Proper 23

9th October 2022

Reflection (readings are below)

Today’s readings seem to have an overall theme of living lives worthy of God wherever and whoever and with whoever you are. 

Previously we have noted that Jeremiah bought a piece of land in Jerusalem to show his confidence that in the long run God’s people would return to that city. But before that would happen, Jeremiah knew the people would end up in exile. The people could just live mournful tragic lives waiting for the time to return to come – but that would be a waste of God’s gift of life. Instead Jeremiah counsels them to make themselves at home in their new place, to live to the full and to do so for the good of that land. By so doing God’s people will be showing in their lives the best that comes from God. They will be showing that whatever the circumstances God’s people are always positive and confident in their faith in God. And always appreciative of the gift of life.

In the Letter to Timothy, the writer is stressing the importance of Jesus Christ as being at the heart of the gospel. Whatever they endure, whatever circumstances they find themselves in, they can be confident that Jesus will stand by them – and even if they fail Jesus will still be there for them. They should always present themselves in the best possible way as faithful servants of Christ, and not wrangling over the how and the why between themselves. 

Whilst in today’s gospel, it is the least likely person who does the right thing, who honours God in the right way. 

And what might this say to us? Whoever and wherever we find ourselves we should seek to live life to the full following the ways of God, in union with – in step with – Jesus Christ. For us today that is in a country in which many people are facing a bleak winter with a real threat of being cold and hungry and unsure of the certainty of a roof over their head. We need to pray and act to care for our communities, being generous with what we have, showing solidarity with those in need, and campaigning to persuade those in positions of leadership to act with greater responsibility and compassion. 

We find ourselves in a country where biodiversity is under renewed threat – we hear of rivers being polluted, of woodlands being lost, of wildlife facing extinction, of soils loosing their ability to produce crops. We need to pray and act to care for our ecosystems , being generous with what we have, showing solidarity with those working to protect them, and campaigning to persuade those in positions of leadership to act with greater responsibility and compassion. 

We find ourselves in a world where many are facing hunger and starvation, homelessness and destitution arising from climate change, trade inequalities and a lack of justice. We need to pray and act to care for the most vulnerable – especially remembering how much of their suffering stems from our previous greed – being generous with what we have, showing solidarity with their demands  and campaigning to persuade those in positions of leadership to act with greater responsibility and compassion. 

Looking back over the last few Sundays, there is the call to promote the gospel, knowing that it stands for the kingdom values of love and mercy, justice and humility. There is the encouragement to trust in God, to hold on to hope – to be confident of the rightness of the values of God’s kingdom. There is the reminder to live joyful and find contentment with what we have. 

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Psalm 66:1-11

1 Be joyful in God, all you lands; *
sing the glory of his Name;
sing the glory of his praise.

2 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! *
because of your great strength your enemies cringe before you.

3 All the earth bows down before you, *
sings to you, sings out your Name.”

4 Come now and see the works of God, *
how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.

5 He turned the sea into dry land,
so that they went through the water on foot, *
and there we rejoiced in him.

6 In his might he rules for ever;
his eyes keep watch over the nations; *
let no rebel rise up against him.

7 Bless our God, you peoples; *
make the voice of his praise to be heard;

8 Who holds our souls in life, *
and will not allow our feet to slip.

9 For you, O God, have proved us; *
you have tried us just as silver is tried.

10 You brought us into the snare; *
you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.

11 You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water; *
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.

2 Timothy 2:8-15

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David– that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. The saying is sure:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful–
for he cannot deny himself.

Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Prayers for Creation

 9th September 2022

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14

You Lord, are the source of all good things: 

We praise you.

You call us to tend and care for your creation: 

May we strive to do your will.

You have made us as brothers and sisters with all that lives: 

May we live together in peace.

A reading from Genesis 1:1-2, 9-10, 20, 31

In the beginning when God created[a] the heavens and the earth,  the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.


As the oceans encompass the earth, 

so the Lord’s love encompasses creation.

As the seas fill the depths, 

so the Lord’s love fills the hearts of all.

As the waves constantly wash upon the shore, 

so the Lord’s love constantly washes upon our souls.

As the oceans are home to many creatures, 

so the Lord creates a home for every living thing. 

As the seas produces a rich harvest, 

so the Lord provides food so that all may eat. 

As the waves embody the energy of the sun and wind, 

so the Lord energises the world.

More than the sounds of many waters, than the mighty breakers of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty. Psalm 93:4

Proper 17

28th August 2022 – readings are below

Reflection 

Jeremiah asks an interesting question: what wrong have we found with God? In other words, where do we feel God has let us down, or where God has messed up? 

Certainly there are times when I feel God is aloof, that I am on one side of a high wall and God is on the other. There are times when I feel that prayer is a pointless exercise and that its consolation is minimal. There are times when bad things happen and I question why God didn’t intervene. Jeremiah’s follow up question is also interesting: when did we last vocalise these thoughts? When do we ask these sorts of questions with our friends, or in our family, or – indeed – in church? Have we ever asked these questions of God? Are we too frightened to ask? Are we scared that we might find that our faith is superficial? Are we afraid that others will look down at us for being so unfaithful?

It seems to me that if we can’t ask those questions, if we can’t plumb the depths and scale the heights to find answers, then our faith is pretty pointless. Because to be honest bad things do happen. We do feel abandoned by God. We do pray without seeing results. What Jeremiah is suggesting is that it may be we who have ignored God, we who have tried to do things under our own steam,  we who have not wanted the input God offers. I am not sure that this is the complete answer. Often our individual actions are rendered fruitless by more powerful systems and institutions. This perhaps is why Jeremiah is addressing his words not individuals but to both nations – Judah and Israel – and to a groups – the priests and the law makers. Would that they had all followed God’s law!

As ever we come back to those two key laws: Love God with all your being, and love your neighbour as yourself. The writer of Hebrews is spot on: let mutual love continue! But the writer goes on to demonstrate that this is not fulfilled by merely saying, ‘I love my you’. Rather you need to imagine that you are there with your neighbour in their plight or situation. Before we can genuinely say ‘we love you’ to those asylum seekers who reach our shores on barely seaworthy boats, we need to empathise with what has pushed them to take those risks, to understand what fears they feel arriving unwanted in an alien land. When we can do that, then we will better know to actually express the love they need. Before we can genuinely say ‘we love you’ to people in war zones – whether in Ukraine or Ethiopia – we need to empathise with what their fears are, what it is that is their greatest loss, what their hopes are. Before we can genuinely say ‘we love you’ to people facing poor harvests in Zimbabwe, we need to understand how it feel to loose your crops, to understand what the effects are on their lives, how they hope to come through the tragedy.  Before we say simply mouth concern for the people of small islands states like Vanuatu, we need to understand how they feel about the future, about rising sea levels and the constant warming of the ocean, and how they feel about the response of the developed nations, whether they feel empowered or patronised by the rest of the world.

The writer of the Hebrews then shows how our love for our neighbour turns out to be the means by which we show our love for God. To do good, to share our wealth,  is to offer a sacrifice that pleases God.  And the writer of Hebrews suggests that it is in this way – eschewing love of money and  being content with what we have – we will feel close to and protected by God. 

In a similar vein, Jesus tells us that if we only invite those who can repay us to our feasts, we have fallen short. Rather it is in inviting those who cannot return the complement, that we are blessed. If we only provide for people who can afford to pay – whether that is food or fuel or education or healthcare or climate adaptation – then we will simply be adding to the suffering in the world. But if we provide for those who cannot afford it, we will transform the world bringing in God’s heavenly rule here on earth. If we hear and desire the Word of God, then, as the psalmist says, we will be filled with good things.

Jeremiah 2:4-13

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:

What wrong did your ancestors find in me
that they went far from me,

and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?

They did not say, “Where is the Lord
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,

who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,

in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that no one passes through,
where no one lives?”

I brought you into a plentiful land
to eat its fruits and its good things.

But when you entered you defiled my land,
and made my heritage an abomination.

The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?”
Those who handle the law did not know me;

the rulers transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal,
and went after things that do not profit.

Therefore once more I accuse you, says the Lord,
and I accuse your children’s children.

Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has ever been such a thing.

Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?

But my people have changed their glory
for something that does not profit.

Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
be shocked, be utterly desolate,

says the Lord,

for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,

cracked cisterns
that can hold no water.

Psalm 81:1, 10-16

1 Sing with joy to God our strength *
and raise a loud shout to the God of Jacob.

10 I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said, *
“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

11 And yet my people did not hear my voice, *
and Israel would not obey me.

12 So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their hearts, *
to follow their own devices.

13 Oh, that my people would listen to me! *
that Israel would walk in my ways!

14 I should soon subdue their enemies *
and turn my hand against their foes.

15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, *
and their punishment would last for ever.

16 But Israel would I feed with the finest wheat *
and satisfy him with honey from the rock.

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Let marriage be held in honour by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.

What can anyone do to me?”

Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Luke 14:1, 7-14

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour , in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, `Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, `Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Proper 15

14th August 2022 (the readings follow after the reflection)

Reflection

This passage from Isaiah reminds us that parables are not just to be found in the New Testament. The image of Israel as a vine planted and tended by God appears in both the passage from Isaiah and in the Psalm. Both passages tell very much the same story. Despite the thorough and expert ministrations of God, the vine fails to deliver its goods and is therefore allowed to fall prey to those destructive forces that seem ever present. Its protective surrounds are dismantled, its territory invaded. The vine is consumed and trampled upon. The psalm talks of wild boar being the protagonists; Isaiah is less specific but wild beasts come to mind and later in the same chapter the alien forces invading Israel are likened to roaring lions. The cost of not responding positively to God’s loving care and attention is extreme. 

Do we sense that that is our predicament when we look at the disasters that surround us? Heatwaves, droughts and wild fires; floods and storms; rapidly diminishing biodiversity; poverty and starvation; war and conflicts and threats of  war? 

In his opening speech at the Lambeth Conference, Justin Welby spoke of the ‘roaring lions’ that best our world. The reference comes from the Letter of Peter which warns its readers to be aware of the devil that prowls around like a roaring lion. One of the loudest of the roaring lions is, says Welby, climate change – the climate crisis that is causing such devastation and anguish world wide – and closely followed by the lion of inequality. We might echo the Psalmist in saying ‘Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.’

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the importance of faith. Faith that can close the mouths of lions. Faith that can with stand mockery and torture, persecution and destitution, imprisonment and death. The writer ends with the stark reminder that faith doesn’t mean that in this life everything will turn out rosey. Often faith is tested to the hilt because it persists even when there is no hope of salvation any time soon.  Our only hope is faith in Jesus Christ. 

The words of Jesus from today’s gospel are equally blunt. Jesus has not come to white wash over the cracks in society, to call lions cats, or in anyway downplay the evil which we have created. Rather Jesus has come to transform the world. He has, to use Welby’s words, come to kill the roaring lions. To remove the causes of conflict and suffering.

It is not, I believe, that Jesus wills division and conflict, but rather that He knows the state of the world, the prejudices and proclivities of those of us how should know better and of those who have been trapped in a system that gives them very little choice. What I think does anger Jesus is that we can see the signs of impending disaster and suffering all around us and yet do nothing. We ignore the signs that tell us that we cannot keep on drilling for oil and burning it. That we cannot keep on taking from the soil and do nothing to restore its fertility. That we cannot stand back as all around  plants and animals, birds and insects decline in numbers to the point of extinction. That we cannot allow a few to take and take building up wealth and riches, whilst the many struggle to feed themselves. That we cannot allow businesses to invest in products that destroy our environment rather than in those that would enhance life for all. That we cannot stand back whilst big pharmaceutical companies profit from selling vaccines to the rich whilst the poor go away empty handed. That we cannot stand back whilst media moguls control what we hear whilst burying the truth.

Welby began his address by saying that he hoped everyone would leave the Conference with their  “heart full of desire for friendship with Jesus Christ. For to desire Jesus is to desire God. To desire Jesus is to desire to be filled with love for God and, by God, love for His people and love for His word.”

Time and again, this is where we must return: to the overwhelming love that God has for us and the power that love has to change the world.

Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.

He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;

he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;

he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,

judge between me
and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?

When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.

I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;

I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.

I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;

I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,

and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;

he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;

righteousness,
but heard a cry!

Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18

1 Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; *
shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2 In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, *
stir up your strength and come to help us.

8 You have brought a vine out of Egypt; *
you cast out the nations and planted it.

9 You prepared the ground for it; *
it took root and filled the land.

10 The mountains were covered by its shadow *
and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.

11 You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea *
and its branches to the River.

12 Why have you broken down its wall, *
so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?

13 The wild boar of the forest has ravaged it, *
and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.

14 Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven;
behold and tend this vine; *
preserve what your right hand has planted.

15 They burn it with fire like rubbish; *
at the rebuke of your countenance let them perish.

16 Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, *
the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.

17 And so will we never turn away from you; *
give us life, that we may call upon your Name.

18 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

Hebrews 11:29-12:2

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets– who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented– of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Luke 12:49-56

Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptised, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:

father against son
and son against father,

mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,

mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

Proper 10

10th July 2022

Reflection 

I was listening to a podcast talking about museums and commenting that they were places where one could discuss the big questions. The question in today’s gospel is about the meaning of life. The lawyer phrases this by asking what he must do to attain eternal life, to live a life of total fulfilment. 

Jesus sets out a parable and invites his questioner to consider what is the behaviour that marks out the neighbour?

The answer to the meaning of life is not 42 but love. When the way we live our life is so full of love – love for our neighbour and our creator – that there is no room for hate, or despair, or prejudice, or selfishness, or bias, or thoughtlessness, or dishonesty , or greed – then we experience eternal life.

On Friday I joined a prayer vigil outside the Central Hall at York University where synod was meeting to discuss, amongst other things, care for the environment. As delegates came past, we handed them leaflets calling on the Church of England to divest from fossil fuels and explaining why this was a crucial way of showing love for our neighbour – including those in the global south who are suffering greatly from the effects of the climate change crisis for which we in the north are the cause – and  for our creator. 

Some delegates responded with thanks and concurred that what was being asked was was right and proper and indeed was what they hoped the Church would do. Some hastily took the leaflet and walked on. Others averted their eyes so as not to have to engage at all. 

I wondered what it was that prevented some of the delegates from recognising both the importance of tackling the climate crisis and the importance that the Church should be seen to be leading the way rather than supporting the industries that perpetuate the cause of the crisis. What was probably true for them, is probably true for many others who are not members of synod. Here are three possible reasons.

  1. The scale of the problem of climate change seems overwhelming. How is it possible that humans have either caused this rise in temperatures, or that humans can possibly limit any further in rises? How can humans affect weather patterns, change the climate or stop sea levels rising? How can humans ensure that everyone has access to food, fresh water and clean energy? 
  1. How can we make a difference if other people/ other countries continue to invest in and use fossil fuels? What is the value of one person walking rather than driving, if the other 32 million cars remain on the road? What is the value of the UK swopping entirely to renewable energy if other countries continue to run coal fired power stations?
  2. How can we change the system? If the  Church  divests from fossil fuels, other investors will make up the shortfall – for without the profits of the oil companies, how will our economy finance pensions, insurance claims, mortgages?

These are real concerns but they are not insurmountable. There are enough wise and inventive people out there, and there are solutions but not always the commitment and determination to act upon them in a selfless way. Like the Samaritan in the story, we need to be brave, we need to be risk takers, and we need to step outside our comfort zone. Like the lawyer, we need not just to know the law, but to,act upon it. We need to love our creator with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbour as ourself.

Amos 7:7-17

This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

“See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;

the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very centre of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said,

`Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
and Israel must go into exile
away from his land.'”

And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, `Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

“Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.

You say, `Do not prophesy against Israel,
and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’

Therefore thus says the Lord:

`Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
and your land shall be parcelled out by line;

you yourself shall die in an unclean land,
and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'”

Psalm 82

1 God takes his stand in the council of heaven; *
he gives judgment in the midst of the gods:

2 “How long will you judge unjustly, *
and show favour to the wicked?

3 Save the weak and the orphan; *
defend the humble and needy;

4 Rescue the weak and the poor; *
deliver them from the power of the wicked.

5 They do not know, neither do they understand;
they go about in darkness; *
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

6 Now I say to you, ‘You are gods, *
and all of you children of the Most High;

7 Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, *
and fall like any prince.'”

8 Arise, O God, and rule the earth, *
for you shall take all nations for your own.

Colossians 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Sixth  Sunday of Easter

22nd May 2022

Reflection

“God …come to us. Let your ways be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations.” Thus begins today’s psalm, followed by the passage from the Book of Revelation which shows us a vision of what the earth could look like of God’s ways, God’s reign, was universally practiced. That is an image of hope we need to hold onto when we hear of the suffering caused by war, by free markets, by religious intolerance, by climate change. The world does not have to be so – if only we transform the way we live and the systems we live by to align with God’s will. 

The reading from Acts tell us of a call for help from Macedonia. We are not told what is the cause of their plight not what has prompted them to seek help from God/ Paul. Paul and his companions are in no doubt that what the Macedonians need is the Good News. Why? Because the message of the Good News is that God’s kingdom is at hand. The Good News assures people that they are loved by God and by their fellows, and that this love is not just words. The Good News is about practical, on the ground transformations that ‘heal the sick, cure diseases, excise demons, raise the dead to life’. The Good News doesn’t just sort out individual problems, it tackles the systems too. Fo example, where Jesus tackled the system that said you shouldn’t heal people on the Sabbath, the Good News today tackles the system that lets healthcare be a postcode lottery, that lets private companies make vast profits from Covid while failing reward NHS staff,  that lets private heath care grow whilst underfunding public hospitals, that lets CEO’s double their income while care workers struggle to earn the living wage. 

We, as Christians, should not close our ears to the cries for help that come from all over the world, that come from every corner of the UK, that come not just from our fellow human beings but from our brothers and sisters in creation – wildlife and domesticated animals, trees and plants, seas and oceans … Our response should be active – as was Paul’s. We are called to share the Good News – both it’s message and its actions. We must heal and transform both the lives of individuals and the systems in which they – and we – live. The time between Ascension Day (this Thursday) and Pentecost is now marked by global ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ campaign. Let’s use this time to begin, or resume with even greater passion, the transformation of lives and systems that will bring in the universal Kingdom of God.

Acts 16:9-15

During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptised, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

Psalm 67

1 May God be merciful to us and bless us, *
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

2 Let your ways be known upon earth, *
your saving health among all nations.

3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, *
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide all the nations upon earth.

5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.

6 The earth has brought forth her increase; *
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

7 May God give us his blessing, *
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5

In the spirit the angel carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day– and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

John 5:1-9

After Jesus healed the son of the official in Capernaum, there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids– blind, lame, and paralysed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.

 Counting on…day 94

14th February 2022

Remembering who and what we love is important, as is making sure we spend time with those we love.  Getting about and about in nature is always easier when the sun is shining! Getting out and about regularly helps us see all the changes caused by the seasons as well as the weather.

The other day I noticed a tree full of glowing catkins.