Tag Archives: God

Oceans of justice

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re privileged. You’ve got an internet connection.

If you’ve food in a fridge, freezer or kitchen cupboard for the next few days, that’s privilege.

If you’ve got money in the bank, a pension or stable income, that’s privilege.

If you’re white, heterosexual or from an ethnic majority, you’ve got privilege.

This week we’ve been reminded yet again of injustice in our society, driven by inequality and division. Digital poverty is having a massive impact on schooling and the learning of young people at home.

Community larders and Foodbanks continue to see increasing demand. Some supermarkets have been reporting shortages of some food due to bulk buying , leaving others without.

In America we saw what’s been described by many media outlets as an attempted coup by white extremists. Many have rightly pointed out that only months ago black protestors in America were met with extreme force on their demonstrations – yet these extremists easily overcame the small group of officers on duty to maintain order.

All these, and many other injustices are present in our communities and societies and all to easily can be ignored or taken for granted. The pandemic has, helpfully, made these injustices and positions of privilege more obvious – if we’re willing to notice them.

But to do we notice? Do we even recognise our privilege? And more importantly, do we step out of our glass houses to stand with and alongside those without that privilege?

The prophet Amos was probably a farm hand, sent by God to call for social justice, and condemns those who’s power and privilege comes at the cost of others. The call is to step out of the glass house, and work for justice.

“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
    I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
    your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
    your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
    When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
    That’s what I want. That’s all I want.

Amos 5:21-24, The Message

Oceans of Justice. that’s what I want.

Where there is water, life can be sustained.
Where there are oceans of justice, life is sustained.
Togetherness, community, equity and love grow and flourish.

Reflect

Are you privileged?
Are you suffering injustice?
How can you work for justice?

Act

To find out more about injustice and privilege, and ways you can play your part in bringing about oceans of justice visit the JPIT Website. http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/

The Joint Public Issues Team is a multi-denominational team who offer excellent analysis of current social issues and ways we can act at local, national and international level to use our privilege to stand for justice.

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Interrupted…by peace

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

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

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



Lydia, my youngest daughter, is 4 and an early riser – it’s unusual if she wakes up after 6am, usually, around 5:30 in the morning we’re awoke to Lydia coming into our bedroom asking ‘is it morning’, ‘can I have a cuddle’,
‘can you help me put my tights on’, or ‘wake up’!

Louise, my wife and I often respond with something of a grunt, a groan, or a go and play in your bedroom, but Lydia has none of it, she’s wide awake and she wants our attention.

During Advent, Christians often read some of the story of John the Baptist, an older cousin of Jesus who was himself called by God to tell people of the coming one, who would bring signs of the kingdom of God.

Right at the beginning of Marks gospel we read some words that we also find in the Old Testament – which point to John the Baptist as a messenger preparing the way for the Lord – the coming one.

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

Mark 1:2-3

The message at the start of Mark’s gospel is – ‘wake up – make space for the coming one!’ Pay attention to the signs of the coming kingdom.

The use of the words that are also in the Old Testament make a link with the words we find there. Some of them come from Isaiah 40, which is a chapter that begins with the words:

Comfort, O comfort my people, says God.

Isaiah 40:1

They are reassuring words, because they remind us that God cares for us, loves us and wants to comfort us. That in making space for God in our lives, the turmoil of life is interrupted by the coming one who came to bring peace to the world.

There’s a myth that God is sat on a golden throne looking down on use little humans wagging his finger in judgement, saying we are awful people who deserve to be punished. There’s even been Christian leaders suggesting that COVID-19 is God’s punishment on us. That’s codswallop.

God doesn’t sit on high, at a distance, judging us. God is among us and with us.

God knows the mess that the world is in, knows we, the human beings God made, are not always the best at looking after the world and one another.

But God knows we try our best and doesn’t focus all effort on punishing us. God loves us and wants our living together to be interrupted by peace, that we might live in peace with one another.

We’ve seen that interruption this year as we sacrifice our own wants and desires, to limit our activity and care for one another through pandemic.

Christmas reminds us that God came to live among us and show us signs of the kingdom of God now. One day Jesus will return and establish an even greater kingdom where all is well, and filled with peace.

But as we journey towards Christmas and hear the message wake up, make space for the coming one – we discover that the coming one, Jesus, has come to make God’s love and care for us more real for us today. The kingdom is now.

So while we know the world isn’t perfect, We know we’re not perfect – perfection isn’t want God is asking of us right now. What God is asking of us is to wake up and be open to be interrupted with peace, to let God’s peace flow into our lives, and flow out into our relationships with one another.  

May your life be interrupted… by peace.

All shall be well in his kingdom of peace;
freedom shall flourish and wisdom increase;
justice and truth from his sceptre shall spring;
wrong shall be ended when Jesus is King:

Sing we the King who is coming to reign, verse 2, by Charles Silvester Horne

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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’

A prayer for Remembrance Sunday

Rev Dan shares a prayer form Remembrance Sunday, as we stand together in remembrance of our past and seek God’s hope for our future.

Life-giving God,
Who breathed life into this world,
and breathed the beauty of our diversity into humanity.

On this day of remembrance,
we remember today, the perils of prejudice and violence,
and the cost of war and conflict.

Peace-giving God,
we remember Jesus,
Who lived a life of peace and justice.
Help us to live our lives as a reflection of the character of Jesus.

Hope-giving God,
Help us learn from humanity’s past,
Stir us to action to stand against injustice,
to boldly strive for peace in our communities and our world.
And show infinite love towards our neighbour.
As we strive towards a world overflowing with justice, hope, peace and love.

Amen.

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A prayer for all saints day

A prayer for all Saints day

God of all time, all space, all creation,
We Thank you for the lives of people around us,
Past and present,
Friends, family, colleagues.

People to nurture us and help us,
Challenge us and inspire us.

May their living and loving,
Serving and caring,
Reveal to us your love and grace,

And inspire us to live and love, serve and care for others,
To the best we can,
In all the ways we can,
To all the people we can,
As long as we ever can.
Amen

by Rev Dan Balsdon, first published 1st November 2020
Some words based on words of John Wesley

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Terms and Conditions

Use of this service is subject to the terms and conditions printed in size 3 font on the back left wall of the store – next to the white display unit.

Alternatively you can access our Terms and Conditions through our website by finding the link somewhere on our homepage – usually in pretty small grey font, but it depends if you’re viewing our website on computer, tablet of mobile device.

Ok, so it’s not always that hard to find them, but they’re not always easy to make sense of are them. Terms and Conditions are often long, full of legal jargon, and it’s not unusual that I’m still not sure what they really mean after I’ve read them. In fact, I confess I sometimes just tick the box to say I’ve read them and move on.

Terms and Conditions are part of 21st Century life, every social media account, every purchase we make, every contract we sign comes with some sort of conditions. Rules, guidelines, commitments, legal requirements – from the provider, but also from me the receiver.

I’ve heard lots of times people saying things like ‘God doesn’t love me, I’m not good enough’. Every time it fills me with sadness because somehow the world thinks God has a long list of complicated, undecipherable terms and conditions that mean no one can ever live up to them.

But it’s just not true, this misconception.

In the Bible there’s a letter that Paul writes where he talks about this sense of being cut off from God. I’m putting into my own words here – you can look it up for yourself if you want, it’s Colossians 1:21-22.

once you were cut off from God because of your evil deeds, but now you are reconciled because of Jesus, made holy and blameless and no longer cut off.

In the gospel of John we read Jesus saying:

“anyone who comes to me I will never drive away”

John 6:37b

A relationship with God doesn’t need to start with terms and conditions of us being perfect or thinking we’re good enough. There are no legal requirements.

Relationship with God starts with accepting the wonderful, amazing fact that God loves us for who we are and will drive no one away.

If you haven’t already, start a relationship with God today – he’s ready and waiting to hear from you, and accept you with open, loving arms.

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The Coffee Cup

A few years ago we were on a motorway journey and pulled in at a service station. We’d been driving for some time so I was sure in need of a coffee – so got into the Starbucks queue.

I placed my order and, as they often do in coffee shops, the guy behind the counter asked my name and proceeded to scribe it onto the cup in bold black sharpie. I got my coffee and went to sit with the family.

About half an hour or so later, Louise wanted a hot chocolate so off I went back to the Starbucks queue. I placed my order, but this time he didn’t ask my name, he said – ‘it’s Dan isn’t it?’

I was amazing, in a busy service station coffee shop, amongst the busyness of his day, I wasn’t just another customer to process through the coffee conveyor – he’d remembered my name – I felt valued for who I was.

When I began leading services, about 14 years ago now! – there was one verse from the Bible that played a massive part in my accepting that this was what God was calling me to.

It comes from Isaiah 43…

“Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Isaiah 43:1b

When I began to feel God was asking me to serve him by preaching, I didn’t think I was good enough. I thought I was too young, naive, full of faults and would just fail God.

But God’s words to me were that I was redeemed – that despite my own fears and feelings I wasn’t good enough, God would compensate for them & overcome them.

That those things about me that I thought meant I wouldn’t be good enough, were not a problem at all because God had called me by name. My name, no one else’s, I was the one God was calling.

I believe God is calling you too.

God created you with a unique set of skills, personality and passions – and that unique combination is what makes you you.  

God is calling by name, because God wants you to know him, to hear him, to be the person you are and God made you to be.

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Life Jacket

This hi-viz belongs to one of my daughters – a bit small for me! They often wear them when they ride along the pavement on their bikes.

They don’t call it a hi-viz though They know it helps keep them safe and so they have always called it a life jacket.

What do you have that keeps you safe?

Of course we’re familiar with face coverings, keeping distance from one another, we have speed limits and breaks on bikes and cars. We are surrounded by things that are there to keep us safe.

As Christians, sometimes we talk about Jesus saving us.
We call Jesus the Saviour of the World.
Saviour – literally means someone who saves someone else from danger.
Jesus is, in many ways, a life jacket for us, for me, for you, for all the world.

In John 12:46-47 we read Jesus say:

‘I have come as light to the world, so that everyone who believes in me will not be in darkness, I came, not to judge the world, but to save the world’

I have come as light to the world: A bit like a fluorescent jacket, Jesus offers light. Jesus light is not for a limited group people Jesus has written down on a list – Jesus says this light is for all the world – whoever believes will not be in darkness There’s no limit to who can be saved by Jesus’ light – simply believe Jesus is who he says he is – the light of the world, the son of God.

Know the Jesus is not here to judge – but save I would look prettyridiculousif I went out trying to wear this wouldn’t I – I may get a few judgmental looks!

Well we’re reminded here that Jesus doesn’t judge us, and Jesus doesn’t judge you – Jesus doesn’t look at us and criticise us – Jesus came because of God’s love for the world, to save the world.

And if you’re watching this from the world – then my friend that includes you!

If you want to know more about Jesus do get in touch via social media, email, old fashioned telephone – we would love to talk with you.

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Learning from Lockdown #4: Gaining Access

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.

On the 1st September 2016 we moved to Queens Foundation, Birmingham where I was to begin my training. As we’d only got a small, 2nd floor flat for the 4 of us, college had offered us a garage, and, at first, we parked the car in it.

On the 2nd September 2016 we took a trip to the supermarket. We got back, unloaded and I shut the garage door – it was quite stiff to shut, but I kept pushing, thinking, I must get some WD40 for that… until I realised I never locked the car…or shut the boot. I went to re-open the garage door to discover that the boot and garage door were now hitting each other – I couldn’t open the garage door beyond a few inches.

I spent about an hour trying to work out how to solve the puzzle. In that time, I met various other students and members of college staff, their first introduction to me was seeing a stranger trying to break into a garage…thinking back I’m not surprised those conversations started with some suspicious looks.

Eventually, I managed to reach through the top gap of the garage door get some rope tied to the car boot, then reach through the bottom gap and pull it down to get the garage door open. The car boot had a few scratches, but at least I’d got access.

Default ‘church’

Before lockdown, my experience of church communities is that our default way of people accessing ‘church’ was by attending a church building. Within these buildings we hold services of worship, community drop-in’s and coffee mornings, prayer groups and bible studies, toddler groups and quiz nights.

As lockdown came in access to all these things was stopped. Our buildings we’re locked as part of the nationwide effort to reduce physical gathering and push down the spread of COVID-19.

So during lockdown, our default way of accessing ‘church’ – by gathering in a church building – was suddenly blocked from us – just like my car was when I foolishly shut the garage door.

This led to two things – firstly – creativity. Utilising post, email, phone, blog posts, YouTube, video and telephone conferencing and more. Creatively developing lots of different ways for people to engage with church without the building. – to be a scattered church

Secondly – it led to greater self-responsibility. What do I mean?

Well I mean that because accessing ‘church’ has not been about gathering in a building, individuals have had much more responsibility themselves as scattered church for nurturing their faith and relationship with God. The format moved from what could perhaps slightly crassly be described a passive attendance to active engagement. People had their own space and freedom to choose how to engage, how to be church.

Not only that, but people who for one reason or other were much more cut off from the worshiping community, for example living in care homes, working on Sundays or caring for relatives, feel they are included and connected to the worshiping and spiritual life of the church community in ways they never did before.

Matthew 19:13-15

In the gospels we read the familiar story of people bringing children to Jesus for him to bless them. The disciples try to stop it – children, it seemed didn’t matter.  But Jesus rebukes them and says let them come to me – the kingdom of God belongs to them too.

It is a passage that’s often used within infant baptism, that vulnerable, innocent children are welcomed by Jesus.

But I wonder, if we take a step back from the story itself, and see it in light of Jesus wider ministry, healing the blind and crippled, spending time with tax collectors and zealots, the excluded and the vulnerable, this passage may take on even more meaning for us.

I wonder if this passage might challenge us as worshipping communities to reflect ourselves on where we might, intentionally, or un-intentionally, be excluding people from being a greater part of the community.

Developing an attitude of access

Lockdown has forced me to look differently at our church communities and makes me wonder if we may have fallen into the trap of letting buildings become too central to our common life together. It makes me wonder how passive we’ve allowed that life to become – and how it unhelpfully and unfairly excludes those who for one reason or other, cannot access it.

But it’s also show me that there are simple ways to begin to redress that balance and build a more accessible and inclusive community.  That there are ways access can be achieved for those who are excluded – in part by having a little less focus on buildings, and a little more on discerning how best to connect with people where they are, not where they are not, with our focus on the kingdom of God.

And it’s also shown me the fruit that is borne when individuals have more active self-responsibility for their worshiping and spiritual life.

What may all this mean for the future?

I sense a strong challenge from God – challenging us to not build up ours walls in a way that they keep people out, but to build up one another in a way that allows us to bring people in.

What walls may we need to allow God to break down so that we can grow into a more inclusive and active community that keeps the kingdom of God at the centre?


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Learning from Lockdown #3: The Value of Relationship

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.

Who are you connected to?

At the start of lockdown, I spent a lot of time on the phone.

Many people in my churches have been shielding, or choosing to isolate, and lots are not on the internet, and so from the start I could see regular phone calls were going to be incredibly valuable during lockdown.

We reorganised the church pastoral system to ensure everyone would have at least 1 assigned regular contact and encouraged everyone to regularly call each other to share fellowship, friendship and maintain relationship.

The hands down thing that has I call people now, people say they have valued most is the phone calls they have been receiving from each other.

People have shared that lockdown has offered the opportunity to get know each other better.

People who live on their own have shared how the phone calls have helped break up their day and left them feeling less alone, that they feel valued, loved, thought about.

That it has not only helped maintain relationships, but that they have grown and deepened.  

What has this meant I have learnt?

I think it has shown me just how essential relationships are for human well-being.
We need one another.
God has created us to be in relationship with one another.
Human interaction is in our DNA.

But why has it taken lockdown to get to know each other better?

In Luke’s gospel we find a story of Jesus and his companions, visiting sisters Mary and Martha.

Mary sits as Jesus feet listening to all he has to say.
Martha is busy doing – organising the hospitality necessary for Jesus and his companions, fretting that Mary is not helping her.

She stops, and says to Jesus – don’t you care that my sister is leaving me to do all the work on my own?

Jesus says to her, Martha my child, you are so distracted by many things, but there is only need for one thing.

Jesus doesn’t criticise Martha for wanting to be hospitable.

But he does suggest that Martha may be letting the doing get in the way of what really matters.

(To read the story in full, take a look at Luke chapter 10)

I wonder if the absence of meetings and events has meant that the distraction of doing has been removed, and suddenly we’ve discovered new ways of being with one another. Where we can be interested in one another without the distraction of the next task that needs doing or event that needs planning.

And I’ve heard testimony to the same with people’s relationships with God.

Not being busy doing has meant people have been able to spend more time focused on the one thing that matters – their relationship with God.

Now what might this mean we learn from lockdown?

The value and importance of relationship – with God and with one another.

What does that mean for the future as we begin to emerge from lockdown?

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have face-to-face activities and events.

But I do find God’s Spirit challenging me to reflect on what may need to change, what we may need to do differently, to keep relationship with God and one another as the one thing that matters.

What ways of being together can we discover that do not tie us up in so much doing that we can’t be?


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