With thanks to the Rev David Anderson for providing these reflections
Wednesday 19th January
The trees in winter might not seem so attractive to us, stripped as they are of their leaves – the deciduous ones at least! But there are advantages in seeing them this way. We may spot birds more easily as they cannot disappear among the leaves. But what strikes me most is that we clearly see the structure of their trunk and branches. We see their hidden, inner strength.
In the “winters” of our life journeys, when we face testing times through illness, a broken relationship, bereavement, or coronavirus affecting our mental health for example, we may feel stripped bare like the trees. The things that normally bring enjoyment and satisfaction to our lives are no longer there for us. We are stripped as it were of our leaves.
All is not lost. We learn to rely on the inner resources within us, resources we are not normally aware of. We must rely on them. We have little choice. Along with support from others whose strength we borrow we find the endurance we require. We hold on.
But for those who believe, there is an awareness of more than this. We draw from the resources of the Spirit within us, the Spirit given to all who believe. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul prays for them, asking God to “give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves”. The psalms constantly remind us that God is our Strength on whom we rely.
But trees, despite their strength, can fall, as many did during the storm Arwen. And we are human, and sometimes we fail to rely on God’s strength within. Relying on our own strength can let us down. Remember Simon Peter, Jesus’ disciple, who swore confidently that he would never forsake his Lord. Yet, on his own and in the darkness of the night, when put to the test he denied three times that he knew Jesus.
After the Resurrection Jesus met him again and gave Peter the chance to reaffirm his love for Jesus – again three times, one for each denial! He also recommissioned Peter as his disciple. Later, strengthened by the Spirit given at Pentecost, Peter became the rock on which Jesus built his Church. Now he relied on God’s strength rather than his own.
And God equally shows his grace and mercy towards us when we fail to rely on him. He forgives us and is ready in his love to strengthen us again so that we might follow Jesus.
Reading: Ephesians 3 vv14-16 (21)
“For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth receives its true name. I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith…”
Dear Lord, we thank you for your loving kindness towards us and the provision of all we need to be your followers. We ask you through your Spirit to make us strong in our inner selves that we might serve you faithfully in all the seasons of our lives. Amen.
May God bless and strengthen you.
Wednesday 12 January
I keep hearing about people doing their best to help refugees, whether those who have come into the UK, or those in refugee camps in other parts of the world. A near neighbour is continually knitting blankets, shawls, and baby clothes for refugees in such camps. I know the issue of refugees coming to our country is not straightforward. There need to be limits as we cannot take more than we can make room for and accommodate. But remember thatrefugees flee from their homelands because of war, because of discrimination and persecution or because of dire poverty. They are desperate as we can tell from the risks they take, and not having any certainty where their journey will take them.
But one thing is sure. God has a big place in his heart for such people. In the Old Testament we read of his instructions to his people to welcome strangers and foreigners into their community. He wanted his people to show love and offer friendship. Jesus, speaking of the final judgement, said that when we welcome strangers into our homes we do this for him (Matthew 25: 27-40). And not long ago we were thinking of the family of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus journeying as refugees into Egypt to escape the cruel sword of Herod. Jesus himself was a refugee!
Come to think of it many of our ancestors were refugees. During the Highland Clearances, people were forced to leave their land to make way for sheep. They crossed the sea to North America to make a new home for themselves. They relied on help from the people there. And think of the Pilgrim Fathers who left England for America to escape persecution.
As Christians we are called to be good neighbours to those close to home. But God’s love doesn’t stop there! If we have been reluctant to take the plight of refugees to heart, let’s ask ourselves, “What shapes my thinking?” Is it tabloid headlines, or populist politiciansappealing to our small mindedness? Or is it scripture, especially the example and teaching of Jesus? We are to “let God transform (us) inwardly by a complete change of mind. Then (we)will know the will of God…..” (Romans 12v2)
Let our attitudes be moulded by the Father heart of God, and by the compassionate love of Jesus. And let us pray that those who escape from danger may find a new homeland where they can settle and prosper, where they are welcomed and where they can make a positive contribution to society through their gifts and abilities.
Reading: Psalm 107 vv4-8
“Some wandered in the trackless desert and could not find their way to a city to live in.They were hungry and thirsty and had given up all hope. Then in their trouble they called to the Lord, and he saved them from their distress. He led them by a straight road to a citywhere they could live. They must thank the Lord for his constant love, for the wonderful things that he did for them.”
Father God, we pray for refugees everywhere that they would find a new homeland where there is a welcome and support. Open our hearts to them in their need and show us what we can do to help. In Jesus name. Amen.
God bless you and them.
5th January 2022
Someone recently pointed out that there is an if at the centre of LIFE. And this is surely true. As we set out on our journey into the new year there are many ifs facing us. We might be making plans for a holiday we hope to have if coronavirus regulations allow it. We plan to meet up with other people depending on the same if. Even in “normal” years all our plans are subject to an if. It could be if our health allows it; if we have enough money for it, if nothing untoward stops us. Life is full of uncertainties.
Reminding ourselves of this keeps us aware of our limits. We are not totally in charge of our plans. These may or may not be fulfilled. Proverbs tells us that we make our plans but God directs our steps. Of course, when we sense that what we plan is right for us we want to stick to it and be resolute about it. We can check our motives, as Christians we can pray about it, perhaps consult others, but we remain dependent on God’s will.
James, in his letter, tells his readers to say, “If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that”. People used to say “d.v.” when describing what they would do – which means “Deo volente” or “God willing”.
So we start our journey along the road of another year with uncertainty, this year more than most. But there is certainty for us in our Christian faith. It is the certainty of God’s love for every one of us, the certainty that he goes ahead of us and goes with us, the certainty that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, the certainty of his promises to us. We make our plans trusting in our Lord who will direct our steps in the way that is best for us. Solet us put our anchor down deeply in God’s love and faithfulness as we travel along the road of a new year.
And a Happy New Year to you and yours.
Reading: 2 Corinthians 1 vv 19-21
“For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was preached among you …. is not one who is “Yes” and “No”. On the contrary he is God’s “Yes”; for it is he who is the “Yes” to all God’s promises. That is why through Jesus Christ our “Amen” is said to the glory of God. It is God himself who makes us, together with you, sure of our life in union with Christ…”
Prayer (from St. Patrick’s Breastplate)
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
29th December 2022
Thanks to Andrew for giving me this space each Wednesday for a reflection which I pray will be helpful to those who read it.
A significant number of people are bothered with SAD each winter. It stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. More hours of darkness and fewer hours of daylight lead to this seasonal depression.
Probably most of us, even though we would not describe ourselves as having this disorder, can understand it and sometimes feel our mood change in winter. Well the good news is that we are past the shortest day, and each day now there are four minutes more daylight! We are journeying more and more into the light!
Christmas fulfilled the longing for light in a different sense. We rejoiced in the Son of God slipping into this world in human form. In his adult ministry he was to describe himself as “The Light of the World”, promising that those who followed him would not walk in darkness but have the light of life.
What is the result of walking in the light of Jesus Christ, and allowing his Spirit to work in and through us? According to our reading below it means we will reflect the glory of the Lord, and we will be transformed into his likeness to an ever-greater degree of glory. Eugene Peterson puts it this way: “our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him”.
Of course, it doesn’t always seem as straightforward as that. It can be more like stop and start, getting brighter then dimmer for a while. We can go through periods of emotional and spiritual darkness but let us trust that the Lord is always at work even then. And what greater goal can we have in life than to become more and more like Jesus?
What will that mean for us? Through life and its experiences surely it means we will be come more loving and caring for others as God is towards us. It will mean we are able to forgive more quickly as we realise how much we have been forgiven. We will be more patient as he has been patient with us. It will mean we will become more courageous, people of integrity, ready to stand for what we believe is true, compassionate and just, inspired by Jesus himself. But our faces need to be turned to him so that we can receive and reflect this light of his truth and love.
Reading: 2 Corinthians 3:18
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Lord, help us to look to Jesus, become more and more like him, and reflect his glory in our lives. Use even the darkest times of our lives to form us into his likeness through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen.