Tag Archives: disciple

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…

Half-baked prayer

‘Half Baked Prayer’ – a reflection on prayer
Video for further reflection
Downloadable PDF
Full text

My prayer life is Rubbish.
There isn’t enough of it.
I never know what to say, or how to say it.
My prayer list is always so long, and I never feel like I ever get to the end of it.
I don’t know what to pray, or if I’m praying right.
I don’t know if God is doing anything anyway.

Ok – so that may not be how you expect me to start, but I wonder, can you relate? Do you have similar self-depreciating thoughts that make you feel guilty about your prayer life, or lack of it.

If you have thoughts like I do, then I also want to suggest to you, that like me, there’s a mistake in your understanding of prayer.

The mistake comes when we assume there is a right and wrong way to pray.

But there is no definitive right and wrong way to pray – there are simply lots of ways to pray, and we each find different combinations of those ways are what works for us as individuals.

Prayer is, for us, conversation with God and seeking God’s kingdom,
listening to God and looking out for the signs of God’s kingdom
responding to God and living for God’s kingdom.

When I was training as a local preacher I remember going through different types of prayer…

  • intercession and petition – prayers for others and the world
  • adoration, praise and worship – words to adore God
  • confession – recognising the fragility of our humanity
  • thanksgiving – giving thanks for who God is

And at times I felt as if there was this list of ingredients that, if all were included in the recipe of a service, it meant the service worked and would successfully bake a good cake for the congregation.

But actually, thinking about forms and types of prayer is not about a recipe to success at all.

I wonder if we’ve failed ourselves by overthinking prayer – and not grasping it’s joy, it’s flexibility, it’s breadth and depth, and its uniqueness for each of us as individuals.

What all those types of prayer do helpfully remind us of though, is that they, along with many others, are tools in our toolbox to resources us in our relationship with God, as worshippers and as disicples.

You see, prayer is not following a recipe to make a successful cake for others, prayer is a tool from the disciple making toolbox that we used to help us as disciples to nurture a relationship with God. To make our relationship with God a good cake.

And for prayer, it’s not actually the ingredients that matter, but the heart from which they come, and to which God speaks and responds.

I wonder, if prayer sometimes too easily becomes a list of wants and desires. Well-meant and good to be prayed, but if wants and desires for others and the world is all prayer is to us, then prayer becomes so focused on the earthly kingdom and asking God to intervene, that we miss out so much more.

Because if we are too focused on the earthly kingdom our attention is drawn away from also seeking God’s kingdom – the kingdom and way of living that God calls us to seek and live out in the world… 

When Jesus was asked by his disicples how to pray, he begins: ‘Our Father in heaven, you are holy, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.’

Prayer is a mutli-resourced way of life with a heart focused first on seeking God, and God’s kingdom, and partnering with God in bringing about that kingdom on earth.

Prayer can be conversation, it can be thoughts and feelings,
prayer can come while we’re shopping or talking, cycling or swimming,
using a prayer book or a mobile phone app,
it can be when we are alone of with others,
with other disicples, or with those who have not yet met Jesus,
via podcast, Youtube video, facebook or a paper book.

May prayer be a tool for us, not to fill us with guilt and shame,
but to empower us and nurture us as worshippers and disicples.
That we will seek first God, and God’s kingdom.

Reflections: Grazing the pastures

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;he restores my soul.
He leads me in right pathsfor his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3, NRSV

At zoom family church last week, we thought about stories in the Bible about animals. Donkeys, foxes, sheep, goats, pigs, ox, frogs, locusts and more.

Then we thought about shepherds and sheep. Along with playing hide and seek the sheep in each of our homes, puzzles, games and songs, we watched a video clip which I found enlightening and challenged some of my assumptions about the meaning of Psalm 23.

The video clip is set in the wilderness, mid barr, also known as Green Pastures. Whenever I read Psalm 23, I would picture one particular field of lush green grass on my grandparents farm – the field we always knew as Meadow.

But, it seemed obvious once the video had pointed it out, that there was not such lush green grass at the time Psalm 23 was written. The Green pastures of the Psalms are the not lush green fields Cornish meadow of my grandparents.

Green pastures were brown, rocky, wilderness hillsides. Yet they were places where some moisture was present, enough to allow small tufts of grass to grow up from the edges of rocks with seeds and moisture are both caught. To graze in green pastures, shepherd and sheep are always on the move, a tuft here, a tuft there. Seeking food for the day, and finding just enough.

To graze in green pastures is not to sit down in one spot, forever, with every bite of sustenance we need at our fingertips. Life as a disciple is not a bed of roses where everything is sorted for us from the comfort of our homes without us having to do anything.

To graze in green pastures, is to keep moving, searching for the more that could be growing behind the next rock. To be a disciple is to learn that God will provide for todays needs, and to trust in God for enough for tomorrow.

‘give us today our daily bread’

The Lords Prayer

I find that all gives helpful meaning to ‘give us today our daily bread’. There were no supermarket shelves stacked with Hovis and Kingsmill! Bread making was a daily activity of providing enough for the now, and trusting for tomorrow.

I find this a helpful encouragement to me to keep journeying. That being a disciples is not about having everything sorted, a banqueting table before us or the answers to all of life’s questions.

It is to keep trusting, and through trusting to keep journeying and searching, because I never know what God has in store for me behind the next rock.

What about you?
What do you think?
How do you respond to the suggestion that green pastures may not be the image western society has often assumed?

Please watch the clip and reflect for yourself, and comment with your reflections below.

Downloadable Version of Dan’s Reflections