My blog detailing the experiences of serving the Methodist Church in Warrington working currently specifically with Latchford, Bold Street and Rixton Methodist Churches as minister and leading the New Song Network. The blog will contain thoughts and reflections in addition to info on books read, songs which have inspired me, links to useful sites and blogs.
Psalm 121, Isaiah 52:1-15, Matthew 17:9-12 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-10
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, ‘Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’The disciples asked him, ‘Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognise him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.Matthew 17:9-12
One birth changed history, One birth changed our destiny, Thou shall call him Jesus.
Why is it so hard for us to recognise God and His works even when we are right in their midst?
This question for the ages surely must have crossed the mind of Jesus many times during His earthly ministry. In today’s Gospel He states, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already, and they did not recognise him.”
How history repeats itself. And yet He found Himself face to face with unbelief and cynicism while teaching in the synagogue in His home town: “‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother’s name Mary, and aren’t His brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas...?’ And they took offense at Him” (Matthew 13:55-57). Anna and Simeon had a prediction many years earlier that some would receive him and others would turn away.What will you do? Will your heart receive him more this year? Will you open your life more this year? Will that hidden part be open? Or remain closed? Will this be the moment? This be the time that Christ has longed for? This is the carpenter’s son—this is the Lord. This is Jesus. This is God.
This year may I open more to the prompting of your Spiritto shine in the dark places of my heart that I keep hidden from the ones I love most.
Those secret places that you know about. The yearnings and longings I have that I can only dream about.I open my heart to you—be gentle I pray for my heart and the hearts of others are fragile. Amen
Psalm 20, Isaiah 40:25-31, Matthew 11:28-30 and Hebrews 12:1-3
‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know?Have you not heard?The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary.” Isaiah 40:25-29
Our readings from Isaiah and Matthew’s gospeloffer us a promise—a promise of rest to the weary. To those burdened, exhausted and tired.
Seek respite with God. Take time out—you don’t have to cut yourself off from the season’s busyness to find rest. You can grasp moments of quiet meditation when you find them. How about when you get the Christmas card, rather than just placing in on the mantle, door or string, take a moment to thank God for the sender and remember them in prayer. In doing so you have stopped just for a moment. Whilst the kettle boils, be still and be with God—precious moments in a noisy, colourful and vibrant season. For some the colour, the noise, the vibrancy is too much—they long to escape from the hype to the reality of life and weariness can take over.
Weariness is enveloping and controlling - it is costly for our lives and is demanding. God knows - God understands—God gives rest - God enables—God lifts—God loves and God redeems.
May your soul find rest in him.
God of Strength, I need your courage, strength and peace. Only you know how frightened I so often am. And you do offer me rest. I can't do this on my own no matter how often I think I can.
Give me the humility to ask for your help and an open heart to accept your healing and love in my life.
Help me to rest, abide and remain in your presence—Amen
Psalm 36, Isaiah 30:19-end, Matthew 14:13-20 and 2 Corinthians 12
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed those who were ill. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so that they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’ ‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.‘Bring them here to me,’ he said. And he told the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.Mth 14:13– 19
The crowds were getting bigger, the ministry more public , mounting pressure, demands andgreater miracles. (Maybe you know the feeling when more people arrive on your doorstep longing to be fed at Christmas and the turkey wont stretch that far).As it all grows—as the crowds grow bigger and the canvas of ministry increases with every footstep what does Jesus do?
Jesus takes time out. Jesus stills himself and his soul and re-focuses his gaze on his Father. He does this just before reminding Peter, whose attempt to walk on water does not go to plan , to keep his gaze on God. He reminds Peter, based entirely on knowing it for Himself, that he needs to remain and abide in God. Jesus speaks from experience. He withdraws when he hears the news of his cousin John the Baptist’s death—he finds that solitary place to be alone, to grieve and to offer all he has to God.
The more public the ministry, the more we do, the more we need to have times of withdrawal and solitude. Solitude—a word we tend not to like—we may visualise solitude as confinement, isolation, complete aloneness—it can have negative connotations. But this solitude is a deliberate act of retreating of allowing God to move in us so that we may then reach out and have compassion.For here in this space there is God.
May I, this season, again join in the adventure of seeking the Christ child.
May I again offer myself to you, offering all I have been, all I am and all that is to come.
Praise you almighty God—for you are the same yesterday, today and forever.
In you I trust. In the silence and moment of isolation and complete oneness with you may I find you in hope and completeness. Amen
Holy Child, you come as the Son to a world. We try so hard to make Christmas work well in our busy lives, in the midst of the busyness may we remember that you are the reason for this season. We try to light our own way through the darkness ,this Christmas may your light guide our path
Holy Child you come as a true gift to a world full of presents. We pray for those less fortunate in this country and throughout the world. For those caught in a spiral of debt, those unable to work and those who worry about the expense of this Christmas. Help us to recognize the mysterious gift which we celebrate in the birth of Jesus. Give us grace to receive this gift and be changed by it.
Holy Child you come with peace to a world in pieces. We see with you the sorrow of the world torn in pieces through war, terror and want. We pray for those whose lives are dominated by fear and prejudice. Come with the peace that flows from your wholeness into our brokenness. This Christmas may the peace of the young Prince of Peace embrace the world.
Holy Child you come with lasting joy to a world of sadness and anxiety. We pray for those who are fearful of this Christmas, those who mourn the loss of a loved one and dread this time. For those anxious over family and friends who suffer through illness and for whom this Christmas will bring a new meaning and memory. May your light and peace bring comfort to all.
We pray in the name of Jesus, Wonderful Counsellor Prince of Peace.
Psalm 85, Isaiah 11:1-10, Matthew 3:1-12 and John 1:19-34
Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No. ’Finally they said, ‘Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make straight the way for the Lord.” John 1:19-23
John the Baptist would get the work done. He never let anything come in the way of what he believed God wanted him to do. Uncompromising? Tough? Serious? No holds barred? A loner? Probably and possibly all of these things, but John has been captured by his calling. He would prepare the way for John believed in preparation. "Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight!" he shouted and you could not ignore him. John wanted the peopleto prepare and to repent.Repent of what? We can ask ourselves the same question. Well, for a start, our self-centredness, our cluttering up our lives with non-essentials, our forgetfulness of the need to pray.
Advent is a time of mercy, of forgiveness, of peace. "I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace..." (Psalm 85) and the response is: "Let us see O Lord your mercy, and give us your saving help!" Well, how can we expect mercy when we refuse to give it to others?
Let us try to make this Advent special by ridding ourselves of the things that make us and others unhappy. That's what John meant by preparing the way of the Lord. Why put it off?
Loving God. As I continue this Advent season, open my eyesto see in new ways the delight and wonder of your love. In the darkness help me to see the promise of light and peace. In the cry of the hungry help me see the possibility of a world where all are fed. In my own yearnings and weakness help me to see the hope of Christ. And in the eager anticipation of the coming of Jesus, mayI embrace the dawn of a new heaven and a new earth. Amen