PAUSE FOR THOUGHT
Sunday 13 June 2021 Do you believe in Angels?
This story is possibly fictional but is still a great inspiration — a “modern day” parable that restores one’s faith in God’s love.
There was still a steady rain when Amy trudged into the shelter at the bus stop that evening. Sitting heavily on the bench, she stared at a muddy gutter, and wondered when things would ever change. So much had been wrong; she felt she was slowly being crushed inside. The physio therapy after the car accident was only supposed to be for a couple weeks. The weeks had stretched to months, and although she could walk now, she still fought for balance on her steps, and the numbing ache still robbed her of sleep most nights. Her broken collarbone still ached too, when it rained, like today.
Her stomach growled, and she grimaced at the thought of food. All the medications were ruining her appetite. She was so tired of being sick. So tired of being tired. Amy sat lost in thought, as the rain dripped steadily off the awning. Suddenly, she was aware of white service shoes in front of her line of vision. Startled, she followed the sturdy uniform-clad legs up to see pudgy tan hands clasped around an ample waist within a bright blue scrub shirt. She looked up into a pair of crinkled-rimmed kind brown eyes, and realised a woman was speaking to her.
“Are you all right, honey?” she was saying. Without warning, Amy burst into tears. In seconds, the woman had stepped close, and pulled Amy’s head to her ample bosom, and held her quietly close. The moment passed, and Amy straightened up, apologising profusely through her tears. “Stop Amy,” said the soft voice. “God knows when we’re drowning, and need His touch. The sun will come out again for you.” Gently she kissed Amy’s forehead, and turned to walk away. “Wait!” cried Amy, “How did you know my name?!”
“God knows all His children by name, child.” As Amy blinked in astonishment, the bus arrived, blocking her view. As she stood up, shaking her head, the voice came again. At the same moment as the breaking sunbeams. In the mist steaming off the pavement, Amy distinctly heard, “He knows you needed to be held in His arms, for just a moment. To hear His heartbeat. He sent me to wrap you in it today.”
I am often asked by sceptics, Why do we need angels? In truth, I don’t know. God can deal with us in any way that pleases him to do so. He can speak with us directly, in a burning bush, in dreams, visions, through friends and specifically through the Scriptures. Yet, he also employs angels. The Scripture says angels were created for his pleasure. Perhaps it is as simple as that — it pleases God to send the supernatural heavenly beings to minister to his children, or maybe we are the angels he sends as we visit or meet someone in our everyday journey.
How often has someone said to you ‘I’m so pleased you came or so pleased that you telephoned, I needed to hear your voice! This coming week as we walk with the Lord may we continue to be blessed and be a blessing to those we meet or talk to. We may not always know why we end up in some situations … but may we always know that it was from God.”
With my Love and Prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 6 June 2021 Peace be with you
I don’t know about you but one of the things I have missed most during the pandemic period has been the ability to shake hands with people I meet – whether to greet, thank or bid farewell. I have never really taken to the ‘bumping’ of elbows. A handshake can be used to convey warmth, sincerity, consolation, transaction, authority, affection, and peace. And it is fair to say that even the finest of elbows will struggle to convey such a range of meaning.
The idea of making peace with our neighbours is powerful. Under ‘normal situations’ we do this each Sunday as we believe that we cannot truly be at peace with God, and ourselves, if we have not made peace with our neighbours. To put it another way, we cannot ask God to forgive and bless us, if we have not forgiven those who have offended us and asked forgiveness from those whom we have offended. It is in our exchange of words, ‘Peace be with you’ that we mutually forgive and bless one another.
In church, there is a moment in the communion service, in the sharing of bread and wine, when we can shake hands with those around us as we say the words ‘Peace be with you’. This little ritual derives from the more elaborate and ancient ‘kiss of peace’ – a gentle embrace and kiss on the cheek that symbolised fraternal love for our ‘brothers and sisters’ in Christ. A simple, physical act that represents a deep and significant bond – it reminds us that we are together on this journey through life. Of course, with the restrictions of the pandemic upon us we have adapted our practice in church from a handshake to a mutual nod or a little wave instead, but we still say the words ‘Peace be with you’.
This month may see the further lifting of restrictions, and, who knows, we may soon be able to put our elbows away and shake hands with confidence once more! But whatever the pace of change, as we collectively emerge from the most challenging period of our adult lives, let us remember the power of simple actions and words. We will not have got everything right in the past year, and nor will others in their behaviour toward us – it has been a testing time for us all.
So, as we reconnect with those around us, whether we choose to embrace, to shake, to nod or to wave – let our message be ‘Peace be with you’ – and let forgiveness and blessing be our exchange.
This coming week may you all know the peace of God which passes all understanding.
With my love and prayers Rev Pat.
Sunday 30 May 2021 Trinity Sunday
I have been thoroughly blessed by the exceedingly vast wisdom of the garden experts on T.V. recently who have informed me that rhubarb is in fact not a fruit but a stem. This is great news. Why? Because I often think of the growing of fruit is like the nurture of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Rhubarb appears to put a huge spanner in the works, as it just seems to keep growing, regardless of its treatment or care. Growing things takes effort, concentration, and care.
We have just celebrated the hugely significant festival of Pentecost—the moment when gifts were given in abundance, something like a trolley-dash in a toy store or supermarket, gifts galore as the Church was equipped for the journey ahead. It began with languages; real, tangible skills of communication that signalled the spreading of God’s word to the world, but it didn’t end there. The Spirit set to work transforming ordinary people into skilled evangelists, teachers, healers, peacemakers, the works. It kept coming and God’s new Church kept growing, but it was far from plain sailing. In fact, the sea was significantly choppy; people lost their lives growing the Church and sharing the Gospel. They constantly needed to reflect on what they were doing in trying to evolve. I’m very glad to say that our churches are in that same place of reflection and evolution, led by the very same Spirit that descended upon the Apostles. Unfortunately, that also means that we’ll sometimes get things wrong along the way. As we think about really significant moment in the journey of our congregation and as we work towards moving forward when we completely come out of lockdown and put in place the new structures following what has seemed like a never -ending pandemic.
I pray that we will not get lost in the motions of business and forget the opportunities to celebrate. The list of appointments and tasks to do is much more than a list; it’s a collection of people willing to serve, to give of their energy and time as they respond to the action of the Spirit in the church. That needs to be celebrated. So, belatedly, thank you for all the hard work, sweat, stress, tears, inspiration, and imagination that goes into each of the roles that you gladly take on. A special thank you to those of you that have worked tirelessly for many years in roles and have recently stood down. I hope to be able to make a big fuss of all of you in church very soon, and especially before I move on to my new appointment.
I know that each of you do what you do, not for recognition and applause, but because of the call on each of you to serve, but the occasional thanks and support do no harm at all! I pray that each of you will be refreshed by the Spirit in preparation, as we give thanks to God for all that is past and trust him for all that’s to come, and in confirmation of all that we already do.
As you continue to stay safe and take care. Be assured of my ongoing prayers. With my love and blessings Rev Pat.
Sunday 23 May 2021 Pentecost Sunday
I must admit that in some things I am still very much “old school” when it comes to certain tasks. For example, I still enjoy writing letters rather than always sending emails. If I’m making notes, especially in my diary, I use a pencil rather than a pen, simply because of the fact that meetings and times get changed or cancelled usually involving a great deal of rubbing out! I do recall one occasion when on a glorious sunny morning I decided to start writing my sermon in the conservatory where it was bight and comfortable sitting by the breeze that was coming in through the open doors. I had a break at lunchtime, and by the time I returned to my uncompleted sermon, which I’d left on the conservatory table, I discovered to my surprise it was no longer there. Unfortunately, the wind had picked up and blown the pages into the garden. That made me wonder if this was a sign of what the good Lord Himself thought of my sermon!
It also made me think of how we experience the wind. Sometimes it comes upon us like a soft breeze and is seen around this time of year blowing the cherry blossom off the trees, or in gentle waves of sand sweeping along a beach. At other times it comes upon us with such energy that it carries us along and forces us to quicken our step. And trying to make headway into a strong wind can be a real challenge at times. The point I am trying to make is we cannot see the wind, but what we can do is to see and experience its effects.
Jesus Himself said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. (John 3:8). Today is Pentecost Sunday when we hear again the significance of the wind. St. Luke, the writer of the Acts of the Apostles, describes the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the assembled believers in Jerusalem in terms of a violent wind. They struggled to find the language to accurately describe it, but they certainly witnessed and experienced its effects. Somehow, from that moment on, their lives were changed, and they would go on being changed. That is what the Holy Spirit does in people’s lives. He renews, reshapes, moulds, and equips us for the work God wants us to do and the people He wants us to be. The wind is indispensable, and so is God’s Spirit for the Christian. Some people we encounter may not understand much about the Holy Spirit, but the really important thing is that they see and feel the effects of the fruits of the Spirit at work in our daily lives.
This coming week enjoy the breeze of God’s Spirt touching you.
Stay safe and well. You are in my prayers. Love and blessings – Rev Pat
Sunday 16 May 2021
We have had numerous opportunities over the past few days to moan about the weather, but our land has needed rain, for the crops, and for the farms.
I have rejoiced in the rainfall here as I have been praying for the farmers and the land I know and love around Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape and Karoo of South Africa which is in an arid to semi-arid desert climate. The Karoo is prone to wide variations in temperature and little to no rainfall. The average rainfall of 190mm/7.5in per year is subject to long periods of drought. Despite recent welcome rains, the Eastern Cape remains the “worst hit” province by the persistent drought that has gripped SA since 2015 which has a dire effect on human settlements, water and sanitation.
Residents in Graaff-Reinet, home to 40,000 people, say their taps ran dry last year. Some residents get water for a limited period per day. “Part of the town is still declared a water drought area. Graaff-Reinet received 28mm from recent rains, but that didn’t contribute much,” said an acting spokesperson.
The Nqweba dam level is at less than 8% capacity. It is the main source of water for the town. “Water demand exceeds supply. The current supply is 2.9 megalitres per day, yet we need a minimum supply of 8 megalitres per day,” she said. “That is a massive shortfall.” Six months ago, ‘Gift of Givers’ arrived with water trucks, they also drilled nine boreholes in Graaff-Reinet. They drilled another borehole at the towns Midland hospital, where the situation was dire. At present they are providing water to some clinics, schools, and ordinary people. The municipality of the town has been accused of failing to secure the Nqweba dam, resulting in vandals stealing its infrastructure.
“Even if the dam is 100% full, it will lose lots of water through vandalism of its pumps and pipes. This is making residents angry and frustrated.” Abader, one spokesperson, said there was 24-hour security at the dam, but there had been vandalism of the pumps. “Unfortunately, just recently the security team on site was assaulted and robbed,”. Vandals then damaged the pumps.” (This article was originally published on GroundUp News).
In I Kings 8:35-36 we read “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people (Israel). Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance.
The Christians in Graaff-Reinet meet regularly to pray for repentance and for rain. (I was privileged to be a part of this gathering 2 years ago when I last visited). Last year GRAAFF-REINET NEWS reported: ‘Residents, churches and organisations were invited again to an inter-church event next to the Nqweba Dam on Saturday 31 August to pray for forgiveness, God’s mercy and rain as they again claimed the area for God’s blessing and mission.’
This coming week in your prayers could you offer up a prayer for rain for the areas that need it most and thank God for our good and fertile land.
Stay safe and take care. With my love and prayers. Rev Pat
Sunday 9 May 2021
It is good to be back home after a break last week. I was blessed with warm weather, lovely scenery from my caravan and the surrounding area. It was in the peace and tranquillity of my surroundings away from the hustle and bustle of circuit life that I was able to spend time with God. I rested in his presence and knew his love and care for me.
John 15:9-17: Jesus calls his followers to love one another just as he has loved them. There is no greater than to lay down one’s life, as Jesus does, for one’s friends. Through this obedience to Jesus’ command to love we bear fruit that lasts.
This global call to love described above is so appropriate at the start of Christian Aid Week. Love can only really be expressed and lived locally – but it is here where the real power of love can make a lasting impact on the world. It starts in our homes as we begin to learn to lay down our lives for our parents, children, and spouses. Then, as our love expands, we begin to learn to lay down our lives for our faith community, loving our Christian sisters and brothers as Christ loves us – embracing worship styles that may not be meaningful for us, giving up our agendas for the sake of others who need God’s love revealed to them, treating one another with grace and kindness instead of criticism and judgment. Then, inevitably, as our love grows, it will expand beyond the walls of our churches into our neighbourhoods, to touch those who are lonely, impoverished, hungry, abused, homeless, and displaced. As this happens, our love becomes like a pebble dropped into a pond, raising ripples that expand ever outward to make the world a more just and gracious and peaceful place. All it takes is the daily decision to lay our lives down for one another and allowing that “one another” to continue to grow as God brings new people into our circle of influence. St. Francis’ prayer is, perhaps, the best way to think of living this life of love that Jesus calls us to.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; For it is in giving that we receive, It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.
This coming week may we all be an instrument of God’s peace and love. He has called and chosen each one of us. He has equipped us with the gifts we need to get alongside those who need us most. May you all be blessed as you are a blessing to others. Try to find time to be still and to know his presence with you. Then watch as the ripples of love spread!
With my Love and Prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 2nd May 2021
Rev Pat has been enjoying a well earned holiday so she has written no Pause for Thought this week. Normal service will resume next week.
Sunday 25th April 2021
In between typing, I am preparing to travel to my caravan in Mwnt, near Cardigan in Wales for a few days break with Betty my Black Labrador and Monte my daughter Joanne’s West Highland Terrier. So, this Pause for Thought will cover two weeks.
Over the past few weeks as many of you are aware I have felt far from well with the effects of ‘long covid’ but at last I am beginning to feel better. Please forgive me if you are among some I’ve been in contact with and not been as patient or kind as I ought to be.
Silverstone and Towcester Methodist churches opened for worship again on Easter Sunday and Brackley Methodist Church is looking forward to re-open on Sunday May 2nd.
In spite of our churches being closed there have actually been lots of positive aspects to worshipping in a different way. Our weekly Circuit services have reminded us that we can stay connected. But it is not an ideal situation, presenting various logistical problems and there is the potential for some (or all!) of us to be getting somewhat fed up and impatient. There have been instances when we could rejoice together – last Sunday we received Vernon and Veronica into membership at Silverstone. On Wednesday evening we had a good and positive church council meeting at Towcester and on Thursday afternoon we celebrated a marriage service at Brackley between Libby and Les.
With the frustration in mind I have had Paul’s words to the Ephesians running around my head these last few days, particular the line about bearing with one another in love: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
I want to encourage you all to continue to bear with one another in love during the coming weeks and months, as we continue to pray for and work towards this exciting next stage in the ministry of our churches. On behalf of all of us who benefit from their efforts, I also want to thank the stewards and many others for their ongoing efforts in the setting up and taking the necessary steps following worship.
I leave this story with you. Probably most of us are acquainted with the urban myth that bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly. The so-called impossibility of their flight is evidently based on something to do with the lift to weight ratio. Their wingspan is too small to generate enough ‘lift’, given their size and weight. Yet, wonder of wonders and, as a miracle of nature, they very obviously can.
The difficulty, however, is not that bumblebees are somehow able to defy aerodynamic wisdom. Rather, the problem is a faulty analogy between bees and conventional fixed-wing aircraft. Bee wings are relatively small compared to their bodies. If an aircraft was built in the same way, it would never get off the ground. But bees aren’t like aircraft; they’re more like helicopters. Their wings work on the same principle as helicopter blades… or to be precise, ‘reverse-pitch semi rotary helicopter blades’. A moving airfoil, whether it’s a helicopter blade or a bee wing, generates a lot more ‘lift’ than a stationary one.
The real challenge with bees isn’t aerodynamics but mechanics. i.e., how they manage to move their wings so fast – up to 200x per second!! The answer seems to be that their muscles don’t expand and contract like other vertebrates. Instead, they vibrate like a rubber band. A nerve impulse ‘twangs’ the muscle, much as you might pluck a guitar string, causing it to move up and down until another impulse comes along.
The achievement is impressive, and the bumblebee is still a wonder of creation… but on different grounds from the urban myth that bumblebees somehow defy nature. The problem with the myth is that it’s based on the misapplication of an idea to reality. And that raises a question about how many other mistaken ideas we might apply to life – especially our own lives.
Bumblebees never have to bother about opinions, so are never ‘grounded’ by notions which suggest they aren’t supposed to fly. But people are different. Beliefs have a powerful effect on how we live. And these can be either liberating or disabling. This is especially true of matters of faith. It’s interesting to note therefore that Jesus said to those who came to Him, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. (John 8:32)
The Christian journey is described in the Gospels as a journey into the Light. Jesus is spoken of as “the Light of the world” – “the One who enlightens all mankind” – the One who reveals our Heavenly Father to us and provides the key by which we make sense of life. Christians are thus called, “children of light”. Not that they know everything! It’s that they seek to live in honesty, exposed to the Truth of Christ’s glory and presence; allowing His searching Light to penetrate, cleanse and restore them.
This is contrasted with those who ‘walk in the dark’, who ‘prefer darkness’ and try to hide from His light and goodness. ‘Exposure’ is usually something we initially fear and some can have recurring dreams which revolve around that theme. Yet the Gospel invitation is to come into the light – His Light – and allow His grace to work within us. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. (John 8:36)
Like the bumblebee, and despite the different thoughts and opinions which may assail us, we were designed to fly. No matter what life’s hard knocks may have whispered to us, this is what we were created for – and it is Jesus who restores this purpose to us. “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). These are profound claims – yet claims which I’ve found increasingly true in my own experience… that is, when I actually DO walk in the Light. And ‘there’s the rub’! The Christian invitation is to walk daily in His goodness, resisting the instinct which tells us to hide, and trust in His tender mercies.
As our churches open on a regular basis for activities and worship “Let us go (together) to the House of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1)
Take care, you are in my thoughts and prayers. Love and Blessings Rev Pat
Sunday 18 April
Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Psalm 119: 105)
Over these past months we have journeyed through the prayers and self-denial of Lent, into the intensity of Jesus’ suffering and witness during Holy Week and Good Friday, and finally into that great Resurrection Hope of Easter Sunday itself. That pattern of death and resurrection is one that has echoes in many other aspects of life.
It is perhaps particularly easy to see signs of hope and new life during spring as plants blossom and flowers bloom, as birds start nesting and fledglings appear. With the easing of regulation to do with ‘Lock-Down’ due to the Covid-19 pandemic it is so good to be able to open our church building again or to have a planned date to do so.
There have been aspects to worshipping in a different way especially via the weekly pre-recorded circuit services and those we’ve been able to share by watching our televisions. But it is not an ideal situation, presenting various logistical problems and there is the potential for some (or all!) of us to be getting a somewhat fed up and impatient feeling.
With that all that in mind I have had Paul’s words to the Ephesians 4:1-3 running around my head these last few days, particular the line about bearing with one another in love: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
And so, I want to encourage you all to continue to bear with one another in love during the coming weeks and months, as together we continue to pray for and work towards this exciting next stage in the ministry of our church wherever the the Spirit may lead us.
As always you are in my prayers.
With love and blessings, Rev Pat
Sunday 11 April: Read: John 20:19-31
It’s been one week since Easter, one week since the chaos and excitement, one week since the empty tomb, one week since our first “Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.” It’s one week after the resurrection and the disciples are in the same place, they were on Easter night. They are in the same room behind the same locked doors.
Today I suspect some of us are saying that this is one of the strangest Easter’s we have encountered, but, let us not forget that the very first one was pretty weird too. The followers who had entered Jerusalem with such joy and hope must have been shattered and devastated on that first Third Day and it got decidedly weirder thereafter.
As Archbishop Rowan Williams once said, “When Mary went to the garden, she didn’t know it was Easter!”
But for Mary and for us all it was a time of new beginnings and possibilities, keeping hope alive during times of desperate loss when the tunnel is dark, and we cannot even see a glimmer of light. Holding on to the promises of God and allowing them to unfold, to take shape in ways we could not even imagine. That is the gospel we preach, teach and share. God cares deeply for his people and when the injustice of life breaks us, God is still there, saying trust me my plans for you are not finished!
It could be the acceptance that the longed-for relationship is no longer possible, or that the company that once met the needs of the people and flourished are no longer meeting the same needs. In life, we all face loss of one form or another and as a Christian, I thank God that I can face my loss with the knowledge that God is with me. There might be dark days when God does not feel close, then I rely on God’s words, hymns, testimonies, past experiences and friends and family to hold me in faith until the light breaks through and slowly new possibilities emerge.
On Good Friday, while there was such injustice, pain, brokenness and sadness the followers of Jesus had no idea that death on the cross was not the end. On Easter morning, the sun rose, the tomb was empty, and Mary met the Risen Christ in the garden. Her joy was unbelievable! God’s possibilities will surprise and amaze us too if we hold on to him, trust him, let go of our hopes and allow him to speak his hopes into our lives.
For all of you reading this I hope that this thought finds you in a place of joy, but if it does not, take a moment and give the situation to God and then rest in him. That does not mean “do nothing” although sometimes it does! Prayerfully allow God to guide and seek his counsel. God loves and cherishes you and it is only finished when he says it is finished!
Every Blessing to you all. Please contact me if I can help in anyway. You are in my thoughts.
With my love and prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 4 April: Easter Sunday
Wishing you and your loved ones a joyful Easter
The great preacher Charles Hadley Spurgeon was walking the streets of London deep in thought when he saw a young street boy. The lad was carrying an old, bent bird cage. Inside was a tiny field sparrow. Spurgeon stopped the boy and asked him what he was going to do with the bird. “Well, I think I’ll play with it for a while, and then when I’m tired of playing with it, I think I’ll kill it.” He made that last comment with a wicked grin.
Moved with compassion for the bird, Spurgeon asked, “How much would you sell me that bird for?” “You don’t want this bird, mister,” the boy said with a chuckle. “It’s just a common field sparrow.” But then he saw the old gentleman was serious. “You can have this bird for two pounds,” he said slyly. Two pounds at that time would be worth more than £50 today an astronomical price for a bird worth only pennies.
Spurgeon paid the price, and let the bird go.
The next morning, Easter Sunday morning, an empty bird cage sat on the pulpit of the great Metropolitan Tabernacle where Spurgeon preached. “Let me tell you about this cage,” Spurgeon said as he began the sermon. Then he recounted the story about the little boy and how he had purchased the bird from him at a high cost. “I tell you this story,” he said, “because that’s just what Jesus did for us. You see, an evil spectre called Sin had us caged up and unable to escape. But then Jesus came up to Sin and said, “What are you going to do with those people in that cage?”
“These people?” Sin answered with a laugh. “I’m going to teach them to hate each other. Then I’ll play with them until I’m tired of them and then I’ll kill them.”
“How much to buy them back?” Jesus asked. With a sly grin, Sin said, “You don’t want these people, Jesus. They’ll only hate you and spit on you. They’ll even nail you to a cross. But if you do want to buy them, it’ll cost you all your tears and all your blood your very life!'” Spurgeon concluded, “That, is just what Jesus did for us on the cross. He paid the ultimate, immeasurable price for all who would believe, that we might be free from the inescapable penalty of death.”
That is the message of Easter, Death has been overcome, and so has life. You and I can be free, free as that bird delivered from its cage.
And finally … A young boy came home after Sunday school and was asked by his grandmother what he learned that day. He said, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall have ever laughing life.” And that’s the Good News for today – We can have both everlasting and ever laughing life. We are free.
HAPPY EASTER. With my love and prayers. Rev Pat
Sunday 28 March: Palm Sunday
Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King
Some 2,000 years ago, traditionally known as Palm Sunday, the long-anticipated Messiah approached the city with the pilgrims. The crowd shouted with joy and welcomed Jesus as their king as He rode on a donkey (Mark 11:1- 11).
However, Jesus’ emotional reaction was the opposite of that of the crowd and His disciples. He wept for the city (Luke 19:41), knowing that Jerusalem did not recognise her ruler and king (vv. 41–44; Matthew 23:37–38). The temple was no longer fulfilling its function of drawing people close to God, leading Jesus to cleanse it the following day (Mark 11:15–19), and subsequently to predict its destruction (13:1–2). The temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. This was a very sad ending for a nation that rejected God and His Messiah.
This reminds us that we cannot impress God with our magnificent church buildings. He is looking for people with contrite hearts that seek Him. May we be people who lament for the sins in our lives, our church, and our nation. May we allow God to create in us a clean heart.
The Lenten journey brings us to the final week of Jesus’s earthly life as He inextricably heads towards the cross of Calvary Hill. Today, we have the benefit of knowing the entire story, the ‘why’s’, the ‘where’s’ and the ‘how’s’. It’s so much more than a story. That Jesus surrendered His life to save our souls, is beyond our comprehension – we have heard the story passed down through the generations, we’ve read about it in the Bible, but do we really understand the depth and magnitude of God’s act of salvation through the life of Jesus.
This year again the Lenten season has afforded us the opportunity to revisit the most powerful and significant act of all humanity. It should have reminded us of what Jesus did for you and for me. Beyond reminding us, it should cause us to press into Jesus with an even deeper gratitude and love and allow Him to lead us in living the life that He has given us, with greater purpose. That we die to self and live to Him. Herein lies our greatest challenge and reward.
As we enter the toughest week that Jesus faced, may we reflect even more deeply and honour Him in every way.
God Bless you all. Stay safe and well. With my love and prayers Rev Pat.
See Notices page for some suggested readings and prayers for Holy Week
Sunday 21 March: Fifth Sunday in Lent
March heralds the one year anniversary of the Government’s order to “stay at home: protect the NHS: save lives”. On one hand it doesn’t feel like a year has passed, and yet on the other it certainly does. So much has changed. So many people have been infected and affected. Our statistics are brutal and sobering, and behind each number is a name, a person, and a grieving family.
In the early days of the pandemic, I recall hearing the daily death toll – rising – and being both concerned and anxious. I recall when we topped 1,000 people dying in a single day, and when we reached the grim landmark of over 100,000 people dying because of Covid-19. It has been a dark and painful year. One thing Covid-19 has done to our society is open a conversation about death and dying. It has been something we cannot ignore no matter how much we might like to. Across the generations we have started to think about our mortality rather than treating the subject as taboo and brushing it under the carpet.
That’s not to say we have come to terms with dying but rather that we are more prepared to address the often-ever-present elephant in the room! The Christian faith never shies away from dying. How can it? when at the heart of our faith is the death of the Son of God upon the Cross and his mightily and glorious resurrection, and the promise that he is the resurrection and the life. Jesus never shied away from death – in fact, he actively ‘set his face towards Jerusalem’ knowing all that was to befall him and his own death.
The Letters to the early Church are riddled with references to both Christ’s death and our own dying – actual and metaphorical dying. But although death is at the heart of our faith it is not the final word. Death and dying are the vehicles by which new life is possible: new experiences, new perspectives, new relationships. Death is not the end – as we often think – but rather a moment of transformation or a gateway into a new reality with God.
Only by dying can we be resurrected with Christ and take our places more fully in his eternal Kingdom. This is the Good News of our faith: that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 38. Death is not the final word – Life is the final word… life in all its fullness.
As we approach this Easter and prepare to celebrate afresh Christ’s victory over sin and death may we be encouraged and strengthened to witness to this Good News within our wider community. As we start to be able to have face-to-face conversations again may we be ready to offer the Christian hope of the resurrected life in Christ Jesus to all. May we gently, but unashamedly, offer Christ and his victory over the grave.
As ever, stay well and safe. With my love and prayers, Rev Pat.
Sunday 14 March: Fourth Sunday in Lent
I continue to pray that this season of Lent will be a blessing to you – that you are taking the opportunity to draw even closer to Jesus as we watch Him walk to the cross on Calvary Hill.
My Pastor friend in South Africa reminded me that “as we walk with Jesus, if we look at John 2: 13-22 – the passage where Jesus threw the moneychangers and animals out of the Temple. It was business as usual at the Temple”.
I believe that Jesus went to the Temple that day, for one purpose – to throw out and overturn, business as usual. The animals and the moneychangers weren’t the problem – they were the symptoms of something deeper going on.
Fear – the uncertainty of life and our need for security and predictability, leads us to keep doing the same things. Business as usual is predictable and steady but it creates the illusion of security. Sometimes it is a symptom of grief and sorrow. Losses lead us to cling to the familiar seeking stability. There are many reasons as to why we go about our lives in a business-as-usual mode. We so easily forget that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, that all of creation is God’s home and wherever we turn, God is indeed with us. When we forget these things, we fall into a business-as-usual way of living. Those in the Temple that day had forgotten. Business as usual is what Jesus was throwing out of the Temple.
As we journey through the Gospels, we see Jesus interrupting the lives of people – the Samaritan woman at the well, the blind man at the pool for 38 years, the raising of Lazarus to life and the feeding of the 5,000 with 2 fish and 5 loaves. Repeatedly, Jesus interrupts, disrupts, overturns, and throws out. Business as usual is destructive to our lives and relationships. It destroys our ability to see and participate in the Holy that is already present in us.
You don’t need me to remind you that during this Pandemic and ‘Lock-down’ there are still today amongst us, Samaritan women sitting at wells, lame people grounded, empty and hungry people and dead people waiting to be raised to life. May we be bold enough this Lent to allow Jesus to throw out and overturn those things in our lives that bring about destruction, distraction, temptations and death.
What needs to be thrown out and overturned in your life? What animals need to be driven out? I am not asking about what needs to happen so that we can become holy or become the temple, but so that you can see that you already are the temple and claim what is already yours.
Jesus, again this Lent, is calling each one of us back to whom we have always been in Him and can continue to be. Have a blessed week and stay safe and well.
Today as we also remember our Mothers, may we give glory to God for all his love. With my Love and Prayers Rev Pat.
Sunday 7 March: Third Sunday in Lent
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” John 2: 13-16
I pray that this season of Lent so far, has been a blessing to you – it’s strange not to be meeting together to study, but I hope that you have taken the opportunity to draw even closer to Jesus as we are reminded of the road that He walked to Calvary Hill where He gave up His life as a sacrifice for our sins. May this journey through Lent be a time of reflection, a time of prayer, time spent in His Word and living each moment, each day with gratitude.
In Mark 8: 31-38. We read how Peter rebuked Jesus when Jesus told them that he would be rejected and killed. I believe that Peter acted in fear. Don’t we too rebuke Jesus? If Jesus can heal the sick, the lame, the blind, raise people from the dead, feed the 5000, why can’t He intervene in our circumstances? We ask, we pray – some lose faith and some even leave the Church. Jesus asked Peter in Mark 8: 29 “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ.” We have our own images of God – what He’s supposed to do, who He is to be… But Jesus does not conform to our image of Him. He asks us to conform to who He is.
We are reminded again this Lent that Jesus puts a choice before us. We either choose ourselves and deny Christ, or we deny ourselves and choose Jesus. Mark 8: 34 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the Gospel will save it.”
Self-denial is the beginning of discipleship. We are being asked again this Lent, to risk it all, to give God control over our lives. As Jesus heads for the cross, that’s exactly what He’s doing and He asks the same of us. The way of Jesus is self-denial. Self-denial is about the choices that we make. It is my prayer that we will allow God’s Holy Spirit to strip away the distractions, the temptations, the self, and allow Him to lead us in His way. It’s about surrender – it’s about giving God Lordship over our life. That’s the choice before us daily. May we choose wisely.
Take Care and Stay Safe. With my Love and Prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 28 February: Second Sunday in Lent
“For HE (God) will order his angels to protect you wherever you go” Psalms 91:11
This week we move out of the month of February and into March. February is a funny old month. Statistics suggest that for many of us, February is a month when we feel a little down in the dumps. The long ‘Lockdown’ has for many added to this. Rates of depression are apparently higher and many of us just battle-on trying to get through another cold winter month.
It is worth contemplating where that darkness comes from: the sun hasn’t left us; it is just that we have momentarily moved away from it. In November our location on the Earth finally turned away from the Sun to such a degree in its cycle that the days became significantly darker. During February, the darkness continues, but our position on the Earth begins moving back towards the light. So, thinking more positively, February is actually the month when things begin to change – the days begin to lengthen, mornings and evenings are a little lighter, the frost is crisper and the bulbs begin sending their shoots up to break through the soil and if we are lucky, we might even get to see a bud or two.
In the Church calendar, February in some churches, begins with the Candlemas service, where candles are used to give us light reminding us that ‘the light shines in the darkness’. The Gospel narrative set for Candlemas carries a significant theme of carrying his light to the darkest places; dark places within us and within our world, but we should not expect the darkness to give up without a fight. So, whether we feel as though the glass is half empty or half full is, I guess, all dependent upon our own individual perspective. But either way, February is a month to prepare for the changes to come.
Changes born with the coming of the light. Changes that might just bring us into a new way of looking at ourselves and the world. There are no certainties in life, except the sureness of God. Whilst the world changes and moves around us, God, like the sun, is always stable and unchanging. If we can put our trust in Him, then all the changes of the world will not touch us, because we will be rooted in an eternal stability that is only found in Him.
As we continue to walk the road to Easter as we journey through this season of Lent may it serve to remind us that we’re heading to Easter, where we remember Jesus’ great act of salvation accomplished through the cross. Lent affords us the opportunity to prepare our hearts for Easter and in so doing, draw us into an even deeper relationship with Jesus. Lent can serve to encourage us to leave where we are… and to embrace fully, all that God has for us. “Remember who you are,” “You are a beloved son of God. You are a beloved daughter of God. You are one with whom he is well pleased.” May we embrace this season of Lent as an opportunity to move from where we are, to a closer and deeper intimacy with Jesus, where we transition to being inwardly transformed in His likeness. And, to God be all the glory.
With my Love and Prayers, Rev Pat.
Sunday 21 February: First Sunday in Lent
‘Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him’ (Psalm 62:5)
It’s hard to believe that we are approaching the end of the month and March is just around the corner. We are in the time of year where we see a change in season; the days get longer, the mornings lighter, flowers appear in our parks and garden and leaves reappear on the trees. In the world around us we can see tangible changes as spring arrives signifying new life and new beginnings. However, it’s not just in the earthly seasons that we see changes.
We are now firmly into the church season of Lent which began this February on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time of reflection, a time where Christians throughout the world remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness and the temptation he faced. Many people give things up at Lent, whether that be chocolate, coffee or increasingly popularly give up Facebook or Twitter.
I admit over the years at times I have never given up anything although I agree that the self-discipline is a good thing and also the opportunities of re-examining our priorities in life is a positive experience. It is also increasingly popular for people to take something up for Lent — a new hobby or raising money for charity.
Lent is a good opportunity to stop and reflect on ourselves. Part of this is about considering our priorities, perhaps engaging more with the Bible and deepening our relationship with God. Lent is the time when we prepare for the events of Holy Week and the great festival of Easter which this year is important to remember that as we journey through Lent with Jesus in the wilderness, as we prepare to journey through his triumphant arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday through to the last supper, his betrayal and his death, that we know the joy and hope of Easter will come.
I think something which connects the arrival of spring and the anticipation of Easter is a simple thing – hope. Hope is defined in many ways. A feeling of expectation or desire, grounds for believing good may happen. in the darkness, looking for signs of hope, however small, in difficult circumstances. Hope can be found every day in the ordinary – a kind word, a selfless or courageous action, in the encouragement and support of others who are struggling. Where we see new life we see hope but indeed where we see hope we see new life. For Christians there is no greater hope than that of the resurrection celebrated at Easter.
So, this Lent, I pray that each of you would find time for reflection and growth, as you also seek and hold on to the hope and promise of new life which we see mirrored in the seasons of our world and in our church.
With My ongoing Love and Prayers, Rev Pat
Sunday 14 February
Well, it’s Valentine’s Day and of course romantics all over the world will be finding clever ways to express their love to their Valentine with chocolates and hearts and roses!
I am not a poet – the only poem I know is “Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you!”. But when it comes to love I believe the Bible does a better job because it talks about the great love of God!
Perhaps one of the best known verses in all the Bible is John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” We all know that God loves us; but the question is do we love God as we should? Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me; keep my commandments.” That’s how we express our love back to God the Father. But asides from that the Bible helps us to understand the real nature of this thing called LOVE.
On this day of love we might ask ourselves, “Do we want to give a token of our love to God? And if so, what would we give Him?” Throughout the Old Testament, God asks His people to give Him their hearts. He likens Himself to a lover who has been rejected when the people forget Him and His commandments. God is our lover? The Word of God says, “We love because He first loved us.”
There are many messages of love, many valentines, which we might have missed in God’s letter to us. It says, He loves His people with a “steadfast love”, He loves us “freely”, “He exults over us with singing”, and “You are precious in My sight and honoured and I love you.” REAL LOVE STANDS THE TEST OF TIME: Paul concludes his wonderful chapter on love in verse 13 of 1 Corinthians 13 by saying that in the end there are three essential things that will matter – FAITH, HOPE and LOVE and the greatest of these is love!
I want you to know that God’s love for us is a love that endures, He always stands ready to forgive and to pardon if we will only turn to Him in trust and repentance. He only asks that you love Him enough to obey his salvation plan. Today, you can experience the real love of God that will never fade. Why not take time not just today, but every day to give Almighty God, your Heavenly Father, a precious valentine of love, your heart and your devotion.
We have so much to be grateful for, even during this pandemic.
As always – With my Love and Prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 7 February
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)
I remember as a youngster picking my mum bouquets of dandelions. The smile that came to her face, the gentle kiss on my forehead and the soft words she spoke as she reconfirmed what I already knew. “Those are the prettiest flowers I’ve ever seen.” She would say. “How about we put them on the table where everyone can see them.” I’m convinced they were beautiful since they always made her happy.
Years later I moved into my own home and my neighbours were consumed with the war they’d declared on the “dreaded dandelion.” I sheepishly grinned within because I knew they were up against a worthy opponent, they brought in their heavy artillery and advanced across the battlefield destroying and crushing under their feet, mum’s favourite flower.
One early morning, while having a cup of coffee and, admiring the beautiful array of yellow flowers canvassing my “No War Zone.” I was reminded, everything and everybody that God created is beautiful and valuable in His eyes, designed with a purpose.
I’ve learned three valuable lessons from the dandelion. First, they will bring a smile to a mother’s eyes. Second, they aren’t destroyed when they’re exposed to heat. Thirdly, they spring forth the next morning full of life. No matter how hard they were hit the day before. I do realise I said three reasons, but this one is free. My grandpa always said, “If, Jesus can turn water into wine. Then certainly he can make a good wine out of a dandelion.” And, a final thought to pass on about the dandelion is, even though you can’t see it at dawn’s break, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
So is our faith the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. The dandelion springs forth with new life when exposed to the morning sun, just as our faith becomes alive when we’re exposed to the “Son.”
As we are seeing signs of Spring before us, which bring the promise of new life, with the daffodils and snowdrops, so God’s constant promise to each one of us that he is doing something new in our lives even though we may not see it. These strange times in which we are living can fill us with frustration, despair, and lack of hope. This week I would encourage you to lean on God and ask him to show you the new thing he is accomplishing through it and in us.
I continue to hold you all in my prayers and thank you for yours for me. I am beginning to feel stronger and able to return to limited duties. Take care and stay safe.
With love and blessings. Rev Pat
Sunday 31 January
Jesus said in the gospel of John 17:21 “ My prayer is that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
One word mentioned more than any other in the recent US inauguration ceremony was unity. ‘History, faith and reason shows the way, the way of unity’ said President Joe Biden.
Unity is so crucial that Jesus passionately prayed for it to be among his disciples in the text above.
In a world where we are isolated and restricted due to this pandemic, love, and harmony have kept some of us going. In Grapevine from Methodist Church House this week it says ‘We have heard testimonies of people helping and supporting one another. Stories of how new WhatsApp pastoral groups have emerged; praying and encouraging each other. One of the touching stories of unity is the story of a lady who would hold her telephone up to her television so another Christian without internet access could hear the Online Service and worship via telephone. What a great demonstration of togetherness and love.
May we continue in this spirit of unity, as Jesus said in John 17:21; may our prayer be one that the world will believe the gospel message through our words and actions.
We had the first snowfalls of winter this week and it seemed like there was a stillness illuminated by pure light. In the pure brightness of the snow all seemed well. As followers of Jesus, (who is the light of the world) living through this terrible pandemic we should be humbled and seeking God, but that’s not easy because there are times when we need to face the reality of our circumstances. Maybe at times we wake after a sleepless night and when we look in the mirror, we don’t like what we see. However, God’s wonderful promise to us is that he will never leave us alone. He is by our side every minute, loving us, knowing what we are going through and he’s holding us safe.
Talk to him amid your frustration and even perhaps your tears too. Sense his warmth and love enfolding you. You are very special and precious to him.
This coming week continue to take care and be safe. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you want to talk or if you need someone to pray for you. As always with my Love and Prayers. Rev Pat
Sunday 24 January
This week I am sharing with you and article from a friend’s newsletter. Richard is Pastor of the Karoo Community Church in Graaff-Reinet and this is what he has written …
“Just watching the news or even reading the daily paper, can serve to overwhelm us – Man’s inhumanity to Man, greed, corruption, crime and violence, seems to know no bounds. As I sat reflecting this week, my heart ached for the pain that the world carries right now. Whilst the Coronavirus remains an ever-present threat and a wreaker of havoc across the globe, we continue to experience challenges and heartache at virtually every turn as we think of world conflict and unrest, drought, poverty, hunger, abuse, family on family violence, crime, greed, corruption, etc. All this serves to overwhelm us and often bring despair with hope being lost. Why can’t we live in peace with one another? Why can’t we work together to manage climate change, the environment, poverty, hunger…
“What if we all sought to live like Jesus? What if we always considered our neighbour? What if we always considered the welfare of others, serving and caring just as Jesus did?
“Can you imagine such a place? Can you imagine a world without poverty? A world without war or conflict? A world without crime, without violence, abuse and corruption? A world where everyone’s needs are met, where the environment is cared for and protected? A world where we each show and give one another respect.
“That’s how it was when God created the earth and then Adam and Eve. He gave them a perfect world, yet here we are today. We may not have the ability, the time nor skills and resources to effect meaningful change in our world. We can choose to keep our hands up in despair OR, we can choose to live into the baptismal truth that God has spoken over us. We turn to Jesus, seek His strength, ask for His wisdom and discernment. We ask for His leading for every aspect of our lives. We can pray. As we do all that, as we embrace the life that God has given to us, as we seek to live His way, we can start to effect change and make a difference just where God has placed us. Just like a drop of colour can taint a whole bowl of water, so can the way we live, touch the lives of others. Not all are called to the big stages of this world but all of us have our own environments where we can make a difference. Let us not despair nor give up or continue to complain but less rather seek God first. Allow Him to touch our lives, to lead us, to grant wisdom, discernment and strength and empower us to live authentically in Him, allowing God to use you to be the salt and the light wherever He has placed you. May God have access to your hearts and may you be willing to give Him the authority to use you to do His will. As we do that, so we change, so our neighbours change, so our town changes, and so does our world. It starts with us first.”
Stay Safe and Well. God Bless. Rev Pat
Sunday 17 January: COVID-19 Scripture
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. Isaiah 41:10
I think many of us will have seen photos and video clips on our televisions of the rain and snow that has fallen over many areas. Whilst we may say we have had enough we have been lucky that we haven’t had substantial rains, but parts of our District has seen much. We thank God for His goodness towards us and His creation.
Another week of 2021 rolls by with our news been occupied by all things Coronavirus and of course, the Impeachment of the US President and the emerging threats to the seats of government in each US State as they ready for the inauguration of the new US President on Wednesday 20th.
As I look around locally, there is clearly a disregard by some, for the regulations surrounding C-19 social distancing and the wearing of masks. Perhaps it is ‘pandemic-fatigue’, perhaps an “I don’t care” attitude, I’m not sure. I’m not prepared to weigh in on the conspiracy theories and the anti-mask, anti-vaccine debates. I’m not a scientist nor a doctor and it is clear that the scientific community is still learning about the virus and I trust, that by and large, the authorities are trying to do the best they can to lead us in this.
For me, I’d rather err on the side of caution than bravado, arrogance or ego and do what is asked of us to mitigate the risk to my health and the health of others that I interact with or come into proximity of, and I trust that you do too.
We all had a rough year last year with not much having changed as the clock turned to 2021. The development of the various vaccines are indeed good news and we’re thankful for that. Despite the time it will take for the virus to subside let us continue to pray that this is the beginning of the end to this virus. Let us not grow faint and weary, nor lose faith, nor hope, but rather strive to persevere, to push through and do what we can to be busy, invest time and energy into our families, friends, and work. Let us seek to assist others where we can, to share burdens and carry some of the load so that our brothers and sisters are encouraged and helped where needed.
As a church, even though we are not meeting, we remain available to assist where we can and we once again extend an invitation for you to let us know how and when we can be of assistance to you within the social distance guide lines.
It’s important that we recognise that there are folk who are frightened and feel isolated. It’s also important to know that there is help available, whether it be professional, someone at the end of a phone as a listening ear or practical help. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you think I can be of help.
With my love and prayers, and thanks for all your prayers for me. Rev Pat
Sunday 10 January 2021
It’s good to be able to write to you again at the beginning of this New Year. Covid 19 is forcing us to change our thinking in a whole variety of ways, and I know this only too well as I have had a really bad dose for several weeks, But, thanks to your prayers, kind messages and encouragement – I can at last say I am on the way to recovery. Thanks be to God.
As I write, we all have to reassess how we work, who we visit, when we shop, where and if we can eat out etc. Adjustments can be difficult, but they are not always bad. Likewise, the virus is also causing us to have to do church differently and again while we don’t much like it, not all of that is bad either! Part of that change means each of us must take increased responsibility for our own spiritual growth and that of our family.
Fortunately, these days there are a huge variety of excellent Christian books which we can easily access and enjoy. I offer you this offering provided by Daniel Darling a writer from South Africa with some amendments. May you be blessed by it.
Daniel writes: “There’s no Biblical foundation to celebrate New Year, but that doesn’t mean that we as Christians shouldn’t pause and reflect on the beginning of a New Year. Moses asked of God, “Teach us to number our days, so we may get a heart of wisdom”(Psalm 90:12).
Time, is a gift to us from God. By faithfully following Jesus, we redeem our time, Ephesians 5:16 – “16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil”.
A New Year can also remind us of new birth. Each day with Jesus is a chance to turn the page on our old way of life and embrace a new one as we serve a God who renews us daily by the Holy Spirit.
Setting goals too for a new year are an important sign that we’re intentional about glorifying God in our callings—work and business, home and church, private and public witness. Before we write out our goals, we should begin in the heart. The temptation for us as Christians is to make our plans and add a bit of Jesus on top, rather than allowing God to help us discern the desires and motivations to do his work.
So whether or not we’re setting goals, here are some important steps we can take. Remember – In Ecclesiastes 12: 1, the wise man said, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’”. This year is still young and new opportunities lie before us. Some may preach a gospel of self-empowerment, but as Christians, we know the fragility of human life. We know every breath is a miracle, a gift given to us by God. In a troubled and challenged world. Creation reminds of God’s great faithfulness. Every new season is a testimony, a signpost, to grace. So the proper response to the past year, whether good or bad, is not “I made it through” or “Look what I achieved.” It is “Thank you, Lord
Stay well and safe. With my love and prayers Rev Pat.
Sunday 20 December 2020
As I sit writing my thoughts to you this week I am a coming to terms with the fact that I have just tested positive for COVID-19. This means I need to self-isolate until the 27th of December, as do all those who have had direct contact with me. The news, if it had to come at all, couldn’t have come at such a precious and special time of year.
As I have been praying through the day and speaking to folk at Brackley we have decided to ‘Lockdown’ Brackley Methodist Church until the New Year as I have been in contact with most of the leadership, so they are not able to work effectively and safely to make sure everyone is shielded.
While I was sitting and listening to the Lord I felt he dropped this scripture into my mind. I have adopted it as my COVID-19 Scripture: 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.
Let us hold the people in our prayers that we know as they navigate this illness. Let us ask God for healing whilst drawing near with His presence, comfort and peace. Whilst the virus is ‘old’ news, it suddenly becomes real when your know someone who is infected. Let us not drop our guards, but maintain our vigilance and not allow ‘pandemic fatigue’ to set in. we’ve still a long way to go.
I pray that you will all have a truly blessed and Happy Christmas whatever you are doing.
You will remember that we sing, ‘All glory be to God on High and on the earth be peace,’ sadly at times there seems to be neither glory to God nor peace on earth.
May you all know the God of Love and Peace close by you. May you all feel hope and light surrounding you every day.
Take Care, Stay Safe, I look forward to seeing you all again very soon.
Happy Christmas and a Healthy New Year.
With my love and prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 13 December 2020
Comfort and Joy holds together the hope that Christmas will bring joy and celebration after a uniquely difficult year with an acknowledgement that – for those who have lost loved ones or livelihoods, or who are potentially still not able to be together with loved ones – it may be the Church’s role, both nationally and locally, to provide consolation, rather than assume everyone will be ready to join in jubilation.
Happiness is an emotion that can disappear as quickly as it rises to the surface. Joy, however, is a choice. We have a choice. God gives us a joy that is unconquerable. We can choose to live in an attitude of resentment, anger and fear or we can choose to pursue the joy of Christ. So, what is the picture of joy in the Bible?
Joy is trusting when you want to doubt. “Trust in the LORD forever, because in Yah, the LORD, is an everlasting rock!” (Isaiah 26:4). As Christ followers we aren’t pressured to do it. We trust in Jesus to do the heavy lifting. The key is trust. We just need to have Mary’s response to the coming of Jesus, “‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ said Mary. ‘May it be done to me according to your word'” (Luke 1:38).
Joy is receiving what you want to reject. Can you imagine how the innkeeper would have felt if he said to Mary and Joseph, “Of course you can’t stay in that stable! That’s for paying customers. Who do you take me for?” We find joy in making room for people in need. Reflect on the mysterious words found in Hebrews: “Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
Joy is celebrating when you want to fear. What’s the first thing angels say to mortals? It’s standard protocol. In just about every divine encounter the angels say: “Fear not.” I can hear Jesus instruct His most trusted angels. “OK, let’s go over this again … Most of the people that I’ll tell you to speak to will be scared out of their wits! So let’s practice the greeting one more time.” Then the angels would all say in unison, “Fear not.”
The message is clear. God is not looking for ways to scare us into faith. He drew near to us to relieve the worries we have about crossing over the divide between heaven and earth.
He wants you to know that He’s going to take care of you no matter what happens. One of the names that He was called long before he ever stepped on this world’s stage was Immanuel meaning “God with us.” No matter what you go through we can whisper this simple truth: “Jesus is with me.” Think about it. He is with you in your greatest victories and your most humiliating defeats. Jesus is with you at all times in all things.
As we continue on our journey to Christmas. Stay Safe and Take Care. With my love and prayers Rev Pat.
Sunday 6 December 2020
We have gathered for worship again and Advent is here! The church is decorated beautifully. Thank you to all who have done this.
It’s the season for “Preparation”. The people involved in commerce surely have preparation down to a science. By the time we realised Halloween and the Firework stuff was off the shelves along came the Christmas goodies!
But what is our Advent about? Forget the commercialisation, how many of us are more concerned with getting ready for Christmas? The cleaning, writing Christmas cards, the decoration, the baking and the shopping and wrapping up presents. Is this what it is really all about?
Advent is really about waiting and preparation. As we celebrate the first coming of Jesus at Christmas, we await his second coming expectantly. There was no place at the Inn so Jesus was born in a stable. They missed the joy of Emmanuel “God with Us” – Let us not make the same mistake.
I share with you five ideas I read online that I think can help us to prepare for this coming Advent:
(1) Prepare Room at the Inn – Heart Check – the heart is God’s dwelling place. Is there unforgiveness anywhere? remember Jesus taught us to pray, forgive as you are forgiven.
(2) Clean Out the Cobwebs – Heart Clearing – So there might be stuff in your heart that shouldn’t be there. Next step spring cleaning! Clear them out! Ask God to help you! He will.
(3) Hang New Curtains – Heart Refurbishing – The room of your heart is ready: hang new curtains of hope and joy and anticipation.
(4) Get Out the Fine China and Set the Table – Heart settings – Jesus is coming! We are sure, so it’s time to get ready. Let’s get out the fine china. Let our attitude be one of enthusiastic expectation. May our hearts pound in anticipation of His presence!
(5) Open the Front Door – Heart welcoming – All is done, now we open our front door and wait expectantly. It is a time of quiet for us; we are ready. The final step is to simply “be.” No worries no questioning; we don’t need to worry if there was more we should have done. We’ve been good and faithful servants and are ready for Christ. (Adapted from Beliefnet.com)
This year as we celebrate the Advent season the planning begins. Family events, special get togethers after so long apart (for details of what is allowed visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/making-a-christmas-bubble-with-friends-and-family/making-a-christmas-bubble-with-friends-and-family), tinsel, ribbon and bows all come to mind. Decorations rise out of the boxes and begin to adorn the house. Lights twinkle in the night. All of these items and many more prepare us for the festivities of the SEASON. However, we must always remember the REAL REASON for this season. The present that arrived with no wrapping came on a starlight night announced by angels and seen by shepherds. To the Christian world this gift was that of the Christ Child who sent, by HIS father was the gift to save us all. Remember this Real reason for the SEASON as you prepare to celebrate with family and friends. As we look to Christmas and hear the familiar “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.”
With my love and prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 29 November 2020
I hope you are well. The current ‘Lockdown’ is coming to an end on Wednesday so, as we enter and recognise what the different challenges are before us with the newly agreed tier system, and as we enter the Christmas season these changes will bring happiness for many but concern and anxiety for others.
It’s hard to be cut off from regular physical contact with family and friends. It’s hard to see so many businesses and some schools closed and everyone taken from the important routines we value so much. Going to church is one such activity and a routine that has been deeply important to so many of our members and friends. We have felt the pain of not being able to worship together in the normal way. We miss seeing our friends. We miss the splendid hymns and music we enjoy and the chat and a cuppa after the service. I am delighted that from next Sunday 6th of December we can meet again for worship.
Sadly some folk will still choose not to meet with us out of fear, and sadly some will not meet with us because they are unwell or have died. We will miss them but we can hold them affectionately in our hearts.
The writer of Ecclesiastes says: The day of death is better than the day of birth. (Ch7.1b) He combines this thought, in a proverb, with that of ‘a good name being better than precious ointment’. Together as we hold Pam and her family in our hearts with great affection may we thank God for her.
The great Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon spent the earliest part of his life, up to age five, with his grandfather, a nonconformist minister. When the time came to return to his parents it was for him “the great sorrow of my little life.” He wrote in his autobiography ‘Grandfather seemed very sorry, too, and we had a cry together; he did not quite know what to say to me, but he said, “Now child, tonight, when the moon shines at Colchester, and you look at it, don’t forget that it is the same moon your grandfather will be looking at from Stambourne;” and for years, as a child, I used to love the moon because I thought that my grandfather’s eyes and my own somehow met there on the moon.’
I have heard it said by a grieving relative “I loved him to the moon and back!” Well of course it may not be possible to imagine eyes meeting somehow on the moon once our loved ones have departed. But as they stand now in the presence of God, who shall wipe away every tear, may it not now be possible for theirs and our eyes to somehow meet in the face of Christ? Are they more aware of us than we know? I hope so and pray you may, as Wesley did, find it ‘a comfortable day!’ Take care and stay safe. I look forward to being with you for worship next Sunday. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of help. With my love and prayers. Rev Pat
Sunday 22 November 2020
Earlier this year I discovered a nest of blackbirds in one of my hedges in the back garden of the manse. Unfortunately, one of the birds had found its way down onto the ground. I could hear its wings beating and its funny cheeping noise from the bark chippings under the bush. From time to time I saw the bird fluttering around. Then there would be silence. The silence grew longer as I tried to keep my dogs away. I was sure that the bird had not survived. However, I finally saw the adult bird around. As neither was around next time I went out I presumed the birds had flown! I was hopeful that both birds had found their way to safety.
If going into lock down again over the past few week was difficult, then this period during which we are trying to anticipate coming out of it again, holds its own challenges. Those challenges are particularly acute for any who have been kept shielded. Most of us have had the opportunity to get used to a changed world more gradually and a little bit at a time. Even then, if we are honest many of us still find shopping a stressful experience, or at least I do – remembering to take my face covering with me is the least of it! But for those who have been shielding, moving out into the world is a huge step. Suddenly perhaps the freedom we thought we longed for does not look so inviting after all. No matter how much we may have craved freedom from the restrictions that are placed upon us, most of us may find it very strange to be out and about once more.
Of course the freedom we yearn for during lock down, is not the one we enjoy. Unlike the blackbird which managed to find its way out of the undergrowth and into the freedom of its natural environment, we are still living in an unnatural state. The coronavirus is still with us. We are still having to physically distance which is not something that comes naturally to us. And as I write this there are still many places and businesses not open and face coverings have become a regular feature.
As far as the Church is concerned, the reopening of our buildings has been met with so many conditions. We too feel we have lost our freedom. This freedom seems to be much more in tune with the freedom of which the Christian faith talks. In the bible we find these words “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. (2 Cor 3:17) That freedom is the freedom from fear which God’s love promises whatever our circumstances. It is a freedom which we can enjoy and celebrate in spite of the physical restrictions that continue to feature in our lives.
Covid-19 is hitting way too close to everyone’s home at the moment. With a sad heart but with strong faith in the Heavenly Father, each day in prayer, I ask for a full recovery of those with Covid-19 and in pain. I ask our Lord to protect and cover us with His healing hands and precious blood, and to protect and strengthen vulnerable children and the elderly, homeless, unemployed, sick, frontliners and caregivers who are exhausted but not giving up. This coming week perhaps you will join with me in this prayer. Stay safe and well.
With my love and prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 15 November 2020
I trust and pray you are all well. As we continue to try and come to terms with the shifting seas that we find ourselves travelling through in these recent days and weeks it causes me to hesitate to try and set out for you the situation we are in and our response to the impact of the Corona virus as almost on a daily basis – the ‘goalposts’ just keep moving.
In my ‘Quiet Time’ with God this morning (Friday) my thoughts turned to those inspiring and encouraging words to be found in Joshua Chapter 1 verse 9. Words spoken by God to Joshua in order to sustain and encourage him as he was about to lead God’s people into a new and unfamiliar land. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be anxious or afraid and do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go and whatever you have to go through.”
We too can be strengthened and encouraged as we hear God speaking such words to us today and as we travel forward into, what is for all of us, a new and unfamiliar land. Over the past few months’ time has seemed to flow in unexpected ways. I suppose most of us are by now well and truly bedded into the new and strange way of being.
This morning even though I had four Zoom meetings ahead of me (and 3 more planned for tomorrow) I made the following decisions that today I would take times to be still and notice the day; that today I would rejoice! This day – I would try not to cogitate in the past, its successes and failures, its hurts and regrets, but would try not to worry about the future plans that needed making, jobs that needed doing, situations to face, but live this day! Why did I make those decisions – because: This is the day that the Lord has made, so I will rejoice and be glad in it!
I will rejoice in the clear air and the bright sun. I will rejoice in the privilege of a garden, and the loveliness of the neighbourhood. I will relish the extra time I have spent with my dogs and the peace and quiet of isolation. I will rejoice as I notice how much care is being shown in the Church and the wider community. I will give thanks for those who serve us from the NHS to the local shops.
I will notice also, that the ‘Lord is near’. God is with us in our lapses into re-running the past or worrying about the future and in this moment, and each new day that God has made’ And in all this, rejoicing, thanking, praying, and looking I will discover ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding!’
May you all have a peaceful week and relish the moments one day at a time.Thank you for all you are doing. Stay safe and well. With my love and prayers Rev Pat.
Sunday 8 November 2020
Here is a story from the Desert Fathers: Three brothers wanted to live the Christian life. The first went off to be a peacemaker; the second went off to be a healer; the third went off into the desert and became a monk. But peace-making and healing are not the easiest of tasks and the two brothers who had gone out into the world were feeling frustrated so they went to see their brother who had become a monk in the desert.
The monk decided to act out a parable. He poured some water into a bowl and immediately asked them what they saw. The answer they gave was ‘nothing’ because the water was still churning. After a while he asked them to look again. This time the water was still and when they looked they saw themselves. In the midst of their busy lives the brothers out in the world needed the stillness in which they could discover more about themselves.
It was the philosopher Pascal who said ‘Most of our troubles come from his not being able to sit quietly in our own room’. There is of course an essential difference between silence and stillness. While you need silence in order to be still; stillness is not necessarily part of silence. You can be silent but remain inwardly seething.
St Paul had some sound advice in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (AV): ‘Study to be quiet’. And Saint Teresa adds her own words of wisdom: ‘The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith. The fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service.’
On Sunday and this coming Wednesday, we will observe silence as we remember those who lost their lives in the conflict of war. Silence plays an important part in our memories and our thanksgiving for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us as they died.
I have spent the past few weeks in a different kind of silence seeking God for my future in ministry. There has not been a need for words I have just deliberately sat at my Father God’s feet and allowed myself the space to rest in the knowledge that he loves me, so all will be well. There was a wonderful time of peace as in the stillness as I discovered more about myself and again found that deep inner peace which passes all human understanding.
On Thursday evening I received a telephone call from our District Chair, Rev Helen Cameron who told me that the Connexional Stationing Committee had stationed me in the Melton Mowbray Circuit as their Superintendent from next September. I was overwhelmed with relief, tears and gratitude for your prayers and God’s trust in me. This morning I have spoken their Circuit Senior Steward and as I write this my heart is singing. I realise how truly blessed I am because the churning waters have become clear. I pray that as I make the copious arrangements for my move next year and as I continue to serve you and work with you in this Circuit, we may all take time for stillness. Maybe this ‘lockdown’ period is a time when together we can seek and hear God. And to him be all the praise and all the glory. Read Psalm 46 as you find your still time.
With my love and prayers for you all. Rev Pat
Sunday 1 November 2020
As the nights lengthen through November and the weather cools, we are usually drawn into a spirit of reflection. As I write this letter, we should be preparing for the many events that will take place over the next month designed to enable different people, from many different walks of life to start their Advent preparations. Advent begins on the 29th November this year and we begin that amazing journey with God to Christmas Day and the birth of Jesus, the Saviour of the world.
But, with another ‘Lockdown’ announced it is possible that our churches will have to close again. For nearly 8 months we have already missed the fellowship groups and coffee mornings which met regularly for socialisation, friendship and discussion of various topics to support each other, but we have survived through personal friendships and support of those within the fellowship of the Church.
As a society, we are probably now more aware of mental health issues than we have ever been and many reading this letter will be dealing with their own issues and indeed supporting others. How do we ensure that we not only look after our bodies but also our mental health? We know that we need to exercise and eat healthy foods, but how do we look after our minds? How do we find peace when the waves are crashing around us? How do we support those who are struggling with debilitating mental illness? There are no easy answers, and we must each walk this path according to our circumstances. This may involve taking the medication prescribed, finding groups of people who have similar interests, forcing ourselves to go for a walk each day, especially as the darker evenings draw closer, depending on a close circle of friends and finding joy in the little blessings, taking one day at a time and not trying to plan too far forward into the future.
As a person of faith, I find my strength, my anchor in the Psalms and in Hymns, knowing that each life has its challenges and the Bible testifies to great and faithful men and women of God, experiencing difficult times and holding fast to God until the resolution came. Hymns testify to ordinary people, facing the brokenness of life and still having peace and joy and being able to see the work of God in little blessings.
As we keep our eyes on Jesus, we find that our God will not let us fall. In Christ we trust that the Holy Spirit draws us deeper into the one Body. So, as we have united around the Breaking of Bread, the Body of Christ, as people from all walks of life our humility and devotion forms us into the Body of Christ in this community and the world.
On this All Saints Sunday and this coming week may you find joy and peace in the blessings of life. May all the Saints and Angels, watch over you and keep you in the mystical body of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
With my love and prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 25 October 2020
This week’s Pause for Thought comes from Local Preacher David Lewis who is currently ‘Locked Down’ in Cardiff.
Timothy 4:9-20 ‘Do your best to come to me soon … ‘before Winter’ There is an underlying poignancy in this simple, yet repeated, request from the apostle. A sense of urgency. The chapter has a valedictory feel. As though Paul is thinking this may well be his final winter. So maybe the sentiment is: Come to see me soon, before the weather closes in, before circumstances make it impossible, and while I’m still alive. (!) “And bring my warm cloak….. my books…. my parchments….”
Simple things, but familiar and meaningful in Lockdown. The apostle was severely restricted (in prison) and winter was coming. It was around summer AD 66 that he was arrested for the final time. Perhaps for us too, we find out in times of trial what is important to us.
As I look out of my study window just now I witness the most beautiful Autumn colours. We are still permitted to walk in the parks, and enjoy the shades of red, gold, and orange and paler shades of green in the nippy air of the month of October. As indeed we have celebrated harvest, so we know that in the rhythm of the seasons, winter will soon be upon us.
This winter will be different to any other in our experience. We struggle to come to terms with the fact that our carefully constructed towers of Babel have been brought low by a microscopic virus, invisible to the human eye. Our lives have changed. Control has been wrested from us. Our priorities are sifted by adversity, and present circumstances remind us of our vulnerability.
And speaking of what is important to us, our ‘long distance’ friendships are increasingly valued in these times. As indeed I value my friendship with all those at Brackley Methodist Church. I think friendships become more precious as we grow older and realise that ‘broken goblets’ are not so easily mended. At a crucial ‘Gethsemane’ moment in his life, when he most needed them, Paul is deserted by key friends (4:10) opposed by enemies, and unsupported in his trial (4:16) He is quite open about his own feelings of isolation and abandonment. This was, for him, a time of crisis. Yet crucially, he says at this critical moment, ‘The Lord stood by me and strengthened me’.
Yes he was alone. But not lonely. (v17) God was faithful, his refuge. Paul had experienced beatings, imprisonment, hardship deprivation, for the sake of the gospel. No cosy pre-recorded messages with a bookcase in the background. Paul had ‘fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith.’ And winter was coming. Nevertheless, there was plenty of fight left. This is not the language of one who has been weakened by old age. His strength of purpose remained firm to the end.
Why? Because he knew in whom he believed and was convinced that He would guard the gospel until that day. The coronavirus is so called because it resembles a crown (Corona) but there are two far greater and more meaningful ‘crowns’ The crown of thorns our Saviour wore in identifying with our suffering, bearing our sin, and showing the extent of The Father’s love. And the Crown of righteousness, which Paul declares, is the inheritance of all those believers who love and serve Jesus, and await his return. (4:8).
These are crowns of hope. Jesus is crowned Lord of life. As his people we are driven not by fear, but hope. May this be true for us. And I do indeed hope to see you ‘before winter comes’ but there is no crossing the bridge just now. However you remain in my thoughts and prayers. David Lewis.
Sunday 18 October 2020
Every country has its own customs and traditions, unique to its life, history, and culture. In Britain we have our own fair share, and many of them are associated with the countryside. Sadly, some of them have died out, not least because of the advancements made in farming today compared to the labour intensive methods of previous generations which my Grandfather and Fathers family were involved in.
I am glad to see, however, that some of those old customs have undergone something of a revival in recent years. I served as a minister in North Norfolk for five years, and the Circuit where I was appointed was made up of both small town and rural chapels. A number of folk were part of the farming community and had served in it all their lives. They had an intimate knowledge of the ways of the countryside.
It was in this setting that a custom surrounding “Plough Monday” (the Monday after Epiphany) was restored. It was customary that on this day a hand-plough, the kind pulled by a horse and steered by the farmer, would be taken into the local chapel to be “blessed” by the officiating minister, symbolising that the ploughman’s labour (no doubt a job done by some women too) might be commended to God, culminating with the words, “God speed the plough.”
I believe this practice still speaks to us today with regard to the future. For it was the ploughman’s role to take a long view of life and to see ends in beginnings. If he didn’t plough in hope, he might as well not plough at all. The farmer today still has to look beyond the possibility of floods, frosts and droughts in the hope of a good harvest.
Christianity is just like this really. It is above all a Gospel of hope. Our furrows may be lonely at times, and the challenges of the world in which we live today are very real indeed, but they are not hopeless. Like the ploughman, we too are concerned about the future. As Christian men and women our task is to plough peaceful furrows in order to heal a broken world, and to bring a harvest of hope to lives which may be lonely, sad, and disillusioned. Our labours should take us beyond ourselves and out into the world.
Finally, let us never forget that God will use the work we faithfully offer in ways we cannot always see or understand. Christ once told a wonderful little parable about a seed growing silently, which would germinate when given the right conditions. God is at work in our lives, sometimes imperceptibly, but know this: HE IS AT WORK.
Take care and look after yourselves. With my love and prayers Rev Pat.
Sunday 11 October 2020
I have always found the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes to be quite fascinating.
Even the title of the book raises questions to the mind of any enquirer. The title means “The Teacher” or “The Preacher” or can even be interpreted to mean “The Philosopher.” Chapter three of the book is perhaps the one we are most familiar with. It contains the words, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
We often hear this read at Harvest Festivals. Some of you may remember the successful pop song. I think from the 1960’s, by the “The Byrds” was based on its message.
Our sudden return to Greenwich Mean Time at the end of the month is a reminder that autumn has drawn to a close and the time for the winter season is upon us. We see these changes as simply part of a natural cycle. Someone said to me the other day that they were glad they lived in a country where there is such a marked difference and climatic diversity found within in the seasons. I agree, the winter can be both beautiful and harsh, but it is only one part of a bigger picture. spring, summer, and autumn are also integral to it.
Of course, we cannot forget that for some people the seasons may bring about little change to their personal circumstances. For many people the winter period only adds to their difficulties. I think of many homeless people who will spend another winter on our streets. The endless routine of life must for them seem sometimes so empty, so lacking in significance. They find themselves on a treadmill that is almost impossible to get off.
It’s not surprising that the opening words of the writer of Ecclesiastes ring true, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless.”
It would be easy to get drawn into the cynicism and despair of the writer, especially when we look at the world around us and the plight of many people. But when I look to Jesus, who began his earthy life as a refugee, someone who said on one occasion, “that the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Who Himself was rejected and treated harshly by those who should have known better, then I see someone who identifies fully with our human situation.
His call and challenge to us all is, let us not simply stand back and wring our hands at the wrongs of the world around us. Rather, let us continue to be pro-active in working for positive change. We are not a people of despair – we are a people of hope. Can there be anything more rewarding in life than being able to help turn someone’s life around.
I’ve needed it and perhaps you have, too. Even small and seemingly insignificant acts can make a difference, and when joined with those of others they become part of something far greater.
This coming week, no matter what changes and challenges you may face, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus who loves you and wants only the best for you.
With my love and prayers Rev Pat
Sunday 4 October 2020
Hebrews 4:16: Come boldy to the throne of grace
I think that most of us have expectations. When we go out for a coffee, we expect it to taste the way we like it; hot, unless it’s an iced Frappuccino. However, I suspect that none of us expect a coffee to materialise out of thin air whenever we wish for one. We make judgements based on our expectations and it often jars us when people don’t live up to our expectations, whether they are realistic or not.
How many of you have heard people say negative things about Christians or “church folk” who do something that clearly shows that they are “not perfect”. It’s as if having faith in God must make us perfect or we must be hypocrites. I hope that you agree with me when I say that this is unfair?
Jesus did not meet everyone’s expectations either. Many wanted him to lead an army that would overthrow the Romans. When someone becomes a Christian, it is only the beginning of an ongoing process. We know from the Parable of the Sower that three out of every four “kinds of people” don’t seem to progress spiritually in the longer term. There are lots of factors: attitude, spending time under God’s word, confessing and repenting of sins which still need to be fully eradicated from our lives daily, worshiping God as a first priority on the Sabbath, avoiding the “weeds” which will bring us down etc.
A part of expectation is hope. When we yield our whole life to God we arm ourself with a very real opportunity for the greatest hope imaginable. We can expect great things of a great God. Yet God expects us to play our part in our ongoing faith journey but often that is where we slip, trip and fall. We want to play in the world and be blessed by our loving God. We somehow expect Him not to withhold any blessing even when we put worldly priorities before serving and worshiping Him. It should be no surprise that it doesn’t work that way. This is worldly thinking and why would God approve of that?
The Christian life is a continual improvement scheme. Daily, we are to learn to commune with our God, sense His Spirit and give thanks for all that Jesus Christ has won for our freedom and restoration. Static growth is death. The more we opt out of the things that enable growth spiritually, the more our expectations become warped. What God asks us all is to be honest with ourselves first: are we playing our part at enabling our faith to grow or not? What ought we to do about it? Will we act accordingly or will we make excuses, while continuing to lose the abundant blessings of God? Our expectations can be premeditated resentments. God’s expectations if we chose to live for Him are that we live, grow and blossom with Christ as our LORD and Master. He knows that is the best by far – do you? This coming week may we all look to God with great expectations, even in these strange days that we are living in, and will we hear God and obey. Have a great week.
With my love and prayers. Rev Pat
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.