some wisdom and encouragement from the WORD of God.
With my love and prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 28th June 2020
In Mark’s gospel following The Transfiguration Jesus heals a Boy possessed by an Impure Spirit (Mark 9: 14-29) Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’
This Father brought his son to Jesus for help. Why? There was nowhere else for him to turn for help. From childhood, his son had suffered, and no one had been able to help; even the disciples had been unable to help. But still the man comes to Jesus to seek His help.
You probably have been there at some point in your life, or you may be there now. You are at the end of your rope, and your fingers are losing their grip. You’re just not sure how much longer you can hold on. Well, you call out to the only One who has the power to help. The man who brought his son to Jesus was blessed with the miraculous healing of his child. However, if you look closely at the story, you see in verse 26, that at first everyone thought he had died. But then Jesus lifted him up, and “he arose.” The man who had prayed for Jesus’ help for his unbelief received help. No doubt his faith was strengthened far beyond what he could have ever dared to hope. Also, the faith of others was strengthened, including onlookers, and that of the disciples. When you grow through crisis, others will grow as well.
I think most of us will have had some crisis in our life. I have learned that when this happens to me, I must turn toward God, and not away from Him. I have also learned that prayer should be the first response and not the last. My prayer life has been strengthened incredibly by such times. I could tell you of some of my crises, but I think you can get the picture from your own times of how God can intervene.
I know of many, including friends, who during times of crisis have turned away from God, and the result has been a lack of growth in their lives. If, however, during our times of crisis and despair, we turn to God; we will grow, and He will use it to bring about good in our lives and the lives of others. This time of ‘Lockdown’ has been a truly testing time for so many people, and its been hard to believe that it will ever come to an end. But this week the cool refreshing rain has followed the scorching heat. When we allow God to “help” our “unbelief “ all will be well.
With my love and prayers. God bless you all.
Sunday 21st June 2020
Jesus said “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10)
I wonder is Jesus talking about eternal life or this life also? I have no doubt that these words are to be applied to our life on earth as much as our hope of eternal life.
There is a lovely Spanish legend that goes like this. When people arrive at the gate of heaven seeking to enter, St. Peter asks them a strange question. He says to each one of them, “Tell me this. Have you taken advantage of all the earthly joys which God in his goodness made available to you while you were on earth?”
If a person replies, “No, I haven’t,” Peter shakes his head and says, “Alas, my friend, I can’t let you in-not yet at any rate. How can you expect to be ready for the heavenly joys if you have not prepared yourself for them through the earthly ones? I shall be obliged to send you back down to earth until you learn better.”
Life is a fragile gift. We are all aware that daily people are still dying from the Covid-19 Virus as well as from natural causes. This should centre our thoughts that our every moment is utterly unique. This should concentrate our attention too on what we are experiencing each day, that every moment is also fleeting. How quickly life’s stream runs down to the sea. This fleetingly gives life its poignancy and makes it even more precious.
“For we do not enjoy this world everlastingly, only briefly; our life is like the warming of oneself in the sun.” (Aztec Indians).
We should not be content with mere existence. I believe what we all need to be looking for in a world that is filled with so much disharmony, is the experience of being alive. God created us to live. It’s a well-known fact that those who have lived fully and intensely, do not feel cheated at death. Thoreau, said “Fear not that your life will end; rather fear that it may never have begun.”
Jesus began his ministry with these words: “Believe in the Good News.”
What is the Good News? The Good News is: “That Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.” So, as we continue our journey in this life – be it long or short – we may not all live to be 103 years old like Dame Vera Lynn, and we may not want to, but may we have the assurance that God loves us so much, that he gave each one of us his Son in order that we might truly live, and have eternal life to look forward to with him as our Saviour and Lord.
May you know the peace and love of God surrounding you daily.
With my love and prayers
Sunday 14th June 2020
As a man was driving down the road he passed a traffic camera and saw it flash. Astounded that he had been caught speeding when he was doing the speed limit, the man turned around and, going even slower, passed the camera again. It flashed once more.
He couldn’t believe it! He turned, going a snail’s pace, and passed the camera one more time. Again, he saw the camera flash. He guessed there must be a problem with the camera and went home. Four weeks later he received three traffic fines in the mail–all for not wearing a seatbelt. Life can be cruel!!
Andy Rooney writes: “I do not accept the inevitability of my own death. I secretly think there may be some other way out.” But here’s the one I want you to think about: “The middle of the night” says Andy Rooney, “seems longer than it used to.”
Can anyone relate to that? If you have ever laid awake mulling over a deep hurt or a nagging worry, you know what he’s talking about. The middle of the night can be mighty long and lonely. Have you ever experienced one of those long nights when your hopes were dashed, and your mind and heart were filled with dread?
But In the middle of our long night God can gives us hope and peace.
Many years ago a young couple had their first child, a boy. As the boy began to grow, they noticed that he had musical talent. He could play the violin. So they began to try and find the best teacher for him they could. They were told about an old Swiss maestro who used to teach but had retired. They decided to try anyway and took their boy to him. When he heard the boy play he realised his ability and decided to teach him. The boy was just eight years old.
For 10 years his teacher worked with him every day. Then came time for his debut. His parents booked Carnegie Hall. The press and all the important people came. The lights dimmed and the boy came out on stage. From the very first note he held the crowd mesmerized until the end. When he finished, the people stood to their feet and filled the hall with cheers and applause. Yet the boy ran off the stage crying. The stage manager yelled, “Get back out there.They love you. They are all cheering and clapping.” The boy replied, “There is one who is not.”
The manager ran out on stage and came back and said: “OK, one old man is not applauding.You can’t worry about what one old man thinks when the world loves you.”
The boy replied “But you don’t understand, that’s my teacher.”
The world may think of us as a success, but if sometime in our life we have not thought out that one thing in our life that matters most whether our life is pleasing to God our life is a hasty transaction and a painful loss. All Christ asks is for you to use your brain. You can save yourself a lot of problems by thinking through the consequences.
Jesus said I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly. Jesus also said he would never leave us. So, may you know the peace, the presence and the love of the Risen Lord surrounding you each day and through the night.
With my love and prayers
Sunday 7th June 2020
I think that most of us are still going through things at present that we don’t like. There may be some challenges that make us uncomfortable and maybe things are not going the way we planned.
I received this story the other day it certainly made me think so I am also sharing it with you and on the Brackley Community Radio this week too.
A visiting pastor was attending a men’s breakfast in a rural farming area of the country. He asked one of the impressive older farmers in attendance, who was decked out in his bib overalls, to say grace that morning. After all were seated, the older farmer began, “Lord, I hate buttermilk.” The visiting pastor opened one eye and wondered to himself where this was going. Then the farmer loudly proclaimed “Lord, I hate lard too” Now the pastor was growing concerned. However, without missing a beat, the farmer prayed on, “And Lord, you know I don’t care much for raw white flour.” Just as the pastor opened an eye and was ready to stand up and stop everything, because he saw others in the room were uncomfortable, the farmer continued, “But Lord, when you mix them all together and bake them up, I do love warm fresh biscuits. So Lord, when things come up we don’t like, when life gets hard, when we don’t understand what you are saying to us, we just need to relax and wait util you are done mixing, and probably it will turn out to be something even better than fresh biscuits. Amen.”
I think that within this prayer there is great wisdom for us all when it comes to complicated situations like the ones we are experiencing in the world today. Ask yourselves ‘What is being mixed for you right now? What are the less than desirable individual parts? Can you hold the hope that when everything settles down and comes together, that it will be better than you can imagine?’
Stay strong because I believe our Lord is mixing several things that we may not really care for, but something even better is going to come when he is done with it. We see things only from an earthly perspective, but I put my trust in a God who rules from a heavenly perspective. A God who knows the beginning and the end. A God who loves us and wants us to be safe and well.
Take care, stay safe my friends.
God bless you and those who you love.
With my love and prayers
Sunday 31st May 2020 Pentecost Sunday
We are still amid a global health crisis where we are at war against an invisible rampaging enemy. People may well be asking is there any light by which we can navigate this stark terrain? The answer is YES, for although Fear and Sickness walk hand in hand and the night sky appears totally black, as I look more closely I realise it is full of tiny pinpricks of light and the more I gaze upon those pinpricks, the bigger they seem to be and to my amazement the very darkness is transformed before me.
Pinpricks of light, are the presence of Jesus in us; A friend said to me … ‘In myself today I’ve been rather fraught and agitated, drifting, unfocused, unwell, yet He is here. Here in the kindness of strangers offering to take my dog for a walk; here in the actions of a neighbour checking if I need anything from the shops; here in the freshness of the summer sun shining in childlike playfulness around me as I peg out my washing. As a gentle breeze tossed the clothes on my line and performed its merry invisible dance between the tea towels and blouses, I thought of the wind of the Spirit, blowing where it will, invisible yet almighty, full of God’s creative power and beauty. I may at times feel vexed and unsettled, irritable and even far away from God, yet those pinpricks of light are always there for me to find, for surely, He is always with me.’
I may feel stark and unproductive compared to so many who are on the front line and working their utmost to help those in need, yet as I stand at my window and add my applause to the millions of others around the nation, God hears and celebrates with me from Heaven, His joy filling the sky. He the One who is utterly selfless, is bursting with delight over those made in and living out His image in selfless care of those in need. He loves us and can fill our heart with the truths of His faithfulness and kindness so how better to see that but in the lives of those giving themselves so unstintingly?
Will I honour those He honours and so open my heart to His radiant joy and peace? Or shutter up my heart in judgement and anger and find I can see only the dark? How might I navigate the strangeness of this day and the strangeness of my unsettled heart? He is with me and never abandons me. ‘If I go down to the depths He is there, speaking kindness and peace deep within’. My dogs pressing close into my side, still loving me even though I can’t take them for long walks. But in the gentle lick of forgiveness and loving pressure against my legs, my eyes are opened to God’s unconditional love and my darkness turns to light. Thank You Jesus. You are the light and the darkness has not understood. But in your light, I see light.
May God Bless you all this coming week.
With my Love and Prayers
Sunday 24th May 2020
I can hear almost hear some of you saying, “Ok, enough now, let’s get back to how life was before the lockdown!” I have deliberately not been counting how many days of the enforced lockdown it has been with no immediate end in sight. It’s become tedious for some, a season of quiet and reflection for others but for some, it’s also been a financially challenging time.
Media, politicians, and conspiracy theorists world-wide convey many messages, often conflicting and confusing. How do we make sense of this all? I believe that it is fair to say that there’s nothing you or I can do to solve the problem of the virus itself. There are eminent doctors and scientists across the globe, working hard to find a vaccine.
What we can do is remain rooted in Jesus, to maintain our spiritual disciplines and draw our strength from Him. In close companionship with Jesus, we will know His peace, His presence, and His provision. We will too draw on His wisdom and discernment which helps us navigate the road we must walk in this season. We can also be sensitive and aware of others who may be struggling at this time. I believe that we are called to show love and compassion to those in need. May we be a tangible extension of Jesus, working in us and through us, touching lives.
Please be reminded that if you have a need, please feel free to contact me, one of the stewards or your pastoral visitor.
If I were asked to choose a COVID-19 Scripture for you to meditate on it would be this: Isaiah 41:10:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
When you awake every new day remember:
Jesus said to His Father: I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. John 17: 9-11
Take Care and stay safe. As always – With my Love and Prayers
Sunday 17th May 2020
I don’t know about you, but I would love to turn on the TV or pick up a Newspaper and read some ‘Good News.’ Day after day our media seems to bombard us with news about war, unrest, Covid19 and sadness.
I recently came across theses two articles in a book called ‘The Way of Peace’ (A collection of prayers and meditations from around the world from those who love peace) compiled by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild.
I had a paint box
But it didn’t have the colour red
For the blood of the wounded
Nor white for the hearts and faces of the dead.
It didn’t have yellow either
For the burning sands of the desert.
Instead it had orange For dawn and for sunset
And blue for new skies And pink for the dreams of young people.
I sat down and I painted peace.
(Ten year old, from Latin America)
The Shadow of the Dove
When dawn’s ribbon of glory around the world returns
And the earth emerges from sleep – May the shadow of the dove be seen
As she flies across moor and city. Over the warm earth as she skims,
Her shadow falling on the watcher in the tower, The refugee in the ditch, the weary soldier at the gate.
May the shadow of hope Be cast across the bars of a hostage cell
Filling with momentary light rooms tense with conflict, Bringing a brief respite, A slither of gold across the dark.
May she fly untiring across flooded fields, Across a city divided by hate and fear,
Across a town wreathed in smoke.
May the shadow of reconciliation, The dove of peace with healing in her wings,
Be felt and seen and turned towards As she makes righteousness shine like the dawn,
The justice of her cause like the noonday sun.
Holy Spirit of love Bring healing, bring peace.
Jesus said “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid”
In the days ahead as we all continue in this time of uncertainties, may you all know the colours and the love and the deep inner peace of the Lord Jesus surrounding you.
May God bless you and those who you love.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you want to talk.
With my love and prayers.
Sunday 10 May
Another Lockdown week is nearly behind us! There is speculation that the next stage will see some people returning to work, yet many will remain at home, experiencing a variety of challenges, especially about income and sustainability.
I’ve tried to stay away from the many conspiracy theories doing the rounds at the moment as well as the narratives being put into the public domain by both anti-lockdown and pro-lockdown advocates. You may think that there is an element of ‘heavy-handedness’, perhaps over-reaction, some illogical decisions and regulations exercised by Government during this lockdown, but, I do believe that they have attempted to act in the interests of our entire country, with high infection and death rates, a cost too big to bear and carry. I personally do not agree with everything that the Government has done, but believe that I need to respect their authority and this is underpinned by many Scriptures, such as 1 Peter 2: 18-20
Let us therefore follow the regulations that are in place and do what we can to mitigate the impact for both our businesses and our personal lives. Here again, if there is anything that I can do to assist you, do please contact me.
I am grateful to all our pastoral workers and stewards who I know are praying for you and making regular contact with you.
Maybe you feel a mix of emotions? Joy that we are finally over the peak of the virus; grief at the terrible death toll and maybe personal grief too for some of you? Stress as many have lost jobs or income and although some things may start to return to normal, others will take a long time. So amidst all the uncertainties what is God saying to us?
This verse from Luke 12 v 32 spoke to me: ‘Do not be afraid little flock’. Jesus said this while talking to his friends about their concerns which were distracting them from hearing all He wanted to tell them. Using that phrase ‘little flock’ he emphasised to them and to us that we are cared for, watched over and supremely valuable in His eyes.
Do you know that tender loving care of your good shepherd, Jesus? He is with you, longing to lift the burdens from your heart and give you His peace and hope for the future. Keep your eyes on Him and all will be well.
Stay safe, be blessed … With my ongoing love and prayers
Sunday 3 May
The New York Transit Company was missing a bus and a driver some years ago. For over a week, authorities searched for the man but could not find him. Finally, ten days later, he was found, together with his bus, in Miami, Florida! The driver said, “I just had it with the cold weather, the passengers, and my family! One day after I got off work, I thought, ‘I WONDER WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I JUST TOOK OFF FROM DRIVING!’” So, that is what he did! He took off for Florida where he enjoyed the sun and surf for over a week, all by himself!
Have you ever felt like that? Life can really beat you up sometimes. You are not sure where the blows are coming from, but they really hurt, and you are not sure if you can keep going. You know that you must keep going but you feel that you can’t!
Have you ever found yourself saying “I just don’t know how much more of this I can take?” Haven’t we all felt like that bus driver at times? We get so frustrated and/or aggravated about life that we either want to pull our hair out or run away! There are many things that can get us frustrated and down, feeling we have come to the end of our tether and just can’t take another step of faith.
There was a time when the apostle Paul felt that way. In 2 Corinthians 4:1–15 Paul shares with us some of the things that kept him going – that kept him from losing heart and giving up. Things that we too can employ when we lose heart and feel like giving up in these strange days.
Despite her handicaps, Helen Keller was grateful; she said “For three things I thank God every day of my life; …thanks that He has [given me] knowledge of His works; deep thanks that He has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to – a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.”
We as believers must keep our eyes upon the author and finisher of our faith! He has not saved us to quit! He did not die on the cross for us to give up! He did not rise again for us to become discouraged! He did not ascend to the Father, interceding on our behalf for us to lose hope! We can keep going when we feel we can’t go on if we stay focused upon the Lord Jesus, and on the prize that is set before us!
In the middle of World War II, Oxford University asked our Prime Minister Winston Churchill to speak at their annual graduation ceremony. Dressed in his finest suit, he arrived at the auditorium. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. Looking very dignified, he asked everyone to be seated. Then he removed his cigar and placed his top hat on the podium, gazed at his waiting audience that included some of the most noted scholars in the world. With an authoritative tone in his voice he said: “Never give up!” Never, NEVER give up!¨ Then he reached for his hat, put his cigar back in his mouth, steadied himself with his cane and walked out of the auditorium. The speech was over. It was a short message. But it was powerful. It was a message that needed to be heard then.
It is message that needs to be heard now. Never give up! Remember difficult roads can lead to beautiful things.
Stay safe and well. You are in my prayers.
With my love and blessings
Sunday 26 April
I wonder if any of you are asking “Has anything changed since I wrote last week’s ‘Pause for Thought?’ I think it may be easier to answer that question with a negative response. But I remember my Dad told me – when he was well into his nineties – his first thought when he opened his eyes each morning was “Thank God I’m still alive!”
With the daily news that so many folk have died from the Coronavirus (COVID 19) we do indeed have much to thank God for. We may not understand what is happening and why; and its okay to criticise the shortfalls and decisions of those in positions of power and decision making; as well as being thankful for the small things that give us pleasure.
David Lewis reminded me of St. Pauls reference to a mirror in 1 Cor 13:12 where he says: “Now we see but a poor reflection, then we shall see face to face.” David goes on to reflect that it all feels very strange just now. As we are denied it, we appreciate the value of real social contact, as opposed to virtual contact. We see only a poor reflection. It’s great to connect on social media, even to pray, but it’s only life in the mirror. We long to see each other “face to face” Paul describes our current life as life in the mirror. But, he says, there is greater transformation still to come! God has prepared and fashioned something much greater and more glorious for us than what we have now. And he made it possible through the Cross and Resurrection. May the Lord instill in us the quiet confidence of hope in the joy of his resurrection. Amen.
As I write to you this week, I am grateful for many things that I often take for granted, the sunshine, my garden, the birdsong, my dogs, my family and friends. I am grateful for your telephone calls and concern for me. It is my joy and privilege to serve you as your minister. We may not be able to meet face to face, just yet, but by the grace of God and his unconditional love for each one of us we will be able to celebrate his faithfulness together again. May we all remember who is in control and how much he loves us.
Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
My prayer for you is that you will know the love and peace of our Risen Saviour holding you in the coming days which we may not understand
Stay safe and well and please contact me if you want to talk.
With my love and prayers
Sunday 18 April
We are a week on from Easter Sunday when we proclaimed the amazing news that ‘Christ is Risen’. In the strange days in which we are living now our celebration has been very different to how as Christians we would normally celebrate Easter.
This week I have included David Lewis’s thoughts which he shared with me and I now pass onto you. He writes:
James 4:8 “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you”
‘Whilst the message from government is “stay away” God’s message is “Draw near”
We’ve often coveted the control of our lives. Control that, in God’s providence, is now slipping through our fingers. A tiny particle of a virus brings our towers of babel in which we mistakenly trust crashing down…
Maybe this is not the time for triumphalist language about “beating viruses”, but time for appropriate humility; a time to “draw near to God” and be thankful that He is in control.
One day these events will become history. Life will accelerate again. Will we forget? Or will we remember what God has taught us in these times?’
My own thoughts are that while I have found it difficult to ‘stay away’ I have greatly appreciated the uninterrupted times to be able to ‘draw near to God’. This past week I had planned spend time at my holiday caravan in Cardigan Bay at Mwnt in Wales where I could relax and spend time with the amazing view of Mwnt from my decking. But instead I have spent time talking to lots of you on the telephone, working in the garden enjoying the sun and the birdsong and walking my dogs. In all these things I have felt near to God and near to you all. As I have prayed for you, I have asked that you would know the peace and love of our Risen Saviour surrounding you. These times of isolation will pass and many of us will have changed. But one thing is for certain God’s care and love for us is the same. The sun will shine into our lives again because of the never-failing love of Jesus God’s Son.
In the days ahead appreciate each minute of every day and give thanks to our Risen Lord as we drawn near to his Father and ours. Stay safe and well. Please contact me if you want to chat.
On the third day, Sunday, women came to the tomb, but Jesus was not there, and then he appeared to people over the next few weeks. Easter, constantly doubted, forever yearned for, the vortex of our faith.
Easter, as happily familiar as flowers in Spring or birthday parties growing up – and that very familiarity tricks us into missing the utterly unexpected shock of resurrection. Dead people stayed dead – until Jesus was raised. Nothing automatic here, no silly sentiments about the memory of someone living on.
Nature itself was happily subverted; the dreaded enemy, death itself, toppled.
But Easter isn’t primarily about us. God raised Jesus – and ours is to praise you and extol the wonder of Jesus. How great thou art. God is incomparably wonderful, powerful, and tender. Yes, benefits come to us because of Jesus’ resurrection – elusive glories like forgiveness and hope. But on Easter, we want to stop, and simply be awestruck at the grandeur of grace that is the heart of God – and like the first witnesses to Easter, we ask the risen Lord what tasks we might fulfil in the wake of it all.
We can ponder Hans Holbein’s painting of Jesus lying in the tomb. But can we fathom the sorrow, the guilt, doubts, disappointment and fear those who knew and loved Jesus felt between his burial on Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday?
God could have raised him immediately. But God waited. And we wait. We have all found ourselves in the throes of some numb day, our own Holy Saturday.
We’ve endured Good Friday, the losses – but there’s no new life yet.
“Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). “I wait for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:5). Saturday was, for them, the Sabbath, a day of rest. Jesus rested in the tomb; God rested in heaven. And so, with the disciples, and Jesus’ mother, we wait this day, and every day, trusting the God we cannot see, resting in the hope that Easter really is coming.
What time is it? All day, this Good Friday, keep an eye on the clock. Earlier this morning, at 6am, Jesus faced a mock trial, was treated cruelly, yet took it all peacefully. By 9am, Jesus’ wrists and ankles were gashed and shattered by iron nails, the cross slammed into the ground; the snide snickering of onlookers began. At noon the sky grew eerily dark; then at 3pm Jesus breathed his last.
We ponder that old hymn, “What wondrous love is this?” Julian of Norwich offered this moving thought: “The love which made him suffer surpasses all his sufferings, as much as heaven is above the earth.” Today we read and reflect on the profound words of the prophet Isaiah: He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Surely he has borne our grief, and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, with his stripes we are healed. He was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth, like a lamb led to the slaughter; they made his grave with the wicked, although he had done no violence (Isaiah 53).
Without the holy, divine love, without God’s eternal plan to use this day to bridge the chasm between heaven and earth, without God’s merciful determination to share in our sufferings and redeem us, this Friday would be relegated to the history books, perhaps with a sad title like Dark Friday, or Tragic Friday. But we dare to call it “Good Friday.”
In the throes of death, Jesus cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Doesn’t this leave us space to cry out in the darkness when we seem forsaken by God? God did not remain safely aloof in heaven, but God entered into human suffering at its darkest. Just as Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross, so God envelops us in a love that even death could not defeat.
Be still, and quiet, as much as you can this day. Ponder the suffering and love embodied in the Cross.
“Maundy” is derived from the same ancient root as our word “mandate.” Jesus issued a mandate: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Today, we do.
So many of Jesus’ meals were memorable! Pious people complained that he “ate with sinners” (Luke 15:2). As a dinner guest, he let a questionable woman wash his feet (Luke 7:36), and another anoint him with oil (Mark 14:1). He suggested that when you have a dinner party, don’t invite those who can invite you back, but urge the poor, blind, maimed and lame to eat with you (Luke 14:14).
His most memorable meal though was his last. For the Jews, it was Passover, the most sacred of days when they celebrated God’s powerful deliverance of Israel from Egypt; the menu of lamb, unleavened bread, and drinking wine symbolized their dramatic salvation.
Jesus must have struck the disciples as oddly sombre on such a festive night. He washed their feet, then spoke gloomily about his imminent suffering. As he broke a piece of bread, he saw in it a palpable symbol of what would happen to his own body soon; staring into the cup of red wine, he caught a glimpse of his own blood being shed. We still use the words Jesus spoke on that Thursday when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper now.
After an awkward, poignant conversation with his friends, Jesus walked out of the walled city of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives to pray in the garden called Gethsemane. Kneeling in anguish, Jesus prayed “Not my will, but Your will be done.” But no slight hint of fatalism was in his heart; Jesus’ mood wasn’t resignation: he actively and courageously sought and embraced God’s will, which isn’t some dark luck, but is when we with trusting faith go where God leads us, no matter the cost.
Jesus mercifully bore Judas’s betrayal, then was arrested. During the night, charges were trumped up, witnesses were compelled to lie. The proceedings were highly irregular… Who was responsible for Jesus’ death? The Jews? The Romans? You and me? The Jews handed him over to the Romans, the Romans handed him back to the Jews, the disciples handed him over. No one wanted to be responsible, and so they (and we!) are all guilty.
Ultimately, God was responsible for this riveting, revolutionary enactment of divine love and holy determination to be one with us, and to save us. Through that dark Thursday night in detention, Jesus was abused, mistreated, his destiny sealed. Holy Thursday waited all night for the chilly dawn of the day with the paradoxical name: Good Friday.
Holy Wednesday 8 April
Wednesday of Jesus’ last week. Frankly, we have no idea what happened that day, besides the usual sunrise, meals, maybe chores, rest, casual conversation.
It’s often that way, isn’t it? – the day before the most important day in your life, the dark day that proved to be an unexpected plot twist in your journey, you weren’t doing anything in particular.
Somehow I like the idea that, during a week of intense activity for Jesus, we have a blank day, on which nothing earth-shaking took place. Did Jesus simply chill with his friends in Bethany? Did he teach someplace, or heal someone, but nobody wrote it down? Did he visit two or three people privately? Surely a public person like Jesus had private relationships, perhaps with someone like Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea – or maybe he took a long walk with Peter, Mary or John. Could it be he simply withdrew from people and activity and prayed? Quite often the Gospels tell us “Jesus withdrew to a lonely place to pray” (Luke 5:16, Matthew 14:23); if this was his habit, his sustenance, his greatest delight, wouldn’t he have done so during Holy Week?
I also like the idea that Jesus is bigger than what we know. John’s Gospel ends by saying “There are many other things which Jesus did.” We hope so, and we even experience this ourselves, for the fruit of Holy Week is a crucified and risen Saviour, who is active today, not only continuing his ancient work, but doing new things.
Prayer: “Lord, sometimes I associate you only with the weighty days. I forget you know the normal, seemingly dull days too. I assume that on Wednesday you were on intimate terms with God. I pray that this could become my own habit of mind and heart. Be near me, Lord Jesus, at work, driving, cleaning, reading, conversing, eating, waking and sleeping, even on a Wednesday, mid-week.”
Holy Tuesday 7 April
Jesus was relentless, fearless, clearly on a mission from God, ready to lose anything to attain everything. After the drama of Palm Sunday and the ruckus of Jesus’ Monday morning rampage through the temple, Jesus probably should have stayed home in Bethany, or fled during the night to safety in the north where he’d come from. But instead, Jesus walked right back into the temple to face shocked, mortified, angry clergy and laity, and began talking – at length. He didn’t win any friends by foretelling a day when not one stone of the temple would be left upon another. The crowd had to laugh: Herod’s masons had built a seemingly indestructible temple, with flawlessly cut, massive blocks, the largest measuring 44 feet long, 10 feet high, 16 feet wide, weighing 570 tons. His words seemed ridiculous – but still caused offence.
He was only getting started that Tuesday. Matthew shares 212 verses of Jesus talking (chapters 22-25), including some of his most famous teachings. And don’t his words carry a much heavier freight since we know he was in the final couple of days before his death? That Tuesday, he exposed the faked religiosity of the pious Pharisees, he wept over the Holy City which had lost its way, he warned the disciples of the perils of living into the Truth. Jesus clarified that our salvation depends on whether we feed the hungry and welcome the unwanted. Devious men tried to trick Jesus with a question about a woman with several husbands: to whom would she be married in heaven? For Jesus, the glory of hope is too large, too wonderful to be shrunk to earthly proportions, or limited by the way we do business down here.
Can you picture him moving about within the temple precincts, stopping under a portico, then strolling down the large stone staircase, standing for a while near the gate, probing, questioning, listening and yet ruminating at length.
Take some time on this Holy Tuesday to read Jesus’ words from his Holy Tuesday: Matthew 21:23-25:40.
Prayer: “Lord, we are so grateful that on your final Tuesday you had so much to say. We need to hear and heed your thinking – although your Tuesday words are hard. We might prefer easy platitudes or simplistic spiritual niceties – but in truth we are eager to hear and embrace your deeper, riskier, more satisfying truth. I will make time to read your words, and to ponder them, even when they expose the triviality of my faith, and my lacklustre half-attempts at following you.”
Holy Monday 6 April
Monday morning. Jesus walked two miles from Bethany into Jerusalem, a daunting, steep, rocky road. Even rockier was the reception he got from the religious leaders: he waltzed right into the temple, and in a rage that startled onlookers, drove the money changers out of the temple.
Was he issuing a dramatic memo against Church fundraisers? Hardly. He was acting out, symbolically, God’s judgment on the temple. The well-heeled priests,
Annas and Caiaphas, had sold out to the Romans. Herod had expanded the temple into one of the wonders of the world – but he pledged his allegiance to Rome by placing a large golden eagle, symbol of Roman power, over its gate. The people were no better: a superficial religiosity masqueraded as the real thing. Within a generation of Jesus’ Holy Monday, that seemingly indestructible temple was nothing but rubble.
Jesus was not the first to denounce the showy façade of a faked religiosity among God’s people. Through the centuries, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Micah, and John the Baptist had spoken God’s words of warning to people whose spiritual lives were nothing more than going through the motions, assuming God would bless and protect them even though their lives did not exhibit the deep commitment God desired. God’s prophets who spoke this way were not honoured, but mocked, arrested, imprisoned, and even executed. Jesus was courting disaster.
On that Monday of the first Holy Week, Jesus shut down operations in the temple and forecast its destruction. No wonder the authorities wanted to kill Jesus!
In a way, Jesus would himself become a kind of substitute temple. The temple was the place, the focal point of humanity’s access to God. Jesus, like the temple itself, was destroyed, killed – and his death, and then his resurrection on Easter Sunday, became our access to God.
Prayer: “Lord, I see that you were not just angry but also hurt that they had turned the sacred, simple, holy place into a market – the way we in our society make everything into a market, all about money and getting. You judged all that and tried to clean it up – along with our vapid religiosity that vainly imagines a few quick prayers will get you to do our bidding and then you will leave us be. I am as weary as you were with a thin, self-indulgent faith. Clean up my soul, and your church.”
Sunday 5 April
From: Revd. Pat Olivent-Hayes – with my love and prayers…
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
I greet you all in the All-powerful Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
God gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus everyone shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil.2:10)
The Bible declares that the demons shiver at the sound of His Name. (Even the dreadful Coronavirus).
THE PEACE OF THE LORD BE WITH YOU!
It is with an element of sadness and longing that I felt I must write to you today. Simply because we cannot see each other face to face. It feels a bit like St. Paul writing from his prison cell.
These uncertain times that we currently live in bring to mind the words of the hymn:
“Just as I am ” by Charlotte Elliott,”
“JUST AS I AM, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fighting and fears within, without, O Lamb of God I come.”
Amidst the buzzwords like Lockdown, COVID-19 and all that goes along with it and everyone looking for some comfort and encouragement from Scripture, I would draw our attention as Christ followers to the present context in which all this is occurring.
We are now in the time of Lent where we as Christians remember Christ’s suffering and death but also how He rose victoriously over sin and death. Today (Sunday April 5th, 2020) is still a time when we are in the ‘Lockdown period’ in our country. But it is also the Day of Palms (Palm Sunday). It is on this day that we witness our King Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He is riding on a donkey (not on horseback), for He is coming in PEACE. …the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this? And then the crowds replied, This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Friends, He is still the same Jesus, the Immanuel God with us, in us, ever-present among us. He is able to redeem the world from the grip of the dreadful and devastating COVID-19. His blood will never lose its power.
The well-known hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus” instructs us all “HAVE YOU TRIALS AND TEMPTATIONS, IS THERE TROUBLE ANYWHERE? WE SHOULD NEVER BE DISCOURAGED: TAKE IT TO THE LORD IN PRAYER.”
Let us therefore, fervently and ceaselessly intercede in prayer for all those who are affected and infected. Pray for the sick, the bereaved, the numerous businesses and employees who are adversely affected by the consequences of this pandemic, the economy both locally and globally.
Thank God for the unsung heroes who render selfless essential services and by so doing put their own lives at risk. Thank God for the men and women who so generously open their heart and hands by donations of money, food and other gifts for the relief of others.
Intercede for our political and religious leaders’ and for all involved in the positive outcome of this world crisis.
My personal thanks to all who are heeding the call to stay at home and keeping the necessary distance and exercising the required hygienic processes,
Finally, You may like to use the following Celtic Prayer daily:
CIRCLE ME LORD, KEEP PROTECTION NEAR AND DANGER AFAR.
CIRCLE ME LORD, KEEP HOPE WITHIN AND DOUBT WITHOUT.
CIRCLE ME LORD, KEEP LIGHT NEAR AND DARKNESS AFAR.
CIRCLE ME LORD, KEEP PEACE WITHIN AND EVIL OUT. (by David Adams)
Be blessed and stay safe.
Do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of help and support.