Second Sunday of Advent 

4th December 2022

Reflection (the readings follow on below)

One of the themes of today’s readings is justice. What is justice? What do we mean when we talk about justice? Is it me getting what I want? Me being free to do what I want, when I want and how I want? Is it me being free to exercise ‘my rights’?

This is a lot about ‘me’ but what I what I want to do adversely affects someone else? What if my rights block someone else’s rights?

Might justice be concerned with what I have done wrong, where I have impinged in somebody else’s rights? Might justice be about me being penitent and offering restitution? 

The Psalmist tells us that justice goes hand in hand with righteousness. More explicitly, we’re told that to do justice is to defend the needy, to rescue the poor and the oppressed, to restore the fertility of the land and to enable peace to flourish. Nothing there about my rights!

Isaiah tells us that justice comes from the spirit of the Lord, that it encompasses the wisdom and understanding that comes from God – as well as the awe (often translated as fear) of God. The exercise of God’s justice doesn’t just rely on what one sees and hears, but on a deeper understanding of the situation. It is a justice that creates a world of peace, of mutual co-existence, of joy. It creates that renewed world order which in Advent we look forward to. 

And for which we prepare. John the Baptist’s cry that we should repent and prepare the way, is not an ideal call. Nor is it a call only to be heard in the past. It is the rallying call for us today, this year of 2022. 

We are called to look at the world around us with more than just ears and eyes. To look deeper, to seek to understand the deep issues that causes injustice to damage lives of both people and the natural world. We need to be aware of and able to stand up for those who are oppressed, who are poor, marginalised. Those who have inadequate access to the necessities of life, as well as inadequate access to opportunities of life. We need to be aware of the long and short term harm being caused to the natural environment as well as to the built environment in which we live and work. We need to be aware of where we are at fault, where we have been the cause of the injustices and we need to be willing to make reparations. 

We cannot stand back and ignore the plight of the people suffering starvation in East Africa after seasons of drought. We cannot stand back and ignore the plight of Pakistan where a third of its land has been flooded disrupting daily live on a vast scale. We cannot stand back whilst around we cause the 6th mass extinction of life on earth. We cannot stand back and ignore the plight of people in our own country who have insufficient resources to feed their families, to keep warm, to maintain a sense of dignity. 

Equally we cannot stand back and ignore the behaviour of those who oppress the poor with their commercial clout. We cannot ignore the behaviour of those who continue to invest in atmospheric polluting oil industries. We cannot ignore the behaviour of those who do not forgive the debts of the poorest nations. We cannot ignore those who behaviour persecutes people because of their race, colour, faith or gender. 

Rather we need to be active in repentance and justice, ensuring that our words and actions work to create the kingdom of heaven on earth. And we can. With God’s wisdom and understanding we can review what we buy – do our purchases help or hinder justice? We can review our lifestyle choices – do they help or hinder justice? We can review our opinions, the conversations we share with others – do they help or hinder justice? We can write to our local councillors, our MPs, business leaders, our bank and pension fund providers and ask what they are doing on our behalf to ensure justice. We can join ecological and justice organisations, sign petitions, join demonstrations. 

Our prayers and our study of scripture, our engagement with the natural world and with social affairs, will help us to learn and receive God’s wisdom and guidance. This is how we will ‘bear fruit worthy of repentance’.

Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

1 Give the King your justice, O God, *
and your righteousness to the King’s Son;

2 That he may rule your people righteously *
and the poor with justice;

3 That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *
and the little hills bring righteousness.

4 He shall defend the needy among the people; *
he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

5 He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, *
from one generation to another.

6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, *
like showers that water the earth.

7 In his time shall the righteous flourish; *
there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more.

18 Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, *
who alone does wondrous deeds!

19 And blessed be his glorious Name for ever! *
and may all the earth be filled with his glory.
Amen. Amen.

Romans 15:4-13

Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name”;

and again he says,

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;

and again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him”;

and again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:1-12

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

“I baptise you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Prayers for Creation

25th November 2022

“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years. We are not God. The Earth was here before us and was given to us.

The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty.

We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.” Pope Francis, Laudate Si

When I am tempted to meanness,

Show me your ways, O God,

and teach me your paths.

When I fail to care for your creation,

Show me your ways, O God,

and teach me your paths.

When I am too busy to stand and stare,

Show me your ways, O God,

and teach me your paths.

Rhythms of Remembering, Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild, with permission 

Pause for reflection

“But ask the animals what they think—let them teach you;
    let the birds tell you what’s going on.
Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics.
    Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories.
Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree
    that God is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand—
Every living soul, yes,
    every breathing creature?
Isn’t this all just common sense,
    as common as the sense of taste? Job 12:7-11

To know you in all things

Weave a web of your presence around us today.

Be with our hands as they work.

Be with our eyes as they see.

Be with our ears as they hear.

Be with our  tongue as it speaks.

Be with our feelings and our thoughts.

Be with the people we meet.

Be with the trees we by and the grass we walk upon.

Be with the birds we hear and the creatures we see.

Be with the things we make and the things we take.

Be with the decisions we take.

Be in and through, over and under all,

that doing and hearing and seeing, speaking and making and being,

may we glimpse your glory, hear your voice

and joyfully work with you

to create a new heaven and a new earth.

 May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ 

and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit 

be with us all, amen.

Proper 12

24th July 2022

Reflection (and readings below)

I am still shocked when I hear of climate activists who risk sitting in roads to highlight the emergency, or sit on oil tankers to prevent them moving, or blockade Amazon warehouses because of their casual treatment of workers, or break the glass doors of banks that support the fossil fuel industry, or of news agencies which obscure the truth. I am heart broken when I hear of them being arrested and imprisoned. Yet I see that they are following in the footsteps of the prophets of old, standing up against injustice, speaking truth to authority, and doing so in deeds just as much as in words. 

How can we not be shocked by today’s reading from Hosea. What bravery and self abasement did it take for Hosea to go and find and marry a prostitute? And not even a ‘reformed’ prostitute. Read carefully and you will notice that the first child Jezreel is certainly Hosea’s son, but are the next two children? And what of Gomer? Are we not shocked that she should be in such a position that prostitution is a viable and acceptable way of making a living? We wonder what choices she had had in life.

Through this lived narrative, God is pointing out to the people that they have behaved like a prostitute. They have not been faithful to God but have sought out other bodies to satisfy their needs and give them direction, to worship and imitate. They have spurned integrity and uprightness to follow whims and fancies, to chase after the illusions of wealth and happiness. God pulls no punches as to the severity of the consequences of their choices.

Whilst the passage from Hosea tells us of humanity’s inclination to stray away from God and from God’s way, the letter to the Colossians describes human lives rooted deep in God, built up and bound in place by a whole hearted faith in God through Jesus Christ, that allows for no deviation from the ways of God. It is a way of life that makes one fully alive! This sounds so amazing, I puzzle that we find it so difficult to live out in our own lives and to share with others – but I know that we do struggle. 

Last Saturday I took part in a Christian Aid event called Talking Climate Justice. During the two plus hours of talk,  questions and conversation, we focused on two issues: the climate crisis and climate justice. Both are integral to the Christian calling: the climate crisis because we humans have caused what is damaging the world God created, and climate justice because the effects of the crisis are disproportionately affecting those who contributed least to it, and because the distribution of resources is such that these same people have a disproportionately small share and are – financially – ill equipped to cope with the crisis. As those called to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbour as ourself, we are failing big time. We are like the people Hosea is addressing, whereas we want to be like the people Paul is addressing! How do we achieve the turn around we desire, both for the climate and for our neighbours across the globe?

The gospel gives us the answer: prayer and action. The Lord’s Prayer invites both. We are to hallow God, to declare God’s holiness in prayer. We are to seek God’s kingdom, to live according to that regime. We are to pray everyday for what we need – and be satisfied. We are to both seek forgiveness, and forgive, and make good where we are indebted. We are to ask, to search and to knock. When we knock, let us knock on the doors of businesses and institutions, corporations and governments. Let us keeping on knocking until they listen, until they open their doors to change and restitution. And when people demand change of us, we too must be willing to turn our lives round, binding them to the ways of God.

Hosea 1:2-10

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

And the Lord said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”

She conceived again and bore a daughter. Then the Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them. But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen.”

When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God.”

Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”

Psalm 85

1 You have been gracious to your land, O Lord, *
you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.

2 You have forgiven the iniquity of your people *
and blotted out all their sins.

3 You have withdrawn all your fury *
and turned yourself from your wrathful indignation.

4 Restore us then, O God our Saviour; *
let your anger depart from us.

5 Will you be displeased with us for ever? *
will you prolong your anger from age to age?

6 Will you not give us life again, *
that your people may rejoice in you?

7 Show us your mercy, O Lord, *
and grant us your salvation.

8 I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, *
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, *
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together; *
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The Lord will indeed grant prosperity, *
and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him, *
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Colossians 2:6-15

As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

Luke 11:1-13

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, `Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”