I took a tumble this week. Walking home from school with my daughters I caught my foot in a ditch in the grass and twisted my ankle – resulting a sprain and chipped shard of bone.
Given so much of ministry is based at home at the moment it’s perhaps not been such a major issue, I can continue to work from office with my foot elevated, ice pack and painkillers. 12 months ago I’d have had a whole host of diary engagements to have to rearrange.
Things in life don’t always go to plan. Things are not always perfect or ideal. Life isn’t always without its pain and suffering and struggle.
As we’ve journeyed through the book of Colossians and dipped our toes into some of its riches, we’ve seen these last few weeks the fullness and joy and abundance that a life in Christ offers now, today, in the present.
Jesus, the gift we receive without catch or terms and conditions. Jesus is hope for today.
But yet, the letter recognises that even while Jesus is with us, giving joy and fulness and abundance in our lives today, life is still life, and things don’t always go to plan.
As we receive the gift of Jesus today, we not only have fullness and hope for today, there is a greater hope, a greater inheritance to come.
Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters,since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.
On receiving Jesus, not only are we offered fullness and hope and abundance of love and grace for today, there is an inheritance, a hope to come, where things do go to plan, where the abundance of God’s love and grace is made more fully known.
A transformation to come that we cannot fully comprehend, that will be even better, brighter, lighter. Receive Jesus today, hope for today, and a hope to come.
Before going to theological college, I spent 6 years managing a Christian bookshop. It had been something of a dream of mine for all my teenage life. I had a passion for business, for resourcing God’s people in mission and ministry, and reaching out beyond the margins of church.
The place often felt like a signpost, as well as selling goods we saw a growing ministry of pastoral care – welcoming all sorts of people from many different backgrounds with many different stories to tell. We would point people to support, spiritual, physical, economic, we would offer conversation about life and faith, sometimes we would pray with people, and one of the joys of this ministry was that through it God was at work and we saw a number people begin following Jesus.
It was through this pastoral ministry that God began to reveal to me a calling to a vocation as a Methodist minister. But one of the things that surprised me most when running the bookshop was not these opportunities for mission, ministry and pastoral care with those on the margins, but the conversations I had with ‘already Christians’.
Running the bookshop meant I was serving a wide and diverse range of Christian people, fellowships and churches. And I saw that as a great thing, an opportunity to learn from others, discover more about God’s church and celebrate our common faith.
What surprised me, as just how un-loving God’s church can be from within. I was amazed the first time I was criticised for stocking anything but the King James Bible – on one occasion I was told I was the antichrist for stocking a particular book (I can’t remember what the book was now! – just the accusation!).
I don’t think it’s wrong to have conviction in faith, but I do think we need to as God’s Spirit to watch over us that we don’t get to a point where we are so convicted of our faith that we show no openness to the diversity of faith present in God’s people.
In Colossians 3 we read the following verses, which come from a larger section where Paul is seeking to enable understanding of what living together as Christian community looks like.
8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
As the letter to the Colossians unfolds, the message of the gospel – the Good News -Jesus Christ – is being unpacked and given clarity. Christ is all and in all. Human labels that divide are superfluous to the power and grace of God.
One of the things that often saddens me is that Church, and society, spend so much time and energy highlighting our differences, and allowing that to lead to division and jealousy.
If we are kingdom people, worshipping Christ who’s kingdom we are welcomed into through God’s love and grace – surely it is our common faith in Christ who is all and in all that we should hold our main focus on.
John Wesley, who’s ministry contributed to the birthing of Methodism, was himself well aware of the way opinions led to division, and in one of his sermons argued that differing opinions need to be held in perspective with common faith, and that differing opinions should not lead to the cessation of fellowship.[i]
Friends there is much that has potential to divides us. Views on political and public health measures during the pandemic; contradictory convictions around communion, sexuality, gender & marriage; Brexit; immigration. The list could be endless, and these things are not things we should entirely ignore. But I think should be approached with the a recognition from all that by the love and grace of God human made division is wiped away – Christ is all and in all.
For me, these verses challenge me to hold our common faith in the un-boundaried love and grace of God at the centre of my relationships. Not focused on difference and division, but on the kingdom of God where Christ is all and in all.
[i] Sermon 19: Salt and Light, John Wesley’s 44 Sermons. Epworth Press, 1944
“I need a hero! I’m holding out for a hero to the end of the night!”[i]
Are you looking for a hero?
Yes? No? Not sure? I think, truthfully a lot of us are, though we may not always realise it, or coin it in that way.
Society loves a hero. Someone who will save us, a figurehead to give hope. Film and TV is full of hero’s we love – from Marvel to Harry Potter to Poldark to Doctor Who, We love a hero, and especially love a hero that appears an underdog, that rises up to save the day against the odds.
Even in the real world, away from sci-fi and fiction, we like to look for a hero. We’ve spent a significant part of 2020 putting a ‘protective shield around the NHS’, trying to maximise it’s potential to save life. But of course we have to also cope with the painful reality that life one earth cannot always be saved.
I wonder if sometimes we expect our politicians to be hero’s too. Decisions have to be made, based on the best knowledge they have to had, but there will always be alternative choices that could have been – and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it can also be a curse.
I’m not wanting to defend all political choices here, but to remind us that we need be aware of our human propensity to create hero’s. Aware of who and where we place our hope. Remembering that we live in this world – not the world of sci-fi and fiction.
The letter to the Colossians is written to a group of Christians who are facing pressure. Pressure to put their trust, hope and faith in new ideas, alternative hero’s and unrealistic portrayals of salvation.
But here in Colossians we are reminded that there is someone who really did come to this world to save.
And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.
Colossians 2:6-9, New Living Translation
If you know you’re looking for a hero – enjoy your sci-fi and fiction – I do – but look to Jesus. If you’re not sure if you’re looking for a hero – still look to Jesus. If you said you weren’t – still look to Jesus.
Jesus Christ was an underdog, and hung out with human beings like you and me. People with doubts and questions and uncertainties. People who were anxious and broken and unsure. People living with guilt and shame. People looking for truth, and disillusioned by the way of the world.
Jesus comes not to irradicate that. But to live in it. To experience it. To live with us. Jesus came to earth, living and walking in our shoes. Jesus understands what it is to be human.
These words from Colossians tell us Jesus wasn’t simply human, Jesus was the fullness of God in human form. Jesus is human, and Jesus is God.
I believe Jesus is our Saviour – who came to save the world, you and me, because of God’s love for the world, for you and me. And to point us to a way of living that is filled with hope and truth.
But – Jesus isn’t a hero who comes to save us because we’re helpless. He’s not that sort of hero. He’s the hero who knows who we are, knows our potential, and so wants us to grow and be built up. Need a hero? Let your roots grow in Jesus.
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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”
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.
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, tosave 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.
As part of Bible Month 2020 we are unpacking the short story of Ruth, a story of finding hope and finding home in the midst of vulnerability and loss. Find out more here.
How do you define who you are?
Perhaps by your Relationships? Me – I’m a Father, Husband, friend, minister
Maybe your Roles and Responsibilities. As a Minister I may be seen as a Leader, Pastor, Preacher… I’m a Treasurer for my daughter’s school PTA
Or perhaps by labels, descriptors of identity? I’m White, I’m British, I’m heterosexual and male
Or perhaps by how we look? I’m average height, bald – and really not bothered that can’t go to the barbers right now.
All this and more contributes towards our identity – our sense of who we are. But our identity can also be impacted by how others see us. Some see me as a Christian leader – others as a Jesus freak…
In my teens I was very bothered by this question of how others see me, to the point that, at times, it negatively impacted on my well-being, and rather than being who I am, I succumbed to peer pressure, suppressed some of my own identity and put on a mask in an attempt not to stand out, to avoid bullying and make life easier.
Last we saw that Ruth is an outsider in a foreign land and how Ruth wasn’t prepared to just submit to the identity society would place on her, but determined to take action, to resist the cultural ‘norms’ and cross boundaries for find hope and home.
In chapter 3 Ruth takes another step (with a bit of a push from Naomi) and heads to the threshing floor, the town’s marketplace, a place of gathering and distribution, transaction and thanksgiving.
Here, in the dark of night this time, she meets Boaz once more. Naomi it seems, and perhaps Ruth too, is hoping Boaz will take his kinsman responsibility and provide for them permanently.
There, in the dark of night, Boaz asks Ruth – who are you? Maybe he couldn’t see, maybe he wanted to know more about this woman beyond that which he already knew.
There’s much more that could be explore here about the relationship, the actions, the physicality of the encounter – some suggest that this is the moment Obed is conceived.
But I want us to focus on that question Ruth is asked in this encounter ‘who are you’? In that moment, in an intimate encounter by the shadow of the moon, Ruth is perhaps given space to answer that question for herself. Given space to define herself on her terms.
And later in the chapter, she goes back to Naomi and we find the same question – Naomi asks ‘who are you?’ – surely she knew who Ruth was. Unless, something had changed…
This question comes twice, like bookends to this encounter – and marking, I think, a moment of transition, a sign that something has changed for Ruth in her appearance, perhaps not physically, but in terms of how she is seen by others. Her identity as an individual, is beginning to be uncovered.
As Ruth’s encounter’s help her uncover who she is – through our encountering God, we discover more of who we are, how God sees us, and who God made us to be.
God doesn’t want you to try to be someone you are not. Doesn’t want You trying to fit the mould others create for you, like I did in my teen years. God wants you to be who you are.
A person of beauty, wonderfully made, filled with great potential for love, goodness and compassion.
yes – all those things and more are God’s words over you. And God has placed them within you.
I truly believe God wants you to know that he loves you. He sees who you are, and wants to help you uncover your identity more, to inhabit in your whole being a sense of who God has made you to be.
I encourage you this week, if you can, right now, to pause… to pray, to think about who you are. how do you define who you are for yourself? and how does that compare to how God sees you?
If you see this video and want to talk about who you are and how God sees you – please get in touch through our website, through social media – we’d love to hear from you.
Yesterday afternoon we gave into temptation in our house. I say we, I didn’t have a lot to do with it, except I had to pay for it. Getting an email saying ‘thank you for your purchase’ was a little disorienting when my initial though was – but I haven’t bought anything…. then I remembered Louise was logged into my account. What did we give in to? After Disney released Frozen 2 online early, we gave in and purchased it.
Many of you know, and I’m not ashamed to say it as a 28 year old man, I loved Frozen 2. Perhaps not for the same reasons as my girls, but I love the themes, the story, and the way various theological threads and themes can be woven into the narrative. Many of you know that because I’ve already used bits of Frozen in services, and shared our experience of the screen not working in my covenant sermon his year.
We’ve has the soundtrack playing in the car for many weeks, I can just about sing all the songs without thinking, but of course – I’ve only heard the story, the spoken word within it once.
Louise and the girls were part way through watching when I joined them, which meant to first lines I really heard were from Kristoff and Olaf the talking snowman, just after they have evacuated Arundelle from the storm that is engulfing the city.
Kristoff: Are you ok there Olaf?
Olaf: (playing with some children who are stuffing shards of ice into his chin) Oh yeah, we’re calling this controlling what you can when things feel our of control.
Louise and I just looked at each other. It was one of those profound moments where God spoke, challenged, encouraged and affirmed all at once.
To be honest, much of this week has felt to me, out of control. The pace of the government’s measures to tacking COVID-19 has been incredibly fast, and for me it is part of the pace of change that has made me feel even more out of control, not knowing what announcements or measures might be next. Anxious for me, my family, friends, and all of you as we all, together, yes distantly, respond & react to the conditions we now face.
I that moment, I was reminded (and believe that this was God’s Spirit’s prompting) of the Serenity prayer, which I imagine many of us will know, though maybe not the second part quite so well…
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
Some things are in our control. Some are not. I pray God helps me and us all to keep hold of a sense of perspective as much of what we know of life and church activity pauses, and we reimagine, rediscover, and reinvent what it means to be church, disciples and community.
These are different and therefore maybe difficult times for many of us, but I am also filled with hope. Hope because I have already heard testimony of how God is working in these days, how relationships are changing, growing and strengthening, how the absence of stuff to ‘do’ as church is enabling people to ‘be’ with each other in new, different and exciting ways. I am hopefully and excited (though also nervous about what may come!) that when we get to the other side of this period, God’s church has the opportunity to be stronger, wiser, closer to God and each other. I think we will appreciate and value gathered worship, meetings and events differently, and I suspect we may even find ourselves continuing to do and be church differently when we all this is over.
In these coming days, as we seek to make sense and become familiar with who we are and how we are in these strange times, having wisdom to know what is or isn’t in our power to change will be immensely helpful in our own navigation of these unchartered waters, as individuals, as families and as church community.
The full prayer then goes on to remind us to take each day as it comes, one moment at a time, as things are, not as we wish they were. Trusting that one day God will make all things right. There is much about our current situation we cannot change, but one thing that cannot change, is God’s constant love for us, God’s everlasting presence with us, God’s unending compassion and grace.
“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
Psalm 86:15 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
The Psalms are filled with the turbulence of human emotion, question and struggle and lament and thanksgiving. I encourage you, if you’re struggling to make sense of your emotions, or not sure you can find the words to pray at the moment, reading the Psalms may well be a helpful place to go.
I find this verse, which comes in various places throughout scripture, a rooting reminder, one that helps me refocus on what really matters that the character of God is constant and unchanging.
On this Mothering Sunday, as many of us do not see family as had been planned, nor gather with our church family for the first time of what is likely to be a number of weeks, I pray that we may all know for ourselves, in new and helpful and encouraging ways, the parenthood of God, who is love and mercy and grace and faithfulness in abundance. I pray as you experience the love and faithfulness of God to each of us, you are able to place your hope and trust in God in these uncertain and anxious times.
While much around us has changed, God has not. God is constant. God is everlasting. God is God.
I leave you, with a video of Rebekah I recorded earlier this week, who has totally on her own made up actions to this song which she has been playing constantly all week (I’m glad the office isn’t next to the lounge!). I think & hope her enthusiasm, energy and creativity will make you smile – it’s been one of the many ways the girls have kept me going this week.
The song ‘You never stop loving me’ is from a CD collection called You’re a star by Chris Harding, who goes to my Aunt’s church in Tavistock. If you’re interested, this google search will point you to various sources for download and/or purchase.
Join the conversation
if you’ve got thoughts or something to share after reading and reflecting on this, you can comment below and share them with us all – I’d love to hear from you.