Mid Week Thoughts

28th May 2020 - Reflections from morning prayer
Jenny Veasey

Luke 8.26-39

Jesus Heals the Gerasene Demoniac

26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes,* which is opposite Galilee. 27As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn* no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’— 29for Jesus* had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. 31They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons* begged Jesus* to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes* asked Jesus* to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus* sent him away, saying, 39‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.


There is something of a common feature, in today’s readings,

and in the canticle we have just said, I think. 
And that relates, to change,
the effects of change and our adjustment to change.

The first words of Psalm 72:
1  Give the king your judgements, O God, 
   and your righteousness to the son of a king.
2  Then shall he judge your people righteously 
   and your poor with justice.

Righteous judgements from a ruler, and justice for the poor –
necessary changes indeed for any society –
whether 3 or 4 thousand years ago, for the Israelites, or today in this country.

Words from the canticle we have just shared, taken from the book of Ezekiel:
    A new heart I will give you,
and put a new spirit within you,

  And I will remove from your body the heart of stone
and give you a heart of flesh.

A new heart – a new spirit – the softening of stone – deep, core change.

So, moving on from Old Testament prophecy
to our New Testament reading from Luke: a well-known exorcism story.

Jesus calls the demon-driven man out of the misery
of his physical and spiritual lockdown;
he takes him out of the tombs,
drags him away from the dead, with a flourish –
if not exactly with a bang, with an almighty splash –
which terrifies the swine-herds. 
The local populace turns up to sight-see – as locals always do –
but they get more than they bargained for,
and what they see
of Jesus’ powers of renewal and of Jesus’s reversal of the status quo
is just too much for them. 
They liked their lives the way they always had been  
and expected their little local world to continue as ‘normal’:
“We’re all right . . if it ain’t broke – why fix it?”

But of course, for the demoniac, life had been visibly broken –
until the arrival of Jesus, bringing righteous judgement, justice –
and a new spirit; the spirit of life – new life, if not yet a new normal.

In many ways, of course, the locals are quite right:
change, any change, is scary. 
Who can tell, at first look, whether it may be change for the better –
or change for the worse. 
This is why Jesus so often starts a conversation
with someone who comes to him for healing with the words:
“What is it that you want?” 
He wants the people he meets, he wants us,
to face up to all the implications of change – and then to choose it;
in full knowledge that it may not always take us into comfortable places;
it may not leave us in the place where we want to be.

I’m not going to labour the obvious here – we can all draw our own conclusions and make our own connections and comparisons.

For now, I just want to look at the end of this story:
the demon-infested man clearly has no regrets for his past,
and is enthusiastic about embracing change –
so much so that he wants to stick with this person
who has brought about such an immense change for the better in his life. 
But that is not what God wants from him. 
He is to stay put – no longer in total lockdown,
but he is required to remain within his own locality –
and bear witness among his neighbours. 

Because, as we are all discovering, sometimes our most important ministry won’t be the grand “Leave your nets and follow me” gesture –
it will be sticking around, doing all those mundane little things
with our nearby neighbours, for our nearby neighbours.  
Returning to our homes and proclaiming throughout our own little “cities”
‘how much God has done for us.’
Bringing about the changes that God has put us right there to do for him.
And in our lifetimes and our neighbourhoods making these words a reality:

Thy Kingdom Come.
Amen


The lead chaplain Waterways South has sent the Benefice this reflection, which has been compiled for the Waterways Chaplaincy.


THE LORD’S PRAYER (MATTHEW 6:9-11)

Thoughts by Revd Sara Hayes and Revd Mark Chester - distributed during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020

  1. ‘Our Father in heaven’

The Lord’s Prayer begins with an amazing statement of intimacy and personal relationship – a direct opening statement to our heavenly Father – yours and mine!  It’s a relationship that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection has made possible and created for us. John’s Gospel really draws this out. Do you remember that wonderful resurrection encounter Mary Magdalene has by the empty tomb with the risen Lord?  Jesus, who has previously in this gospel spoken of his Father, now says “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17). What an amazingly wonderful thing to be a child of God and how privileged we are to know his unconditional love and care for us. That is very special.

  • Spend some time reflecting on what having a heavenly Father means for you. Think about the relationship that a perfect Father has with his children. Ask your heavenly Father to help you appreciate and grow into that relationship.
  • Pray for fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers and their relationship with their children and grandchildren. Pray that that relationship may signpost to their heavenly Father.
  • Our human fathers may or may not reflect in some ways the relationship a perfect heavenly Father offers us. Some are just not very good at the role and some abuse their role. Pray for all those in our community who have been damaged by their relationship with their human fathers. Pray for them especially to come to know the love of our heavenly Father in the months to come and for his healing hand to be upon them. If this is true for you as well, then pray for that same healing for yourself. Or maybe you are the one who needs forgiveness, in which case ask for that right now.
  • Pray today for all the families living in our community. Pray especially for good, loving and healthy relationships as lockdown continues. Ask for a heavenly Father’s blessing upon them.

Finally you might want to join with me in singing a song addressed to your heavenly Father:

‘Father God, I wonder’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8OjxzNEzBk

 

  1. ‘Hallowed be your name’

In the biblical world, names are important, very important. The reason being that the name often contains the essence of someone’s “personness”, and is integral to who they are and what they have done and will do. Joseph is told ‘You are to name Him Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins’. God’s name isn’t just a label; it summarises His whole character, His whole nature and His whole being.

Our Father in heaven, may your name be hallowed – honoured – praised – revered – held holy. A prayer Tom Wright, theologian and ex-Bishop of Durham says, that you may be worshipped by your whole creation; may the whole cosmos resound with your praise; may the whole world be freed from injustice, disfigurement, sin and death, and may your name be hallowed by everyone and everything.

  • Our prayers are often a shopping list of requests for God to help us or others. Instead of that today, spend some time just reflecting on how amazing your heavenly Father is. Then speak out words of praise, praising Him quite simply for who He is – for His greatness and for His character and for His saving grace and everything else that comes to mind. Keep praising Him for some while for He is worthy of it!
  • The Psalmist says in psalm 103 as he hallows God’s name:  ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name’. Pray for yourself that what is within us will bless God’s holy name. Pray that our character and attitudes, our desires and what we hold dear in our lives, cling to, long for and want for others – all that is within us – would really bless God’s holy name
    • Pray that each and every day more and more people in our community would join with us in praising our amazing God.

Let’s hallow His name and all that He is to us as we praise the King of Heaven: Praise, my soul the King of heaven

 

  1. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’

Most of those who minister in churches and who are active in their local communities are at heart activists, I think, because we love doing things to make life and things better. And the Lord’s prayer is definitely an activist’s prayer with this phrase at its heart: for today, in this petition, we are praying quite literally for the transformation of the world! And as we pray, Tom Wright, the theologian and ex-Bishop of Durham, says we need to pray that we see the world in binocular vision; to see it with the love of the creator for his spectacularly beautiful creation, and see it with the deep grief of the creator for the battered and battle-scarred state in which the world now finds itself. In this prayer, we are praying for the redemption of the world; for the radical defeat and uprooting of evil; and for heaven and earth to be married at last, for God to be all in all. And to pray it for real means we are committing ourselves into that partnership with God, that we are so privileged to be called to that which helps bring his kingdom in. What a ministry! What a calling!

  • Spend some time reflecting where you have seen signs of the kingdom of God recently. Maybe acts of kindness, care and sacrificial giving seen during the lockdown. Give thanks for those. 
  • Ask the Lord to help you see our world with the binocular vision with which he sees it. And having done that, reflect for a time on what will cause him grief in our community and world today.
  • Pray ‘Thy Kingdom come’ into the lives of individuals you know in our community and into the lives of your friends, family and neighbours. It’s a big prayer!
  • Recommit yourself to ‘kingdom work’ today and in the days to come.

If you are brave enough, you could sing this prayer today: here I am…I have heard you calling…I will go Lord (I the Lord of sea and sky): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4t6mz8yoocY

  1. ‘Give us this day our daily bread’

Listening to peoples’ lockdown experiences has been fascinating. We all seem to have been focusing much more on our daily and weekly needs rather than our more expansive wants and desires. The only shops open are those which sell essential supplies. And the question ‘will I be able to get the supplies I need from the shops to get through this week’ was particularly important with ranks of empty shelves a few weeks ago. And for those who are self-isolating or shielding themselves most carefully, there is an unusual dependence upon others and their kindness and provision to deliver the goods. There is a certain stark reality in lockdown in this petition ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. Isn’t it wonderful that we have a heavenly Father, the sovereign Lord of the whole universe, who is concerned with the simple, ordinary things in life that we actually need to keep body and soul together?

  • Thank God today for all the ordinary things you are going to need today which you have. You could start with the toothpaste and the bread! Have a look in your kitchen cupboards and thank him for what is there and for all the people who grew it, packaged it, transported it and sold it, especially during lockdown, and if someone delivered it to your doorstep thank God for them too. Thank God for your daily provisions. Perhaps make a big effort to give thanks for each meal today. 
  • We pray ‘give US our daily bread’. So pray today for those individuals and families in our community who are struggling to get the daily provisions they need for financial or physical reasons. Pray that no-one would go hungry today. Pray by name for any you know who are dependent upon food parcels and foodbanks. Pray especially for provision for the children who would usually have received free school meals.
  • Pray for blessing and protection on all those manning foodbanks and all those delivering food parcels to those in need. And pray for generosity in giving to them.
  • And, finally, as this is a very concrete prayer petition, ask God to bring to mind someone you can bless today with something special that maybe they haven’t had for the last few weeks (whether that is a box of chocolates, a long phone call, a letter or whatever……’)

One of my favourite hymns is ‘Great is thy faithfulness’ with its wonderful refrain ‘All I have needed Thy hand hath provided – great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me’. You could join me in singing it today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTKIqmdfHSk

  1. ‘And forgive us our debts/trespasses/sins’ (dependent upon your translation)

One of the benefits of lockdown has been less pollution in the air. Cleaner air to breathe for us all. Well, one of the wonderful things we have as followers of Jesus is the ability to breathe in true divine forgiveness day by day as the cool, clear air which our spiritual lungs need instead of the grimy, germ-laden air that is pumped at us from all sides. And, of course, as we start inhaling God’s fresh air, there is a good chance that we will start to breathe it out too, as we will think about tomorrow. We can ignore our sins or we can live with them, but what Jesus offers us, and what he gave his life so we might have, is the wonderful gift of forgiveness: a new start; a slate wiped clean; the freedom of His kingdom in our lives today. And, as with the rest of this prayer, this petition is corporate and calls us to ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness not just for our own selfishness and sinfulness, but also for that of the society of which we are part. There is quite a lot of forgiveness to ask for when we think about that!

  • Reflect on your heavenly Father’s love and character. Then think about yourself today. Be honest. Where do you need forgiveness? Not just for the minor peccadilloes of life, but where do you need to be set free from well embedded attitudes and character traits and automated responses? Ask for your heavenly Father’s forgiveness and His transforming power to be at work in your life.
  • Then reflect on our world today and the society in which we live. It’s a sobering thought. Ask the Lord to show you how He sees it and what causes Him grief in the way things are. Ask for forgiveness for those things. And then consider our community.  Where is forgiveness needed there?
  • Many in our community are trapped in bad life habits and by addictions. Pray on their behalf that the Lord would free them from these. Name those you know who struggle in this way.
  • And many in our community are hurt by the sinful actions and abuse of others. Pray for healing for them today.

Forgiveness is a huge gift. A kingdom gift that Jesus brings us. His body was ‘broken for me, broken for you. Reflect on that as you sing or listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I31lNuvYBWQ

  1. ‘as we also have forgiven our debtors/those who have trespassed against us/those who have sinned against us’ (dependent upon your translation)

In this petition, we are called by Jesus to live out His kingdom way, sharing the blessing of the forgiveness we have received with all those around us. As children of our heavenly Father, we are called to display the family likeness, so that all can see the character and lifestyle of our family home. Interestingly, we often limit this part of the Lord’s Prayer by thinking of it only in terms of those sinning against us. Matthew’s Greek speaks of ‘debtors’ and includes those who owe us or who fail to give back. And so it speaks also of a people not wedded to their possessions and of those with a loose grip on their money.

  • Ask your heavenly Father to show you today who you need to forgive. Sometimes we hold a lack of forgiveness almost subconsciously, so spend a bit of time in His presence asking this question.
  • In our community, there may be some to whom we have lent and who may have ‘borrowed’ but not returned an object or money. Forgive any now who come to mind.
  • Pray for those families caught in cycles of grudges and unforgiveness. Also pray for those who struggle with family relationships and living in harmony in small spaces, especially during this lockdown. Pray that a culture of acknowledging responsibility and offering forgiveness would become a way of life.
  • Continue to pray for those in our community who have been broken and hurt and who have suffered and continue to suffer because of wrongs done to them. They need lots and lots of healing and love and compassion.

We need huge grace to live out this prayer and to live the kingdom way. Ask for that as you sing or listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HixCQUirJxg

 

  1. ‘And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one’

In following Christ, Christians typically find themselves contending with the flesh (personal human frailty), the world (good things misused) and the devil (the leader of the fallen angels who seek to replace God).  Many Christians either give the devil too much or too little attention. Pure evil is horrific in every sense, is not to be sought out and encountering it is a trial in which we can only prevail through the power of Jesus Christ.

  • Give thanks for Christ’s victory over the evil one.  Ask God to reveal to you a particular area of your life in which you may need ‘rescuing’ and with this in mind pray the whole of the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Pray for protection from ‘the evil one’. Ask God to help us all to have a balanced and biblically informed understanding of the spiritual forces with which we are engaged.
  • Some knowingly engage with the occult, often without realising the implications. Pray for a clarity in their understanding of the implications of their actions for themselves and others.  Pray that they would renounce such activities and seek the freedom there is in Jesus Christ.
  • Today, especially pray for those who may be listening to church services on-line.  That they would be impacted by the message and drawn into the love of God.

Let us conclude by singing the whole of the Lord’s Prayer together, Caribbean style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VwGRoLHIYo

 

14th May 2020

Reflection for morning Prayer 14 May 2020

As I sat yesterday and pondered the readings and Psalms, pondered also on my Social distancing shopping experience at M & S, where while waiting for the Social Distanced space to appear, someone rushed by me as if I was invisible. My heart sighed.

With those things in my mind, I turned to one of my favourite books, ‘a month among the vines’, where Vicar, Andrew Proctor tells of his time on sabbatical, where he spends a month with a L’Arche community in France. It never fails to lift me up.

One of his recollections is of an after dinner moment, where there is the sharing of the Roses tin of chocolates. Everyone would get very excited, wondering which chocolate anyone may choose and why. People there were very disappointed when the now empty tin stops giving and Andrew goes onto tell of his adventures back in England trying to locate another tin for them.

This particular story concludes with his return to France, with his tin of brightly wrapped chocolates and the excitement of the community when he places the new tin on the table after dinner. A small act of kindness that meant so much.

Today the Church remembers the calling of The Disciple Matthias. Chosen by the other Disciples by casting lots to see who would replace Judas. The Disciples prayed that God would guide them, as he knows each of our hearts.

And my mind wandered to God’s continuing call on our own lives, just now, in the middle of the Corona virus outbreak. For each one of us, there will be twists and turns, ups and downs, but at all times, we and the people we each seek to serve and care for in our Communities, are at the very heart of it all.

Like the Roses chocolates, it is often the small gestures, small actions, sometimes spontaneous, that can make a real difference to another, make a difference also in our own lives when these things are done unto us.

Think about the small things that have made a difference to you, may be even changed your life. A word, a gesture, a gift. Try and recall some of them. Savour them and give thanks.

Thank God, that even in times such as these, he sends people our way, ‘Brother, Sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you, pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too’.

As we think about these things, reflect on how The Psalmist in Psalm 147 expresses his own faith …

Alleluia.

How good it is to make music for our God, 
how joyful to honour him with praise.

Amen

 

22nd April 2020

Through our readings for morning payer this week, we are being led through Paul’s letter to the Colossians, and today, familiar verses from another of Paul’s letters, to the Ephesians, encouraging his readers, encouraging us, to be strong in The Lord,  to put on the whole armour of God in the fight against the devil. What a wonderful reading from Paul’s letter to begin our day

I’m guessing that we each have letters saved in a file, tucked in a drawer somewhere about the house. We certainly have. Letters touching on various points of our lives, family weddings, births, deaths, Baptisms, perhaps of holidays looked forward to or spent together. May be from time to time they are written at times when separation becomes necessary, through work, perhaps service in our armed forces.

A written note can be a great comfort and bring you closer to people at the time -- and later, may become part of a family’s history. A person’s character will often be revealed through their written hand, descriptive, fine and detailed, disjointed, hesitant, poetic, caring and so on. A window both into the person and what is going on at the time. Paul’s letters both encourage and lead the early Church. Furthermore, they demonstrate his relentless commitment to faith in Christ Jesus.

If you happened to read yesterday’s verses, there was for me a key sentence in chapter 2 vs 5, “ … For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in Spirit.”

How apt for us during these days where we are separated physically from so many, friends, family, Church communities and so on …. Where we may be separated in body, but together in spirit.

Among all the modern technology helping to bring us together, let’s not forget the beauty of letter writing, or a note in an occasional card.

So, be strong in The Lord …. and I close with one of my favourite opening lines from Paul ….” Grace to you and peace from God our Father

Amen

Tim and the ministry team

15th April 2020

I found myself in the garage yesterday and stumbled on what must be the very last untouched box since we moved here 15 months ago. Nothing terribly exciting in there, but within another small box was a box brownie camera. As I handled it, I wondered who’s it was and what had been seen and captured through the lense of something being used early in the last century.

History recalls wartime of course closely followed by a catastrophic flu pandemic of its own time. History books tell us of how those who have gone before us coped with such things, of selfless giving in their own time.

The opening words from chapter 13 in Hebrews are:

“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.”

And a poets comment in a similar vein…

“Your Holy hearsay is not evidence, give me good news in the present tense. The living truth is what I long to see, I cannot lean on what used to be. Show me how the Christ you talk about is living now”.

Thomas, the Disciple, who we will hear more of on Sunday, wanted to touch and see for himself. Surely we only have to look around us to see Christ at work in so many, to see in our own time what is undoubtably good news amongst the backdrop of hardship and sadness

Amen

Tim and the Ministry Team


8th April 2020

Dear Everyone,

Today's thought, from the Ministry Team, in fact is "borrowed" from Bishop Olivia's letter 'Ad Clerum' which came out today to clergy and lay ministers.  I was particularly struck by a paragraph near the end, as follows:

 Thank you for all the amazing, routine, wonderful, quiet, noisy, creative, ordinary and extraordinary ways in which you are continuing to proclaim the Love of God in word and action, serve God’s people, and draw them into the Kingdom - the phone calls you make, the funerals you take, the love you pour out, the prayer you offer, the care that you spread, the Gospel you live out. For this you were ordained. For this you were licensed. In each one of you, in whatever role or stage of ministry, God is well-pleased.

 But as I read it, I understood that her words actually have universal application, for us all, at the moment - this message includes each and every one of you, as well as Tim, Mark and myself, so I am taking the liberty of one small addition - which to me makes a huge difference:

Thank you for all the amazing, routine, wonderful, quiet, noisy, creative, ordinary and extraordinary ways in which you are continuing to proclaim the Love of God in word and action, serve God’s people, and draw them into the Kingdom - the phone calls you make, the funerals you take, the love you pour out, the prayer you offer, the care that you spread, the Gospel you live out. For this you were ordained. For this you were licensed. For this you were baptised.  In each one of you, in whatever role or stage of ministry, God is well-pleased.

I was going to highlight my alteration - but since we are all seeking ways of keeping ourselves alert at the moment I leave with you that favourite childhood puzzle: "Spot the difference". 

Not, I admit, a huge challenge, not a huge change - but hugely important, I think - reflecting what I am seeing in daily action from our local friends, our nearby neighbours and total strangers all around us. 

God bless us all

Jenny


2nd April 2020
A very good morning to you all, I am very much hoping this e-mail finds you well.

The collect for grace and part of morning prayer goes as follows:

O God our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God,

who has safely brought us to the beginning of this new day;

defend us in the same with thy mighty power:

and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger.

but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance,

to do always that is righteous in thy sight;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.    Amen.

So, we surely give thanks for this new day and that we can be a part of it, play our part in whatever way, however great or small, in the challenge confronting us just now.

This evening at 8.00 we are encouraged to say thank you to all our carers and key workers. For most, we cannot do that face to face in the way we might normally. But, this evening, at our windows, at our doors, on our balconies we say thank you and clap the carers - and all key workers, in all their doings.

Amen.

With every blessing

Tim and the ministry team