All posts by danbalsdon

Christian. Methodist Minister (Presbyter) serving in the Bognor Regis area, South East, UK. Husband, Father of 2. Book hoarder. Wanna-be chef. Heart for living in community and for seeing the presence and activity of God in day to day life.

Sunday Reflections: Pause

This week I reflect on Acts 21, and ask how Paul’s delay in visiting Jerusalem and the resulting encounter with Agabus might help us as we continue in coronavirus lockdown and the uncertainties of the future.

Many of us are travelling through the book of Acts this May, and today we reach Acts 21.

Acts 21 starts with Paul – who is on way to Jerusalem, and wanting to go to Jerusalem – we know that from Acts 20 where he seems to be desperately wanting to go. But we read that God’s Spirit tells Paul not to go. After being so desperate, that must have been painful for Paul.

So instead of going to Jerusalem, Paul goes to a number of other places, and while in Judea, meets a prophet called Agabus. Now Agabus comes and takes Paul’s belt, then ties his own hands a feet together and says – this is what the Spirit says will happen to the owner of this belt in Jerusalem.

I wonder how paul felt in that moment… anxious, worried, sacred?

A short while later, we read Paul and his team got ready and started headed towards Jerusalem. And, time for a trailer – God does great things through Paul in Jerusalem.

Reflecting on those snippets of this part of Paul’s story… I wonder if there’s something for us as we live in lockdown.

I wonder if, through pausing, and then encountering Agabus, Paul was more prepared for his destination, more ready for what would happen in Jerusalem, and therefore more able to deal with it. I wonder whether, after his encounter with Agabus, Paul saw his destination differently?

There’s been a lot of things happen we were not prepared for at the start of 2020. Lots of things are on pause, but it doesn’t mean things won’t happen. But as the world keeps saying, things will be different – to what extent we don’t know, but we’re being told to expect a new normal.

But just like for Paul who readied himself and carried on, I wonder if we too need to be open to readying ourselves for the new normal that is to come. Opening ourselves for the Spirit’s prompting.

To see lockdown as a space to listen to God’s Spirit as we pause, and allow God’s Spirit to make us ready for what is to come? To be ready for the great things of God that are to come.

Dear God,
As the uncertainties of lockdown continue,
help me to make space to pause and listen for your Spirit,
ready me for the future,
and fill me with excitement for the great things to come.


Join the conversation

Have you paused to listen to God recently?
Have you know God’s Spirit strengthen and preparing

Could you share the story of your encounter with us you?
Comment below – I’d love to hear from you.

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Known in the unknown

Lots of you are asking me what’s happening about my ordination. The truth is there is a lot of detail yet to come, but instead of having this conversation multiple times (because to be honest I’m finding it really hard and painful to talk about right now…), I’m trying to put into words where plans as they stand are, and how I’m feeling about it (because putting things down on paper is sometimes a healing process for me).

Part of me wants to just bottle it up and say as little as I can, but the other half of me knows that in the last 18 months it is through being vulnerable as a church leader that God has taught me much, and ministered to others much too. So here I am being vulnerable and honest, and trying to make sense of things in the middle of a lot of unknowns. These are my reflections of where my head is at now. Tomorrow may be a different story.

I started my blog about 4 years ago when I was starting to train for Methodist ministry, having been accepted for formational training and beginning to pack up life in Cornwall and head to Birmingham with Louise a toddler and a few week old baby in tow.

In my first post I reflected on the certainty that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

4 years on, those words have been a strength in the uncertainty of living in lockdown. That nothing can ever separate me from God’s love, despite the growing feelings of separation and distance from church family, colleagues, and friends.

2020 was to be my year of Reception into Full Connexion and Ordination. While there’s been lots of times of discernment and testing along the way – committees, reports, assignments and reflection – June 2020 has for all that time been the time and place it was all to culminate as I attend the Methodist Conference, formally enter into covenant relationship with the Methodist Church, and become an ordained presbyter. Coronavirus has thrown all that into the air, and it is not fully clear where all the various aspects and details will land.

I’m feeling a bit thrown in the air too. Minsitry is both energising and draining right now, but it is hugely different to the ‘norm’ formational training prepared me for. Most days there are many moments of not knowing what I’m doing, where I’m going, or even who I am. The one deeply valuable thing that has got me through is that formational training at Queens didn’t train me to do a job, but help form me into someone equipped to respond to the diversity of varied contexts. Now more than ever those are skills that have been required!

Much of what was known has changed around us and for me I’m daily dealing with the questions of What ministry should look like in lockdown.

  • What is my role as a church leader now?
  • How do I help congregations stay connected when we can’t physically be together?
  • How do I respond to pastoral need when all I know of that need is based on what I hear from people – when I can’t ‘see’ non-verbal communication, when I don’t see people’s reactions to things, when I don’t get the off-the-cuff feedback during and after worship, meetings and events?
  • How do I comfort the grieving and hurting when I can’t hug them, hold their hand or physically be with them?
  • What is the future going to look like?
  • What is my purpose right now?

Alongside that cacophony of questions, I’m grappling with about role, purpose, and identity, I’m also dealing the implications of the changes to what was meant to happen in June 2020. This simple exacerbates the struggle, and today I’m struggling with it all. Not sure who I am or what I’m becoming. While the formational training I’ve undertaken was preparing me to first be a probationer then a presbyter –now I’m temporarily going to become something in between the two, in a way that’s still not quite clear to me.

So, what is going to happen? Here’s a run down of where things currently stand. I want to say from the outset how much I appreciate the grace, love, and patience of those who are making these decisions and caring for us at this time. I know they feel the pain and struggle too and would love things to be able to be ask they had already been planned to be. I should also say this comes from my perspective as a presbyteral ordinand, for my diaconal colleagues the process has other nuances that I’ve not yet fully understood either!

Testimony Service

A testimony service is usually held within the Methodist District in which ordinand’s are stationed prior to Reception into Full Connexion and Ordination. This has been postponed, to happen when a physical gathering is possible.

Part of the service will include my sharing testimony to pursuing God’s call to this vocation, and right now with all the questions around identity and purpose circulating in my head, I’m not quite sure how I’d even attempt to put into words where my head and heart are right now. For me postponing seems to me to be the right step.

While disappointed in one sense, I’m ok with this, as I’d much rather have opportunity to physically gather with friends and colleagues in my District, circuit, and churches.

Retreat

Prior to Reception into Full Connexion and ordination (which usually happening on the Sunday of Methodist Conference – see below), ordinand’s attend a retreat. This won’t happen as planned – we can’t meet together. However, the retreat team are going to be supporting us at a distance in the next few weeks, and a retreat will be arranged for us prior to ordination.

What is most panful about this is that as we prepare for Reception into Full Connexion, I won’t be able to share that preparation time with colleagues who’ve become friends over the last 4 years. Word cannot describe just how much I’ve come to love and value their love, care, companionship, humour, grace, wisdom, friendship and more. They have come to be demonstration of the Methodist connexion, diverse and different, yet wise, loving and gracious people of God.

Reception into Full Connexion (RiFC) and Ordination

Usually both happen on the Sunday Methodist conference meets, with RiFC happening in the morning and Ordination the afternoon. This year RiFC will happen, though differently to initially planned, but ordinations are postponed.

One of the challenges I, fellow ordinand’s and the wider Methodist church are facing right now is that these two aspects of the process by which ordinand’s are received into presbyteral ministry usually happen on the same day, and are intricately connected to one another. One is dependent on the other, and Methodism simply copes with the anomaly of the reality one has to happen before the other, but as they usually happen with a few hours of each other, it isn’t typically much of an issue.

But for me, this is going to be different, and unpicking what the distinction between the two will mean for me and my cohort is currently not entirely clear.

The most helpful definition I have found so far in making sense of this is in Methodism’s Deed of Union which states:

Those whom the Methodist Church recognises as called of God and therefore receives into its ministry as presbyters or deacons shall be ordained by the imposition of hands as expressive of the Church’s recognition of the minister’s personal call.

Deed of Union, Clause 4, para 6, Constitutional Practice and Discipline of the Methodist Church, Vol 2 (2019) p.213.

To me, this holds the two events together, with RiFC being the receiving of ministers who have been tested and formed, into relationship with the Methodist Church. Then Ordination being a public declaration of the church’s recognition of personal calling with the laying on of hands. Ordination is not into the Methodist Church, but “the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”. [Ordination Service, Methodist Worship Book, p298.]

However, it probably needs saying that my (admittedly limited!) reading of this and other related documents does not entirely match with what we are being told will be the case. We’ve been told we only become presbyters once both aspects have been completed.

Unsurprisingly, CPD does not cater for global pandemic within its procedures, and so interpretation and application are varying. This is a source of frustration and uncertainty for all right now. I’m trying to be patient and gracious, but it is painful too.

Reception into Full Connexion

RiFC is going to take place via video link, as part of what will be the Online Methodist Conference 2020. The details are yet to be finalised about how this will work, but there will be ability for all to join via an online stream.

In normal times, as I understand it the formal purpose of RiFC is a simple one, the conference must be presented with the candidates to be received. This includes ordinand’s as well as those who may be transferring from other denominations or from the world church, some of which may already be ordained. Conference then votes to receive them and ordained those not yet ordained.

But RiFC is ‘normally’ a much bigger occasion as part of the conference, and for several years has been part of its Sunday worship. During my two years of training, after encouragement from our tutors, I attended this service and found it moving, uplifting and knew the tangible presence of God. I’ve been looking forward to when it would be my service of RiFC ever since.

As part of RiFC candidates stand with one another before conference, conference being the fullest and most representative way that Methodist’s physically gather. Representative of Methodism’s emphasis and praxis of mutual conferring. Representative of the Methodist church in all its colour and diversity, and well as the wider national and global church with representatives from other churches and overseas also there. As part of RiFC the whole of conference would stand before us to signal its receiving us into Full Connexion and affirmation of God’s calling.

For me personally, the loss of what RiFC would have been is probably the thing I feel most pained about. I will be sat in my house, not physically at conference. I will not be standing shoulder to shoulder with those I have journeyed with for 4+ years, travelling with each other in some of our highest and lowest moments.

Nor will I be able to witness for myself the standing affirmation of conference, as representative of the body of Christ. (at least, I hope not, because watching a load of video feeds would lead to seeing a lot of people’s crotches! #MethodistCrotchGate)

Perhaps in part because there’s a lot of detail yet to come, it’s hard for me to get my head around how I feel about what is not and subsequently what is going to happen. It is a source of anxiety, uncertainty and disappointment at the moment and I’m not really sure how to look forward to something I was so looking forward to when I no longer know how it will look or feel. Many ministers have told me how special RiFC was for them. For the rest of my ministry I will not share that experience with my colleagues.

Ordination

Ordination, by nature of the laying on of hands if nothing else, needs to be a physical occasion, so is postponed until it is safe and logistically possible to happen, but is envisaged to happened at some point in the next 12 months. For now, I must wait in the now and not yet. And while I know postponement is the right thing to do, it is still hard when so much has been building towards what is now not going to be as it was to be.

Where does this leave me?

There is still much to make sense of, but for now we have been told that after RiFC we will continue to be ordinand’s until the time that ordination happens. Up to now the term ‘ordinand’ has not existed in any formal way within Methodism, used to refer to those who have completed probation and are heading towards RiFC and Ordination. For us being an ordinand will continue beyond RiFC, so we will be a bit of a temporary anomaly.

In practice, while RiFC will be a confirmation of the decisions oversight bodies have already made, a marker that we have completed training and will be ordained, we’ll in many senses still be seen as probationers in terms of oversight and ministry, though not entirely – hence feeling a bit like we’ll be between probationer and presbyter.

In practical terms it will make little difference to how local ministry looks for me. But personally it feels like RiFC will be a bit of a non-event, confirming that which has already been confirmed; continuing that which is already the case – being an ordinand; completing the business of conference that must be completed – perhaps without the same sense of worship, celebration and physical gathering as part of the Methodist, national and global church; pointing towards ordination which will at an as yet un-known time happen. For the meantime I’m left feeling I’m in limbo, not sure who I am.

Known in the unknown

So that is where I am. Today at least. Tomorrow may be different. Lots of un-knowns. Not sure what will happen. Not entirely sure how I feel. Not really able to talk about it without tears (as my Circuit Leadership Team discovered today who responded with love and care as best as zoom could offer!).

But despite all the logistics, practicalities, emotions, and uncertainties, I am trying to hold on as tightly as I can to where I began earlier, the truth that nothing can separate me from God’s love. God’s call on my life has not changed, even though much around me has.

And I know that friends up and down the connexion are praying for me, and my fellow ordinand’s. I know that God’s love is personified in those prayers and messages of encouragement and affirmation. Today it’s hard. I know that God’s love has not waned, that God knows me, my heart and today’s pain. That even in the pain of the un-known, I am know by God.

Sunday Reflections: Barriers Overcome

In this week’s reflections (available in audio and text), I look at how Acts 15 might help us overcome some of the barriers physical distancing is forcing us to face.

Barriers Overcome

Barriers.
Barriers can stop us from getting from one place to another.
Some barriers keep us safe.
Some barriers get in our way.

Barriers can separate.
Barriers can block and divide.

Some of us will have begun to get used to barriers at supermarkets, guiding us in or around the store, with markings on the floor to constantly remind us to keep 2m apart. Barriers to keep us safe that also keep us physically apart.

In 2020 we’re dealing with barriers in way’s many of us have never seen before. Due to coronavirus we’re blocked from being able to physically gather together. Christians can’t go to worship or prayer in church buildings, we can’t meet for coffee or children’s, youth and families ministry. Communities can’t gather for coffee mornings. We are physically distanced from one another.

But we are not socially distant. Over the last few weeks I’ve said many a time in conversations that I don’t find the term social distancing helpful, that I think it would be more helpful to have called it physical distancing.  

Why? Because even while 2m or more apart,  I think we can still be social. We may be physically distanced, but that doesn’t stop us being the social beings we are, made in the image of God to live in relationship. While not the same as physical meeting, the barriers of physical distancing can to some extent be overcome.

We can still have a conversation with the stranger who is walking on the other side of the road. We can still thank our posties and delivery drivers. From this week can sit in our gardens or in the park with a friend (still 2m apart of course).

In every phone call, every physically distanced catch up, every WhatsApp message, every video call, we have been gathering. Sharing fellowship. Seeking to encourage one another and build each other up.

I’ve been so deeply encouraged by just how ready so many in the churches I have been called to serve have been to phone, write, email, text and more to continue in fellowship together, encouraging and building each other up. And beyond that, reaching out to neighbours and friends, offering to pray for them, encouraging them, caring from them. This is mission, this is outreach, this is overcoming the barriers of coronavirus and building relationships.

For the moment we no longer have doors to open, so we are forced to use all that we have left, and we open lives, arms (metaphorically!) and hearts to others. And I wonder if in doing so we discover that it is in open hearted relationships in the streets in which we live, that we see the missio dei – mission of God – at work.

In Acts 15, at the council at Jerusalem Peter has his own barriers to deal with. Gentile believers were being told that unless they were circumcised there were not saved (15:1). The insider-outside separation that 21st Century human society seems so addicted to creating is no new phenomenon. Gentiles were not Jews, Gentiles were not circumcised. Gentiles were not the same as ‘us’ – so how can they be saved?

What does Peter say?  

‘My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. 10 Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’

Acts 15:7b-11, NRSV

Cast our minds back to Acts 10, and we remember that Peter has already had is time to learn that God is bigger than the barriers of human society:

‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’

Acts 10:15b, NRSV

Peter had already been learning that God does not look for our outward actions, but at our heart. And that brings us in equality with our fellow human beings, not barriers between us.

Peter says:

“we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Acts 15:11

So what may God be saying to us today through Acts 15? That’s for each of us to ponder for ourselves. For me, I think God is reminding me that I’m saved not by my actions but by God’s grace.

That I can let go of some of what I thought was most important. That for a time at least, my calling to this vocation will look very different. And while that feels to me very different, unfamiliar and uncertain, it’s going to be ok. God knows my heart finds the barriers of physical distancing tough. God knows that some days are harder than others. And despite it all, God’s grace is always overflowing, and God’s love always unconditional, he knows my heart. With God, barriers are overcome.

God knows your heart too. However you feel today, wherever you read this, whoever you are. God knows how you feel, your struggles, your anxieties, your joys. And God is seeing you right now, with a heart that is overflowing with love and grace for you.

With God, barriers are overcome.


Join the conversation

if you’ve got thoughts or something to share you can comment below and share them with us all – I’d love to hear from you.

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Prayer A-Z during the coronavirus pandemic

A guest contribution to revdanbalsdon.com from Mel Leech, member at Felpham Methodist Church, West Sussex.

After the cancellation of the London Marathon people began doing 26 things…26 circuits of their gardens, 26 press ups… Mel was thinking that the alphabet has 26 letters and came up with 26 things that we could pray for or give thanks for during lock-down. (In fact Mel ended up with more than 26!)

A-Z Prayer

A       
The Ambulance Service will not be over-whelmed.

B       
Bus Drivers will be protected and the Bereaved will be comforted.

C        
Carers working in Care-homes will be recognised for all that they do.

D    
Doctors and Delivery drivers – both so important, and needing our prayers

E        
The Elderly will not be forgotten and have the care they need.

F        
Friends and Family: show them in any way we can how much they are appreciated

G   
Give thanks for our Gardens and pray for those who don’t have one.
Grandparents missing their Grandchildren

H    
Health visitors as they continue to visit the vulnerable.

I     
Intensive Care Units and the patients being treated and the staff caring for them.

J      
Newly qualified Junior doctors and nurses who have been ‘thrown in the deep-end’.

K    
Be Kind to each-other (no need to say more)

L    
Lord ‘what are we to Learn from all this?’

M   
People’s Mental Health – and those who find Isolation particularly difficult.

N   
Contact with Neighbours and seeing they are in need of anything we can help them with and of course continue to pray and give thanks for our NHS.

O       
Give thanks that One Day this will come to an end.

P    
Paramedics as they work on the front-line bringing help as fast as they can.
Remember the Prime Minister as he continues to fully recover and copes with the responsibilities of his job.

Q   
Pray Quarantine measures will continue to work.  
Pray for the Queen and that her faith will inspire and encourage the nation.

R       
There is a sufficient supply of Respirators.

S    
Supermarket shop-workers and those who are ‘shielding’ because of health issues.

T        
Give thanks for the Telephone to keep in contact with each-other. Teachers as they try to continue to give lessons ‘on-line’.

U       
Let’s show ‘Understanding’

V       
Give thanks for those ‘Volunteers’ doing all they can to help the NHS, Farmers and Delivering necessary food parcels and medical supplies etc.

W   
Thanks for daily Walks

X        
Pray a ‘Vaccination’ will soon be found.

Y        
Young people – including children, at this, what must be, a very strange time for them.

Z        
Give thanks for ZOOM.

AMEN


Download a copy of A-Z Prayer

What would you add?

Comment below – what would you add to this prayer A-Z?

Sunday Reflections: Becoming Vulnerable

In this week’s reflections (available in audio and text), I think about a time I felt vulnerable and our own being faced with vulnerability as Covid-19 continues to present such a real threat to humanity.

NB – Dates of performance should be 2006 – Not sure how I got 2014 in my head when I recorded this!

Around this time of year 14 years ago, aged 14 I got gastroenteritis and stayed of school for a week. it was the first time in my life I’d missed school for so long, and it happened that it meant I missed the long awaited auditions for the School’s next show.

In November 2006, the school was to perform Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Having not been in any previous shows, I was hoping I might get a part, and was disappointed I was too ill to audition. The next week, I went back to school and had settled that I’d miss out but to my surprise, despite missing auditions, the drama teachers allowed me to audition late, and by the end of the week I had not only got a part… I’d got the main part. I was going to play Joseph. My friends joked saying it was because I was the only year 10 who could still hit high notes.

We began rehearsals, had the summer holidays and then got back to it as term recommenced in September, and so did costume making. I’d not given costume any thought until suddenly I was presented with a gold belt and a white piece of fabric, about a foot deep and 4 feet long and told here’s your costume.

To this now just turned 15 year old, who had only just hit puberty, wasn’t the fittest, wasn’t the most attractive, and was a regular target for bullying – this was not just some costume. This was going to be brutal. I was being asked to stand on stage in front of my classmates (and those at the time I definitely wouldn’t call mates), in the equivalent of a white mini-skirt with a golden belt, and nothing else on.

Alas, I didn’t get as much bullying as I’d expected I might, but stepping out on stage the first time I felt incredibly vulnerable, conscious I was stood wearing, what felt like almost nothing, in front of my peers and teachers, and aware that I would have 6 performances to go,  including performing in front of Sir Tim Rice when he came to open the school’s new music block that month.

As performance week loomed I then discovered not only did I need to come to terms with such a scantily clad costume, I also needed to be caked in makeup from head to waist. Each evening as we prepared for the show, some of my friends had the honourable responsibility of helping me ‘orange-up’ ready for performances.

Vulnerability was somewhat thrust upon me. Part of it was rational, perhaps part not. Some of it was through the behaviour of others, some was through my own fear. Some was simply part of being human. Some was my struggle with my own self-image.

My biggest regret of that time is that I don’t have a recording of the show. I never had a chance to watch myself back, and years later would love to be able to watch and remind myself of what I achieved as I embraced the vulnerability required of my 14 and 15yr old self.

In Acts 9, for Saul as he travels on the road, free and powerful, on a mission to ‘take down’ the followers of The Way, he is blinded and can go on no longer without the help of others. Suddenly, Saul’s life changes as he has to suddenly come to terms with his new found vulnerability.

I know from many conversations that in the last 2 months, in different and varied ways, many of us have needed to come to terms with our vulnerability. Whether or not our age or health increases our vulnerability, all humanity is vulnerable right now. We have all had to face that vulnerability, changing the way we live, asking others to help us, to care for ourselves and our communities.

This is not easy. Much like Saul, we live in relative freedom, used to being able to do and go where we want when. Ongoing suffering, grief and struggle is part of the vulnerable reality this pandemic forces humanity as a whole to hold and bear.

But to become vulnerable does not mean all is lost. In the midst of our vulnerability, it can be hard to see how we can get out, but just as I look back and reflect on what I achieved, as we read on in Acts we’ll discover how much Saul achieves through his own vulnerability. I pray now that we, as individuals, communities and humanity, will allow ourselves to become vulnerable, and make space for God’s power and grace to transform us and all the world.


Join the conversation

if you’ve got thoughts or something to share you can comment below and share them with us all – I’d love to hear from you.


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The photographic evidence!

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, performed November 2006 at Brannel School, Cornwall

What is Testimony?

For this week’s Testimony Thursday I think about Testimony as stories of God interacting in our lives, and share a glimpse of one of the places I see God at work in the lives of individuals and community during lockdown.

A big thumbs up – thank you to Bognor Methodist for allowing to space to be used, and all of you for the way you give, and pray for the work of Foodbank – and the many other groups and organisations, local and international, seeking to support the vulnerable and most in need at this time.

For me, these acts of co-operation, giving, sharing, supporting, shows that the church cares about our community, and the lives of those who live in it.

the church cares about our community,
and the lives of those who live in it.

Even though lockdown has meant many of us are unable to get out at do much, we’ve still got opportunity to see God at work around us.

So what’s your story of God at work around you?

Comment below and share – I’d love to hear from you!

Not what he’d hoped for: The Vulnerable man

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10b

There was once a young man who sneaked into church hoping nobody would notice him. The only reason he’d come was because he was keen on a girl who sang in the choir, and he hoped that if he was in the service he’d be able to see her at the end of the service and ask her out. He wasn’t quite sure what to do, but he saw people going in and sitting down, so he did the same. Just as the service was beginning, an usher came up to him.

‘Excuse me.’ he said. ‘The person who’s supposed to do the reading hasn’t turned up. Could you possibly do it?’

The young man was horrified for a moment, but then thought quickly. The girl he had his eye on was there, in the choir. She would be most impressed if she heard him reading in the service.

‘All right,’ he said. He took the Bible and looked through the reading the usher had showed him.

It came to the moment. He want up, opened the Bible, and began to read. It was from John’s gospel and he vaguely recognised it.

‘Anyone who doesn’t enter the sheepfold by the gate,’ he heard his own voice say, ‘but climbs in by another way, is a thief and a bandit.’

He was thunderstruck. This was what he’d done! He was standing here, pretending to be a regular bible-reader, when in fact he’d only come in to meet a girl. He forced himself to go on, aware of his heart beating loudly. If he was a bandit, coming in under false pretences, what was the alternative?

‘I am the gate for the sheep,’ said Jesus. ‘The bandit only comes to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they might have life, and have it full to overflowing.’

Suddenly, something happened inside the young man. He stopped thinking about himself. He stopped thinking about the girl, the congregation, about the fact that he’d just done a ridiculous and hypocritical thing. He thought about Jesus. Unaware of the chock he was causing, he swung round to the clergyman leading the service.

‘Is it true?’ he asked. ‘Did he really come so that we could have real life, full life like that?’

‘Of course it is,’ he replied, quite unfazed by this non-liturgical outburst. ‘That’s why we’re all here. Come and join in this next song and see what happens if you really mean it.

And the young man found himself swept off his feet by the presence and the love of Jesus, filling him, changing him, calling him to follow. He got more, much more than he had hoped for.


For those of us reading Acts (find out more), today we read Acts 3 and meet a man who also gets more than he hoped for. The Bible I usually use calls him a crippled beggar, but I wonder if we’d give him more dignity, and ourselves greater understanding, if we called him a vulnerable person?

Ignored and forgotten by the state;
marginalised by society; discriminated against;
someone who has not fit the criteria for support through the social care system?

Carried into the temple by some people who chose to help (or wanted to make themselves look good? – who knows!), this vulnerable man comes hoping someone will take pity on him, and give him a few coins, enough to keep him going another day.

He sees Peter and John. And they don’t give him what he’s hoping for, they give him something better. An encounter with Jesus the healer, the transformer, the Saviour.
More than he expected or hoped for.

What are we expecting or hoping for today?


As we continue to look towards the easing of lockdown, what are you hoping this time will teach you, us, society?


How can you use your voice today to stand up for the marginalised and vulnerable?

I leave you with a short video a family member sent me, which I found help me think more carefully about the world we might hope 2020 will help us and all the world create.

‘The Great Realisation’, From Probably Tomfoolery.

Join the conversation

if you’ve got thoughts or something to share you can comment below and share them with us all – I’d love to hear from you, and I know others would too!


Downloadable Version


Acknowledgements

Story of the young man © Tom Wright from Acts for Everyone, (SPCK, 2008), p48-8.
Video from Probably Tomfoolery.

Acts: Day 1

Today some of us begin a journey through the book of Acts. Visit the Worship Resources page and you’ll find the guide and info under prayer and devotion. Anyone is welcome to join!

Studying together, while physically distanced will be new for many of us, but as we continue to navigate these unchartered waters of lockdown, I’ve been minded to ‘just go for it’ and learn along the way. We’ll see where God takes!

As part of the daily rhythm I’ve suggested some pointers for daily reflection:

Some Pointers to help Daily Reflection

  • What verse stands out to you?
    • Read it again, chew on the words…
    • What message might you be hearing today?
  • What is God saying to you through today’s chapter?
    • Write it down. Pray about it. Come back to it later.
  • Where may God be speaking to the church today through the passage?
    • Make a note of it. Share it with someone else from church.

I won’t post on here every day, but for day 1 I thought I would share briefly my reflections.

What verse stands out?
For me, it was 1:7 ‘It is not for you to know the time or period’.
A lot of life at the moment feels like waiting, waiting for lockdown to ease, waiting for the next change to come, waiting for an idea of how much longer we’ll be physically distanced from one another. I don’t know the time or period.

What is God saying to me?
I feel God saying “Don’t worry about tomorrow, I’ve got you”. Be patient and embrace TODAY – don’t worry about tomorrow for now, by my Spirit I will provide the strength and resource you need for each day. Trust me.

Where may God be speaking to the church today
As they wait for the time God has promised will one day come, the believers pray (1:14, 24). In uncertain waiting, it was to the act of prayer that the disciples turned. Perhaps that’s the greatest and power powerful action God’s people can make right now.

Share your reflections

Why not read Acts 1 and reflect for yourself, and share your thoughts in the comments below. How is God speaking to you today?

Testimony Thursday: Good Days, Bad Days

#A week or ago, I was included in an email sent to quite a number of people with the subject heading ‘a reminder to worship’ and this verse:

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Colossians 2:6-7, NRSV

As I read those words I was struck by how different life looks now to how it did only a few weeks ago – and how at times it really doesn’t feel like I’m continuing anything.

I don’t know about you, but for me, almost everything that was in my diary over the last 6 weeks has been cancelled or postponed, and almost everything I’m doing now, whether it be work or family life, is very much different to how it normally is or was planned to be. How can I continue anything?

But after my instinctive reaction, I soon realised that this summons to the disciples of Colossae was not about the practicalities of church life and family living, but about continuing living in Jesus. Continuing to be rooted and built up in Christ. Continuing to sustain and deepen the faith they have already been pursuing, the faith they have already been taught and grounded in. Always giving thanks.

In the last few weeks,
I’ve had good days and bad days.
Happy days and sad days.
Days where I’ve felt I’ve made a difference.
Days when I’ve wondered if I should even have got out of bed!

Yet all the while, no matter how I’ve felt about the ‘stuff’ of my day, I’ve been certain of the fact that Jesus is there beside me.

I found this stone on the beach last week, round with a hole in it and, to me, it was like the empty tomb. It now sits on my desk next to my little stone cross as a reminder that no matter how I feel at any moment of any day, Jesus is alive and with me every step of the way.

As you continue to live in Jesus, I pray you know for yourself that he lives and is with you every step of the way.

May the peace of the Risen Christ be with you.

Rev Dan


Join the conversation

How has God been speaking to you this week? Please share in the comments below as we encourage each other to continue in faith.

Recommended read: So What’s the Story…?

This is the first of what I hope will become a semi-regular series of short tasters for books that I recommend reading.


Lots of you will know that I have a passion for testimony; stories of God in our lives, shared with others. I believe that testimony has the power to challenge minds and inspire hearts and transform lives.

‘So what’s the story…?’ is a made up of 12 short, accessible chapters, packed with insights from Barbara and Clive’s own experiences in life and ministry as well as their own research. Through the book they unpack multiple ways that story can shape us, our faith and our living as individuals and community, as well as exploring scripture as story – not in terms fiction or non-fiction, but in terms of the influential and transformative power of story within scriptures pages. Clive and Barbara also helpfully highlight places where we must be careful not to abuse the power of story, emphasising the importance of pastoral sensitivity and care.

I recommend, ‘So what’s the story…?’ because not only does it explore the power of story in it’s multiple forms, the book also strikes at the heart of what it means to practice our faith in Christ, pursuing our own discipleship, living as Christian community and sharing the story of God in us, with us and around us, with our neighbours and communities.

For me, the book helped me make more sense of how my story has been shaped by God’s story, and given me more confidence in how that testimony can bear witness to my experience of God – where ‘God’s presence has made a difference’ (p.47), and open space to challenge, inspire and transform, by God’s activity in the stories of others.


‘So What’s the Story…?’ is published by Darton Longman and Todd, written by Barbara Glasson and Clive Marsh, current President and Vice-President of the British Methodist Conference (2019).

Purchase from your Local Christian Bookshop or visit Methodist Publishing Online.