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Minister’s Blog

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

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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)