Tuesday 26th May
Over this last few days I have reflected on death and dying in part through revisiting David Watson and his writing and teaching. It struck me that we never cease to learn, as human beings we have an inbuilt curiosity to discover new things but also we have an incredible ability to revisit and recall past learning and discoveries. God has created us as human beings to grow and learn through the experiences of life. As the writer of the Proverbs says:
“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,”
In church we often talk about God being unchanging and if we are not careful we see our churches as being refuges from the world. In fact nothing could be further from the truth as the church reflects God’s character and he longs to make us more like his Son. I love the way the King James Bible puts this:
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
As we learn and experience more of God then we are changed and become more like Jesus. Often it is only when we look back on the experiences of our lives that we see what we have learnt and how we have changed. In the present coronavirus crisis it is very easy to just live one day at a time but I want to challenge you to ask yourself how is the present crisis changing you? What are you learning about yourself and your faith? How has your view of church and God developed? You might have other questions and reflections but remember as Paul wrote:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:”
As we pray today pray for those who find the changes of this present crisis so difficult particularly we remember those who struggle with dementia and memory problems. Pray too for those in our communities who are trying to make sense of the changes impacting our society and are helping us to reimagine the future.
Blessed are you, God of growth and discovery;
yours is the inspiration that has altered
and changed our lives;
yours is the power that has brought us
to new dangers and opportunities.
Set us, your new creation, to walk through
this new world, watching and learning,
loving and trusting,
until your kingdom comes.
Wednesday 20th May
I have spent the last couple of days talking in different ways about well being. It is easy to dismiss the term ‘well being’ as simply being the next fad or band wagon to follow. Mindfulness is another buzz word that is doing the rounds and if we are not careful they trip off the tongue but are actually quite meaningless because we only pay lip service to the underlying good they represent. As Christians we are faced with a similar challenge when it comes to our faith. It is all too easy to go through the motions but in our hearts not actually let our faith impact on our lives. Please don’t read that as me being judgmental because if I am honest there are times when my faith only feels skin deep. Life has a habit of ganging up on all of us from time to time and God can feel very far away.
The writers of the New Testament, particularly Paul continually challenged the churches they wrote to, to live lives that reflected their faith. I find Paul extremely challenging on those occasions when my faith has a wobble not least because he has a habit of fully understanding the human condition and putting his finger right on the nub of the problem! However he also recognised in his own life the struggles we all face, with what he refers to as his thorn in his flesh. He knew that in those moments when his faith was weakest that God stepped in:
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
When we feel most broken and a long way from God it is those moments when God’s grace breaks into our lives to bring his healing and wholeness. One way we can maintain our spiritual health is cultivate spiritual mindfulness through prayer and ensure our well being by looking after our physical health as well as our spiritual health.
As we pray today, pray for those who struggle with spiritual well-being and find it hard to connect with God during this crisis or when life gangs up to on us and we feel distant from our faith. Pray also today for our clergy, ministers and those who lead our churches that they might care for themselves as well as those they have care over.
God of Liberation,
who comes not to destroy
but to set us free,
bring wholeness to all that is broken,
and speak truth to us
in our confusion;
through Jesus Christ
our Saviour and Lord.
Monday 18th May
The bible talks a lot about the ‘word’ of God, in the Old Testament in particular the word often has very explicit descriptions. Jeremiah say the word is like a fire and like a hammer that breaks rocks into pieces. The psalmist describes the word like silver refined in the fire and as a lamp and a light for the path. More importantly in various places the word is described as bringing life and truth and in his temptation in the wilderness Jesus reminds Satan that it is the word that sustains not bread!
“… man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3
The New Testament also talks about the ‘word’. It variously describes it as a two edged sword, the sword of the Spirit, pure spiritual milk, power to create the universe, and life. However amongst the most powerful picture is in John’s Gospel where he equates the word with Jesus. It is a reading we often hear at Christmas but in the prologue to the Gospel, John sets out the reality that everything about the word is about Jesus:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. “
As Christians we have the spirit of Jesus within us and it is easy to forget that his word brings life and power to the church. It is also means that same life and power is available to each of us as we live out our daily lives. We learn more about the living word by reading the scriptures and learning more about God and his love for his creation. The scriptures themselves reveal the character of God and help us to discern how to live our lives. In this period of crisis why not spend some time reading the bible and rediscover the Word of God revealed in scripture.
As we start a new week remember those who caring for those with Coronavirus, pray for doctors, nurses and those in the care industry who each day find themselves on the frontline. Pray too for research scientists and pharmaceutical companies who are trying to discover a vaccine and a way to protect us all.
O God, whose word burns like a fire within us:
grant us a bold and faithful spirit,
so that, in your strength, we may be
unafraid to speak your word
and follow where you lead;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.