Category Archives: Revelations

Absalom, O Absalom

My brother, a Methodist minister, gave me ‘The Lectionary 2018’  for Christmas.  Having never followed it, except for main Sunday services, I am amazed at how it connects, builds and illuminates the message.

For instance, Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Epiphany, the message was the authority of Jesus.  Monday’s reading showed Jesus exorcising a demon from Legion, shocking and scaring everyone who observed a man who was like a wild animal, transformed to a completely sane and peace loving state.  Today Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead and healed a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years.   Both of these passages, revealing who Jesus is, build on the theme of the authority of Jesus.

At the same time, there is another theme being played out in 2nd Samuel.  King David has been in exile as his son Absalom launches a power play against his father.  Here we see David responding in a puzzling way.  When a man comes by to curse him (yesterday’s reading) he believes that perhaps it is God’s will and allows the man to follow and throw stones.  In his humbled state, he asks that all who wish to join him in exile turn back, he has no destination.  Of course these groups stay with him.

In today’s reading we see Absalom killed by a party of David’s men even though David asked that no harm would come to him.  The response of David is great woe.  He is inconsolable.  Absalom, O Absalom, why you and not me

In David’s response we see the love of God.  Though Absalom was a rebel, he was the son of David and David loved him.  In Jesus, we see the love of the Father for his children.  Lost causes, hopeless situations, life put on hold all changed by the power of love.  Jesus has the authority of the Father to pour out the love of the Father on His children.

And what about us?  How do we, if we have received this most awesome love, pass it on?

 

 

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The Lesson of the Looking Glass

Heavenly Light on Daily Life

This meditation was originally published in April 2014.  It is a timely message as we walk through Holy Week in the year 2017.

A Series of devotionals by Lilias Trotter, Lesson 1

Wherever there are women there are looking-glasses, from the Sherifa with her great mirror framed in carving and gilding, to the tent of the Bedouin woman, who wears a little leather-covered disc among her many ornaments.

For all women want to see what they look like – what they look like to other people.  And they know that the mirror gives to their view what they themselves would never see – the form and the tint of their features and the drapery of their headgear.

So far the mirror goes, no further, it can only picture the outer person.  But there is another mirror that can shew thee thy inner person.  That mirror is the Holy Book.  In a mirror of glass thou canst see thy face as thy neighbour see it, but in the Word of God thou canst see thy heart as God sees it.

Our earthly mirrors sometimes shew things that make us sad.  A woman may think her face still young and fair; but her mirror shews the wrinkles and grey hairs that have begun to come.  It tells her the truth.

So also God’s Word tells us the truth about our hearts, that is to say that they are not good as we like to think them, but bad before Him.

For instance, thou thinkest perhaps that thou canst gossip all day long, without harm.  See how that gossip appears to God.  He says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin.”  “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”

It may be, in thy mind are thoughts of pride, despising thy neighbour.  Look in the mirror of God:  He says, “He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth.”

It may be that thy heart harbours hatred against another, thou sayest, “I do well to be angry.”  Look once more in God’s mirror and see how this hatred looks to Him:  “He that hateth his brother is a murderer.”

Look, O my sister, in this mirror that tells thee the truth, and quickly thou wilt see that thou dost need a Saviour.

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Our beautiful church family

Perhaps I was having an overly emotional day having been flattened by a particularly nasty case of the flu since Sunday eve.  I walked into the church yesterday in advance of Roger and Yu Zhu’s wedding, just to take a quick peek and leave some treasures behind, but what I saw instead was love and beauty beyond measure.

You see, here in rural England, everything we do is a voluntary act.  We have a house for duty Priest who came out of retirement, along with his wife June, to lead us, a full year after the departure of the previous full time Priest.  We are part of a deanery which is having to make do with fewer paid full time priests and part of the suffering for the deanery means that we, the tiny communities of Coniston and Torver, are not considered large enough to require their own full time priest.

Being small does not diminish the work load at all.  In fact we hold a range of services each and every Sunday, weddings, baptisms (one a month in Coniston), home groups, celebrations, festivals and minister to all who come our way, including the 300,000+ people who come into our community every year through tourism.  We have an active Fair Trade coffee morning each and every Wednesday a.m. which reaches out to people travelling through as well as to locals in the heart of the community.  A mid-day prayer service allows for quiet meditation while all the chatter in the coffee morning is going on.

It takes a lot to support these activities and the on the ground ministry.  We have two lay ministers, two church wardens, several voluntary musicians, several deanery synod members, a Mother’s Union, a full PCC, and each and every person on the electoral roll, fully signed up and committed to the community.

Knowing all of this, what I saw yesterday made me realise what a beautiful church family I am part of.  The day of Roger and Yu Zhu’s wedding the weather was horrendous.  Tears of joy were falling from the heavens.  Earlier, all hands would have been inside the church, cleaning, beautifying, laying flowers on each of the candle sticks made by Peter, setting tables, preparing food, making it beautiful and perfect for the wedding.

Before I entered the church, I ran into June, having spent the morning beautifying with flowers, she now on her way to change clothes.  As I coughed away, she mentioned that Linda too is ill and suggested we were going to have to stop meeting on Sundays as I thought to myself wryly and Saturday and Tuesday and Wednesday too.  I do hate being ill.

I walked into the sound of beautiful music and a scene of total calm and serenity.  Pat, the church Secretary was wearing a very smart grey pin striped suit.  Both Peter and Tim were dressed in dark handsome suits wearing big smiles.  All work and preparation done, nothing missing, everything ready and waiting in eager anticipation for The Wedding.

I walked across the street to deliver a package to Anne and looked back to see Nick, the church Warden, walking into the church, wearing full rain gear on top, morning dress below and carrying a big cooler loaded with the best drink, as only Nick is able to do.  My heart melted as I saw him enter the church carrying his bag of goodies.  Nothing is too much trouble for Nick.  He is always there.  Always on duty.  Nick misses nothing and expects nothing in return for his service and commitment.  He may be one of many, but there are none like him.

Each and every person is involved in other work throughout the community, much of it voluntary.  Lives of living daily sacrifice.  Only today I don’t see anything but love.  Complete selfless acts of love and generosity.  I stand in wonder and awe as I look upon my big (in spirit) beautiful church family.

 

 

 

 

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Finding the Way of Christ in Community

A few have asked to read Sunday’s talk.  I would have liked to have ended with a fabulous link to the Lord’s Prayer.  I also considered handing out envelopes, each with a name of someone on our electoral roll to hold in prayer.  In the end, it would have been adding too many elements for this particular talk.  Another time!  Yours, in faith!

The Lord’s Prayer

Finding the Way

 

 

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The Long View

Sunday’s sermon set me on a path of introspection. Andrew took the opportunity to talk about the call placed on him to go and teach in another school. I’ve listened to Andrew in the past when he has questioned whether it is God who is speaking to him. So on the occasion of this position and challenge of the new school, Andrew placed three obstacles in the way of the decision. He described how every single one of them was removed and then he said ‘yes’ to the job. Seven months later, Ofsted has taken the school out of special measures. Andrew is now spreading the word that God blessed the school through His call.

This is, of course, a cause of great joy for all concerned. Why then, did my normally sunny, positive self struggle on hearing Andrew’s talk? As I listened to God that night, he told me that for all that triumphantly reflects his glory, he is present also in the harsh days of darkness and uncertainty.

This is a week when we need to take the long view and we have the perfect example in Christ’s final walk to the cross. In a few days we celebrate Palm Sunday. What glory, what excitement! The spontaneous act of praise as Jesus entered Jerusalem would have made anyone watching believe that it was ‘all systems go’ for Jesus to begin his earthly reign. But we know the end game. In less than a week, he would go from the people’s hero to criminal of the church, apparent blasphemer of God, under the penalty of death. Where were all the people now? Was there no-one left by his side but John? Even His Father left him. Can anyone imagine a lower place than this?

Faith is about the unseen as much as the seen. The signs that Andrew spoke about were visible signs. The fruit that he spoke about was visible fruit. We don’t always receive fruit immediately. We do not always see visible signs immediately. There is a longer view which we must respect as much as what appears to be short term gain or loss.

We can know which we are looking at by following the path of Christ. He stayed close to the Father during his final walk to glory. He prayed. He listened. He acted according to the call. He paid the final penalty for each one of us….and the world did not wait long for a longer view. Three days later, Christ broke the chains of death in the splendour of the ressurection.

Are you in the long or the short view right now? If God has called you to something, no act of man can stop you. Whether you are in a time of blessing or trial, stay close to God. Listen and pray for opportunities. When called to act, move. God will do the rest. Whichever time you’re in, the best is yet to come. As for me and my house, we’re standing on the promises of God.

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Becoming an Invitational Church

Michael Harvey’s talk today was fascinating and brought home many points that can really help us at St. Andrew’s.  For me what I see as most important is that we are all working for the same Lord, the same purpose with the same goals.  We all aren’t called to do the same things and we all aren’t good at the same things so God gives us different gifts and these must be recognised so that we can be effective.  If we can complement one another, we’ll be able to encourage, in the right way, everyone we meet, to join us at St. Andrew’s and come to faith.  Father God, open up our hearts so that we can really work together in love for your kingdom here in Coniston and the world where you move us each and every day.  Amen.

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The Dynamic of Music in Worship

Mark, our Priest in Charge, is studying the dynamic of music in worship.   He is looking for views across all ages and has compiled a questionnaire to help the process.  Two versions are available on-line:

 The word view can be completed on-line and e-mailed.

 The pdf version lends itself to printing and posting.

Whichever way you choose, your views are important.  If you are interested in this topic and can take the time, your views are very much appreciated.

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