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Minister’s Blog

Daily devotionals and other information will appear here during the covid-19 pandemic.

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I am sorry but as I retire this week there will not be any more updates to this blog

Monday 31st August 2020

Bible: Revelation 3:1-6 New International Version (NIVUK)

‘To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Reflection

Some timely advice from the book of Revelation and one of the seven letters to churches. When did you, individually and as a church, last have a spiritual health check? Our cars, boilers and other equipment are serviced and we have physical health checks. In all cases remedial action may be taken. So why not do the same with our spiritual health after all it is ultimately more important than everything else put together as it affects our eternal life prospects. The church at Sardis is obviously very active and goes through all the right motions but it is pronounced spiritually dead because it has forgotten the truth of God and gone astray. Praise is given to the few who have remained faithful but all are given the opportunity to repent and put themselves right with God. There are plenty of good spiritual health checks available such as the CWR one. Why not try one today, for you and for your church?

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Public transport operators as usage increases
  • Schools, colleges and universities preparing for the new term
  • Those blatantly ignore the law and guidance on covid-19 restrictions and thereby putting other people at risk
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1          Revive your church, O Lord,
in grace and power draw near;
speak with the voice that wakes the dead,
and make your people hear!

2          Revive your church, O Lord,
disturb the sleep of death;
give life to smouldering embers now
by your almighty breath.

3          Revive your church, O Lord,
exalt your precious name;
and by your Holy Spirit come
and set our love aflame.

4          Revive your church, O Lord,
give us a thirst for you,
a hunger for the bread of life
our spirits to renew.

5          Revive your church, O Lord,
and let your power be shown:
the gifts and graces shall be ours,
the glory yours, alone!

Albert Midlane (1825-1909)

Sunday 30th August 2020

Bible: Matthew 16:24-27 New International Version (NIVUK)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

Reflection

Another tough saying of Jesus. Every charismatic leader has followers and Jesus is no exception. The really good leaders are those who make their followers aware of the real cost of their chosen lifestyle and Jesus is the best. He does not mince his words but spells it out.  It is not an easy life following Jesus, it is not even one with difficulties. It is one that requires his followers to forget about themselves, their happiness, their safety, their well-being, their financial security and risk it all in pursuit of a life with Jesus. The point Jesus is making is that potential followers have a clear cut choice. It’s either the life they want now and no eternity or the life Jesus wants them to have now and for all eternity. I wonder if the caterpillar has the same problem as us? Does it know what a butterfly is? But all of that is not the biggest problem we have with these words of Jesus, that comes in verse 27. We know that it is salvation through faith so where do rewards comes in? What does Jesus mean? We will find out one day. Dare we take the risk of losing eternity by doing it our way now?

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • The situation in Belarus today
  • Businesses at risk because of the number of people continuing to work from home
  • Migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe in search of a better life
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise;
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways.

2 O loving wisdom of our God!
when all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.

3 O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive and should prevail;

4 And that a higher gift than grace
should flesh and blood refine,
God’s presence and his very self,
and essence all-divine.

5 O generous love! that he, who came
as man to smite the foe,
the double agony for us
as man should undergo;

6 And in the garden secretly,
and on the cross on high,
should teach his followers, and inspire
to suffer and to die.

7 Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise;
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

Saturday 29th August 2020

Bible: Matthew 8:14-22 New International Version (NIVUK)

14 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. 16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all who were ill. 17 This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.’ 18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ 20 Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 21 Another disciple said to him, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 22 But Jesus told him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’

Reflection

Jesus hadn’t gone to Peter’s house to heal his mother-in-law. There does not seem to be a request for healing. Jesus sees a need and responds how often he does that for us, if we let him. The piece that makes me smile, that she immediately began waiting on him is there to show us that healing was complete, total and instant. If we have been in bed ill for a few days we are unsteady on our feet when we get up. She wasn’t. The significance of people bringing their demon-possessed relatives to Jesus in the evening was that it was dark. It wasn’t Jesus they were embarrassed about but their relatives. With all the signs and wonders as well as the wonderful words it is not surprising that people were attracted to Jesus and wanted to follow him. He spelt out the cost of doing so. Today the church fails to do this. It tells people that Jesus loves them and will help them but does not spell out that it means a lifestyle change and that may be costly and unpopular.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Bank holiday tourism in the UK and its effect on local communities
  • The exponential rise in covid-19 cases in France and efforts being made to bring it under control
  • Migrants seeking to cross the English Channel and make a new home in the UK
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 Will you come and follow me
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown
in you and you in me?

2 Will you leave yourself behind
if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer
in you and you in me?

3 Will you let the blinded see
if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free
and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean,
and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean
in you and you in me?

4 Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound
in you and you in me?

5 Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.

John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)

Friday 28th August 2020

Bible: 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 New International Version (NIVUK)

For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Reflection

We see lawlessness all around us. It is demonstrated by attitudes to traffic signs and regulations, other people’s property, rules on social distancing and quarantine, laws and police officers. Bad as all this is Paul is referring to something much deeper. Today society is being seriously damaged by greed, selfishness, envy, jealousy, corruption and lust. People whose lifestyle is blatantly wrong and ungodly are lauded as heroes. We are engaged in a spiritual battle, a battle not just for our world, not just for the church but for our souls. Jesus said this. Paul understood this. So must we. There has always been a battle between God’s way and the other way which is largely the result of humans seeking to control their own destiny rather than submitting to God.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Mountain rescue teams and lifeboat crews facing a busy weekend
  • Arrangements for live worship from Emmanuel and the technical systems required to allow people to join online
  • People in rent arrears and fearful how they will manage as the ban on evictions comes to an end
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 From heaven you came, helpless babe,
entered our world, your glory veiled,
not to be served but to serve,
and give your life that we might live.
This is our God, the Servant King,
he calls us now to follow him,
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.

2 There in the garden of tears
my heavy load he chose to bear;
his heart with sorrow was torn,
‘Yet not my will but yours,’ he said.
refrain

3 Come see his hands and his feet,
the scars that speak of sacrifice,
hands that flung stars into space
to cruel nails surrendered.
refrain

4 So let us learn how to serve
and in our lives enthrone him,
each other’s needs to prefer,
for it is Christ we’re serving.
refrain

Graham Kendrick (b. 1950)

Thursday 27th August 2020

Bible: Ephesians 5:1-7 New International Version (NIVUK)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: no immoral, impure or greedy person – such a person is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

Reflection

Some years ago I was in conversation with a young person who was very much involved in church life when she said ‘I can’t wait till Friday when I can go out with my friends and behave like a non-Christian.’ No, you can’t. Being a Christian is not a job, a hobby or a leisure pursuit. It’s not even a lifestyle choice. It is a way of life, a faith, it permeates all that we do, all that we say, all that we think. Like it or not it means that there are things we won’t do and things we will do. We are different to the world. No caveats, no exemptions, no get out clauses, we are set apart, in other words we are holy. I love the story of the minister’s son who whose friends wouldn’t let him go with them one day. ‘You can’t come, we’re going scrumping’ he was told ‘you have to stay behind and be our conscience.’ They understood even if he didn’t! Notice the strength of the words Paul uses, ‘not even a hint of, ‘any kind of’, ‘out of place’. We are told to follow God’s example so joyfully we embrace his way, totally.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Steve, our Circuit Superintendent, and Andrew, our Area Minister
  • Groups, activities and organisation who will start to use our premises again in the coming weeks
  • Nicki at Emmanuel and Robert at the Beacon as they liaise with those groups and sort out the practicalities.
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 Jesus, Lord, we look to thee,
let us in thy name agree;
show thyself the Prince of Peace;
bid our jarring conflicts cease.

2 By thy reconciling love,
every stumbling-block remove;
each to each unite, endear;
come, and spread thy banner here.

3 Make us of one heart and mind,
courteous, merciful, and kind,
lowly, meek in thought and word,
altogether like our Lord.

4 Let us for each other care,
each the other’s burden bear,
to thy Church the pattern give,
show how true believers live.

5 Free from anger and from pride,
let us thus in God abide;
all the depth of love express,
all the height of holiness.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Wednesday 26th August 2020

Bible: Matthew 26:6-13 New International Version (NIVUK)

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. ‘Why this waste?’ they asked. ‘This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.’ 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’

Reflection

A wonderful episode that takes place whilst Jesus was in Bethany for a few days between his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the Last Supper with his disciples. There were strict rules about leprosy and if you had the disease you had to live outside the community. Most likely Simon had had leprosy but was now cured. Perhaps Jesus had first met him when he was ill, maybe it was Jesus who cured him. We don’t know but we do know that Jesus was enjoying time with a friend when this woman appeared and anointed him. Jesus saw it as preparation for his death which only he knew was a couple of days away. Jesus’ comment that ‘the poor you will always have with you’ is not a flippant, throwaway comment despite being an obvious truism. It is a reminder that we have a responsibility towards the poor that never goes away. Imagine a bus fully loaded with the 85 richest people in the world. They own as much as the 3.5 million poorest people, ie half the world.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Children and teachers as schools return across the UK
  • An end to the violence and looting in Wisconsin and to racial discrimination
  • Those suffering again from storm damage to their home or livelihood this week.
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

As When Mary Poured the Ointment

1          As when Mary poured the ointment
on your feet, O Saviour Christ,
so I bring you my devotion
now, in grateful sacrifice.
Fill my life, O Lord, with perfume,
spread its fragrance far and near;
as myself to you I offer,
may I show that you are here.

2          As our praises, our confessions,
our petitions rise today,
Father, may their sweetness please you,
for in Jesus’ name we pray.
Fill your church, O Lord, with perfume,
spread its fragrance far and near;
as our prayers to you we offer,
may we show that you are here.

3          All for love, your Son from heaven
for our sins endured the cross;
may his beauty be apparent
as your Spirit changes us.
Fill the nations, Lord, with perfume,
spread its fragrance far and near;
as our gifts to you we offer,
show the world that you are here.
 
Emma Turl (born 1946)

Tuesday 25th August 2020

Bible: Romans 11:33-36 New International Version (NIVUK)

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?’ 35 ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?’ 36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen.

Reflection

Read it again slowly and let it sink in. This is Paul at his best waxing lyrical about God. You can imagine him writing it way back in 56AD. He has just taken us through some deep theology and it as if he pauses for a moment, puts his quill down, leans back to reflect on what he should say next when he is overwhelmed by sensing the true nature of God. We can learn a lot from this. We spend a lot of time seeking the mind of God, discerning what is right for the church and wondering how we should respond to issues in the world. Sometimes we just need to sit with God. No agenda, no words, no pleas just God and us, two friends enjoying the silence of each other’s company. When we are content in our relationship words are unnecessary just being in God’s company allows him to bless us and we come away feeling better. Just look at the words Paul uses. They are a real tonic. When we focus on the majesty, omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence of God everything else falls into perspective. No one can advise God, no one can fully know God and God is unbribeable and not possible to bargain with says Paul. God does everything out of his perfect love for us and we should do everything we do out of our love for him faltering though it may be. Give glory to God because everything comes from him and is for him.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Preparations for opening the Coffee Bar at Emmanuel Redditch
  • Churches Together in B45, St Leonard’s, St Chad’s, St Stephen’s, Our Lady’s, Grace Frankley and Longbridge Methodist Churches
  • Rising covid-19 rates in Redditch that people may heed the warning and be particularly careful about social distancing.
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

Praise is rising, eyes are turning to you;
we turn to you.
Hope is stirring, hearts are yearning for you;
we long for you.

Cause when we see you we find strength to face the day.
In your presence all our fears are washed away,
washed away.

Hosanna, hosanna,
you are the God who saves us;
worthy of all our praises.
Hosanna, hosanna,
come have your way among us;
we welcome you here Lord Jesus.

Hear the sound of hearts returning to you;
we turn to you.
In your kingdom broken lives are made new;
you make all things new.

Cause when we see you …

Hosanna, hosanna …

Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna, hosanna.

Brenton Brown and Paul Baloche

Brenton Brown left South Africa for Oxford, England in his early twenties. While studying politics, philosophy and theology he joined Vineyard Music (UK), serving as worship pastor at the Oxford Vineyard, UK, and eventually as coordinator of the Vineyard (UK) Worship Development Team.  In 2006 he moved to California.

Paul Baloche was born in Maple Shade Township, New Jersey, and served as worship pastor at Community Christian Fellowship in Lindale, Texas for 26 years before moving to New York City in 2915. Baloche is one of the writers for Compassionart, a charity founded by Martin Smith from Delirious

Monday 24th August 2020

Bible: Matthew 8:5-13 New International Version (NIVUK)

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralysed, suffering terribly.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Shall I come and heal him?’ The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, “Go,” and he goes; and that one, “Come,” and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’ 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 13 Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.’ His servant was healed at that moment.

Reflection

Later in Matthew’s gospel there is the encounter between Jesus and the Canaanite woman when Jesus says his mission is to Israel alone. In this encounter with a Roman, like the woman also a Gentile, Jesus offers to go with him and heal his daughter. The difference might be a question of timing but it might also be that each encounter gave Jesus an opportunity to say something important about God’s kingdom. Physical proximity is irrelevant in the healing ministry of Jesus (v13), the Kingdom of God is open to all people (v11) and being part of a faith community does not guarantee a place in the Kingdom of God (v12). That is tough stuff to hear. The good news is that faith in Jesus is the only factor that gains us entry into God’s kingdom. Faith is not just knowing about God and Jesus it is total submission to God in every thing we think, say and do.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Messy Holiday Club at the Beacon
  • Retail chaplains in Redditch and other shopping centres
  • People who, despite the spike in covid-19 cases in Birmingham, still arrange parties and ignore social distancing rules.
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1          My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust my sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

2          When darkness seems to veil his face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.
Chorus

3          His oath, his covenant, and blood,
support me in the whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.
Chorus

4          When the last trumpet’s voice shall sound
O may I then in him be found,
robed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne.
Chorus

Edward Mote (1797-1874)
Edward Mote was a pastor and hymn writer. Born in London his parents managed a pub and often left Edward to his own devices playing in the street. Speaking of these childhood years he once said, “So ignorant was I that I did not know that there was a God.” He was finally exposed to the Christian gospel and was baptised the age of 18. He was trained as a cabinet maker and worked in London for 37 years. Only in his 50s did he enter the ministry and was pastor at Rehoboth Baptist Church in Horsham, West Sussex for 26 years. He was well liked by the congregation in Horsham and they offered him the church building as a gift. Mote replied “I do not want the chapel, I only want the pulpit; and when I cease to preach Christ, then turn me out of that.” He is buried in the church yard at Rehoboth Church.

Sunday 23rd August 2020

Bible: Isaiah 51:1-6 New International Version (NIVUK)

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord:
look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many. The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. ‘Listen to me, my people;
hear me, my nation: instruction will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last for ever, my righteousness will never fail.

Reflection

We often forget that Old Testament prophets like Isaiah were speaking God’s message to God fearing people who were trying to live faithfully. We must take that context into account both when reading them and when interpreting them for today. In this passage Isaiah gives us a timely reminder that when seeking God’s will for today we must ensure that it is consistent with the origins and history of our faith. Isaiah tells us of all the things God will do for us and reminds us that God’s salvation and righteousness last for ever. The rock and quarry imagery takes us back to the beginning when the human race was created in God’s image. It reminds us who gave us life, whom we should imitate and to whom we should turn in time of trouble, God alone. All we are told, all we want to do, all we believe is right must be tested against God and his revealed word.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • On-going preparations for the new school year
  • The people of Belarus
  • Churches who cannot meet in person because their venue such as school, community centre or other church is no longer available.
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1          O Word of God incarnate,
O wisdom from on high,
O truth unchanged, unchanging,
O light of our dark sky,
We praise thee for the radiance
That from the hallowed page,
A lantern to our footsteps,
Shines on from age to age.

2          The church from her dear Master
Received the gift divine,
And still that light she lifteth
O’er all the earth to shine;
It is the precious treasury
Where gems of truth are stored;
It is the heaven-drawn picture
Of Christ, the living Word.

3          It floateth like a banner
Before God’s host unfurled;
It shineth like a beacon
Above the shadowed world;
It is the chart and compass
That, o’er life’s surging sea,
‘Mid mists, and rocks, and quicksands,
Still guides, O Christ, to thee.

4          O make thy church, dear Saviour,
A lamp of burnished gold,
To bear before the nations
Thy true light, as of old;
O teach thy wandering pilgrims
By this their path to trace,
Till, clouds and darkness ended,
They see thee face to face.

W Walsham How (1823-1897)

Saturday 22nd August 2020

Bible: Ezekiel 36:33-38 New International Version (NIVUK)

33 ‘“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: on the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. 35 They will say, ‘This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.’ 36 Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.” 37 ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: once again I will yield to Israel’s plea and do this for them: I will make their people as numerous as sheep, 38 as numerous as the flocks for offerings at Jerusalem during her appointed festivals. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord.’

Reflection

We hear about the decline of the church both numerically and as a sphere of influence and our blinkers convince us it is normal. We need to take off our blinkers and see what is really happening. God is restoring his church. Where the gospel is preached and faithfulness to God as revealed in Scripture and in Jesus is at the heart of the church it is growing. Where people are being touched with the love of God, confessing their sins and turning to his way the church is growing. The world’s population is growing at 1.20%pa, Christianity at 1.27%pa, Evangelical Christianity at 2.19%pa and Pentecostal Christianity at 2.26%pa. Praise the Lord, he is doing what he promised he Ezekiel, breathing fresh life into his people and growing them numerically. All God needs from us to be part of it is our total submission to him.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Areas of the UK being partial lockdowns imposed and areas having restrictions lifted
  • Police officers increasingly being taken away from important work to deal with lockdown breakers
  • Senegal’s plea for help in moving ammonium nitrate
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 O breath of life, come sweeping through us,
revive your Church with life and power;
O breath of life, come, cleanse, renew us,
and fit your Church to meet this hour.

2 O wind of God, come, bend us, break us,
till humbly we confess our need;
then in your tenderness remake us,
revive, restore;for this we plead.

3 O breath of love, come, breathe within us,
renewing thought and will and heart;
come, love of Christ, afresh to win us,
revive your Church in every part.

Elizabeth Ann Head, (Bessie Porter Head) (1850-1936)

Friday 21st August 2020

Bible: 2 Corinthians 10:12-18 New International Version (NIVUK)

12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. 14 We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. 15 Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, 16 so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. 17 But, ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Reflection

To boast is to talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities. So what does Paul mean by ‘will not boast beyond proper limits’? It is right and proper to recognise our achievements and successes as long as we acknowledge that the gifts that enabled us to do it were given to us by God. That is why it is wrong to applaud anyone for their participation in worship because the audience for worship is God, not the congregation, and God is the source of the gift not the participant. We can boast of one thing alone, the salvation bought for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus. That really is worth boasting about and applauding him for!

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Uncertainty caused by the government’s refusal to publish the figures which are the basis for their decisions on quarantines
  • People planning raves, houseparties and gatherings with flagrant disregard for guidelines and social distancing
  • The recently announced ceasefire in Libya
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us

1          How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

2          Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

3          I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Stuart Townend

Thursday 20th August 2020

Bible: Psalm 138 New International Version (NIVUK)

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; before the ‘gods’ I will sing your praise. I will bow down towards your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame. When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me. May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord, when they hear what you have decreed. May they sing of the ways of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord is great. Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me. The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures for ever – do not abandon the works of your hands.

Reflection

Once again the Psalmist comes to our aid. However we are feeling he reminds of the nature of God and his care for us. We cannot read a Psalm such as this and not be uplifted. Look at verse six to the start of verse eight first. This is God reaching out to us and bringing us out of danger and trouble. No wonder he offers unceasing praise to God. He acknowledges human unworthiness and realises that it is not a barrier to God. Unfailing love, faithfulness, vindication, preservation, salvation all come from God and endure for ever. Who would not want that? The Psalmist says that even all the Kings of earth will praise God when they hear his decrees. That is truly wonderful and a great joy and comfort ,

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Churches preparing to welcome worshippers and visitors back into their buildings
  • People across the world working on vaccines, medicines and cures for covid-19
  • Our partner churches in Redditch town centre & Rubery village
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 With all my heart I thank you, Lord.
With all my heart I thank you, Lord,
for this wine, and bread we break,
for this sacrament we take,
for the forgiveness that you make,
I thank you, Lord.

2 With all my soul I thank you, Lord.
With all my soul I thank you, Lord,
for this victory that you’ve won,
for this taste of things to come,
for this love that makes us one,
I thank you, Lord.

3 With all my voice I thank you, Lord.
With all my voice I thank you, Lord,
for the sacrifice of pain,
for the Spirit and the flame,
for the power of your name,
I thank you, Lord.

Paul Field (b. 1954)

Wednesday 19th August 2020

Bible: Psalm 8 New International Version (NIVUK)

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Reflection

Our relationship with God in a nutshell, he created everything and put us in charge of it. That’s a pretty big gamble. Asking someone you know won’t do the job as well as you to do it instead of you is a sign of great courage and great love. So what else do we know about our relationship with God? Firstly he created us in his image. Secondly he never asks us do something with equipping us with the tools to do it. Thirdly he has promised to be always there in the background waiting to help us when we ask him to. That’s a pretty thorough threefold underpinning yet we still get it so wrong. God has promised never to leave us or forsake us but we still try to do everything in our own strength. Our life would be more simple and our world much better if we took God at his word.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Places across the world where covid-19 infection rates are rising and measures being taken to combat it
  • Universities and colleges struggling to cope and help potential students as a result of the government’s handling of results
  • The people Belarus
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
thy power throughout the universe displayed:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to thee:
how great thou art, how great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to thee:
how great thou art, how great thou art!

2 When through the woods and forest glades I wander
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
and hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze:
refrain

3 And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
sent him to die, I scarce can take it in
that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
he bled and died to take away my sin:
refrain

4 When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
and take me home — what joy shall fill my heart;
then shall I bow in humble adoration,
and there proclaim:my God, how great thou art:
refrain

Stuart K. Hine (1899-1989)
vv. 1, 2, 4 based on O store Gud1885by
Carl Gustaf Boberg (1859-1940)

Tuesday 18th August 2020

Bible: Isaiah 43:8-13 New International Version (NIVUK)

Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf. All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble. Which of their gods foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, ‘It is true.’ 10 ‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord,
‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me. 11 I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no saviour. 12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed – I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I am God. 13 Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?’

Reflection

Oh, how much we have watered down the gospel. We live in a pluralistic society where people worship many gods but the underlying unalterable basis of our faith as Christians is that there is only one true God. Our God is the same God as Judaism and Islam. Whatever pagans and other religions say, he alone is God. Isaiah was not ashamed of proclaiming that and neither should we. Isaiah kept reminding the faithful of that and so should we. We should cherish and proclaim our distinctiveness. There is no place for syncretism or apathy. The Old Testament prophets, the New Testament Apostles and Jesus himself believed that there was only on God, our Father in heaven. We are followers of Jesus so we must be like him and rejoice in the supremacy and uniqueness of our God.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • All caught up in the chaos caused by the exam results debacle and the pain, frustration and distress caused
  • The increasing numbers of people being made redundant as firms restructure to cope with a changing business model
  • The people of Hong Kong suffering suppression of democracy
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 The splendour of the King,
clothed in majesty;
let all the earth rejoice,
let all the earth rejoice.
He wraps himself in light
and darkness tries to hide,
and trembles at his voice,
and trembles at his voice.

How great is our God, sing with me,
how great is our God, and all will see
how great, how great is our God.

2 And age to age he stands,
and time is in his hands;
beginning and the end,
beginning and the end.
The Godhead, Three in One,
Father, Spirit, Son,
the Lion and the Lamb,
the Lion and the Lamb.

How great is our God, sing with me,
how great is our God, and all will see
how great, how great is our God.

Name above all names,
worthy of all praise;
my heart will sing:
how great is our God.
Name above all names,
worthy of all praise;
my heart will sing:
how great is our God.

How great is our God, sing with me,
how great is our God, and all will see
how great, how great is our God.

Chris Tomlin (b. 1972), Ed Cash and Jesse Reeves

Monday 17th August 2020

Bible: Acts 12:5-19 (abridged) New International Version (NIVUK)

Believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees said, ‘Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.’ The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: ‘Brothers, you know that God made a choice among you that the Gentiles should hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.’ 12 The whole assembly listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. ‘Brothers,’ he said, ‘listen to me. 14 Simon has told us how God intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, 19 ‘It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

Reflection

Jesus had such hard words to say against the Pharisees it might surprise us to find Pharisees amongst the early believers. Here at the first Council of Jerusalem in AD50 they are debating an issue that threatened the very existence of the church. We can learn a lot from how the Council operated. After hearing the concern, the Apostles and Elders met together so only the leaders were there. No crowd to influence them. Those who had ministered to the Gentiles, Peter, Paul and Barnabas spoke telling what they had seen and experienced. Then James, leader of the early church and brother of Jesus, made a decision. No democracy here, rather a genuine theocracy discerning the mind of God then speaking it and implementing it.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Those blatantly ignoring guidance on gatherings and meeting up
  • Distressed caused by the mishandling of exam results
  • The people of Israel and Palestine
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 O God of Bethel, by whose hand
thy people still are fed;
who through this earthly pilgrimage
hast all our forebears led.

2 Our vows, our prayers, we now present
before thy throne of grace:
God of our forebears, be the God
of their succeeding race.

3 Through each perplexing path of life
our wandering footsteps guide;
give us each day our daily bread,
and raiment fit provide.

4 O spread thy covering wings around,
till all our wanderings cease,
and at our Father’s loved abode
our souls arrive in peace.

5 To thee as to our Covenant-God
we’ll our whole selves resign;
and this not as a tithe alone,
for all we have is thine.

Philip Doddridge (1702-1751), John Logan (1748-1788) and others (alt.)

Sunday 16th August 2020

Bible: Isaiah 56:1-8 New International Version (NIVUK)

This is what the Lord says: ‘Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
Blessed is the one who does this – the person who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps their hands from doing any evil.’ Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.’ For this is what the Lord says: ‘Foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.’ The Sovereign Lord declares – he who gathers the exiles of Israel: ‘I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.’

Reflection

Justice and righteousness. the two things God values more than anything else. In God’s economy you can’t have one without the other. They are inextricably bound together and the sooner the world learns this the better we will be. From them everything else flows, love, mercy, grace, peace, compassion, joy and hope. It sounds so simple but with God’s justice and righteousness all the world’s problems would be solved. Across the world hundreds of millions pray for this when they say the Lord’s Prayer. They then sit back and wait for God to do it without  doing all that they can to achieve it. Notice it is for Jews and foreigners, ie everyone. Also notice the importance of the Sabbath, one day each week free from normal human activity spent with God worshipping him and seeking his will for our lives, our church, our nation and our world.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Rising covid-19 infection rates in Birmingham
  • Unrest in Belarus and rising tension in the area caused by Russia
  • The UK’s networks of railway chaplains and waterways chaplains
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1          O Lord, the clouds are gathering,
the fire of judgement burns.
How we have fallen!
O Lord, You stand appalled
to see Your laws of love so scorned
and lives so broken.
 Have mercy, Lord,   have mercy, Lord.
 Forgive us, Lord,   forgive us, Lord.
            Restore us, Lord; revive Your church again.
             Let justice flow,   let justice flow,
 like rivers,   like rivers,
            and righteousness like a never failing stream.

2          O Lord, over the nations now,
where is the dove of peace?
Her wings are broken.
O Lord, while precious children starve,
the tools of war increase;
their bread is stolen.
Chorus

3          O Lord, dark powers are poised to flood
our streets with hate and fear.
We must awaken!
O Lord, let love reclaim the lives
that sin would sweep away,
and let Your kingdom come!
Chorus

4          Yet, O Lord, Your glorious cross shall tower
triumphant in this land,
evil confounding;
through the fire, Your suffering church displays
the glories of her Christ,
praises resounding.
Chorus
Graham Kendrick (born 1950)

Saturday 15th August 2020

Bible: Matthew 14:34-36 New International Version (NIVUK)

34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognised Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all who were ill to him 36 and begged him to let those who were ill just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

cf Luke 8:43-48 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 45 ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’ 46 But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’ 47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’

Reflection

The healing ministry is exhausting, you feel the power of God flowing through you and like Jesus, we should prepare for it and debrief it with God in prayer. Jesus had spent a night in prayer then made his way across the waves to the boat and they landed in Gennesaret near Capernaum where Jesus was quickly recognised and a healing ministry opportunity presented himself. He didn’t have to touch each person, simply being in his presence, signified by touching his cloak was enough. Jesus knew power was flowing through him. He felt every touch of God upon the sick and all were healed. Can I encourage you to make time to be in Jesus’ presence, so close you touch his cloak and let him minster to you

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Peace across the world, particularly the places on your heart
  • Christians proclaiming Jesus on street corners across the UK
  • The work of Mission Aviation Fellowship across the world
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 To be in your presence,
to sit at your feet,
where your love surrounds me,
and makes me complete:
This is my desire, O Lord,
this is my desire.
This is my desire, O Lord,
this is my desire.

2 To rest in your presence,
not rushing away,
to cherish each moment —
here I would stay.
This is my desire, O Lord,
this is my desire.
This is my desire, O Lord,
this is my desire.

Noel Richards (b. 1955)

Friday 14th August 2020

Bible: Acts 14:19-28 New International Version (NIVUK)

19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered round him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. 21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

Reflection

What is Paul’s response to serious opposition? He gets up, takes Barnabas and goes off on a preaching tour making converts and strengthening and encouraging existing disciples. Church was very different then. Each local church was formed of a group of local people with some of their number appointed as elders to run it. There were no ministers as we know them. Instead there was a band of evangelists who toured the churches infrequently with the twin remit of evangelism and discipleship. There were Bishops in key locations who had an overseeing role for an area and some, if not all. Local churches had deacons to look after practical needs. Maybe there is a model here for the twenty first century church.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • The people of Hong Kong as freedom of speech is supressed
  • The free school lunch operation run from the Ecumenical Centre
  • Increasing numbers of people relying on foodbanks
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 Great is the darkness that covers the earth,
oppression, injustice and pain.
Nations are slipping in hopeless despair,
though many have come in your name.
Watching while sanity dies,
touched by the madness and lies.
Come, Lord Jesus, come, Lord Jesus,
pour out your Spirit we pray,
come, Lord Jesus, come, Lord Jesus,
pour out your Spirit on us today.

2 May now your Church rise with power and love,
this glorious gospel proclaim.
In every nation salvation will come
to those who believe in your name.
Help us bring light to this world
that we might speed your return.
refrain

3 Great celebrations on that final day
when out of the heavens you come.
Darkness will vanish, all sorrow will end,
and rulers will bow at your throne.
Our great commission complete,
then face to face we shall meet.
refrain

Gerald Coates (b. 1944) and Noel Richards (b. 1955)

Thursday 13th August 2020

Bible: Revelation 15:1-4 New International Version (NIVUK)

I saw in heaven another great and marvellous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues – last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvellous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.’

Reflection

The Bible starts with perfection, the Garden of Eden in Genesis and ends with perfection, the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation. In both God is at the centre but between is the messy, fallen age when humans are in charge of the world and God is sidelined. Whatever heaven is like it will be infinitely better than the best earth can offer. The book of Revelation is the vision given to St John the Divine, by now an old man and it portrays the end of time as we know it when God and the whole of his creation are once again in perfect harmony. There will be no more right and wrong and suffering will be consigned to the past. Colour of skin, sexuality and all such divisions in our society will no longer be an issue. All religions will have died away, only faith in God will remain. Evangelism and prayer will not be needed. God will genuinely be at the centre of everything and will guide it all.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • people affected by the sudden imposition of quarantine
  • Young people whose dreams have been shattered by the system used to award qualifications and results this summer
  • Countries that need international help to fight covid-19
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 There is a higher throne
than all this world has known,
where faithful ones from every tongue
will one day come.
Before our God we’ll stand,
made faultless through the Lamb;
believing hearts find promised grace:
salvation comes.
Hear heaven’s voices sing,
their thunderous anthem rings
through emerald courts and sapphire skies,
their praises rise.
All glory, wisdom, power,
strength, thanks and honour are
to God, our King who reigns on high
for evermore.

2 And there we’ll find our home,
our life before the throne;
we’ll honour him in perfect song
where we belong.
He’ll wipe each tear-stained eye,
as thirst and hunger die;
the Lamb becomes our Shepherd King:
we’ll reign with him.
refrain

Keith Getty (b. 1974) and Kristyn Getty (b. 1980)

Wednesday 12th August 2020

Bible: Job 36:24-33 New International Version (NIVUK)

24 Remember to extol his work, which people have praised in song. 25 All humanity has seen it; mortals gaze on it from afar. 26 How great is God – beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out. 27 ‘He draws up the drops of water, which distil as rain to the streams; 28 the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind. 29 Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds, how he thunders from his pavilion? 30 See how he scatters his lightning about him, bathing the depths of the sea. 31 This is the way he nourishes the nations and provides food in abundance. 32 He fills his hands with lightning and commands it to strike its mark. 33 His thunder announces the coming storm; even the cattle make known its approach.

Reflection

The book of Job is full of wonderful passages reflecting on the nature of God. Despite the sufferings that come his way Job does not lose faith in God. Whether they recognise it or not all humanity sees what God has done. They can’t avoid it. Each drop of water, each rainfall, each cloud in the sky, each flash of lightening, each clap of thunder, the depth of the sea, the abundance of food is a work of God and worthy of our praise. God is beyond our understanding, we cannot fathom how every part of the universe was created and fits together. The sum total of our explorations and scientific discoveries, as great as they are, simply scratch the surface and is a miniscule fraction of all that there is to know about God. Job reminds us that it is not enough to praise God we must extol, or glorify, his works. It is not just who he is but what he does that we should highly praise and that a glance at creation reminds us daily.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • The people of Belarus following a rigged election and violence on the streets of several cities
  • Those bereaved and injured in the train that hit a landslip at Carmont near Stonehaven
  • Migrants risking all to cross the channel and reach England
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 Morning has broken
like the first morning;
blackbird has spoken
like the first bird.
Praise for the singing!
Praise for the morning!
Praise for them, springing
fresh from the Word!

2 Sweet the rain’s new fall
sunlit from heaven,
like the first dewfall
on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness
of the wet garden,
sprung in completeness
where his feet pass.

3 Mine is the sunlight!
Mine is the morning
born of the one light
Eden saw play!
Praise with elation,
praise every morning,
God’s re-creation
of the new day!

Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965)

Eleanor Farjeon was an English author of children’s stories and plays, poetry, biography, history and satire. She was born in The Strand and died in Hampstead, both in London.. She won many literary awards and the Eleanor Farjeon Award for children’s literature is presented annually in her memory by the Children’s Book Circle.

Tuesday 11th August 2020

Bible: Genesis 39:1-6 New International Version (NIVUK)

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

Reflection

This passage answers the question as to why so many Christian industrialist s in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries became very rich and so became generous philanthropists founding charities, institutions, schools and colleges.as well as financing civic buildings. It was the so called ‘protestant work ethic’, the concept that everything we do is done to the best of our ability so that it brings glory to God. This is a very good concept whether we own a global company or volunteer in a church coffee bar and everything in between as well as to our leisure pursuits and family time. The world judges God by what it sees of Christians. Joseph got it right fifteen hundred years before Jesus.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Those who graduated this summer and are finding it extremely difficult to get employment
  • The people of Beirut struggling to clear up and rebuild their loves with little or no government help
  • Talks in Paris today regarding migrants crossing the channel
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1          Awake, awake to love and work!
The lark is in the sky,
The fields are wet with diamond dew,
The worlds awake to cry
Their blessings on the Lord of Life,
As He goes meekly by.

2          Come, let thy voice be one with theirs,
Shout with their shout of praise;
See how the giant sun soars up,
Great lord of years and days;
So let the love of Jesus come,
And set thy soul ablaze.

3          To give, and give, and give again,
What God hath given thee;
To spend thy self nor count the cost;
To serve right gloriously
The God who gave all worlds that are,
And all that are to be.

Geoffrey A Studdert-Kennedy (1883-1929)
Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy was an English Anglican priest and poet born in Leeds. He was nicknamed Woodbine Willie during World War I for giving Woodbine cigarettes along with spiritual aid to injured and dying soldiers. After the war he ministered in London but having been converted to Christian socialism and pacifism he became a prolific writer and moved to work for the Industrial Christian Fellowship, for whom he went on speaking tours of Britain. He become an outspoken advocate for the working classes. It was on one of these tours that he was taken ill. He died in Liverpool exhausted at the age of 45. His funeral took place in Worcester, to which poor working people flocked to pay their respects. The Dean of Westminster refused burial at Westminster Abbey, because he said Studdert Kennedy was a “socialist”, even though he had distrusted most politicians and had refused to join any political party

Monday 10th August 2020

Bible: Psalm 28:6-9 New International Version (NIVUK)

Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

The Lord is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them for ever.

Reflection

Life is totally unfair, we don’t get what we deserve. If we call on the Lord for help instead of the punishment we deserve we get mercy. That is the most unfair thing we shall ever experience but we call it grace! Perhaps we should be more careful when we talk about life being unfair. It is and ultimately we benefit, not just in this life but eternally. So when life is tough call on God and trust him to help you. He will strengthen you to face your troubles and shield you from even worse calamities if you will let him. Who lights up your face when they enter the room? Who brings a smile to your lips even in the darkest moments?  Who makes your heart leap for joy? That’s what God does for those who believe in him. All we have to do is to turn to him. Notice what the Psalmist says. God is not just there for us, he is our shepherd protecting us from danger, tending our wounds and leading us to safety and plenty. Furthermore he does not make us struggle, he carries us. Remember the footprints in the sand from the famous poem. What a wonderful God we have.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Everyone to see the importance of getting children back to school in September and to work together to achieve it
  • Compassion in the name of Jesus, who was himself a refugee in Egypt, to be shown to migrants crossing the English Channel
  • People to realise that social distancing can help defeat covid-19
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want;
he makes me lie in pastures green,
he leads me by the still, still waters,
his goodness restores my soul.
And I will trust in you alone,
and I will trust in you alone,
for your endless mercy follows me,
your goodness will lead me home.

2 He guides my ways in righteousness,
and he anoints my head with oil;
and my cup — it overflows with joy,
I feast on his pure delights.
refrain

3 And though I walk the darkest path —
I will not fear the evil one,
for you are with me, and your rod and staff
are the comfort I need to know.
refrain

Stuart Townend (b. 1963)

Sunday 9th August 2020 – Nagasaki Day

Bible: Matthew 14:22-33 New International Version (NIVUK)

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ 28 ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ 29 ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Reflection

How often do you go out without your mobile phone? Jesus didn’t have to contend with such devices. If Jesus needed time alone with his Dad in prayer to recharge his energy how much more do we need to do it. Go away from the computer, turn off the television or radio and mobile phone, disconnect the doorbell and telephone, or you could simply go out and leave it all behind. Now, like Jesus, you can spend time one to one with your heavenly Dad. If Jesus asks you to do something you can do it just like Peter did. But if you take your eyes off Jesus and rely on your strength you will fail just as Peter did. But don’t worry, call out to Jesus as Peter did and he will rescue you whatever the circumstances.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • The Mayor of Nagasaki’s call for the abolition of nuclear weapons to be heeded
  • The forthcoming peace talks in Afghanistan
  • An and to the British government’s inhumane response to refugees
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

When the road is rough and steep,
fix your eyes upon Jesus,
he alone has power to keep,
fix your eyes upon him.
Jesus is a gracious friend,
one on whom you can depend,
he is faithful to the end,
fix your eyes upon him.

Norman J Clayton (1903-1991)
Norman Clayton was born in Brooklyn, New York, the ninth of ten children . He surrendered his life to Jesus Christ at the age of six at the South Brooklyn Gospel Church, where his mother had been a foundation member. At the age of twelve he undertook what became a lifelong assignment as organist at his church.  Clayton was first employed in the construction business but established a music company, Gospel Songs, later absorbed by the Rodeheaver Company. In 1942, he began working with Word of Life organization, which offered gospel music to radio and crusade meetings.

Saturday 8th August 2020

Bible: Psalm 105:1-8 New International Version (NIVUK)

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers his covenant for ever,
the promise he made, for a thousand generations,

Reflection

We are equi-distant from Jesus’s time on earth. Abraham lived around 2000BC and we are living around 2000AD, that’s four thousand years, or one hundred and sixty generations, ago and God’s covenant with Abraham is still running. That thought stuns me into silence as I reflect on the historical tradition in which I stand. The Psalmist offers sound advice. In response to the eternity of God’s love and covenant we should praise him and tell people, everyone not just Christians, what God has done for them. We should glory in God’s works not ours and rejoice as we follow him. When we are in need of a boost we should reflect on God’s wonders, miracles and judgements and seek his help and his strength for ourselves. The Psalmist reminds us that God’s promise will last for ever, that’s what a thousand generations mean.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Unaccompanied child migrants making their way to the UK
  • The NHS adapting to new ways of working
  • Our sister churches in Redditch and B45
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

Great God Of Wonders

1          Great God of wonders, all thy ways
are matchless, godlike, and divine;
but the fair glories of thy grace
more godlike and unrivalled shine.
Who is a pardoning God like thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?
 
2          Such dire offences to forgive,
such guilty, daring souls to spare,
this is thy grand prerogative,
and none shall in the honour share.
Chorus
 
3          Angels and men, resign your claim
to pity, mercy, love and grace;
these glories crown Jehovah’s Name
with an incomparable blaze:
Chorus

4          In wonder lost, with trembling joy,
we take the pardon of our God,
pardon for sins of deepest dye,
a pardon bought with Jesu’s blood.
Chorus

5          Pardon-from an offended God!,
Pardon-for sins of deepest dye!
Pardon-bestowed through Jesu’s blood!
Pardon-that brings the rebel nigh!
Chorus

6          O may this strange, this matchless grace,
this godlike miracle of love,
fill the wide earth with grateful praise,
and all the angelic hosts above.
Chorus

Samuel Davies (1723-1761)

Samuel Davies was an evangelist and Presbyterian minister born in Delaware to Welsh Baptist immigrants.. Davies ministered in Hanover County from 1748 to 1759, followed by a term as the fourth President of Princeton University, then known as the College of New Jersey, from 1759 to 1761. Davies was one of the first non-Anglican preachers in Virginia, and one of earliest missionaries to slaves in the British colonies. He was a strong advocate for religious freedom, and helped to institute significant religious reforms in the colony. Davies was also a prolific writer, authoring several hymns and publishing a book of poetry.

Friday 7th August 2020

Bible: Acts 18:23-28 New International Version (NIVUK)

23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and travelled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. 24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. 27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.

Reflection

The church needs more people like Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos today. We are good at training people to be pastors and worship leaders and in some churches we are good at training evangelists but we are woefully lacking people who can lead us deeper into faith apologists. Like Apollos was at first we are satisfied with knowing about Jesus. We have many like Paul who can strengthen other Christians (v23) and many like Apollos who are enthusiastic followers of Jesus but do not know the full Gospel (v25). We need Aquila’s and Priscilla’s to lead us deeper into faith and we need Apollos’s who know Scripture so well, and who have good Hebrew and Greek language skills, that they can prove from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah and vigorously refute arguments against Christianity.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Aid and assistance for the people of Beirut and Lebanon,
  • Those who seek publicity by circulating false stories about migrants in the UK that they may be thwarted
  • Encouraging signs that covid-19 may be weakening in strength
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 Speak, O Lord, as we come to you
to receive the food of your holy word.
Take your truth, plant it deep in us;
shape and fashion us in your likeness,
that the light of Christ might be seen today
in our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfil in us
all your purposes, for your glory.

2 Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
holy reverence, true humility.
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
in the radiance of your purity.
Cause our faith to rise, cause our eyes to see
your majestic love and authority.
Words of power that can never fail;
let their truth prevail over unbelief.

3 Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
help us grasp the heights of your plans for us.
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
that will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on your promises,
and by faith we’ll walk as you walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till your Church is built
and the earth is filled with your glory.

Keith Getty (b. 1974) and Stuart Townend (b. 1963)

Thursday 6th August 2020 – Hiroshima Day

Bible: Psalm 85:8-13 New International Version (NIVUK)

I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants –
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
13 Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.

Reflection

What a wonderful verse eight is. It encapsulates it all. Folly is defined as a lack of good sense. In English the word is also used for a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose. Doesn’t that say it all. The psalmist fears that when God gives people peace they will lose good sense. How true. People flock to God in times of tragedy and disaster but in good times he is ignored and they create an ultimately worthless lifestyle. The psalmist continues saying we must have love and faithfulness, righteousness and peace. Each is useless without the other. Yes they are gifts of God but they are also fruit of the Spirit. We have to nurture them, feed them and bring them to perfection in us.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • The dismantling of all nuclear warheads held by the nuclear nations of Russia, USA, England, France, Israel, China, India, North Korea and Pakistan
  • The work of Church & Peace across Europe and the Network of Christian Peace Organisations in the UK
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 We pray for peace,
but not the easy peace
built on complacency
and not the truth of God.
We pray for real peace,
the peace God’s love alone can seal.

2 We pray for peace,
but not the cruel peace
leaving God’s poor bereft
and dying in distress;
we pray for real peace,
enriching all the human race.

3 We pray for peace,
and not the evil peace
defending unjust laws
and nursing prejudice,
but for the real peace
of justice, mercy, truth and love.

4 We pray for peace:
holy communion
with Christ our risen Lord
and every living thing;
God’s will fulfilled on earth
and all creation reconciled.

5 We pray for peace,
and, for the sake of peace,
look to the risen Christ,
who gives the grace we need
to serve the cause of peace
and make our own self-sacrifice.

6 God, give us peace;
if you withdraw your love
there is no peace for us,
nor any hope of it.
With you to lead us on,
through death or tumult, peace will come.

Alan Gaunt (b. 1935)

Wednesday 5th August 2020

Bible: Isaiah 43:1-7 New International Version (NIVUK)

But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, “Give them up!” and to the south, “Do not hold them back.” Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.’

Reflection

One of those marvellous passages of Scripture that is all about God’s overwhelming love for us. It is because of that love that we have no need to fear whatever is happening around us. God does not promise us any easy life, far from it. He tells us that we will face enormous difficulties and uses the destructive images of fire and water to press home his point. God promises to be with us throughout. But remember that Biblically fire and water are also positive images of cleanliness, baptism and refining. In this life we will suffer but God uses it to hone us and brings us through it all so that we may share his glory for all eternity.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • The people of Beirut and Lebanon following the terrible explosion
  • Northern Ireland giving thanks for John Hume’s work for peace
  • Families and groups of friends ignoring covid-19 guidelines
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1          Amazing grace!-how sweet the sound-
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.

2          ‘Twas grace first taught my heart to fear
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!

3          My rebel soul, that once withstood
the Saviour’s kindest call,
rejoices now, by grace subdued,
to serve him with its all.

4          Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
God’s grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.

5          The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.

6          Yes, when this heart and flesh shall fail
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil
a life of joy and peace.

7          What thanks I owe you, and what love-
a boundless, endless store-
shall echo through the realms above
when time shall be no more.

8          The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
the sun forbear to shine;
but God, who called me here below,
will be forever mine.

9          When we’ve been there ten thousand years
bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
than when we first begun.

John Newton (1725-1807), William Cowper (1731-1800), John Rees (1828-1900)

Tuesday 4th August 2020

Bible: Acts 2:40-47 New International Version (NIVUK)

40 With many other words Peter warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ 41 Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Reflection

The day of Pentecost AD30, the day that marks the birth of the church. The day had started with one hundred and twenty believers and finished with over three thousand, a twenty five fold increase. Amazing! These were a mixture of Jerusalem locals and Jewish pilgrims who had come from all over the known world to celebrate Pentecost. They were already believers in God. They were people of faith. Peter’s sermon brought them face to face with Jesus. That day they became Christians. Look what happens and compare that to the Church today. For them it was instant believer’s baptism (v41), they sought teaching and fellowship and communion together (v42), miracles were a regular occurrence (v43) they shared possessions communally (v44), supported the needy (v45), met together daily (v46), had communion at home with friends (v46), got on well with non-Christians (v47) and the church grew daily (v47).

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • End to aggression between Israel and Syria
  • British Red Cross on its 150th Anniversary
  • India struggling with a massive rise in covid-19 cases
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 The Church’s one foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord;
she is his new creation
by water and the word;
from heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.

2 Elect from every nation,
yet one through all the earth,
her charter of salvation
one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy name she blesses,
and shares one holy food,
as to one hope she presses
with every grace endued.

3 In toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace for evermore;
till with the vision glorious
her longing eyes are blest,
at last the Church victorious
shall be the Church at rest.

4 Yet she on earth has union
with God the Three in One,
and mystic, sweet communion
with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
with them, the meek and lowly,
in heaven your face shall see.

Samuel John Stone (1832-1900)

Monday 3rd August 2020

Bible: Deuteronomy 8:1-11 New International Version (NIVUK)

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig-trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills. 10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.

Reflection

Words from several millennia ago that are still very relevant today. It is in times of plenty when things are going well that we tend to forget God. It seems as if we can do without his help. Gradually we forget to be thankful, we drop some of his commands and we live as we choose. Then disaster hits us and we blame God for it before finally turning to him to rescue us. Life would be so much simpler & better if we never turned aside from God

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • The new ninety minute covid-19 test being rolled out
  • An end to the increasing violence in Afghanistan
  • Leaders who try to suppress the real situation regarding covid-19
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
to his feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
who like thee his praise should sing?
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise the everlasting King!

2 Praise him for his grace and favour
to his people in distress;
praise him, still the same for ever,
slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Praise him! Praise him!
Glorious in his faithfulness.

3 Father-like, he tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame he knows;
in his hands he gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Praise him! Praise him!
Widely as his mercy flows.

4 Angels in the height, adore him;
ye behold him face to face;
sun and moon, bow down before him,
dwellers all in time and space.
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise with us the God of grace!

Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)

Sunday 2nd August 2020

Bible: Romans 9:1-5 New International Version (NIVUK)

I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, for ever praised! Amen.

Reflection

When I read this lectionary passage anew today I was perturbed because it asks a very uncomfortable question. If I was given a choice, my life or that of all my friends and family what choice would I make. Answer that question for yourself. I guess that I know what the vast majority of us would say. That’s not the uncomfortable bit, that comes now. Is the salvation of others affected by me? In one sense the answer is a resounding no because we know that Salvation is in the gift of God not us. However there is a sense in which the answer is yes. Our task as Christians is to lead people to the point where God can speak directly to them We do that by our prayers. I am sure you know the story of Dwight Moody who as a young man wrote down the names of one hundred friends he wanted to become Christians. Throughout his life he prayed regularly for them and by the time he died ninety five had become Christians. The other five were converted at his funeral! But prayer is not enough it also needs the example of our lives and the words we speak.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Our NHS beginning to get back to a more normal routine
  • The Amazon rain forest where seven thousand fires are burning
  • Working going on to develop the shape of the churches work and witness following lockdown
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 The God of Abraham praise,
who reigns enthroned above,
Ancient of everlasting Days,
and God of love.
Jehovah! Great I AM!
By earth and heaven confessed;
I bow and bless the sacred name
for ever blessed.

2 He by himself has sworn,
I on his oath depend:
I shall, on eagles’ wings upborne,
to heaven ascend;
I shall behold his face,
I shall his power adore
and sing the wonders of his grace
for evermore.

3 The God who reigns on high
the great archangels sing;
and ‘Holy, holy, holy,’ cry,
‘Almighty King,
who was and is the same,
and evermore shall be;
Jehovah, Father, great I AM,
we worship thee.’

4 Before the Saviour’s face
the ransomed nations bow;
o’erwhelmed at his almighty grace,
for ever new:
he shows his prints of love,
they kindle to a flame,
and sound through all the worlds above
the slaughtered Lamb.

5 The whole triumphant host
give thanks to God on high;
‘Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!’
they ever cry.
Hail, Abraham’s God, and ours!
We join the heavenly throng,
and celebrate with all our powers
in endless song.

Thomas Olivers (1725-1799)

Thomas Olivers was a Methodist preacher born in the Welsh village of Tregynon in Montgomeryshire. Both his father and his mother died when he was four years old. He grew up to be an apprentice shoemaker and he became a profligate and reckless young man and was forced him to leave his home.  Olivers travelled to Bristol where he heard George Whitfield preach and was converted. He joined the Methodist Society and preached across the country.

Saturday 1st August 2020

Bible: Matthew 7:7-12 New International Version (NIVUK)

‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Reflection

It might surprise you but you are not the only Christian to struggle with prayer. Making time for prayer, praying repeatedly and consistently, not just presenting God with a wish list but waiting for him to speak, seemingly unanswered prayer. These are just some of our problems. But Jesus makes it sound so simple. Think about any friendship you have. You maintain it spending time with them, in person or by telephone. In those conversations there are words and silences. Your friend doesn’t always agree with you. As you get to know them you get to know their likes and dislikes and modify your conversation accordingly. So it is with God. As we get to know God we become more familiar with his thoughts and ways and our prayers become less of a shopping list and more of a conversation. We want to please him so our requests of him become closer and closer to his will and we apparently see more prayers answered. The truth is not that God has changed but us. God is not giving in to us, we are getting better at asking for the right things. Just as sometimes a boy might check with a relative or one of her friends before giving his girlfriend a gift or a surprise so sometimes we need to check with more experienced Christians or a prayer warrior before asking God for something.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • The large minority of people who ignore rules on meeting up
  • Public transport operators coping with increasing usage
  • Fair Trade and Trade Justice organisations and group trying to make this a fairer place for all
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 Seek ye first the kingdom of God,
and his righteousness,
and all these things shall be added unto you;
Allelu-, alleluia:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia,
allelu-, alleluia!

2 Ask, and it shall be given unto you;
seek and ye shall find;
knock, and the door shall be opened unto you;
Allelu-, alleluia:

3 We shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word
that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord;
Allelu-, alleluia:

Karen Lafferty (b. 1948)

Karen Lafferty is an American Contemporary Christian musician born in Alamogordo, New Mexico. After graduating she moved to southern California, soon beginning to perform at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. While on tour in the Netherlands , Lafferty noted how popular American music was, even though, for most professional American musicians, touring Europe was not financially viable. In response she founded Musicians for Missions in 1981, under the ministry of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Holland to train young Christian musicians for mission tours where they could perform live shows. She later moved to Amsterdam to direct the organization.

Friday 31st July 2020

Bible: Romans 9:6-13 New International Version (NIVUK)

It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: ‘At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.’ 10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls – she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ 13 Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’

Reflection

Salvation is not assured because your parents were in the church and you grew up in the church, This is Paul’s point. Singing the hymns, saying your prayers, serving the church does not guarantee you a place in God’s Kingdom. It is God’s will and action that does that and there is nothing that we can do about it. Eternal life is in God’s gift not ours, Nobody has a place in heaven by right. Nobody can earn a place in heaven by good deeds. Would that it were as easy as that’ Life would be so much simpler. Our place in heaven is given to us by God and out of gratitude we live the good life we live and we do the good deeds we do. They are response to God not a means to ingratiate ourselves with him. Jesus’s death and resurrection gained entry to heaven for us. With that out the way, and guaranteed, we can get on with living our lives of thankful service to God in service to the world in which we live.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Businesses and leisure facilities expecting to reopen who find their hopes dashed at the last minute
  • Hereford & Worcester United Reformed Church Area
  • The need for social distancing and face coverings to be engrained on the psyche of our nation
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 All I once held dear,
built my life upon,
all this world reveres,
and wars to own,
all I once thought gain
I have counted loss;
spent and worthless now,
compared to this.
Knowing you, Jesus,
knowing you,
there is no greater thing.
You’re my all, you’re the best,
you’re my joy, my righteousness,
and I love you, Lord.

2 Now my heart’s desire
is to know you more,
to be found in you
and known as yours.
To possess by faith
what I could not earn,
all-surpassing gift
of righteousness.

3 Oh, to know the power
of your risen life,
and to know you in
your sufferings.
To become like you
in your death, my Lord,
so with you to live
and never die.

Graham Kendrick (b. 1950)

Thursday 30th July 2020

Bible: Philippians 4:10-16 New International Version (NIVUK)

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.

Reflection

On a number of occasions in my ministry I have met people who have received unexpected gifts from other Christians. Sometimes it has been in response to a well-known need but on others the donor had no idea that the recipient was in need. Whilst the latter is more dramatically obvious both are in response to the prompting of God. This is what Paul is thanking them for. Around twenty years ago during a visit to Romania in December I visited a church run kindergarten of 40 children. It was a delight. Having coffee with the Pastor afterwards I gave him £50 which I had taken to pass on to a good cause. After he had written the obligatory receipt the Pastor made a telephone call. A few minutes later the Director of the Kindergarten appeared. She was ecstatic. In broken English she thanked me profusely and said that she could now buy a Christmas present for each child. I have never forgotten that experience.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Those who do not see the need to socially distance or take other measures to limit the spread of covid-19
  • Bromsgrove & Redditch Methodist Circuit
  • Kosovo where medical services are severely overstretched coping with covid-19
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 When morning gilds the skies,
my heart awaking cries:
‘May Jesus Christ be praised!’
Alike at work and prayer
to Jesus I repair:
‘May Jesus Christ be praised!’

2 Does sadness fill my mind?
A solace here I find:
‘May Jesus Christ be praised!’
When evil thoughts are near,
these words will calm my fear:
‘May Jesus Christ be praised!’

3 To God, the Word, on high
the hosts of angels cry:
‘May Jesus Christ be praised!’
Let mortals, too, upraise
their voice in hymns of praise:
‘May Jesus Christ be praised!’

4 Let earth’s wide circle round
in joyful notes resound:
‘May Jesus Christ be praised!’
Let air, and sea, and sky,
from depth to height, reply:
‘May Jesus Christ be praised!’

5 Be this while life is mine
my song of love divine:
‘May Jesus Christ be praised!’
Be this the eternal song,
through all the ages long:
‘May Jesus Christ be praised!’

Katholisches Gesangbuch für den öffentlichen Gottesdienst in Würzburg 1828
translated byEdward Caswall (1814-1878)

Wednesday 29th July 2020

Bible: Psalm 65:8-13 New International Version (NIVUK)

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.
You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with corn,
for so you have ordained it
10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
11 You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
13 The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with corn; they shout for joy and sing.

Reflection

The Psalms are a real treasure trove of material about God. Once again we find a Psalm that cannot fail to move us to praise. Just look at how this section starts. There is a completeness about it that makes my heart sing for joy. To know that God is caring for his creation even as we desecrate it is both comforting and challenging. Comforting because God restores what we destroy. Challenging because God has created us in his image and to be like him. This Psalm not only shows God looking after his creation but doing so with abundant generosity. What is more God treats us with the same abundant generosity. The Bible tells us that God was pleased with everything that he created. It is natural that he wants to care for it, look after it and bless it. The same applies to us if only we let him!

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Those who suffer violence, persecution or discrimination because of their nationality
  • The churches of Redditch and of B45
  • Shops in Rubery, Longbridge and Redditch suffering economically due to reduced footfall and higher costs because of covid-19
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 For the beauty of the earth,
for the beauty of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies:
Gracious God, to you we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

2 For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light:
refrain

3 For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony
linking sense to sound and sight:
refrain

4 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
pleasures pure and undefiled:
refrain

5 For each perfect gift and sign
of your love so freely given,
graces human and divine,
flowers of earth and buds of heaven:
refrain

Folliott Sandford Pierpoint (1835-1917)

Folliott Sandford Pierpoint was a hymnodist and poet born in Bath, England, he was educated at Queens’ College, Cambridge. Pierpoint was a classics schoolmaster and a devout Tractarian. He taught at Somersetshire College, spending most of his life in Bath and the south-west

Tuesday 28th July 2020

Bible: Ephesians 6:10-18 New International Version (NIVUK)

10 Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Reflection

Many of us have done this before going into difficult situations but I knew someone who did this every morning. Before he did anything else he prayed on the armour of God piece by piece. He recognised that every day is dangerous for a Christian because it is a battle ground between good and evil. The image is very powerful one of standing firm when evil is all around. Paul wrote this from prison where he was for doing that. He knew what he was talking about. Those who stand firm are often called fundamentalists erroneously when they should be called Christians. What is wrong with standing firm for God’s truth? We need to adorn ourselves with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the word of God then stand firm for God. And we need to let the Spirit guide our prayers and our responses, not simply go to God with a list.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Work going on to find vaccines and medicines for covid-19
  • Those returning from Spain facing unexpected quarantine rules
  • Shops in Rubery, Longbridge and Redditch suffering economically due to reduced footfall and higher costs because of covid-19
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1 Soldiers of Christ, arise,
and put your armour on,
strong in the strength which God supplies
through his eternal Son;
strong in the Lord of hosts,
and in his mighty power,
who in the strength of Jesus trusts
is more than conqueror.

2 Stand then in his great might,
with all his strength endued;
but take, to arm you for the fight,
the panoply of God;
that, having all things done,
and all your conflicts passed,
you may o’ercome through Christ alone,
and stand complete at last.

3 Leave no unguarded place,
no weakness of the soul;
take every virtue, every grace,
and fortify the whole:
indissolubly joined,
to battle all proceed;
but arm yourselves with all the mind
that was in Christ, your Head.

4 From strength to strength go on,
wrestle, and fight, and pray,
tread all the powers of darkness down,
and win the well-fought day;
still let the Spirit cry
in all his soldiers:come!
Till Christ the Lord descend from high,
and take the conquerors home.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Monday 27th July 2020

Bible: James 3:13-18 New International Version (NIVUK)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Reflection

Here we have words from the man who knew Jesus better than anyone else except his mother, his younger brother James. He had become leader of the early church in Jerusalem. This letter does not have the theological exposition and nuances of Paul or Peter. It is practical and down to earth tackling real issues in the early church that remain real issues today. Clearly there was a debate going on about who had wisdom and understanding. This suggests a struggle between different theologies and different emphases, a situation very familiar to us today and one that can be very destructive. James suggests that the origin of any wisdom and understanding can be proved by the deeds and manner of a Christian. Heavenly wisdom is shown in a good life, humbly doing good deeds. It is peace loving, merciful, impartial and sincere. Wisdom that shows itself in envy, selfish ambition, disorder and evil practices is not heavenly, it is earthly, unspiritual and demonic. Quite simply heavenly wisdom reflects Jesus.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Veterinary students returning to Nottingham University for teaching starting today
  • An end to the diplomatic spat between the USA and China
  • The government campaign against obesity including the promotion of healthy eating
  • Our Churches and their Ministry Teams

Hymn

1          O Word of God incarnate,
O wisdom from on high,
O truth unchanged, unchanging,
O light of our dark sky,
We praise thee for the radiance
That from the hallowed page,
A lantern to our footsteps,
Shines on from age to age.

2          The church from her dear Master
Received the gift divine,
And still that light she lifteth
O’er all the earth to shine;
It is the precious treasury
Where gems of truth are stored;
It is the heaven-drawn picture
Of Christ, the living Word.

3          It floateth like a banner
Before God’s host unfurled;
It shineth like a beacon
Above the shadowed world;
It is the chart and compass
That, o’er life’s surging sea,
‘Mid mists, and rocks, and quicksands,
Still guides, O Christ, to thee.

4          O make thy church, dear Saviour,
A lamp of burnished gold,
To bear before the nations
Thy true light, as of old;
O teach thy wandering pilgrims
By this their path to trace,
Till, clouds and darkness ended,
They see thee face to face.

William Walsham How (1823-1897)

Sunday 26th July 2020

videos have been added to the Virtual Tour page

Bible: Romans 8:31-39 New International Version (NIVUK)

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

31 What, then, shall we say? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Reflection

Paul at his eloquent best. Who cannot read this passage and be moved to praise God. It is often read at funerals but it deserves a much wider audience. We need to remind ourselves continually that nothing, no-one in this world can separate us from God’s love. We are always with him, always in his care, always in his mind, always arm in arm with him. He is always speaking to us, always blessing us, always helping us. Somehow we have discovered the ability of forgetting he is there, just as a child shuts their eyes and says no-one is there because they can’t see them we shut our eyes and say that God is not there. Open our eyes Lord. Let us see you as you really are, let us accept your love and help.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Local care homes beginning to cautiously welcome visitors again
  • The work of Churches Together in Britain & Ireland
  • Those whose travel plans or businesses have been affected by the quarantine rules imposed on people coming from Spain to the UK
  • The church’s role in bringing peace and justice to the world

Hymn

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord,
open the eyes of my heart;
I want to see you, I want to see you.
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord,
open the eyes of my heart;
I want to see you, I want to see you.

To see you high and lifted up,
shining in the light of your glory.
Pour out your power and love;
as we sing holy, holy, holy.

Refrain

To see you high …

Holy, holy, holy,
holy, holy, holy,
holy, holy, holy,
I want to see you.

Paul Baloche

Paul Joseph Baloche  is an American Christian music artist, worship leader, and singer-songwriter. A native of Maple Shade Township, New Jersey  Baloche was the worship pastor at Community Christian Fellowship in Lindale, Texas for 26 years.

Saturday 25th July 2020

Bible: 1 Kings 2:1-4 New International Version (NIVUK)

When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. ‘I am about to go the way of all the earth,’ he said. ‘So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: “If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.”

Reflection

The last speeches of great leaders tell us so much, not just about the person but about those it is intended for and society in general. This is especially true when they know it will be their last message such as Billy Graham’s last message. The great king, David, is about to die so he speaks to his son, Solomon, who will succeed him. David is such a great king that even Jesus the Son of God is called the Son of David. David is acutely aware that people will ignore God and try to turn Solomon away from God and that the more successful Solomon becomes the greater the temptation to turn aside from God will become. All this was true for Solomon 1,000 years before Jesus and it is still true for us 2,000 years after Jesus. David tells Solomon, and the Bible tells us, that the only sure way to prosper is to remain faithful to God, be obedient to him and keep his decrees, commands, laws and regulations. Jesus put it more simply, ‘obey everything I have commanded you’. David also says that he will have to be strong and resolute to do it, so will we particularly with the pick and mix approach to faith prevalent today.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Waterways Chaplains including Rev Richard Alford based in the West Midlands
  • The suppression of press freedom in Hungary to be lifted
  • Those in refugee camps in Northern France trying to cross the channel to England
  • The church’s role in bringing peace and justice to the world

Hymn

1 Lord Jesus Christ,
you have come to us,
you are one with us,
Mary’s Son;
cleansing our souls from all their sin,
pouring your love and goodness in;
Jesus, our love for you we sing,
living Lord.

2 Lord Jesus Christ,
now and every day,
teach us how to pray,
Son of God.
You have commanded us to do
this, in remembrance, Lord, of you;
into our lives your power breaks through,
living Lord.

3 Lord Jesus Christ,
you have come to us,
born as one of us,
Mary’s Son;
led out to die on Calvary,
risen from death to set us free;
living Lord Jesus, help us see
you are Lord.

4 Lord Jesus Christ,
we would come to you,
live our lives for you,
Son of God.
All your commands we know are true;
your many gifts will make us new;
into our lives your power breaks through,
living Lord.

Patrick Appleford (b. 1925)

Friday 24th July 2020

Bible: Acts 7:44-53 New International Version (NIVUK)

Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. 44 ‘Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45 After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, 46 who enjoyed God’s favour and asked that he might provide a dwelling-place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 ‘However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says: 49 ‘“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? 50 Has not my hand made all these things?” 51 ‘You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: you always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him – 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.’

Reflection

This is the end part of Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin which led to him being immediately stoned to death, not by civic leaders but by religious leaders. The prophet often has more to fear from those inside the faith than those outside it. Whether they agree with us or not non-Christians actually expect us to be different to them. We can’t analyse the whole speech and see why it caused so much upset but note the quote from Isaiah in verses 48/49 All heaven and earth is God’s, confining God to a building is impossible and persecuting prophets is pointless. God will triumph, even over death as Jesus proved. A real challenge to their authority and power.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Planning to cope with the seasonal flu expected as well as covid-19 this winter
  • Those affected by the covid-19 cluster in Evesham
  • Those still pushing false information about covid-19 thus playing
  • The church’s role in bringing peace and justice to the world

Hymn

1 Alleluia! Sing to Jesus,
his the sceptre, his the throne.
Alleluia! His the triumph,
his the victory alone.
Hark! The songs of peaceful Zion
thunder like a mighty flood;
Jesus, out of every nation,
has redeemed us by his blood.

2 Alleluia! Not as orphans
are we left in sorrow now.
Alleluia! He is near us,
faith believes, nor questions how.
Though the cloud from sight received him
when the forty days were o’er,
shall our hearts forget his promise,
‘I am with you evermore’?

3 Alleluia! Bread of angels,
thou on earth our food, our stay.
Alleluia! Here the sinful
flee to thee from day to day.
Intercessor, friend of sinners,
earth’s Redeemer, plead for me,
where the songs of all the sinless
sweep across the crystal sea.

4 Alleluia! King eternal,
thee the Lord of lords we own.
Alleluia! Born of Mary,
earth thy footstool, heaven thy throne.
Thou within the veil hast entered,
robed in flesh, our great High Priest;
thou on earth both priest and victim
in the eucharistic feast.

William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898)

Thursday 23rd July 2020

Bible: Psalm 119:129-136 New International Version (NIVUK)

129 Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.
132 Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
134 Redeem me from human oppression, that I may obey your precepts.
135 Make your face shine on your servant and teach me your decrees.
136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.

Reflection

What a wonderful piece of Scripture, so refreshing and so different to how we often act today. The Psalmist does not indulge in a deep analysis of God’ statutes. He does not test them to see if they fit with his world view. He does not ask what society might think of them. He does not consign them to a former time not relevant for today. His is a simple, straightforward, no nonsense approach. He says they have come from God therefore they must be right and good and thus must be obeyed. No hesitation, no doubt, no question. How does Frederick Faber’s wonderful hymn go ‘if our love were but more simple we should take him at his word.’ But it is much more than that. The Psalmist has a deep desire for God’s commands. He wants them, he waits for them, he seeks them out. There is nothing that he wants more. So great is his love for God’s law, so certain is he of its veracity and efficacy that it moves him to tears when he says it being ignored. If only we could be like that we would be transformed, so would the church and so would the world.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Schemes to feed vulnerable children during the school holidays such as the one with DSP & the Ecumenical Centre
  • The families of aid workers killed in Nigeria
  • Those still pushing false information about covid-19 thus playing on people’s fears and leading them to take wrong decisions
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 As the deer pants for the water,
so my soul longs after you.
You alone are my heart’s desire
and I long to worship you.
You alone are my strength, my shield,
to you alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire
and I long to worship you.

2 I want you more than gold or silver,
only you can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy-giver
and the apple of my eye.

3 You’re my friend and you are my brother,
even though you are a king.
I love you more than any other,
so much more than anything.

Martin J. Nystrom (b. 1956)

Wednesday 22nd July 2020

Bible: Matthew 12:13-23 New International Version (NIVUK)

13 Then Jesus said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. 15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him. 17 This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 18 ‘Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. 19 He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. 21 In his name the nations will put their hope.’ 22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?’

Reflection

This seems unbelievable to us. Jesus withdrawing from opposition and telling people not to tell others what he was doing doesn’t seem right. Of course military people will understand straight away. Tactical withdrawal followed by sharing plans for the next step is a familiar strategy for them. At all times in Jesus ministry he was in charge of his own destiny. He knew where and when it would finish, in the earthly sense. He knew what he had to do before then. Nothing was going to stop him or deflect him. There is a conundrum in the text. Jesus withdrew but a large crowd followed and he did nothing to stop them. In fact his actions of healing those who needed it encouraged people to follow him. The Pharisees could find him easily. Jesus telling the crowd not to follow would have been as futile as Jurgen Klopp telling Liverpool fans not to gather outside Anfield to celebrate. Jesus changed the lives of those he touched for ever and he does the same today

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Restaurants and leisure facilities suffering from ‘no shows’
  • Many grassroots sports getting back into action after lockdown
  • Churches, including the Beacon, planning holiday clubs and activities during the summer holidays
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Heal us, Immanuel! Hear our prayer;
we wait to feel your touch;
deep-wounded souls to you repair,
and, Saviour, we are such.

2 Our faith is feeble, we confess;
we faintly trust your word;
but will you pity us the less?
Be that far from you, Lord!

3 Remember him who once applied
with trembling for relief:
‘Lord, I believe!’ with tears he cried,
‘O help my unbelief!’

4 She, too, who touched you in the press,
and healing virtue stole,
was answered:’Daughter, go in peace,
your faith has made you whole.’

5 Concealed amid the gathering throng,
she would have shunned your view;
and if her faith was firm and strong,
had strong misgivings too.

6 Like her, with hopes and fears we come
to touch you, if we may;
O send us not despairing home,
send none unhealed away!

William Cowper (1731-1800)

William Cowper(was an English poet and hymnodist born in Hertfordshire. After being institutionalised for insanity, Cowper found refuge in a fervent evangelical Christianity. He continued to suffer doubt and, after a dream in 1773, believed that he was doomed to eternal damnation. He recovered and wrote more religious hymns.  His religious sentiment and association with John Newton (who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace”) led to much of the poetry for which he is best remembered, and to the series of Olney Hymns. He also wrote a number of anti-slavery poems and his poem called “The Negro’s Complaint” (1788) which rapidly became very famous, and was often quoted by Martin Luther King Jr. during the 20th century civil rights movement.

Tuesday 21st July 2020

Bible: Zephaniah 3:9-13 New International Version (NIVUK)

‘Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder. 10 From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshippers, my scattered people, will bring me offerings. 11 On that day you, Jerusalem, will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from you your arrogant boasters. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. 12 But I will leave within you the meek and humble. The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the Lord. 13 They will do no wrong; they will tell no lies. A deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid.’

Reflection

Zephaniah was prophesying around 615-620BC. He was speaking to a nation that was sinful to its core, to a people that had turned their backs on God both in their personal life and in their worship, He pronounced God’s judgement, called for godliness and purity and foretold that a purging would take place before God’s chosen people were restored. His message was not popular with state or religious leaders. The situation is much the same today. When the church dares to speak in a way that seems critical of the government they are told to keep religion out of politics. Even a cursory glance at history and the Bible will tell us that not only is it not possible it is also against God’s will, Our faith informs our life at all levels including politics because it is a way of life not a hobby. When an individual Christian or church criticises a denominational decision they are told that they have to follow not question. I was in that dreadful URC General Assembly debate when a speaker was told ‘You can’t tell people to repent’. Of course you can, it is part of the prophetic role of God’s people. Zephaniah knew that and his message is very pertinent today. We ignore it at our peril.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Local organisations.who seek to improve our communities such as Bromsgrove & Redditch Welcomes Refugees & Rubery in Bloom
  • Our local councils in Bromsgrove and Redditch
  • An end to corruption and the promotion of disinformation for personal gain or to influence government and society
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Your Lord and King adore;
mortals, give thanks, and sing,
and triumph evermore:
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
rejoice! Again I say:rejoice!

2 Jesus the Saviour reigns,
the God of truth and love;
when he had purged our stains,
he took his seat above:
refrain

3 His kingdom cannot fail,
he rules both earth and heaven;
the keys of death and hell
are to our Jesus given:
refrain

4 He sits at God’s right hand
till all his foes submit,
and bow to his command,
and fall beneath his feet:
refrain

5 Rejoice in glorious hope;
Jesus the Judge shall come,
and take his servants up
to their eternal home:
We soon shall hear the archangel’s voice;
God’s trumpet-call shall sound:rejoice!

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Monday 20th July 2020

Bible: Genesis 32:7-12 New International Version (NIVUK)

When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, ‘We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.’ In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, ‘If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.’ Then Jacob prayed, ‘O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, “Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,” 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, “I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.”’

Reflection

Jacob deceived his dying father and stole his older brother’s birthright. As a result he fled the family home. Now, many years later and directed by God, he is returning home a very rich man. Naturally he is fearful of his brothers reaction. He sends out spies who return to Jacob and tell him that Esau is on his way with four hundred men. This makes Jacob more fearful and he divides all he has into two portions in the hope that he can preserve one. With nothing else left to do he turns to prayer and asks God for help. O how often are we like Jacob, we resort to prayer when there is nothing else left. For us and Jacob prayer should be our first option. We follow God so why not ask him for guidance. As for the end of the story, Esau rushes to embrace Jacob, he’s just glad to have him back. If God asks us to do something it will turn out alright. Trust him

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Churches who have seen growth in their online presence during the pandemic and are now looking at how to sustain this.
  • The Uighur population in China
  • Food Banks, both locally and across the UK
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer!

2 Have we trials and temptations,
is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged:
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness:
take it to the Lord in prayer.

3 Are we weak and heavy-laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge —
take it to the Lord in prayer!
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
in his arms he’ll take and shield you,
you will find a solace there.

Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1819-1886)

Joseph Scriven was born in Banbridge Co Down. He graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 1842. His fiancée accidentally drowned in 1843, the night before they were to be married. In 1845 he left his native country and migrated to Canada, settling in Woodstock, Ontario  In 1855 he received news from Ireland of his mother being terribly ill. He wrote a poem to comfort his mother called “Pray Without Ceasing”. It was later set to music and renamed by Charles Converse becoming the hymn ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus’. About 1857 he moved near to Port Ontario where he again fell in love and was due to be married, but in August 1860 his fiancée suddenly fell ill of pneumonia and died. He then devoted the rest of his life to tutoring, preaching and helping others. Scriven drowned in 1886 at age 66

Sunday 19th July 2020

Yesterday I travelled by train for the first time since pre-lockdown and did some shopping in Birmingham for the first time in many months. It was good to do something relatively normal.

Bible: Isaiah 44:6-8 New International Version (NIVUK)

“This is what the Lord says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.
Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come—
yes, let them foretell what will come.
Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

Reflection

Hot on a hard saying of Jesus we have a hard saying of God spoken through the prophet Isaiah. Right from the beginning God has maintained that he is the only true God. Often this is seen as a comfort in times of trouble but it is also seen as a sign of correction in times of apostasy. We live in pluralistic times when many religions are practised and even many Christians are reluctant to take hold of the basis of our faith and declare that there is only one God. Of course we must have good relations with people of other religions but we must never forget that we serve a God who said ‘I alone am God’ and ‘You must have no other gods before me’ and whose son, Jesus, said ‘I am the way, the truth, the life, no-one comes to the Father except by me’. Christianity is a tough, uncompromising faith whose God speaks in absolutes. When we choose to suspend that view in order to be more acceptable to people of other religions or none we have lost distinctive cutting edge and decline becomes inevitable.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Public transport operators who will have to change some working practices as more people begin to use the services
  • On-going research into covid-19 herd immunity
  • World governments to work together whatever their political differences to combat covid-19
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His Word
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.

2          Not a burden we bear,
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief nor a loss,
Not a frown nor a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.
Chorus

3          But we never can prove
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favour He shows,
And the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
Chorus

4          Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do,
Where He sends we will go –
Never fear, only trust and obey.
Chorus

John H Sammis (1846-1919)

John Sammis was born in Brooklyn, New York and died in Los Angeles, California. A businessman who became a Presbyterian minister, John Sammis taught at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles.

Saturday 18th July 2020

The Ordination of James Hamilton to the Ministry of the United Reformed Church and his Induction to serve at the Beacon Church Centre Rubery and Emmanuel Church Redditch took place this afternoon

Bible: Matthew 7:15-23 New International Version (NIVUK)

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Reflection

These are words of Jesus and they come from his first recorded sermon, part of his mission statement if you like. If I was to categorise the sayings of Jesus this would come into the ‘hard sayings’ category. It challenges much of what we believe. When does a difference of opinion become false teaching? Will some of our church friends be denied entry to heaven? Doing Christian things does not make you a Christian. God will prune the church. This is not a theologian speaking it is Jesus the Son of God speaking. As God himself said we should listen to him. Reflect for a moment on one or two of the issues where Christians have differing views such as who can preside at Communion or marriage and relationships. Is it possible for God to have more than one view? These uncompromising words of Jesus would suggest not. Christian debate is part of the process of discerning the mind of God. Having done that we must follow Him.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • The Ordination of James Hamilton to the Ministry of the United Reformed Church and his Induction to the pastorate of the Beacon Church Centre Rubery and Emmanuel Church Redditch today
  • Countries where covid-19 is seemingly out of control
  • People who are now able to enjoy a summer holiday
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 It is God who holds the nations in the hollow of his hand;
it is God whose light is shining in the darkness of the land;
it is God who builds the City on the Rock and not on sand:
may the living God be praised!

2 It is God whose purpose summons us to use the present hour;
who recalls us to our senses when a nation’s life turns sour;
in the discipline of freedom we shall know God’s saving power:
may the living God be praised!

3 When a thankful nation, looking back, has cause to celebrate
those who win our admiration by their service to the state;
when self-giving is a measure of the greatness of the great:
may the living God be praised!

4 God reminds us every sunrise that the world is ours on lease:
for the sake of life tomorrow may our love for it increase;
may all races live together, share its riches, be at peace:
may the living God be praised!

Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000)

Friday 17th July 2020

Bible: Psalm 139 New International Version (NIVUK)

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand-  when I awake, I am still with you……. 23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Reflection

There is nothing I can add to the Psalm. Read it again, slowly. Immerse yourself in it and let it speak to you. Sit quietly and allow God to refresh you. Make a note of what comes to mind ask God to minister to you.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • The plans announced today to further ease lockdown
  • Those who have heard the gospel but rejected its offer of life
  • Those living with mental or emotional anxiety or anguish
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

Thou Hidden Source Of Calm Repose

Thursday 16th July 2020

Bible: Hebrews 2:1-9 New International Version (NIVUK)

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels you crowned them with glory and honour and put everything under their feet.” In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Reflection

The writer of book of Hebrews is living in a time when persecution of Christians was rising and people were drifting away from the faith. Drift implies that it was not the result of a decision. It was just that the tethering rope had become loose. Remember when you first learnt to drive, you did everything by the book. As experience grew you relied on instinct more than rules. For instance you learn to spot a police car rather than observe a road sign and we follow other motorists. So it is with faith. As a new Christian we are eager to learn what it means to live like Christ. As we mature we consult the authority less, observe other Christians more and are led by instinct. If we are not careful we drift away from the faith into our version of faith. No longer tethered firmly to God we go our own way

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Those working on vaccines and medicines for covid-19
  • Those who treat our lanes, layby’s, parks as rubbish dumps
  • Our local hospitals, medical practices and clinics
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

Christ Triumphant Ever Reigning

Wednesday 15th July 2020

Bible: Matthew 13:10-17 New International Version (NIVUK)

10 The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ 11 He replied, ‘Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘“You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Reflection

Everybody loves a good storyteller and Jesus was the best. The disciples wanted to know why he told so many stories, the inference being why didn’t he simply teach like other Rabbi’s. Stories help us remember in a way that straight teaching does not. I’ve never forgotten the story my Dad told in a sermon of a ship’s Captain and his favourite desert. I also remember the point of the story. Of course there is the danger that we remember the story and not the meaning just like I remember the Vicar producing a cabbage during the sermon but I have no idea why, The best stories reinforce the teaching and Jesus was the master at that. Every story he told reinforced some aspect of God’s teaching from the pages of what we call the Old Testament. Try it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

Please pray for

  • Rising covid-19 infection rates in Lancashire
  • The DEC Coronavirus Appeal for refugee camps
  • Migrants risking their lives crossing the English Channel
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          Tell me the stories of Jesus
I love to hear;
Things I would ask him to tell me
If he were here;
Scenes by the wayside,
Tales of the sea,
Stories of Jesus,
Tell them to me.

2          First let me hear how the children
Stood round his knee;
And I shall fancy his blessing
Resting on me;
Words full of kindness,
Deeds full of grace,
All in the love-light
Of Jesus’ face.

3          Tell me, in accents of wonder,
How rolled the sea,
Tossing the boat in a tempest
On Galilee;
And how the Master,
Ready and kind,
Chided the billows,
And hushed the wind.

4          Into the city I’d follow
The children’s band,
Waving a branch of the palm-tree
High in my hand;
One of his heralds
Yes, I would sing
Loudest hosannas,
Jesus is King!

5          Show me that scene in the garden,
Of bitter pain;
And of the cross where my Saviour
For me was slain;
And, through the sadness,
Help me to see
How Jesus suffered
For love of me.

6          Gladly I’d hear of his rising
Out of the grave
Living and strong and triumphant
Mighty to save
And how he sends us
All men to bring
Stories of Jesus
Jesus their King

vv 1-5 W H Parker (1845-1929)
The Sunday School movement of the 19th and 20th centuries provided the inspiration for many hymns. William Henry Parker (1845-1929) was the head of an insurance company and a devoted member of Chelsea Street Baptist Church, Nottingham, England, where he was active in Sunday School work. United Methodist Hymnal editor, Carlton Young notes that most of Parker’s hymns were written for Sunday School anniversaries. Fifteen of these hymns were published in the Sunday School Hymnary, 1905. Parker wrote this hymn c. 1885 at the request of the children of his Sunday School class, “Teacher, tell us another story.”

V 6 Hugh Martin (1890-1964)
Hugh Martin was a British Christian student leader, active in the ecumenical movement, and a publisher whose SCM Press brought out many theological books. A Baptist who was trained for the ministry and who edited their 1962 Hymn Book, he was deeply involved in the ecumenical movement, working for Christian student bodies, the British Council of Churches, and to promote reconstruction in Europe following World War II.

Tuesday 14th July 2020

Bible: Ephesians 4:17-24 New International Version (NIVUK)

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Reflection

The twin prongs of much of the church, universalism and conformity have done it immense damage. Our rightful emphasis on the love of God has led us to the conclusion that all will be saved whether they believe in God or not. Our desire to be acceptable to the world has led us to dilute God’s teaching. This is not just wrong, it is against Scripture, it is not what Jesus said and not what God wants. As a result it has disabled the church’s message, crippled its mission and led to its decline The churches that are growing preach that Eternal Life with God is for those that accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Those churches also live a life that is uncompromisingly different to the world around them that it attracts others to find out more. Paul grasped it, he thought he was following God but he wasn’t. After his dramatic encounter with the risen Christ he turned his life around totally. This is what he is calling us to do here, to turn from the world to God and live like him, not the world.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Those who will suffer because the UK is restarting arms sales to Saudi Arabia
  • An end to fighting on the Armenia and Azerbaijan border
  • Countries where covid-19 infection rates are increasing rapidly
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

I am a new creation,
no more in condemnation,
here in the grace of God I stand.
My heart is over-flowing,
my love just keeps on growing,
here in the grace of God I stand.
And I will praise you, Lord,
yes, I will praise you, Lord,
and I will sing of all that you have done.
A joy that knows no limit,
a lightness in my spirit —
here in the grace of God I stand.

Dave Bilborough (b. 1965)

Monday 13th July 2020

Bible: Psalm 92:1-5,12-16 New International Version (NIVUK)

It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp. For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done. How great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts!

12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; 13 planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, 15 proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’

Reflection

Yesterday I watched Songs of Praise Britain’s favourite hymns  programme. We all have our favourite hymns and music really does stir the soul and lift our spirits. I really struggle with the concept of worship in church without singing. It doesn’t  just go against the grain, it is totally wrong but the government insists so we must obey. Singing is how we have praised God for centuries, words alone are not enough, they need a melody. Reflecting on God moves us to song. If we cannot sing our praise is castrated. But what is it that moves us to song. It is God, his love, his faithfulness, his deeds, his works, his thoughts. Reflect on God and you will sing, or at least the words of a song will come into your head. As you sing, your spirit is lifted and you feel even more like praising God. Don’t ignore the latter part of the Psalm. God promises that if we are faithful to him, righteous, rooted in his kingdom, then we will flourish not just survive, not just blossom but flourish and bear fruit – even in old age as we proclaim God’s nature to the world.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Public transport workers and freight rail and road staff
  • Migrants desperate to get to the UK crossing the channel in boats
  • Our sister churches in the Bromsgrove & Redditch Methodist Circuit & URC Hereford & Worcester Area
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

My Jesus, my Saviour,
Lord there is none like you.
All of my days I want to praise
the wonders of your mighty love.
My comfort, my shelter,
tower of refuge and strength,
let every breath, all that I am,
never cease to worship you.

Shout to the Lord all the earth, let us sing,
power and majesty, praise to the King.
Mountains bow down
and the seas will roar
at the sound of your name.
I sing for joy at the work of your hands.
Forever I’ll love you, forever I’ll stand.
Nothing compares to the
promise I have in you.

Darlene Zschech (b. 1965)

Sunday 12th July 2020

Bible: Isaiah 55:10-13 New International Version (NIVUK)

10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”

Reflection

Everything God does, everything God says has a purpose. Have you ever wondered why the earth needs water and plants need both water and the nutrients in the soil? I don’t mean the science of it. I mean the big ‘why’ behind it. It didn’t just happen, it’ is not the result of a cosmic event. It is because it was designed that way by the Creator, the one we call God. He designed it, he created it, he sustains it. It can only be understood in the context of a creator God. What is true in creation is also true God’s word. Just as every part of creation plays a part in the whole so every word of God plays its part. Notice verse eleven. The focus is not us but God. He is at the centre, as he should be. It is his purpose, his desire, his sending. How comforting to know that he is in charge. Because of that we will be able to live in joy and peace with the prickles of life becoming things of beauty and purpose. Yes it is a vision of the future but we can have foretaste of it now if we truly trust God.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Those locked down on a Herefordshire farm due to covid-19
  • Our partner churches in CTB45 and CTiRedditch
  • Those for whom the 25th anniversary of the massacre in Srebenica holds pain, sorrow and loss
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Sing we the King who is coming to reign;
glory to Jesus, the Lamb that was slain!
Life and salvation his empire shall bring,
joy to the nations when Jesus is King:
Come let us sing:praise to our King,
Jesus our King, Jesus our King:
this is our song, who to Jesus belong:
glory to Jesus, to Jesus our King.

2 All shall be well in his kingdom of peace;
freedom shall flourish and wisdom increase;
justice and truth from his sceptre shall spring;
wrong shall be ended when Jesus is King:
refrain

3 Souls shall be saved from the burden of sin;
doubt shall not darken his witness within;
hell has no terrors, and death has no sting;
love is victorious when Jesus is King:
refrain

4 Kingdom of Christ, for your coming we pray;
hasten, O Father, the dawn of the day
when this new song your creation shall sing;
Satan is vanquished and Jesus is King:
refrain

Charles Silvester Horne (1865-1914)

Charles Silvester Horne was a Congregational minister and Liberal MP, noted orator and hymn writer.[He was also the father of the humorous broadcaster, Kenneth Horne. Charles was born in Sussex, grew up in Shropshire, ministered in London and died on holiday in Canada.

Saturday 11th July 2020

Bible: Isaiah 2:1-5 New International Version (NIVUK)

This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Reflection

What a fantastic image, a time when weapons are redundant. They will not be stored or decommissioned but turned into farm implements. The significance of verse four must not be undervalued. The means of death become the means to sustain life. It is a total reversal of purpose and one that we struggle to comprehend in our fractured, fallen world where our military work so hard to keep warring factions apart, act as peace keepers and assist in times of disaster or emergency. We find it difficult to imagine a world without them yet this is just what Isaiah proclaims. When God is truly at the centre of life and is recognised as such by all the world’s nations, when the whole world wants God to teach them his ways, when everyone walks in God’s paths, when all leaders allow God to settle their disputes then war will be no more. Furthermore there will be no need to train for war. The Kingdom of God will be established on earth. Our work will be over. We will be at one with each other and God.

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • The UK’s 40,300 churches, their members and leaders
  • Those developing vaccines and medicines for covid-19
  • An end to the oppression of the Palestinian people and the annexation of their land
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 There’s a light upon the mountains, and the day is at the spring,
when our eyes shall see the beauty and the glory of the King;
weary was our heart with waiting, and the night-watch seemed so long;
but his triumph-day is breaking, and we hail it with a song.

2 There’s a hush of expectation, and a quiet in the air;
and the breath of God is moving in the fervent breath of prayer:
for the suffering, dying Jesus is the Christ upon the throne,
and the travail of our spirit is the travail of his own.

3 He is breaking down the barriers, he is casting up the way;
he is calling for his angels to build up the gates of day:
but his angels here are human, not the shining hosts above;
for the drum-beats of his army are the heart-beats of our love.

4 Hark! We hear a distant music, and it comes with fuller swell;
’tis the triumph-song of Jesus, of our King, Immanuel:
Zion, go now forth to meet him;and, my soul, be swift to bring
all your finest and your noblest for the triumph of our King!

Henry Burton (1840-1930)

Henry Burton was born in  Swannington, Leicestershire and died in West Kirby, Cheshire. As a young man Burton went with his family when they emigrated to the USA in 1856. They settled in Wisconsin, and Henry studied at Beloit College. He became a local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was in charge of a church at Monroe, Wisconsin, for a short time. He then returned to Britain: he was ordained into the Wesleyan Methodist ministry (1865), serving in various circuits, mainly in Lancashire and London.

Friday 10th July 2020

Bible: Deuteronomy 32:1-6 New International Version (NIVUK)

Listen, you heavens, and I will speak; hear, you earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. They are corrupt and not his children; to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation. Is this the way you repay the Lord, you foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?

Reflection

These are the opening words of what is sometimes called ‘The Song of Moses’. It comes straight after his meeting with his successor, Joshua so it is essentially his final words as leader to the people. His words are so important that he calls all heaven and all earth to hear his words. His basic tenet is the rectitude and faithfulness of God towards his corrupt and faithless people. Perhaps we should listen. He doesn’t say it once, he says it four times, perfect, just, faithful, does no wrong, upright, is how he describes God. You can’t mistake what he means. This is compared with humanity who are corrupt, warped, crooked, foolish and unwise. The comparison could not be starker. How have the created fallen so far from the Creator’s mould? This is thirteen or fourteen hundred years before Jesus so nearly three and a half millennia ago. We have learnt nothing. It is still the same. Moses exhorts his listeners to look at God and recognise him as their Father, their Creator the clear implication being that if they really knew God they would behave differently. That’s probably just as true today as it was then. Why do we content ourselves with knowing about God rather than knowing God?

Prayer      

Please pray for

  • Air bridges coming into operation today
  • New on-line church communities that have sprung up
  • Further non-essential business and leisure facilities preparing to re-open soon
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

Ascribe greatness to our God, the rock,
his work is perfect and all his ways are just.
Ascribe greatness to our God, the rock,
his work is perfect and all his ways are just.
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
good and upright is he.
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
good and upright is he.

Mary Kirkbride Barthow and Mary Lou King

Thursday 9th July 2020

Bible: Exodus 3:1-6 New International Version (NIVUK)

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Reflection

The things God does to attract our attention. I wonder if he ever thinks ‘Why don’t they just listen to me? I suppose I’ll have to do another of my party tricks.’ If that’s too flippant for you I am sorry, but please read on. Jesus turning water into wine, walking on water, feeding five thousand, healing on the Sabbath was not just his compassion it was to get people’s attention so that they would listen to him. I sat in a packed Methodist church one Saturday evening and after the speaker had addressed us there was a time of prayer during which people went forward for healing. I was sceptical, especially when the speaker said that there is someone here that God wants to use in the healing ministry and the sign is that person will have a nose bleed. You could have heard a pin drop, then a young man looked up, blood pouring from his nose. He had not been hit. It was not faked. He did not have a history of nosebleeds. He went out, cleaned himself up, went forward for prayer, then shared in the healing ministry. God got our attention that night! God got Moses’ attention with a burning bush. When God gets your attention listen for the message that follows.

Prayer       

Please pray for

  • Farmers and labourers producing food to sustain us
  • Those who will lose their jobs because firms will be leaner or operate differently post lockdown
  • Children whose education has been severely disrupted by covid-19
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 O Watcher in the wilderness,
O Lord of bush and flame,
you meet us when we least expect
and summon us by name.
From our routine we turn aside
to see your wonders here;
you bid us stand on holy ground,
and overcome our fear.

2 O Friend and Master, Jesus Christ,
in whose great name we meet,
you take the basin and the towel
and kneel to wash our feet.
You call upon us by this sign,
as we’ve been served, to serve;
then send us out to do God’s work,
to give without reserve.

3 O Guide and comfort, Holy God,
among your people now,
you speak to us, and urge us grow,
and gifts and grace endow.
Unblock our ears, unlock our hearts,
truly to hear your word;
and strengthen, Lord, each onward step,
to live as we have heard.

Dominic Grant (b. 1970)

Dominic Grant is a hymn writer and United Reformed Church Minister

Wednesday 8th July 2020

Bible: John 13:4,5,12-17 New International Version (NIVUK)

Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. ………………12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Reflection

A very well-known passage of Scripture. The imagery is amazing, the Son of God, through whom everything was created washing the dirty, smelly feet of his disciples. The concept of a Master who acts like a servant is mind blowing. The fact that he tells us to do likewise is not surprising, after all he does tell us to follow him. At face value his words that no servant is greater than his master, no messenger is greater than the one who sent them are obvious. Prod a little deeper and what do we find? A good approach to Bible Study for any Christian is to take the words of Jesus from a story, for example this one, ask God for help and reflect on those words alone. As you reflect allow God to direct your mind as you examine your life, your local church’s life and the Church’s life against those words. The risk is you might have to change your thinking and the church’s practices. So the question from this passages is have we acted as if we know better than Jesus, have we altered the message of Jesus?

Prayer       

Please pray for

  • The word of God to be faithfully proclaimed
  • Businesses that have re-opened but are struggling to meet costs because of reduced footfall
  • The countries where covid-19 infection rates are rising rapidly and governments are unable or unwilling to introduce lockdowns.
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 From heaven you came, helpless babe,
entered our world, your glory veiled,
not to be served but to serve,
and give your life that we might live.
This is our God, the Servant King,
he calls us now to follow him,
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.

2 There in the garden of tears
my heavy load he chose to bear;
his heart with sorrow was torn,
‘Yet not my will but yours,’ he said.
refrain

3 Come see his hands and his feet,
the scars that speak of sacrifice,
hands that flung stars into space
to cruel nails surrendered.
refrain

4 So let us learn how to serve
and in our lives enthrone him,
each other’s needs to prefer,
for it is Christ we’re serving.
refrain

Graham Kendrick (b. 1950)

Tuesday 7th July 2020

Bible: Psalm 131 New International Version (NIVUK)

My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

Reflection

A short but priceless Psalm in which David describes the wonderful contentment he learnt in God. ‘Whatever the occasion was, this short psalm is a beautiful denial of pride, arrogance, and selfish ambition. “It is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn. It speaks of a young child, but it contains the experience of a man in Christ.” (Charles Spurgeon). One of the benefits of lockdown for many people has been the opportunity of a quieter life, learning to be content with their circumstances and spending more time with God in a focussed way. The tense of this Psalm is interesting. The imagery of a weaned child is of one who has learned to live without their mother’s milk but the use of the word with indicates that the child is by its mother’s side. Finally the word content is used indicating peace, calm and happiness. As humans we can exist without God, we can ignore him. However we are only truly content when we live our lives by with him at our side. David is urging us to be less focussed on ourselves and more aware of God. Our trust and our hope is in God both for today and for the rest of eternity.

Prayer       

Please pray for

  • The beauty and majesty of God reflected in his creation
  • Governments as they seek to balance covid-19 risks with economic, mental and social impacts
  • Joyful re-unions as families and friends meet up again after three months of enforced separation.
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy,
be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

2 Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe,
be there at our labours, and give us, we pray,
your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.

3 Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace,
be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

4 Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

Jan Struther (Joyce Placzek) (1901-1953)

Jan Struther was the pen name of Joyce Anstruther, later Joyce Maxtone Graham and finally Joyce Placzek, an English writer remembered for her character Mrs. Miniver, a fortnightly character in The Times. and a number of hymns. She grew up in Whitchurch, Buckinghamshire

Monday 6th July 2020

Bible: Romans 1:18-25 New International Version (NIVUK)

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.

Reflection

Paul at his most uncompromising in a passage we often shy away from, yet it has so much to say to our society today. We don’t like the idea of the wrath of God but why shouldn’t he be angry when he sees what his beloved creation, the human race, have done to his world. His people have not glorified him properly, people have stopped worshipping the Creator and worshipped created things instead. Enough of the dark side, cast your minds onto verse twenty. Paul is telling us that God’s eternal power and divine nature have been abundantly clear since the beginning of time. It is a theme that runs through the Bible, if you want to see God look at his creation. If you look at the sheer beauty of this world and this universe, in all its intricate design, in all its rich variety, which fits together so well and is designed to re-create itself how can we not believe in a God who designed it all. God shines through it all. This universe is proof of God’s existence.

Prayer       

Please pray for

  • People who still need to shield or be extremely careful
  • Those waiting for treatment, scans and routine procedures that have been delayed by the covid-19 crisis
  • Those suffering domestic abuse, physical or emotional
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 I sing the almighty power of God,
that made the mountains rise,
that spread the flowing seas abroad,
and built the lofty skies.

2 I sing the wisdom that ordained
the sun to rule the day;
the moon shines full at his command,
and all the stars obey.

3 I sing the goodness of the Lord,
that filled the earth with food;
he formed the creatures with his word,
and then pronounced them good.

4 Lord, how your wonders are displayed
where’er I turn mine eye,
if I survey the ground I tread,
or gaze upon the sky!

5 God’s hand is my perpetual guard,
he guides me with his eye;
why should I then forget the Lord,
whose love is ever nigh?

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Sunday 5th July 2020

Bible: Genesis 24:34-38,42:46 New International Version (NIVUK)

34 So he said, ‘I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. 36 My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. 37 And my master made me swear an oath, and said, “You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, 38 but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.”

42 ‘When I came to the spring today, I said, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. 43 See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, ‘Please let me drink a little water from your jar,’ 44 and if she says to me, ‘Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,’ let her be the one the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.” 45 ‘Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 46 ‘She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, “Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.” So I drank, and she watered the camels also

Reflection

Grab your Bibles and read the whole story. It is not just one of the top ten Biblical ways to find a wife. It is a story about trusting God to help you make every decision in life. Yes, it is also about making sure your marriage is within the faith, increasingly hard these days. Paul makes the same point in 2 Corinthians 6. This story tells us that if we ask God for help in our decision making he will help us. Tasked with an important errand for his master Abraham’s most trusted servant begins by reminding himself of what God has done. This gives him confidence to do as asked. He begins the task then, at the point of decision, he asks God for help and God replies before he had finished praying. The pattern here bears repeating for every decision we have to make both as individuals and as a church.

Prayer       

Please pray for

  • The NHS, 72 years old today, for all who work in it
  • The travel, sport and leisure industries benefitting from air bridges
  • Those working to find covid-19 vaccines and medicines
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
uttered or unexpressed,
the motion of a hidden fire
that trembles in the breast.

2 Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
the falling of a tear,
the upward glancing of an eye
when none but God is near.

3 Prayer is the simplest form of speech
that infant lips can try;
prayer the sublimest strains that reach
the majesty on high.

4 Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice
returning from false ways,
while angels in their songs rejoice,
and cry:’The sinner prays!’

5 Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
the Christian’s native air,
our watchword at the gates of death;
we enter heaven with prayer.

6 O you by whom we come to God,
the Life, the Truth, the Way!
The path of prayer yourself have trod:
Lord, teach us how to pray!

James Montgomery (1771-1854)

James Montgomery was born in Irvine, Ayrshire and brought up in the Moravian church. He spent most of his life in the Sheffield area dying there in Broomhill. He was a hymnwriter, poet and editor. His writings reflected concern for humanitarian causes such as the abolition of slavery and the exploitation of child chimney sweeps

Saturday 4th July 2020

Bible: Luke 10:21-24 New International Version (NIVUK)

21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 22 ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ 23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’

Reflection

Why do people walk away from Jesus? Why do some people not get it? Why do some people treat faith in God as an insurance policy to be used only in times of crisis? Questions, questions, questions! These slightly problematic words of Jesus help us to answer the question. When my wife to be walked down the aisle she had a veil over her face masking her beauty. As she stood beside me at the front of the church the veil was removed and I saw her in her full beauty. The veil is removed so that the groom can see clearly that he is marrying the right woman. Many people only see Jesus through a veil. A veil that might be the result of hearsay, school lessons, media, internet, the church or even Christians they know. Whatever the cause the veil masks the real Jesus and our task is to remove it so that people may see Jesus clearly. This is what Jesus says here. So often there seems to be a dichotomy in the church between evangelism and social justice. The Devil must be laughing. It is ludicrous and wrong. Evangelism without social justice is not being truthful to Jesus, neither is social justice without evangelism. Get this wrong, Jesus veiled and the church withers and dies. Get this right, Jesus is unveiled and the church grows and lives.

Prayer       

Please pray for

  • Care Homes welcoming visitors again
  • Hotels, restaurants, bars and leisure activities welcoming guests back again from today
  • Covid-19 infection hot spots and the need for caution
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 I cannot tell why he, whom angels worship,
should set his love upon us, now or then,
or why, as Shepherd, he should seek the wanderers,
to bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that he was born of Mary
when Bethlem’s manger was his only home,
and that he lived at Nazareth and laboured,
and so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come.

2 I cannot tell how silently he suffered,
as with his peace he graced this place of tears,
or how his heart upon the cross was broken,
the crown of pain to three-and-thirty years.
But this I know, he heals the broken-hearted,
and stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
and lifts the burden from the heavy-laden,
for yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is here.

3 I cannot tell how he will win the nations,
how he will claim his earthly heritage,
how satisfy the needs and aspirations
of east and west, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see his glory,
and he shall reap the harvest he has sown,
and some glad day his sun shall shine in splendour,
when he the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known.

4 I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
when at his bidding every storm is stilled,
or who can say how great the jubilation
when every human heart with love is filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
and myriad, myriad human voices sing,
and earth to heaven, and heaven to earth, will answer:
‘at last the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is King!’

William Young Fullerton (1857-1932)

William Young Fullerton was a Baptist evangelist, administrator and writer born in Belfast. Fullerton served as President of the Baptist Union and Home Secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society. He was a frequent speaker at Keswick Conventions  He died at Bedford Park, Middlesex.

Friday 3rd July 2020

Bible: Romans 7 vv 7, 14-20 New International Version (NIVUK)

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’….. 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Reflection

What do you do with a difficult passage of Scripture? The temptation is to move on and find something more appealing. However grappling with it can be more rewarding. I remember being told by someone that they expected their Minister to tell them what to believe. I prefer to open the Scripture, unpack it and leave people to draw their own conclusions. The relationship between the law and the Spirit is one that has vexed Christians for two thousand years. For me the starting point has to be Jesus himself who said ‘‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law’. Read it all in Matthew 5:17-20. Jesus was referring to what we call the Old Testament. Now if a great Apostle like Paul struggles with keeping the law that gives me comfort. I gain even more comfort by remembering that Jesus died to take away my sin and free me from its consequences. That makes me want to try harder.

Prayer       

Please pray for

  • Our partner churches in Redditch and Rubery
  • The great re-opening this weekend, that people behave sensibly, public order and social distancing is maintained
  • Council workers clearing fly tipped rubbish from our area
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Deep in the shadows of the past,
far out from settled lands,
some nomads travelled with their God
across the desert sands.
The dawning hope of humankind
by them was sensed and shown:
a promise calling them ahead,
a future yet unknown.

2 While others bowed to changeless gods,
they met a mystery,
invisible, without a name:
‘I AM WHAT I WILL BE’;
and by their tents, around their fires,
in story, song and law,
they praised, remembered, handed on
a past that promised more.

3 From Exodus to Pentecost
the promise changed and grew,
while some, remembering the past,
recorded what they knew,
or with their letters and laments,
their prophecy and praise,
recovered, kindled and expressed
new hope for changing days.

4 For all the writings that survived,
for leaders, long ago,
who sifted, copied, and preserved
the Bible that we know,
give thanks, and find its story yet
our promise, strength and call,
the model of emerging faith,
alive with hope for all.

Brian Wren (b. 1936)

Thursday 2nd July 2020

Bible: Psalm 145 vv 8-14 New International Version (NIVUK)

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does
14 The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

Reflection

The Psalms are such a treasure trove of information about God. Read them and you will find all your need to know about God. They refresh our soul, they lift our heart, they focus our mind. Gracious, compassionate, trustworthy, faithful, slow to anger, rich in love are how this Psalm describes God. It talks about the splendour of his kingdom and that it is everlasting. Have you ever bought something that has a lifetime guarantee. I asked a salesman what it meant. With an absolutely straight face he said ‘it means it is guaranteed for the life of the product’. Not sure that means anything and what supermarket ‘bags for life’. The guarantee that God gives us is genuinely everlasting. He Is everlasting and his kingdom is everlasting, furthermore we can share it with him for all eternity. Guaranteed by his word, the word that will never be broken. Notice the middle section above, verses 10 to 12. God’s faithful people, that’s us, speak of him so that all people may know about him, our task,

Prayer       

Please pray for

  • Evangelists seeking to share the gospel with all who will listen
  • The plans to get all children back into school and for politicians and teachers as they work together to achieve this
  • Places like the USA and Brazil where the virus seems to be spiralling out of control
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 The splendour of the King,
clothed in majesty;
let all the earth rejoice,
let all the earth rejoice.
He wraps himself in light
and darkness tries to hide,
and trembles at his voice,
and trembles at his voice.

How great is our God, sing with me,
how great is our God, and all will see
how great, how great is our God.

2 And age to age he stands,
and time is in his hands;
beginning and the end,
beginning and the end.
The Godhead, Three in One,
Father, Spirit, Son,
the Lion and the Lamb,
the Lion and the Lamb.

How great is our God, sing with me,
how great is our God, and all will see
how great, how great is our God.

Name above all names,
worthy of all praise;
my heart will sing:
how great is our God.
Name above all names,
worthy of all praise;
my heart will sing:
how great is our God.

How great is our God, sing with me,
how great is our God, and all will see
how great, how great is our God.

Chris Tomlin (b. 1972), Ed Cash and Jesse Reeves

Tomlin is an American contemporary Christian singer, songwriter, and worship leader from Grand Saline, Texas who has sold over 7 million records
Cash is a music producer, songwriter, engineer and multi-instrumentalist.
Reeves is a musician, songwriter, church planter, and pastor.
Jesse and his wife Janet Janet have been a part of planting The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas and Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

Wednesday 1st July 2020

Bible: Jeremiah 18 vv 5-11 New International Version (NIVUK)

The Lord told Jeremiah to go to the Potter’s House. There he saw the Potter take clay that was marred in his hands and form another pot from it.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, ‘Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. 11 ‘Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, “This is what the Lord says: look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.”

Reflection

It may be unpopular to say it but does this passage help explain the apparent contradiction in that traditional denominations are declining whilst newly planted churches are growing. Over the years I have sat in many Assemblies, Synods and Councils of the church and have shared in both routine and passionate debate. We have been trying to discern the mind of God. Yet the fact we are still declining suggests that we have fallen short of that aim. For too long we have assumed that people will find us, become Christians by osmosis without us saying anything and then take up a role within the church. Jesus consistently told us to go to people and tell them and teach them. We may have got it wrong but as this passage tells us it is never too late with God. If we repent of our error and reform our ways God will forgive us and bless us. What are we waiting for? God loves us,

Prayer       

Please pray for

  • The ever increasing number of people being made redundant and firms going into administration.
  • Increased infection rates in the USA threatening the ability of medical services to cope
  • The people of Hong Kong
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Come, let us sing of a wonderful love,
tender and true;
out of the heart of the Father above,
streaming to me and to you:
wonderful love
dwells in the heart of the Father above.

2 Jesus, the Saviour, this gospel to tell,
joyfully came;
came with the helpless and hopeless to dwell,
sharing their sorrow and shame;
seeking the lost,
saving, redeeming at measureless cost.

3 Jesus is seeking the wanderers yet;
why do they roam?
Love only waits to forgive and forget;
home, weary wanderer, home!
Wonderful love
dwells in the heart of the Father above.

4 Come to my heart, O thou wonderful love,
come and abide,
lifting my life, till it rises above
envy and falsehood and pride;
seeking to be
lowly and humble, a learner of thee.

Robert Walmsley (1831-1905)

Robert Walmsley was born in  Manchester, and died at Sale, Cheshire. He was in business as a jeweller in Sale from 1870 to 1904. He was a member of the Congregational Church and closely involved in the work of the Manchester Sunday School Union, for which many of his hymns were written. In his view the existing hymns used in Sunday schools were often too pessimistic for young children, and he sought to strike a positive note and use ‘bright’ tunes popularised in the Union’s Festival Hymns and Tunes (1895).

Tuesday 30th June 2020

Bible: 1 John 4:1-6 New International Version (NIVUK)

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognise the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Reflection

Written towards the end of the first century AD this letter combats a number of false ideas about Jesus. In this passage the writer confronts the heresy that Jesus was not fully human. It begins with a warning to its readers not to believe everything that they hear. A message that is just as relevant in the 21st century as it was in the 1st century. There will always be people within the church claiming to be speaking God’s word but it is simply their views put into the mouth of God. As a result they have done, and will do, immense damage to the church. Whenever anyone claims that God has said or God wants us to do something we must test out in prayer and by comparison with Scripture. If it is not consistent with Scripture it is not from God. The writer warns us that people will not listen to the word of God and that is still true today. Look at verses 5 & 6 and look at the church today. Are we in danger of listening to the world more than we listen to God?

Prayer       

Please pray for

  • The people of Leicester experiencing a spike in covid-19 infections and a tightening of lockdown.
  • That people in other places will see what is happening in Leicester and think more carefully about their own social interaction
  • Our local hospitals, hospices and medical practices
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Eternal God, your love’s tremendous glory
cascades through life in overflowing grace,
to tell creation’s meaning in the story
of love evolving love from time and space.

2 Eternal Son of God, uniquely precious,
in you, deserted, scorned and crucified,
God’s love has fathomed sin and death’s deep darkness,
and flawed humanity is glorified.

3 Eternal Spirit, with us like a mother,
embracing us in love serene and pure:
you nurture strength to follow Christ our brother,
as full-grown children, confident and sure.

4 Love’s trinity, self-perfect, self-sustaining;
love which commands, enables and obeys:
you give yourself, in boundless joy, creating
one vast increasing harmony of praise.

5 We ask you now, complete your image in us;
this love of yours, our source and guide and goal.
May love in us, seek love and serve love’s purpose,
till we ascend with Christ and find love whole.

Alan Gaunt

Monday 29th June 2020

Bible: Psalm 47 New International Version (NIVUK)

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth.
He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet. He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved. God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.
The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted.

Reflection

Sometimes it does us good not to come to God with prayers and requests but to simply spend time reflecting on God, on his awesomeness and on his omnipotence. Nothing, no-one in this universe is greater than God. If we limit him in any way he is not God. I remember the young preacher who apologised after the service by saying, ‘I’m sorry, I stepped in at the last minute so I had to rely on the Holy Spirit, I’ll do better next week.’ We can’t do better than God. He is the creator. He is the sustainer. Everything is under his control. Look at the phrases here and reflect on them. God is ‘awesome’, ‘King over all’, ‘greatly exalted’, ‘seated on his holy throne’. God ‘subdued’, ‘chose’, ‘ascended’, ‘reigns’. How does that make you feel? We listen to the news and it gets evermore depressing, we focus on decline in the church and it gets evermore depressing. We hear the negative, we see the negative and we are cast down, lost, fearful and worried. Look up, see God, focus on him, worship him and equilibrium will be restored, a smile even return to your face. Join with the Psalmist in singing God’s praises. ‘Clap your hands’, ‘cries of joy’, ‘sing praises’, you will feel better

Prayer       

Please pray for

  • People organising lockdown breaking events such as that in Birmingham yesterday
  • Church denominational and diocesan staff working on guidelines for the safe reopening of church buildings
  • Local care homes beginning to welcome visitors again
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

My Jesus, my Saviour,
Lord there is none like you.
All of my days I want to praise
the wonders of your mighty love.
My comfort, my shelter,
tower of refuge and strength,
let every breath, all that I am,
never cease to worship you.

Shout to the Lord all the earth, let us sing,
power and majesty, praise to the King.
Mountains bow down
and the seas will roar
at the sound of your name.
I sing for joy at the work of your hands.
Forever I’ll love you, forever I’ll stand.
Nothing compares to the
promise I have in you.

Darlene Zschech (b. 1965)

Darlene Joyce Zschech is an Australian Christian worship leader and singer-songwriter who primarily writes praise and worship songs.  Described as a “pioneer of the modern worship movement] she is a former worship pastor of Hillsong Church and is currently a member of Compassionart, a charity founded by Martin Smith

Sunday 28th June 2020

Bible: Matthew 10:40-42 New International Version (NIVUK)

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and illness….These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ., Go …. to the lost sheep of Israel.

40 ‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.’

Reflection

I’ve included an abridged version of the opening verses of this chapter in order to give the context. Jesus is sending his twelve closest followers out on a mission specifically to the Jewish people, not to the Gentiles. This is essentially a mission to the faithful yet Jesus calls them lost. Why? Well the message to those who know God is fundamentally different to the message to those who do not know God. That was true then and it is still true today. In England 4.7% of the population attend church and 11% of Christians attend church at least once a week. Faith is becoming nominal. We need to re-awaken the fire of faith in Christians whose church going has become nominal. We must not make them feel guilty rather we must show them the benefits of a more regular engagement with the Christian community and the opportunity to see signs of God at work amongst his people. Think of the difference it would make if the 11% of Christians in Rubery & Redditch who attend church weekly became 22% or 33% or 44% or even more. The church would flourish and the building of God’s kingdom on earth advanced

Prayer       

Please pray for

  • Businesses, cultural facilities and heritage attractions preparing to reopen in a safe and secure way
  • Communities being damaged and put at risk by illegal camping, partying and gathering
  • Our ecumenical neighbours and partners
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Here on the threshold of a new beginning,
by grace forgiven, now we leave behind
our long-repented selfishness and sinning,
and all our blessings call again to mind:
Christ to redeem us, ransom and restore us,
the love that holds us in a Saviour’s care,
faith strong to welcome all that lies before us,
our unknown future, knowing God is there.

2 May we, your children, feel with Christ’s compassion
an earth disordered, hungry and in pain;
then, at your calling, find the will to fashion
new ways where freedom, truth and justice reign;
where wars are ended, ancient wrongs are righted,
and nations value human life and worth;
where in the darkness lamps of hope are lighted
and Christ is honoured over all the earth.

3 So may your wisdom shine from Scripture’s pages
to mould and make us stones with which to build
God’s holy temple, through eternal ages,
one Church united, strong and Spirit-filled;
heirs to the fullness of your new creation
in faith we follow, pledged to be your own;
yours is the future, ours the celebration,
for Christ is risen! God is on the throne!

Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926)

Saturday 27th June 2020

Bible: Psalm 13 New International Version (NIVUK)

How long, Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

Reflection

Charles Spurgeon the great Baptist pastor and theologian said that this psalm gives voice to feelings that arise in any of the many trials that a person undergoes in life. He refers to it as the ‘Howling Psalm’, (see vv 1&2). Who of us hasn’t howled at God at some point in our life? In vv 1/2  David complains to God. In vv 3/4 he prays to God and in vv 5/6 he describes his salvation. For David prayer is the turning point between mourning and rejoicing and the same is true for us. Like David there are times we have to howl at God before we can even articulate a prayer. But like David the howling has to gradually turn into prayer. As we pray God responds, it may take us a while to realise it but he will. As God responds we realise that the howling has stopped and our whole being is enveloped by God. Then we begin to sing God’s praises and the realisation of our salvation by God comes to fruition. We have to go through all three phases, howling, prayer, knowledge of salvation. We can’t skip one or stay marooned in one for ever. All are part of being human, part of our relationship with God.

Prayer                                                                                

Please pray for

  • United Reformed Church West Midlands Synod and Birmingham Methodist District Officers and Staff
  • Ordinands who have completed their courses but whose ordination is postponed because of covid-19 restrictions
  • Methodist Conference meeting online at the moment
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 My troubled soul, why so weighed down?
You were not made to bear this heavy load.
Cast all your burdens upon the Lord;
Jesus cares, he cares for you.

Jesus cares, he cares for you.
And all your worrying
won’t help you make it through.
Cast all your burdens upon the Lord.
And trust again in the promise of his love.

I will praise the mighty name of Jesus,
praise the Lord, the lifter of my head.
Praise the Rock of my salvation,
all my days are in his faithful hands.

2 My anxious heart, why so upset?
When trials come, how you so easily forget
to cast your burdens upon the Lord;
Jesus cares, he cares for you.

Jesus cares …

I will praise …

Robert Critchley (b. 1959)

Robert Critchley is an associate minister of Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship where he continues to lead worship at conferences and renewal meetings. Rob and his wife Dawn were senior worship pastors on full-time staff in Toronto from 1996-2002

Friday 26th June 2020

Bible: Luke 17:1-7,10 New International Version (NIVUK)

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied round their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves. ‘If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying “I repent,” you must forgive them.’ The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey you. ‘Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep. ……. 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”’

Reflection

I do struggle with the words of Jesus. The more I study them the harder I find them. True, we sometimes turn to the Bible and find comfort in the words of Jesus but if we study the words of Jesus we find so much that makes difficult reading, creates problems in understanding and as for implementing them the least said the better! It is not easy being a Christian because Jesus is not an easy act to follow. Yet try we must. Perhaps the biggest problem is that when we say yes to God then cannot be any caveats. We cannot say I will follow you but… If we truly follow God he will sort the buts out without us creating obstacles out of them. Here Jesus words are harsh. If we lead one person astray we might as well but the millstone around our neck and jump off the bridge. Ouch! We must never stop forgiving. Help! We must not expect thanks for doing our Christian duty. Oops! How do I measure up? What can I do about it?

Prayer                                                                                

Please pray for

  • Churches waiting for further guidance from the government on the practicalities of re-opening places of worship
  • Irresponsible people ignoring social distancing and putting us all at risk as well as leaving vast amounts of rubbish for others to clear up
  • Police officers faced with an impossible task enforcing lockdown
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Safe in the shadow of the Lord
beneath his hand and power,
I trust in him,
I trust in him,
my fortress and my tower.

2 My hope is set on God alone
though Satan spreads his snare;
I trust in him,
I trust in him,
to keep me in his care.

3 From fears and phantoms of the night,
from foes about my way,
I trust in him,
I trust in him,
by darkness as by day.

4 His holy angels keep my feet
secure from every stone;
I trust in him,
I trust in him,
and unafraid go on.

5 Strong in the everlasting name,
and in my Father’s care,
I trust in him,
I trust in him,
who hears and answers prayer.

6 Safe in the shadow of the Lord,
possessed by love divine,
I trust in him,
I trust in him,
and meet his love with mine.

Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926)

Dudley-Smith was born Manchester and educated at Tonbridge School before studying maths and then theology at Cambridge After graduating in 1947, Dudley-Smith began his ordination training at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. After ordination, Dudley-Smith served as Head of the Cambridge University Mission in Bermondsey. In 1955, he was appointed Editorial Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance and editor of the new Crusade magazine, created after Billy Graham’s 1954 London mission. Dudley-Smith also began serving with the Church Pastoral Aid Society serving as Assistant Secretary from 1959, then as Secretary until 1973. He served as Archdeacon of Norwich from 1973 to 1981 and as Bishop of Thetford from 1981 to 1991. He also served as President of the Evangelical Alliance from 1987 until 1992.

Thursday 25th June 2020

Bible: Micah 7:11-20 New International Version (NIVUK)

11 The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries. 12 In that day people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain……..14 Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance which lives by itself in a forest, in fertile pasture-lands. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in days long ago. 15 ‘As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show them my wonders.’….18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry for ever but delight to show mercy. 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. 20 You will be faithful to Jacob, and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.

Reflection

God is good. God is amazing. I had just selected this passage from today’s lectionary readings when I heard that the Methodist Conference meeting this weekend is discussing a paper entitled ‘The Connexional Strategy for Evangelism and Growth’. If adopted it will change the ethos of the church and the principles for funding grant applications. Exciting times. No more planning for decline, like Micah prophesied we will be extending our boundaries. So why on earth are treating this as something new? It goes right back to Jesus and beyond to time immemorial. God said I am the one and only true God, you need nothing else, worship me and tell the world of me. Are we going to see God’s wonders again? Are we going to see church growth? The answer does not depend on Methodist Conference or URC Synod it depends on every Christian fulfilling their God given responsibility to tell the world about our heavenly Father and our Saviour.

Prayer                                                                                

Please pray for

  • CfR touch of Hope work in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia that has just received a much needed grant
  • Together, the new group taking over and expanding CfR’s work with Romanians and Hungarians
  • Discussions about creating travel bridges to and from the UK
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Thou hidden source of calm repose,
thou all-sufficient love divine,
my help and refuge from my foes,
secure I am, if thou art mine:
and lo, from sin, and grief, and shame,
I hide me, Jesus, in thy name.

2 Thy mighty name salvation is,
and keeps my happy soul above;
comfort it brings, and power, and peace,
and joy, and everlasting love:
to me, with thy dear name, are given
pardon, and holiness, and heaven.

3 Jesus, my all in all thou art:
my rest in toil, my ease in pain,
the medicine of my broken heart,
in war my peace, in loss my gain,
my smile beneath the tyrant’s frown,
in shame my glory and my crown;

4 In want my plentiful supply,
in weakness my almighty power,
in bonds my perfect liberty,
my light in Satan’s darkest hour,
in grief my joy unspeakable,
my life in death, my heaven in hell.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Wednesday 24th June 2020

Bible: Matthew 10:7,16-20,22 New International Version (NIVUK)

As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Heal those who are ill, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give……16 ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you…… 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Reflection

This is Jesus sending his twelve disciples out on a mission. His words are tough because mission is tough. It was then and it is now. In Britain we encounter far more apathy than opposition. Some people view the church, and us, as quaint. Others want the church there for when they need it but see it as irrelevant to their everyday life. Where have we gone wrong? The message of Christ is good news (verse 7) and its practice sees good things happen (verse 8). We are not on our own (verse 20). So why does Jesus major on the opposition? Why do people react so strongly against the good news? It’s the age-old problem, we want to be in charge of our own destiny not obedient to a higher authority that would restrict our freedom to do exactly as we like. It’s self versus God. Proclaiming the good news of the gospel also brings us into opposition from government and even religious leaders because we are perceived to be questioning their ways. We live by God’s ‘rules’ not theirs. Who would be a Christian?

Prayer                                                                                

Please pray for

  • Businesses that will not be allowed to re-open on 4th July, particularly conference centres which will have an impact on the church
  • The need to be consistently covid-19 aware as the situation in the UK feels more and more like normal
  • Hotels, B&B’s and Guest Houses preparing to welcome guests again
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 God’s spirit is in my heart;
he has called me and set me apart.
This is what I have to do,
what I have to do:
He sent me to give the good news to the poor,
tell prisoners that they are prisoners no more,
tell blind people that they can see,
and set the down-trodden free,
and go tell everyone
the news that the kingdom of God has come;
and go tell everyone
the news that God’s kingdom has come.

2 Just as the Father sent me,
so I’m sending you out to be
my witness throughout the world —
the whole of the world:
refrain

3 Don’t carry a load in your pack;
you don’t need two shirts on your back;
God’s workers can earn their own keep —
can earn their own keep:
refrain

4 Don’t worry what you have to say;
don’t worry, because on that day
God’s spirit will speak in your heart —
will speak in your heart:
refrain

v. 1 and refrain Alan T. Dale (1902-1979)
vv. 2-4 Hubert Richards (b. 1921)

Hubert Richards was born in Weilerstadt Germany. He came to England as a young man and trained for the Catholic priesthood being ordained in 1946. Most of his working life was in Theological Education and in retirement he continued to lecture, write and review.

Tuesday 23rd June 2020

Bible: Jeremiah 26:1-6 New International Version (NIVUK)

Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the Lord: ‘This is what the Lord says: Stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their evil ways. Then I will relent and not inflict on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. Say to them, “This is what the Lord says: if you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city a curse among all the nations of the earth.”’

Reflection

Who would want to be a prophet? They get the tasks no-one else wants. They have to tell people of the consequences of not doing what God says. They are disliked, ostracised, banned, imprisoned and even assaulted. Then when people finally listen and repent God forgives and the prophet looks foolish. Glance through the Old Testament and you’ll see what I mean. It’s the same in the New Testament and throughout history and still happens today. Perhaps we could test this out, We are taught that all Scripture is inspired by God so what is your reaction to this passage? Do you dismiss as ‘ancient’? Do you say ‘it’s not for me, I say my prayers, I worship God, I’m a good person’? Or do you examine yourself in the light of it and see if you need to change anything?

Prayer                                                                                

Please pray for

  • The hospitality and leisure grappling with the new guidelines and getting ready to open after 4 July
  • The response of governments, businesses and residents to localised outbreaks of covid-19 in this country and elsewhere
  • Business on the verge of bankruptcy seeking the way forward
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 God has spoken — by his prophets,
spoken his unchanging word;
each from age to age proclaiming
God, the one, the righteous Lord.
‘Mid the world’s despair and turmoil
one firm anchor holding fast:
God eternal reigns forever,
God the first, and God the last.

2 God has spoken — by Christ Jesus,
Christ, the everlasting Son,
brightness of the Father’s glory,
with the Father ever one;
spoken by the Word incarnate,
God from God, ere time was born;
Light from Light, to earth descending,
Christ, revealing God to all.

3 God is speaking — by the Spirit,
speaking to our hearts again,
in the age-long word expounding
God’s own message, now as then.
Through the rise and fall of nations
one sure faith is standing fast;
God still speaks, the Word unchanging,
God the first, and God the last.

George Wallace Briggs (1875-1959)

George Wallace Briggs was born in. Kirkby, Nottinghamshire, and died in Hindhead, Surrey. He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He took Holy Orders (deacon 1899, priest 1901). After two years at Alverthorpe, West Yorkshire , he became a Royal Navy chaplain (1902-09). He was vicar of St Andrew’s, Norwich (1909-18); rector of Loughborough (1918-34) (Canon of Leicester Cathedral, 1927-34); and Canon of Worcester Cathedral (1934-56). He was one of the founders of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

Monday 22nd June 2020

Bible: Revelation 2:1-7 New International Version (NIVUK)

‘To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favour: you hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Reflection

The book of Revelation was written around 65 years after the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The first generation of church leaders has gone, almost all martyred, and the next generation is in control. The church is still growing rapidly but is meeting increasing opposition. In this context the Ephesian’s are praised for their deeds, hard work, perseverance, endurance and standing against wickedness and false teaching. What an accolade from the Lord. Then comes the but, they have lost their first love. How easy it is for the enthusiasm for something new to fade and become normal, ordinary, routine and mundane rather than exciting, exhilarating and all consuming. Look around you, the most passionate and fervent Christians are often the newest Christians. The presence of new converts often re-awakens first love in others. The Ephesian’s are good people but to be effective Christians they need to rediscover their first love.

Prayer                                                                                

Please pray for

  • The families and friends of those killed or injured in the attack in Reading and fighting in Manchester
  • Children having surgery this week, their parents and siblings
  • Countries experiencing a second wave of covid-19
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Who would true valour see,
let him come hither;
one here will constant be,
come wind, come weather;
there’s no discouragement
shall make him once relent
his first avowed intent
to be a pilgrim.

2 Whoso beset him round
with dismal stories
do but themselves confound;
his strength the more is.
No lion can him fright;
he’ll with a giant fight;
but he will have a right
to be a pilgrim.

3 Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
can daunt his spirit;
he knows he at the end
shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away,
he’ll fear not what men say;
he’ll labour night and day
to be a pilgrim.

John Bunyan (1628-1688)

John Bunyan was an English writer and Puritan preacher best remembered as the author of the Christian allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan came from the village of Elstow, near Bedford and at the age of sixteen joined the Parliamentary Army during the English Civil War. After three years in the army he returned to Elstow and took up the trade of tinker from his father. He joined the Bedford Meeting, a nonconformist group in Bedford, and become a preacher. After the restoration of the monarch, when the freedom of nonconformists was curtailed, Bunyan was arrested and spent the next twelve years in jail as he refused to give up preaching. Bunyan’s later years, in spite of another shorter term of imprisonment, were spent in relative comfort as a popular author and preacher, and pastor of the Bedford Meeting.

Sunday 21st June 2020 – Father’s Day

Bible: Matthew 7:7-12 New International Version (NIVUK)

‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Reflection

Today in the UK is Father’s Day and it is like no other Father’s Day. We can’t go out for a meal at a favourite restaurant, ride on the local steam railway, go to the cricket match or do whatever else Dad would really enjoy. It has to be celebrated at home and, whilst realising that many will not see their Father today, there is something appropriate about being at home for that, at least as a child, is where we spend most time with Dad. It will still be a special day. Of course whilst many of us have happy experiences of Fathers others experience is different. The image of God as Father is an all-prevailing one in Christianity and very pertinent today. Jesus called him Dad and told us to do likewise. He also said that his Father is perfect. There are many stories of our perfect Father God in the Bible, one of those is here. In the words of Jesus, is here. Another is the wonderful story Jesus told of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. Our Father God is always waiting to open the door to us, put his arm around us and give us gifts. All we have to do is knock. Go on try it now. Your heavenly Father is waiting for you, he is always at home. The door will always be opened. He has all the time in eternity for you.

Prayer                                                                                

Please pray for

  • Fathers enjoying today, fathers who are aware they have not been the father they should be and children enjoy time with their father and children whose concept of father has been marred
  • Those considering plans to ease social distancing and lockdown
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

Father Me

1          O Father of the fatherless
in whom all families are bless,
I love the way You father me.
You gave me life, forgave the past;
now in Your arms I’m safe at last,
I love the way You father me.
Father me, for ever You’ll father me;
and in Your embrace I’ll be for ever secure.
I love the way You father me,
I love the way You father me.

2          When bruised and broken I draw near,
You hold me close and dry my tears,
I love the way You father me.
At last my fearful heart is still,
surrendered to Your perfect will,
I love the way You father me.
Chorus

3          If in my foolishness I stray,
returning empty and ashamed,
I love the way You father me.
Exchanging for my wretchedness
Your radiant robes of righteousness,
I love the way You father me.
Chorus

4          And when I look into Your eyes,
from deep within my spirit cries:
I love the way You father me.
Before such love I stand amazed,
and ever will through endless days,
I love the way You father me.
Chorus

Graham Kendrick (born 1950)

Saturday 20th June 2020

Bible: Psalm 86:1-10 New International Version (NIVUK)

Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you. You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. 10 For you are great and do marvellous deeds; you alone are God.

Reflection

We have David to thank for many Psalms and a recurring theme of his is comparing his position to that of God which inevitably leads him into praise of God. You know a hero of yours is coming to town so you go on to the street to see them pass by. You try to get a good vantage point, you look towards them. You look up at them hoping to see their face, hoping to see a smile, hoping they look your way. It reminds me of Zacchaeus and Jesus yet so often in worship we look down, into our hymnbooks or at our feet, our arms are crossed as if we are trying to hold ourselves in. Yes I know God isn’t physically there but looking up, smiling with arms outstretched or raised is a sign we want God to interact with us, it helps us get in right frame of mind. God is already in the right frame of mind but there is nothing he can do if like a sulking child we close in on ourselves and back away from Him. David is in trouble, he knows only God can help him so he turns to him in a mixture of praise, adoration and request bound together in faith, hope and confidence. How do we approach God?

Prayer                                                                                

Please pray for

  • Plans for re-opening the hospitality and leisure sector of our economy including businesses, charitable institutions and heritage attractions
  • People who see the current pandemic as an opportunity to make money out of others, legally and illegally, and play on people’s fears
  • the building industry struggling with a shortage of basic materials
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want;
he makes me lie in pastures green,
he leads me by the still, still waters,
his goodness restores my soul.
And I will trust in you alone,
and I will trust in you alone,
for your endless mercy follows me,
your goodness will lead me home.

2 He guides my ways in righteousness,
and he anoints my head with oil;
and my cup — it overflows with joy,
I feast on his pure delights.
refrain

3 And though I walk the darkest path —
I will not fear the evil one,
for you are with me, and your rod and staff
are the comfort I need to know.
refrain

Stuart Townend (b. 1963)

Friday 19th June 2020

Bible: Genesis 35:1-7 New International Version (NIVUK)

Then God said to Jacob, ‘Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.’ So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.’ So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. Then they set out, and ……… Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him.

Reflection

We all know the first commandment, ‘You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them;’ but this pre-dates that by a long way. It shows that the ten commandments were not new but a statement of what had always been. It is just the same with the words of Jesus. This is how God ordained the world to be. He is the one and only true God. No other gods are necessary because as creator and sustainer of the universe he is all that we need. Notice the sequence here. First we get rid of other gods, then we purify ourselves, only then do we worship the one true God. Take a moment to know yourself. Do you have other gods, horoscopes, possessions, lifestyle or whatever? If so discard them, physically or mentally. Ask God to cleanse you. Then worship the one true God who is all you need.

Prayer                                                                                

Please pray for

  • Shops happy to re-open but struggling with new regulations and procedures as well as reduced footfall
  • Plans to get all children back to school in September
  • Faith at Work in Worcestershire, Dick Johnson and all chaplains
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 O God of Bethel, by whose hand
thy people still are fed;
who through this earthly pilgrimage
hast all our forebears led.

2 Our vows, our prayers, we now present
before thy throne of grace:
God of our forebears, be the God
of their succeeding race.

3 Through each perplexing path of life
our wandering footsteps guide;
give us each day our daily bread,
and raiment fit provide.

4 O spread thy covering wings around,
till all our wanderings cease,
and at our Father’s loved abode
our souls arrive in peace.

5 To thee as to our Covenant-God
we’ll our whole selves resign;
and this not as a tithe alone,
for all we have is thine.

Philip Doddridge (1702-1751)
Philip Doddridge was an English non-conformist Minister, educator and hymnwriter born in London, the youngest of twenty children. Orphaned by the age of 12 he eventually trained for ministry at the Dissenting Academy at Kibworth and then became Minister of a chapel in Northampton and ran a Dissenting Academy. Never a well man he died in Portugal of tuberculosis.

Thursday 18th June 2020

Bible: Hebrews 2:1,2,5-9 New International Version (NIVUK)

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: ‘What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honour and put everything under their feet.’ In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

 Reflection

What a wonderful piece of Scripture written around 64AD to Jewish Christians who were under pressure to conform to Jewish rules and regulations because civil unrest was attracting the attention of Rome. Christians were being persecuted, riots had begun by 66AD and Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed in 70AD. Christians were being reminded that not everything that happens comes from God, that humankind is in charge but in a fallen world not everything is subject to God’s people. We live in those times today. The writer tells them to look at Jesus who suffered and died because he stood firm and therefore those believers who stand firm will both suffer and share Jesus’ glory and honour. This too is a message for us today. I remember hearing someone speaking about heaven say ‘when we get there we may well be surprised by who is there and by who isn’t there’. That’s something worth reflecting on!

Prayer                                                                                

Please pray for

  • On the day that sees President Macron visit the UK; the 80th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s famous speech on BBC radio: honorary MBE’s given to members of the French Resistance and the death of Dame Vera Lynn we give thanks for all who played their part, some paying the ultimate price, to free the world from tyranny and we pray for those working for freedom and world peace today.
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 We turn to you, O God of every nation,
giver of good and origin of life;
your love is at the heart of all creation,
your hurt is people’s pain in war and death.

2 We turn to you, that we may be forgiven
for crucifying Christ on earth again;
we know that we have never wholly striven
to share with all the promise of your reign.

3 Free every heart from haughty self-reliance,
our ways of thought inspire with simple grace;
break down among us barriers of defiance;
speak to the soul of all the human race.

4 On all who rise on earth for right relations
we pray the light of love from hour to hour.
Grant wisdom to the leaders of the nations,
the gift of carefulness to those in power.

5 Teach us, good Lord, to serve the need of others;
help us to give and not to count the cost.
Unite us all to live as sisters, brothers;
defeat our Babel with your Pentecost!

Fred Kaan (1929-2009)

Fred Kaan was a clergyman of Dutch origin and a prodigious hymnwriter. His experiences of wartime Netherlands had a lasting effect upon Kaan. His Christianity had been nominal; he had not entered a church until his late teens, He became a pacifist, attended church and subsequentl, he studied Utrecht University In 1952 he commenced studies at Western College, Bristol, and in 1955 he was ordained as a Congregational minister. Fred served at Windsor Road Barry, Pilgrim Church Plymouth, in  Geneva with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Moderator of the West Midlands province of the United Reformed Church and a local Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and URC team ministry in Swindon.

Wednesday 17th June 2020

Bible: Luke 6:12-19 New International Version (NIVUK)

12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. 17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

 Reflection

Close study of Biblical texts are very rewarding as they tell us so much about God, humankind and, in this case Jesus. Verse 12 tells us that Jesus spent many hours alone in prayer, particularly before making important decisions which in this case was to choose he would train up to take over when he returned to his Father. Might that be a guide to lockdown for us. Verse 13 tells us that there were two groups of disciples, the inner circle chosen to be spiritual leaders and an outer circle of likeminded people that he was discipling in his footsteps. Might this be akin to Elders and Members of a church? Verse 17 tells us that Jesus’ fame had spread widely and he drew a large crowd of followers who did not want to commit to discipleship. Is this the missing group today? if so, why? Verse 18 tells us Jesus touched everybody whatever group they were in. Does the church do that today?

Prayer                                                                                

Please pray for

  • Those working an vaccines and treatments for covid-19
  • The return of football in England today that it may not lead to the breakdown of social distancing or gatherings of fans
  • Plans and preparations for a return to regular surgery and treatment in the NHS
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult
of our life’s wild restless sea,
day by day his voice is sounding,
saying:’Christian, follow me.’

2 As of old apostles heard it
by the Galilean lake,
turned from home and toil and kindred,
leaving all for his dear sake.

3 Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store,
from each idol that would keep us,
saying:’Christian, love me more.’

4 In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
still he calls, in cares and pleasures:
‘Christian, love me more than these.’

5 Jesus calls us! By your mercies,
Saviour, may we hear your call,
give our hearts to your obedience,
serve and love you best of all.

Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895)
Cecil Frances Alexander was an Anglo-Irish hymnwrite and poet, Born and brought up in Dublin she married an Anglican clergyman who eventually became Archbishop of Armagh. She was tireless in charity work and in visiting ‘the sick and the poor’

Tuesday 16th June 2020

Bible: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5 New International Version (NIVUK)

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

3 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

 Reflection

Paul was probably in Corinth, 350 miles from Thessalonica, slightly shorter by sea, when he wrote this letter to a church he helped to create. It seems to be a church that grew quickly and was a cosmopolitan church in a thriving, bustling city where many other Gods were worshipped. Perhaps this is why Paul, as well as commending their faith, calls them to stand firm and hold fast to the teachings. It is interesting that Paul gives equal weight to word of mouth (sermons?) and to written teaching furthermore he describes it as being passed on. Two vital factors of our faith that we would do well to heed in 2020. Oral and written teachings are equally important and we are passing it on not making it up. If teaching cannot be traced back to the Bible it is heresy not the word of God and must be eliminated.

Prayer                                                                                

Please pray for

  • Parents carting for children who have extra needs without the benefit of outside help
  • People on furlough anxious about their long term job prospects
  • School and further education leavers seeking first employment
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 From the breaking of the dawn
to the setting of the sun,
I will stand on every promise of your word.
Words of power, strong to save,
that will never pass away;
I will stand on every promise of your word.
For your covenant is sure,
and on this I am secure:
I can stand on every promise of your word.

2 When I stumble and I sin,
condemnation pressing in,
I will stand on every promise of your word.
You are faithful to forgive,
that in freedom I might live,
so I stand on every promise of your word.
Guilt to innocence restored;
you remember sins no more.
So I’ll stand on every promise of your word.

3 When I’m faced with anguished choice
I will listen for your voice,
and I’ll stand on every promise of your word.
Through this dark and troubled land,
you will guide me with your hand
as I stand on every promise of your word.
And you’ve promised to complete
every work begun in me,
so I’ll stand on every promise of your word.

4 Hope that lifts me from despair;
love that casts out every fear
as I stand on every promise of your word.
Not forsaken, not alone,
for the Comforter has come,
and I stand on every promise of your word.
Grace sufficient, grace for me,
grace for all who will believe.
We will stand on every promise of your word.

Keith Getty (b. 1974) and Stuart Townend (b. 1963)

Monday 15th June 2020

Bible: Joshua1:1,5-11 New International Version (NIVUK)

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant:  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. ‘Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’ 10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11 ‘Go through the camp and tell the people, “Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.”’

 Reflection

The baton is handed on. Moses has led the people out of exile and on a journey of forty years through the wilderness to the very edge of the Promised Land. Only the River Jordan stands in their way and they are to cross in that the same way they crossed the Nile forty years earlier, miraculously on dry land! What an amazing God, not one but two miraculous river crossings without getting a foot wet! Joshua had been Moses’ assistant and had learnt at his side. Now it was his turn, instead of watching from the side he would put on the mantle and take centre stage. He was going to have the honour denied to Moses, the privilege of finally taking the people into the Promised Land. With privilege comes responsibility. God tells Joshua be strong and courageous and not just obey the Law but meditate on it so that he knows it inside out and obeying it becomes second nature and he does not deviate from it.

Prayer                                                                                

Please pray for

  • A further decline in the infection rate across the United Kingdom and in the death rate
  • Secondary school pupils returning to school
  • Protest to take place without putting the police at risk
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain.

2          There everlasting spring abides,
And never-withering flowers;
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
This heavenly land from ours.

3          Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand dressed in living green;
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between.

4          But timorous mortals start and shrink
To cross this narrow sea,
And linger, shivering on the brink,
And fear to launch away.

5          O could we make our doubts remove,
Those gloomy thoughts that rise,
And see the Canaan that we love
With unbeclouded eyes:

6          Could we but climb where Moses stood,
And view the landscape o’er,
Not Jordan’s stream, nor death’s cold flood,
Should fright us from the shore!

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Isaac Watts was an English Christian minister (Congregational), hymn writer, theologian, and logician. He is recognized as the “Godfather of English Hymnody”. Born and brought up in Southampton he spent most of his adult life in Stoke Newington, then a village but now part of inner London.

Sunday 14th June 2020

Bible: Exodus 19:1-8 New International Version (NIVUK) slightly abridged

On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt they came to the Desert of Sinai and Israel camped there in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.’ 7Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said.’

 Reflection

The words every church leader should want to hear, the words God loves to hear, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said’. The Church is a theocracy, we seeking the will of God then implementing it. At the start of his ministry Jesus tells us that not one jot of the Law will disappear and at the end of his ministry commands us to tell people to obey every thing he has said. It could not be clearer. There is no ambiguity, no wriggle room. The way that God designed and created the world is perfect, it is humankind that has brought imperfection to the world. Look at covid-19, it is thought that it crossed from animals to humans. That’s not God’s fault it is ours. If animal welfare, food hygiene, sanitation and living conditions were better it would not have happened or spread so quickly. We would do well to listen to God and do everything he has said, notice he says ‘if you obey me fully’, not partially, totally; not amended but fully.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Those who are fearful over a return to ‘normality’ with covid-19 still present in the community
  • Retail premises preparing to re-open tomorrow
  • Those whose hearts are still aching with the trauma and the loss of loved ones on this third anniversary of Grenfell
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Transfigured Christ, none comprehends
your majesty, whose splendour stuns
all waking souls;whose light transcends
the brightness of a thousand suns!

2 You stand with Moses on the hill,
you speak of your new exodus:
the way through death, you will fulfil
by dying helpless on the cross.

3 You stand here with Elijah too,
by whom the still small voice was heard:
and you, yourself, will prove God true,
made mute in death, Incarnate Word.

4 If we could bear your brightness here
and stay for ever in your light,
then we would conquer grief and fear,
and scorn the terrors of the night.

5 But, from the heights, you bring us down,
to share earth’s agonies with you,
where piercing thorns are made your crown
and death, accepted, proves love true.

6 Majestic Christ, God’s well-loved Son,
if we must share your grief and loss,
transfigure us, when all is done,
with glory shining from your cross.

Alan Gaunt is a URC Minister and hymn writer who was born in Manchester where his father was minister at the Moss Side Congregational Church. He was ordained at Clitheroe in 1958 and has also served Congregational and United Reformed Churches in Barrow, Keighley, Sunderland, Heswall, Manchester and  Windermere until his retirement in 2000. He continues to write Hymns.

Saturday 13th June 2020

Bible: Mark 7:1,8-13 New International Version (NIVUK)

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus………….. Jesus continued You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.’ 9‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, “Honour your father and mother,” and, “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) – 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.’

 Reflection

Harsh words of Jesus aimed at religious leaders, those who ought to know better, those who have no excuse for getting it wrong. This is strong stuff and it’s coming from Jesus so we ought to listen. After all we have promised to follow him and have tried to walk in his footsteps. Jesus not only accuses them of nullifying the word of God but of doing many things like that. I remember sitting in a General Assembly of the URC some years ago when a speaker said that we should call a day of repentance. A subsequent speaker said that we can’t tell people to repent. That second speaker had lost the plot. We can’t make people repent , but the whole gospel is a call to repentance. It is our God given commission to proclaim God’s word and call people to follow it, or to use traditional language, seek to convert them from the world’s way to God’s way and that involves repentance. Would Jesus have any reason to accuse us of nullifying the word of God?

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Those struggling with lockdown, self-isolation or shielding
  • Museums and Heritage attractions preparing for the day the government allows their re-opening
  • Farmers and market gardeners seeking help to harvest their crops in order that we may have fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

As for me and my house,
we will serve the Lord.  O yeah!
As for me and my house,
we will serve the Lord.
We have counted the cost,
we have made a choice,
we will follow our God and obey his voice;
from this day and for the rest of our lives,
we will serve the Lord.
We will not bow to another god,
we will have no other gods but you;
we will not serve two masters,
we surrender our lives to you,
we surrender our lives to you.

Don Harris (born 1959), Tom Brooks and Martin Nystrom (born 1956)

Friday 12th June 2020

Bible: Acts 7:38-43 New International Version (NIVUK)

38 ‘This is the same Moses who was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us. 39 ‘But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, “Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt – we don’t know what has happened to him!” 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and revelled in what their own hands had made. 42 But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: ‘“Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings for forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel? 43 You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile” beyond Babylon.

Reflection

How do we deal with a text like this? It is part of Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin that led to him becomoming the first Christian martyr. He makes it very clear that there is a consequence to disobeying God. We can’t dismiss it as ‘Old Testament theology’, Jesus says much the same thing. Alan Guant, URC Minister and hymn writer in his great hymn ‘Wee pray for peace’ says ‘God, give us peace; if you withdraw your love there is no peace for us, nor any hope of it.’ There is always a consequence to not doing right. Break the law and we are punished. Ignore the doctor and we suffer. Disregard the safety notice…..need I go on. There is always a consequence to doing wrong so why should we struggle with the idea of consequences resulting from disobeying God? Is the Church in exile now? Do we worship other gods? Look around and draw your own conclusions.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Retail premises, including charity shops, preparing to re-open
  • Churches across the country preparing their buildings so that they will be covid-secure when they re-open
  • For those treating covid-19 patients and those working to produce vaccines as confirmed cases reach 7.27 million with 413k deaths
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          Lord of the brave in every age;
who, fearing neither sword nor flame,
withstood the cruel tyrant’s rage;
Jehovah! we adore your Name.
‘No other gods we serve,
no other lordship own;
from your commands we will not swerve,
but worship you alone.’

2          Proudly the Babylonian king
before his image bids men fall;
but three will no submission bring;
upon your Name alone they call.
‘No other gods we serve,
no other lordship own;
from your commands we will not swerve,
but worship you alone.’

3          Brief is the tyrant’s evil hour;
no furnace flame nor lion’s den
can overcome your Spirit’s power,
or break the will of faithful men.
‘No other gods we serve,
no other lordship own;
from your commands we will not swerve,
but worship you alone.’

4          Give us the eyes of faith to see
like Daniel, your eternal plan
fulfilled, when all authority
is given to the Son of Man.
‘No other gods we serve,
no other lordship own;
from your commands we will not swerve,
but worship you alone.’

5          Ancient of days, enthroned above
the fallen images of pride;
your everlasting reign of love
shall, over all, through Christ, abide.
‘No other gods we serve,
no other lordship own;
from your commands we will not swerve,
but worship you alone.’

Albert F. Bayly (1901-1984)
Albert began and ended his life in Sussex. He initially trained as a shipwright but later trained for ministry in the Congregational Church at Mansfield College Oxford. By this time he had moved decisively to a Christian pacifist position following disillusion with the 1914–18 war. He served at Whitley Bay, Morpeth, Burnley, Swanland, Humberside, Eccleston, Lancs; and Thaxted, before retiring to Chelmsford.

Thursday 11th June 2020

Bible: Psalm 116:12-19 New International Version (NIVUK)

12 What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.
14 I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.
16 Truly I am your servant, Lord;
I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord – in your midst, Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord

Reflection

The psalmist poses a truly problematic question. What do you give the one who not only has everything he needs but also created everything that there is? A real conundrum here. God wants for nothing, he needs nothing, he lacks nothing. We do not know who wrote Psalm 116 but we do know that whoever it was God had saved from death. Whether it was illness, injury or threats from others is unknown. Clearly the Psalmist has promised God that if God saves him he will do something for God, quite what we do not know. He says that he will declare publicly what God has done for him. He says that he will publicly keep his promises to God. He says he will serve God like his mother did. Interesting that in a patriarchal society he mentions his mother and not his father. He then says that he will publicly make a thank-offering to God. We can learn a lot from this Psalmist. God enjoys what we do for him and he enjoys us making a public stand of our faith. Our faith is not private it is public.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Hotels preparing for their eventual re-opening
  • The confusion and misunderstanding being caused by the new rules allowing ‘coronavirus support bubbles’
  • People who have been furloughed but are now going to lose their job permanently
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 King of Glory, King of Peace,
I will love thee;
and that love may never cease
I will move thee.
Thou hast granted my request,
thou hast heard me;
thou didst note my working breast,
thou hast spared me.

2 Wherefore with my utmost art
I will sing thee,
and the cream of all my heart
I will bring thee.
Though my sins against me cried,
thou didst clear me;
and alone, when they replied,
thou didst hear me.

3 Seven whole days, not one in seven,
I will praise thee;
in my heart, though not in heaven,
I can raise thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort
to enrol thee:
e’en eternity’s too short
to extol thee.

George Herbert (1593-1633)

George Herbert was a Welsh-born poet, orator, and priest of the Church of England. He was admitted to Trinity College Cambridge in 1609 with the intention of becoming a priest, but he became the University’s Public Orator. Herbert renewed his interest in ordination. in his mid-thirties and took holy orders in the Church of England, spending the rest of his life as the rector of the little parish of St Andrew’s Church, Lower Bemerton, Salisbury. He was noted for unfailing care for his parishioners, bringing the sacraments to them when they were ill and providing food and clothing for those in need. He died of consumption at age 39.

Wednesday 10th June 2020

Bible: John 14 23-27 New International Version (NIVUK)

23 Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 ‘All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Reflection

It is amazing how often a passage that links love for God, or Jesus, with obedience has come up during my course of daily devotions in this pandemic. It can’t just be co-incidence. What is God trying to tell me and, through me, the church. If a passage of Scripture is brought to our attention we have to ask why. I suppose we could try and ignore but like a splinter in my finger it won’t go away. I will have to stop and deal with it sometime otherwise it hurts every time I use my finger and it might go septic. Of course Scripture doesn’t  hurt me or make me go septic but if I ignore Scripture that God puts my way I become at dis-ease with God because I am ignoring him. My relationship with him withers rather than grows. This is true for an individual and for the church. The corollary of our loving Jesus is that we obey him. These two things are inseparable. Jesus knows it is going to be hard to remember everything he said let alone do it so he arranges the ultimate help. He asks God the Father to send the Holy Spirit to teach us everything and to remind us of all that Jesus said. Every situation, every dilemma, every question just ask and the Holy Spirit will tell us what Jesus would has said on the subject.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Zoos and Safari Parks preparing to re-open next week
  • Rising child malnutrition in India to due to the pandemic lockdown
  • Preparations going on to make our church buildings covid-19 secure prior to re-opening
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Dear Lord and Father of mankind
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind;
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.

2 In simple trust like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word
rise up and follow thee.

3 O sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity,
interpreted by love!

4 With that deep hush subduing all
our words and works that drown
the tender whisper of thy call,
as noiseless let thy blessing fall
as fell thy manna down.

5 Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.

6 Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still small voice of calm!

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

John Greenleaf Whittier was an American Quaker poet  from Amesbury, Massachusetts.  He became a newspaper editor and by the early 1830’s he was a prominent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States

Tuesday 9th June 2020

Bible: 1 Corinthians 12:1-6, 11-13 New International Version (NIVUK)

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to dumb idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work…….11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 And so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Reflection

God doesn’t just call us and give us a task. He equips us for that task. That is true both individually and as a church. The gifts are not all given to one person, they are spread out through the church. Even at a local church level they may not have all the gifts but only those necessary for their God given task. The fruit of the Spirit is to grow in every Christian but gifts of the Spirit are given individually to be used for particular purposes. Have a look at the list of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. What gift(s) has God given you? How are they used? What gifts can you see in your church? Are they being used effectively? Which gifts are missing? Do you need them to do your God given task? If so ask for them!

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Racial justice and equality in all nations
  • Governments trying to hide the impact of covid-19 from their own people and the wider world
  • Increasing tension between North Korea and South Korea and the on-going situation in Palestine/Israel
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Give me the faith which can remove
and sink the mountain to a plain;
give me the childlike praying love,
which longs to build thy house again;
thy love, let it my heart o’erpower,
and all my simple soul devour.

2 I would the precious time redeem,
and longer live for this alone:
to spend, and to be spent, for them
who have not yet my Saviour known;
fully on these my mission prove,
and only breathe, to breathe thy love.

3 My talents, gifts, and graces, Lord,
into thy blessed hands receive;
and let me live to preach thy word,
and let me to thy glory live;
my every sacred moment spend
in publishing the sinners’ friend.

4 Enlarge, inflame, and fill my heart
with boundless charity divine:
so shall I all my strength exert,
and love them with a zeal like thine;
and lead them to thy open side,
the sheep for whom their Shepherd died.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Charles Wesley was born in Epworth, Lincolnshire, the son of Anglican cleric and poet Samuel Wesley and his wife Susanna. He was a younger brother of Methodist founder John Wesley and Anglican cleric Samuel Wesley the Younger, and he became the father of musician Samuel Wesley and grandfather of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley. Educated at Oxford he formed the “Holy Club” among his fellow students in 1729 he was ordained into the Anglican church in 1735.

Monday 8th June 2020

Bible: Psalm 29 New International Version (NIVUK)

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name; worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness. The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ 10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King for ever. 11 The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

Reflection

I had a fabulous day yesterday and enjoyed some stunning scenery, particularly between Ripon, Pateley Bridge & Grassington, Keighley & Halifax, Holmfirth, Saddleworth Moor & Uppermill and Hayfield, Buxton, Blackshaw Moor & Leek. God’s handiwork was magnificent and I was moved to praise him. I even saw a rainbow! The psalmist captures the same image of God, but in an even more powerful way. Look at the words used about God; splendour, thunders, powerful, majestic, enthroned, blesses. Look at words used to describe the effects of God; breaks, leap, flashes of lightening, shakes, twists, strips, strength, peace. What an image of God for us to reflect on. All that power, yet giving us strength and peace, just what we need for living life today.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Plans for the re-opening of places of worship for individual prayer
  • The beauty of God’s creation, particularly England’s green and pleasant land in all its stunning variety
  • Offices re-opening this week, including the URC West Midlands Synod Office
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,
bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him:the Lord is his name.

2 Low at his feet lay your burden of carefulness,
high on his heart he will bear it for you,
comfort your sorrows, and answer your prayerfulness,
showing the pathway your feet should pursue.

3 Fear not to enter his courts in the slenderness
of the poor wealth you would count as your own;
truth in its beauty, and love in its tenderness,
these are the offerings to bring to his throne.

4 These, though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness,
he will accept for the name that is dear;
mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,
trust for our trembling, and hope for our fear.

5 O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,
bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him: the Lord is his name.

John Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811-1875)

The Rev. John Samuel Bewley Monsell was an Anglican clergyman and poet born in Londonderry ard trained at Trinity College Dublin. He was responsible for the building or rebuilding of three of his churches: Ramoan, at Ballycastle, County Antrim, St Jude, Englefield Green, and St. Nicolas’ Church, Guildford.  While inspecting the rebuilding of the latter, Monsell fell from a boulder, and subsequently died from an infected wound. He was Chaplain to Queen Victoria from 1870 until his death

Sunday 7th June 2020

Bible: Matthew 28:16-20 New International Version (NIVUK)

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’

Reflection

In many ways this follows on from yesterday. Again it as at a crucial time in Jesus’ earthly ministry. This time it is the last words of Jesus to his followers immediately before his Ascension. We often stress the last words of someone, particularly when, like Jesus, they have had time to think about them. Forty days after his resurrection, the last time he will see them on earth, he commissions them to the task before them. But he does it in a way that is perpetual in that if the disciples do it faithfully, then all the new disciples do it faithfully it goes on until the end of time. This is how the Church grows and it is how the Church dies. Do it faithfully and the Church grows, ignore it or do it partially and the Church dies. It is threefold, it is simple, it is God-given, it is for all Christians, it is not optional. The task is to make disciples, not followers, not likers but people like us, disciples. There is a missionary imperative in ‘all nations’. Then we have to baptise new converts and this is Trinitarian, ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ believers baptism. Finally we have to teach the baptised new converts to obey everything Jesus commanded, this is true discipleship, it is not good enough to tell people Jesus loves them we also have to teach obedience to Jesus.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Students concerned about their courses and future employment
  • Ordinands finishing their training this summer
  • Those corrupted by power and use it for personal gain and not for the good of humanity
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Great is the darkness that covers the earth,
oppression, injustice and pain.
Nations are slipping in hopeless despair,
though many have come in your name.
Watching while sanity dies,
touched by the madness and lies.
Come, Lord Jesus, come, Lord Jesus,
pour out your Spirit we pray,
come, Lord Jesus, come, Lord Jesus,
pour out your Spirit on us today.

2 May now your Church rise with power and love,
this glorious gospel proclaim.
In every nation salvation will come
to those who believe in your name.
Help us bring light to this world
that we might speed your return.
refrain

3 Great celebrations on that final day
when out of the heavens you come.
Darkness will vanish, all sorrow will end,
and rulers will bow at your throne.
Our great commission complete,
then face to face we shall meet.
refrain

Gerald Coates (b. 1944) and Noel Richards (b. 1955)

Gerald Coates is the founder of Pioneer, a network of churches and forums, established to “develop new churches across the UK and engage in mission globally.” He is an author, speaker and a broadcaster. He founded and ran a series of training courses called Insight, which is, in charismatic idiom, a “school of prophecy.”
Noel Richards is a Welsh singer-songwriter, worship leader, and recording artist

Saturday 6th June 2020

Bible: John 14:15-21 New International Version (NIVUK)

15 ‘If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me any more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’

Reflection

This passage is one of those wonderful pieces of Scripture that is, at the same time, so comforting and so challenging. It explains the importance of faith in Jesus as the way to the Father and why only Christians can see God’s Spirit at work in the world. Remember the context. It’s the night of the Last Supper and Gethsemane, a little over twelve hours before his crucifixion so you would think that Jesus would be focussed on the most important things. He was! The relationship between his followers and himself. Nothing was more important to him because it was they who would left to carry on the work. Jesus couldn’t be clearer, twice he links love to obedience. This gives us a problem, we’re not good on obedience, particularly when Jesus says something we don’t like. But Jesus is crystal clear, if we love him we obey him. That’s why the church is a theocracy not a democracy. We seek the mind of Christ and then we put it into practice, however difficult or painful it is.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Wisdom in easing lockdown as damage is caused by easing too quickly and by continuing lockdown
  • Plans being made for the reopening of places of worship and community facilities
  • Racism at every level of society
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          Amid the clamour of the world
the voice of God is heard:
the ear that has been taught by faith
can recognise his word.

2          For through the chequered history
of this rebellious race
obliquely, using human tongues,
the Lord has promised grace.

3          And yet to speak more plainly still
he made our life his own:
most clearly in the Son of Man
the Word of God is known.

4          He still reveals the truth to all
who truly want to learn-
who in their life-experience
the hand of God discern.

5          This is no mere philosophy,
but all the tools of life;
his Spirit speaks the holy word
in all our joy and strife.

6          Equip us, Lord, to face the needs
confronting us today
with wisdom to perceive your call
and courage to obey.

Martin E Leckebusch (born 1962)
Martin Leckebusch was born in Coalville, Leicestershire, and has spent all his working life in computing. He is a prolific hymn writer

Friday 5th June 2020

Bible: 2 Timothy 1:6,7,11-14 New International Version (NIVUK)

6I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Reflection

We have all been given gifts as Christians. Gifts from God to enable us to fulfil the tasks he wants us to do. He gives them but we decide how or when or even if to use them. It was lovely on a winter’s day to go into the lounge at Barnes Close and put some newspaper, kindling and logs in the fireplace and fetch the matches. Everything was ready but unless I struck the match, lit the paper, fanned the first flames the fire would not take hold and I would still be in the cold. I had everything I needed but I had to do something, it didn’t just happen. That’s what Paul was telling Timothy and hence us. God gives us the materials, the gifts, we have to make use of them. Like any gift God’s gifts to us have to be looked after, cared for and used. Some of his gifts expire, they are for a time and a specific purpose, others never expire, they are ours forever. Any gifts that are not used fade away and eventually cease to be. Just as God guards us so we guard the gifts he has given us

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • The gradually falling rate of infection in the United Kingdom and measures aimed at bringing down further
  • Refugees, Asylum seekers, displaced persons and economic migrants across the world
  • Countries where covid-19 infection rates are rising rapidly
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          I know not why God’s wondrous grace
to me has been made known;
not why – unworthy as I am –
he claimed me for his own.
But ‘I know whom I have believed;
and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I’ve committed
unto him against that day.’
 
2          I know not how this saving faith
to me he did impart;
nor how believing in his word
wrought peace within my heart.
Chorus
 
3          I know not how the Spirit moves,
convincing men of Sin;
revealing Jesus through the word,
creating faith in him.
Chorus

4          I know not what of good or ill
may be reserved for me –
of weary ways or golden days
before his face I see.
Chorus

5          I know not when my Lord may come,
at night or noonday fair,
nor if I’ll walk the vale with him,
or ‘meet him in the air.’
Chorus

D W Whittle (1840-1901) based on 2 Timothy 1 v12
Major Daniel Webster Whittle was an American gospel song lyricist, evangelist, and Bible teacher who worked closely with Dwight Moody. He was born and died in Massachusetts. The name of the tune for this hymn, written in 1883, is EL NATHAN which was the pseudonym he wrote under.

Thursday 4th June 2020

Bible: Job 38:1-11 New International Version (NIVUK)

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: ‘Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. ‘Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? ‘Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, 10 when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, 11 when I said, “This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt”?

Reflection

It’s not fair! How often do we hear that? All too often. Some people seem to go through life with all sorts of advantages and blessings whilst others seem to have all sorts of disadvantages and difficulties to contend with. Often there seems no rhyme or reason and people’s reactions to seemingly similar circumstances vary enormously. When things go wrong some lash out at other people or at God asking why me? God did not promise us an easy life, he promised to be with us throughout life. As they say ‘stuff happens’. It’s not what happens but how we deal with it that is important. This passage is part of a response from God to Job that takes three chapters. He is basically saying ‘who are you to question me? I created everything and gave it place and purpose. Do you think your words are better than my ways?’ However much we study and discover about God we will never fully know the Creator and understand his ways until we meet him face to face on that glorious day when we arrive in heaven.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • The tourism, travel and leisure industry as it grapples with new ways of working
  • Those whose medical treatment has been delayed or cancelled due to the pandemic
  • An end to inequality between races wherever it may be and
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul,
worship his holy name.
Sing like never before, O my soul.
I’ll worship your holy name.
1          The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning;
it’s time to sing your song again.
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me,
let me be singing when the evening comes.
Chorus

2          You’re rich in love and you’re slow to anger.
Your name is great, and your heart is kind.
For all your goodness, I will keep on singing;
ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.
Chorus

3          And on that day when my strength is failing,
the end draws near, and my time has come;
still my soul will sing your praise unending:
Ten thousand years and then forevermore!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
O my soul,
worship his holy name.
Sing like never before,
O my soul.
I’ll worship your holy name.
I’ll worship your holy name.
Yes, I’ll worship your holy name.

Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman

Jonas Myrin is a Swedish singer, musician and songwriter based in Los Angeles, California. Myrin began his musical career in the early 2000s as a worship leader at Hillsong Church London
Matt Redman s an English Christian worship leader, singer-songwriter and author. Redman co-founded Soul Survivor and helped start three church-plants

Wednesday 3rd June 2020

Bible: Psalm 104:24-34 New International Version (NIVUK)

24 How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small. 26 There the ships go to and fro, and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. 27 All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. 30 When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. 31 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; may the Lord rejoice in his works –
32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke. 33 I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.

Reflection

What a wonderful piece of a Psalm. Sitting high up on a cliff with the sea stretched out before us and the land behind we catch a glimpse of the vastness of God’s creation. How many shades of colour, how many different plants, fish, birds, creatures, stars did God create? Every human being different yet the same. Just look at it all. How can anyone say it was created by chance? It is too interconnected, too intricate, too wonderful to believe in anything other than a creator of it all. Frankley it’s easier to believe that there was an explosion at an industrial site and the way the bits fell created my computer. It is what the Psalmist sees in creation that makes him sing God’s praises forever. Let’s join him!

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • The tourism, travel and leisure industry as it grapples with new ways of working
  • Those whose medical treatment has been delayed or cancelled due to the pandemic
  • An end to inequality between races wherever it may be and
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
to his feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
who like thee his praise should sing?
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise the everlasting King!

2 Praise him for his grace and favour
to his people in distress;
praise him, still the same for ever,
slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Praise him! Praise him!
Glorious in his faithfulness.

3 Father-like, he tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame he knows;
in his hands he gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Praise him! Praise him!
Widely as his mercy flows.

4 Angels in the height, adore him;
ye behold him face to face;
sun and moon, bow down before him,
dwellers all in time and space.
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise with us the God of grace!

Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)

Henry Francis Lyte was born in the Scottish Borders and after studying at Trinity College, Dublin took Anglican holy orders in 1815. He served in Ireland, Cornwall, Hampshire and Devon. He started the first Sunday School in the Torbay area and a Sailors Sunday School as well as organising an annual treat of a religious service tea and sports for up to 1,000 children.

Tuesday 2nd June 2020

Bible: Ezekiel 39;7, 8,25-28 New International Version (NIVUK)

‘“I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One in Israel. It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord. This is the day I have spoken of.

25 ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name. 26 They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed towards me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid. 27 When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will be proved holy through them in the sight of many nations. 28 Then they will know that I am the Lord their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind. 29 I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.’

Reflection

Is there a parallel with today here? God promised them a bright new future and he promises us the same. If we are not seeing it whose fault is it? It is easy to blame God, harder to blame us. Of course there have been some startling exceptions but for the last half century or more we have seen the gradual decline of the traditional church in the UK. We must ask ourselves why that is and are we comfortable with that. If we say yes to the latter then we are saying yes to being unfaithful to God. The Bible teaches us that if we are faithful God will bless us, if we are unfaithful he will not bless us. Whatever we choose God goes on loving us, nothing can stop that. Our choice is the difference between being blessed by God or not, of staying in exile or being restored to the Promised Land, of life or life in abundance.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Sport as it begins to return after lockdown, for the safety of all involved
  • People addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling
  • An end to inequality between races wherever it may be
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

Faithful One, so unchanging,
Ageless One, you’re my rock of peace.
Lord of all I depend on you,
I call out to you again and again.
I call out to you again and again.
You are my rock in times of trouble.
You lift me up when I fall down.
All through the storm your love is the anchor,
my hope is in you alone.

Brian Doerksen (b. 1965)

Brian Doerksen is a Canadian Christian singer-songwriter and worship leader. Originally a Mennonite Brethren he graduated from the Mennonite Educational Institute in 1983 and later joined the staff of the Langley Vineyard Christian Fellowship. He lives in British Columbia

Monday 1st June 2020

Bible: Romans 8:18-25 New International Version (NIVUK)

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Reflection

The notes on sonship from my reflection on 29th May are relevant here but I am not focussing on that today. I am focusing on hope. We live in a society which is focussed on proof. Children are told only believe what you can see and prove for yourself. As Christians we have hope. Hope that things will get better, hope that God’s kingdom will come, hope that one day we will be with Christ in heaven. As humans we have hope. Hope that we will recover from illness, hope that we live in peace and safety, hope that we will have enough food, hope that we can have a good holiday, hopes for our family, hope for a peaceful death. Hope underpins our life. Without hope we are miserable, lost and helpless. Our faith in Christ means that we can live in hope for all eternity.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Day trippers and visitors to parks, beauty spots and beaches who think that it is acceptable to leave their rubbish for others to clear
  • Those who are nervous about the relaxation of lockdown
  • Civil unrest in the USA that has turned to violence, arson and looting and continues to escalate
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          There is a hope that burns within my heart,
that gives me strength for ev’ry passing day;
a glimpse of glory now revealed in meagre part,
yet drives all doubt away:
I stand in Christ, with sins forgiv’n;
and Christ in me, the hope of heav’n!
My highest calling and my deepest joy,
to make his will my home.

2          There is a hope that lifts my weary head,
a consolation strong against despair,
that when the world has plunged me
in its deepest pit,
I find the Saviour there!
Through present suff’rings, future’s fear,
he whispers ‘courage’ in my ear.
For I am safe in everlasting arms,
and they will lead me home.

3          There is a hope that stands the test of time,
that lifts my eyes beyond the beck’ning grave,
to see the matchless beauty of a day divine
when I behold his face!
When sufferings cease and sorrows die,
and ev’ry longing satisfied,
then joy unspeakable will flood my soul,
for I am truly home.

Mark Edwards and Stuart Townend (born 1963

Mark Edwards was born in 1965 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. He started playing the piano at the age of three and is an accomplished musician and record producer based in East Sussex
Stuart Townend was born in West Yorkshire in 1963. He is an English Christian worship leader and writer of hymns and contemporary worship music based in Brighton.

Sunday 31st May 2020 – Pentecost

Bible: Numbers 11:24-30  New International Version (NIVUK)

24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and made them stand round the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied – but did not do so again. 26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ 28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ assistant since youth, spoke up and said, ‘Moses, my lord, stop them!’ 29 But Moses replied, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!’ 30 Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

Reflection

A fascinating story from over three millennia ago. Written down in a different age it still resonates with us today and has much to teach us. We think of Moses as the man chosen by God to lead the people out of Egypt and to the Promised land. This is true. We may also remember that God gave Moses support through his siblings Aaron & Miriam. This story reminds us that they were not alone. God equipped seventy two others, the Elders, with the power of the Spirit to help Moses in his task of leadership. A reminder to us today that Christian leadership is not a solitary task, it is a share corporate task. The story of Eldad and Medad is both baffling and elucidating at the same time. Why did they not go with the other seventy? God equipped all the Elders, even those not physically present. Moses does not condemn their actions rather he wishes all God’s people were equipped like them. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost did that!

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Families and friends able to meet up in socially distanced ways for the first time in two months that they may do so responsibly
  • Schools welcoming some pupils back tomorrow
  • The 147 Asylum Seekers recently arrived in Bromsgrove
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn  A new hymn written for this year’s Thy Kingdom Come prayer time, Sung to the tune Woodlands

Thy Kingdom Come –Lord teach us how to pray
For all to know your joy, your peace and love
And know your friendship each and every day
The breath of Christ, the Father’s gentle dove

Thy Kingdom Come –Christ’s prayer to make us one
That all may know the Father sent the Son
To celebrate the victory He has won
In love and grace we pray: ‘thy will be done’

Thy Kingdom Come –we pray for those we know
To turn and follow you for all their days
and in your love find peace and service grow
one desire and hope your highest praise

Thy Kingdom Come –transform our human ways
Our lives laid down in mercy, truth and care
Nations renewed, in giving thanks and praise
To see God’s Kingdom come: this is our prayer

Thy Kingdom Come –we praise your Holy name
Your sacrifice and rising sets us free
That by our words and lives we may proclaim
Jesus’ risen life, God’s victory!

Words: Neil Hamilton Thompson, Chris Russell, Emma Buchan, Harvey Jessop

Saturday 30th May 2020

Bible: Romans 12:9-21 New International Version (NIVUK)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Reflection

We all have purple passages of Scripture, passages we turn back to time and time again, passages which say it all and need no exposition. I could use this passage for a teaching session or a discussion group but not for preaching on. It says it all, it is self-explanatory, it needs no explanation or amplification. Each phrase, each exhortation, each sentence is complete in itself and totally understandable. Read it again, slowly, prayerfully and let it sink in. It will bless you, challenge you, encourage you, comfort you and make you feel better, Praise God

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Police officers, local councils and owners or custodians of heritage sites and buildings and beauty spots dealing with lockdown easing
  • Scientific and medical advisors to the government
  • The situation in the USA that erupted in Minneapolis and has now spread across the country
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love;
where there is injury, your pardon, Lord;
and where there’s doubt, true faith in you:
O Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved, as to love with all my soul.

2 Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope;
where there is darkness, only light;
and where there’s sadness, ever joy:
Refrain

3 Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
in giving unto all that we receive,
and in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

Sebastian Temple (1928-1997)  from the Prayer of St Francis

Sebastian Temple was one of the most influential folk Mass composers from the era immediately following the Second Vatican Council. He grew up in South Africa moved to London in 1951, where he worked for the BBC on news broadcasts relating to South Africa. After moving to America in 1958, he converted to Catholicism and joined the Franciscan Third Order. Based for many years in Los Angeles, Sebastian died in Tucson, Arizona,

Friday 29th May 2020

Bible: Romans 8:14-17 New International Version (NIVUK)

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Footnotes: (a) The Greek word for adoption to sonship, υἱοθεσίας (huiothesia) is a term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture. Paul is using the word in a genderless way, he does not mean men only but all people both men and women, but to change the phrase renders it meaningless

Reflection

This coming weekend we celebrate the feast of Pentecost on Sunday. Traditionally it would be a day of great celebration and partying as well as worshipping God and making a thank-offering to him. It is also the day that God gave his Holy Spirit to all Christians. Paul is celebrating that gift here but not in terms of the gifts or the fruit of the Holy Spirit. He is focussing on the bottom line, the deepest most fundamental aspect of the Holy Spirit. Just as in Roman society huiothesia meant that the adopted son had the full rights, privilege and status of a natural son so God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to us means that we have the same rights, privileges and status as Jesus. We are co-heirs with Jesus to God’s Kingdom. We shall inherit it all, in all its glory, and there is nothing that we need to do. It is a gift, we simply choose whether to accept it or not.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Plans being made for the restarting of sport in this country, and across Europe
  • Those who use social media to inflame situations or cause hurt
  • The travel and leisure industry working with the government to find safe, sensible and helpful ways to re-open
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

Father God, I wonder
how I managed to exist
without the knowledge
of your parenthood
and your loving care.
But now I am your child,
I am adopted in your family,
and I can never be alone
’cause, Father God,
you’re there beside me.

I will sing your praises,
I will sing your praises,
I will sing your praises forever more.
I will sing your praises,
I will sing your praises,
I will sing your praises forever more.

Ian Smale (b. 1949)

Ishmael/Ish (Rev’d Ian Smale) trainind at a Pentecostal theological college and spent some years in the Elim pastoral ministry He has been travelling internationally in a ‘full time’ music capacity since 1970. Ish was ordained into the Anglican Church in 2007 and is now licensed to Chichester Cathedral as their non-stipendary, ‘Missioner Deacon’

Thursday 28th May 2020

Bible: Exodus 19:3-8 New International Version (NIVUK)

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.’ So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said.’ So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.

Reflection

I love these Old Testament stories. They come from a different world view to ours. Everything seemed a lot simpler. There was a closeness to nature and a closeness to God that we seem to have lost. It was natural to believe that God was interested in everything we do, that God would mark out our path for us and that God would talk with our leaders. As we have become more sophisticated, more understanding of science and more self-sufficient has our relationship with God diminished? If so it is on our side not his? God remains constant, faithful, always there, always available and the tearing of the Temple Curtain on Crucifixion Day means we all have that access to God that Moses and other Old Testament leaders did. The close relationship with God whereby we can converse with him about anything and everything is to be treasured above all else. Nothing, no-one in this world compares with him, our God

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • The gradual relaxation of the lockdown and steps being taken to minimise the risk of spreading the disease
  • Hospitals and Care Homes still struggling with covid-19
  • The situation in Hong Kong as freedom of expression and protest is curtailed and democracy lost
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1         He wants not friends that hath thy love,
and may converse and walk with thee,
and with thy saints here and above,
with whom for ever I must be.

2          In the communion of thy saints
is wisdom, safety, and delight;
and when my heart declines and faints,
’tis raisèd by their heat and light.

3          As for my friends, they are not lost;
the several vessels of thy fleet,
though parted now, by tempests tost,
shall safely in the haven meet.

4          Still we are centred all in thee,
members, though distant, of one head:
in the same family we be
by the same faith and spirit led.

5          Before thy throne we daily meet
as joint-petitioners to thee:
in spirit we each other greet,
and shall again each other see.

6          The heavenly hosts, world without end,
shall be my company above;
and thou, my best and surest friend,
who shall divide me from thy love?

Richard Baxter (1615-1691)
Born in Rowton, Shropshire, England and died in London, Richard was a  Puritan minister who influenced 17th-century English Protestantism but never had a higher role than Church Pastor, most famously at Kidderminster. Known as a peacemaker who sought unity among the clashing Protestant denominations, he was the centre of nearly every major controversy in England in his fractious age.

Tune: Song 34

2020

Wednesday 27th May 2020

Bible: 1 Kings 8:55-61 New International Version (NIVUK)

55 King Solomon stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying: 56 ‘Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. 57 May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us nor forsake us. 58 May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors. 59 And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need, 60 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. 61 And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.’

Reflection

King Solomon reigned from 970 to 931BC and during this time the Temple in Jerusalem was built. On completion the Ark of the Covenant was brought to it and Solomon led a prayer of dedication. After this prayer he blessed the people in the words we have here. This blessing is a recognition of God’s faithfulness. It is not about Solomon it is about God. He looks back to God’s presence with his people in the past and uses that faithfulness to call for God to be present consistently with his people in the future. But he does more than that. He asks for God’s help in making the people obedient, not to Solomon but to God. He asks for this not so the people are blessed but that the world may know that Lord is God. He asks for a total commitment from the people. Out task is just the same today. We should be totally committed to living by God’s decrees and commands so that world may know that he is God.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • The heat wave and plague of locusts in parts of India adding to the problems caused by covid-19
  • Schools preparing to re-open next week
  • Those pedalling dangerous misinformation about covid-19
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His Word
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.

2          Not a burden we bear,
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief nor a loss,
Not a frown nor a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.
Chorus

3          But we never can prove
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favour He shows,
And the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
Chorus

4          Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do,
Where He sends we will go –
Never fear, only trust and obey.
Chorus

John H Sammis (1846-1919)

Born in New York in 1846 Sammis was a businessman and YMCA worker in Logansport, Indiana. He attended McCormick and Lane Theological Seminaries, and became an ordained Presbyterian minister in 1880. He served in Glidden, Iowa; Indianapolis, Indiana; Grandhaven, Michigan, Red Wing, Minnesota; and Sullivan, Indiana. For the remainder of his career, he taught at the Los Angeles Bible Institute and died in Los Angeles

Tuesday 26th May 2020

Bible: 1 Peter 4:7-11 New International Version (NIVUK)

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Reflection

The early church really believed that the end of the world would come in their generation. This was based on their understanding of Jesus words about the end times. But Jesus did give dates or times, he simply said that it is not ours to know therefore we should always live as if it is going to happen tomorrow. We do not know when our last day on earth will be. Anyone who has spoken with relatives or friends of people who have died in road traffic collisions, accidents or at the hands of others may have heard them say something like ‘if I had known that would be the last time I would see them…..’ On reflect ion they regret not saying or doing something. Benjamin Franklin one said ‘never put off until tomorrow what can be done today’. This is the essence of what Peter is saying. Love deeply, offer hospitality, use whatever gift you have now, tomorrow may be too late. Our speaking and serving should be as God himself would. All should be done to bring praise and glory to God, not to us. Peter had known Jesus, he had walked, talked and eaten with him. He had seen Jesus heal and heard him preach and teach. Above all else he had been forgiven by Jesus. He knew what he was talking about.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Countries where the death rate from covid-19 is rising and they do not have the resources, financial or human, to combat it
  • Shops preparing for re-opening in June
  • Conversations happening about re-opening churches for prayer
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          The world needs love; so many hearts are hurting.
Lord, work through us, help us to spread your peace,
bringing to all ­ through your forgiving spirit ­
freedom from guilt, from bitterness release.
Reconcile us; help us to share your calmness,
Till anger stills and all our conflicts cease.

2          The world needs hope, a vision for the future,
what life might be, if all would live in you.
Help us to lead ­ through your transforming spirit ­
lives that reflect what you would have us do,
to share our gifts, show forth your loving kindness,
encourage all to find their hope in you.

3          The world needs faith, a willing dedication
of all we are and all we might yet be.
Help us to serve ­ through your empowering spirit ­
in active faith in our community.
Love for each soul, respecting and upholding,
declares the worth of all humanity.

4          The world needs joy, a sense of celebration
that human lives have such diversity.
Help us to see ­ through your dynamic spirit ­
each person’s part in life’s vitality.
Sharing our joys, supporting others’ sorrows
make our small world a better place to be.

Philip Sudworth (born 1944)

Tune: Finlandia

Monday 25th May 2020

Bible: Psalm 99 New International Version (NIVUK)

The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.
Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them praise your great and awesome name – he is holy.
The King is mighty, he loves justice – you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done what is just and right.
Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.
Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name; they called on the Lord and he answered them.
He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.
Lord our God, you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds
Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain,
for the Lord our God is holy.

Reflection

Another great Psalm. Just read it and reflect on the attributes of God compared to those of any human government. All human institutions are flawed. Human emotions and desires get in the way of doing right. With God it is different. As Jesus said ‘Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48). The Psalmist acknowledges the Lord’s reign and says it is characterised by justice, equity and doing right. What more can we ask of the one in charge? This alone is a call to exalt, praise and worship God as well as to keep his statutes and decrees which we do because he is holy, different, set apart. There is none like him, he is beyond compare and he calls us to be his children, forgiving us as we go

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Our local hospitals, medical practices, pharmacies, care homes, community nurses and carers from MacMillan and other charities
  • Rough sleepers and homeless people as emergency funding ends
  • The people of Kurdistan in Syria, Iraq, Iran & Turkey or refugees
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Your Lord and King adore;
mortals, give thanks, and sing,
and triumph evermore:
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
rejoice! Again I say:rejoice!

2 Jesus the Saviour reigns,
the God of truth and love;
when he had purged our stains,
he took his seat above:
refrain

3 His kingdom cannot fail,
he rules both earth and heaven;
the keys of death and hell
are to our Jesus given:
refrain

4 He sits at God’s right hand
till all his foes submit,
and bow to his command,
and fall beneath his feet:
refrain

5 Rejoice in glorious hope;
Jesus the Judge shall come,
and take his servants up
to their eternal home:
We soon shall hear the archangel’s voice;
God’s trumpet-call shall sound:rejoice!

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Sunday 24th May 2020

Bible: John 17:1-11 New International Version (NIVUK)

Jesus prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. ‘I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 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.

Reflection

This is Jesus praying for his followers. He is very specific. He says he is not praying for everyone, only for those God has given him – his followers. This is in Gethsemane, the Last Supper is over, his arrest is coming soon. Tomorrow will be his crucifixion. Now is not the time for generic prayer, not even time for prayer for himself, it is the time for specific, focussed prayer. The needs of the wider world can wait now he must pray for those whom God has chosen to take the work forward. They are going to be left behind, leaderless. They are going to be at risk. Yet the future of God’s kingdom rests on them. They need help and Jesus knows it so he is asking the Father to provide that help. Today the Church needs God’s help more than ever and today Jesus is asking his Father to give us that help.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Negotiations over a post Brexit trade deal and our on-going relationship with our European neighbours
  • Those who believe the lockdown does not apply to them
  • The current ceasefire in Afghanistan that it may continue
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 God, who made the stars of heaven,
God who spread the earth,
breath of every living being,
fount of life and birth,
you have formed a servant people,
led us by your hand.
Light of nations, shine in us;
brighten every land.

2 Living Christ, the light of nations,
radiant as the sun,
build us up, a growing body;
knit your Church as one.
May our loving be a witness
all the world may see.
Send your Spirit, bond of peace,
source of unity.

3 Spirit God, equip your people,
all with gifts to share:
messengers to speak the gospel,
ministers of care.
So may valleys rise to greatness,
mountains be a plain.
Come, surprise us;change our lives;
heal each heart in pain.

4 So may nations praise your greatness,
do your will on earth,
free the captives from their prisons,
treat the poor with worth.
So may desert, coast and village
sing new songs to you.
Light of nations, fill the world,
making all things new.

Ruth Duck (b. 1947)

Saturday 23rd May 2020

Bible: John 8:21-30 New International Version (NIVUK)

21Jesus said to them, ‘I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.’ 22 This made the Jews ask, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, “Where I go, you cannot come”?’ 23 But he continued, ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.’ 25 ‘Who are you?’ they asked. ‘Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,’ Jesus replied. 26 ‘I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.’ 27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.’ 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

Reflection

Not an easy passage of Scripture for us. It is set in the Temple courts in Jerusalem. Jesus is speaking and people are listening. This was a common thing for Rabbi’s to do. The Pharisees present had been challenging Jesus. Again not an uncommon thing to happen. Most of what we say as Christians today is said in circumstances where we are not challenged. When did you last interrupt a sermon and challenge what the speaker was saying? Jesus, like many others, thrived on the interruptions and challenges. Debate is much more satisfying than preaching. It enables you to answer the issues in people’s minds. What was the result in this case – ‘even as he spoke many believed in him’. Through the discourse and debate conversion was happening.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Residents suffering the effects of large numbers of day trippers and concerned about the impact on their community
  • Employees of companies ceasing to trade
  • Farmers seeking help to harvest their crops
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          Thou didst leave thy throne
And thy kingly crown
When thou camest to earth for me,
But in Bethlehem’s home
Was there found no room
For thy holy nativity:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for thee.

2          Heaven’s arches rang
When the angels sang,
Proclaiming thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth
Cam’st thou, Lord, on earth,
And in great humility:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for thee.

3          The foxes found rest,
And the bird its nest,
In the shade of the cedar tree;
But thy couch was the sod,
O thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for thee.

4          Thou camest, O Lord,
With the living word
That should set thy people free;
But, with mocking scorn,
And with crown of thorn,
They bore thee to Calvary:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
Thy cross is my only plea.

5          When heaven’s arches ring,
And her choirs shall sing,
At thy coming to victory,
Let thy voice call me home,
Saying, ‘Yet there is room,
There is room at my side for thee!’
And my heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When thou comest and callest for me.

Emily E S Elliott (1836-1897)

Friday 22nd May 2020

Bible: Ephesians 2:4-10 New International Version (NIVUK)

Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Reflection

What wonderful words from Paul written. Allow to soak into your being. This letter was written in AD62 when Paul was in prison in Rome. He had founded the church in AD52 and spent two to three years there in AD54 to AD56 teaching and during stay wrote 1 Corinthians. Later in AD66 the Apostle John moved there to escape the Jewish War. It was a very important and influential church yet by AD200 it had ceased to exist. Paul’s language about God is beautiful and flowing. It warms our hearts, even now nearly two thousand years later. ‘Great love for us’, ‘rich in mercy’ , ‘incomparable riches of his grace’, ‘kindness’, ‘gift of God’, ‘God’s handiwork’. Say those words again, slowly, quietly, letting them sink in. This is God’s relationship with us and it is all totally independent of anything we do or our relationship with God. There is nothing that we can ever say or do to improve God’s relationship with us. It is already perfect. We don’t need to earn his favour, we already have it. God does not give us gifts because of goodness. He just gives them.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Refugees and Asylum Seekers risking their lives to cross the English channel to Kent each day in search of freedom & safety
  • Countries across Europe beginning to relax lockdown and open their borders again
  • Conversations and plans regarding re-opening places of worship
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          I know not why God’s wondrous grace
to me has been made known;
not why – unworthy as I am –
he claimed me for his own.
But ‘I know whom I have believed;
and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I’ve committed
unto him against that day.’
 
2          I know not how this saving faith
to me he did impart;
nor how believing in his word
wrought peace within my heart.
Chorus
 
3          I know not how the Spirit moves,
convincing men of Sin;
revealing Jesus through the word,
creating faith in him.
Chorus

4          I know not what of good or ill
may be reserved for me –
of weary ways or golden days
before his face I see.
Chorus

5          I know not when my Lord may come,
at night or noonday fair,
nor if I’ll walk the vale with him,
or ‘meet him in the air.’
Chorus

D W Whittle (1840-1901)

Thursday 21st May 2020 – Ascension Day

Bible: Acts 1:6-11 New International Version (NIVUK)

Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’

Reflection

Today is the day that the Christian Church remembers the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. To ascend means to go up and we often think of it physically such as ascending stairs, hill or mountain. This leads us to unwittingly thinking of Jesus ascending from earth to heaven on a cloud and we immediately run into problems. Space exploration has not found heaven and never will. The Biblical text only says ‘a cloud hid him from their sight’. We’ve all had the experience of looking at a view when a cloud of mist or fog has suddenly taken the view away. That’s what happened to Jesus. We have learnt to look at the ascension of Jesus more in the way we talk about a monarch ascending to the throne. He ascended to his throne, his rightful place as Lord of all creation to reign there for evermore. We are his loyal, obedient subjects.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Our police, ambulance, fire, RNLI and coastguard personnel
  • Countries without the resources to cope with covid-19 that other nations may come to their aid
  • The outreach potential of the massive increase of prayer, worship, fellowship and study possibilities online during the pandemic
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          Lord may we see your hands and side
Touch you and feel your presence near.
Lord could our eyes behold these clouds
And watch you rising disappear.
Help us to pray for your return
To watch until you come to reign
And be your witnesses through the world
To speak and glorify your name.

2          Lord unto you we lift our eyes
Help us to live as you desire.
Bring down upon us power to win
Through tongues of Holy Spirit fire.
Lord breathe upon us to receive
The grace and love your Spirit gives
And may we know you with us now
Because in us your Spirit lives.

Christopher Porteous (born 1935)

Tune: Jerusalem

Wednesday 20th May 2020

Bible: John 16:19-24 New International Version (NIVUK)

19 Jesus said to them, ‘Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me”? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

Reflection

Cast your mind back to your childhood. As you grew from a baby through toddler, child and teenager to adult your relationship with your parents changed as your understanding of them grew. We learnt their likes and dislikes. We learnt what was allowed and what wasn’t. We learnt what they would say no to and what they would say yes to. At least we did all this in a generic sense, yet at times they could still surprise us. Of course there’s always a stroppy child who never learns and for whom it is always I, I, I, I,…! Our relationship with God is one of child and Father. As we grow in that relationship we come to know him better and learn his likes and dislikes, what he allows and what he doesn’t, his yeses and his nos. That’s what Jesus means when he says ‘whatever you ask for in my name he will give you’. We know him!

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • Those affected by the cyclone in the Bay of Bengal
  • Scientific and medical staff providing data and its interpretation for the government
  • All who will miss this year the rest, relaxation and refreshment that a holiday away from home brings
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          Father, now we come, well knowing
we shall not be turned away;
Life eternal, life bestowing,
strengthen, cheer us as we pray.

2          All things that give profit to us
as your people we may claim;
and your Son has made the promise:
you will hear us in his name.

3          We shall watch and pray and labour
through your Spirit’s strengthening grace,
listening for your words of favour,
living as before your face.

4          In reproof and disappointment
let us understand your will;
in all things of your appointment
we shall know and love you still.

5          May our hearts be always open
to your answers to our prayer;
in our joy, our tribulation,
we shall know and greet you there.

Baba keriba ike, Anonymous Torres Strait Islands hymn,
translated by David A Thompson (born 1941) paraphrased by Wesley Milgate (1916-1999)

Tune: Stenka Razin (aka The Carnival Is Over)

Tuesday 19th May 2020

Bible: Deuteronomy 5:28-33 New International Version (NIVUK)

28 The Lord said to me, ‘I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good. 29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children for ever! 30 ‘Tell them to return to their tents. 31 But you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws that you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess.’ 32 So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33 Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

Reflection

Our life is often described as a journey, perhaps most famously in John Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrims Progress’.  All of us have been on journeys, some of which have required us to follow instructions. I can remember several occasions both when driving and when walking when the instructions have included ‘keep straight on, don’t turn left or right’ I can also remember walking across peat bogs or  in the Alps on narrow mountain paths or across glaciers when the instructions have been ‘look straight ahead, don’t look up or down, keep your eye on the path’. Sound advice, all of it. Sometimes  there are signposts or way markers to help us, other times we simply have do as we have been told. So it is on our Christian journey. God has marked out the path, he has told us where to go and what to do, he has planted signposts and he has given us other people to be our guide or gives us instruction. There will be much to enjoy on the journey and he is waiting at ‘Journey’s End’ to welcome us into the most beautiful place of all.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • People who have permanently lost their job in this crisis
  • Refugees and Asylum Seekers across the world, particularly those in, or making their way to our country
  • Political leaders that they may speak and act with honesty, truth and integrity at all times
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          The laws which Moses once made known
to all on Sinai’s hill
called them to worship God alone
and to obey his will.

2          On Horeb’s height Elijah found
new hope in place of fear;
so we, when on life’s stormy ground,
can feel God’s presence near.

3          The greatest themes of Zion’s songs
blend with our hymns today;
the God for whom the psalmist longs
is with us as we pray.

4          The eye of faith best sees the light
on steeps which Jesus trod;
while Calvary, now clear and bright,
shines with the love of God.

Tune: Beatitudo

Monday 18th May 2020

Bible: Psalm 93 New International Version (NIVUK)

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity. The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea – the Lord on high is mighty. Your statutes, Lord, stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days.

Reflection

Reading this Psalm gives hope and confidence, whatever else is happening so today we are simply going to sit and reflect upon God.

The Lord    – reigns
– is robed in majesty
– armed with strength
– established the world firm and secure
– is mighty
– his statutes stand firm
– is adorned with holiness
– lives for endless days

This is the God we worship and serve. This is the God who watches over us and listens to our prayers. This is the God who rescues us when we go astray and comforts us when we are hurting. This is the God who created and sustains this world but gave it us to enjoy and look after. Praise the Lord.

Prayer                                                                               

Please pray for

  • The fight against covid-19 in Africa and South America
  • Those who ignore or bend lockdown restrictions thinking of themselves more than the damage they might be causing others.
  • Those struggling in lockdown, mentally and those who love and care for them, in this Mental Health Awareness Week
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

2 Joy to the world, the Saviour reigns!
Let all their songs employ;
while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

3 He rules the world with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness
and wonders of his love,
and wonders of his love,
and wonders, wonders of his love.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Sunday 17th May 2020

Bible: 1 Peter 3:13-17 New International Version (NIVUK)

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Reflection

This is Peter, the first disciple to recognise Jesus as Messiah and the one who denied ever knowing Jesus on the night that Jesus was arrested. Jesus chose him to be a pillar of the early church, he was the first disciple to share the gospel with a Gentile, Cornelius (Acts 10) c35-40AD, less than a decade after the crucifixion and resurrection. Peter went on to be first Bishop of Rome and was martyred in 64AD, He knew what he was talking about. He had met the risen Lord and he had suffered for his faith. It has often be said that the Church is declining in the UK, not because it lost its faith, but because it has lost its confidence in sharing the Gospel. Peter says we must always be ready to share our faith. To do that we need to practice sharing our faith, just like we practice a musical instrument, singing, sport and so on. When I was on the Rob Frost Share Jesus Missions we used to get the young people to write down their testimony, not so they could read it when required, but so that they knew how to share it when the occasion arose.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Our friends in the faith, whether in our church or another
  • Those still being hospitalised with covid-19 and the relatives of those still dying from it.
  • Schools preparing to welcome children back and they changes they are making to facilitate this
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          Lord, I delight to recall Your commandments
And the perfection of Your moral law,
Teach me, instruct me, and thus I’ll retain them
Deep in my heart to the end of my days.

2          Keep me from falsehood and covetous grasping,
Save me from insults and scorn which I dread,
Strengthen my soul by fulfilling Your promise
And, in Your justice, give life through Your word.

3          Then, by experience, I’ll know Your salvation
And will be able to answer to those
Who, by their sneers, seek to frighten my spirit,
Since, through Your law, I’ve discovered Your love.

4          So I shall walk in the pathway of freedom
And before rulers will speak without fear
I shall proclaim my delight in Your precepts
Oh, how I love to observe Your commands.

5          Do not forget that I trust in Your promise
This is my comfort in sorrow and pain
Some may deride me but I will remember
You do not change and Your justice is sure.

6          Though I get angry at men’s disobedience,
Yet I will sing, as an exile, of home,
I will recall to my mind, in the darkness
Your love for me and Your life-giving law.

Michael Saward (1932-2015)

Tune: Epiphany Hymn

Saturday 16th May 2020

Bible: John 14:23-27 New International Version (NIVUK)

23 Jesus said, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 ‘All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Reflection

This is the fourth time in a short discourse Jesus has said the same thing. 12’ ….whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing,’ 15 ‘If you love me, keep my commands.’ 21’ Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.’ We repeat things to stress their importance. This discourse between Jesus and his disciples is set in the short time interval after the Last Supper and before his arrest in Gethsemane. For Jesus to repeat it four times must it meant a lot to him, was crucial to the early Apostles and therefore is crucial to us. John obviously felt it was crucial to include it four times. Yet we struggle with this because it links love with obedience, love with commands. We like to think of love as unconditional and real love is. It is because we love unconditionally that we do things we wouldn’t naturally do. I am not a great fan of classical music concerts but when my wife was in the Halle Choir I went regularly. When she went on choir tours she photographed trams and buses for me. We never asked each other to do this, we did it because we knew it would please. So it is when our love for Jesus leads us to keep his commands, whether we like them or not. It pleases Him.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Our families, wherever they may be
  • Churches across the UK worshipping digitally this Sunday
  • Politicians, business, unions and medical advisors to work together on easing lockdown and back to work instead of arguing
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind;
In purer lives thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

2          In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow thee.

3          O sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with thee
The silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love!

4          With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of thy call,
As noiseless let thy blessing fall
As fell thy manna down.

5          Drop thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.

6          Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
O still small voice of calm!

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

Friday 15th May 2020

Bible: Acts 27:20-25 New International Version (NIVUK)

20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. 21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.

Reflection

It is AD60 and Paul is on his way to Rome, as a prisoner. He has used his right as a Roman Citizen to stand trial before Caesar. Quite literally the journey is not all plain sailing. They encounter a severe storm and eventually they are shipwrecked just off the coast of Malta. ‘I told you so’ is probably not the best place to start when you are in serious trouble but that’s exactly where Paul started. However he uses that to say ‘this time listen to me’. He tells them that the ship will be destroyed but  they will be safe. That is exactly what happened. For decades people have been saying that the Church must change in order to survive. Some of refused to listen, others have made cosmetic changes. Covid-19 has forced us to shut down our regular programme and find new ways of Church. This is a golden opportunity not to make changes to our programme or buildings but to decide what Church in the 21st Century will be.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • The proposals for a new Junior Youth Club at the Beacon
  • C2C at Emmanuel and Messy Church at the Beacon
  • Bromsgrove & Redditch Methodist Circuit, Birmingham Methodist District, URC Hereford & Worcester Area & West Midlands Synod
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Lord of the church, we pray for our renewing:
Christ over all, our undivided aim.
Fire of the Spirit, burn for our enduing,
wind of the Spirit, fan the living flame!
We turn to Christ amid our fear and failing,
the will that lacks the courage to be free,
the weary labours, all but unavailing,
to bring us nearer what a church should be.

2 Lord of the church, we seek a Father’s blessing,
a true repentance and a faith restored,
a swift obedience and a new possessing,
filled with the Holy Spirit of the Lord!
We turn to Christ from all our restless striving,
unnumbered voices with a single prayer:
the living water for our souls’ reviving,
in Christ to live, and love and serve and care.

3 Lord of the church, we long for our uniting,
true to one calling, by one vision stirred;
one cross proclaiming and one creed reciting,
one in the truth of Jesus and his word!
So lead us on; till toil and trouble ended,
one church triumphant one new song shall sing,
to praise his glory, risen and ascended,
Christ over all, the everlasting King!

Timothy Dudley-Smith (born 1926)

Thursday 14th May 2020

Bible: Psalm 66:13-20 New International Version (NIVUK)

13 I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfil my vows to you – vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble. 15 I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams; I will offer bulls and goats.

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. 17 I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. 18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; 19 but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. 20 Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!

Reflection

No longer do we offer God burnt offerings and animal sacrifices but the concept of God’s people making offerings and sacrifices is as real today as it was for the Psalmist. Offerings are the regular weekly thank-offerings that we make to say thank you to God for all his blessings to us, our life, our health, our food, our home, our happiness. Sacrifices are what we make when God has been especially good to us or when God’s work is in especial need. A while back I visited a church that had gone through a multi-million pound re-ordering and refurbishment of its buildings to make them suitable for both church and community use. It had been funded by members putting off home improvements, delaying the purchase of new cars and postponing plans for expensive holidays as well as dipping into personal savings. The result is a wonderful suite of buildings used seven days a week for worship, mission and service.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • The expanding work of the Church through this crisis
  • New Starts, foodbanks and community resource hubs
  • Members and friends within the church, their physical and mental well being and their walk with God
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          Where, oh where’s your presence, O God,
in this dry and weary land?
So many people drifting away;
how we need to understand:
you’re still God, even when we’re unbelieving;
still God, when we’re desperate for our healing;
still God, still God, still God.
You’re still God, even when our friends desert us;
still God, even through the things that hurt us;
still God, still God.
So I will be still and know you are God.

2          Where, oh where’s your kingdom, O God?
We have let holiness go.
So many idols litter our land.
We’ve got to let this nation know:
you’re still God, when the government has no answers;
still God, when the media lowers the standard;
still God, still God, still God.
You’re still God, when the plans we make are worthless;
still God, when we lose our sense of purpose;
still God, still God.
So I will be still and know you are God.

3          When will Jesus really be seen
through the church that bears his name?
Agents of his kingdom, his peace,
In the world for which he came.
You’re still God, even though you were rejected;
still God, though you were ridiculed, deserted;
still God, still God, still God.
You’re still God, though you suffered execution;
still God, you’re alive and Christ our champion;
still God, still God.
So I will be still and know you are God.

Godfrey & Gill Birtill, Geraldine Latty (born 1963) & Tim Lomax (born 1973)

Wednesday 13th May 2020

Bible: John 8:31-38 New International Version (NIVUK)

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ 33 They answered him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’ 34 Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it for ever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.[a]
(a) John 8:38 Or ‘presence. Therefore do what you have heard from the Father.’

Reflection

The variant reading of verse 38 makes much more sense than the normal reading. Jesus has been having a dispute about who he is. As a result some of the crowd believed him and so Jesus is now speaking just to them. He is doing a seminar for new converts, to help them understand what it means to follow him. It is not a one moment decision it is a lifetime of discipline. That’s where the word disciple comes from. We tend to think of it as ‘follower’ but it is really ‘under the discipline of’. Like it or not we free from the consequences of our sin but under the discipline of the one who saved us from those consequences, Jesus Christ. Jesus is doing and saying what he has seen his Father doing and therefore if we want to be part of his kingdom we must do likewise.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Public transport operators coping with ‘back to work’
  • Sharon, Caren, Lucy & Laura now furloughed
  • Our Elders working through the ‘Towards A New Normal’ document and discerning what church will look like post covid-19
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 From heaven you came, helpless babe,
entered our world, your glory veiled,
not to be served but to serve,
and give your life that we might live.
This is our God, the Servant King,
he calls us now to follow him,
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.

2 There in the garden of tears
my heavy load he chose to bear;
his heart with sorrow was torn,
‘Yet not my will but yours,’ he said.
refrain

3 Come see his hands and his feet,
the scars that speak of sacrifice,
hands that flung stars into space
to cruel nails surrendered.
refrain

4 So let us learn how to serve
and in our lives enthrone him,
each other’s needs to prefer,
for it is Christ we’re serving.
refrain

Graham Kendrick (b. 1950)

Tuesday 12th May 2020

Bible: Proverbs 3:5-12 New International Version (NIVUK)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. 11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Reflection

The wisdom of Proverbs is still as valuable today as when it was first written down. Much of it dates from King Solomon who reigned over Israel from around 967 to around 927BC, three millennia ago. At first sight some of it seems unpalatable to today’s culture but look at it, let it sink in and it has so much to say. Solomon, the wisest and maybe most powerful man alive at that time is saying trust in God not in human power, wisdom or understanding. Every day we hear our government’s spokesperson telling us to trust them, they are following the science. I wonder what we would say if they said they had been to a prayer meeting and God had said…? Yet this precisely what King Solomon said. Trust, fear, honour the Lord, accept his discipline and rebuke. However wise or powerful we are we must defer to God who is all-wise and all powerful and loves us unconditionally,

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Plans being made to get children back to school
  • Workplaces beginning to re-open
  • People who have become used to being at home and not having to work for a living
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

Trust, trust in the Lord,
lean not on your own understanding;
in all, all of your ways acknowledge him,
he’ll make your path straight.
Trust, trust in the Lord,
lean not on your own understanding;
in all, all of your ways acknowledge him,
he’ll make your path straight.
1          You’ll be my guide for life;
I’ll walk by your side
with your hand in mine;
I’ll go where you lead me.

2          Chorus
My eyes can only see the ground beneath my feet;
your dreams are greater,
your ways are higher;
O Lord, please show me.

3          Chorus
 Bless my thoughts, my dreams,
my imaginations;
step by step, your delight,
your creation.

Amy Sandstrom

Monday 11th May 2020

Bible: Psalm 102:12-17 New International Version (NIVUK)

12 But you, Lord, sit enthroned for ever; your renown endures through all generations. 13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favour to her; the appointed time has come.14 For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. 15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. 16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. 17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.

Reflection

A timely reminder about the timelessness of God. Such simple words but packed full of meaning. The Psalmist has no uncertainty, God reigns forever. That gives us such comfort when we see the rise and fall of empires, political leaders, sports stars, celebrities and the like. Nothing human lasts for ever. Only the divine, God himself, lasts forever. The Psalmist calls on God to show compassion, respond to prayers and restore his people. Today, in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic with over four million people knowingly infected worldwide, we too call on God. We are still looking for a vaccine, still looking for a cure, still struggling understand why it affects some ethnicities and some age groups more than others, still wrestling with why most people have mild symptoms but some have it much more seriously and die. We don’t know the answers but we do we need God’s help now.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • The construction industry gradually reopening
  • Children missing vital schooling and struggling without access to laptops and teachers to help them
  • Families under pressure because they are home together twenty four hours a day
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise,
the city of our God, the holy place,
the joy of the whole earth.
Great is the Lord in whom we have the victory,
he aids us against the enemy,
we bow down on our knees.
And Lord, we want to lift your name on high,
and Lord, we want to thank you,
for the works you’ve done in our lives;
and Lord, we trust in your unfailing love,
for you alone are God eternal,
throughout earth and heaven above.

Steve McEwan

Sunday 10th May 2020

Bible: John 14:1-7 New International Version (NIVUK)

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’

Reflection

A wonderful discourse from the night of the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples. Jesus is trying to prepare them for what is about to happen. They don’t understand. How could they? It was going to be outside their experience and beyond their greatest imagination. Verse six has divided Christians for centuries, maybe because taken at face value it can be seen as exclusive and divisive. Far from it, it is an inclusive offer to all humanity. It is simple and straight forward. Jesus is saying ‘stop asking all your questions, stop talking and look at me, I am all you need’. He is saying ‘you want to know how to reach eternal life, do as I do’. He is saying ‘you want to know what truth is, listen to what I say.’ He is saying ‘you want to know how to live life to its full, do as I do.’ Jesus is saying ‘I am all you need, follow me and meet the Father.’

Prayer

Please pray for

  • GP’s, Medical Practices and Pharmacies
  • Postal workers, Police Officers, Fire Fighters, Coastguards, RNLI personnel, Delivery Drivers, Bus Drivers and Rail Staff
  • People who have delayed seeking medical care due to covid-19
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 All my days I will sing this song of gladness,
give my praise to the fountain of delights;
for in my helplessness you heard my cry,
and waves of mercy poured down on my life.

2 I will trust in the cross of my Redeemer,
I will sing of the blood that never fails,
of sins forgiven, of conscience cleansed,
of death defeated and life without end.

Beautiful Saviour, wonderful Counsellor,
clothed in majesty, Lord of history,
you’re the Way, the Truth, the Life.
Star of the Morning, glorious in holiness,
you’re the risen one, heaven’s champion,
and you reign, you reign over all!

3 I long to be where the praise is never-ending,
yearn to dwell where the glory never fades,
where countless worshippers will share one song,
and cries of ‘worthy’ will honour the Lamb!

Beautiful Saviour …

Stuart Townend (b. 1963)

Saturday 9th May 2020

Bible: John 8:54-59 New International Version (NIVUK)

54 Jesus said, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.’ 57 ‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ they said to him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!’ 58 ‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Reflection

‘Self-praise is no praise at all.’ That’s a phrase we’ve all heard many a time, perhaps even directed at  us. It may be why I still cringe when game show contestants applaud their own answers, it seems conceited. Jesus seems to be agreeing with this view of self-praise when he says ‘If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing’ He is giving the glory to his Father, God. Sometimes when Christians are applauded you see them raise their arms up, draw their hands together and applaud as if they are drawing the praise of the people away from them and lifting it to God, who alone is worthy of our praise. Jesus, as usual, turns the conversation in the direction he wants it go and says ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ Notice it is ‘I am’ not ‘I was’, a very clear statement that he has always existed and always will, without beginning or end!

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Garden Centres preparing to re-open this coming week
  • those still in hospital, some still in intensive care with covid-19 and those now out of ICU and back home on the long road to recovery
  • Residents and staff of local care homes, sheltered housing and supported living complexes
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

The God Of Abraham Praise                  abridged version

1          The God of Abraham praise
who reigns enthroned above,
Ancient of everlasting Days,
and God of love:
Jehovah, great I AM,
by earth and heaven confest;
I bow and bless the sacred name
for ever blest.

2          The God of Abraham praise,
at whose supreme command
from earth I rise, and seek the joys
at his right hand:
I all on earth forsake,
its wisdom, fame and power;
and him our only portion make,
our shield and tower.

3          The God of Abraham praise,
whose all-sufficient grace
shall guide me all my happy days
in all my ways.
He calls a worm his friend,
he calls himself my God;
and he shall save me to the end
through Jesu’s blood.

4          He by himself has sworn,
I on his oath depend:
I shall, on eagles’ wings upborne,
to heaven ascend;
I shall behold his face,
I shall his power adore
and sing the wonders of his grace
for evermore.

10        The God who reigns on high
the great archangels sing,
and ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’ cry,
‘almighty King,
who was, and is the same,
and evermore shall be:
Jehovah, Father, great I AM,
we worship thee.’

12        The whole triumphant host
give thanks to God on high;
‘hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost’,
they ever cry:
hail, Abraham’s God, and mine,
(I join the heavenly lays)
all might and majesty are thine,
and endless praise.

Yigaddel Elohim chay weyishtabach
Daniel Ben Judah (fl 14th century), Thomas Olivers (1725-1799)

Friday 8th May 2020 – VE75

Bible: Micah 4:1-5 New International Version (NIVUK)

In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig-tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken. All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.

Reflection

Today is the 75th Anniversary of  VE Day and events are taking place across Europe. For the first time ever it is a public holiday in Berlin as they remember their liberation from the Nazi Regime. At a time when we are watching covid-19 deaths rise to nearly 300,000 worldwide it is sobering to remember that around 80 million people died in WWII, that is 3% of the world population at the time. We rejoice in 75 years of peace in most of Europe and commit ourselves to working for the day Micah foretold, peace for the whole world.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • The people of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea occupied by Russia
  • People in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo and Northern Macedonia still with missing relatives after war in the 1990’s
  • The people of Palestine and Israel that peace may prevail in the land we call holy that is home the world’s three great theistic faiths
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 We pray for peace,
But not the easy peace,
Built on complacency
And not the truth of God.
We pray for real peace,
The peace God’s love alone can seal.

2 We pray for peace,
But not the cruel peace,
Leaving God’s poor bereft
And dying in distress,
We pray for real peace,
Enriching all the human race.

3 We pray for peace,
And not the evil peace,
Defending unjust laws
And nursing prejudice,
But for the real peace
Of justice, mercy, truth and love.

4 We pray for peace:
Holy communion
With Christ our risen Lord
And every living thing;
God’s will fulfilled on earth
And all creation reconciled.

5 We pray for peace,
And for the sake of peace,
Look to the risen Christ
Who gives the grace we need,
To serve the cause of peace
And make our own self-sacrifice.

6 God, give us peace:
If you withdraw your love,
There is no peace for us
Nor any hope of it.
With you to lead us on,
Through death or tumult, peace will come.

Alan Gaunt (born 1935)

Tune Herstmonceux

Thursday 7th May 2020

Bible: Psalm 31:1-5 New International Version (NIVUK)

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Reflection

Our morning prayer, before we get out of bed each day, ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit’. A prayer that every day we may be guided by God so that we are safe, secure and free from danger. Walking on narrow paths high up in the Alps we feel more secure when we see other, more experienced, walkers ahead of us, Walking in the mist in the Lake District we feel safer when we see footsteps in the snow in front of us. Walking in the Tyrol, following signposts marked in hours not kilometres gives us confidence. So it is with God. We live each day better when we live it with God. The path seems less steep, more even, shorter when we walk hand in hand with God. Temptations are more easily overcome, diversions more easily ignored when we are talking with God as we journey through each day. No day is lonely when we spend it with God.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Council workers, postal staff and other essential workers providing us with a service during lockdown
  • People stuck in tower block flats unable to get out
  • Convenience stores and corner shops providing a lifeline for local people
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

A Safe Stronghold Our God Is Still

1 A safe stronghold our God is still,
a trusty shield and weapon;
he’ll keep us clear from all the ill
that hath us now o’ertaken.
The ancient prince of hell
hath risen with purpose fell;
strong mail of craft and power
he weareth in this hour;
on earth is not his fellow.

2 With force of arms we nothing can,
full soon were we down-ridden;
but for us fights the proper Man
whom God himself hath bidden.
Ask ye, Who is this same?
Christ Jesus is his name,
the Lord Sabaoth’s Son;’
he, and no other one,
shall conquer in the battle.

3 And were this world all devils o’er,
and watching to devour us,
we lay it not to heart so sore;
not they can overpower us.
And let the prince of ill
look grim as e’er he will,
he harms us not a whit;
for why? his doom is writ;
a word shall quickly slay him.

4 God’s word, for all their craft and force,
one moment will not linger,
but, spite of hell, shall have its course;
’tis written by his finger.
And though they take our life,
goods, honour, children, wife,
yet is their profit small;
these things shall vanish all:
the City of God remaineth.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) tr Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

Wednesday 6th May 2020

Bible: Matthew 20:20-28 New International Version (NIVUK)

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus ….. She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’…….’ 24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

Reflection

One of the great problems of a Christian is to look at life with heavenly eyes not earthly eyes and this is particularly true when thing of eternal life. It is natural for a mother to want the best for her children so the question is perfectly understandable, albeit misguided. Looking at Scripture it seems that in heaven God is pictured sitting on a throne, Jesus is pictured sitting on a throne but no-one else is. The whole of humanity is pictured standing before the throne praising God, all are equal there is no hierarchy. Jesus quickly turns his reply to the hierarchy of earth and points out that the way of society is not the way of the church. We do things differently. Greatness is not defined by position, status, schooling or dogma, it is defined by service to those in need.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Council workers, postal staff and other essential workers providing us with a service during lockdown
  • People stuck in tower block flats unable to get out
  • Convenience stores and corner shops providing a lifeline for local people
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God;
he whose word cannot be broken
formed thee for his own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

2 See! The streams of living waters,
springing from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters,
and all fear of want remove;
who can faint, while such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage —
grace which, like the Lord, the giver,
never fails from age to age?

3 Saviour, if of Zion’s city
I, through grace, a member am,
let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in thy name.
Fading are our worldly pleasures,
all their boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting treasures
none but Zion’s children know.

John Newton (1725-1807)

Tuesday 5th May 2020

Bible: Hebrews 13:20,21 New International Version (NIVUK)

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Reflection

Some of the great blessings used by the church today have their origins in the blessings found at the end of the letters in the New Testament and this is no exception. The letter to the Hebrews began with words about the Son and it ends with a request to God to bless the readers. The blessing begins with a reminder of the essential element of our faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It then reminds of the role of Jesus, who as our Shepherd cares for us, rescues us, protects us, feeds us, watches over us, picks us up when we are struggling and spends his time watching over us. Only these he move into what he is asking God to do, to equip us and work in us. This is a reminder that all are gifts, talents and skills are given to us by God for the express purpose of doing his will. They are not ours to fritter away. Furthermore they will be given to us according to what is pleasing to him, not what we want or desire. Finally the purpose of giving them is not that we may achieve great things but that Jesus may have the glory. That is only right considering that we are part of the body of Christ and have no purpose without him.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Discussions, consultations and planning taking place about coming out of lockdown
  • Those who are more interested in criticising the government or pedalling fake news and false information than helping
  • Self employed people struggling to survive
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Come, let us use the grace divine,
and all, with one accord,
in a perpetual covenant join
ourselves to Christ the Lord:

2 Give up ourselves, through Jesu’s power,
his name to glorify;
and promise, in this sacred hour,
for God to live and die.

3 The covenant we this moment make
be ever kept in mind:
we will no more our God forsake,
or cast his words behind.

4 We never will throw off his fear
who hears our solemn vow;
and if thou art well pleased to hear,
come down, and meet us now.

5 To each the covenant blood apply,
which takes our sins away;
and register our names on high,
and keep us to that day.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Monday 4th May 2020

Bible: Psalm 100 New International Version (NIVUK)

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Reflection

Another fabulous Psalm! When something really pleases or excites us we shout out just like England scoring the winning run in a tense and close Test Match. We simply can’t keep quiet. Neither can the Psalmist and he wants us to join him in exuberant praise of God. No mumbled, head held low words, but shouted out, head held high words. We see the faithfulness of God in the bright colours of the spring flowers, the blossom on the trees, fruit and vegetables ripening in the fields. We see it in the way our bodies heal of cuts, bruises and disease. We see it in the encouragement of friends and family and the food on our plates. We see it in the Church, Christ’s body on earth, chosen and established by God to do his work and usher in his kingdom. Everywhere we look we see God’s goodness, every day we experience his goodness. Shout for joy to the Lord.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Those who continue to flout the lockdown and have no concept of, or choose to ignore, the danger they are causing
  • People who are finding self-isolation very difficult and are extremely apprehensive about the time it may have to last
  • Businesses preparing to re-open
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

Faithful One

Faithful One, so unchanging,
Ageless One, you’re my rock of peace.
Lord of all I depend on you,
I call out to you again and again.
I call out to you again and again.
You are my rock in times of trouble.
You lift me up when I fall down.
All through the storm your love is the anchor,
my hope is in you alone.

Brian Doerksen (b. 1965)

Sunday 3rd May 2020 known as Good Shepherd Sunday

Bible: Psalm 23 New International Version (NIVUK)

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Reflection

Probably the most well-known Psalm both inside and outside the church. It was even adopted for that wonderful comedy ‘The Vicar of Dibley’. What is it about Psalm 23 that makes it so popular? At one level it invokes images of beautiful meadows with streams of clear babbling water flowing by. It makes us feel warm, secure, at peace with the world. But at a deeper level it is a concise statement of our faith. In fact you could sum up our faith in verse one. Verses two to six are superfluous; however they beautifully expand our understanding of our faith. He gives us rest and refreshment. He guides us. He is our help in difficult times. He feeds us. He tends our wounds. He welcomes us in eternity. What more could we want? What a wonderful statement of our faith, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing’.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • People to pick the fruit and vegetables growing in abundance on our farms and farmers struggling without their help
  • NHS staff treating covid-19 patients, particularly those in intensive care or high dependency units
  • Trials of the track and trace mobile phone app
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 The King of love my shepherd is,
whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
and he is mine for ever.

2 Where streams of living water flow
my ransomed soul he leadeth,
and where the verdant pastures grow
with food celestial feedeth.

3 Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
but yet in love he sought me,
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home rejoicing brought me.

4 In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
with thee, dear Lord, beside me;
thy rod and staff my comfort still,
thy cross before to guide me.

5 Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
thy unction grace bestoweth;
and O what transport of delight
from thy pure chalice floweth!

6 And so through all the length of days
thy goodness faileth never:
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
within thy house for ever.

Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877)

Saturday 2nd May 2020

Bible: Ezekiel 34:11-16 New International Version (NIVUK)

11 ‘“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.

Reflection

This is a wonderful image of a God who cares so much for his people that, not content with waiting for them to come to him, he goes searching for them. The flock is scattered but just look at the words God uses about his sheep. I will search for, look after, rescue, bring, pasture, lie down, feed, tend, bind up, strengthen. Furthermore he emphasises his role, twice he says ‘I. myself’. He is not entrusting the task to anyone else. Wow. God will do all this for us. Why should we refuse him, run away from him, spurn his love, ignore his call. The Creator and Sustainer cares for us.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Families separated by lockdown in which grandparents and grandchildren can’t meet
  • Efforts being made to bring covid-19 under control in care homes, sheltered housing, supported living and prisons
  • Public Transport operators providing an essential service
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Who can sound the depths of sorrow
in the Father heart of God,
for the children we’ve rejected,
for the lives so deeply scarred?
And each light that we’ve extinguished
has brought darkness to our land:
upon our nation, upon our nation,
have mercy, Lord.

2 We have scorned the truth you gave us,
we have bowed to other lords.
We have sacrificed the children
on the altars of our gods.
O let truth again shine on us,
let your holy fear descend:
upon our nation, upon our nation,
have mercy, Lord.

3 Who can stand before your anger?
Who can face your piercing eyes?
For you love the weak and helpless,
and you hear the victims’ cries.
Yes, you are a God of justice,
and your judgement surely comes:
upon our nation, upon our nation,
have mercy, Lord.

4 Who will stand against the violence?
Who will comfort those who mourn?
In an age of cruel rejection,
who will build for love a home?
Come and shake us into action,
come and melt our hearts of stone:
upon your people, upon your people,
have mercy, Lord.

Graham Kendrick (b. 1950)

 

Friday 1st May 2020

Bible: Psalm 8 The Message (MSG)

God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name.
Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs
that drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble.
3-4 I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewellery, moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?
5-8 Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods, bright with Eden’s dawn light.
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge,
Made us lords of sheep and cattle, even animals out in the wild,
Birds flying and fish swimming, whales singing in the ocean deeps.
God, brilliant Lord, your name echoes around the world

Reflection

Along time ago I was told that if someone asks about God’s creation of the world do not turn to Genesis but turn to Psalm 8. Here it is, all you need to know about Creation, not the method but the purpose. Leave the method to the scientists, and scientists should leave the purpose to the church. AS I once heard the Rev Professor David Wilkinson, now Principal of St John’s College Durham, say. ‘There is no contradiction between my faith as a Christian and my profession as a scientist. Science explains how, faith explains why.’ Read Psalm 8, slowly and prayerfully and reflect on God.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Consultations and planning concerning bringing the UK out of lockdown in a safe and secure way
  • The NHS as it plans a return to normality and restarts its normal surgery, clinics and treatment
  • The Church worldwide as it continues to serve and to save
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
thy power throughout the universe displayed:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to thee:
how great thou art, how great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to thee:
how great thou art, how great thou art!

2 When through the woods and forest glades I wander
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
and hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze:
Refrain

3 And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
sent him to die, I scarce can take it in
that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
he bled and died to take away my sin:
Refrain

4 When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
and take me home — what joy shall fill my heart;
then shall I bow in humble adoration,
and there proclaim:my God, how great thou art:
Refrain

Stuart K. Hine (1899-1989)
vv. 1, 2, 4 based on O store Gud by Carl Gustaf Boberg (1859-1940)

Thursday 30th April 2020

Bible: 1 Peter 2:9-12 New International Version (NIVUK)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Reflection

A purple passage of scripture. Just look at how we, as Christians, are described. Chosen, royal, holy and special, you can’t top that. What’s more is that God has done it for us. It required no effort on our part. How often do we regard ourselves as ‘God’s special possession’? Couldn’t be better could it. God has done it for a purpose. That purpose is for us to tell others of God and his goodness. Peter urges us to respond to this by the way we live, fundamentally that this world is not our home, heaven is our home, we are temporary residents here. Because heaven is our home, we live by heaven’s rules not earth’s. That exhortation to live such a good life that even non-believer’s recognise we are different reminds me of the words of the Roman Officer at Jesus’ crucifixion who declared ‘truly this man was a son of God’. Two thousand years later people come to faith because they see in a Christian friend a way of life that is profoundly different, fulfilled.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • People living on their own who are self-isolating and miss face to face conversations with other people
  • Refugees and Asylum Seekers, particularly those living in camps. Hostels or on streets or beaches
  • Manufacturers and suppliers of PPE
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          We are a people called by God,
to be the heirs of grace-
ours is the task of making known
the way of mercy God has shown
for all the human race.

2          Called to a royal, priestly role-
disciples of the King!
As we recall what Christ endured,
we honour him, our Saviour-Lord:
his praise we gladly sing.

3          Chosen to walk in holiness-
a nation set apart-
living by grace, we do God’s will,
and so the sacred call fulfil
to be the pure in heart.

4          Christ teaches us his perfect law-
and frees us to obey!
Since to the Lord we now belong,
we offer him, in life and song,
our worship day by day.

           Martin E Leckebusch (born 1962)

Tune: Newcastle

Wednesday 29th April 2020

Bible: Exodus 24:1-4 New International Version (NIVUK)

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.’ When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, ‘Everything the Lord has said we will do.’ Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.

Reflection

Let us begin at the end. ‘Everything that the Lord has said we will do.’ What a wonderful response from the people. One that every Christian will agree with. We all want to do what God has said. So what goes wrong. God spoke to Moses because he had called him to bring the people out of exile and into the Promised Land and as part of this process God was going to restate his laws from humankind. They weren’t new. They weren’t different. They were the same as ever. The Old Testament history is one of God blessing his people, the people enjoying God’s favour, the people turning aside from God, the people suffering the consequences, the people crying out to God, God listening to them and restoring them, God blessing them and the cycle continuing as before. It happened many times culminating with God sending his son Jesus. Sadly the cycle has continued throughout church history. We are no better today. Just like some people think the coronavirus lockdown does not apply to them there are those who think God’s words do not apply to them. When will we ever learn?

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Our political leaders trying to find the right way through the crisis
  • Community support schemes, especially those in Redditch and Rubery and for Nicki and Louise who are involved in them
  • Local Care Homes, sheltered housing and supported living
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          All I have and all I am is yours;
There’s nothing I have on earth that doesn’t come from you.
I lay aside my pride and worldly worth;
to serve you is the greatest thing that I could ever do.
For unless you build this house, I am building it in vain.
Unless the work is yours, there is nothing to be gained.
I want something that will stand when your holy fire comes;
something that will last, and to hear you say – ‘well done’,
giving glory to you, Lord, glory to you, Lord.

2          So easy to desire what others have,
instead of seeing all the gifts that you have given me.
So help me fan the flame which you began,
and burn in me a love for you that all will clearly see.
Chorus

Nathan Fellingham (born 1977), Louise Fellingham (born 1974) and Mike Busbee

Tuesday 28th April 2020

Bible: Proverbs 8:32-36 New International Version (NIVUK)

32 “Now therefore listen to me, O you children, for blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Hear instruction, and be wise, and do not refuse it.
34 Blessed is the man who hears me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life and will obtain favour of the Lord;
36 but he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death.

Reflection

Throughout Scripture there is a running theme that those who keep God’s ways will be blessed. It is not a stick or carrot approach. It is not a reward. It is a simple fact. Do what is right and you will be blessed. It is as natural as day following night. We all know this from experience. When we do what is right we feel better than when we do wrong. When we eat properly, sleep well, exercise appropriately we feel better for it. The write of Proverbs sets out the benefits of doing right and the consequences of doing wrong. Here we have only a snippet of it but it is a very revealing snippet. Every word is important. If we keep the right ways, if we are wise enough to follow instructions, if we listen, watch, wait (pray) we will be blessed by God, for eternity. If we sin (do that which is against God’s will) we are, in effect, hating God and will suffer the inevitable consequence of death, without eternity. Thank goodness God promises forgiveness for all who repent.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Those developing vaccines, testing kits and medicines for covid-19 and volunteers testing them
  • Schools and shops beginning to look at how they might reopen and what procedures they will need to put in place
  • Local doctor’s surgeries, pharmacies and medical centres
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Just as I am, without one plea
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.

2 Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot,
to thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come.

3 Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come.

4 Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come.

5 Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve:
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come.

6 Just as I am (thy love unknown
has broken every barrier down),
now to be thine, yea, thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come.

7 Just as I am, of that free love
the breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
here for a season, then above,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Charlotte Elliott (1789-1871)

Monday 27th April 2020

Bible: 1 Peter 1:22-25 New International Version (NIVUK)

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,

‘All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord endures for ever.’

And this is the word that was preached to you.

Reflection

A salutary reminder from Peter that this life is transient and will inevitably end in death that is particularly timely in this current covid-19 crisis. How often do we live and think and speak as if this life will go on for ever? Yes every death brings sadness, particularly for family and close friends. Sometimes that sadness is added to by the feeling that a life was cut short unnaturally early. All life ends in death, which is a gateway into eternal life. The Bible tells us that human lifespan is seventy years, eighty if we are lucky, definitely a lot shorter than the eternity we shall spend with God in heaven. Peter is convinced that this gift of eternal life cannot be destroyed therefore we should obey God’s truth and love one another. In the Greek the two words in verse 22 for love are philia and agape which mean deep friendship and love for everyone respectively. One is referring to the Church, the other to the world. Both are vital, not one or the other, both.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Community volunteers shopping and collecting medication
  • Staff at local hospitals, particularly the Queen Elizabeth, Worcester Royal and the Alexandra hospitals
  • The Police, Firefighters, Ambulance personnel, Mountain Rescue Teams and the RNLI
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Jesus, Lord, we look to thee,
let us in thy name agree;
show thyself the Prince of Peace;
bid our jarring conflicts cease.

2 By thy reconciling love,
every stumbling-block remove;
each to each unite, endear;
come, and spread thy banner here.

3 Make us of one heart and mind,
courteous, merciful, and kind,
lowly, meek in thought and word,
altogether like our Lord.

4 Let us for each other care,
each the other’s burden bear,
to thy Church the pattern give,
show how true believers live.

5 Free from anger and from pride,
let us thus in God abide;
all the depth of love express,
all the height of holiness.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Sunday 26th April 2020

Bible: Psalm 116 12-19 New International Version (NIVUK)

12 What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.
14 I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.
16 Truly I am your servant, Lord; I serve you just as my mother did;
you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord – in your midst, Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord.

Reflection

I wonder how often we have pondered the question the Psalmist asks in verse 12, As a child I was amused by London buses going to ‘Ponders End’. I had only ever come across the word ‘Ponder’ in the hymn ‘Praise to the Lord, the Almighty’ which in verse 3 says ‘Ponder anew all the Almighty can do’. Just as all travellers eventually arrive at ‘Journey’s End’ do all thinkers eventually arrive at ‘Ponder’s End’ and if so what is there. If we ponder on the Psalmist’s question where does that take us. The Psalmist has four responses, one of which is repeated, they involve being a servant, keeping promises to God, making a sacrificial thank-offering, taking the cup of salvation. All of this is done in public and with calling on God’s name to help. In other words owning faith in front of others. As John Bell & Graham Bell put it ‘and admit to what I mean in you and you in me.’

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Businesses beginning to re-open with self-distancing measures
  • Scammers using the covid-19 situation to try and create fear and con people into parting with money
  • All currently in intensive care with covid-19 and the NHS staff caring for them
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Will you come and follow me
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown
in you and you in me?

2 Will you leave yourself behind
if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer
in you and you in me?

3 Will you let the blinded see
if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free
and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean,
and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean
in you and you in me?

4 Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound
in you and you in me?

5 Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.

John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)

Saturday 25th April 2020

Bible: Isaiah 25:6-9 New International Version (NIVUK)

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death for ever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’

Reflection

What a wonderful image. God preparing a banquet for the whole world.  Nothing but the best, ‘rich food’, ‘best of meats’ and ‘finest of wines’. God knows how to treat his people. Remember the Promised Land full of wonderful food, the feeding of the 5000, the water into wine, meals Jesus had with people, the lakeside breakfast and of course the last supper. Food is central to faith because it is a sign of God’s love and generosity and because it is an opportunity to share with friends. Of course in this lockdown we are denied physically sharing with friends but God’s love and generosity is still here, just look at the variety of food on our shop shelves or on our internet shopping list. When time is no more, death is over and sin erased we will share that fantastic heavenly banquet, rich food, best meats and fine wine. For now we have a foretaste every time we eat and drink. Give thanks to God for all he has given, all he has promised.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • All who have had covid-19 and recovered
  • People who think the lockdown guidance does not apply to them and still gather in groups
  • The families and friends of the 20,000+ people in this country who have died of covid-19
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God;
he whose word cannot be broken
formed thee for his own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

2 See! The streams of living waters,
springing from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters,
and all fear of want remove;
who can faint, while such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage —
grace which, like the Lord, the giver,
never fails from age to age?

3 Saviour, if of Zion’s city
I, through grace, a member am,
let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in thy name.
Fading are our worldly pleasures,
all their boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting treasures
none but Zion’s children know.

John Newton (1725-1807)

Friday 24th April 2020

Bible: 1 Peter 1:13-16 New International Version (NIVUK)

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’

The quote at the end is from Leviticus 19:1,2 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.’

Reflection

Holy means set apart, dedicated, consecrated and the reason we are given for being holy is that God is holy. Jesus put it another way he said ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Matthew 5:48). We are being called to an absolute standard and the reason is logical. We have committed ourselves to God by following Jesus and as such we are trying to imitate him in all that we are, all that we think, say and do. Yes it’s a tall order but just as any athlete aims to be the best in their discipline so we have to aim to be the best we can be. This is not because we are trying to earn salvation or because we are in fear of God. It is because we love God and wish to demonstrate that love by pleasing him. Peter uses that word we struggle with ‘obedient’. We see obedience as curbing freedom but we are wrong. Obedience is our response to a loving God. God is holy so we should be holy.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Those planning a safe and orderly way out of lockdown
  • Those disseminating false information and fake news
  • People with illnesses other than covid-19 who are unwilling to seek medical help and those whose treatment is on hold
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Purify my heart,
let me be as gold
and precious silver.
Purify my heart,
let me be as gold,
pure gold.
Refiner’s fire,
my heart’s one desire
is to be holy,
set apart for you, Lord.
I choose to be holy,
set apart for you my master,
ready to do your will.

2 Purify my heart,
cleanse me from within
and make me holy.
Purify my heart,
cleanse me from my sin,
deep within.
refrain

Brian Doerksen (b. 1965)

Thursday 23rd April 2020

Bible: 1 Peter 1:8-12 New International Version (NIVUK)

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

Reflection

The him that Peter is referring to is Jesus Christ. This is Peter who spent three years in the company of Jesus exhorting those believers who never met Jesus in the flesh, and that includes us. None of us have seen Jesus in the flesh, a few of us have had a vision in which we met Jesus but all of us know Jesus. We have felt his presence and we have a deep love for him, without whom our lives would be impoverished and unfulfilled. Peter cannot find words to express the joy of knowing Jesus and some of us have had moments in our lives when we have sat in stunned silence because of the presence of Jesus and words have become superfluous. Not only do we know the joy of walking with Jesus now, we know the joy of salvation and the promise of eternal life.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Clinical trials beginning for covid-19 vaccines
  • Public transport staff and delivery drivers providing a vital service
  • Farmers and Market Gardeners struggling to find enough workers to harvest their vital crops, essential for feeding the nation
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 At your feet we fall, mighty risen Lord,
As we come before Your throne to worship You.
By Your Spirit’s power You now draw our hearts,
And we hear Your voice in triumph ringing clear.
I am He that liveth, that liveth and was dead,
Behold I am alive forever more.

2 There we see You stand, mighty risen Lord,
Clothed in garments pure and holy, shining bright.
Eyes of flashing fire, feet like burnished bronze,
And the sound of many waters is Your voice.
Refrain

3 Like the shining sun in its noonday strength,
We now see the glory of Your wondrous face.
Once that face was marred, but now You’re glorified,
And Your words like a two-edged sword have mighty power.
Refrain

David Fellingham (born 1945)

Wednesday 22nd April 2020

Bible: Jonah 2:1,2, 6-9 New International Version (NIVUK)

Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: ‘In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.

You, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. ‘When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. ‘Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, “Salvation comes from the Lord.”’

Reflection

Part of Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the whale. Jonah thought he was dead. He believed his life was over but he still prayed to God. He had not lost hope. He called for help and God responded. In January 2017 when I was in Worcester royal Hospital with chronic heart failure I lay there one night and prayed ‘Lord I don’t want to die but if that is your will for me I am ready.’ That night was the turning point. Many of you will say that the medication began to kick in. It was more than that. Putting myself in God’s hands and trusting him for the future was the real difference. Every day I live is a bonus from God that I nearly didn’t have. I have much to thank him for and every reason to live for him. So it was with Jonah, he recognised that idols were worthless and that God alone had the power to save him.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Those risking their health and the health of other people by ignoring the lockdown
  • Care homes, their residents and staff and their families
  • Councils, industry and businesses that will need government financial support to survive this crisis
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain?
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

2 ‘Tis mystery all:the Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
to sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
let angel minds enquire no more.

3 He left his Father’s throne above —
so free, so infinite his grace —
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;
for, O my God, it found out me!

4 Long my imprisoned spirit lay
fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray —
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light,
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

5 No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach the eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ, my own.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Tuesday 21st April 2020

Bible: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 New International Version (NIVUK)

20 Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he ‘has put everything under his feet’. Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

Reflection

We continue Paul’s treatise on resurrection which begins to move into end times theology. For Paul the resurrection of Jesus plays a crucial role in this. For him belief in an afterlife is impossible without a belief in the resurrection of Jesus. There is an order to everything in which Jesus comes first. Paul is very clear, all human power, authority and dominion will be defeated by Christ along with death itself. It is not something that we will have to do. It will be done for us by Jesus. We just reap the benefit. A picture is being painted of the eternal kingdom where God is supreme and everyone and everything is part of His kingdom. What a wonderful day!

Prayer

Please pray for

  • With thanksgiving that covid-19 appears to be coming under control in the UK and the peak may have passed
  • The poorer nations of the world who do not have the resources we have to fight covid-19 that we may help them
  • Businesses preparing for the post lockdown world
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
does his successive journeys run;
his kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
till moons shall wax and wane no more.

2 For him shall endless prayer be made,
and praises throng to crown his head;
his name like sweet perfume shall rise
with every morning sacrifice.

3 People and realms of every tongue
dwell on his love with sweetest song;
and infant voices shall proclaim
their early blessings on his name.

4 Blessings abound where’er he reigns;
the prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
the weary find eternal rest,
and all who are in want are blest.

5 Let every creature rise and bring
its grateful honours to our King;
angels descend with songs again,
and earth repeat the loud amen.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Monday 20th April 2020

Bible: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 New International Version (NIVUK)

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Reflection

One of the joys of traditional Anglican worship is the reciting of the creed. True it can get repetitive and therefore said without really thinking about what is being said. But at its best it is a joyful reminder of what we believe in. Christianity is not a series of beliefs that you can opt into or out of. It is a belief, to be taken as a whole or rejected as a whole. You can’t be a bit of a Christian. You are a Christian or you are not a Christian. One or the other. Of course you’ll have doubts, anxieties and uncertainties to be prayed and talked through. A fundamental part of our faith is Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, crucified, dead and buried, resurrected on the third day and then ascended for us. Resurrection, says Paul, is fundamental to our faith.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Give thanks that the NHS is coping. Remember that some places are more under pressure than others
  • The increasing numbers of people relying on food handouts
  • The planning for easing the lock down and returning to normality
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          I serve a risen Saviour,
He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living,
whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy,
I hear His voice of cheer;
and just the time I need Him,
He’s always near.
He lives, He lives,
Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives,
Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.
 
2          In all the world around me
I see His loving care,
and though my heart grows weary
I never will despair;
I know that He is leading,
through all the stormy blast,
the day of His appearing
will come at last.
Refrain
 
3          Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian,
lift up your voice and sing
eternal hallelujahs
to Jesus Christ the King!
The hope of all who seek Him,
The help of all who find,
none other is so loving,
so good and kind.
Refrain
 
Alfred H Ackley (1887-1960)

Sunday 19th April 2020 Resurrection – One Week Later

Bible: 1 Peter 1:3-9 New International Version (NIVUK)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Reflection

This is Peter, who had denied ever knowing Jesus on that fateful night in Gethsemane, proclaiming Jesus Christ and his resurrection for all to hear. Almost all Christians, even those whose family have been in the church for generations, can tell of a time when they denied Christ by what they said or what they did. They can then tell of the fabulous experience of receiving God’s forgiveness. Here Peter is reminding the early church of what our faith is all about and that its full realisation comes in heaven not on earth and nothing that we can ever do will take that away. All we have to do is to keep on believing.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Care homes across the four nations but particularly in our local area, their staff, residents and their families
  • People with no easy access to outdoor space for exercise
  • World supplies of Personal Protective Equipment
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 I know that my Redeemer lives —
what joy the blest assurance gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead;
he lives, my everlasting Head!

2 He lives, to bless me with his love;
he lives, to plead for me above;
he lives, my hungry soul to feed;
he lives, to help in time of need.

3 He lives, and grants me daily breath;
he lives, and I shall conquer death;
he lives, my mansion to prepare;
he lives, to lead me safely there.

4 He lives, all glory to his name;
he lives, my Saviour, still the same;
what joy the blest assurance gives,
I know that my Redeemer lives!

Samuel Medley (1738-1799)

Tune: Church Triumphant

Saturday 18th April 2020 Resurrection Day +6

Bible: John 20:14-19  New International Version (NIVUK)

14 Mary  turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’). 17 Jesus said, ‘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.”’ 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Reflection

Nearly a week after the resurrection the lectionary takes us back to one of the Easter morning stories. In its own way it is reminding us of the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus to our faith and the importance of returning to that story regularly. Mary had gone to the tomb to do that which there wasn’t the opportunity to do on Good Friday – anoint the body. The rituals and traditions were important to her. The grave was open, the body gone, the grave-clothes neatly folded angels sitting there, what had happened? Then Jesus spoke to her. This was an important moment in history. Jesus was not going to allow Mary to draw her own conclusions or take the word of strangers, even if they were angels! He spoke to her himself. He confirmed his resurrection. She told everyone she met, wouldn’t you!

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Community help schemes including that run from the Ecumenical Centre providing food parcels and shopping for self-isolators
  • Councils struggling to with increased need for services, reduced staffing and reduced income
  • Clergy and pastoral carers providing support to vulnerable people
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

He has risen,
he has risen,
he has risen,
Jesus is alive.

1 When the life flowed from his body,
seemed like Jesus’ mission failed.
But his sacrifice accomplished,
victory over sin and hell.
refrain

2 In the grave God did not leave him,
for his body to decay;
raised to life, the great awakening,
Satan’s power he overcame.
refrain

3 If there were no resurrection,
we ourselves could not be raised;
but the Son of God is living,
so our hope is not in vain.
refrain

4 When the Lord rides out of heaven,
mighty angels at his side,
they will sound the final trumpet,
from the grave we shall arise.
refrain

5 He has given life immortal,
we shall see him face to face;
through eternity we’ll praise him,
Christ, the Champion of our faith.
refrain

Gerald Coates (b. 1944), Noel Richards (b. 1955) and Tricia Richards (b. 1960)

Friday 17th April 2020 Resurrection Day +5

Bible: Psalm 16:5-11 New International Version (NIVUK)

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Reflection

Isn’t it good to dwell on positive Psalms from which we can gain so much encouragement? It is particularly good to do so when times are difficult and days are dark. Here is a reminder that we are in the Lord’s care and he is very close to us. Look at the words used, counsels, instructs, delightful, secure, pleasant, joy. So positive, so encouraging, so wonderful. Our trust is in God alone, he will not abandon us, he will make us secure, he will guide our life, now and throughout eternity. So much to be grateful and thankful for, so much to be glad about and rejoice over.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Local businesses and individuals producing items of urgently needed PPE for local hospitals and Care Homes
  • Planning beginning to take place for exiting lockdown and business recovery
  • Convenience stores providing a vital and much needed service
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want;
he makes me lie in pastures green,
he leads me by the still, still waters,
his goodness restores my soul.
And I will trust in you alone,
and I will trust in you alone,
for your endless mercy follows me,
your goodness will lead me home.

2 He guides my ways in righteousness,
and he anoints my head with oil;
and my cup — it overflows with joy,
I feast on his pure delights.
Refrain

3 And though I walk the darkest path —
I will not fear the evil one,
for you are with me, and your rod and staff
are the comfort I need to know.
Refrain

Stuart Townend (b. 1963)

Thursday 16th April 2020 Resurrection Day +4

Bible: Colossians 4:2-5 New International Version (NIVUK)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

Reflection

One of the things that Paul was most consistent about was prayer. He regularly told people to pray and he regularly told them that he was praying for them. Prayer is the Christian’s lifeline. It is how we communicate with God, how we tell him what is on our hearts and how he tells us what is on his heart. A child comes running through the front door and daddy or mummy says ‘tell me about your day’. That’s what God wants from us, a natural conversation like that between a child and their parents. There are three things we should note from this passage. Firstly prayer is not an added extra in a spare moment, it is essential and takes time and effort. Secondly we all need people to pray for us so we should be praying for others. Thirdly we need to think very carefully about the image we give to ‘not yet believers’ because every encounter with someone who is not a Christian is a witness to them of our faith.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Ministers and Chaplains, Funeral Directors, Cemetery and Crematoria staff conducting funerals in difficult and trying circumstances
  • Dominic Raab leading the government whilst the PM is recovering and other Government Ministers including Rishi Sunak & Matt Hancock
  • Police Officers tasked with enforcing the lockdown
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.

2          Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near.

3          Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer the sublimest strains that reach
The majesty on high.

4          Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice
Returning from his ways,
While angels in their songs rejoice,
And cry: ‘Behold, he prays!’

5          Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air,
Our watchword at the gates of death;
We enter heaven with prayer.

6          Prayer is not made by us alone:
the Holy Spirit pleads,
and Jesus, on the eternal throne,
for sinners intercedes.

7          O thou by whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way!
The path of prayer thyself hast trod:
Lord, teach us how to pray!

James Montgomery (1771-1854)

Tune: Beatitudo

Wednesday 15th April 2020 Resurrection Day +3

Bible: Joshua 3:14-17 New International Version (NIVUK)

14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is in flood all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground

Reflection

We all remember Moses leading the people out of Egypt by crossing the Red Sea on dry ground but how many of us remember this story some forty years later. Both out of Egypt across the Red Sea and later across the River Jordan into the Promised Land, on dry land. Miraculous. But look at the detail. The Ark of the Covenant went first and only when those carrying it got their feet wet did the water stop flowing. The Ark of the Covenant remained in the middle of the river and the ground remained dry. God expects us to act on what he has told us to do before he makes it possible. It is an act of faith. God must be in the midst of all we do to make it happen. His strength, not ours, is what makes our faith work.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Staff at local hospitals mourning colleagues, particularly at the Alexandra Hospital where a nurse Julie Omar has died of covid-19
  • Those developing vaccines and treatments for covid-19
  • Businesses that will never recover leaving people unemployed and owners bankrupt
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain.

2          There everlasting spring abides,
And never-withering flowers;
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
This heavenly land from ours.

3          Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand dressed in living green;
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between.

4          But timorous mortals start and shrink
To cross this narrow sea,
And linger, shivering on the brink,
And fear to launch away.

5          O could we make our doubts remove,
Those gloomy thoughts that rise,
And see the Canaan that we love
With unbeclouded eyes:

6          Could we but climb where Moses stood,
And view the landscape o’er,
Not Jordan’s stream, nor death’s cold flood,
Should fright us from the shore!

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Tune:Beatitudo

Tuesday 14th April 2020 Resurrection Day +2

Bible: Colossians 3:12-17 New International Version (NIVUK)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Reflection

Reading about the early church is a bit like looking at a coin. There are two sides. On the one hand it is comforting to know that the early church faced the same issues as we do. On the other hand it is heart breaking to realise that we have the same issues as the early church. What prompted this letter we can’t know for certain. However if someone writes to us telling us to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving and loving it is pretty obvious that they have heard that we are not being those things. Paul is calling the church back to basics, reminding them of their purpose. He is not saying that there won’t be disagreements and failings but he is saying that must be dealt with wisdom, worship, love and gratitude.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Care Home residents and staff along with their families
  • NHS and other medical staff with covid-19 and the families of those who have died from covid-19
  • People ignoring the lockdown or trying to circumvent it and those pedalling false information about covid-19
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          O precious sight, my Saviour stands,
dying for me with outstretched hands.
O precious sight; I love to gaze,
remembering salvation day,
remembering salvation day.

2          Though my eyes linger on this scene,
may passing time and years not steal
the power with which it impacts me,
the freshness of its mystery,
the freshness of its mystery.
May I never lose the wonder,
the wonder of the cross.
May I see it like the first time,
standing as a sinner lost.
Undone by mercy and left speechless,
watching wide-eyed at the cost.
May I never lose the wonder,
the wonder of the cross.
 
3          Behold, the God-Man crucified,
the perfect sinless sacrifice.
As blood ran down those nails and wood,
history was split in two,
history was split in two.

4          Behold, the empty wooden tree,
his body gone, alive and free.
We sing with everlasting joy,
for sin and death have been destroyed,
sin and death have been destroyed.
Chorus

Vicky Beeching (born 1979)

Monday 13th April 2020 Resurrection Day +1

Bible: 1 Corinthians 15:3-9 New International Version (NIVUK)

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Reflection

This comes from Paul’s great discourse on the resurrection where he argues that if there is no resurrection our faith is in vain. Look how it starts, is an echo of his passage on the Lord’s Supper. In both cases there is an emphasis on what Paul received from Christ being passed on to others. That is exactly what we should be doing today, passing what we received from Christ on to others, our faith is not ours to keep it is ours to share. The list of resurrection appearances is important because Paul is essentially saying ‘if you don’t believe me, ask them’. The five hundred shows the growth of the fledgling church, Cephas is Peter a leader of the early church, the Twelve is capitalised because it is another term for the Disciples. Either he forgot about Judas hanging himself or he included Matthias elected to replace Judas. James is the brother of Jesus who became leader of the early church in Jerusalem. This is a rich pedigree of witnesses.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Those in hospital with covid-19
  • Food banks, community help schemes, charities working with vulnerable and marginalised people
  • Hospital chaplains
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          Your cross is empty, Lord. Your tomb is bare.
Each Easter day we lift our hearts in praise.
But help us Lord, each Lententide to share
the shadows of those last momentous days.

2          You rode in lowly triumph, Servant King.
The loud hosannas ringing in your ears.
You saw the tragedies the years would bring,
and rode into Jerusalem in tears.

3          You strove in prayer while tired disciples slept,
you found the strength to do your father’s will.
your enemies meanwhile their vigils kept
to plot and slander, in the end, to kill.

4          Those enemies, through jealousy and fear
by lies and bribes pursued their evil end.
But sharper than the thrust of Roman spear
the traitor’s kiss from one you’d called a friend.

5          They scourged a man in whom no guilt was found.
They mocked a king with tawdry robe and crown.
They led you with your cross up the mound
where death was waiting there outside the town.

6          Betrayed, denied, bereft, in mortal pain
yet caring still: ‘Here, Mother, is your son.’
You died as you had lived without a stain.
‘Father forgive.’ And then your work was done.

7.         Your cross is empty, Lord. Your tomb is bare.
This Easter day we lift our hearts in praise.
But always, Lord, may we remain aware
of what you did in those momentous days.

Marguerite Kendrick (born 1927)

Tune: Highland Cathedral

Sunday 12th April 2020 – Jerusalem 8 – Resurrection

Bible: Luke 24:1-8 New International Version (NIVUK)

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”’ Then they remembered his words.

Reflection

There are two things to remember about following Jesus. Firstly if Jesus says something will happen then it does. Secondly with Jesus always expect the unexpected, at least in human terms! Both are true when we consider the resurrection of Jesus. Humanly speaking when you are dead you are dead but Jesus transformed so much of what we takes as normal human behaviour. Furthermore he had predicted his resurrection at least three times and he had raised Lazarus, a foretaste of what was to come, The women, the disciples and other followers shouldn’t have been surprised to find an empty grave and to meet the risen Lord but they were. It was outside their expectations. Is meeting the risen Lord Jesus outside our expectations?

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Supermarket staff enjoying a day off
  • Families & friends, particularly those we would normally see at Easter.
  • Government scientific & medical advisors
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          Walking towards Emmaus me and my friend were sad
Thinking about the Master and of the times we’d had.
All of it seemed so pointless, the things he had done and said,
When two days before we’d seen him defeated and hanged and dead.

2          Somebody came behind us, someone we didn’t know;
Maybe we were not looking, hanging our heads so low.
But as he fell in beside us and asked us about our gloom,
Somehow a gleam of sunshine came into the afternoon.

3          ‘Haven’t you read your Bible, seen what it tries to say?
All this was bound to happen in the Messiah’s day.
‘He was wounded for our transgressions’ and learned about human pain;
But ‘after two days’ of mourning Messiah will live again.’

4          Still, and we did not know him, till at the journey’s end
We asked him in to supper just between friend and friend.
And he took up the bread and broke it the way he had done that night,
And as we looked up and saw him he disappeared from our sight.

5          Back again from Emmaus stumbling in haste we go
Running to find the others, tell them of what we know:
That Jesus the Lord is risen, and hope is no longer dead,
And for ever his friends can meet him in breaking the holy bread.

Michael Hewlett (1916-2000)

Tune: Eton Boating Song

Saturday 11th April 2020 – Jerusalem Day 7 – The Sabbath

Bible: Matthew 27:62-66 New International Version (NIVUK)

62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise again.” 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.’ 65 ‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Reflection

There is very little in the Bible about this day. Luke has one verse in chapter 23 ‘56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.’ Whilst Matthew has this little story which shows that despite getting rid of Jesus the Chief Priests were still concerned, maybe paranoid. Of the twelve disciples Judas had hanged himself, Peter had denied ever knowing Jesus, the rest had run away. A number of followers, male and female, had watched the crucifixion from a distance, afraid if getting too close, afraid of being seen. They weren’t going to steal the body. So what were the Chief Priests afraid of? They had seen Jesus perform miracles, healings and raising Lazarus from the grave. Maybe they feared Jesus’ prophecy of his own resurrection might be right!

Prayer

Please pray for

  • For staff at local hospitals, QE, WRH, PoW & Alexandra
  • The armed forces assisting both the NHS and the supply network.
  • Those persistently ignoring the lockdown thus putting people at risk & police trying to enforce the lockdown
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

His Hands were pierced, the Hands that made
The mountain range and everglade;
That washed the stains of sin away
And changed earth’s darkness into day.

His Feet were pierced, the Feet that trod
The furthest shining star of God
And left their imprint deep and clear
On every winding pathway here.

His Heart was pierced, the Heart that burned
To comfort every heart that yearned!
And from it came a cleansing flood,
The river of redeeming blood.

His Hands and Feet and Heart, all three
Were pierced for me on Calvary,
And here and now, to Him I bring
my hands, feet, heart, an offering.

David Wood

Tune: Banks Of Ohio (good version of this hymn to this tune on youtube)

Friday 10th April 2020 – Jerusalem Day 6 – Crucifixion & Burial

Bible: Matthew 27:50-55 New International Version (NIVUK)

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’ 55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

Reflection

Another long day for Jesus. There had been no sleep for him last night and after the interrogation by Caiaphas Jesus had been take to the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate with the demand that he was found guilty and crucified. Nothing that Pilate could say would pacify Caiaphas. The religious leaders do not come out of this well. So Jesus was crucified on Calvary. Cast your mind back to Palm Sunday when Jesus overturned the tables of the Temple moneychangers and sacrifice sellers. Here it goes one step further. As Jesus died the curtain separate the ‘Holy of Holies’ from the rest of the Temple was torn in two. The barrier between God and humankind had gone. All humanity had direct and free access to God.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Give thanks and pray for Boris Johnson’s continued recovery.
  • Healthcare staff spending time with patients as they die.
  • Public transport staff, refuse collectors, delivery drivers, postal staff, police officers and fire crew working for us at this time
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          What was the weather like that day?
Cold, wet and overcast with rain,
or bright and warm with sun and clouds?
What formed the back cloth to this pain?
What motivated those who came,
to watch this scene, to play this game?
There is so much we do not know,
save tortured death within this frame.

2          So many men had died before.
Yet something strained the air that day.
The cross they saw was nothing new,
but something strange had come to play.
The words they heard said from the cross:
‘forgive them for they do not know’,
would strain credulity and change
the ones who came to see this show.

3          God hung and died because of ‘faith’.
This man had undermined their creed.
God hung and died for politics:
no more than human need and greed.
And so this crime would shake the world,
and theologians plumb God’s fate.
God simply died, and dies again,
at human hands, through human hate.

Andrew E Pratt

Tune: The Red Flag/Tannenbaum

Thursday 9th April 2020 – Jerusalem Day 5 – Last Supper & Arrest

Bible: John 17:20-24 New International Version (NIVUK)

20 ‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 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. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – 23 I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 ‘Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Reflection

It had been a long day already and begun in a festive mood with all the preparations for the Passover. When evening came Jesus and his disciples gathered in the borrowed upper room to share the meal together. During the meal Jesus continued to teach his disciples and tried to prepare them for what was about to happen. After they had eaten they went out to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed. During this prayer he prayed for you and for me. That is mind blowing. Jesus was about to be arrested and killed and still he found time to pray for you and me. What does that say about priorities? Furthermore he is praying for the unity of all believers, a prayer that is needed more than ever today. After this prayer Jesus was arrested and was taken first to the High Priest for a mock trial.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • People whose treatment for cancer and other diseases has been put on hold at the moment.
  • NHS staff in the frontline of the battle against covid-19
  • Those who flout the lockdown, refusing to abandon their freedom and therefore put other people at risk.
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 When you prayed beneath the trees,
it was for me, O Lord;
when you cried upon your knees,
how could it be, O Lord?
When in blood and sweat and tears
you dismissed your final fears,
when you faced the soldiers’ spears,
you stood for me, O Lord.

2 When their triumph looked complete,
it was for me, O Lord;
when it seemed like your defeat,
they could not see, O Lord!
When you faced the mob alone
you were silent as a stone,
and a tree became your throne;
you came for me, O Lord.

3 When you stumbled up the road,
you walked for me, O Lord,
when you took your deadly load,
that heavy tree, O Lord;
when they lifted you on high,
and they nailed you up to die,
and when darkness filled the sky,
it was for me, O Lord.

4 When you spoke with kingly power,
it was for me, O Lord,
in that dread and destined hour,
you made me free, O Lord;
earth and heaven heard you shout,
death and hell were put to rout,
for the grave could not hold out;
you are for me, O Lord.

Christopher Idle (b. 1938)

(Tune: Kelvingrove)

Wednesday 8th April 2020 – Jerusalem Day 4

Bible: Luke 21:29-36 New International Version (NIVUK)

29 Jesus told them this parable: ‘Look at the fig-tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 ‘Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 34 ‘Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.’

Reflection

Not surprisingly there is a good deal about the end times in Jesus’ teaching in Jerusalem. Much of it is quite enigmatic and difficult for us to understand today. Through it all Jesus is essentially saying that the end will come without warning so be ready. That is often true in death, just talk to relatives of people killed on our roads, and it will be true of the second coming. Jesus is warning us not to get so caught up with both extremes, excessive partying and excessive anxiety that we are not preparing ourselves properly for death. These times in which live make this passage particularly poignant but note also the echoes of Gethsemane in Jesus’ words ‘watch and pray.’ Whatever else we are doing we should be watching and praying.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • ICU staff across the country ministering to the critically ill
  • Clergy and church lay workers ministering God’s love to bereaved families in these difficult and distressing times
  • Supermarket and convenience store staff .
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          O happy day that fixed my choice
On thee, my Saviour and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad.

Optional anonymous chorus:
O happy Day, O
happy Day
When Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray,
And live rejoicing every day.

2          O happy bond that seals my vows
To him who merits all my love!
Let cheerful anthems fill his house,
While to that sacred shrine I move.
Optional chorus
 
3          ‘Tis done, the great transaction’s done
I am my Lord’s, and he is mine;
He drew me, and I followed on,
Charmed to confess the voice divine
Optional chorus
 
4          Now rest, my long-divided heart,
Fixed on this blissful centre, rest;
Nor ever from thy Lord depart,
With him of every good possessed.
Optional chorus
 
5          High heaven, that heard the solemn vow,
That vow renewed shall daily hear,
Till in life’s latest hour I bow,
And bless in death a bond so dear.
Optional chorus
 
Philip Doddridge (1702-1751)

Tuesday 7th April 2020 – Jerusalem Day 3

Bible: Matthew 25:34-40 New International Version (NIVUK)

34 ‘Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” 37 ‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?” 40 ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Reflection

Jesus’ view of judgement day and it is a real eye opener. It is not about religious service, prayer and worship. It is about what we did for others. We cry out ‘it’s not about good works. It’s about salvation and faith’. Well, yes and no. Of course it is all about salvation and faith, Jesus death and resurrection and our acceptance of him as Lord and Saviour is what gets us eternal life. Then comes the but, it is not our piety but our good deeds that are the visible fruit of that. Take Jesus seriously, everything we do for someone else we are doing for him. We are literally ministering to Jesus in his time of need. The bonus is that it is a public witness to our faith.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Our Government, Opposition, Medical & Scientific Advisors
  • People in hospital with covid-19. If you know of someone name them as you prayer
  • Truck drivers, bus drivers, train staff, ferry staff and their cleaners and maintenance staff who are providing essential services.
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Where can we find you, Lord Jesus our Master?
We want to serve you, to answer your call.
Where do you lead us and ask us to follow?
What should we do in our service to all?

2 ‘Go to the hungry, to those who have nothing;
go where the farmlands are empty and bare.
I broke the bread for the people around me;
out of my plenty, think what you can share.

3 ‘Go to the homeless, to those who have nowhere;
go where my people sleep out in the rain.
I had no comforts but what others gave me;
offer them shelter, give ease to their pain.

4 ‘Go to the outcast, to those who have no-one;
go where my sheep are rejected and lost.
I dined with sinners and reached out to lepers;
go and do likewise, and don’t count the cost.’

5 Where will we find you, Lord Jesus our Master?
We are your servants who answer your call.
You go before us, and there we will follow,
taking our cross in the service of all.

Allan Charles Dickinson (b. 1954)

(Tune: Epiphany)

Monday 6th April 2020 – Jerusalem Day 2

Bible: Luke 21:1-4 New International Version (NIVUK)

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’

Reflection

What do we give to God? Not just of our money but also of our time. We have a variety of approaches to this question. Some will meet all their obligations, see that their needs are met and then out of what is left decide how much money or time they can give to God. Others will decide how much money or time to give God and then meet their obligations and needs. Whether it is the Biblical ten percent or not this latter method is called tithing. Of course there are a lot of methods in between these. The rich putting their gifts in the Temple treasury was right and proper and could well be very generous but this widow gave all she had. In doing so she was putting her whole trust in God to meet even her basic needs. Some would call her generous, some would call her trusting and some would call her foolhardy. We want God to be generous to us, we want to trust him to meet our needs. Perhaps the widow got it right, her gratitude to God for all he had given her made her equally generous

Prayer

Please pray for

  • The Prime Minister in hospital with covid-19 symptoms
  • People suffering domestic abuse home during this lockdown and feeling unable to escape
  • Care Homes both staff often without the right ppe and residents who cannot see family or friends.
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee;
take my moments and my days,
let them flow in ceaseless praise.

2 Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of thy love;
take my feet, and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.

3 Take my voice, and let me sing
always, only, for my King;
take my lips, and let them be
filled with messages from thee.

4 Take my silver and my gold,
not a mite would I withhold;
take my intellect, and use
every power as thou shalt choose.

5 Take my will, and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine;
take my heart — it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne.

6 Take my love;my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure-store;
take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.

Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879)

Sunday 5th April 2020 – Palm Sunday

Bible: Matthew 21:12-14 New International Version (NIVUK)

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘“My house will be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it “a den of robbers.”’ 14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.

Reflection

It is interesting that the first thing that Jesus did on arriving in Jerusalem to a hero’s welcome was to go the Temple, the heart of the nation’s faith. The crowd followed him. What Jesus did then was not a spur of the moment reaction. He had seen the moneychangers and sacrifice sellers many times before. It was pre-mediated, planned, deliberate action. We sometimes call it the cleansing of The Temple. The Apostle Paul calls our bodies the Temple of the Holy Spirit and tells us that therefore we should honour God with our bodies. (see 1 Corinthians 6:19ff). Just as Jesus reacted to the religious authorities not honouring God with Jerusalem’s Temple and dealt with it so he reacts to us not honouring God with our bodies and is ready to help us cleanse them. This is not simply about what we eat or drink or the way we treat our bodies. Whenever we do, say or think anything that is not in accordance with God’s will we are not honouring him. Today, when we stand with the crowd welcoming Jesus on Palm Sunday let us be sure that whatever we do, say or think honours him.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Families and friends of those who have died from covid-19
  • Government medical and scientific advisors trying to provide our government with the best information to help them tackle covid-19
  • Sir Ker Starmer as he takes up the role of leader of the Labour Party at this challenging time.
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          ‘Draw nigh to Thy Jerusalem, O Lord,’
Thy faithful people cry with one accord:
Ride on in triumph; Lord, behold we lay
Our passions and our proud wills in Thy way.

2          Thy road is ready; and Thy paths, made straight,
With longing expectation seem to wait
The consecration of Thy beauteous feet,
And silently Thy promised advent greet.

3          Hosanna! Welcome to our hearts; for here
Thou hast a temple too, as Zion dear;
Yes, dear as Zion, and as full of sin;
How long shall thieves and robbers dwell therein?

4          Enter and chase them forth, and cleanse the floor;
O’erthrow them all, that they may never more
Profane with traffic vile that holy place,
Where Thou hast chosen, Lord, to set Thy face.

5          And then, if our stiff tongues shall faithlessly
Be mute in praises of Thy deity,
The very temple stones shall loud repeat
Hosanna! and Thy glorious footsteps greet.

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)
(Tune: Highland Cathedral)

Saturday 4th April 2020 – The Journey to Jerusalem  part 6

Bible: John 12:1-8 New International Version (NIVUK)

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about half a litre of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. ‘Leave her alone,’ Jesus replied. ‘It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.’

Reflection

Jesus is back among friends and he will stay with them for the next few days, using their home as his base for daily visits to Jerusalem. Jesus was well known in the village because he had raised Lazarus from death so a dinner in his honour was a perfectly natural thing to do. It is in this setting that Mary anoints Jesus’ feet. Was it just the extravagance that annoyed Judas or was the sight of a woman wiping his feet with her hair also something that angered him. Notice the odd comment from Jesus, about the day of his burial, still nearly a week away. Could this be why the body wasn’t anointed prior to burial, Mary had used the perfume.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Clinical trials of covid-19 tests and drugs.
  • Families of NHS staff who have died from covid-19
  • People who refuse to follow social distancing guidelines
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1          Said Judas to Mary, ‘Now what will you do
With your ointment so rich and so rare?’
‘I’ll pour it all over the feet of the Lord
And I’ll wipe it away with my hair,’ she said,
‘Wipe it away with my hair.’

2          ‘Oh Mary, Oh Mary, oh think of the poor –
This ointment, it could have been sold,
And think of the blankets and think of the bread
You could buy with the silver and gold,’ he said,
‘Buy with the silver and gold.’

3          ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll think of the poor
Tomorrow,’ she said, ‘not today;
For dearer than all of the poor in the world
Is my love who is going away,’ she said,
My love who is going away.’

4          Said Jesus to Mary, ‘Your love is so deep
Today you may do as you will.
Tomorrow you say I am going away,
But my body I leave with you still,’ he said,
‘My body I leave with you still.’

5          ‘The poor of the world are my body,’ he said,
‘To the end of the world they shall be.
The bread and the blankets you give to the poor
You’ll know you have given to me,’ he said,
‘Know you have given to me.’

6          ‘My body will hang on the cross of the world
‘Tomorrow,’ he said, ‘and today,
And Martha and Mary will find me again
And wash all the sorrow away,’ he said,
‘Wash all the sorrow away.’

Sydney Carter (1915-2004)

 

Friday 3rd April 2020 – The Journey to Jerusalem  part 5

Bible: Matthew 20:20-28 New International Version (NIVUK)

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favour of him. 21 ‘What is it you want?’ he asked. She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ 22 ‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’ ‘We can,’ they answered. 23 Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.’ 24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

Reflection

What a human story, a mother wanting something special for her children and seeking a blessing from Jesus for them. I wonder if James and John were embarrassed by their mother’s request. It shows no understanding of God and his kingdom. It is not like earthly kingdoms, there are no special places or people, there is no favouritism. All are equal before God and with God. Nothing we do on earth affects our place in heaven. Accepting Jesus as Saviour and Lord is enough.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Companies who have turned their skills to providing much needed NHS equipment.
  • The new Nightingale hospitals being created and staffed
  • Children being educated at home
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 He came to earth, not to be served,
but gave his life to be a ransom for many;
the Son of God, the Son of man,
he shared our pain and bore our sins in his body.
King of kings and Lord of lords,
I lift my voice in praise,
such amazing love, but I do believe
this King has died for me.

2 And so I stand, a broken soul,
to see the pain that I have brought to Jesus;
and yet each heart will be consoled,
to be made new, the joy of all believers.

3 And from now on, through all my days,
I vow to live each moment here for Jesus;
not looking back, but giving praise
for all my Lord has done for this believer.

John Pantry (b. 1946)

Thursday 2nd April 2020 – The Journey to Jerusalem  part 4

Bible: Matthew 20:9-16 New International Version (NIVUK)

‘The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 “These who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.” 13 ‘But he answered one of them, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” 16 ‘So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

Reflection

Why is generosity often a problem? Why do we feel hard done by and not accept that anyone has the right to be generous. It start’s young. Her piece of cake is bigger than mine. He has more sweets than me. You’ve got a bigger portion of Shepherd’s Pie than me. It continues throughout life showing itself in envy over pay rates, cars, gardens and so on. Of course as Christians we don’t think liker that do we? The workers in this parable had nothing to complain about. They received the agreed pay. We have nothing to complain about we all receive the same gift, eternal life, whether we are converted in Sunday School or on our death bed. This earthly life is but an infinitesimally small fragment of eternal life.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • NHS and other essential workers self-isolating but not tested.
  • Supermarket Checkout Staff and Corner Shop workers
  • Victims of domestic abuse who feel that they cannot escape
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Not far beyond the sea nor high
above the heavens, but very nigh
your voice, O God, is heard.
For each new step of faith we take
you have more truth and light to break
forth from your holy word.

2 The babes in Christ your Scriptures feed
with milk sufficient for their need,
the nurture of the Lord.
Beneath life’s burden and its heat
the fully grown find stronger meat
in your unfailing word.

3 Rooted and grounded in your love,
with saints on earth and saints above
we join in full accord,
to grasp the breadth, length, depth, and height,
the crucified and risen might
of Christ, the incarnate Word.

4 Help us to press toward that mark,
and, though our vision now is dark,
to live by what we see;
so, when we see you face to face,
your truth and light our dwelling-place
for evermore shall be.

George Bradford Caird (1917-1984)

Tune: Cornwall

Wednesday 1st April 2020 – The Journey to Jerusalem  part 3

Bible: Matthew 19:16-21 New International Version (NIVUK)

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ 17 ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.’ 18 ‘Which ones?’ he enquired. Jesus replied, ‘“You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honour your father and mother,” and “love your neighbour as yourself.”’ 20 ‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’ 21 Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’

Reflection

Another well-known passage and another where the Bible does not say what we think it says. We tend to focus on verse 21 and ignore verses 17 & 18. Verse 18 resonates with Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapter 5 verses 17-20. Read it for yourself. Jesus’ first words to the man who wanted eternal life was to ‘keep the commandments’. That was true in 1st century Palestine and it is true in 21st century Britain. The word of God does not change. This is where we should begin. However even the most righteous of people have a sin that holds them back. For this man it was his possessions, his rainy day money so to speak. Jesus told him to get rid of it in order to become perfect. What sin do we need to get rid of in order to become perfect?

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Prisoners and people held in detention centres.
  • Local GP practices and pharmacies
  • Humanitarian Aid workers who have had to withdraw from situations of great need across the world
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Lord Jesus Christ,
you have come to us,
you are one with us,
Mary’s Son;
cleansing our souls from all their sin,
pouring your love and goodness in;
Jesus, our love for you we sing,
living Lord.

2 Lord Jesus Christ,
now and every day,
teach us how to pray,
Son of God.
You have commanded us to do
this, in remembrance, Lord, of you;
into our lives your power breaks through,
living Lord.

3 Lord Jesus Christ,
you have come to us,
born as one of us,
Mary’s Son;
led out to die on Calvary,
risen from death to set us free;
living Lord Jesus, help us see
you are Lord.

4 Lord Jesus Christ,
we would come to you,
live our lives for you,
Son of God.
All your commands we know are true;
your many gifts will make us new;
into our lives your power breaks through,
living Lord.

Patrick Appleford (b. 1925)

Tuesday 31st March 2020 – The Journey to Jerusalem  part 2

Bible: Luke 19:1-10 New International Version (NIVUK)

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’ But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’

Reflection

Continuing his journey Jesus arrives at Jericho and, as was usual by now, a large crowd came out to see Jesus. Maybe you’ve been in a large crowd and wanted a better vantage point so you’ve climbed a wall, a fence or, like Zacchaeus, a tree. Zacchaeus just wanted to see Jesus but Jesus had other ideas. He wanted to meet Zacchaeus so he called Zacchaeus down and spent the day with him. People were outraged. Why Zacchaeus? Why not them? Have you ever been criticised for the company you keep? Zacchaeus just wanted to see Jesus but that led to an encounter that changed his life. The same can be true today for us.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Those playing on people’s fears and pedalling fake news & scams.
  • NHS staff and other medical workers and volunteers
  • Food Banks and emergency help schemes
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Lord, we have come at your own invitation,
chosen by you, to be counted your friends;
yours is the strength that sustains dedication,
ours a commitment we know never ends.

2 Here, at your table, confirm our intention,
give it your seal of forgiveness and grace;
teach us to serve, without pride or pretension,
Lord, in your Kingdom, whatever our place.

3 When, at your table, each time of returning,
vows are renewed and our courage restored,
may we increasingly glory in learning
all that it means to accept you as Lord.

4 So, in the world, where each duty assigned us
gives us the chance to create or destroy,
help us to make those decisions that bind us,
Lord, to yourself, in obedience and joy.

Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000)

Tune: Epiphany

Monday 30th March 2020 – The Journey to Jerusalem  part 1

This week we move away from the lectionary and follow Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem culminating in what we now call Palm Sunday

Bible: Matthew 20:17-19 New International Version (NIVUK)

17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!’

Reflection

This passage is the third time that Jesus told his disciples that he would be going to Jerusalem to be killed by the religious authorities but that he would rise again. On this occasion it is said immediately prior to setting out on that final journey. Make no mistake about it, Jesus knew what was going to happen and he still went through with it. Most of us would run away because we don’t see the bigger picture. We focus on the immediate suffering rather than the glorious outcome. But notice Jesus did not go into details, he did not tell the disciples exactly what would happen to them. He simply said ‘We are going….’. No option. No choice. That is exactly what it is like when we follow Jesus. He may tell us what is going to happen but he doesn’t give details. We have to trust him.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Food stores, their staff and delivery drivers, warehouse operatives.
  • Farmers and Market Gardeners producing our fresh produce
  • Military personnel assisting the civilian authorities
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

O Son of Man, our hero strong and tender,
Whose servants are the brave in all the earth,
Our living sacrifice to Thee we render,
Who sharest all our sorrows, all our mirth.

O feet so strong to climb the path of duty,
O lips divine that taught the words of truth,
Kind eyes that marked the lilies in their beauty,
And heart that kindled at the zeal of youth.

Lover of children, childhood’s inspiration,
Of humankind the Servant and the King;
O Lord of joy and hope and consolation,
To Thee our fears and joys and hopes we bring.

Not in our failures only and our sadness
We seek Thy presence, comforter and friend;
O rich man’s guest, be with us in our gladness,
O poor man’s mate, our lowliest tasks attend.

This should be sung to the tune Charterhouse,
both words and music were written by school staff in the 1920’s

Sunday 29th March 2020 – Passion Sunday

Bible: John 11:49-54 New International Version (NIVUK)

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realise that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’ 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

Reflection

Today we begin looking towards Jesus’ last visit to Jerusalem before his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. The religious authorities had had enough. They saw Jesus as a troublemaker, criticising them at every turn and creating a great following for himself. They believed that their position and power was under threat and consequently they misunderstood Jesus and failed to see him for who he was. Jesus knew when the culmination of his ministry would come, he and his Father had planned it. Therefore he withdrew both to avoid it happening at the wrong moment and to prepare himself for that week we now call Holy Week.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • The preparations for bringing large scale field hospitals into service in London, Manchester and the West Midlands.
  • People whose medical treatment has been postponed due to the pandemic
  • Local Council services such as refuse collection
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise;
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways.

2 O loving wisdom of our God!
when all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.

3 O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive and should prevail;

4 And that a higher gift than grace
should flesh and blood refine,
God’s presence and his very self,
and essence all-divine.

5 O generous love! that he, who came
as man to smite the foe,
the double agony for us
as man should undergo;

6 And in the garden secretly,
and on the cross on high,
should teach his followers, and inspire
to suffer and to die.

7 Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise;
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

Saturday 28th March 2020

Bible: Ezekiel 36:8-12 New International Version (NIVUK)

‘“But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home. I am concerned for you and will look on you with favour; you will be ploughed and sown, 10 and I will cause many people to live on you – yes, all of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. 11 I will increase the number of people and animals living on you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then you will know that I am the Lord. 12 I will cause people, my people Israel, to live on you. They will possess you, and you will be their inheritance; you will never again deprive them of their children.

Reflection

A fabulous prophecy in a time of great despair. Yes it was about a real return from exile but like all such prophecy it has a second, deeper purpose. For ‘Israel’ in Old Testament prophecy we read ‘church’ but we must not forget that ‘Israel’ was a faith-nation so it is not just church it is also world. Like all such prophecies the restoration will not just be better than exile, it will be better than the good times before the exile. People tell me the church is declining and dying and that is inevitable. Wrong. Individual churches are declining and dying but the Church, the Body of Christ, is the largest and fastest growing organisation on earth.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Retired Medical Staff, Police Officers and others who have responded to the call for help.
  • People with mental health issues who find being confined to home exceedingly difficult
  • The hub being run by the Ecumenical Centre & Disability Support Project
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 There is a higher throne
than all this world has known,
where faithful ones from every tongue
will one day come.
Before our God we’ll stand,
made faultless through the Lamb;
believing hearts find promised grace:
salvation comes.
Hear heaven’s voices sing,
their thunderous anthem rings
through emerald courts and sapphire skies,
their praises rise.
All glory, wisdom, power,
strength, thanks and honour are
to God, our King who reigns on high
for evermore.

2 And there we’ll find our home,
our life before the throne;
we’ll honour him in perfect song
where we belong.
He’ll wipe each tear-stained eye,
as thirst and hunger die;
the Lamb becomes our Shepherd King:
we’ll reign with him.
chorus

Keith Getty (b. 1974) and Kristyn Getty (b. 1980)

Friday 27th March 2020

Bible: Revelation 11:15-17 New International Version (NIVUK)

15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.’

16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God, 17 saying: ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.

Reflection

This is what we are looking forward to. This is our dream. This is our hope. God’s kingdom on earth in all its fullness. It is not something to fear but something to rejoice in. It is a time of celebration. This is what all Christians are working towards. It is what we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer. Meanwhile we don’t just sit back and wait for it to happen, we play our part in bringing it about. An American Pastor once began his sermon with these words; ‘Have you ever wondered why when you became a Christian God didn’t just take you then to be with him in heaven?’. After a pause for dramatic effect he continued; ‘He left you on earth because he has work for you to do here’. That’s the crunch. Until we die and get to heaven or Christ returns, whichever happens first, God has work for us to do on earth.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Our political leaders and their staff, some of whom have covid-19 symptoms.
  • People with Dementia or Alzheimer’s who can not understand what is happening
  • Local Food Banks and New Starts trying to help vulnerable people
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Colours of day dawn into the mind,
the sun has come up, the night is behind.
Go down in the city, into the street,
and let’s give the message to the people we meet.
So light up the fire and let the flame burn,
open the door, let Jesus return.
Take seeds of his Spirit, let the fruit grow,
tell the people of Jesus, let his love show.

2 Go through the park, on into the town;
the sun still shines on;it never goes down.
The light of the world is risen again;
the people of darkness are needing a friend.
chorus

3 Open your eyes, look into the sky,
the darkness has come, the sun came to die.
The evening draws on, the sun disappears,
but Jesus is living, his Spirit is near.
chorus

Sue McClellan (b. 1951), John Paculabo (b. 1946) and Keith Ryecroft (b. 1949)

Thursday 26th March 2020

Bible: Ezekiel 2:8-3:3 New International Version (NIVUK)

But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.’ Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

3 And he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.’ So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.’ So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.

Reflection

God comes over very strong in his command to the prophet. He tells him to do what God says and not to rebel like others are. He is told to eat a scroll that contains the complaints of the people. This can be understood as a message not to complain, to tell the people not to complain and get on with living as God intended. A tough message but one that resonates with me. We live in a libertine society controlled by fundamental liberal thinkers who say that anything goes and if you don’t agree you are wrong. Just look at society, fundamental liberalism does not work. Mental Health issues and addictions are rising. Now is the time to stop complaining, to stop trying to alter the word of God and to return to his way.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • NHS staff across our nations and volunteers who have answered the call to help.
  • People who cannot visit loved ones in hospitals or care homes
  • Local community help schemes
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 From the breaking of the dawn
to the setting of the sun,
I will stand on every promise of your word.
Words of power, strong to save,
that will never pass away;
I will stand on every promise of your word.
For your covenant is sure,
and on this I am secure:
I can stand on every promise of your word.

2 When I stumble and I sin,
condemnation pressing in,
I will stand on every promise of your word.
You are faithful to forgive,
that in freedom I might live,
so I stand on every promise of your word.
Guilt to innocence restored;
you remember sins no more.
So I’ll stand on every promise of your word.

3 When I’m faced with anguished choice
I will listen for your voice,
and I’ll stand on every promise of your word.
Through this dark and troubled land,
you will guide me with your hand
as I stand on every promise of your word.
And you’ve promised to complete
every work begun in me,
so I’ll stand on every promise of your word.

4 Hope that lifts me from despair;
love that casts out every fear
as I stand on every promise of your word.
Not forsaken, not alone,
for the Comforter has come,
and I stand on every promise of your word.
Grace sufficient, grace for me,
grace for all who will believe.
We will stand on every promise of your word.

Keith Getty (b. 1974) and Stuart Townend (b. 1963)

Wednesday 25th March 2020

Bible: Isaiah 60:17-19 New International Version (NIVUK)

17 Instead of bronze I will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron.
Instead of wood I will bring you bronze, and iron in place of stones.
I will make peace your governor and well-being your ruler.
18 No longer will violence be heard in your land,
nor ruin or destruction within your borders,
but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.
19 The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory..’

Reflection

What a wonderful piece of Scripture. God is telling us that he will transform the ordinary into something special and there is nothing we need to do to make it happen. It is a generous, unexpected, undeserved gift. But it does not stop there. Violence, ruin and destruction will be eradicated from the land. What is more the Lord will be in the midst of it all, visible for all to see. This is the crunch for it clearly implies a time when all will turn to God, all will walk in his ways, all will follow his commands, all live by his plan for the world. It won’t be done by laws or force it will happen because when we look God in the face the immense love we experience causes such an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that we can’t imagine doing anything that living his way.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Volunteers who have responded to the government call.
  • Those who have serious covid-19 symptoms
  • Our government as it seeks to respond to the crisis
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

At Your Feet We Fall, Mighty Risen Lord,
As We Come Before Your Throne To Worship You.
By Your Spirit’s Power You Now Draw Our Hearts,
And We Hear Your Voice In Triumph Ringing Clear.

I Am He That Liveth, That Liveth And Was Dead,
Behold I Am Alive Forever More.

There We See You Stand, Mighty Risen Lord,
Clothed In Garments Pure And Holy, Shining Bright.
Eyes Of Flashing Fire, Feet Like Burnished Bronze,
And The Sound Of Many Waters Is Your Voice.

I Am He That Liveth, That Liveth And Was Dead,
Behold I Am Alive Forever More.

Like The Shining Sun In Its Noonday Strength,
We Now See The Glory Of Your Wondrous Face.
Once That Face Was Marred, But Now You’re Glorified,
And Your Words Like A Two-Edged Sword Have Mighty Power.

I Am He That Liveth, That Liveth And Was Dead,
Behold I Am Alive Forever More.

Dave Fellingham

Tuesday 24th March 2020

Bible: Colossians 1:9-14 New International Version (NIVUK)

We have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Reflection

I love passages like this where the Apostle Paul reminds people in the churches that he prays for them. Leaders should pray for members. Members should pray for leaders. We should all pray for each other regularly. But this is not simply the ‘please God bless Fred’ type of prayer, it is not even a prayer for healing. It is a prayer that the recipient may be filled by God with Spiritual things in order that they may bear fruit in the world and grow in their relationship with God. I have seen too many Christians stuck in their relationship with God at the ‘God loves me as I am’ stage rather than pressing on and saying ‘because God loves me as I am I am going to try to be more like Him’

Prayer

Please pray for

  • NHS staff across our country.
  • Those who think that the law or government requests and guidelines does not apply to them
  • Local shops and supermarkets trying to keep us fed and supplied with essentials
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 God of mercy, God of grace,
show the brightness of your face.
Shine upon us, Savior, shine;
fill your world with light divine;
all your saving health extend
unto earth’s remotest end.

2 Let the people praise you, Lord;
be by all that live adored.
Let the nations shout and sing
glory to their gracious King;
at your feet their tribute pay,
and your holy will obey.

3 Let the people praise you, Lord;
earth shall then its fruits afford.
Unto us your blessing give;
we to you devoted live,
all below and all above,
one in joy and light and love.

Henry Frances Lyte

Monday 23rd March 2020

Bible: Psalm 146:1-5 New International Version (NIVUK)

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.

Reflection

The Psalmist reminds us that our hope should not be in human beings but in God himself. The essence behind this is that all humans die whilst God is everlasting but it goes beyond there. God created the universe and so he wrote the rule book for it. He knows how it should work and, although he gave us the responsibility of looking after it for him, we need to continually turn to him for wisdom, help and advice in our daily living.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • The vast range of community help schemes that have been formed in the past week or so.
  • People trying to avoid loneliness in a time of forced isolation
  • Businesses trying to adapt to provide much needed supplies for the NHS
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.

2 I am the Lord who saves and heals.
I am the Lord who saves and heals.
I am the Lord who saves and heals.

3 In you, O Lord, I put my trust.
In you, O Lord, I put my trust.
In you, O Lord, I put my trust.

Sunday 22nd March 2020

Bible: Exodus 2:5-10 New International Version (NIVUK)

Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river-bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. ‘This is one of the Hebrew babies,’ she said. Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?’ ‘Yes, go,’ she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.’ So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water.’

Reflection

Today is Mothering Sunday when we remember the mothering love of the church, of our mothers, and of others. This story is so wonderful because it is counter cultural. Pharaoh had ordered all Jewish baby boys to be thrown into the River Nile to die. Moses mother tried to hide him and sent his sister to watch over him. Pharaoh’s daughter found him and instead of having him killed she had him nursed by a Hebrew woman and brought up as her own son, a grandson of Pharaoh. In these times how can we be counter cultural?

Prayer

Please pray for

  • People ignoring government advice, thus putting others at risk.
  • Families already struggling with enforced togetherness or self-isolation
  • All those involved in getting essential supplies from farm to fork
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Now thank we all our God
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.

2 O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us,
to keep us in his grace,
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills
of this world in the next.

3 All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given,
the Son and Spirit blest,
who reign in highest heaven
the one eternal God,
whom heaven and earth adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.

Translator: Catherine Winkworth; Author: Martin Rinkart (1636)

Saturday 21st March 2020

Bible: John 1:1-9 New International Version (NIVUK)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

Reflection

Light shines best in dark places. It is difficult to see if a gas hob is alight if the sun is shining directly on it but  even a small candle in a dark room gives enough light to see by. The candle transforms the situation. In the same way Jesus gives light to a dark world and we as his body carry that light into the world. In the dark times we find ourselves the world needs that light more than ever. Whether we are self-isolating, social distancing or trying to bring help to those who need it we are light in the dark.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • People diagnosed with covid-19 who at serious risk because of underlying health issues or old age
  • Homeless people, rough sleepers and food bank users who are struggling at this time
  • Businesses turning to new ideas to keep running and help those in most need
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 O Word of God incarnate,
O Wisdom from on high,
O Truth unchanged, unchanging,
O Light of our dark sky,
we praise thee for the radiance
that from the hallowed page,
a lantern to our footsteps,
shines on from age to age.

2 The church from her dear Master
received the gift divine,
and still that light she lifteth
o’er all the earth to shine.
It is the golden casket,
where gems of truth are stored;
it is the heav’n drawn picture
Of Christ, the living Word.

3 It floateth like a banner
before God’s host unfurled;
it shineth like a beacon
above the darkling world.
It is the chart and compass
that o’er life’s surging sea,
‘mid mists and rocks and quicksands,
still guides, O Christ, to thee.

4 O make thy church, dear Savior,
a lamp of purest gold,
to bear before the nations
thy true light, as of old.
O teach thy wand’ring pilgrims
by this their path to trace,
’til, clouds and darkness ended,
they see thee face to face.

 William Walsham How

Friday 20th March 2020

Bible: Ephesians 5:1-2 The Message (MSG)

1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behaviour from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

Reflection

We all know that children imitate their parents, picking up both good and bad habits. When Jesus called his first disciples he simply said ‘Follow Me’, when asked where he was staying he said ‘Come and see’. Those early followers were privileged as they walked with Jesus to hear what he said and see what he did first hand. He told them that they would do greater things than him. It’s mind blowing. Here Paul is telling us to follow God, follow Christ, to live like him, to love like him, to be like him in every way.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • People separated from loved ones because of quarantine and travel restrictions
  • All those working to supply us with food and essential items
  • Those whose selfish attitude over shopping is causing others to go without vital items
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

Tell me the stories of Jesus
I love to hear;
Things I would ask Him to tell me
If He were here;
Scenes by the wayside,
Tales of the sea,
Stories of Jesus, tell them to me.

First let me hear how the children
Stood round His knee,
And I shall fancy His blessing
Resting on me;
Words full of kindness,
Deeds full of grace,
All in the love light of Jesus’ face.

Tell me, in accents of wonder,
How rolled the sea,
Tossing the boat in a tempest
On Galilee;
And how the Maker,
Ready and kind,
Chided the billows,
And hushed the wind.

Into the city I’d follow
The children’s band,
Waving a branch of the palm tree
High in my hand.
One of His heralds,
Yes, I would sing
Loudest hosannas,
Jesus is King!

Tell how the sparrow that twitters
On yonder tree,
And the sweet meadow-side lily
May speak to me—
Give me their message,
For I would hear
How Jesus taught us
Our Father’s care.

Show me that scene in the garden,
Of bitter pain.
Show me the cross where my Saviour
For me was slain.
Sad ones or bright ones,
So that they be
Stories of Jesus,
Tell them to me.

Gladli I’d hear of His rising
out of the grave,
living and strong and triumphant
mighty to save:
and how He sends us
all folk to bring
stories of Jesus
Jesus, their King

 

Thursday 19th March 2020

Bible: Ephesians 4:29-32 The Message (MSG)

29 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. 30 Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. 31-32 Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Reflection

We are bombarded with opinions and facts and it is easy for us to respond without thinking. We are the church wherever we are, whatever we are doing. It is not our place to pass on unverified facts, half-truths and gossip. We are to speak as Christ himself would for we are part of His body, alive and active on earth. We need to be guided by God’s Holy Spirit at all times in order not to cause God pain. May all our words be true, helpful and encouraging.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • Children and the pressure that the extended break in schooling will put on families
  • Those working to develop safe, reliable vaccines
  • Civil servants tasked with responding to government edicts
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1 Breathe on me, Breath of God;
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love,
and do what thou wouldst do.

2 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until with thee I will one will,
to do and to endure.

3 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
till I am wholly thine,
until this earthly part of me
glows with thy fire divine.

4 Breathe on me, Breath of God;
so shall I never die,
but live with thee the perfect life
of thine eternity.

Edwin Hatch (1835-1889)

18th March

Beacon Church Centre, Rubery

Emmanuel Church Redditch

Daily Reflection Wednesday 18th March 2020

These daily reflections will be inspired by verses in the lectionary for the day. They are offered so that as a joint pastorate we can participate in shared reflection and prayer together.

Bible: John 7:37-39 The Message (MSG)

37-39 On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)

Reflection

We are in difficult times but we have been there before. Our faith is in God who has promised to be with us at all times. We believe that he will see us through whatever dark and difficult days are before us. He will give us strength and calm our fears. Whilst we show concern for those who are suffering most and pray for those working to find medical and economic solutions we must also ask God to intervene in a mighty and miraculous way.

Prayer

Please pray for

  • vulnerable neighbours, friends and family
  • NHS and other medical staff
  • Our government
  • Our church and its leadership team at this time

Hymn

1   I heard the voice of Jesus say:

‘Come unto me and rest;

lay down, O weary one, lay down

your head upon my breast.’

I came to Jesus as I was,

weary and worn and sad,

I found in him a resting-place,

and he has made me glad.

 

2   I heard the voice of Jesus say:

‘Behold, I freely give

the living water; thirsty one,

stoop down and drink and live.’

I came to Jesus, and I drank

of that life-giving stream;

my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,

and now I live in him.

 

3   I heard the voice of Jesus say:

‘I am this dark world’s Light;

look unto me, your morn shall rise,

and all your day be bright.’

I looked to Jesus, and I found

in him my star, my sun;

and in that light of life I’ll walk,

till travelling days are done.

Horatius N. Bonar (1808-1889)