Counting On … day 22

Reduce reuse and recycle are the three “R”s for the well being of the environment. In the run up to Christmas use the three “R”s as often as possible. Take wrapping paper, for example:-

Reduce = buy less: it is easy to think I’ll just buy an extra roll in case we run out, only  to find three half  used rolls from last year.

Reuse = make a habit of keeping wrapping paper after unwrapping your gifts. Flatten and fold it neatly ready to be reused. You can ease the future re usability of paper by using string or ribbon or elastic bands rather than sticky tape. You can also reuse things like paper bags or sheets of newspaper as wrapping – the Guardian’s middle page is often a full spread picture which can make an ideal gift wrapper.

Recycle = when the paper is beyond reusability, recycle it. NB plastic coated paper cannot be recycled – if after scrunching the paper it springs back, it most likely has plastic in it.

Sunday Reflection

Second Sunday in Advent: 5th December 2021

Malachi 3:1-4 

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight– indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the  Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

The Song of Zechariah     Luke 1: 68-79

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *
he has come to his people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty savior, *
born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old,

that he would save us from our enemies, *
from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers *
and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,

Free to worship him without fear, *
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, *
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,

To give his people knowledge of salvation *
by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Philippians 1:3-11

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying  with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

Reflection

What all the readings today share in common is the change that will or is happening to people, that leads to salvation. Here we might thinks of salvation as healing and cleansing  process that restores, or even creates anew, the wholeness and goodness of life. 

In the words of the prophet Malachi it is God’s messenger who will so categorically refine and purify us  that we will feel that we can’t withstand the change it makes in us. But we will come through, changed utterly so that what we have to offer will be completely pleasing to God. 

In the words of another prophet – and father to be – Zechariah, the message is one of freedom: freedom from fear, freedom from enemies (and here we might think not only of people, but of big businesses, institutions and even governments).  We will be saved, we will be healed and made holy, and it will be by God’s own doing, by God’s compassion.

The passage from Philippians echoes the message received last week from Paul, that there is so much joy and happiness that arises from being part of a growing fellowship of Christians, active in telling the good news and in their love one for another. Such a group of Christians is seen as producers of a rich harvest of righteousness!

And finally the message of the prophet John, John the Baptist, who will be telling everyone who hears what they must do – and it is a totally transformative process if we are to travel along God’s way  – to see God’s salvation at work. 

We know from the gospel stories that salvation included both physical and mental healing; it included food for the hungry; restoration by those who had gained too much, the repayments of debts, the challenging of unjust laws and social practices, the humble reassessment of life that understood that humans didn’t have all the answers, that we must have faith in God and in the innate wisdom of creation, it valued the lowly and marginalised, and put love at the heart of everything. 

If we truly believed that salvation was coming to the world this Christmas, how would this new world order look like? Here are just three examples:-

Justice for refugees and migrants meaning that they would not fear persecution, or hunger, or ill health or  disrespect either in their home land or in their new home.

Justice for birds and animals, for plants and insects meaning that their natural habitats would not be destroyed, that they would not be diminished by pollution and other poisons, by over consumption or poaching.

Justice for those who are persecuted because of the colour of their skin, the sound of their voice, the shape of their face, the texture of the hair, their sexual orientation, meaning that everyone would be valued as unique and equally important individuals.

The world could indeed be a wonderful place! Yet I think the prophets were right to suggest that to get humankind there would be hard graft. Humankind, people and societies, individuals and organisations, need to be overhauled and purified,; the means and systems for getting things done need to be straightened and levelled up. 

Where do we come in? What can we do?

As with last week’s epistle, we should aspire to match the example of the early church.  We should be zealous in loving one another and in building up that fellowship produces boundless joy. That would be good of itself and will witness to good news of following Jesus. We need to come together, to stand together and to be a visible -large and numerous – body that speaks out for justice.

We also need to  be messengers calling people to turn their lives round and to live according  to God’s ways – ways that involve the examples of justice we have just imagined and more. More often than not the people to whom we must call out  are businesses, organisations, and governments. This we will do more effectively as one body. Whilst as individuals we can both set the example of how one should live, and then with greater effect  talk to friends, family and neighbours.

Now is the time for change!

Counting On … day 21

The title Counting On has the meaning of counting and also of someone or something we are relying upon. In the character of this blog, it is who or what we are relying on to  resolve the crises that threaten our world, our ecosystems.

Money can be significant both in adding to these crises and in alleviating them. Banks who look after our  current and savings accounts, also act as lenders. Depending on where and to whom they lend, they can contribute negatively or positively in achieving, for example,  net zero carbon emissions. How does your bank measure up? 

There are now a number of websites who will give you a rating for your bank and if need be, advise you of alternative banks that may offer a more responsible approach. 

https://www.switchit.money/ This web site will also give advice on the performance of energy supply companies too.

Day 4: I was here

I don’t know how long B Simpson spent here, but long enough – or often enough – to carve their name on a rock. In the stories of Genesis wherever the Israelites encountered God, they would set up a rock to mark the place: I was here; God was here. When we are following an unknown route, it can be reassuring to know that someone else has been that way before . 

… hope is like a firm and steady anchor for our souls. In fact, hope reaches behind the curtain and into the most holy place. Jesus has gone there ahead of us… Hebrew 6:19-20a

Midday Prayer for Creation 

3rd December 2021

The Lord God took and placed the human in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded Adam, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’ Genesis 2: 15-17


O my soul, bless God!

God, my God, how great you are!

beautifully, gloriously robed,

Dressed up in sunshine,

and all heaven stretched out for your tent.

You built your palace on the ocean deeps,

made a chariot out of clouds and took off on wind-wings.

You commandeered winds as messengers,

appointed fire and flame as ambassadors.

You set earth on a firm foundation

so that nothing can shake it, ever.

You blanketed earth with ocean,

covered the mountains with deep waters;

Then you roared and the water ran away—

your thunder crash put it to flight.

Mountains pushed up, valleys spread out

in the places you assigned them.

You set boundaries between earth and sea;

never again will earth be flooded.

You started the springs and rivers,

sent them flowing among the hills.

All the wild animals now drink their fill,

wild donkeys quench their thirst.

Along the riverbanks the birds build nests,

ravens make their voices heard.

You water the mountains from your heavenly cisterns;

earth is supplied with plenty of water.

You make grass grow for the livestock,

hay for the animals that plow the ground.

Oh yes, God brings grain from the land,

wine to make people happy,

Their faces glowing with health,

a people well-fed and hearty.

God’s trees are well-watered—

the Lebanon cedars he planted.

Birds build their nests in those trees;

look—the stork at home in the treetop.

Mountain goats climb about the cliffs;

badgers burrow among the rocks.

The moon keeps track of the seasons,

the sun is in charge of each day.

When it’s dark and night takes over,

all the forest creatures come out.

The young lions roar for their prey,

clamouring to God for their supper.

When the sun comes up, they vanish,

lazily stretched out in their dens.

Meanwhile, men and women go out to work,

busy at their jobs until evening.

What a wildly wonderful world, God!

You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,

made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.

Psalm 104:1-24 from The Message 


Lord God, where did we go astray?

How have we managed to destroy so many habitats, kill off so many species, 

poison the air we breathe and the waters we drink?

How is it that we even endanger the lives of our fellow human beings?

Why have we ignored the warning signs that our greed was costing the earth?


Lord God, have mercy on us.

Grant us time to repent and repair.

Open our eyes and ears to receive your wisdom.

Speed our hearts and minds to do your will, to restore justice and harmony.

Empower our hands and feet to revitalise our care for the earth.

Renew our commitment to care for all you give us.

Amen


Pause for reflection 


May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

And the love of God 

And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

Be with us all, evermore.

Amen. 

 Counting On … day 20

3rd December 2021

Christian Aid has already prepared  a giant Christmas card to send to Boris Johnson signed by over 50,000 people with a message letting the Prime Minister know that when it comes to the pledges made at COP26, the proof is in the pudding. The lives and well being of so many people, plants and animals are still at risk. You can still join the campaign by sending your own Christmas postcard.  https://www.christianaid.org.uk/christmas-card

Day 3: Spot the jam sandwich

If you have been walking in the mountains in Switzerland, you will know to look out for jam sandwiches. These stripes painted on to rocks mark the mountain paths in between the sign posts. They are your confirmation that you are indeed still on the right path.

And whether you turn to the right or turn to the left, your ears will hear a message behind you: “This is the way, walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 

Isaiah 52:7

Counting on … day 19

2nd December 2021

Updating an earlier Count Down action, more supermarkets are now collecting soft plastics for recycling. Soft plastics are best described as  scrunchable plastics – plastics you can scrunch up without them cracking or shattering – such as plastic pouches for coffee beans, wrappers from packets of biscuits, the film from the top of a plastic tray, crisp packets, and plastic bags for rice and pasta. Most Coop stores collect soft plastics including those in Putney and Twickenham.; and some Tesco stores including Tesco Metro in Richmond. A trial is being operated by some Waitrose stores but not as yet here in London.

NB compostable packing even if it looks and feels like plastic can’t be recycled as plastic. Instead it should go in your compost bin or food waste bin.

Day 2: a positive sign

Circular blue traffic signs in the UK give positive directions. This blue cycle signs instructs users that this route is for cyclists. If you are a cyclist it confirms your right to cycle along the path. 

Positive signs are always an encouragement. God knows we need affirmation and encouragement as we journey through life.

 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight” Isaiah 42: 1a 

And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11

Counting On …. Day 18 

 1st December 2021

During Advent I have a YouTube series with a short story and activity designed for children but just as enjoyable for adults. Today’s episode shows you how to make a paper angel. Over the course of the whole series you will find instructions to make several Christmas decorations and a crib set.