Tag Archives: Hope

There is always hope for everyone

Read: Luke 13:1-9

Pilate is documented in the bible, and other historical documents as someone who did things that irritated the local Jewish population. Today’s reading connects with one such story, when a group of Galilean pilgrims offering sacrifices in the temple had been slaughtered in the temple by Pilates troops. Human blood mixed with the blood of animal sacrifices that were so central to Jewish worship – the Temple itself was meant to be a spiritual place of worship – and Pilate had polluted and desecrated it.

It’s a gruesome event of history that might leave us wondering how on earth a human in a position of power and resposibility can be so inhumane. But the question Jesus is asked about this event is perhaps just as worrying. ‘Have these Galileans suffered like this because they were worse sinners than other Galileans?’.

There is a danger we all face, as Christian people to think of ourselves as holier than others. As less tainted by sin. History tells us the church has done much damage to itself by having an attitude of looking down its nose at other people, and too often it has resulted in people feeling rejected by the very community in the world they should have discovered a welcome.

Jesus responds with a parable of a fig tree that bore no fruit. The owner of the tree thinks it should be cut down, but the gardener, who knows about these things, says wait a little longer, I’ll give it some nurture and care, and let us see what happens next year.

The parable teaches us that we should never give up on the hope that someone might bear fruit by repenting and turning to Christ. We are called not to be judge of others, but to nurture and care for all the trees in the orchard that is our community, with the conviction that there is always hope for everyone to discover the truth of God’s saving grace.

Follow Up: Who is there in the circles of your life who you long to see discover Jesus for themselves. Make a list of their names and pray for them daily.


Today’s reflection 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.

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

“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.

Easter Shockwave

Reflections on the shockwave that Jesus’ Resurrection brought to the world and continues to bring to us today.

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Happy Easter! We’ve journeyed through Lent, through Holy Week, and now we’re here. We can eat an Easter Egg – if you haven’t already that is and celebrate the story of the resurrection of Jesus.

Have you ever been treated for shock? Perhaps sat with a sugary tea after something that you have witnessed or has happened to you? I remember having to lie down in the woods after breaking my wrist in my teens and going into shock.

Well the story of the Resurrection begins with shock. After a tumultuous week where their leader had been taken from them and crucified, you can perhaps begin to imagine just how emotionally and spiritually vulnerable they were already. Some of the women had journeyed to the tomb that morning and found Jesus body gone, and an angel greeting them.

“Do not be alarmed, you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here, he is risen. Go tell the disicples that Jesus goes ahead of you to Galilee and you will see him there.”

(Paraphrase of Mark 16:5-8)

We might think the women would be filled with joy and celebration – Jesus is alive! But we are told, they are seized with amazement and terror – and so ‘they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.’ I think they were in shock. Needing some time to let the news sink in.  

Eventually the women do tell the disicples – and the disciples meet the risen Jesus and are filled with joy and wonder!

In very different circumstances, we have had a year that has shocked us and shaken us. But the truth of Easter remains the same. Jesus has risen – and that sends shockwaves around the world until the end of time.

God knew the world was a mess, God could see the mess. And so God sent Jesus, and while some of the reasoning is surrounded in mystery, and quite a lot of debate, somehow, through Jesus’ life, and death and resurrection, the deepest and strongest love that has ever existed is outpoured onto the world, and onto us. Friends – hear me today – share with you this shockwave that comes to the world, and to you – you are loved. You are forgiven. You can find freedom. Yes you.

The Easter shockwave does all that – with hope and with certainty.

But it doesn’t end there. Jesus invites us into a relationship, a partnership, a journey. To be partners in the shockwave of a story that is filled with mystery and wonder. Joy and celebration. Where we are loved, forgiven and free.

And just as we are a diverse human race, that journey looks different for all of us.

Ask anyone who has partnered with Jesus – and they will tell a different story of mystery and wonder and joy. But threaded through them all, is the truth that we are loved, forgiven and free.

Folks, today I invite you into the journey that is the shockwave of Easter.

If you want to know more, and I really hope you do, get in touch with me or your local church to share your story, and discover the threads of love, forgiveness and freedom that Jesus has already woven for you.

Happy Easter!

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.

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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.

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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.


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