Tag Archives: Coronavirus

Freedom – taking personal Responsibility

With ‘freedom day’ upon us, I’ve been thinking a bit about the word freedom and what we may mean by it. I typed ‘freedom’ into an open source image site and found it quite ironic that freedom was depicted almost entirely in terms of isolated individuals in nature – not a crowded bar or theatre in sight! (a sample of the images offered to me above!) 

Words like freedom are a bit like onions with layers of meaning…  but perhaps also like a kinder egg… because if we unpack what it may mean for us we may be surprised at the diversity of meaning among us. 

Freedom is a deeply theological concept for us as Christians, strongly driven by scriptures story. Much of the bible comes from people and communities seeking freedom, but restricted from it by the geo-political and social structures of the day. Ruth and Naomi restricted by famine and grief yet subverting the cultural restrictions of the day. The Israelites enslaved in Egypt , longing for the promised land. Paul, Peter and many others imprisoned writing to inspire the early church… 

Some parts of the Old Testament are packed with rules for the community of God; don’t eat unclean animals, no mixed fibre clothes, rules for bathing… there is even an instruction not to boil a baby goat in its mothers milk. There’s all sorts of ways to explain why these rules may have been necessary at the time, some very practical – for example some rules may have helped stop the spread of disease.

By the time Jesus came, these rules had become so restrictive to the people of God they had become a mill stone around the people’s neck, and the religiosity of the system had taken away any sense of freedom. So Jesus comes and turns everything upside down, freeing God’s people and all the world from restriction – God did not send the son into the world to condemn it, but that it might be saved (John 3:17) , and offering freedom ‘if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed’ (John 8:36).

But what do we do with that freedom? Do we go off and do whatsoever we like? That is the choice we have. That is the personal responsibility we bear. But how do we bear it? What does Christian personal responsibility look like? 

These quesitons are not new questions – it seems that the early church asked them too, and while maybe not in the context of a pandemic, Paul writes to the Galatians that as God’s people we are called into freedom. Not merely earthly freedom (e.g. from mask wearing and social distancing), but to the Spiritual freedom of belonging not to the kingdoms of earth but the kingdom of God. To be called into freedom is to embrace the liberating, redeeming power of salvation we find through belonging to God’s kingdom. 

But, says Paul, we are also called to choose use our freedom responsibly – to take personal responsibility and not keep our freedom for self-indulgence, but to live out God’s law that Paul and Jesus both sum up in one phrase ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’ 

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Galatians 5:14-16

In light of the emphasis on ‘personal responsibility’ for mitigating covid risk, moving away from laws that dierct us, I’m minded that personal responsibility is not about only thinking about self, but also taking personal resposibility for ensuring our personal actions also love our neighbours. 

As we enter this new phase of pandemic, I encourage you to reflect on 2 things:
1, reflect spiritually and on your relationship with God: what does Christian freedom mean for you?    
2. reflect practically, how do you demonstrate to the world the personal responsibility we are called to exercise?  

Weekly Reflections from Rev Dan, also published in Tues News 20/7/21.
Sign up for the weekly Tues News here.

Out of the Way

In the gospels we read the story of Jesus turning over the tables in the temple courtyard.  Perhaps the closest we get in the gospels to seeing Jesus express his frustration in a physical way.

It was coming to the festival of Passover, when Jews would remember how God passed over the land of Egypt and led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.

It was an important festival, and Jesus heads to the temple – where he finds a menagerie of traders. And what does Jesus do? He overturns the tables; he drives the animals and traders out of the temple and declares ‘stop making my father’s house a market place’.

Why does he do this? Why does he make such a scene?

The trading that was happening in the temple courtyard had become a distraction from worship, and for some even a barrier to worship.

People were having to buy animals in the courtyard to then go to make their sacrifices, and to buy the animals they must get temple currency – like me as a Brit going to China and trying to use Pound Sterling to buy my dinner – I wouldn’t get what I needed.

The temple traders which may well have begun as a practice to enable those who didn’t have access to animals for sacrifices to be able to access them, have become part of a system of injustice.

Reflection on this gospel story might poses for us various quesitons about worship, economics, justice and injustice, anger and frustration…

But today I want us to briefly reflect on the words of Jesus: ‘Stop making my father’s house a marketplace’. Get this stuff out of the way, it is distracting us, distracting you, from God.

As Christians we have a different relationship with buildings than Jews did with the temple in Jerusalem. Church buildings are a gathering place, and can become sacred space to us, through our encountering God through worship and through lives of others. But we also know that God is no more present in these buildings than all the world. Yet buildings have a significance and value for many.

In the last 12 months as Christians, we have been faced with learning to have a different relationship with buildings that we have done before. When we have gathered in them, we have done so under restrictions which restrain us from singing and even talking with one another. For much of the time they have not been gathering places at all.

For me personally, the restrictions and particularly the responsibility of leading worship within them when I have done, has distracted, and limited me from being able to encounter God through worship and interaction with God’s community.

I encourage you to reflect today – what distracts you from worship and encountering God? What can you do to overcome those distractions?

Downloadable PDF

Faithful on the Ocean

O Lord God of hosts,
who is as mighty as you, O Lord?
Your faithfulness surrounds you.
You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.

Psalm 89:8-9

Last weekend a friend sent me a link to a song, saying God had placed it on his heart to send to me. It’s a song I knew, but in that moment the song was just the thing I needed, and I’m so grateful I received it.

We’ve just begin lent, which we often begin by reminding ourselves of Jesus’ period of solitude in the wilderness. We may imagine a deserted, desert like place – where there is little sign of life and furitfulness – where Jesus is temped and tormented after his Baptism.

For me, my wilderness right now feels less of a desert and more like an unchartered ocean, as we continued to navagate the unchartered waters of pandemic, it’s longevity, it’s impact on community, church life, on relationships and human connection.

In some ways, now that we’re almost a year on from the first lockdown here in the UK, it feels like I may be cracking an old nut going on abour the unchartered waters of pandemic. Surely we’ve got beyond some of the new-ness and unexpectedness of the pandemic, we’ve learnt to use new technology, and while we’d still prefer to sit across from one another with a  fresh coffee, we’ve got used to spending more time on the phone.

But despite how long we’ve been navigating these unchartered waters, the storm is continuing, and while there are signs of hope, past signs of hope have already been knocked back by new, larger waves crashing onto the deck.

Despite being about a year into the pandemic, life and ministry still feels to me like a journey in the unknown. While each week holds within it joys and blessings, there is still a common feeling of muddling through and making do. Trying to be satisfied when I feel that I’m not serving grieving families with the ’best’ I can offer, despite knowing I’m doing all that I can within these restrictions. Knowing how much people long to be able to gather face to face and share fellowship, yet having to live with burden of reality that the fellowship we really want, where we can sing and talk with one another is just not possible at the moment. That’s all without even beginning to think about all the uncertainties about how to lead and shape future ministry as we emerge from this pandemic sometime in the future.

That’s why the song I received last weekend was so helpful for me. The whole song is filled with a reminder that life can feel like a stormy voyage on the ocean, but whether water is still or raging God is faithful – always. God is guiding us – always.
God is with us – always.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

I encourage you to take a few moments today to listen, and draw close to God who is faithful to you and says to you ‘you are mine’.

In the unknown, in the wilderness of this Lenten season and as we continued our voyage on these unchartered waters, may you find God’s unfailing grace strengthening you, encouraging you and upholding you.

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

Psalm 89:1-2

Downloadable PDF

(Without Song)

Snowdrops

I wanted to share these snowdrops with you. Over the few days more and more of these beauties have been appearing.

I always look out for them each new year. My Grandparents would always look for the first snowdrops of the year, and as a farmer who was always out first thing every morning Gramps would usually spot them first and pick a few to bring into the farmhouse to show Gran as evidence that spring was on the way.

What I find most intriguing about snowdrops is how fragile they look. How easily they can be trampled, how vulnerable their drooping blooms appear.

Yet, they are among the first flowers of the year and despite their fragile appearance, on the inside they are strong and able to withstand the cold weather and harsh winds of winter.

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul has been writing to the Church in Corinth about his ‘thorn in the flesh’, something that is tormenting Paul, and makes him feel weak.

We don’t know what – probably not an actual thorn, maybe some sort of health issue, or something about his character he doesn’t like.

Whatever it is, Paul has pleaded with God to have rid of this thorn.
Yet God says:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” 1 Cor 12:

2 Corinthians 12:9

Paul discovers that in weakness, God’s power and strength are made perfect.

I would quite like God to get rid of the thorn that is coronavirus. I’m wearied by the constant challenge of living within restrictions, the sometimes heavy burden of responsibility I feel and bear with others, the vulnerability and fragility of life that this virus takes advantage of.

Yet through these snowdrops God has reminded me that things are not always as they appear. While things make appear fragile and weak and vulnerable, inside God’s power and strength is made perfect.

While the darkness of this winter may still bear heavily upon us, spring is coming, and hope is with us – because through acceptance of our vulnerability, God’s power and strength is made perfect.

May you know the hope and strength of God in your life today.

Reflect

What do you find is a thorn in your flesh?

Where do you feel weak or vulnerable today?

Pray, and ask God to help you know his strength and power being made perfect in you.

Downloadable PDF

Interrupted…by Christmas

However you’re spending Christmas this year, I pray you have a safe, hope-filled and blessed one.

A wife posted her Christmas wish list on the fridge for her husband to see. Rather than a list of items of desire, she simply wrote, ‘something that will make me look beautiful’. When Christmas rolled around she expected to open a package with some fancy jewellery of clothing. Instead, she unexpectedly received an exercise bike.

Christmas this year is not what we would have expected back in January.
Christmas has been interrupted.
There’s things we can’t do.
Places we won’t go.
People we won’t see.
We may feel frustrated, disappointed,
hopes have been dashed, people are hurting.

2020 has been a year of change, restrictions and interruptions. And if you’re anything like me, I’m not a great fan of interruptions to my plans and routines.

We’re all marking Christmas differently this year in one way or another…

As we do, I wonder if living through an interrupted Christmas might help us see the Christmas story differently – and afresh for us.

Because the Christmas story itself is filled with interruptions.
Christmas is an interruption.

Mary’s day in interrupted when an angel appears before her and says she will have a child. How does Mary respond? Does she head out stockpiling loo rolls and pasta? No, she said ‘I am the Lord’s servant, let it be’.

The whole land was interrupted with a census called by a foreign dictator that sent everyone back to their hometowns – their own lockdown – so to speak…what do mary and Joseph do? Do they head to Barnards castle for an eye test? No, they comply and head to Bethlehem.

When they get there there’s nowhere to go. Everywhere has already filled up, social distancing and the rule of 6 mean there’s no space for Joseph and a pregnant Mary…they find some shelter…

And then, the biggest interruption of them all,
A baby is born.
Immanuel, God with us.

A baby that is God, and is human, and turns everything upside down. Who enters the mess of the world and be with us in our pain.
A gift that challenges injustice.
A gift that is full of forgiveness.
A gift that shows the world true love.
Because God became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14)

Shepherds on the hillside watch their sheep – their night interrupted with light and the songs of angels…

Townsfolk’s sleep interrupted as shepherds run through the town praising God…

Magi’s studies are interrupted by the appearance of an unusual light…

Herod’s confidence interrupted by unexpected news a new king had been born….

All because God interrupted the world and interrupted the status quo, through a vulnerable babe in a manger.

This Christmas, may the worldly interruptions we face be insignificant to the kingdom interruption that Christmas is all about.
A holy interruption.

Love is with us,
Hope is with us.
God is with us.
Immanuel.

May your life be interrupted by Christmas – God with us.

PDF Download

Interrupted…by love

Week 4 in our journey through Advent reflecting on a year of interruption.

Where have you found love this year?
How are you sharing love today?

Comment below with your thoughts….

2020 has been a different year to how any of us had imagined it would be back in January.  And Christmas 2020 is no different – Christmas is going to be different this year.

The story is told of a Dad who called a family conference. He’d decided their Christmas was going to be different. They had been getting carried away with frivolous festivities. And so he told them, they were to be more disciplined.

Cutting down on excessive spending on gifts. they were going make sure there was a better atmosphere between visiting relatives. His speech came to a crescendo with a  final rallying cry – let’s make this the best Christmas ever!

After a few moments of quiet, the youngest son nervously spoke up – “but Dad, I don’t see how we can ever improve on the first Christmas”

I think many of us are aware how we can sometimes get caught up in what we could call the culture of Christmas – the commercial call to buy as many presents as we can, to stock the kitchen to the hilt, to spend time with family and friends, eating together, playing games together…

Familiarity can sometimes breed complacency. And this year I wonder whether the fact we are having to think more carefully about how we spend Christmas might cut into the familiarity, and make us think more carefully about what Christmas is really about.

Because let’s face it, pandemic aside, we shouldn’t need an excuse to spend time with family and friends, to give gifts to one another to show our love and care for them. This should be a normal part of life as human beings, created to be in relationship with one another.

Christmas is about something more important.
Something no matter of family conference can improve on.
Something no restrictions can take away.
Christmas is not, cannot be, cancelled.

At Christmas we celebrate the world being interrupted by a gift of love. Because God shows his love for us through the life of Jesus, who as Christians we believe demonstrates true love to us, welcoming the outcast, caring for the stranger, loving us for who we are.

Advent is a time of watching and waiting – leading us to Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But Advent is also a time of realising what we are watching and wating for is already with us. Jesus is already here. And is a gift of limitless love for us.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I get a gift at Christmas, or get a Christmas card in the post, I feel a bit bad if I’ve not sent them a gift or card. I want to reciprocate – to give back – and I feel it’s not fair.

Well God’s gift of Jesus isn’t fair either – because God gives and gives, and doesn’t expect anything from us, just to receive. We call it grace. God giving when we don’t think we deserve it, and expecting nothing of us except to receive it.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

In this year of interruption,
This Christmas interrupted,
May your life be interrupted… by God’s gift of love.


PDF Download

In this Advent Season…

In this advent season,
waiting & watching,
Known & unknown,
Certainty & uncertainty,
Hopeful & hopeless,
Stability & instability,
in the now & yet to be,
We pray for peace & love,
Grace & wisdom,
Justice & hope,
For all those who make decisions now, which impact what will be.

Originally written on 12th December 2018, in light of the Brexit ‘meaningful vote’

Interrupted…by Hope

Looking back on the interruption of 2020, and the interruption that the season on Advent encourages us to look towards.

What has given you hope this year?
What is giving you hope today?

Comment below, I’d love to hear your experiences.


I should have been in Ireland this weekend for my brother-laws-wedding.

My girls were going to be flower girls and my future sister-in-law was so keen that back at the beginning of 2020 they got the dresses…but all that’s been interrupted how, and chance is my daughters will have grown out of them by Autumn 2021 when the new wedding date is.

2020 has been filled with so many interruptions and delays, and I know some of you have been saying you’re just looking forward to 2020 being over. But before we get to 2021, we journey through Advent and into Christmas.

Advent is a season on watching and waiting…Remembering the waiting of God’s people, who were longing for the Messiah to come and save them, hoping God’s promised one would transform their lives and society.

Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we might be saved.  Psalm 80:3

These are hopeful words from Psalm 80, expressing the people’s longing for the shining light Gods face to bring hope and release. Little did they know that years later Gods face really would interrupt the world as a baby in a manger.

I got this Christmas decoration when I was at school. I’d been asked to be a part of a group from school going to put on a Christmas concert in a local town, I think for a charity working with elderly and isolated residents.

I think I was reading a poem and I started well, microphone in hand,
filling the vast hall, and then my nose started to run, big time!

All eyes were on me, and so I didn’t want to wipe my nose, and thought that maybe, if I just ignore it, with the occasional gentle sniff, no-one will know.

I felt embarrassed, and deeply wanted that moment to end as fast as possible!

To this day I don’t know if people did notice, but the one thing this Christmas decoration always reminds me of is no matter how uncomfortable a situation I am in, hope will interrupt it.

The discomfort will come to an end. Restoration will come.

2020 has been a year of the unprecedented.

But nothing compares to the unprecedented truth that Advent leads us towards, that Jesus is coming to interrupt the status quo, and bring us hope.

I pray you day is interrupted…by hope.

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free,
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.

Words of Charles Wesley (1708-1788)

PDF Download

Learning from Lockdown #1: Diversity + Difference

Throughout August I will be encouraging us to reflect on things we have learn and are learning through lockdown about self, God and being Christian community.

Learning From Lockdown #1 – Diversity & Difference

These giraffes sit on my office windowsill, you might have seen them in previous videos. We bought them on a holiday in France in 2012 and they remind me of our holiday.

They sat on our mantel-piece in Cornwall, then went into storage while we were in Birmingham. When moved here Louise my wife thought we should get rid of them, I didn’t, so we found a compromise and they ended up in my office.

Now they not only remind me of our holiday, they also remind me that as human beings, include married couples, have differences of opinion.

Lockdown as a time to learn

I want to encourage us to reflect this month on what we may learn from lockdown, because I do not believe this is a time of life on pause that doesn’t matter. I don’t believe this is a time that God wants us to waste.

Just as the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness was formational for them, I believe our living in lockdown is a time that can be formational to us. Where God has and continues to speak to us, challenge us and change us. 

For some of us, we may feel like lockdown is over, for others, we may still very much feel like we’re in lockdown, for others again, maybe we’re in the middle.

Wherever we stand on that spectrum, it doesn’t really matter, it just goes to prove one of the things that I’ve been increasingly conscious of over the last few months – just how diverse and different we all are.

Diversity & Difference

And that’s where this month of learning from lockdown reflections is going to begin.

In the book of 1 Corinthians we read:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12, NRSV

The body of Christ, the community of faith, is made of lots of different parts, we all look different, we think differently, respond to circumstances in life with the full colour pallet of human diversity.

I’ve seen the diversity and difference in so many ways through lockdown. Some people have seemed to thrive during lockdown, Energised by the new opportunties and environments and challenges others have really struggled, and others somewhere in between – with good days and some not so good days.

Christian faith is not about conformity – not about creating robots that think and speak the same. It’s about being a community of faith that can call itself a communtiy while celebrating the fact we’re different.

It’s about being people tuned into God’s Spirit, collectively discerning what Gods Spirit is saying to us as individuals and as a community of faith

As we’ve worshiped from our homes, I’ve found my role as minister being less of a leader of worship, and more of an enabler of worship – offering lots of different resources by post and online, seeking to resource the diverse people that make up the churches I serve. It’s been a joy to see diversity thriving, but a challenge at times to keep up!

So as I encourage us to reflect this month on what we may be learning from lockdown, I want to start from a recognition of the diversity and difference among us.

And I want to encourage you all, to think and pray and reflect for yourself… what would you say you’re learning, or have learnt during lockdown.

And try to be go a bit deeper and further than saying I’ve learnt to use zoom.As much of an achievement that may be! `

Where has God spoken to you, challenged you or encouraged you?

What is God’s Spirit saying?

Join the Conversation

Comment below with your own reflections on leanring from lockdown.

Downloadable Version