Thoughts for the Week: The Time Has Come

I had to sit quietly for a while after what was called the Triumphal entry or Palm Sunday. I thought about the change which took place in the hearts and minds of an ordinary person. As I thought, it seemed as if I was one of the disciples, one who could not know how a joyous day could change to hatred, for that was what was in the air. As the time went on a crowd grew more and more because they all wanted to see Jesus and Lazarus who had been raised from the dead by Jesus. When the chief priests and the Pharisees saw that the Jews were gathering to be ready for the Passover, they planned to arrest Jesus at about that time when Jesus and his disciples were at Bethany where his friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary lived; a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour.
We go now to the Passover Feast which we celebrate either by placing on the table all the different kinds of food that were eaten or by having a special meal. The foods are some lamb cooked on the day before the feast to remind people when they were told to show some blood on their doorway, so that during the night when the angel of death came, the firstborn children would be saved. Other foods are an egg for new life, parsley for spring greens, and bitter herbs and salt to remind of other times when God has saved the people. Then unleavened bread and red wine for what we would call the Last Supper.
As Jesus sat for the Passover, He knew what was to come and I write once again as if I was one of the disciples at the feast with Him. Jesus, who was with his disciples, had walked quite a distance along a dirty path for an evening meal. He needed water for washing and none was given to Him; He needed a welcome, none was given to him; He needed a servant to help him, none was given to him. So, as we wait, Jesus stands up, takes off his own outer clothing, wraps a towel round his waist, picks up a bowl of water and begins to wash the amazed disciples’ feet one by one until he gets to Peter who is as outspoken as usual, “No leave me alone, you will not wash my feet”. Jesus, more determined, tells Peter that he doesn’t understand why but one day he will. “You must wash each other’s feet. It is greater to be a servant than a Master”.
Going back to the meal, Jesus, once more troubled in Spirit, says to the disciples, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me”. We are shocked, can it be true? We are all His friends and have been with Him all the time. All but one of us was guilty. Simon Peter said to John, “Ask him which one He means?” John, sitting next to him says, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus replied by passing bread to Judas and saying, “What you are about to do, do it quickly”.

PRAYER

The grace of the Lord be with you Today we continue our journey to the cross
Today we hear the stories that make us God’s people.
Today we are a people about to be freed from slavery
Today we are people who come with dirty hands and become clean by water, the Word, bread and wine.
Let us taste and see that the Lord is good, Christ has prepared for us a feast of love.
Let us declare our need of forgiveness and cleansing.
Jesus, our hands, feet and hearts and lives, are dirty from the journey,
We have not loved one another as you have loved us,
Callousness and violence stain our hearts and lives, how will we become clean again?
We see the table there, but who will make us clean and ready for the meal?
Where will we find water for our soiled souls? Restore to us the joy of God’s salvation.
The Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world believe the good news.
In the name of Christ, you are forgiven, Glory to God. Amen

Thoughts for the Week: We Are the Church

It’s seldom that I have to search for the THOUGHTS each week. This week, I believe that the Lord pulled me up sharply with a message that we all know but sometimes forget or ignore. On 15th March my house was put up for sale so, of course, I had things on my mind regarding that, but it was not what the Holy Spirit prompted me to bring into the THOUGHTS today. Instead, it was the question which I have heard many times during the Lockdowns: What is going to happen to the chapel? The only answer I can give is that God knows the situation we are in and He will decide the future for us so long as we stay connected to the chapel by serving God and keeping the faith with prayer. A week ago, Lisa drove me round Long Itchington with beautiful bunches of daffodils, connecting with the chapel but not by going into the building. Answering that question in another way. The answer is ‘us’. We are the church, without us there is no church.
As some of you who are Long Itchington chapel people might remember, about 4 years ago the Long Compton Ebenezer chapel was in danger of being closed but that was not on their agenda. With a lot of ideas, a great deal of belief in what the chapel was there for, and with prayer the chapel remained open. And I would love for you to see what has been achieved by those who answer the question, “What is going to be done with the chapel?” The answer is the same: You are the chapel. No matter how many you are, you are the church.

PRAYER

Dearest Lord Jesus,
I know that I have let children and sometimes even adults have fun in the Chapel, but I also know that me and my helpers would be helping them to learn about You. Lord, I ask that the quite large number of children who have been in our chapels will have remembered the stories about you through them coming into your buildings. Lord Jesus, take this prayer and a prayer for all those children that they might have or are growing up to know you as their ever-loving friend. Amen.
Caring Father God, We pray today for Chris Mellers, a man who brought his gift of preaching into our church, a man who is a blessing to know, a man who loves you and who now is very ill. Lord we put him into your loving hands and, if it is your will, may he have more time in his life to serve you yet again. Amen.
Holy Spirit, Let us never forget that no matter how many we have in worship with us we are all your church and that our Saviour Jesus Christ will be there in the midst of us. Whether we are young or old, if you are planning to call us for service may we be willing and able to be your church. Amen.
Father God, You will be aware of a family whose daughter Sarah was murdered in a dreadful way. Please take our prayers to comfort them in a way only you can. AMEN

Thoughts for the Week: Serving God

In the past two weeks, we have been climbing mountains, and the Parable we are looking at for today is still about climbing but this time it is a tree that’s used. The story we think about today covers the life of a Tax Collector who has a very bad habit, which is that when he collects the taxes, he fills his pockets with the coins instead of putting them in the pot belonging to the Government. I imagine that by now you have realised that we are looking at the Parable of Zacchaeus and in your youth have probably also sung the much-loved children’s song about him.
Am I right in saying no-one likes a tax man? Well, in this Parable no one did except one. On one of the days that Zacchaeus sat at his place and people came to pay their taxes there was an air of something different. As each person made his payment he returned to his family. Gradually, he was surrounded by the poorest people in Jericho. It was no wonder the crowd grew angry as they saw, not for the first time, Zacchaeus put some of the taxes they had paid into his own pocket. The people were becoming furious but at the same time there was a difference as Zacchaeus stretched out to see behind the crowd. He was a very short man and some of the people would have found it amusing as he struggled and began to climb a tree to see the man that they all spoke about.
Suddenly there was a voice from within the people, a voice that showed caring and even love, and the people became quieter and they heard the voice say, “Come down immediately, Zacchaeus, I must stay at your house today” and he came down and saw Jesus. The silence ended as the people began to realise that Jesus had called to this man who had cheated them, who had made them so poor that their children were not fed and became sick. The crowd didn’t understand what had happened and muttered to each other. Why had Zacchaeus, a sinner, been called? Little did they know that the sinner was beginning a new life, the kind of life where he gave away half his possessions to the poor and four times what he had taken back to those he had cheated. Jesus said, “Today this man has repented of his sin and is saved. This is what I came to do. Remember the lost sheep – this man was lost and is now found.”
Today, I chose in my thoughts the Parable because as we journey following Jesus, we will meet many lost souls and may be led to save them for Jesus. Many years ago, I was called by God to serve Jesus in Long Itchington and more recently in Long Compton. As you have known for a while, that service is coming to a close. Sadly, I have to tell you that due to age and poor health the time has come for me to retire. My house is now up for sale and some time between now and the summer, I expect to be moving to live nearer to my children. I am sure you would not expect me to drop everything and I hope to be able to help to continue to support you. I have plans to share with you even though, because of COVID-19 and Lockdown, we still have to follow certain rules.

PRAYERS

Today is Day 17 of Lent. We thank you Father for all that we read in the Global Care book, for all the people we learn about week by week and we thank you for the opportunity to pray for the work of Global Care and for the children that are ours through sponsorship. We thank you Father for the messages that speak to us as we read through the time of Lent. Today we have been reminded that You are our Father who loves us all but, not only that, you know us by name.
Loving God, that is so wonderful that whoever we are, whatever we do, when we come to You there is no uncertainty. You know us immediately and you know us by name, and that our names matter. You respond to us with love.
Dearest Lord because you know us, we are assured that by the Holy Spirit You intervene in the difficult times of our lives and help us to manage those times in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Thoughts for the Week: Climb, Climb Up Sunshine Mountain

The title I have chosen today takes me back to my Sunday School Club called Sunshine Corner which was run by Lesley Warner and for which my mother played the piano. That was the beginning of my learning about Jesus Christ and by the time I was ten years old I was teaching the younger children the stories of Jesus, often with songs like the one which started with the words “Climb, climb up sunshine mountain”. Moving on quite a long way I remembered another mountain event. By this time, I was in my youth and on a cycling holiday, part of which was in Switzerland. The map had been prepared for us and we reached the pass we had to take. I got on my bike and began to cycle but that’s not really true as I walked most of it and not only that, I also walked down the other side as I was too scared to cycle down sunshine mountain!
Turning now to the many times that mountains are used by God with his prophets for teaching and we go first to Isaiah telling the people that the mountains have been lade low because of people turning against God. Then we turn to Chapter 40, one of my favourite verses, “’Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God. ‘…her sins have been paid for”, meaning by the Messiah who God has promised when the mountains will be raised up. We will look at some more later as we are in the time of Lent and we think about a special time when Jesus went up to a high mountain and He wasn’t alone, for He took with Him three of His disciples, Peter, James and John.
Six days before this Jesus had been talking to all of His disciples about His soon to come death. I can imagine that as they made the climb they were deep in thought about what he had told them and that the three men with Him were chosen to teach the others later. As they reached the top, there was a bright light as Jesus was transfigured! How can we understand that the brilliant light was the face of Jesus, as bright as the sun, and His clothes became shining white? And that wasn’t all, they weren’t alone. Moses and Elijah appeared; I pause there for a moment!
Now all my books look at this in different ways, some question, others add thoughts but mine was to remember what the Angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God”. And to help, the three disciples with their faith and us with our faith. While Moses and Elijah were still on the mountain, God’s voice was heard saying, “This is my Son, whom I love – with Him I am well pleased, Listen to Him.” When Jesus saw how frightened Peter, James and John were, He came to them, touched them and said, “Do not be afraid”. And when they opened their eyes, Moses and Elijah were no longer there.
Later, when Peter wrote his second letter, he included what he had experienced when he went upon the Sacred Mountain [2Peter v.18].
A few more mountain verses: Beautiful – Psalm 48 v2; The mountains burst into song – Isaiah 55 v12; God’s love – Isaiah 54 v10; Righteousness like mighty mountains – Psalm 36 v6; “You will go out in Joy, and be lead forth in peace; and the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” – Isaiah 55 v 12.

PRAYERS

O Lord and heavenly Father who has given to us your people the true bread that comes down from Heaven, even your Son, Jesus Christ, grant that throughout this Lent our souls may be so fed by Him that we may continually live in Him and he in us; and that day by day we may be renewed in spirit by the power of His endless life, who gave Himself for us and now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
A children’s prayer by Fiona Braddock which is suitable for all:
Dear Lord,
Before I go on up to bed,
And on my pillow rest my head,
I thank you lord for the day I’ve had
All the good times and the bad,
Thank you for the things I’ve seen,
And all the places I have been,
Thank you for my friends and relations,
And the people in the different nations,
And as I come to the last verse,
I thank you for the Universe
AMEN.

Thoughts for the Week: More to Do

It was Wednesday 26th January and, as usual, I was listening to the morning news. Each day there had been bad news of what the virus was causing, but this was different; there was a deep sadness in the air. The two presenters were sitting on the red sofa as usual but behind them was a large number of faces and when one of the presenters did speak it was to say that 100,000 people had been lost to our country because of COVID-19, which meant that that number of families and even more family members and friends were grieving the loss of loved ones.
Before I began to write this week, I had paused and turned to God the Father and the Holy Spirit for help for the right words at this difficult time and the answer that had come to me was ‘MORE TO DO’. This made me pause again saying, “What more can I do when in Lockdown?” I looked at the photos which I could see had been taken when the people were happy and enjoying life, photos which would stay with their loved ones, photos to be proud of and to be special memories.
It was then while I was still looking at the photos that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, entered the room and Dan the presenter after thanking him for coming asked as I had, “What can we do to help the people?” Justin Welby was also grieving. He said that he too had lost loved ones, having lost his daughter some time ago and at the present time because of COVID-19 he had lost his very best friend, a Bishop. So, struggling himself, he said, “Each person is special to God, each person is loved by God” and he added that he finds hope in the Resurrection and then reiterated that there is hope in the Resurrection. I can’t recall all that he said but in talking about the Resurrection, we were thinking about God giving His own Son Jesus Christ who suffered and died and because of that there is a new and better life awaiting.
While I was still watching the programme, Dan asked for silence. Immediately, there was complete silence, not for long but it was a depth of silence that stayed with me the rest of the day. Later in the day, I realised that I had not had an answer to my question “What more can I do?” The answer that came to me was not something difficult. What could we do while we are following the rules about not going out? What have we left to use? The answer was to use the telephone. It might be that you haven’t spoken to someone for a while or you know someone on their own. Just pick up the phone and have a chat. It might be that will lighten the day for you both.

PRAYERS

Heavenly Father,
Today we give thanks Lord as we see a chink of light in the dark tunnel. Thank you, Lord, for the vaccines and for the people who have been given the ability and wisdom to produce the life-giving immunity against the virus. We have so much to thank you for Lord even though we are finding our present kind of living, that we feel has been forced upon us, very difficult. Almighty and powerful God, we know that there will be goodness from many people and that there are people who will not find good from others. Lord guide us in the way of your Son Jesus our saviour.
Today we pray for our Archbishop Justin Welby, a man of great faith who so many rely on to do and say what is right for us all. We ask your blessing on him for the words he says at the right time with the power of the Holy Spirit. Lord, help him as he helps all who he comes across. Almighty God, we pray too for the many Chaplains whose calling is to be on call when people are struggling for their lives.
Loving God of all, we ask that our prayers of love and compassion will reach each of those thousands of grieving people and all the church leaders who have been called to care for a flock. May they feel the strength of the Holy Spirit as they serve you Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, help us to draw the grieving people to know you, to feel your healing touch and to follow your way of life. And Lord Jesus, please hear these prayers on behalf of the people of both Long Compton and Long Itchington Chapels and guide us to ways in which we can worship once again. All of the prayers are said in the blessed name of You, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thoughts for the Week: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Taken from the booklet for WPCU 2021

“The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2021 has been prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland. The theme that was chosen, “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit”, is based on John 15:1-17 and expresses Grandchamp Community’s vocation to prayer, reconciliation and unity in the Church and the human family.
The Grandchamp Community has its origins in Europe in the 1930s, when a group of women of the Reformed tradition sought to rediscover the importance of silence and listening to the Word of God. Today the community has fifty sisters, all women from different generations, Church traditions, countries and continents. In their diversity the sisters are a living parable of communion. They remain faithful to a life of prayer, life in community and the welcoming of guests. The sisters share the grace of their monastic life with visitors and volunteers who go to Grandchamp for a time of retreat, silence, healing or in search of meaning.
In producing the material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for 2021, the sisters are inviting churches across the world to enter into their tradition of prayer and silence that is rooted in the ancient traditions of the Church catholic.
Jesus said to the disciples, “abide in my love” (John 15:9). He abides in the love of the Father (John 15:10) and desires nothing other than to share this love with us: “I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15b). Grafted into the vine, which is Jesus himself, the Father becomes our vinedresser who prunes us to make us grow. This describes what happens in prayer. The Father is the centre of our lives, who centres our lives. He prunes us and makes us whole, and whole human beings give glory to the Father.
Abiding in Christ is an inner attitude that takes root in us over time. It demands space to grow. It can be overtaken by the struggle for the necessities of life and it is threatened by the distractions, noise, activity and the challenges of life.
We live in a time that is both troubling and magnificent, an often dangerous time where we are challenged by pandemics, wars, violence, poverty, racism and climate change. Yet as Christians seeking reconciliation, justice and peace, we also know the full value of a spiritual life.
Though we, as Christians, abide in the love of Christ, we also live in a creation that groans as it waits to be set free (Romans 8). In the world we witness the evils of suffering and conflict. Through solidarity with those who suffer we allow the love of Christ to flow through us.”

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we bring to you the people of the Churches in our area who would have joined us for worship on this special day. We ask for healing for the Church leaders we know are ill: Rev. Jane of Holy Trinity Long Itchington; Rev Graham Cole of Cubbington and Rev Michael Haighton.
Father God, all your people are suffering for not being able to get together especially those who are on their own. We pray again for all who have lost loved ones and for those who wait to find out if their loved ones will come through. We ask for those who are working day and night to save people from their suffering. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen

Thoughts for the Week: Jesus is Our Cornerstone

The Burren
Stones feature in the Bible in a variety of ways. We all remember the story of the young boy who felled the giant with a stone from a sling. When David took on Goliath, no-one expected him to win, but that was because they left God out of the equation. David, in the power of God’s Spirit was able to do the impossible.
Many years ago, I visited County Clare in the west of Ireland as part of the Congregational Federation’s Children’s Work Board. In the north-west of the county there is an area of stone called The Burren. I was there in March and the area seemed to be covered in stone. It looked like a place where there was no life. The guide explained that cattle lived in the area throughout the winter and found sufficient food to keep going until the spring. Looking across the fields of stone, I could see nothing that resembled food for cattle and yet, as I looked closer, I could see that there were green shoots appearing between the stones. Apparently, instead of stones being cold, as we might have imagined, there was a warmth coming from them which germinated the seeds. It seemed that even from the stones there was life.
In the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, God said He could transplant a cold stone heart with a warm heart of flesh in which His Spirit would live. When God changed the hearts of people in such a way, it was to help them to be obedient to Him and to act with courage as David did and to do the impossible as God willed it.
The greatest illustrations of stones in the Bible is, I believe, found in 1 Peter chapter 2, which tells us how God sent His Son Jesus to be a cornerstone for us, the living stones. Christians are connected to the Saviour Jesus Christ in a spiritual building whereby He is the cornerstone which holds the rest together. It is through being joined in this way that we find the kind of courage that David had, the nurturing that was illustrated in The Burren, the warm loving hearts which are transplanted by God into us and the strength to act upon the will of God.
In all the illustrations we find that God makes the changes in us which we are unable to make or sustain in ourselves. Jesus reminded us Himself of this when He said, “With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19 v26)

PRAYERS

This week’s prayers are taken from Psalm 118 and we begin with the theme which has much to say for this time. Confidence in God’s eternal love. God’s love is unchanging in the midst of changing situations. This gives us security.
“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures for ever.
Let those who fear the Lord say: His love endures forever.
In my anguish I cried out to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free, The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid. The Lord is with me; He is my helper. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. Shouts of joy and victory, the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things.
Open the gates of righteousness, I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad in it.” Amen