Tag Archives: faithfulness

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.

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)

Recommended read: ‘Finding God in a Culture of Fear’

Living in fear is when “day-to-day living becomes more about knowing how to survive rather than thrive”.[1]

Where do we pin our hope in an age of fear? Fear can be both rational and irrational, it can make our world smaller and less hopeful. Fear can be a place where it is harder to dream big for the future, and can be harder to know where God is in the middle of it all.

And in the midst of global pandemic, fear is undoubtedly a part of human living for many of us at the moment. But what do we do with it? How do we fit the fear we feel within our Christian faith that speaks of freedom, healing, and transformation?

This is a book for anyone living with the realisation that the life is a little broken. For anyone wanting to resist the temptation to retreat into our armchairs and ignore the world.

This is a book that resists the culture of fear that can be seen to be growing in society, and growing among Christian communities.

This is a book that encourages us to discover and rediscover the mystery of hope, which will bring us face to face with the nature of God, character of Jesus and playfulness of the Holy Spirit.  

Using the biblical story of the exile, Cox-Darling brings a prophetic voice for Christians to hear. During the exile, the absence of a place of worship was destabilising to sense of community. Yet the story of the exile can was a catalyst to God’s people discovering the true identity of God.

Through rich threads of biblical exploration. Joanne Cox-Darling is convinced hope can be a present reality for us, not just a distant future. That we can find hope in the Christian story, that the church is a window to a community of hope-filled rebels striving to seek first the kingdom of God.

Within these pages, be encouraged to look again at the Christian story as a place to discover a hope-filled resistance, reminded that at the heart of the gospel is the truth that death and despair are never the end.

Discover hope as a catalyst that believes the world can be different, that our living life can be different. That hope thrives in a community of broken people willing to live in brokenness. 

Find a call to faithfully and hopefully respond to God who knows our struggle, can meet us in unknown places and offers us stability and constancy, and the hope that things can be better and brighter. God who is the source of all hope, who begins to restore the brokenness, makes a difference to our living, and help us glimpse the light of the kingdom of God.

Hope that says ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’. [2]


‘Finding God in a Culture of Fear ’ is published by Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), written by Joanne Cox-Darling.

Purchase from your Local Christian Bookshop or visit the BRF online shop.


[1] Joanne Cox-Darling, Finding God in a Culture of Fear, (BRF, 2019), p27-8.

[2]Joanne Cox-Darling, Finding God in a Culture of Fear, (BRF, 2019), P.96.