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.

The crowd was pressing in

The idea of being in a crowd pressing in on one another is one we will not have countenanced over the last couple years. But think back to the last time you crowded into a concert hall, rock concert, theatre or cinema. Bodies close together, all anticipating the experience you have come to witness. Your eagerness to hear and see leads you to adjust your head position to get the best view.

Read: Luke 5:1-11

The crowd was not pressing in to get into the mosh pit. We are not told they were competing and tussling to get the best view. We are told they were pressing in because they were ‘eager to hear the word of God’ (v1).

What does your eagerness to hear the word of God lead you to do? How do you seek to listen to Jesus? Where has hearing from Jesus lead you to experience transformation?

In Jesus, his life, his words, his attitude and example, we meet and experience the goodness, grace and glory of God. Oh how eager we should be to encounter Jesus today! Whether in a crowd, where a few are gathered, or on our own – let us all position ourselves day by day to press in, and encounter Jesus.

Follow up: Take some time this week to read the rest of Luke 5. As you read, be eager to hear; how is God speaking to you day by day this week through these words of scripture?


Today’s thought for the day is also available in Worshipping Together, a monthly worship at home resource.

To Unfamiliar & Unexpected

In a pastoral conversation this week the person I was talking to reminded me of a story of a congregation turning up to a first service with their new minister. The congregation was full of expectation but the new minister was nowhere to be seen. The only person that was to be seen was a homeless person curled up just outside the front door asleep.

As the service began it was announced that the minister hadn’t turned up, when low and behold the homeless person walked up to the front, laid their sleeping back down and took off their coat to reveal themselves as the new minister. The congregation were shocked, and guilty that they had all ignored their sleeping homeless guest.

Luke 4:21-30

21 Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 

23 He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.”’ 24 And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers[d] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ 

28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

Our gospel reading today reminds us that God works in the unexpected places. Jesus is in Nazareth, and people can’t believe it is Joseph’s son. Jesus talks of how a prophet is not welcome in their hometown. Not welcome in their familiar surroundings. The words familiar and family come from the same Latin root, as words talking about the known and the intimate. It seems that here Jesus sows the seed that God may well call us out of our known and comfortable places to the unfamiliar and unexpected.

Follow Up: as the reading goes on, Jesus talks of God’s provision for Zarephath (1 Kings 17) and Naaman (2 Kings 5), both people who were deemed at the time to be ‘outside’ of the community of God’s people.

Read their stories and reflect on what God is saying to you through them today.



Today’s thought for the day is also available in Worshipping Together, a monthly worship at home resource.

The right power source

I don’t know about you but in my house there are a lot of devices that need a charging cable. Some charging cables are the same but others are different and it’s not unusual in our house to get confused between which is the right one. Get it wrong and the device won’t charge because the power is not getting to it correctly.

Luke 4:14-21

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 

In our Christian lives, getting power from the right source is essential. The reading today begins by telling us Jesus was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a really important part of the story because in the verses that precede this one we have just witnessed Jesus put to the test. Tested to turn stones to bread; to find power in material things. Tested with having dominion over the world; to find power through ruling over others. Tested to command Gods very angels to save him from death; to find power through controlling life and death.

But Jesus has not found power in those places, but in God’s Spirit.

Sometimes the gospels might feel like they’re all about Jesus, and that may be true, but they are also all about the gift Jesus gives to us. Jesus did not just live and then disappear, Jesus left his Spirit with us so that we to can find the right power source for our Christian lives.

Follow Up: Read & Reflect on Isaiah 61 (the text Jesus quotes in today’s passage from Luke)


An extended address from Dan preached at Felpham Methodist Church is also available on Youtube:


Today’s thought for the day is also available in Worshipping Together, a monthly worship at home resource.

The best is yet to come…

This week’s lectionary gospel reading comes from John 2, where we read of John’s first account of a Jesus-miracle; water turned to wine.

John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ 

His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. 

When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ 

11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

It was normal in those days that the best wine would be served first, then once everyone was a bit drunk the ‘not-best’ wine could come out and no one would be any the wiser because they were already a bit drunk anyway. So the idea that the best wine had been saved till last ran counter to the cultural norms of hospitality. It was absurd to think that the best had been saved till last.

I wonder if this is the metaphor John was using when he placed the story of this Jesus-miracle where he did in his gospel. Pointing out to the reader that after many centuries of God providing for the people he calls his, now the next chapter is unfolding, and it is the best bit.

But interestingly, John also tells of mother Mary’s role in this miracle. Jesus is pushed on by his mother to make this miracle happen. Who might God be speaking to you through today, pushing you on to fulfil Gods plan for your life?

Follow up: Reflect on how God has spoken to you through others in your life. give thanks to God for them.


Today’s thought for the day is also available in Worshipping Together, a monthly worship at home resource.

A Sweet Christmas Tale

I originally put together for use during Christmas 2021 at Felpham Methodist Church, and Bognor Regis Methodist Church West Sussex.

Please feel free to use this as a resource, and adapt it as appropriate. If you do use it, let me know, and tell me how it went!

Rev Dan, January 2022

Downloadable PDF

Some notes for use

It takes about 7-10 minutes to perform, depending how you do it.

I delivered it with a large table in front of me, and all the chocolates & Sweets in a basket, bringing them out and holding them up as I referred to them (in red), the placing on the table. The times there is a product in green means you’ve used it once already, so you’ve got to find it on the table – which adds to the entertainment factor!

Alternatively, you could do it with pictures on a screen, or with congregation having to shout out when they hear a chocolate reference.

Choose Joy

For the last couple years we’ve had a Family Joy Jar. The intention is to write something down that has given us joy each day throughout the year, and then at the end of the year we open it up and read them together.

Last week when we opened our joys from 2021 it was a joyful time, reminded of many moments of joy we had as a family that we would otherwise have forgotten about.

Some of our family moments of joy from 2021.

Through our Family Joy Jar, God has encouraged me to begin 2022 by choosing joy. There is so much rubbish around us at the moment, the pandemic rages on, the refugee crisis continues, the cost of living crisis looms ever larger, our UK government is appearing more and more lawless by the day. it is so easy to end up frustrated, angry, disappointed and feel joy-less.

So I am starting 2022 seeking to choose joy. To mark every day by finding at least one thing to be joyful about – and the more days that go by, the easier it is to find it. It is as if, in choosing joy, I find joy.

Sharing some of this with our prayer group last week, we spent some time prayerfully reflecting on moments of joy in our lives. It was so uplifting and encouraging to hear each other sharing our stories of joy.

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

Every day is a day God has made. A gift God has given to us. So let us rejoice in this gift. let us chose joy and praise our maker.

I encourage you to choose joy today.

If it helps you, take some time to play the worship song below, and as you do, make a note of your own moments of joy .

New Year

New Year.
New Start.
Refresh.
Refocus.

Pray.
Dare to Listen. 

Dare to Dream. 
Dare to Hope.
Dare to Love. 

Dare to Fly.
To soar on wings like eagles.
To run and not grow weary. 
To live in the strength and power of God. 

Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.

For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.

But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.

Isaiah 40:28-31 (The Message)

‘This love we got is the best of all’ – Merry Christmas

I always look forward to hearing new Christmas tunes and carols, and watching the music video’s that come with them. This year I’ve been struck by Ed and Elton’s ‘Merry Christmas’.

Every time I watch this, I see reference to another past Christmas hit. Slade, Wham, Snowman, even a Sausage Roll!

If feels like they’ve looked back at all the classic Christmas tunes that people have most loved and tried to combine all the ‘feel-good’ buts into one video.

It has a wonderful, Christmassy feel about it, but the song is also very real. It starts with the truth that Christmas 2021 is also a Christmas of lament, remembering all that we have gone though these last 2 years…

I know there’s been pain this year but it’s time to let it go
Next year you never know, but for now
Merry Christmas

As we remember the Christmas story, the declaration of angels saying God’s promised one has come, and will transform the world…Mary, Joseph, shepherds responding to God’s message… there was much they didn’t know. But for now, in the moment, they look in awe and wonder at the Christ-child, who is love that is the best love of all.

We’ll dance in the kitchen while embers glow
We’ve both known love, but this love that we got is the best of all
I wish you could see you through my eyes then you would know
My god you look beautiful right now
Merry Christmas

This Christmas I want you to see the Christmas story, not through Elton’s eyes – but through God’s eyes. God who wants us to see and know that in Christ we find the ultimate expression of God’s love.
Love that has no terms and conditions attached,
love that shows no judgement,
Love simply because God can do nothing but love us.

Just as we may well spend some of Christmas visiting or spending time with people we love, so too did God step down from heaven and become human, to spend time with us.
To live as we live, because God loves us.

So as Christmas comes around once again,
here comes the annual reminder of God’s love come down to earth,
and to us.

I feel it when it comes
Every year helping us carry on
Filled up with so much love
All our family and friends are together where we all belong
Merry Christmas everyone

We’ve had a tough 2 years, and while the landscape is changing it is still going to be tough for while longer… but the love of God we discover in Jesus helps us carry on through the highs and lows of life.

And that gift of love is not only for us to keep and cherish for ourselves, it is also one we are encouraged to share.

There are many ways of encouraging, of giving, of sharing, of caring for and loving the people around us. In our words, our actions, our giving and offering hospitality.

Christmas is a time to give and share and encourage,
Christmas a time to love,
because it is through the best love of all we discover in Jesus
that the world, and we all, can find true hope.

this love that we got is the best of all
I know there’s been pain this year but it’s time to let it go
Filled up with so much love
Merry Christmas everyone

Keep Watching….

The stage was set…
The house lights dimmed…
Silence…
Waiting…
Watching…
Anticipation building.

Then with great gusto, The orchestra begin to play,
The curtain begins to rise…
The stage is revealed, and the show begins. 

I still remember my first trip to the West End.
Anticipation was strong.
We knew the story we were about to witness,
Yet we didn’t know quite how they would do it on the stage.

So as we sat there,
We sat between the known and unknown,
intensifying the anticipation of what was coming…
The knowing made the waiting even more electrifying.
The unknowing made the waiting more exciting.

That image, for me, captures the essence of Advent,
A time of waiting in expectation,
Between the known and the unknown,
Remembering what was.
Waiting and watching for what will be.

Waiting inhabits most areas of our lives, in one way or another.
Sometimes waiting passes by unnoticed.
At others, waiting is a heavy millstone around our necks.

Sometimes waiting can be a joyous and uplifting time,
At others, it can be draining of all life.

And over the last 2 years waiting has taken a whole new meaning for us… waiting for our turn in the vaccine roll out, waiting for another news conference, waiting to know if there will or will not be more changes to the way we live our lives….

In Luke 1:39-45 we read of Mary and Elizabeth.
Both are pregnant…
Unexpectedly pregnant in fact…
Both families have been visited by angels foretelling something of what will happen.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 

Luke 1:41-42

Amidst all the unknowns…
Amidst the crazy uncertainty…,.
Elizabeth somehow knows Mary carry’s God’s promised one…
She doesn’t know how, what, why…
But she knows that this baby would be a fulfilment of God’s promise.

How it must have felt for Mary and Elizabeth,
Having a glimpse of what might be coming,
A glimpse of what God was doing,
Yet not really knowing God’s plan at all.

Confusion. Uncertainty. Fear. Disbelief. Loneliness.
Why them?
Why now?
How?
When?
What?

There must have been more q’s than answers.
But they were willing.
They trusted.
Waited.

2000 or so years on, we’re in a different place…
The promised Messiah came
Jesus came, lived, ministered, died, rose again.
Left the Spirit of God with us.

All could be made well with the world…
Peace, hope, harmony, justice, righteousness, clarity….

2000 years on, perhaps the world isn’t quite so different as we sometimes like to think. Humankind might have progressed, but thw world is still a mess.

While I don’t think any of you are expecting to give birth to a son of God any time soon…we are all also like Mary & Elizabeth.

We’re human.
Still human.
Still live with anxiety, fear.
We live with questions.
We live with uncertainty.

For me, there’s something about the known and unknown of the season of advent, the watching and waiting which reminds me that God is as much in the waiting, uncertainty and the unknown, as everything else.

As Advent reminds us of what was, is and will be,
We are reminded we worship a God who’s work has not finished.
Has never finished.
Advent reminds us to keep watching…
Watching for glimpses of the God in our daily lives.
Watching for the activity of God in the world.
Watching for God’s invitation to us to participate in that activity.

For that is God’s gracious and generous offer to us.
Inviting we watchers and waiters to participate in the continuing work of God.
So, keep watching.
In advent and in all our days…

“Do not be afraid”

A personal reflection on Advent, where I find myself in Minsitry and Gabriel’s words, Do not be afraid’ – with thanks to Tim Lea’s video ‘No to Fear’.


The angel said to Mary, ‘Do not be afraid, for you have found favour with God. 

Luke 1:30

I took up running earlier in the Autumn. In was loving getting out first thing in the morning and jogging along as dawn began to break. I managed to capture some of those moments in photo’s – but often they photo’s didn’t do justice to the moments – just as the cover photo above demonstrates! it is hard to capture the dawn on a phone camera because light is sparse, and the conditions of the day still uncertain.

Then I got a cold, and the weather turned colder, wetting, darker, and I gave up – but I keep telling myself I will try again in Spring when the conditions are better.

As I joruney through advent 2021, I am finding the conditions around me really challenging. The pandemic began 18 months after I began ministry here on the Sussex Coast and now 22 months later the pandemic is still with us. I think sometimes we forget how much of an upheaval the pandemic has been, turning every aspect of our lives upside down, and challenging every assumption of what normal means.

In ministry right now there are many pressures around us and among us. There are practical uncertainties. There are quesitons about what activity to resume, and how to do it. There are questions about whether the conditions around are right to do something new, or additional, or to resume something else.

And all that comes within a culture that recognises the decline of the church in the UK and a sense of urgency that we must seek growth, numerically and spiritually.  

I’m finding this period the hardest of all the periods of the pandemic so far. This seemingly endless period of of tentative, anxious, uncertain emergence from lockdown and transition to work out how to ‘live with covid’ when we don’t know how to do that well yet is exhausting, and draining let alone factoring in the advent of Omicron and all the anxieties about the future of the church.

I’ve been feeling this for a while, but only more recently begun to make sense of it enough that I can begin to articulate it – largely because last week I actually did have the quarter days I had put in my diary – rather than let other expectations and demands crowd out the space.

Then at the end of last week God has encouraged me through a Fuelcast Video that reflected on Gabriel’s words: ‘Do not be afraid’. I encourage you to watch it if you can by clicking this link

‘Do not be afraid’ – the opposite of this is to fear. I’ve realised that all the conditions of ministry I’ve mentioned above have been feeding a sense of fear within me. In the video Tim suggests fear can kill faith & stifle holy creativity because our eyes become focused on the circumstances we find ourselves in, rather than on Jesus. 

That has lead me to think again about Sabbath, divine and holy rest, offering space for contemplation, basking in God’s presence & opportunity for healing and wholeness. I’ve been pondering whether my focus should be more heavily on rest, on my being, on our wellness – rather than on activity and concerns about the future. 

That seems ironic given we’re in December and I have a whole host of Christmas activities to plan for! 

But as the video reminds us – God’ timing is perfect and will bring things forth at the right moment – if we are making space for God – and we do that through pausing, resting, Sabbath-ing.

Advent is a season of waiting that quite often the church pays some level of lip service to in it’s drive to make the most of the opportunties for mission and outreach. And as admirable as that may be, I wonder whether our desperate rush to get to Christmas means we skip Advent’s spiritual reminder that time is God’s. That just as God’s people both patiently and impatiently waited for Emmanuel, God’s moment came.

Perhaps we need to focus more heavily on rest, on recover, on being compassionate to ourselves, each other, to the church – to allow ourselves space to turn from fear to faithfulness, and trust that God’s moment will come.